“Leading a Chaste and Decent Life” (1 Corinthians 6:12-20)

Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 17, 2021

“Leading a Chaste and Decent Life” (1 Corinthians 6:12-20)

Have you seen the January issue of the Lutheran Witness? On the cover it has a quote from Luther’s Explanation of the Sixth Commandment. It says: “We should fear and love God so that we lead a chaste and decent life.” And that’s the theme of the issue: The articles are on how we as Christians should lead a chaste and decent life in what we say and do.

And so, when I looked at the Scripture readings coming up for today, I thought, “Wow, the Epistle lesson ties right in with this issue!” And it certainly is a timely topic, as we shall see. Thus the theme for our message this morning: “Leading a Chaste and Decent Life.”

“Chaste”: That’s kind of an old-timey word to describe the right and responsible use of our sexuality. The updated translation of the catechism uses the term “sexually pure” in place of “chaste”: “The Sixth Commandment: You shall not commit adultery. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.”

As I say, this ties right in with today’s Epistle. Let me read a few of the verses again for you: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. . . . 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! . . . Flee from sexual immorality. . . . 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, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Well, today I’m going to preach on this reading from 1 Corinthians 6. And I’m guessing that some of us may find that a little uncomfortable. Why? Because this portion of St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians deals with . . . sex. There, I said it, the “s” word. But we should not be afraid to hear this, because the Bible deals with this subject. And the culture that we live in is much like the culture of the Corinthians. It would draw even us Christians into some unhealthy, sinful patterns. So, this is a very relevant word that we need to hear today. God wants us to hear it. That’s why it’s in the Bible.

First, let’s set the stage. Paul is writing here to the Corinthians, that is, to the church in Corinth. Corinth was a big city in southern Greece, a major seaport for the Mediterranean world. And even in the pagan Greco-Roman world, Corinth was notorious for its sexual immorality. It was known as a “sin city,” full of vice and prostitution. So much so, that the term “to Corinthianize” came to mean “to live a promiscuous life,” “to lead a life of licentiousness, debauchery, and gross immorality.” That was what Corinth was like.

First-century Corinth was like what 21st-century America has become: a moral cesspool. Now I’m not the oldest person here today, but even I can remember when it was not like this. But since the mid-1960s, especially, our country’s public morality has increasingly gone downhill–particularly in sexual matters. Things that used to be shameful now are not only tolerated, they are celebrated.

Think of how things have changed. Divorce by its nature goes against what God intended, but now we have “no-fault” divorce, making it much easier for people to tear asunder what God has joined together. And now we have people bypassing marriage altogether, simply choosing to shack up together without the public commitment of marriage. People wanted to have sex without consequences, and since pregnancy and the responsibility of raising children were thought to be “inconvenient,” now we have abortion on demand, the willful killing of innocent human life. This Friday will mark the 48th anniversary of the fateful Roe v. Wade decision of January 22, 1973. On that date, the United States Supreme Court unconstitutionally and immorally struck down state laws against abortion. The Supreme Court acted egregiously again on June 26, 2015, in the Obergefell v. Hodges case, when they struck down state laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Now we have the strange notion of homosexual “marriage,” which is an impossibility.

Deviancy, perversion, LGBTQXYZ–rebellion against the way our Creator made us–all these forces are dominant now in our sick American culture. The people who promote these things dominate the entertainment industry, public education, big tech, the news media, and, once again starting this week, the federal government. And if you disagree with them, you are in danger of being cancelled.

America has become like Corinth. And here in our text, Paul is writing to the young church in Corinth. He’s writing to Christians who had come out of that pagan background and who were surrounded by that sexually immoral culture. But the problem was, many of the Christians, many of the church members, had not made a clean break from their culture. So in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul has to address this problem.

In chapter 5, for instance, Paul has to deal with the problem of a man who has been sleeping with his father’s wife–and the congregation has been tolerating this! This should not be! And in chapter 6, in the verses right before our text, Paul says: “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” In other words, Corinthians, too many of you are still living like you’re back in your old pagan ways!

And that’s the same problem with the church in our day, in our culture. Too easily we go along with the world around us. In his article in the current Lutheran Witness, Pastor David Ramirez writes: “While Christians often readily condemn homosexual behavior and other extreme deviancies, many ‘Bible-believing’ Christians wink at premarital intimacy, living together before marriage, adultery, and other forms of fornication. . . . Christians should not wonder how our culture arrived at the inability to recognize the absurdity of gay ‘marriage’ and transgenderism. We arrived by way of no-fault divorce, toleration of engaged couples ‘playing house,’ and glorification of hook-up culture. The culture that surrounds us celebrates promiscuity–indiscriminate physical intimacy.”

So the church needs to become countercultural. We need to recapture and extol the virtue of chastity. Also in the current Witness, seminary professor Joel Biermann defines chastity as follows: “Chastity is the practice of rightly embracing the fullness of one’s bodily self in a way that honors God and cares for the neighbor. In other words, chastity is thinking about and using one’s body, particularly the sexual aspect of that body, in a way that lives out the will of God for our sexuality and personhood.”

What Biermann is doing here is to portray chastity in a positive light. It’s not merely abstaining from sex, as though sex were dirty, which it is not. Rather, it is to use the good gift of our sexuality in a responsible and God-pleasing way. Which is why God instituted marriage in the first place, for husband and wife to love and honor each other within that blessed estate.

In our text, Paul says, “Flee from sexual immorality.” But now what do you do if you have been caught up in it? It may not be an adulterous affair. It could be an addiction to pornography. It could be going along with the popular culture and condoning what God condemns. What to do? Repent. Confess your sins to God your Father. Ask for his forgiveness. Seek his help to resist temptation, and avoid situations where you know you are more likely to be weak. Put to death the old sinful flesh, and put on the new person you are in Christ.

Listen to what Paul tells the Corinthians, and realize this is for you, too: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” You see, you are baptized. In your baptism, you received the gift of the Holy Spirit, to lead you in the right ways. Follow the Spirit’s lead. Don’t listen to the excuses and rationalizations you make up in your own head. Go with the fruit of the Spirit, not the desires of the flesh.

Paul continues: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” Thank God you are not your own! On your own, you would be doomed to hell, because of your sins. But God has delivered you from the domain of darkness and transferred you to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom you have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. You were bought with a price, the incalculable price of Christ’s holy blood, shed on the cross for your forgiveness. Jesus Christ, your Lord, has purchased and won you “from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.” That was the tremendous price with which you were bought. Why? To what end? That you “may be his own and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as he is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.”

This is who you are, dear Christian. You are no longer a worldling, lost in the darkness of sin and sexual immorality. No, now you belong to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And that’s best place to be. The ways of this world are a dead end, literally. The ways of God are light and life. Flee immorality. Pursue immortality. Eternal life, new life–these are the gifts you have received from God. “So glorify God in your body.” Ask his help to lead “a chaste and decent life.” God is faithful, and he will do it.

Published in: on January 16, 2021 at 10:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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