Freedom in Messiah vs. Freedom to Sin
When we began the teaching of 1 Corinthians, we discussed several literary characteristics that are part of this letter.[i] One of these has to do with the “sayings of the Corinthians.”[ii] These sayings include direct quotes from previous correspondence which Sha’ul prefaces by saying, “One of you says” (1:12), or “some of you say” (15:12). But there are also places where a statement seems to be repeated, and then contradicted. Since there is no punctuation in Greek, we must look at the surrounding context and try to see what the quote of the congregation in Corinth is, and what is the response of Sha’ul. Today we come to one of those quotes.[Read 1 Cor. 6:9-20][iii]
Before we get into the application, we see that Sha’ul repeats a phrase twice. The translators of the Tree of Life version have placed quotations around the phrase “Everything is permitted for me.” What does your translation show? This phrase is also repeated in Chapter 10:23. Last week we covered verses 9-11. There Sha’ul lists many different sinful lifestyles which obviously are not “permitted” to continue into our new life in Messiah Yeshua. It is even possible that the congregation in Corinth was quoting a previous teaching of Sha’ul. However, they were mis-using this statement to allow behaviour that Adonai had disallowed. So now, Sha’ul is bringing clarification.
(Vs. 12) Sha’ul begins the clarification by showing that just because something is allowed does not mean that it is beneficial. For instance, there are no rules against eating poison ivy. However, I don’t think it would be helpful. The second explanation shows that even with allowed behaviours, there are limits. Last week we mentioned the drinking of alcohol. This is a perfect case where it is not a sin to drink alcohol, but it is against the Scriptures to get drunk. Any behaviour that controls us, must not be allowed. Sha’ul writes this to the congregation in Galatia. There he starts by saying, “For Freedom, Messiah set us free” (Gal. 5:1) but closes the argument by saying: “Brothers and sisters, you were called to freedom—only do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Torah can be summed up in a single saying: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Gal. 5:13-15)
(Vs. 13) We now go on to the next Corinthian quote, to which Sha’ul responds. Commentators disagree as to how much of Verse 13 is the quote, or rather, where the quote ends.[iv] Most scholars, and translators will place quotations around, “Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food,” however, I think there is reason to believe that the quote should include, “but God will do away with both of them.” One of the reasons for this, is that Sha’ul uses this quote about food to go into a discussion about sexual appetites. Another reason for believing this, is because of some false teachings at that time, that have come to be known as Gnosticism.
How many have heard of Gnosticism? How about one of the sects of Gnosticism, the Nicolaitans? (see Revelation 2:6,15) Gnosticism was “perhaps the most dangerous heresy that threatened the early church during the first three centuries.”[v] The main leaders of the body of Messiah of the second century vehemently opposed it because:
- it rewrites the Biblical Creation account,
- it denies the incarnation of Yeshua being fully God and fully man, and
- it rejects physical resurrection of both Yeshua and us when Yeshua returns.[vi]
None of the Gnostics, called themselves Gnostics, but as with many cults, they called themselves “enlightened” Christians. There are many contradicting views from the different Gnostic authors, but here is a summary of the teachings they agree on: [vii][viii]
- The entire material world is bad, and the spirit world is good.
- A divine spark is somehow trapped in some humans, and only that spark is capable of redemption.
- Salvation is through acquiring secret divine knowledge about themselves, their origin and destiny.
- Since a good God could not have created an evil world, the blame for the world’s failings lies not with humans, but with an evil creator god.
- Usually the explanation given is that the true, good God created or emanated spiritual beings (called Archons) who either emanated or produced other Archons. A mishap by Sophia (Wisdom) led to the creation of the evil Archon who created our world and pretends to be God. This evil god hides truth from humans, but sparks of Sophia in some humans fill them with an urge to return to the divine realm where they belong.
