2. Killing Sexual Sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-20)Related Media
November 25, 2018
My subject is, killing sexual sin. The phrase comes from John Owen, who wrote (The Works of John Owen [Banner of Truth], 6:9), “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” But Owen got it from the apostle Paul (Rom. 8:13), “For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (See, also, Col. 3:5, ESV.) But killing it once is not enough. Sexual sin is a monster with more than nine lives. You’ll have to keep killing it for the rest of your life.
I still remember how shocked I was back in 1987 to read a survey in Christianity Today ([10/2/87], pp. 25-45) that one out of eight pastors admit to committing adultery since being in the ministry! Among CT’s subscribers who were not pastors, it was one out of four who admitted to being unfaithful to their marriage vows!
About the same time, Leadership (Winter, 1988, p. 24) reported that 20 percent of pastors admitted to looking at sexually oriented media (print, video, or movies) at least once a month! This was before the internet and smartphones made viewing porn as easy as a couple of clicks!
More recently (1/26/16) Christianity Today (christianitytoday.com/news/2016/january/how-pastors-struggle-porn-phenomenon-josh-mcdowell-barna) reported, “Overall, 21 percent of youth pastors and 14 percent of pastors admit they currently struggle with using porn.” The article added, “In comparison, 47 percent of men and 12 percent of women in general seek out porn at least once or twice a month. And about 27 percent of Christian men and 6 percent of Christian women actively look for porn during that time.” The Conquer Series (conquerseries.com/why-68-percent-of-christian-men-watch-porn), a DVD program to help Christians with this problem, claims that 68 percent of Christian men and 50 percent of pastors watch porn regularly!
Whichever numbers are accurate, to cite the famous understatement from “Apollo 13,” “Houston, we’ve got a problem!” So as one of my final messages to this church, I want to talk about killing sexual sin. Our text shows that …
Killing sexual sin is essential for all who know Jesus Christ.
You can consult other messages that I’ve given for a more thorough treatment (“Moral Purity in a Polluted World,” 6/1/97; “The Right and Wrong Place for Sex,” 2/13/05; “Clean Up Your Act,” 6/1/08; “Sex, Greed, and Christians,” 3/6/16; “Sexual Purity,” 10/9/16; etc. or my article, “Winning the War Against Lust”). But here Paul gives four ways to be killing this common sin.
1. To be killing sexual sin, recognize that sexual purity is a salvation issue.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “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.”
Fornication refers to any type of sexual activity outside of marriage. Adultery refers to having sex with someone other than your (heterosexual) spouse. Effeminate refers to the man who takes the woman’s role, whereas homosexuals refers to the active partner in homosexual relationships. In Romans 1:26, Paul also condemns lesbian relationships.
Some argue that “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (repeated twice here) refers to a loss of rewards, not to salvation (cf. Eph. 5:5-6; Col. 3:5-6). But Jesus said (Matt. 5:27-30):
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.”
Clearly, Jesus was saying that you must radically cut off the sin of lust, which is at the heart of all sexual sins, or you will be cast into hell. (See, also, Heb. 12:14; 13:4.) While true believers fall into these sins (David is the prime example), if a person does not repent of sexual sin and fight to kill it, Jesus meant that such a person is not a genuine believer and is headed for hell. After affirming Paul’s gospel that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ and His death on the cross, apart from works, Alan Redpath adds (The Royal Route to Heaven [Revell], p. 74),
Yet the Apostle Paul also relentlessly declares that no one can claim salvation and go on practicing sin like an unbeliever. If the outer life of a child of God is not made pure, it is evidence that the inward heart has never been renewed. The faith that does not produce holiness is not New Testament faith; it is not saving faith; …
Paul warns us not to be deceived about this matter (1 Cor. 6:9; Eph. 5:6). It’s an area where the enemy tries to fool you by lying, “God’s grace will forgive. You deserve some pleasure, so don’t be too hard on yourself.” But Paul says (1 Thess. 4:8) that if you reject God’s commandment for moral purity, you’re not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.
Those are strong words, but before you despair, note the word of hope (1 Cor. 6:11), “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.” No sinner is beyond God’s power to save! To be washed means being cleansed from all sin through faith in Jesus’ shed blood (Acts 22:16; 1 John 1:7). To be sanctified here refers to being set apart to God for holy living that glorifies Him (1 Cor. 1:2, 30). To be justified means that God has declared the believing sinner “not guilty” and has imputed Christ’s perfect righteousness to him (Rom. 3:24-26; 4:5). All of this happened, “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
Thus the starting point for moral purity is to believe the gospel and be born again by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8). Then by walking in dependence on the indwelling Spirit, you are able to put to death the sinful deeds of the body and develop self-control (Rom. 8:13; Gal. 5:16-23). It’s a lifelong war, but if you’re not fighting that war, you may not be truly saved. Those who belong to Christ and have the Holy Spirit living in them cannot be content if they’re yielding to sexual sin.
