June 13: Possessed by God.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Here again we are being told to “be what you are.” What are you? The dwelling place of the Trinity. Christ lives in you by the Spirit. The Spirit lives in you by God the Father. This is your full and forever holiness. This is the greatest of intimacy and impact. Your body is now where you and God meet. You are literally the Holy of Holies. The inner sanctum. What once was only accessible by a High Priest one day a year is now constantly and forever made open by the blood of Christ. You are not only connected to the Spirit when you are praying, or meditating on scripture, or at church, or having some other “religious” experience. You are always connected. Everything is spiritual now (even sex, remember).

Verse 20 tells us something else that we are. God’s possession. You were bought with a price. Paul moves from the marriage metaphor to the metaphor of a purchased slave. You were transferred from one owner to another. From the slave master of Sin, to Christ the master. This happened by way of the cross. It happened by way of Christ’s own physical and spiritual life being given as payment for your release. Jesus paid it all.

You now belong to Christ. But let’s not forget what we learned in the letter to the Galatians, we are slaves, yes, but slaves that have been adopted as sons by God. This places us in the greatest position available to man. Our dependence upon Christ as our master will bring us into a relationship to Christ as our brother. This movement from dependency to interdependency is the pathway to joy. How? Because it is real and true acceptance. Christ accepts us even when we have no status (we were the slaves of his enemy), and then he accepts us into his kingdom, family, and mission.

Independence, or freedom from the control of another, may seem like the way to happiness, but it never is. Independence only leads us deeper into the bondage of the self. Christ purchased us to marry us. He is our Boaz. Our rescuer. Our patron. Our very life. There is no greater joy.

What is our response to this great love of God? So glorify God in your body.

What we do with our body is important because God redeemed it at infinite price. We are priceless to God. As N.T. Wright says, you don’t buy an expensive book and then tear the pages out to make grocery lists. You don’t buy an expensive house and then paint graffiti all over it. 

So let’s be what we are. And let’s treat each other this way. We are “to live is Christ.” We are the dwelling place of God. We are the priceless possessions of God.

What would your life look like if you really believed that you were God’s dwelling and God’s priceless possession? How does this truth remove all need to grasp for power?  How does the idea that you have been purchased at great price impact you? What does this tell you about our Father? About Christ? About your own worth? What does it tell you about love? 

 

June 12: Let’s Talk About Sex

1 Corinthians 6:18. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.

A recent Gallup poll of over 1000 Americans revealed the following viewpoints on sex:

  • 69% consider premarital sex to be morally acceptable.
  • 67% consider homosexual relationships to be morally acceptable.
  • 42% consider teenage sex to be morally acceptable.

Paul, however, tells us to flee sexual immorality (porneia). But if we don’t see sexual immorality as dangerous, than why would we flee from it?

We live in a culture that has separated facts and values. Facts are scientific and objective. Values are relative and subjective. Today we define ourselves by our values. One’s sexuality is a way to define and find identity in this life, it is a value. However, one’s biological sex, or the act of sexual intercourse, is purely a physical act and has no bearing on my value or identity. This “facts/values divide” has created a fractured self. My sexuality is everything, but sex is nothing. This fails to see that the physical body is good and has a purpose. It also fails to connect the physical and the spiritual. This is close to how the Corinthian Christians viewed sex. It was purely an appetite. Just a bodily function. Not connected at all to the true self, the spiritual self.

Our modern sexual narrative which divides the “value” of my sexuality, or my sexual orientation, from the “fact” of my biological sex, has left us valuing a very selfish and independent way of life. We are told we must self identify and learn to express this identity, and that this is the greatest good. Authenticity, consumerism, and freedom are now our way of life. We should be and do whatever we want to be and do. We should have whatever we want to have. All in order to realize who our true self is.

But Paul challenges all of that. Your true self is “in Christ.” Your body has a purpose and it is not separate from your spirit. Sex is far from just an appetite to be satisfied. Freedom is not for self expression, it is for giving to another person. Sex is an expression of covenant love and in such it is a picture of our union with Christ.