If you don’t fully understand this, that is ok. These Gnostic teachings are some of the most twisted and perverse, such that, Irenaeus (the disciple of Polycarp, the disciple of John the Beloved) wrote his 5-volume set titled Against Heresies[ix] to refute the doctrines of Gnosticism.[x] Until the excavation of the Nag Hammadi Library (Egypt, 1945), all we knew about Gnosticism were the sharp critiques by leaders in Messiah’s body such as: Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian and Hippolytus.[xi]
Why is any of this important, and how does it relate to the text at hand? Well, because of their premise that, “all matter is evil, only spirit is good,” the behaviour of those who hold this belief fall in one of two opposite camps. Either they moved toward asceticism (a complete self-denial especially in their sexual and dietary practice) or the opposite direction, hedonism (a complete self-gratification). But, why these two extremes? Well, since they considered that anything done in the body only affects the physical world, and that there was no ultimate meaning except for the spirit realm. Either they sought to deny the body and thereby become more spiritual/enlightened or they considered the body irrelevant and therefore any bodily actions were immaterial.
Resurrected with Messiah[Vs. 13-15] As I mentioned before, Sha’ul seems to be quoting the people of Corinth with regards to food but then goes into his response. He shows explicitly that our bodies, not just our spirits, are for Messiah. We are not to indulge our bodies with sexual immorality (porneia in the Greek). We are no longer our own, but we have been bought with a price. (Vs. 20) Sha’ul continues to counter the false doctrines espoused by Gnosticism. The next is physical Resurrection. I have an honest question. Has anyone else felt slightly disappointed when you were told that we will be standing in the presence of Adonai for all eternity singing songs and playing a harp? Or is it just me? While it is true, that the instant we die we will be in the presence of Yeshua in Heaven (2 Cor. 5:8). Our final destiny is not heaven. I know that this story may be told to children, but what about the rest of the story? Here Sha’ul acknowledges that our physical bodies will be resurrected in the same way that Yeshua was resurrected! When Yeshua returns to Earth, we will rule and reign with Him on Earth. And after a thousand years of peace and prosperity under His rule, then Adonai will create a “new heaven” and then we will stand in His presence for all eternity singing songs and playing our harps?? Is that what the Scripture teaches?No. (Rev. 21:1-5) states that in the last day there will be a “new heaven and a new earth” and the “dwelling of God” will be “among men, and He shall tabernacle among them. They shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them and be their God.”
One Body, One Spirit.[Vs. 15-17] We now get to Sha’ul’s main point of this section. Sha’ul asks, “Don’t you know,” assuming that the congregation already knows better. If we are already in covenant with Yeshua, we must not come into the most intimate of relationships with a prostitute. The concept of joining Messiah to a prostitute through the sexual union, is so repulsive to Sha’ul that he exclaims, “May it never be!!!” Sha’ul affirms that according to Genesis (2:24), whomever we have sexual relations with, we are “one flesh” with them. This is covenantal language, although an unholy covenant. We who are in Messiah are “one spirit” with Him. How then can we go on sinning? (Rom. 6:1,15, Heb. 10:26, 1 John 3:9, 5:18)
(Vs. 18-20) This command, “Flee from sexual immorality!” reminds me of Joseph fleeing from Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39). We must decide before the temptation comes, how we will respond, or else we will not be prepared when the test does come. The penalties of some sins are much more grievous. However, Sha’ul is again countering the idea, that sin does not matter to God since the body will one day be destroyed. On the contrary, our bodies are a temple for the Ruach HaKodesh. Therefore, any teaching that allows for sin and does not require continual humility and repentance, such as the Hyper-Grace[xii] message, must be rejected. Any doctrine that requires secret knowledge for salvation, such as having to pronounce God’s name a certain way, must also be rejected.
Right now, we have the Ruach
of Adonai dwelling in us. Right now, our bodies are a beautiful temple for the Ruach.
Right now, since “the Ruach of the
One who raised Yeshua from the dead dwells in you, the One who raised Messiah
Yeshua from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Ruach who dwells in you.” (Rom. 8:11) Both
our body and spirit have been bought with a price, Yeshua’s precious blood. He
died to free us from our sins, therefore, let us glorify God with our bodies!
[i] The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Rev. Ed., Vol 11 pg. 249.
[iii] All Scripture quotations are taken from the Tree of Life (TLV) version unless otherwise noted.
[iv] Ibid, pg. 311.
[vi] The Story of Christianity, Justo L Gonzalez, Vol 1, pg. 61.