2. To be killing sexual sin, understand that it is never profitable and it always enslaves.
1 Cor. 6:12: “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.” Most commentators agree that the phrase, “All things are lawful for me,” was a slogan of the libertines in the Corinthian church. Paul taught that we are not under law, but under grace (Rom. 6:14). We died to the Law and are released from it (Rom. 7:4, 6). But he did not mean that we are free to live according to our lusts in disregard of God’s commandments (Rom. 6:1-2; Gal. 5:13). Like the rules of the road, God’s commandments are for our blessing and protection (Rom. 7:12). If you violate them, you and others will get hurt. So here Paul cites the slogan which the libertines were misusing, but hedges it with two safeguards:
A. Sexual sin is never profitable.
Sexual sin is destructive because it drags God’s holy name through the mud (Gen. 39:9). This is especially true if a Christian leader sins. He discredits the faith in the eyes of unbelievers and causes many believers to stumble in their walk with the Lord.
Sexual sin also hurts the sinner himself. While at first, it feels good (otherwise we wouldn’t be tempted to do it), as Proverbs 7 warns, to succumb to the seductive woman is to go as an ox goes to the slaughter. It will cost your life (Prov. 7:22-27). Also, to engage in any sexual sin damages your relationship with Christ. You can’t enjoy close fellowship with Him while you’re defiling yourself.
Sexual sin also hurts the person you sin with. If you claim to be a Christian and engage in sexual immorality with a non-Christian, he or she may wrongly conclude that Christians are free to engage in sexual sin. So you may be helping him or her down the path toward eternal judgment. If the other person is a Christian, you defile him or her and damage his or her relationship with Christ.
If you’re married and have children, sexual sin will hurt your mate, your children, and your grandchildren. You’ll lose their respect and your ability to influence them to follow the Lord. So before you yield to the temptation of lust, think about the consequences.
B. Sexual sin always enslaves those who yield to it.
Paul says, “I will not be mastered by anything.” Dr. Ted Roberts, the host of the “Conquer Series,” claims that churches are wrong to view yielding to pornography as primarily a moral problem. Rather, he says, it is mainly a brain problem (conquerseries.com/why-68-percent-of-christian-men-watch-porn). I disagree; it is primarily a sin problem. But the valid point he’s making is that viewing porn re-wires your brain so that you become enslaved to it. Like being enslaved to alcohol or drugs, sexual sin becomes life-dominating. It consumes and destroys the one engaging in it.
John MacArthur goes so far as to say (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 1 Corinthians [Moody Press]. P. 149), “No sin is more enslaving than sexual sin.” Jesus Christ, not the lusts of the flesh, is to be the Lord of your body.
3. To be killing sexual sin, understand that it is always a violation of God’s purpose for our bodies.
1 Cor. 6:13-17: “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. 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! 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 one flesh.’ But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.”
“Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them,” may have been another slogan of the Corinthian libertines. They were saying, “Sex is just like eating. We have a biological need to eat and we have the same need for sex. Neither is wrong. Someday God will do away with our bodies and their needs.” But Paul says that they were wrong on both counts. In verse 14 he states that God will not do away with our bodies, because He will resurrect them (see 1 Cor. 15).
Then (vv. 15-17), he argues that the analogy between eating and having sex does not hold up. He was specifically addressing the problem of the Corinthians going to the Temple of Aphrodite to have sex with the temple prostitutes. He points out that as Christians, our bodies are members of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 12). To join yourself to a temple prostitute is to join a member of Christ with a prostitute. His vehement response is (v. 15), “May it never be!”
While we don’t have temple prostitutes to tempt us, Paul’s point applies to when you view porn: It’s like saying, “Hey, Lord, check this out!” Or, if you engage in any sexual sin, you’re involving Christ with you in that sin! “May it never be!”
Then (vv. 16-17) Paul points out the spiritual nature of the sexual union. He cites Genesis 2:24, “The two shall become one flesh,” which applies to marital relations, and says that it even applies to having sex with a prostitute! The sexual act is not just a physical joining of a man and a woman, but a union of two persons in the deepest form of intimacy that we can know. In the Old Testament, the sexual union is often referred to as a man “knowing” his wife. As Paul argues in Ephesians 5:25-32, marriage and the sexual relationship in marriage is a picture of the union between Christ and His bride, the church.
That’s one reason why God designed sexual relations to be restricted within the boundaries of lifelong marriage between a man and a woman. Sex in any other context destroys the picture of Christ’s faithful, exclusive love for His church. So Paul’s point here is that to take sex outside of lifelong heterosexual marriage is to pervert God’s purpose for our bodies. God never designed sex to be merely a physical act, like eating. It joins two persons on the deepest level, even when it’s a one-night fling.
This may be Paul’s intended meaning behind the difficult statement in verse 18: “Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.” The problem is, there are other sins that seem to be against our bodies: alcohol and drug abuse, overeating, and suicide. One commentator (Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians [Eerdmans], p. 261) says that there are 20 or 30 solutions offered as to what Paul means!
