Only God knows how many times y’all have heard me declare about some Bible passage, “This is one of my favorite verses!” However, favorite contexts are a bit rarer. On that list, though, must appear 2 Corinthians 4-6, the heart of what Clay called “the Great Digression” last week.
However, that much Scripture is a bit much for even me to tackle in a single sermon, so this evening, we’re going to zero in on the section from the middle of 2 Corinthians 4 to the middle of 2 Corinthians 5.
I think this portion is especially valuable because it shows us just how different the Christian perspective on life is from the worldly perspective. People of the world generally will agree that you need to go through life not causing trouble, looking after your physical health, and generally making yourself a priority. After all, if you don’t look after yourself, who will do it for you?
To Paul, though, life isn’t focused on the self. It’s focused on Christ, not only in seeking life through Christ but also in embracing His death. This evening, then, let’s consider how earthly existence looks when viewed through the lens of the death and life of Jesus.
In the text, this duality shows up in three contrasting pairs, and the first of them is SUFFERING AND SPEAKING. Let’s read from 2 Corinthians 4:7-15. In this text, two main things are going on. First, he describes his suffering. Second, he describes the effect that his continuing to speak has had on the Corinthians and others.
The first part of this text isn’t as famous as Paul’s later description of his hardships in 2 Corinthians 11, but this is still not a list that anyone would want to take on! He is afflicted. He is perplexed. He is persecuted. He is struck down. He is delivered over to death for the sake of Jesus. However, there are also things that he isn’t. He isn’t crushed, in despair, abandoned, or destroyed, and everywhere he goes, he displays the life of Jesus.
This teaches us a vital lesson: the Christian is never totally defeated. There might be all kinds of things going wrong in our lives, but God won’t let us be overcome by any of them. Additionally, the more we are given over to death, the more the life of Christ becomes evident in us too.
Indeed, suffering gives us a powerful voice. Like Paul’s suffering allowed him to bring life to many, our example of faith in suffering gives us a platform. When we stand strong through trial and continue to glorify God, we inspire other Christians, and we pierce the hearts of the people of the world.
Suffering is a fact of life. It will come to all of us. The question is how we are going to suffer. Are we going to suffer like a worldling or like a Christian? That choice makes all the difference.
The second pair is DYING AND BEING RAISED. Look at 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5. Once again, the death-versus-life contrast is clear. Despite his faith—indeed, because of his faith!—Paul knows himself to be dying. However, he also knows that through Jesus, he will have an eternal life in heaven that is perfectly secure.
There are two things that we should draw from this. First, it shows us that dying should remind us of eternal life. Whether we feel it or not, it is true for all of us that our outer man is decaying day by day. In my case, I do feel it. One of the primary early-stage ALS symptoms is fasiculation. It’s a bunch of little involuntary muscle twitches all over my body. They are caused by motor neurons that have been poisoned by toxic proteins and are dying.
I feel them every hour of every day. They certainly remind me that my days are numbered! However, they also remind me that my inward man is being renewed every day, and that I have an incomparable and eternal weight of glory waiting for me. Thus it is for all of us. What hastens us toward our doom also hastens us toward our goal.
Second, this also shows us that we can be confident in our resurrection. In particular, Paul says that we can know that we will be raised because of the Spirit in our hearts as a down payment. Some might say that this is about the feelings of confidence that the Spirit gives us, but that doesn’t make sense to me. Have you ever heard of a bank that would accept a feeling as a down payment?
Instead, this has to be something tangible that fills us with justified confidence. In the case of first-century Christians, it was the miraculous gifts. When you could speak foreign languages or predict the future, that proved to you that your faith was more than a matter of wishful thinking.
Today, the Spirit carries out this work through the word. I don’t merely feel that I will be raised. I know that I will be because of the Biblical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. The Scriptures assure me that my faith isn’t based on wishful thinking either.
Our final pair of the evening is BELIEVING AND FOLLOWING. This plays out in 2 Corinthians 5:6-15. Believing seems like an odd thing to link with death, but Paul does so in two ways. First, he points out that because of our faith, we no longer fear death but rather even long for it. It is much better to be away from the body and at home with the Lord!
However, and more provocatively, he says in v. 14 that believing in the death of Jesus leads us to die to ourselves. When we understand that the holy Son of God loved us so much that He died for us, it’s a life-changing realization. If we’re decent people at all, we don’t shrug that one off. It moves us to devote ourselves to Him like He devoted Himself to us.
The following part is twofold too. First, following Jesus leads us on the path to heaven that He blazed. When we are in heaven, we are not merely at home. We are at home with the Lord, and it is the presence of our Lord that makes heaven our home at all.
Second, when we die to ourselves because of the awe-inspiring sacrifice of Christ, we don’t stay dead. Rather than continuing to live for ourselves, we live for Him. He died and was raised, and we strive to conform to that pattern as closely as possible, knowing that union with His death means union with His resurrection too.
Last week, a Facebook friend of mine posted a lengthy complaint about what they perceived as too many rich elders and rich preachers in the brotherhood. Their discussion of Scripture focused on the story of the rich young ruler, and they illustrated the post with a cartoon of a camel trying to force its way through the eye of a needle.
As you might imagine, this post caused several things to come to my mind, but one of them was my conviction that there is more to the story of the rich young ruler than we commonly think. Simply because two different gospel writers tell the same story doesn’t mean they’re using it for the same purpose, and I believe that the story of the rich young ruler is one that is used differently in different gospels.
In Mark and in Luke, it’s about the problems associated with wealth, no doubt, but in Matthew, something else is going on. Matthew tells the same story, but he adds a parable to it, and that parable should transform the way we understand his account. This morning, then, let’s consider the connection between the rich young ruler and grace.
Not surprisingly, we’ll begin with Matthew’s discussion of THE RICH YOUNG RULER. It is found in Matthew 19:16-22. This is a familiar story, but I want to highlight some different elements this time through. The first concerns the rich young ruler’s problem. If you ask any of our Bible-class kids what his problem was, they’ll probably tell you, “He was rich and loved money.” That’s true, but it’s incomplete.
Let me suggest to you, in fact, that his most serious problem is the one that reveals itself from the first time he opens his mouth. He asks, “What good must I do to inherit eternal life?” In other words, he wants to save himself through his own good works. This sounds praiseworthy, but it’s impossible. We should read everything else that Jesus says to him as an attempt to get him to see that he’s trying to get to heaven on the wrong road.
The rest of the conversation unfolds from here. The ruler brings up all of his spiritual strengths, but Jesus zeroes in on his spiritual weakness—greed. Let’s not miss the forest for the trees here, though. Greed happened to be the ruler’s problem, but it didn’t have to be greed, and no matter what it was, the conversation would have gone the same way. There is something in every one of our lives that we don’t want to give up, and we know that there is because we haven’t stopped sinning. If we came to Jesus wanting to justify ourselves by works, He would be able to call us out on our weaknesses too—because wanting to justify ourselves by works is the problem.
Next, Jesus’ conversation shifts to THE APOSTLES. Let’s follow this through Matthew 19:23-29. Once again, this is a familiar text, and here we encounter the camel-and-needle’s-eye comparison. Some of you probably have heard that the needle’s eye was a narrow gate in Jerusalem, through which a camel could pass with great difficulty. However, there are a couple of problems with this claim. First, there’s no solid evidence that such a gate existed. Second, both Jesus’ discussion with the ruler and His later words make clear that this isn’t about great difficulty. It’s about impossibility.
It's impossible for a rich man to enter heaven through his good works, but you know what? It’s impossible for a poor man too. Indeed, it’s impossible for all of us. We all must depend for salvation on the God who makes all things possible. Without Him, we are in camel-through-needle’s-eye territory too.
Notice, though, Peter’s response to this. He hasn’t really been paying attention to Jesus. He’s been comparing himself to the ruler, and he likes what he sees. Peter points out that what the ruler wasn’t willing to do—leave everything behind for Jesus—he and the other apostles did. Justification by works, back on track!
Jesus replies that those who have followed Him will indeed receive an immeasurable reward. However, He also knows something that Peter doesn’t. Very soon, Jesus is going to ask Peter to do something, and Peter is going to deny Him three times. Peter will leave Jesus sadly too. Earning your way to heaven doesn’t even work for apostles.
In Mark and Luke, the context ends here, but in Matthew it keeps going, and its final section is THE PARABLE OF THE VINEYARD WORKERS. Let’s conclude this morning with Matthew 19:30-20:16. Notice first of all that we’ve got another one of those bad chapter breaks that Clay and I love talking about so much, and here’s how you can tell. Matthew 19 ends with Jesus’ statement about the first being last and the last being first, but almost same statement appears in 20:16. Jesus is offering this parable as commentary on His discussions with the ruler and the apostles.
As we read through the story, though, part of us can’t help feeling that the whiny workers have a point. If they had to work all day long to get a denarius, shouldn’t the guys who only worked for an hour get one-eighth of a denarius? They got the same thing, and that’s not fair!
In reply, the owner of the vineyard points out that his generosity to others doesn’t give anyone else the right to complain. The application is obvious. Even if somehow Peter did what he thought he was doing—earning his way to heaven—he would get the same reward as the Christian who came to the Lord late in life and never did much work at all.
Of course, Peter was not earning his way to heaven, and neither are we. I’m not willing to claim that I’m responsible for even one-eighth of my salvation! All of us depend on the generosity of our Master. We must not be like the rich young ruler and think that we don’t need Him. Neither should we be like the apostles and be impressed with ourselves because we think we’re doing better than someone else. Instead, we must seek diligently after His mercy and be thankful that we serve a God who gladly extends it.
In all of human history, there never has been a more devastating debater than Jesus. He knew the Bible like He’d written it—because He did. He could read hearts, and He had more wisdom than any mere human being could possess. As a result of these attributes, He routinely wiped the floor with His adversaries.
This was no mean feat! We might read the record of Jesus’ confrontations with the Pharisees and scribes and conclude that He was up against the clown squad, but these were no clowns. These were the smartest men in the Jewish nation. They had been trained in the Law and the subtleties of argument. They presented Jesus with conundrums that, if we didn’t already know the answer, we wouldn’t be able to solve. These were no clowns, but Jesus made them look like clowns.
However, there is one person in the gospels who bested Jesus rhetorically, who won their point over Him. It wasn’t a scribe, Pharisee, or lawyer. In fact, it was the last person we might have expected to succeed. However, their success tells us a great deal about them and about Jesus too. This morning, then, let’s turn to the story of how somebody won an argument with Jesus.
The first segment of our study concerns Jesus’ antagonist, THE CANAANITE WOMAN. Look at Matthew 15:21-22. Even though Mark’s account of this story is generally shorter, it offers some additional information here. Jesus and His apostles haven’t come to the region of Tyre and Sidon because they wanted to enjoy the beautiful views of the Mediterranean. Instead, they came because it was a Gentile area, and they wanted to get away from all the Jews who believed Jesus was a prophet and were pestering Him for healing. This should remind us that it wasn’t easy to be Jesus. His ministry was about as serene and peaceful as the Nashville rush hour!
We see, then, that Jesus and His apostles came to this region to escape all the people who were bugging them. However, they find that their troubles have followed them. The Jews have been left behind, but now one of the Canaanite locals has started pleading for help. We’ve talked before about how the Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans. How much more did they shun the Canaanites! These were the people they were supposed to have destroyed 1500 years ago. This woman’s very existence is a reminder to the disciples of their ancestors’ failure to obey God.
However, even though this woman is not a Jew, she uses Jewish language as she approaches Jesus. She calls Him the Son of David and appeals to Him to cast a demon out of her daughter.. I hope I’m not spoilering anybody here, but one of the most important lessons of this story is that anybody can seek the Lord. Make no mistake: 2000 years ago, this woman was the lowest of the low, yet she comes to Jesus and calls on His name. So too today, whoever you are, whatever your background, whatever you’ve done, call on the Lord, and He’ll listen. His compassion is the same for everyone.
Next, we’re treated to a display of THE WOMAN’S PERSISTENCE. Matthew 15:23-25 tells the tale. Jesus starts off by giving her the silent treatment. This should strike us as strange. Isn’t this the One who said, “Come unto Me, all you who labor?” Interestingly, though, neither here nor at any other point in this story does Jesus tell her that He’s not going to help her. He’s not giving her any encouragement, but He’s not shutting her down either.
This, I think, tells us something important about prayer. Sometimes God says “Yes,” sometimes God says “No,” but sometimes God says “Not yet,” and waits to see what we will do with that. Why this is, I don’t know. Maybe He wants us to grow through our trials before He rescues us. Maybe He wants to see the proof of our faith. However, I do know that whenever we don’t immediately get the answer we want, we should keep praying.
Notice, though, that the disciples have no compunction about getting rid of the Canaanite woman. They tell Jesus to send her away so that she’ll leave them alone. Their motivations are obvious. In addition to being a woman and a Canaanite, she’s filling their quiet retreat with obnoxiousness. She’s about as welcome as a work email in the middle of a two-week vacation!
The lesson here for us, I think, is that we need to beware of discouraging those who are seeking Jesus. We can do this in any number of ways. We can glare at the woman who visits our assembly in a miniskirt or the man who comes in with a Diet Coke. We can icily inform the visitor that they are sitting in our pew. We can tell our friend who is asking us about our church that they wouldn’t like it where we go. We need to be careful, brethren! A tiny action may have eternal significance.
Notice, though, the response that Jesus gives to the disciples. He makes a statement that appears forbidding but still leaves a crack for the woman to squeeze through if she wants. Yes, Jesus was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but that still leaves open the possibility that He might help a sheep who isn’t from that house.
The final act of the story is about BREAD FOR DOGS. It unfolds in Matthew 15:25-28. Despite this apparently indifferent treatment from Jesus, the woman is not deterred. She kneels before Him and pleads for His help.
For the first time, Jesus directly addresses her. Again, He still doesn’t straight-out say no, but His words are crushing nonetheless. Piggybacking off His comment about being sent to the Jews only, He says that it isn’t right to take the bread meant for the children and give it to the dogs instead. As if being a woman and a Canaanite weren’t bad enough, now she’s a dog! She’s not even human anymore!
However, the woman takes that on the chin and counterpunches. Until she gets that final, definitive “No,” she’s going to keep hammering. Indeed, her counterargument is a good one. Dogs might not get the bread, but they get the crumbs, and if Jesus is willing to give her crumbs, she’s willing to be a dog.
Before this combination of humility and refusing to quit, Jesus concedes the point, or, rather, He does what He had intended to do all along. He casts the demon out of her daughter before she gets home. Even a Canaanite woman can find help and healing in Jesus!
Really, this story gives us all we need to know about seeking the Lord. It boils down to two simple rules: be humble, and don’t give up. Be humble. Recognize that God is in heaven, and you are on earth. Admit that you have to follow His word rather than your own bright ideas.
Then, don’t give up. Seek Him passionately, relentlessly, every waking hour. Come after God like a bill collector. If you do, He will honor your faith, and He will lead you to blessing.
One of the unexpected side-effects of my diagnosis has been that these days, I find that I have much more in common with our oldest members. I share with them the knowledge that our time on earth is short, which naturally draws our thoughts to our eternal destination. I was discussing the subject with an older sister a week or two ago, and her comment about the judgment was, “I don’t know if I’m good enough.” She was worried about how she was going to fare.
To put this statement in its context, a couple of minutes later, she told me with complete sincerity that if she could take my ALS on herself, she would. This is a woman with such love in her heart that she is literally willing to die in the place of a brother in Christ, and she’s concerned about whether she’s a sheep or a goat!
To be frank, I regard this as an indictment of myself and my preaching brethren. I fear that we spend so much time trying to convince backsliders of their danger that we unwittingly plant seeds of doubt in the hearts of the most faithful. However well-intentioned, that’s not declaring the whole counsel of God! I want to change that at least a little bit this morning by considering the Scriptural testimony concerning the assurance of our salvation.
In particular, I want to look at three bases of our confidence, the first of which is THE PROMISE OF GOD. Let’s read about one of His greatest promises in Hebrews 8:10-12. Before I delve into that passage, though, there’s something else we need to explore. Every passage that I will cite this morning is about God, and there’s a reason for that. If our salvation were about us and our actions, we would have cause for concern, but our salvation isn’t about us. It’s about God and the power of His grace. We are uncertain, but the salvation of God is certain, and it’s certain in part because of His promise.
This whole text is surely one of the most beautiful and uplifting passages in the Bible, but I want to focus on two promises that God makes in it. First, He tells us that He will be our God, and we will be His people. Without this promise, it would be the height of arrogance for any of us to claim to belong to God. How could people as imperfect as all of us are have any part in His perfection? Quite simply, we belong to Him because He has said so. Despite all that we have done, He is not ashamed to be called our God.
The second promise, in v. 12, is if anything even more important. There, God promises that He will forgive our transgressions and forget our sins. This is a costly promise! It cost God the most precious thing He had. However, God was faithful to His word and made our salvation possible through the lifeblood of His Son. The power of that sacrifice was so great that to God, it is as though our sins never happened. Every faithful Christian is “good enough” because in the eyes of God, only the good works are left.
Second, we can be assured of our salvation because of THE POWER OF GOD. Look at the words of the Lord in John 10:27-29. Sad to say, I’m afraid that brotherhood preachers spend more time explaining this passage away in order to defeat Calvinism than they do explaining it in order to comfort the saints. Today, though, let’s go through it without using the C-word.
Notice first of all that v. 27 defines the subjects of the rest of the text. It’s not about everybody. It’s about the sheep, those who know Jesus’ voice and follow Him. That means that all of us can take a very simple test to find out whether the rest applies to us. All we have to do is to ask ourselves honestly, “Do I know the voice of Jesus? Do I follow where He leads?” If the answer to those questions is “Yes,” we are His sheep.
If we are indeed the sheep of the Good Shepherd, that’s a consequential thing to be! Pay attention to what Jesus reveals about His sheep. He will grant them eternal life, they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of His hand. There are lions and wolves out there, but none of them are stronger than Jesus, and even if they were, absolutely nobody is stronger than the Father!
This means, then, that our salvation is not about being “good enough”. It’s not about getting all of the sin out of our lives by ourselves. It’s about hearing and following our Shepherd. Yes, we should hate sin and strive to avoid sinning, but we should not wring our hands and worry about losing our souls every time we have an unkind thought. That’s why we have a Shepherd—to protect us! I know me, and I don’t trust me at all. However, I also know Jesus, and I do trust Him. Because of His power, His sheep can know perfect comfort and perfect peace.
Finally, we can be confident in our salvation because of THE LOVE OF GOD. Let’s conclude our reading this morning with Romans 8:35-39. To be honest, brethren, I feel a little bit like I’ve assembled a dessert buffet of a sermon because these passages are so enjoyable to study. What an amazing text this is! It tells us that the love of God is literally the most powerful force in the universe. There is nothing that can separate us from it.
This is true despite all the trials that Christians can face. For Paul and the rest of our brethren in the first century, affliction, distress, persecution, and all the rest weren’t horrible hypotheticals. Those things were real problems that they had to deal with. In fact, v. 36, is a quotation from Psalm 44. All through that Psalm, the Israelites complain that they’re being defeated in battle even though they are righteous. Paul’s rejoinder is that all of those problems aren’t a defeat. They may look like it in worldly terms, but in reality, every Christian who endures is more than a conqueror because of the love of Jesus.
Let’s make this real. Since my diagnosis, I’ve had I don’t know how many people tell me how sorry they are that I have to face this. You know what? I’m not sorry. I know I’ve got a hard, ugly few years ahead of me, but even though ALS can take away the use of my limbs, my voice, my mind, and my life, it cannot separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. I will not die a victim. I will die a conqueror.
I don’t know what problems you have going on in your life. I’d imagine that some of you are dealing with some pretty heavy stuff. However, whatever it is, it can’t separate you from the love of God either. Because of that love, we can be certain that He will be with us through every day of our lives, and through all of eternity, we will be with Him.
Sometimes, our biggest problems with interpreting Scripture arise when we really want the Bible to say something that we already believe. There is something that we think surely is wrong, so we find a suitably vague passage and impose our meaning on it. Though this might satisfy us, we’re finding something in the word that isn’t really there.
There are several passages that invite this kind of abuse, but of them all, perhaps the most egregiously misused is 1 Corinthians 6:19. “Your body is a temple,” Paul says, and well-meaning Christians take this as an opportunity to invest physical health with spiritual significance. Your body is a temple, so you shouldn’t smoke. Your body is a temple, so you shouldn’t be overweight. Your body is a temple, so you should exercise regularly. And so on.
All of this certainly loads guilt on the heads of Christians who do smoke, are overweight, and don’t exercise, but these applications say much more about us and our values than about Paul’s original intent. This evening, then, let’s try to figure out what that original intent is, so that we can better understand what it means that our body is a temple.
As always, the best way to understand a passage is to consider it in context, and the context here begins with a discussion of FOOD AND THE STOMACH. Consider 1 Corinthians 6:11-12. Here, Paul is attempting to address a distorted view of Christian liberty that some in the church in Corinth had. Depending on translation, your Bible may have quotation marks around statements like “Everything is permissible for me,” and “Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food.” I think that accurately captures the dialogue that is occurring in this text.
From these comments, we can infer that the Corinthians believed that because Christ had set them free, there were all kinds of earthly delights that they were free to enjoy too. Just like the stomach was made for food, their bodies were made for pleasure, so they might as well live it up!
Paul has several things to say in reply. First, he notes that simply because something is lawful doesn’t mean that it is wise. Christians frequently attempt to justify their conduct by saying, “The Bible doesn’t say it’s a sin!” While that may be true, it’s incomplete. Before we engage in some activity, we also should ask if it’s going to help us draw closer to the Lord and to our eternal home.
Second, Paul points out that even some innocent delights can become a problem if they start controlling us instead of us controlling them. I don’t think there’s a thing in the world wrong with playing video games, but if we love video games so much that they start interfering with our work or our time with our families, there’s a problem! Any number of things can take on too much significance in our lives, and we must be on guard against all of them.
Third, Paul shows that some pleasures are flatly wrong. The stomach is for food, but the body is not for immorality! If we justify our behavior on the basis that it feels good, we are leaving the door wide open for sin.
Next, Paul explains exactly why it is that SEXUAL IMMORALITY is wrong. This discussion appears in 1 Corinthians 6:14-18. He begins by pointing out the significance of our bodies. First, it is our bodies that will be resurrected. We’re not going to be disembodied spirits who drift off to heaven. Instead, just like God raised Jesus from the dead, He will raise us. Second, when we obeyed the gospel, our bodies were incorporated into the body of Christ. Our earthly bodies have great spiritual significance!
Here, then, is the big problem with Christians who engage in fornication, adultery, and so forth. When we do, we are taking something that is part of the body of Christ and making it one flesh with a prostitute. Sometimes, preachers will say that every marriage involves three: husband, wife, and God. This passage reveals the dark side of that spiritual truth. Our sexual sin brings Jesus into contact with corruption and defilement.
Indeed, Paul reveals that immorality’s ability to do this is unique. Every other sin is outside the body, but sexual sin is a sin against the body. This might seem strange to us. Take drunkenness, for instance. Drunkenness is definitely a sin, and it definitely affects our bodies. Doesn’t that count?
Not the same thing, says Paul. He doesn’t specify why, but his previous words imply it has to do with the one-flesh nature of sexual intimacy. Drunkenness doesn’t make us intimate with anyone; in fact, the more we drink, the more isolated we become. Sex is different. It’s a union of body, mind, and spirit, one of God’s most beautiful gifts to the human race. When we take this precious gift and turn it to the service of evil, the spiritual fallout soaks into our very bones. We have turned something that was holy into a source of unholiness.
Paul concludes by pointing out the serious problems this creates for those who were BOUGHT WITH A PRICE. Let’s conclude our reading for the evening with 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. Here, we meet our old friend, “Your body is a temple.” However, in context, it takes on a very different meaning. Things that the Bible doesn’t call sins don’t defile our bodies—they’re not sins. In fact, even most of the sins that the Bible condemns don’t defile our bodies either. Drunkenness is as wrong as wrong can be, but it still is a sin outside the body. It simply doesn’t involve our bodies that deeply.
Contextually, there is only one sin that defiles the temple of our bodies, that insults the Spirit who dwells within us. It is sexual immorality. We shouldn’t come away from this passage resolved to eat fewer Big Macs. We should come away from it resolved to keep ourselves sexually pure because of the disastrous consequences of sexual sin.
If there is any commandment in Scripture that our society hates, it is this one. We are, after all, only now coming out of Pride Month, and this year I saw ungodly sexuality celebrated as never before. Sadly, the Bible leaves no doubt about what will happen to all those who practice unrighteousness.
For us, though, the analysis is different. Our worldly neighbors exalt sexual autonomy. Their rallying cry is, “It’s my body, so I can do what I want!” Paul wants us to understand, though, that because we are Christians, our bodies are no longer our own. We were bought with a price, not into the freedom to do whatever we want to, but into servitude to Jesus. I can’t just follow physical pleasure wherever it leads because my body belongs to Him. It’s not something I have the right to do anymore.
Instead, we are responsible for glorifying God with our bodies. There are a couple of different ways we can do this. Sexual union in marriage does this. If we are not married, though, we glorify God by reserving our bodies for our possible future spouses. In no cases can we bring the Spirit within us into contact with intimate sin.