As we think back to the Garden we see that sex is, of course, good. It was created by a good God and made to reflect his own passion and faithfulness toward his people. Sex allows us to image God’s love and his creation power. The biological differences between men and women, and the sexual union that occurs in the marriage of a man and woman, serve to image the unity and yet diversity of the Trinity. In the Garden we also see that humans are embodied souls. We are body, soul, and spirit. We are whole beings, not divided beings.

This truth (we are embodied souls) leads Paul to say this:

1 Corinthians 6:16-17. Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.

To give your body to another sexually is to give your whole self to them. The “two become one flesh.” Sex creates a new reality– the union of two people. That is not the problem though. The problem is when we abandon these unions by leaving or by never being fully committed (married) to them. To go around creating these unions over and over and then abandoning them is degrading to humanity. It is clearly not the vision God had in mind when he re-created us into the new humanity in Christ.

Therefore Paul tells us to flee sexual immorality. Why? Because it is destructive to humanity and to you. It’s addictive. Like any behavior that only serves the self, it will never really satisfy. Like an addiction to a drug, it will satisfy less and less the more you do it. Only when attached to the covenant of marriage can sex begin to be redeemed and brought into a place where it is primarily for giving and not for getting. Only then will it not become an idol. Only then will it not be a sin against your own body (v18).

But how is sexual sin a sin against your own body? Granted this last part of verse 18 is very tricky to understand. But what Paul may mean is that every other addiction involves introducing an outside substance or reality into your body. But sexual sin is an addiction from the inside out. It is an addiction to the self that through the bodily and spiritual union it creates, radically alters the self. Sexual sin alters the way you relate to others, God, and yourself, much more than any other sin. Or, Paul may even mean that it is a sin against the body of Christ, the Church. How many Christians do we know, ourselves included, that have left church or gone silent at church because of the shame and guilt of sexual sin. This “personal” sin is not just personal. It hurts everyone.

So flee sexual immorality! But how? Well, maybe like Joseph you need to literally run away from it. But the longer term solution is that we must flee it by replacing its power in our hearts. Our spiritual union with Christ (he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him) must be ever more satisfying to us than sexual unions with “prostitutes” (or girlfriends, boyfriends, porn stars online, fantasy novels, casual sex partners….you get my point). Only when Christ is the most satisfying thing in your life, will the addiction to the self subside.

“To live is Christ” is not just a mystical union with no practical applications. No, it affects every part of our lives, especially our sexuality. Union with Christ puts sex in its proper place. It is not a god to be worshipped, it is not your identity. Nor is it “no big deal.” It is a glorious mystery that, in a covenantal relationship, pictures and connects us to Christ, the Trinity, and the gospel.

Are there sexual sins in your life that you need to flee? How can you begin to let the supremacy of Christ replace the supremacy of sex in your life? What truths do you need to believe for this to begin?

June 11: Two In One.

1 Corinthians 6:16-17. For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 

We’ve been making a big deal of this phrase in 1 Corinthians 6 – he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. If you are in Christ you share a spirit with Christ. This is the core truth of your salvation. Without union with Christ you cannot be saved and you are not saved. It distinguishes the Christian faith from all others. Yes, it’s that important.

Remember, this is the first time such a succinct and powerful statement of our union with Christ has been made. Jesus himself hinted at it in John’s gospel. He told the Twelve that when they received the Spirit they would receive him and the Father. But John’s gospel has not yet been written. So Paul’s statement, which can be applied to every believer, even very sinful and selfish believers, is quite staggering.

In 1 Corinthians 6:16-17, Paul compares your spiritual union to Christ to marriage. So before we move on from this important verse let’s take a look at some of the essential truths it declares about our union with Christ, and how the marriage metaphor conveys these truths.

Your union with Christ is the closest union you will ever experience.

Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 which begins by telling us that a man will leave his father and mother (biological connection) and cling to his wife and the two will become one flesh. That is, their entire beings are joined. In Marriage you leave a very close relationship (parents) and replace it with an even closer relationship (spouse). 

You are one spirit with Christ. Your entire being is connected to Christ. This is an even greater connection than your connection to your biological family. Disconnect from them, and life goes on. Disconnect from Christ, and you eternally die.

Your union with Christ does not delete your individual identity.

When two people get married they share a whole life union, however, they do not cease to be individuals. Each with their own personality, aspirations, and gifts. Marriage should not steal these away, but rather should enhance them by focusing them on the other person and of course Christ and his church.

Union with Christ does not mean you are absorbed by God and all of your individuality is gone- that would actually be unloving. Nor are you absorbed into some sort of general humanity, like eggs in an omelette (Robert Letham, Union with Christ). The Holy Spirit enhances our humanity, it never diminishes it. The Spirit of Christ makes us more complete image bearers (humans).

Your union with Christ is much more than just communion with Christ/God.

Marriage and its sexual union is a much deeper relationship than any other. It creates a whole life union that is meant to go deeper than a business partnership, or friendship. It is capable of producing new life. This ability to create makes marriage a participation in the divine. It is much more than just a communion, it is a union.

In the Garden, before the Fall, Adam had communion with God, a friendship. But you have much more than that. Adam did not have union with God. But you do in Christ. Communion with God is the outflow, but union with God is the source. This is not merely union with the attributes of Christ. It is union with Christ. Yes we become like Christ in his attributes, but only because we are united to him in his nature.

NO, we are not being elevated to divine status. But we are created to share in God’s glory. Sin causes us to fall short of this glory. But union with Christ restores participation in the divine nature (1 Peter 1:3-4). Our nature assumes the deified humanity of Christ. Not to destroy our human characteristics but to transform them (Letham).

“To live is Christ” means that you are one spirit with Christ. And that means everything. You have received the divine nature and are progressively being transformed by it, while at the same time retaining your full and unique human person and personality. This truth is now the foundation for all you say, do, think, and believe. Like a marriage, you and Christ are now two in one.

What is there about your union with Christ that still confuses you? Scares you? What about it encourages you? Have you seen yourself growing as an individual while at the same time becoming more like Christ in his character?

June 10: One Spirit With Christ.

1 Corinthians 6:15-17.  Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 

What you may not know is that 1 Corinthians is actually Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, and in between these letters they had written him back with all kinds of questions and problems. As we have already seen, 1 Corinthians is a letter addressing a church that sees their spiritual freedom as a license to sin and mistreat one another. Their divisions have already caused Paul to ask in 1:13, “Is Christ divided?” Chapter 6 of this letter demonstrates even more of their divisiveness played out in the courts and in the bedrooms.

But in the midst of Paul dealing with these very specific problems, we receive one of the greatest theological statements about out union with Christ in all of scripture:

he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 

Wow. Let that soak in for a second.

This of course is the foundational truth of “to live is Christ” – we share a spirit with Christ. It is the Holy Spirit, God. This is the climax of Paul’s whole argument in this section. We share whole life union with Christ. Paul will use this truth to explain the Christian’s new sexual ethic. But today let’s move backwards and use the ethic to understand our union with Christ.

When we have sex with a prostitute (or any other person outside marriage) we take on the character of the prostitute through the “whole life union” that sex creates- For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” The idea of one flesh carries the idea of a whole life union; body, soul, and spirit all united. Paul reaches back to Genesis 2:24 and the scripture’s teaching on the marriage union. Notice how in our passage he uses body in contrast to flesh. He is arguing that a sexual bodily union (one body with her) is much more than just a physical act, as the Corinthians would have argued. Rather, it is a “whole life” union (The two will become one flesh). By implication the two having sex become not just one body, but also one spirit.

Why is all that important? Because you are already one Spirit with Christ.

This amazing truth has implications for all of life (not just your sex life). We take on the complete character of Christ through our union with him. This is how God can now relate to humanity, through the joined spirits of Christ (the Holy Spirit) and the Church. This joining of spirits is ultimately what will purify our bodies and what is purifying our minds now. Not an external law or moral code, but an internal life force, Jesus’ own life, is what purifies us.

This will impact all you do and all your relationships. Your union spiritually to the crucified Christ will produce the cruciform life in you. That is, a life that looks like self sacrifice, love, grace, and serving one another. Not suing one another or sleeping with one another.

Also, because you share a spirit with Christ you are now free from sin and guilt. You no longer face condemnation. You have all the spiritual blessing that Christ has. This reality now empowers you to live bodily (your bodies are members of Christ) as he lived bodily from dependence upon the Spirit of God.