My understanding is that he is speaking in light of what he has said in verses 15-17 regarding the unique, God-designed purpose for the sexual union. John MacArthur explains (ibid. p. 151), “Because sexual intimacy is the deepest uniting of two persons, its misuse corrupts on the deepest human level.” He cites C. S. Lewis in his Screwtape Letters: “Every time a man and a woman enter into a sexual relationship a spiritual bond is established between them which must be eternally enjoyed or eternally endured.” MacArthur adds, “God takes sexual sin seriously because it corrupts and shatters spiritual relationships, both human and divine.”
In verse 17, Paul states a profound, life-changing truth: “But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” Just as a man and woman who join their bodies together are joined in more than a physical way, so when we trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior, we enter into eternal spiritual union with Him on the deepest level. As Jesus said (John 15:4), “Abide in Me, and I in you.” (See, also, John 17:21-23, Rom. 8:9-11; Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27.) Our union with Christ is a spiritual bond of love much deeper than any husband and wife can experience in even the best of marriages. The sexual union in marriage is to display the spiritual union and love that we enjoy with Christ.
Thus, to be killing sexual sin, recognize that sexual purity is a salvation issue. It is never profitable and always enslaves. It violates God’s purpose for our bodies. Finally…
4. To be killing sexual sin, flee immorality, both mentally and physically, so that you may glorify God with your body.
Verses 18-20 contain two commands: “Flee immorality” (v. 18); and, “Glorify God in your body” (v. 20). Burn both commands into your brain! Flee! Glorify! When you are tempted to click on porn or to go to bed with that sexy partner who is not your spouse, flee as fast as you can! Don’t stand there and pray about it. Get out of there as you would run from a fire that threatens your life! The reason for fleeing is that your aim as a believer is to glorify God in your body. Note four things:
A. Flee mentally and physically the instant that temptation hits.
One truth that has helped me to fight against lust is to realize that all sin begins on the thought level, so I need to defeat it on that level. Jesus taught (Mark 7:21-23):
“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”
This means that sexual sin is never a sudden blowout. If someone says, “I was just cruising along when all of a sudden, Bam! I had a blowout and fell,” he’s deceived. He doesn’t understand the way temptation and sin work. James 1:14-15 describes the process: “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” Then he warns (v. 16), “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.”
Sexual sin is always a slow leak that begins when you don’t judge your lust on the thought level. No one ever fell into adultery who didn’t first entertain it in his or her mind. Jesus’ extreme language about cutting off your hand or plucking out your eye regarding mental lust means that you have to kill lust the instant you’re tempted. Take every thought captive to obedience to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). He knows our thoughts (Heb. 4:13). To be a man or woman of God, you have to walk with Him on the heart or thought level. This demands mentally and physically fleeing immorality!
B. Flee mentally and physically because your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you.
1 Cor. 6:19a: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God …?” “Temple” (the Greek word) refers to the holy of holies in the Old Testament. That was the most sacred place on earth. Only the high priest could enter there, only once a year on the Day of Atonement, taking the proper sacrifice. The amazing truth is that now your body is that holy of holies! Just as God dwelled in that holy place, so the Holy Spirit now dwells in every believer in Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:9).
In Galatians 5:16-23, Paul commands us to walk in the Spirit so that we will not carry out the deeds of the flesh, which include sexual immorality. One of the fruits that the Spirit produces in us is self-control. This includes the ability to flee sexual temptation. Develop the habit of walking moment by moment in the Spirit. Ask God to strengthen you with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your heart through faith (Eph. 3:16-17). That is essential for killing sexual sin.
C. Flee mentally and physically because you are not your own; you’ve been bought with a price.
Paul always brings us back to the cross. There, Jesus bought us with His own blood. We no longer belong to ourselves, but to Him. Think of the price He paid to purchase you from the slave market of sin. Why go back there? Jesus is your new Master.
D. Flee mentally and physically because your aim as a believer is to glorify God with your body.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism states, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” If you’re happy with your mate, why would you want to get involved with someone else? If you’re happy with the Lord, why look for happiness in sexual defilement? Begin each day finding true happiness in God. You can’t glorify or enjoy Him if you’re messing around with sexual sin.
We live in a morally corrupt world, but so did the Corinthians. Their city was so corrupt that the Roman world coined the phrase, “to Corinthianize,” which meant to commit sexual immorality. Many in the Corinthian church had defiled themselves repeatedly with sexual sin. But go back to verse 11: “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 have trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, that verse is true of you. Live like it’s true! If you haven’t yet trusted in Christ, that verse can be true of you today if you will turn from sexual sin to Jesus as your Savior and Lord.
- To what degree should we try to shelter ourselves and our kids from sexually explicit movies, TV, books, magazines, etc.?
- Discuss this statement: No one ever falls into sexual sin without first entertaining it in his or her mind.
- Where do we cross the line between temptation and sin?
- Is “sexual addiction” a disease? Is it proper to refer to it by that term? Why/why not?
Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2018, All Rights Reserved.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation