How many of you enjoy cleaning? I really hate doing it. There are dozens of things I can think of that I’d rather do than clean. But it’s one of those things we have to do, don’t we? If you don’t clean, pretty soon, you’ll start having uninvited guests to your house. Guests about this big (5-6 cm), have six legs, and fly.
I was also reading about some research recently that shows that dust can make you fat. So if you don’t want to gain weight, make sure that you dust your house regularly.
Anyway, as important as cleaning our homes is, it’s important to make sure that we clean our spiritual homes as well. That means our individual lives as Christians. And that means the church. You see one of the themes that we see throughout the Bible is that God dwells among us and within us.
As individual Christians, God dwells within us. God calls us his temple, his home. And if God is going to dwell within us, then that home needs to be pure. We need to live lives that are pleasing in God’s sight.
But as God’s church, we are also God’s home. When we think of church, we often think of it as a place we go on Sunday. But God looks at all Christians together, and says “This fellowship of people is my temple. I choose to dwell among them.” And so as his dwelling place, we need have lives and relationships that are pure and right in his sight.
But too often, that doesn’t happen. Our lives get stained with sin, and instead of getting it cleaned up, we just leave it there. And that not only affects us personally, but it starts to affect our relationships with our brothers and sisters in the church. We start fighting. We start gossiping. We hurt one another. Anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness start to spread. And if we don’t clean things out, it can destroy the church.
That’s the problem that the Corinthians were facing. And so we saw last week, the apostle Paul telling the Corinthian church,
Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch. (5:6-7)
Fumi taught us last week, that in the Bible, yeast is often a picture of sin. And just as a little yeast can spread throughout and affect a whole loaf of bread, a little sin can spread very quickly and affect the whole church.
And so Paul said, “Get rid of the yeast in your church. There is someone in your church that is blatantly committing sexual sin, and you’re not doing anything about it. Deal with him. Kick him out of the church, so that he might recognize his sin, repent, and be saved.”
Often times, though, we see these big sins, and think, “Well, I’m not doing that, so I’m okay. But there are other sins that if left unchecked can spread and cause great damage in your lives and in our church.
That’s what we see in chapter 6. Let’s take a look at verses 1-8.
If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!
The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters.
It’s really easy to look at this passage and see Paul only criticizing the issue of Christians suing one another. But the issue goes much deeper than that. It goes back to an issue we saw earlier in this letter: division in the church.
Earlier we saw that people were arguing about which leader in the church was the best. One person was saying, “I follow Paul,” another, “I follow Peter,” and another, “I follow Apollos.”
But here we see division in a much worse way. People actually deliberately cheating and hurting one another. In this case, it probably had something to do with cheating someone out of money or property. And this was Christians doing this to other Christians. It’s unthinkable!
But that’s what happens in the church sometimes. Oh you may not cheat other people, but you hurt them in other ways. You lie to them. You talk behind their backs. Or you say or do things that hurt them.
And the problem is that many times, we never deal with these issues. Instead, when people hurt us, we hold the hurt within us. Or even worse, we start gossiping. We start badmouthing people to others in the church, and we start making cracks within the church. They may start small, but eventually, they become bigger and bigger, and can even threaten to destroy the church.
But do you know what’s even worse than backbiting within the church. It’s taking our “dirty laundry” outside of the church. That’s what the Corinthians were doing. They were taking their Christian brothers and sisters to court, and suing them before non-Christian judges.
And Paul gets really upset with this. He says, “What? There’s no one wise enough among you to settle these matters that you have to air your dirty laundry before non-Christians?”
Now remember: the Corinthians were people that prided themselves in their wisdom. Yet by suing one another, they showed a complete inability to handle something that they should have been able to handle easily.
Paul tells them, “Look, we are going to judge this world someday. When Jesus returns, we are going to be put in a place of authority. We’re even going to judge angels. And you can’t even settle these petty little disputes?”
Now some of you may be thinking, “Well, this has nothing to do with me. I’m not suing anyone.” That may be true, but how are you dealing with your dirty laundry in the church? When people hurt you or wrong you, do you do what Jesus commands us to do? What did he command us to do?
1. First, confront the person face to face. Talk to them about what they did to hurt you.
2. And if they don’t listen, bring another Christian or two, to talk with that person.
3. And if they still don’t listen, bring it before the church.
Now this doesn’t mean that you interrupt the church service and tell everyone, “Hey Hide really hurt me. Do something about him.” But it means bring it before the leaders of the church. Hopefully, they can resolve the situation, or at the very least, they can bring discipline upon the person who did wrong. (Matthew 18:15-17)
That’s what Jesus commands. Do you do so? Or do you just complain to other people in the church? Even worse, are you airing your dirty laundry to your non-Christian family and friends?
