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It's Just Sex!

Sex is a physical and spiritual gift from God, but only within marriage.
This sermon is part of the sermon series "Sex, Marriage, & Singleness from God's Point of View". See series.


I'm starting a four week series on sex, marriage, and singleness. My text for this series will be 1 Corinthians 6:12-7:40, where Paul addresses the church at Corinth on these issues. I've chosen one word to summarize the theme of each of these messages. In this sermon, I'll address the subject of why our sexuality is so important, and the key word here is purity. Next week I'll talk about the role of sex within marriage, and the key word will be intimacy. In two weeks I'll speak about why married couples ought to stay married: fidelity. Finally, in the last sermon, we'll look at some of the realities and benefits of being single, and the key word will be celibacy.

I don't think I have to tell you that these are relevant issues for us today. The prevailing attitude in our culture is: "It's just sex." In a recent survey 29 percent of people said they've had sex on a first date. Men have had an average of 20 sexual partners in a lifetime while women average 6. Eleven million adults said they visit adult-only web sites in a typical week. 65 percent of teenagers have had sex by the time they finish high school. Almost four in ten babies in the United States are born out of wedlock.

We even have something new in the greeting card industry. The Secret Lover Collection is "committed to providing a greeting card collection with empathy and understanding, without judgment, to lovers involved in a secret relationship." The founder says she launched it to help the unfaithful "express their emotions," but she really just wants to cash in on this huge market. How do you market greeting cards for the unfaithful? Very subtly. These cards will be displayed under labels like, "Love Expressions," and "Intimacy." Card messages include slogans like, "I used to look forward to the weekends, but since we met they seem like an eternity." And for holidays, "As we each celebrate with our families, I'll be thinking of you."

The "It's just sex" mindset isn't unique to our age. Two thousand years ago, Corinth was a city with a warped view of sex. Every day hundreds of priestesses from the temple of Aphrodite, which stood atop the city, would come down into the streets and ply their trade. Sex was offered as a way of worship.

And sexual immorality crept into the church. Many within the church at Corinth began to rethink what Paul had previously taught them, that God designed sex to be enjoyed within the lifelong covenant of marriage. Just like today, they began to rationalize: "It's okay if we fool around a little. We plan on getting married someday." Or "It's only natural."

In chapter 6:12-20 Paul takes these folks on. And the first thing he does is confront some of their rationalizations. It's amazing that these are some of the same arguments people use today.

Justifying immorality

Immorality is okay because we are under grace.
Verse 12 says, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." There should be quotation marks around the phrase "all things are lawful for me." Paul is quoting a favorite slogan of the Corinthians that they used to justify immorality. They were saying that since Christians are saved by grace apart from any works, and they're free from having to keep the law of Moses to be right with God, they can do anything they want.

There's an element of truth in this argument. Paul probably taught them that Christians are free from the law of Moses. But they took that teaching to an extreme and said that since Christ died for our sins and we're forgiven, we can go out and indulge all of our passions and it won't affect our relationship with God.

I hear that kind of thing from time to time today. A church like ours is especially susceptible to this kind of thinking because we emphasize our freedom in Christ, we refuse to make rules out of things that the Scripture doesn't make rules out of. But we need to be careful. In reacting to legalism we can't go to the other extreme.

Notice how Paul answers this argument. He doesn't disagree with the statement; he doesn't resort to a new form of legalism and set up all kinds of rules. Rather, he sets up two guidelines to follow in using our freedom in Christ. First, he says all things are lawful but not all things are profitable. Before we do something, we have to ask ourselves, is this profitable? Is it helpful? The moment our freedom is used in such a way that it tears other people down, something's wrong. Our freedom was meant to allow us to serve other people, not to hurt them.

I wonder if the Corinthians were thinking about the lives of those young ladies that came down into the streets of Corinth when they exercised their "Christian freedom"? How many men really think about the young women on the computer screen when they watch pornography? That's someone's daughter.

Immorality tears people down. In the Scripture, sexual immorality is always placed side by side with greed and selfishness: the focus is on ourselves. What is done in the name of love is actually done for self-gratification, and that twists the very purpose of sex.

The second question to ask is, Is it enslaving? "All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." As I exercise my freedom in Christ, will I become enslaved to the ways I'm exercising my freedom? Will they end up ruling my life? Will they end up as an addiction? This is especially important when we're talking about things that pertain to the body such as sex, because we all know that the body can develop dependencies on certain things. When it does, we become a slave to whatever that thing is.

Immorality is okay because it is natural.
After dealing with that argument, Paul deals with another in verses13 and 14. "Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power." Once again Paul quotes a favorite slogan of the Corinthians: "food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food." Again there ought to be quotation marks around that phrase. Paul hasn't changed subjects from sex to eating. This was another rationale the Corinthians used to justify their own immorality. They believed sex was just like eating: "Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food. In the same way, sex is for the body, and the body is for sex. Just as we have a natural and God-given need to satiate our stomach with food, so it is with sex. When we get hungry and head for the refrigerator, no one hauls us into court and charges us with immorality. Why should it be any different with sex? Why object to something that is perfectly natural and God-given?"