“To live is Christ” is the same thing as “you are one spirit with him.” Remember, this blog is not “To live AS Christ.” As if we only need to figure out how to live like Jesus. It is “To live IS Christ.” Which is far better. Why? Because we have his Spirit, and we have his life. A life that has already been lived in our place. Now living as Jesus is a matter of faith in the truth that to live is Jesus.

How would your life look different today if you really believed that you are one spirit with Christ? What prevents you from believing this?

June 9: Relating to Christ Bodily.

1 Corinthians 6:12-15. “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?

The Corinthian Christians had a slogan- “all things are lawful for me.” Or to put it another way, “We are free in Christ to do whatever we want.” Paul’s response is “Yes, but you are not actually free when you are controlled by a behavior.” The Corinthians were not using their freedom for love, but rather for selfish gain. This is seen in 1 Corinthians 6 by their use of the law courts to gain status, and now their use of sex to simply satisfy a desire- like food for the stomach. In both cases they were using others for their own personal gain.

“To live is Christ” changes everything. It changes how we see all of life, including our bodies and our sexuality. God made everything with a purpose, including your body. Including sex. And that purpose is never to use our bodies and sexuality as a way to grasp for control or power over another person. The Christian life is lived out bodily. It is not just the private inner reflections of the heart. What we do with our bodies is the public expression of our faith. Therefore it matters very much what we do with our bodies.

The Greeks viewed the body as simply the shell of the soul. It was base, a necessary evil. This view crept into the Christian church’s thinking too. Sex was either a basic bodily function, an appetite to be fed with no impact on the soul, or it was an evil to be avoided altogether, because the body is evil. Paul will dismantle both of these views by providing an uplifted view of the body (an argument that will run all the way through chapter 15).

What is the body meant for? Is it just a temporary case for our soul? Is it bad or is it just neutral? Does it have a purpose? And Paul’s answer is profound- The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. The Christian life is not just a spiritual connection to Christ, it is also a bodily connection to Christ. How is this true?

First, we relate to Christ bodily. Our everyday physical lives are the manifestation of the life of Christ in us, and our dependency upon that life. What we do with our bodies reveals our faith in Christ.

Second, Christ lives out his life through us bodily. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Our bodies are Christ’s “members,” that is, his limbs and organs. Our bodies are his body. The Spirit that lives in us is the Spirit of Christ. Christ is alive on the earth today through our spirits and our bodies, our entire being.

Third, your body will be resurrected- And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. We will live forever in an embodied state. There will be continuity between our present bodies and our future bodies upon resurrection. In other words, your body is important because you will have it forever. You will relate to God eternally in a body. And you and Jesus will share hugs, and high fives, and great meals together forever.

We live in a culture today that has lost an understanding of the purpose of the body. We have separated the physical from the spiritual as much as the Corinthians had. A result is that my sexual behavior is reduced to a physical appetite that needs to be fed, but has no impact on my spirit or my inner man. Or my sexuality, no longer connected to my physical body, becomes my identity without consideration for the purpose or telos of my body. For example, the person experiencing same sex attraction will make this the core of their person-hood without considering the purpose of their actual physical body.

“To live is Christ” begins to open our minds and hearts to think through the connection of body, soul, and spirit, all of which are for Christ because they are connected to Christ.

Have you tended to see your body as less important than your soul or spirit? Do you see your body as belonging to Christ? Do your actions reflect that reality? What about your sexuality? How does union with Christ give purpose to your body?

June 8: Heaven. Who’s In?

1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

These three verses are often ones that make Christians wonder if they are even really saved. I mean what better than a list of all the types of people that will never go to Heaven to make us doubt our salvation, right?

But let’s take one step backward and remember the context of 1 Corinthians 6- grasping for power. The Corinthian Christians were using the unjust court system and judgments by the unjustified judges to gain power over their less fortunate brothers and sisters in Christ. But why shouldn’t I let the unjustified judge my case? Because they are never going to inherit the Kingdom of Christ. They are sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers.

And you are not. You ARE in the kingdom because you are washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Paul is teaching us once again about our new identity. He is not saying that a Christian will never steal, or commit adultery, or look at porn. He is saying this is no longer who you are. You are not unrighteous, you are righteous. Homosexual is not your identity, Christ is. Angry is not your identity, Christ is. Idolater is not your identity, Christ is. This is the heart changing promise of justification by grace alone, sola fide, and “to live is Christ” – Your actions cannot save you and they can never unsave you. Period.

There is a warning for us in this passage though. Union with Christ has placed us into Christ and Christ into us. Why? Because God is recreating humanity. He is restoring his image in humanity. He is doing this through the ultimate human- Jesus. Jesus Christ’s life in us restores humanity to God’s desired state. A humanity that lives in love for others, and holiness for the glory of God. Therefor there is no place in this new humanity, this new creation, for the sins listed in our passage above. Every single one of the people in the list above is out for themselves. They are grasping for power. They are manipulators and deceivers who have been deceived. No one who is in Christ will claim these sins as their way of life or their identity. Anyone who does is simply not in the Kingdom and never has been.

Let me share an example from my own life. I was saved and united to Christ at age 5. I was introduced to pornography around age 8. I have spent many hours of my Christian life battling between Christ and the sexual immorality [pornos] that Paul speaks of above. Although I have failed morally so many times, I have never once, since being in Christ, thought of this sin as my identity or something that I was glad I was able to do. Never once I have I not felt guilt and shame over my sin. And progress in victory did not occur until I really accepted my true identity as one who has been washed, sanctified, and justified.

“To live is Christ” means your place in the kingdom is secure, and your identity is that of Christ’s- washed, sanctified, and justified. And it also means that your life must and can reflect the new humanity- a humanity of love and holiness, never power grabs.

Are you secure in your identity in Christ? Does your life reflect this new identity? Does your sin grieve you, or do you glory in your shame? Do you spend your days looking forward to the Kingdom, or looking back to your sin? How does knowing that you are no longer outside Christ’s Kingdom give you peace and power today?

June 7: Judge Me.

1 Corinthians 6:1-3. When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 

The Christians of Corinth are grasping for power and control. They are manipulating each other to get what they want. Here in chapter 6 we can see them doing this in two ways: lawsuits and sex. First, the lawsuits.

In the Roman Empire the civil legal system favored the rich and powerful. Bribes and favors for the judge and jury were common. The courts were a place where those of status could have their way. Paul is lambasting this. Should the righteous take their cases before the unrighteous, especially in a legal system that was unjust in the first place? We can hear Paul yelling, “How dare you!”

Here again, as in chapter 5, Paul will use our identity in Christ to challenge us to be what we are.

First, because we are in Christ, and have the indwelling life of Christ in us, we are people of justice, God’s justice. We are his righteousness. His actions of justice are supposed to be performed through us, the church. We are supposed to lift up the poor and powerless. We are supposed to give strength to the weak. We are never supposed to take advantage of anyone, especially a fellow believer. So for Christians to take each other into the Roman courtrooms, places of injustice, in order to manipulate and grasp for even more power and control- How dare you!

Also, because we are in Christ and have the indwelling life of Christ in us, we are ALL JUDGES. Regardless of our status hear on earth, rich or poor, free or slave, male or female, we will judge the world and angels. Says who? Well, the prophet Daniel for one.

Daniel 7:18. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’

And Jesus

Revelation 2;26. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations,

Paul is not just exaggerating. The church will reign and rule alongside Christ. We will all be judges. And if this is true, then shouldn’t we be able to settle non criminal disputes from within the church? That is Paul’s question.

“To live is Christ” means that we are God’s people, and God’s people will judge the world. But until that day we must model for the world what true humanity looks like. Christ in us, makes this possible. He empowers us to love, serve, and carry out justice by loving, serving, and making us just.

By the way, this is not a passage about Christians never using the legal authorities or court system in order to gain justice, especially in criminal cases. This is a passage about Christians taking advantage of each other. It ought not to be so.

Are there any ways that you are grasping for power or control, even within your Christian community? Do you see yourself as having the wisdom to judge other believers? Why or why not? How does the “foolishness” of the cross give you the wisdom to judge others in humility, sacrifice, and equity?