1 Corinthians 6-7 – Sex and the City of God
It would be good to recap this letter so far. In the first 4 chapters, Paul explains that the Gospel is the idea that we are sinners: born in natural rebellion, even treason, against our God. We earn death due to following our own hearts and not the Lord. However, Jesus came to take that death in our place on the cross, and then he rose from the dead to show that while we still die even in his forgiveness, we will rise from the dead.
The Corinthian church believed this, but they were distracted by pleasing their culture. It seems that unless the Holy Spirit touches a person’s heart, the Gospel will seem unintelligible before then. That is why some people act like they don’t need Jesus to die for them because they’ve lived a good life. Or they act like they can achieve enough good works to earn their way to heaven. Some will even call the crucifixion a divine child abuse because they don’t understand the Trinity, and they don’t understand that we cannot have a relationship with God unless somebody dies for our sins, and nothing else can erase the smallest error. We cannot repay this gift.
And we cannot add to it by being smarter people, having a more gifted ministry, having better music, or doing signs and wonders. All people are the same before our Lord.
Soon, Paul gets into large discourses about sexuality and marriage. Gnosticism had an influence in that society. It saw spirit as good and matter as evil. A good God to them would not create matter and all that we see. Some people took this idea and considered the body unimportant, so they had lots of sex in the temple of Aphrodite and ate all the feasts and had all the drugs. Others saw the body as evil and taught that sex was evil, even in the context of marriage. Even in the Christian church, the Roman Catholics believed that it was holier to be celibate and forbid marriage and saw sex as a necessary evil to have children. This is not what God or Paul teaches in the Bible.
Paul shows in chapter 6:12-20 that sex outside of marriage reduces sex to a commodity. If somebody’s body doesn’t desire you anymore, you can move on. And if that person is a Christian and has sex outside of marriage, the Holy Spirit is linked to that act, thus grieving our Lord.
However, in chapter 7, Paul shows that God loves sex, but in the context of marriage. Marriage is supposed to reflect God’s relationship to the church, one that will never end despite flaws or change. It’s supposed to be an expression of deepest intimacy. When intimacy is defined as “knowing and to be known,” a person can have that with anybody, but in marriage, a man and woman who already knew each other spiritually can now know each other physically. It is only in that context where sex is a gift and not something that somebody takes from somebody else. In fact, within marriage, sex is an act of worship.
So while a single person has more freedom to serve the Lord without consulting her husband, and while celibacy is good while single, not many people are called to celibacy. If you have that burning desire for sex, then you should seek marriage. And although Paul says in verse 9 that it is better to marry than to burn with passion, that might be some exaggeration, because you should seek to know that person spiritually and to see if he is a Christian who shares your interests before marrying and knowing him in the flesh. No true intimacy can occur without the Lord.
That is why in a marriage where one person is a Christian and one isn’t, that marriage lacks because Jesus is the glue that binds them together. However, Paul commands the Christian in that relationship to not divorce unless the nonbeliever leaves because it could lead them to Christ.
And how does this tie to the Gospel? Because while we are still enemies, Christ died for us and will never abandon us no matter how much our minds and bodies wander into sin. My husband and I will make sure to stay together no matter how much we age and fall apart. And a single person will find that person who will love them no matter what as he or she patiently waits on the Lord. And if that person desires intimacy before then, seek it in knowing Christ and his people because, as I said, he ties all his church together as a forever family that time or space will not rip apart.