Think about this: If we are airing our dirty laundry to our non-Christian family and friends, what are they going to think? Do you think this is going to attract them to Christ? Do you think this is going to make them want to become Christians? No way. But how often do you do that?
Let’s get very practical: Is there someone that you have a problem with in this church? And if so, have you followed the steps that Jesus has laid out for us? If we are going to clean house in the church, we need to follow the steps Jesus has laid out for us. And if we don’t, we can cause great damage to God’s church. We defile this place that God calls his dwelling place.
That’s what the Corinthians were doing. And Paul tells the victims, “Look, if there is no one wise enough in the church to deal with the problem, it’s better to just let yourself be wronged. Leave the situation in God’s hands. But instead, you fight fire with fire. You get hurt, so you hurt others back (8). And you do this to people who are supposed to be your brothers and sisters.
Then Paul tells both sides, both the wrongdoers and the victims in verses 9-11.
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (9-11)
In other words, “Don’t kid yourself. You call yourself Christians, but you commit sexual sin? You set up idols in your life? Paul was probably talking about literal idols here, but do you set up money, your job, your love life, or other things as idols in your life? Are they more important to you than God?
Paul continues, “You say you’re a Christian, but you commit adultery? You commit homosexual acts? You steal? You are always greedy for more money or more things? You get drunk? You slander other people? You cheat other people? Don’t kid yourself. You cannot do these things, you cannot live this way, and claim to be a Christian. These kinds of people will not inherit God’s kingdom.
Now is he saying that true Christians will never sin? No. We all sin. Paul himself admitted that (Romans 7:14-20). But as I’ve said before, there is a big difference between someone struggling with sin, and someone who simply does not care what God has said and just lives how he or she wants to. A true Christian repents. A true Christian flees from sin. Why? Because of what Jesus did for us. What did he do?
He washed us from our sins with the blood he shed on the cross for us. He took the punishment that we deserved for our sins on himself. He then sanctified us: he set us apart for himself as his beautiful bride, and made us pure and clean of our sins. And then he justified us. He says to us, “I no longer judge you guilty for your sin. I consider you righteous in my sight.” And because of what he’s done, every true Christian responds in love and seeks to please him. And if love is not your response, if you’re not seeking to please God in your life, but are still only seeking to please yourself, then you need to ask yourself, “Am I really a Christian?” Because if you think God will accept you even though you don’t care about what he thinks and are indulging yourself in your sin, you’re only fooling yourself.
Now those are hard words. They’re difficult to accept. and quite frankly, the Corinthians had trouble with them as well. Look at what they said.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.” (12)
Now this appears much clearer in the English translation, but it seems that Paul is talking about a slogan that the Corinthians had. And so the English translation puts the slogan in quotation marks, and adds the words “You say.” So the words, “I have the right to do anything,” are probably not Paul’s opinion, but the Corinthian’s argument.
They were saying, “I’m a Christian so now I’m free from God’s law. That’s what you told us Paul. So that means I can do whatever I want to now.” But Paul says, “You may be free from having to keep all of the laws God gave the Jews, but that doesn’t mean every action you take is beneficial. There are many things that can hurt you or hurt others. And there are certain things that can start controlling you if you don’t watch out.”
A lot of times we take the first step in choosing to sin. But once we start, we find that we are no longer in control. Rather, our sins start to control us. For example, many guys start out choosing to look at pornography. But then they find that they cannot stop.
And that’s true about any sin, whether it’s something as small as overeating or as big as sleeping with another person’s husband or wife. If you constantly give in to sin, it will control you. And there is only one person who is supposed to be Lord in your life, and that’s Jesus. We see this in the next couple of verses. Take a look first at verse 13.
You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” (13a)
This was another slogan the Corinthians apparently had. And essentially, they were saying, “But we were made this way. We were made to eat food, so why not eat. Food is just a temporal pleasure. When we die God’s getting rid of food and we won’t have stomachs in heaven, right? Why not just enjoy it while we can?”
But they didn’t just use this slogan when talking about food. It was also their view on sex, and it’s a very prevalent view today. What is that view? “We are sexual creatures. We were made this way. So why not fulfill our sexual needs anyway that we want to and enjoy sex while we can?”
What is Paul’s answer?