Here we come face-to-face with an important truth. The world, regardless of all the emphasis it places on it, has a low view of sex. Christians have a higher view of sex than our secular culture. The world sees sex simply as another bodily function akin to eating. There's nothing special about it, nothing unique, nothing worth protecting. But according to the Bible, sex touches us and affects us at a much deeper level than eating does. It involves not just our physical body but our soul and our spirit as well. And that's the basis of Paul's response. He says, "Yes, food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food. I don't disagree with that." But then he says, "God will destroy them both." In other words, "Although it's true what you say about the stomach and food, all that's just temporary. God will do away with both.

But sex involves something altogether different for a couple of reasons. First, while the stomach is made for food, the body wasn't made for immorality; it was made for the Lord. Our sexuality was made to be fulfilled in a way that honors and glorifies the Lord.

Not only that, but while food and the stomach will be done away with, our bodies will be raised up with Christ. Sex involves the body and the body isn't temporary. You might say that our bodies were not made for immorality but rather for immortality. So the implication is that what we do with our bodies is important because they belong in a unique relationship with God that will last throughout eternity. When you think what you're going to do with your body, do you consider that?

In the rest of the passage, Paul expands on this idea of how our physical selves (bodies) are connected to our spiritual selves. He wants us to see how this has direct bearing on our sexuality. He's going to tell us three things that we may have forgotten about our bodies.

Physical and spiritual

Our bodies are members of Christ.
Verse 15 says, "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be!" Notice the sentence begins with the phrase, "do you not know." He asks that again in verse 16 and in verse 19. He's saying, "I've taught you this, but you're not living by it, so let me remind you." So often, we know better, but for one reason or another we choose not to live by what we know. We need reminders, people to keep us accountable to live by what we know. Do you have someone like that in your life? Someone to ask you the hard questions?

We need to be reminded that our bodies are members of Christ. Our bodies are intimately connected with Christ, so much so that they're members of his body. And as members of his body, we're obligated to serve him and do as he pleases. My hands are part of my body. They're obligated to do what I tell them to do. I give the orders for my hands. They're connected to me. Why would I take my members and use them, for example, to beat myself up?

In the same way, when we engage in immorality we take the members of Christ and use them in a way that damages him. How can we do that? May it never be!

We're warned here about compartmentalizing our lives. We think we can be involved in immorality with our bodies and somehow it won't affect our relationship with God. No wonder we have so many fragmented people. We think we can isolate our sexuality from our relationship with Christ. We pray, we go to church, we read the Bible, but in this one area of our lives, we think we can do what we want; it won't infringe on our relationship with God. But that's impossible because our bodies are members of Christ.

Our bodies are one spirit with the Lord.
Part of the reason we can't do that is found in verses 16 and 17. "Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For he says, 'The two shall become on flesh.' But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with him." This is the second thing that we need to be reminded of—when we engage in sex we become one body with that person.

That's why Paul goes all the way back to Genesis 3: "The two shall become one flesh." He returns to the first love story and marriage where Adam and Eve are encouraged to enjoy one another, to multiply and be fruitful. The whole purpose for this is that the two would become one flesh.

This gives us great insight into the nature and purpose of sex. Sex is an act that unites two people in a one-flesh relationship. A permanent bond is created. This word "joins" in verse 16 literally was used in Greek to refer to glue. When two people come together that way, they're glued together. Woodworkers will tell you that Elmer's Wood Glue is the greatest invention ever! If you apply that wood glue properly, the bond that's created is actually stronger and harder to break than the wood itself. If you try to break that bond, you damage both pieces of wood.

Sexual union is like that. It unites us, not just in body, but in soul as well. Sex, whether we realize it or not, acts like glue in a relationship. C. S. Lewis once said, "Each time a man and a woman enter into a sexual relationship, a spiritual bond is established between them that must be eternally enjoyed or eternally endured." We talk about safe sex, but you can't put a condom on your heart.

Sex is far more than just a physical act. It's an act that involves the whole person—body and soul. There is no such thing as casual sex. Don't ever buy that lie. Forces are at work that are completely out of our control. Something mysterious, something deep takes place in this union. This is why the Word of God absolutely insists that sex be practiced within the covenant of marriage. Sex is a life-uniting act, and to do it justice it has to be experienced in the context of a lifelong union: marriage. Within that context sex is a wonderful, beautiful expression of intimacy and vulnerability that should be celebrated. All the masks are taken off and there's no fear of rejection, no fear of abandonment, no fear of "will he call me tomorrow or not?"

