“Body and Soul”
1 Corinthians 6:12-20 “Body and Soul”
Before reading: The Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the church at Corinth in response to oral reports about what was going on and also a letter sent to him by the church itself. In today’s section Paul is responding to oral reports. In verse 1 of chapter 5, Paul wrote, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife.” Paul responded by saying how you are to live as Christians with those of the world who are immoral and those within the church who are immoral. Paul wrote that the “unjust” will not inherit the kingdom of God and gave a short list of some of the “unjust,” which included “adulterers, sodomites, greedy, drunkards,” etc. And then in 6:11, he wrote, “And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of God.” Immediately following that verse comes our passage, so to you who are washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of God:
Listen to the Word of God from verses 12-20 of chapter 6 of 1 Corinthians.
1. A number of Sundays, we respond to the Word of God read, prayed, preached, and sung by saying, “I believe in God the Father Almighty…. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”
“The resurrection of the body”? Why not say “the resurrection” only? Why add “of the body”? Isn’t saying, “the Resurrection” enough? The Corinthian Church was in a unique situation as a major trade and commerce center across the narrow neck of land between the Corinthian Gulf and the Saronic Gulf. Merchants and sailors sent their goods across the isthmus instead of risking the horrific ocean voyage around the south cape. (Morris, Tyndale NTC, 17) In addition, Corinth had a temple to Aphrodite, to which more than a 1,000 prostitutes were connected as part of their religion. The immorality a person could get involved with was so great that to ‘corinthianize’ became a popular Greek word for “go to the devil.” (Morris, 18) In such a context, how the Corinthian Christian saw his or her body as it related to faith was critical.
2. Paul quoted some of the wisdom Corinthian “bumper” stickers:
“All things are lawful for me,” “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and “Every sin that a person commits is outside the body”. These slogans demonstrated that whatever they wanted to do with the body is O.K. and had no effect on their faith. They believed their spiritual life was so much more important than their physical bodily life that what happened to the body did not matter one bit. The Corinthians had a complete disregard for the physical part of life. Why? They may have said to themselves that God will eventually destroy both sex and hunger. Thus, the physical life is not important. (Texts for Preaching – Year B, 110)
The physical part of life is important to us. All of life is a gift to us from God. The spiritual side of life is a gift, sustains us. We could not do without the physical side either, also a gift. It gives me great sadness today to see the news of Covid-19 killing thousands of people daily across our country. In California refrigerator trunks, not unlike in New York City early on, are pulling up to hospitals to provide cold storage for all the bodies. Our bodies are important to us and to God. Temples of the Holy Spirit to be honored and cared for in life and in death.
3. Paul affirmed the significance of the body. The body is for the Lord and the Lord is for the body. God raised the Lord in His body and will also raise us by His power. Your bodies are meant for the Lord and are members of Christ. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. You are not your own, but were brought with a price. The body is important to the Lord, who not only created it, but redeemed it, too. (Ibid, 111)
Our church is participating in a program in Central Florida Presbytery called the Vital Church Initiative (VCI), a program of revitalization and transformation. A cohort of pastors began meeting this past week by Zoom to collaborate in this program. Our facilitators Pastor Hugh Lackey and Dr. Cheryl Carson led us in our meeting, and the Reverend Dr. Dan Williams, our Executive Presbyter, joined us, too. This cohort represented churches from Kissimmee to Merritt Island to Lake Mary. We studied as a focus passage was Isaiah 43:1-21. We talked about phrases that spoke to us. What spoke to me was what the prophet Isaiah said in verse 1: “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” God has created us, formed us, redeemed us, called us, and we belong to God.
New Testament scholar Gunther Bornkamm in his book titled Paul writes about the body:
“As used by Paul, ‘body’ is man as he actually is. Man does not have a body, he is a body (Bultmann). … ‘Body’ expresses particularly the fact that man is a living being, never merely existing as a thing does, but experiencing, conducting himself in such and such a way, controlling himself or even throwing away and losing himself – man is all his potentialities. But this is the very reverse of being depending on himself. Instead, ‘body’ designates man as the one who never belongs to himself, but always has a master set over him, sin, death, or the Lord. Because of this, man in his corporeality is always asked: To whom do you belong? (1 Corinthians 6:13, 15ff)” (130, 131)
This body, for better or for worse, is very much who I am. I am a body and a spirit. The two cannot and will not be separated. What about “ashes to ashes and dust to dust”? I guess I’ll have to add “of the body” to what normally follows that phrase “ashes to ashes and dust to dust in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection (of the body) from the dead.”
4. Note the importance of the body in Paul’s rhetoric:
Verse 15: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?”
Verse 16: “Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is written, ‘The two shall become one flesh.’”
Verse 19: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?”
Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. New Testament Australian scholar Leon Morris wrote about verse 19, “‘body’ is singular so that each believer is a temple in which God dwells. The (Greek) word s (naos), which means sacred shrine, the sanctuary, the place where the deity dwells, not (heiron), which includes the entire precincts.” (99, Tyndale) In other words, our body is the holy of holies where God dwells on the seat of the Ark of the Covenant. Now if that does not give you the hebbie gebbies, I do not know what will!
Our body is the sacred shrine where God dwells. Our body is not a prison of the Spirit from which the Spirit wants to be freed, as in Gnosticism, but is the shrine of the Spirit. (Leander Keck, Paul and His Letters, 112) Imagine your body as the shrine of the Holy Spirit, the very dwelling place of the Spirit of God. Don’t only imagine your body as the Spirit’s shrine, live as if your body truly is a place God sits on the seat of the Ark of the Covenant and others can come to know God.
5. Now admittedly, some of us will take a little cleaning, others a lot of elbow grease to get our bodies really ready for God to dwell within our bodies. Individually, we’re each responsible for our own body, but we do have help not only from God. Our elders and deacons in the church have promised to help us be faithful dwelling places of the Word of God. Elders and deacons have promised to serve you with love. Not I know that does not mean picking up a dust rag and the silver polish to get us all cleaned up and in order for the presence of God within us, but I suspect that some of our body shrines can use a little pledge to get and keep the dust off. Our body shrines may need a little Wright’s silver polish to make us shine more brightly, to get the tarnish off from time to time. We do want to have a clean, respectable home for the Holy Spirit, do we not? Elders, deacons, Christians, there are days when we all must put on our stained cleaning clothes, find our old dusting cloths, and get out the polishing cream. These unusually challenging days in our church, community, and country, there’s a lot of cleaning up to do to keep our temples a proper home for the Holy Spirit and to make our light of Christ set on a hill to shine more brightly for the world to see. May God, whom we know through Jesus Christ, be glorified through our bodies and the body of Christ called the church.
In our world today, through us and all faithful Christians: