Epiphany 2b

Preached: January 18, 2009

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You've Been Bought
1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus, our Redeemer is 1 Corinthians 6

Everything is lawful for me but not everything is beneficial. Everything is lawful to me but I will not be mastered by anything. Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, but God will destroy both. The body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. God raised the Lord and in addition he will raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Will I cut off the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Surely not! Or do you not know that the one joined with a prostitute is one body [with her]? For it says, “The two will become one flesh. The one joined to the Lord is one spirit [with him].

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin which a person does is outside the body. But whoever is sexually immoral sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you have been bought at a price. Therefore, glorify God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:12-20)

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior,

When I was child growing up, my brothers and sister and I would pool our money to buy gifts for our parents at Christmas and their anniversary. One time as the family was driving down the highway there was a large sign advertising an adult toy store. Now to my child mind, toys were good gifts, much better than socks and underwear. Grownups don't like kids toys, so I naively blurted out, “Maybe we should shop there for Mom and Dad.” Fortunately, since I was the oldest, my brothers and sister were as ignorant as I was about what an adult toy store really is. But Dad and Mom must have shaken their heads.

As we grow up we begin to realize just how big a business sex is and what a driving force as well. During adolescents desires burst into our thoughts and feelings. Girls no longer have cooties and that cute boy no longer seems so annoying. Such new and powerful lusts are almost uncontrollable. Young people need parents and responsible adults, people like you, to give them godly guidance. They need to be warned against the dangers of sexual transmitted disease, unwanted pregnancy, and the emotional scars of false intimacy that no condom or pill can stop.

And what about the spiritual dangers? The Apostle Paul points that out, but he does even more. He empowers you. As powerful as sexual lusts are, this truth can overcome them and contain them in their proper place. What is that truth? “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 NIV). Young people here today, yes you, think about those words whether you are struggling with lusts or soon might be. Listen as we talk about the power behind these words. Remember: You've been bought.

And this is not only for the young people and adolescents. Sexual sins are not confined to the teenage years. The porn industry is a multi-billion dollar business and most of that money does not come from teenagers. And even aside from the outward sexual sins, remember what Jesus said, “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28 NIV). Most all of us, young and old, need to listen to what Apostle Paul says here to have the power to resist sexual sins in our hearts and in our lives. So remember the theme: You've been bought.

A. You have liberty not license

1) Why do rules have limited value?

One approach that tries to limit sexual sins comes up with lists of rules. If something might lead to sexual sins, make a rule against it. That's why R-rated and NC-17 or X-rated movies have age restrictions. That's why pornography can't be openly displayed in public. That's why schools have some sort of dress code. That's why at one time there were rules against dancing. That's why some forbid TV. Different rules can help limit tempting situations. Parents need to have rules to keep their children and teenagers safe. Rules can be beneficial.

Yet rules are limited. Rules don't change the heart. Rules don't give the power to resist lust and other sins; they just try to limit the temptations. Rules often don't last. Children grow up and move out from under their parents' rules. What's a helpful rule for a certain person at a certain time may be unnecessary or even detrimental for another person at another time.

So the Apostle does not lay down new rules here. He does not give a list of how far you can go on a date or what kind of movies are acceptable or how much skin you can show. In fact, he reminds the Christians of their liberty, their spiritual liberty in Christ the same spiritual liberty you and I have through faith in Jesus.

2) How is liberty you have through faith in Jesus different from a license to sin?

Yes, at one time we were enslaved by our sinful desires. Our will was lined up with Satan's will, not God's. Sin was our master. But you've been bought. God's own Son Jesus Christ paid the price to set you free. He redeemed you. He ransomed you. His holy, precious blood purchased you. You've been bought, redeemed, liberated from slavery to sin and captivity to death.

Paul persistently and consistently proclaimed this Good News of spiritual freedom in Jesus. He vehemently resisted any attempts to add rules or laws as conditions we needed to meet in order to gain forgiveness. Just read Galatians.

But some twisted Paul's words and made it a license to sin. “If God freely forgives us through Jesus,” they reasoned, “why not enjoy my sin and get forgiveness afterwards. In fact, won't my great sins make God's forgiveness look even greater?” Don't take the liberty Jesus purchased for us and turn into a license to sin.

3) What difference does it make if something is an adiaphoron or not?

That's what some in Corinth tried to do. “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food” (1 Corinthians 6:13 NIV), they said. “Since Jesus has freed us from all the dietary laws, we can eat as we please. So if I can satisfy my hunger in whatever way I please, why not satisfy my sexual appetites in whatever way I please.”

What a deadly error! Paul points out “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord and the Lord for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13 NIV). God created the stomach to take in and digest food. What kind of food a Christian eats isn't commanded by God, or to use a theological term it's an adiaphoron, something neither commanded nor forbidded by God. We've been liberated from those Old Testament laws that were given only to the Israelites until Jesus came. So we can say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food.” That's the way God created it.

But God did not create the body for sexual immorality. That is something he has forbidden. It is not an adiaphoron. He not only forbids it in the sixth commandment at Mt. Sinai, but Jesus himself tells us so, as was mentioned earlier.

And even in things that are adiaphora just because we can do it does mean we should do it. When it's truly adiaphora, a Christian can say, “Everything is permissible for me” (1 Corinthians 6:12 NIV). But remember what Paul adds, “but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 6:12 NIV). Even if God hasn't forbidden it, ask, “Will doing this benefit others or might it spiritually harm them?” Paul continues, “'Everything is permissible for me' but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12 NIV). If something is addictive to me, consuming my thoughts, draining my time and energy, even though God hasn't specifically forbidden it and others may not find it addicting and so do it, I need to stay away so that it doesn't master me. For I've been bought. Jesus is my master. So even in matters of adiaphora our liberty is not a license.

4) Because Jesus has bought us and liberated us, what do we do when faced with sexual temptations?

How much less is it a license to sin! Jesus has bought me. My body belongs to him. Sex is a creation of God, when he created Adam and Eve, male and female, and brought them together in marriage so that the two became one flesh. And that is the only place God wants his gift of sex to be used: Only between a husband and wife in marriage. Anything outside of that premarital sex, extra-marital affairs, fooling around, pornography, anything else that feeds lustful thoughts it's all sinful.

When it comes to these temptations, Scripture simply says: Flee. Run away. Stay away. “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18 NIV). Don't flirt with it. Don't play around. Don't think you can stop before you go too far. Flee. Run away. Stay away from whatever feeds your lustful thoughts. That means that even some things that may be permissible for a fellow Christian because it doesn't feed their sinful lusts may not be right for me. For example, if a certain movie or show leads me into lustful thoughts, then I shouldn't watch it even if it is only rated PG. But I shouldn't take that freedom away from my fellow Christian whose lust isn't fed by it. Rather than making rules for others, remember you've been bought. You have liberty not license. Rather than a license to sin, you have liberty to glorify God with your body.

B. Your body's for God's glory not for sinful, sexual appetites

1) In what intimate way do you and your body belong to Jesus?

Here, dear friends, here is where the power comes not only to flee from sexual immorality but to glorify God with your body. For you see, your body's for God's glory not for sinful, sexual appetites. Here's the power behind the theme: You've been bought.

You've been bought. So who do you belong to? You belong to God. You belong to your Lord Jesus who purchased you. You don't belong to him in a cold, material way. It's not like this robe that belongs to me because I paid for with cold cash. No. Jesus poured out his warm blood for you. The blood that had been pulsing through his body keeping him alive, he shed it for you giving his life to redeem you, to buy you back. You belong to him in a most intimate way. You are a member of his body. Just as my hand is a part of me, so you are united to Jesus as part of his body. Paul writes, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! . . . But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:15, 17 NIV). Why cut yourself off from Christ to satisfy your sinful sexual appetite? That would be like your hand cutting itself off. What would happen to your hand then? You've been bought. Your body is a connected to Christ. Don't cut yourself off from him with the knife of sexual sins. Rather glorify God with your body.

2) What does the Holy Spirit use your body for?

You've been bought. Just as those who went before us bought this land and the material for this church and dedicated it to God's service, so also you've been bought. Your body is a temple, a sanctuary, a church in which God the Holy Spirit himself dwells. If you believe in Jesus as your Savior, the Holy Spirit is living in you. For only the Holy Spirit can work true faith.

Think about that the next time sexual sins tempt you. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Would you think of hauling manure into this building and spreading it around and spray painting obscene graffiti all over the altar and sanctuary? Of course not. Now if you wouldn't desecrate a mere human building that way, why desecrate your body, the temple of the Holy Spirit? Why desecrate his temple, purchased by the blood of Christ, by using your body to sin sexually? Rather glorify God with your body.

“You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 NIV). You've been bought.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313