9 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, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 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.
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. 13 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. 14 Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. 15 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! 16 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.” 17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
1 Corinthians 6:9-12
I often go back to this passage in my mind and turn things over. I was reminded again of this passage after reading an article on desiringgod.org:
Paul’s two-fold imperative for the Church is to flee sexual immorality and glorify God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:18–20). Paul gives us seven theological ammunitions that empower us to obey these commands and kill porn.
- As God’s church, we know that tolerance of sexual immorality in our midst ferments the church (1 Corinthians 5:6–8);
- As a believer in Christ, you know that you were washed, sanctified, and justified (1 Corinthians 6:11) in the name of Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit of God (because the entire Godhead — the Father, Spirit, and Son — was involved in your salvation);
- You know that your body is for the Lord, not for porn or masturbation or adultery (1 Corinthians 6:12–14);
- You know that you are a member of Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 6:15);
- You know that you are married to Christ (1 Corinthians 6:16–17);
- You know that the sexually immoral, the unrepentant porn-stars and porn-watchers, will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9–10);
- You know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19–20), therefore flee sexual immorality and glorify God in your body.
This is your ammunition — truths accomplished by God, knowledge given you by his grace.
I suppose it might be helpful in our struggle against lust to know that if you indulge it in any way, thereby proving that your repentance was all a sham, that you are doomed to eternal hell. That is, as long as you remain 100% successful in your struggle! If you fail (and where does that threshold lie, exactly?), you are doomed anyway, so why bother any more?
However, something occurred to me while I was thinking about this recently. Paul is writing to people whom he considers to be true believers: “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.” He considers his readers, the Corinthian church, to be true believers, genuinely washed. Yet here they are in genuine gross error: they tolerate heinous sexual sins, they sue one another in a secular court, and they even had to be reminded at length not to personally engage in gross sexual immorality. This suggests that they were engaging and needed to stop! Yet they were washed, they were cleansed, they were sanctified, they were justified.
These genuinely sanctified and justified believers need a warning: even though these things are true of you, flee immorality! This means, you can be genuinely washed, sanctified, and justified, and still need a warning to flee immorality. He does not say, “You have been bought with a price, but if you commit serious sexual sin, you are OFF THE ISLAND.” He says, you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, you were bought with a price. You may have fallen off the wagon, but remember who you are and live that way!
He does not say that the sins in this list are deal-killers for your salvation. He says something far more significant and powerful: they are unprofitable. All things, these kinds of things, are lawful to the washed/sanctified/justified/bought-with-a-price believer. It is no longer a question of threat for us. It is a question of freedom put to profitable use. It is a question of the heart. We have been loved with a one-way everlasting eternal love, bestowed upon us freely simply because we believe it and receive it. It is this freedom from threat, this lawfulness of all things, this scandalous liberty, which grants us the ability to see clearly what is profitable and what is not. This is how gospel-driven imperatives work! If we do not parse out and understand the nuance of this passage, we miss the grand jewel in the crown of gospel-rooted living!
We have a friend who had a man in her life from whom she was awaiting a proposal of marriage. They had been courting for several years, and he would not make up his mind. They had agreed they wanted to marry, but he would not commit to a date. So she made an ultimatum: she would not visit him until he made up his mind. During that time, she visited often with my wife, where she began to complain about why she couldn’t visit the man she loved! Oh how difficult this vow had become! She was lonely! My wife finally said, “You’re under grace! You want to go visit him, go visit him! Do what you want! You are a free woman!” This proclamation of freedom had the effect of allowing her to look at things with her right mind: she realized that in the long term, she wanted marriage, and she wanted to know that she was important enough to him to warrant marriage. Now they are happily married!
Grace-rooted imperatives are exactly like this. We act, not as slaves, but as free. We act from a profit motive, not from threat avoidance. People who are unwilling to believe in the scandalous freedom of the gospel will say this means we condone sin and license. However, I am not saying and have never said that sin is good. I am not saying there shouldn’t be church discipline! I am not saying that sexual sin is good and acceptable. I never will. What I am saying is this: you will never solve this with the threat of the law. It doesn’t work. It never has. Freedom and unending love and acceptance solve this. This has been true in my life, but I will never say that I have been definitively transformed to the point where I do not need these reminders and these gospel imperatives. I do need them. I am under grace and I want to be taught what is profitable. Not from threat, but from love. The gospel doesn’t say that sin is OK, quite the opposite. It says that sin caused the shedding of the blood of the savior. The law requires perfection. The gospel says, if and when you sin, there is always kindness and grace and mercy ready to lift you up and cleanse you and help you, over and over. And eventually, kindness wins. It is His kindness which leads us to repentance. The gospel is God’s grand expression of kindness, and we dare not squeegee that kindness out of our views on holiness and behavioral virtue and New Testament imperatives, or we squeegee out the very beating heart of what makes the church the church. The unadorned naked real gospel of grace has unending power to cleanse us right down to our very conscience and secret mind. The gospel has the power to cleanse us so that when handed our dangerous freedom, we may screw up terribly, but we gradually learn to love the holy. The law cannot do so.
Furthermore, you cannot make the gospel itself become a law to use our freedom wisely and well. Grace means you are accepted and beloved when you do not use your freedom wisely and well. Holiness, real holiness streaming from the bottom of your secret soul and desire, is a fruit – not a root. Jesus Christ, the lamb standing as if slain, is the root. If your demand for holiness writes His blood out of the equation, you have crossed over to Satan’s realms. If you love unrighteousness but hold yourself back from acting out your sinful desire because of fear of 1 Corinthians 6:9, are you righteous? How shall you be cleansed and washed and sanctified if it is not by the blood of the lamb? If you reject mercy, how much mercy is left?