Sermon: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Epiphany 2 - January 14, 2018 - Rev. Steven J. Radunzel
Just about each month our Chicago North Circuit of WELS pastors gets together to study God’s word and talk about any issues that might be confronting us or our congregations. There are eight pastors in this circuit, and we’re currently studying a book entitled Doctor of Souls, the Art of Pastoral Theology. As the title indicates it’s a book for pastors involving the spiritual care of Christians.
It’s interesting that the title refers to the pastor as a doctor, a doctor of souls. There actually is a connection between the professions of a medical doctor and a pastor. They both involve caring for the health of people. One profession involves caring for the body or physical part of our life. The other involves caring for the soul or the spiritual part of our life.
But it should also be noted that the gospel message is not just about caring for and saving the soul, it’s also about saving the body as well. Jesus came to this world to redeem not just our soul. He came to redeem both our soul and our body.
In our text today the Apostle Paul wants us to understand that our spiritual health does not just involve our spirit or our soul. It very much involves our physical body as well. Paul wants us to remember that
JESUS REDEEMED US SOUL AND BODY
The city of Corinth was located right in the middle of Greece. Business people from many different nations passed through Corinth on their way between Europe and Asia. There was a very significant Christian congregation in Corinth, and they were having a number of problems. One of the problems among the Corinthians was sexual immorality, not surprising considering the number of foreign visitors passing through the city and the Greek culture itself that permitted and even promoted such immorality.
The Corinthians even had what they thought was a pretty good excuse for their immorality. They said, “Everything is permissible for me.” That statement was a careless way for Christians to say, “I have Christian freedom. I believe in Jesus. I have the forgiveness of sins. It’s ok for me to do whatever I want, including what others might define as immorality.”
Do you think the Corinthians sound a little like many Americans? I think they sound a lot like Americans. “It’s my life. It’s my body. I can do whatever I want to do.” And sadly many professing Christians say the same thing. “I’ll choose my own version of morality. Everybody lives like this. My church is a little out of step with the times. I can do whatever I want to do, and it’s nobody’s business.”
Paul admits that Christians do have many freedoms and are permitted to do many things. However, not all those freedoms are necessarily beneficial, nor should any of those freedoms dominate or control your life. Christians have the freedom to enjoy a bottle of beer or a glass of wine, but neither is particularly beneficial for the body. Actually alcohol becomes very destructive to the body and to many lives when it dominates or controls a person.
But Paul especially wanted the Corinthians to understand that immorality was not one of those freedoms. Some of the Corinthians were saying, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food.” In other words they were saying, “The physical act of eating and digesting food is natural and even necessary. It has no effect on a person’s spiritual life or health. In the same way sexuality is a natural part of life. Therefore our behavior in the area of morality and immorality, like eating and digesting food, has no real effect on a person’s spiritual life or health.”
That kind of reasoning fit in well with Greek philosophy and how a Greek person thought. We might get the impression from Greek art and sculptures that they had a high regard for the human body. Actually Greek philosophy and religion saw the body as something that contained, actually restrained and hindered, the soul. At death they believed the soul was released from the confining body free to pass on to greater glory and pleasure.
These Corinthians Christians had long been influenced by such thinking and philosophy. Therefore they argued that whatever they did with their bodies in this life, eat, drink, digest food, fulfill passionate desires however they wished, was irrelevant and had no real effect on their spiritual life, particularly in the life to come.
Paul agreed that the physical processes and needs of the human body would indeed change in the life to come. However, those changes did not permit anyone to use their body in this life in any way they chose or for immorality. Paul wrote, “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.”
What part of you will be with Jesus in eternity? We human beings are made up of a body and a soul. What part of you will be in eternity with Jesus? Most people, including many Christians, will quickly answer that their soul will be with Jesus in the new heaven and earth. We sometimes have some rather childlike thinking about our existence in eternity. Too often we think of souls floating on clouds up in heaven. We think a little bit like the Greeks, that just our souls will go to eternity. But the Greeks were very wrong.
Remember what Paul wrote, “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.” Paul’s point is that Jesus redeemed us soul and body. After Jesus returns and the resurrection occurs our soul and body both will be in eternity.
God loves our souls. But he also loves our physical bodies. Remember how God created Adam in the beginning. He actually formed Adam’s body from the dust of the ground. Then he breathed literally the breath of life into his nostrils. God didn’t create the angels or the stars or the trees or any of the animals in that very personal, intimate way. And God intended that Adam and Eve and all their descendants, including you and me, to live, body and soul, forever.
Adam’s sin destroyed the hope of our souls and bodies living forever. Sin causes these bodies to get old and sick. Eventually we die. And because of our sin we deserve to die body and soul in hell.
But God loved us enough, body and soul, to send Jesus to save us from sin and redeem us body and soul from hell. He saved us by having Jesus, the Son of God, take on a human body. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Since we sinners have a human body, the Son of God took on a human body in order to redeem us soul and body.
It was necessary for our Savior to be a human and have a human body so that body could be nailed to a cross as an innocent sacrifice for our sins and the sins of the whole world. It was necessary for our Savior to be a human and have a human body so he could live his life perfectly in this world as our Substitute. His holiness has been credited to us.
What’s the proof we have that we have been redeemed soul and body? - what Paul already wrote to the Corinthians - “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.” God raised Jesus’ body from the dead as the proof that sin, death, and hell had been conquered and we have been redeemed soul and body.
Therefore Jesus can say, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Don’t miss what Jesus is saying. Because he is the resurrection and the life we who believe in him will live forever soul and body with him. Remember the words we speak in faith at the burial of a Christian: “May God the Father, who created this body; May God the Son who by his blood redeemed this body together with the soul; May God the Holy Spirit, who by Holy Baptism sanctified this body to be his temple; keep these remains to the day of the resurrection of all flesh.” Jesus loves us soul and body. Jesus redeemed us soul and body.
Paul’s point to the Corinthians and to us is that since God created our bodies, loves us soul and body, and redeemed us soul and body, then don’t disrespect your body, don’t disrespect another person’s body, don’t abuse your body, don’t abuse another person’s body, and, most important of all, don’t use your body for immorality.
Paul urges us to flee from sexual immorality for a number of reasons. Our bodies are members of Christ. We are united to him by faith. We should not unite our bodies with something sinful. Should we take our body and unite it with someone who is not our husband or wife? Of course not! That would be a gross perversion of marriage which God established in the beginning. “The two (husband and wife) will become one flesh,” not two who are not married.
Paul urges us to flee from immorality because we are shaming ourselves and our body in such sins because we are using our body itself as the instrument of sin.
Our bodies, Paul says, are the temple of the Holy Spirit. When we were baptized the Holy Spirit descended on us to live within us and change our lives and motivate sanctified living. When we use our body for immorality it’s a grotesque use of the temple of the Holy Spirit, grieves the Holy Spirit, and frustrates his work in us.
The word of God has no regard for what the feminist may say, what the most liberal libertarian may believe, or what the most careless, defiant young person, or old person for that matter, may say. Our bodies are not ours to do with what we want. “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”
Our world, our American society, our young people, we all, need to listen to these words because Jesus redeemed us soul and body. Amen.