In verse 12 Paul gives his response to this kind of thinking. He says, “Yes–I have the right to do anything,” but not everything is beneficial.“ I have the right to do anything” but I will not be mastered by anything.”
Paul says, “Yes you are free to use your God-given rights any way you want to but there are two questions you really need to answer before exercising your freedom.”
- “If I do what I want sexually, is it beneficial?”
Before exercise our rights, we should decide whether or not it is helpful, not just for us but for others.
For instance did you know that statistics say that people who live together before they marry are twice as likely to divorce as are those who wait until marriage? And there are higher levels of abuse? So is using your “sexual freedom” to live together is beneficial? Research says no. We say too much about STD’s so I won’t mention them, but its obvious the ways they are not beneficial. But what about unwanted pregnancies are they beneficial?
And what about the people who are on the other end of these kinds of sinful acts? I wonder if the Corinthians thought about the lives of those young ladies from the temple of Aphrodite those “sacred” prostitutes that came down into the streets of Corinth every night. Did they think of those young girls when they exercised their Christian freedom? How many men today think of the young women on the computer screen as they watch pornography? Is it helpful to exploit that girl who is someone’s daughter? Don’t these kinds of actions promote the sex slave trade?
We live in a very self-centered society. In our minds we are the center of the universe. Think about it we have I-phones, I-pads and I-pods, American I-dol, I-tunes, and Facebook with it’s “I like” options. All this reflects our cultures tendency to care about ourselves often to the expense of others. And this is seen most clearly in society’s sexual mores. When researchers at the University of Texas at Austin asked 2,000 people why they have sex, there were plenty of answers 237, to be precise. Here are some of them. They finished the sentence, “I have sex because”:
“[I wanted] to boost my social status.”
“My partner was famous.”
“[I wanted] to get a raise or promotion.”
“Someone dared me.”
“I wanted to punish myself.”
“I lost a bet.”
“to keep warm.”
“Because my hormones were out of control.”
“[Sex] seemed like good exercise.”
“I wanted to give someone a sexually transmitted disease.”
Too many people don’t care about others they don’t consider the pain their sin brings. Sex is just another way they put themselves first.
But the fact is, sexual immorality is NEVER beneficial. In fact, it always hurts everyone involved. More about that later.
- The second question Paul says we must answer before using our freedom to sin is this: “Is this behavior enslaving?”
He says, “I have the right to do all things but I will not be mastered by anything.” So the thing to ask yourself is this. “As I exercise my freedom in Christ, will I become enslaved to that very thing that I’m doing? Will it end up ruling my life? Will it become an addiction?” This is especially important when we talk about things that pertain to the body like sex, because the body can develop dependencies on things. And when it does, we become a slave to whatever that thing is. In an attempt to satisfy that desire people continue to chase the counterfeit and that only makes them long for the real thing. I think it’s ironic that in the name of Christian freedom we can actually become slaves of the very things we claim we can do because of our freedom!
Wendy Shalit is a feminist writer who has put out a number of provocative books calling for women to recover their sexual modesty as a protest against a world that has objectified them in the name of sexual freedom. Her writings have caused an uproar among people who labeled them as “behind the times” labeled them as sexually regressive and oppressive to other “free-er” women. But surprisingly her writings have caused a parallel stir among many women who have become disenchanted with the sexual revolution and the whole new set of oppressions that came along with it. For example, Shalit points out that in the name of freedom the sexual revolution puts down women who want to act and dress more modestly. She writes, “Today’s culture says, ‘You’d better be having many hook-ups or else! Shyness will not be tolerated! Ours is supposed to be a time of great freedom. Yet we have ended up letting others dictate our choices.” Shalit goes on, “A woman may be conveying to the world by her bashfulness, ‘I have my own compass, thank you. I have my own sense of what is good and what is right, and it’s not always what everyone else says.’”
Here’s something else. The sexual revolution has not only dictated to women who they have to be, but it has actually restrained them further by putting them at the mercy of men. Have you ever wondered what happened to that old “behind the times” concept of chivalry where women were treated as queens? Have you ever wondered why these days young men don’t come to the door when they pick up their dates or why men don’t open the door for women any more “old fashioned” things like that? It’s because today’s culture says they don’t have to. So Shalit is right women are less free and more enslaved today than they were in the good ole days before the feminist movement “freed” them.
The second rationalization we see both in Corinth and in our culture. People say, “I can do what I want sexually because it’s natural”
Look at 13–14 where Paul says “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.” Now, Paul hasn’t changed subjects here from sex to eating. This is just another excuse that people then and now use to justify their immorality. The idea is that sex is just like eating. In the same way that we have a natural and God-given need to satisfy our stomach with food we have this natural and God-given need to satisfy our body’s sexual hunger. When we get hungry and head for the refrigerator, so our culture says, why should it be any different with sex? Why object to something that’s perfectly natural and God-given? The following quote from M. Scott Peck reveals the flaw in those arguments: “Calling it natural does not mean it is essential or beneficial or unchangeable behavior. It is also natural to defecate in our pants and never brush our teeth. Yet we teach ourselves to do the unnatural until the unnatural itself becomes second nature. Indeed, all self-discipline might be defined as teaching ourselves to do the unnatural.”
Here’s something else I want us to note. With this rationalization that there should be no rules when it comes to sex because after all it’s just a natural function with this way of thinking we come face-to-face with a very important truth: The world, regardless of all the emphasis it places on it, has a very low view of sex. The world sees sex as another bodily function like eating.
There’s nothing special about it, nothing unique, nothing worth protecting. But, as we’ll see shortly, the Biblical view of sex is that sex touches us and affects us at a much deeper level than eating. It’s something that involves not just our physical body but our soul and our spirit as well. Bible-believing Christians actually have a MUCH higher view of sex than our culture. And that’s what Paul gets at in his response. He says, “Yes, food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food. I don’t disagree with that.” But then he says, “God will destroy them both.” In other words, although it’s true what you say about the stomach and food, all that’s just temporary. But sex involves something altogether different because it has a spiritual aspect. Sex impacts us on a soul level so it’s not at all like eating. Plus, our bodies were made to further God’s eternal purposes not to satisfy some mere sexual appetite.
And this principle is what Paul deals with in the rest of the passage. He expands on this idea of how our physical selves (bodies) are connected to our spiritual selves. Paul gives us two truths to help us resist sexual immorality and then two action steps. We will look at them in the next post.
Sources: Mark Mitchell’s message on this text on Preaching Today has been very helpful to me along with Mark Adams and John Mac Arthur Commentary.