Though it might be enjoyed on a certain level, the end result of immorality is a sense of hollowness, frustration, and loneliness. And for believers it even has a greater impact. Verse 17 says, "The one who joins himself (there's the glue word again) with the Lord is one spirit with him." Just as two people joined in sex are one flesh, so those of us who have come into a personal relationship with the Lord are joined with him. Our spirit has been glued with the Lord's spirit. So, once again, when you engage in any kind of immorality, you're actually implicating the Lord Jesus Christ in the same act. You're united with him. You're one spirit with him. You can't separate your spirit from your body, and so you are involving the Lord in this act.

Our bodies are the dwelling place of God.
The third thing we need to remember is in verses 18-20. "Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." Sexual sin is unique. Don't let anybody ever tell you that sexual sin is like any other sin. That's a lie. It's true that God is willing to forgive all sin alike, but Paul says sexual sin is unique in that it constitutes a sin against the body.

What does that mean? Other sins that involve the body—chemical addiction, gluttony—will eventually destroy the body. Why is immorality unique in this regard? The key is that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and immorality violates the Spirit's presence in the body in a way that these other things don't. God himself lives in us.

And for that to happen, our bodies had to be bought at a high price, with the blood of Christ. The temple of the Lord is for worship. I like what John McArthur says about this verse: "Could you imagine committing sexual immorality in this church sanctuary?" No way. But that's no worse than what happens every time a believer is involved in immorality because our bodies are the sanctuary of God. God owns them. God dwells there. This is his residence if we're believers.

Fleeing and glorifying

We should flee immorality.
So what do we do with all of this? There are two commands in this passage. The first comes at the beginning of verse 18. Paul says, "Flee immorality." He doesn't just say to stop immorality. He uses a much stronger word—flee from it, run as far away as possible. Wayne Wright says, "The best companion against immorality is geography." Our sexual urges are so powerful that we can't afford to hang in there and duke it out with temptation because if we do, we're going to lose. It's inevitable.

Sooner or later you're going to lose that battle if you don't flee from it. We must get out of the situation, whatever it is, that might lead us into immorality.

I talk to engaged couples all the time about this stuff. I tell engaged couples who come to me for premarital counseling that I expect them to be pure before marriage, and if they haven't been pure they have to start being pure or I won't marry them. That includes not living together, not sleeping together, and not fooling around. Couples fail to realize that you can have sex without having sex. You can violate all of these things and justify it because you're not having intercourse. "After all, we are getting married soon."

I don't buy it. I get couples all the time who tell me that they can play around with fire and not get burned. But you should run as far away from the fire as possible. You should decide on what situations you will not get into. For some this might mean getting out of a relationship altogether. If there's been a pattern of immorality in that relationship, chances are you're not going to change that. The best thing to do is just get out of there, flee from it completely. Don't let yourself stay in that situation because you know what happens when you do.

We must be very careful about the kind of things to which we expose ourselves. If we're feeding the flesh in the kind of books we read, the kind of movies we watch, the kind of web sites we visit, then we're just setting ourselves up for failure in this area. So fleeing immorality means that we stay away from these things and set up filters and systems of accountability. It means being careful about what we allow our minds to be exposed to.

We should glorify God with our bodies.
But there is a second command. The first is negative, but this second is positive. In verse 20 he says, "glorify God in your body." Everything Paul has said up until now leads up to this. Why should we glorify God in our bodies? Because you can't separate your physical selves from your spiritual selves. As we've seen, your body is not temporary; it's eternal. It will be raised up as Christ was raised up. Your body is a member of Christ. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Your body has been purchased by God with the precious blood of his Son. Don't take that body and drag it through the mud! Instead, glorify God with it.


I know that most of us, myself included, come from a background of sexual immorality. There is forgiveness and healing available for you. Most of the Corinthians came out of that background as well. Paul says to them in verses 9-11, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God."

If you're in Christ today, you need to see yourself as washed and sanctified and justified. It would be easy to take what I've said and to think that you've been marked and spiritually destroyed because of this. "I can never enjoy a healthy relationship with a marriage partner because of the things I've done." A lot of Christians walk around in a perpetual state of guilt over what they've done in the past. I want you to know that forgiveness and healing is available in Jesus.

I think of how Jesus treated the woman caught in adultery in John 8. He didn't condemn her; he loved her and protected her and set her free to live a life of obedience. But if you're presently involved in an immoral relationship, or if you're playing around with pornography, let me encourage you to deal with it today. Stop rationalizing. You know it's wrong. If you're a believer, you know that you're ripping yourself apart. You're defiling the temple of God! You're not paralyzed. You can change. It's going to be painful, but it's going to be a lot more painful to continue on. Do as Paul says: flee immorality and glorify God in your body.

Mark Mitchell served as Pastor at Central Peninsula Church for 35 years and is now the Executive Director of the Bay Area School of Ministry (BASOM), a ministry seeking to raise up pastors and ministry leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Sermon Outline:


I. Justifying immorality

II. Physical and spiritual

III. Fleeing and glorifying