The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. (13b-14)
What is Paul saying? He’s saying what we said before. Our body is the dwelling place of God. We were made to be his dwelling place. And God has a higher destiny in mind for this body he has given us. Someday, God will raise us from the dead, just like he did with Jesus and he will make our bodies into something glorious. That’s our destiny. And if that is the destiny for this body God has given us, how can we then defile it with sexual sin?
Paul then says this:
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! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. (15-17)
We’ve talked before about each of us who are Christians are part of Christ’s physical body here on earth. When we speak words of encouragement to others, we act as his mouth. When we help someone in need, we act as his hands. Paul then gives us a very ugly picture. He says, “Shall we take members of Christ (you and me) and join them to a prostitute?”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t even want to think of Jesus being joined to a prostitute. But when we engage in sexual sin, that’s exactly what we’re doing. If you are a Christian, Christ’s Spirit is living within you and you are a part of his body. Are you then, as a member of Christ’s body, going to join yourself in sexual sin to another.
You see sexual sin is different from any other sin in that it joins you to the person that you have sex with. That’s why as bad as breaking up with a person can be, it’s even worse when you’ve had a sexual relationship with them. When you had sex with them, you were joined to them not only physically, but emotionally. It’s also why sexual crime like rape is as awful as it is. It is deeply, deeply personal.
And so Paul says,
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. (18)
Now those of you who are bilingual may have noticed a difference in the Japanese and English translations. The Japanese says, “All sins are outside the body.” The English says, “All other sins are outside the body.” Why is that? Well, the truth is, the Japanese is more accurate here. Paul never wrote the word “other.” So why did the English translators put it there? Many people here think that Paul is comparing sexual sin to other sins. That’s very possible. Like I said, sexual sin is different from other sins. But if that’s what Paul meant, than we need the word “other” there to make his point clear. But I hold to a second possibility. I think the Corinthians had another slogan they often used. I think they were saying, “All sins are outside the body.” Put another way, they were saying, “Hey, sin doesn’t really affect you. If you sleep with another person you’re not married to, it won’t have any real lasting effects, so just do it.”
But Paul says, “No, when you sin sexually, you sin against your own body. Your body wasn’t meant to be joined sexually to just anyone. It was meant to be joined to one man or one woman in marriage. Sex between husband and wife is a beautiful thing before God. But sex outside of marriage defiles the body that God gave to you.”
He then concludes:
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (19-20)
And so we come back to what we said at the beginning. We were meant to be the dwelling place of God. Our very bodies are meant to be his dwelling place. He sanctified us for himself. Jesus purified us of our sin, and set us apart for himself as his bride. We belong to him now. He paid a horrible price on the cross so that we might be his.
So often people say, “It’s my body. It’s my life. I can do with it as I wish.” But those words have no room at all in the mouth of a Christian. You are not your own. You belong to him. So honor God with your body.
How about you? When you look at your house, what do you see? When you look at this church, are you helping to keep it clean. Are you keeping it clean by keeping your relationships right? Are you keeping it clean by following the commands of our Lord when you’re having issues with others in the church? Or are you holding on to bitterness? Are you gossiping to your other church friends. Even worse, are you airing your dirty laundry to your non-Christian family and friends?
Are you keeping this church clean by treating other brothers and sisters right? Or are you hurting them by your words or actions?
And as you look at your life, what do you see? Do you think your body is something that God is happy to dwell in? Is he happy with what you let into you eyes, ears, and mouth. Is he happy with what comes out of your mouth? Is he happy with what you do with your body that he’s dwelling in?
This has been kind of a heavy message. But I want to leave you with this word of hope.
In I John 1:9, it says this,
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
You may have messed up your life. You may have messed up your relationships in this church. But if you will repent, God is faithful, he is righteous, he’ll forgive, and he will cleanse you. He’ll make you that beautiful bride of Christ he made you to be. He’ll make you that pure and holy dwelling place that you were meant to be.
Let’s take some time in silence before God. And think: “Are my relationships in this church right? Is my personal life right before God. And if it’s not, talk to God about it. Confess your sin, and ask him what to do.
Small group questions:
- Read I Corinthians 6:1-8 and Matthew 18:15-17. Have you ever had a problem with someone in this church? What did you do to resolve it? Do you think you did things the right way? Why or why not?
- A lot of people think, “I know I’m sinning, but that’s okay. God will forgive me.” Read I Corinthians 6:9-11. According to Paul, why is this way of thinking wrong?
- Read I Corinthians 6:19-20. A lot of people think, “It’s my body. It’s my life. I can live how I want to.” Have you ever felt this way? According to Paul, why is this way of thinking wrong for Christians?
- What sins are you struggling with now? Do you have any relationships in this church that are bad right now? Pray for each other about these things.