On a week where we took a brief pause from Mark to look at an important topic for the Christian life, we studied 1 Corinthians 6:9-7:40 to see a passage that felt almost uncomfortably pertinent. 21st century London is obsessed with sex—from coarse language to illicit magazines, from lewd advertisements to political controversies, we’re quickly able to relate to the Corinthian church, set in a society of industrial-scale sex, prostitution and immorality.

It was wonderful, then, to see how grace-centred Paul’s words are. Even as he sets limits on the ethical standards Christians should follow, it is clear that this is motivated out of the good news of the gospel – that Christians are ‘washed … sanctified … justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God’ (1 Corinthians 6:11). And as we see the breadth of Paul’s list in v9-10, we recognise that whatever sins we may have committed, whatever guilt we may feel from the past, we can find forgiveness in Jesus.

But that means that God is concerned about our bodies. We are joined to the Lord Jesus, are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and were bought by God the Father at a price (6:15, 19-20). Our bodies are valuable to God, so what we do with them is valuable to God. He isn’t just interested in what we think or pray – though He is interested in them! – but in what we do with our bodies, and that includes the area of sex.

We were given a helpful definition of sexual immorality as “anything that causes arousal outside the context of a marriage relationship between one man and one woman.” Paul describes two principles to apply in this area:

  1. Flee sexual immorality: run away from it, like you’d run away from a bull. Not “what is permissible?” but “what is helpful?” (see 6:12.) Not “how close can I get?” but “how can I escape it?” Fleeing sexual immorality means making sure that I am giving no opportunity for myself – or others – to be led into sin.
  2. Glorify God in your body: pursue that which is honouring to God. Make sure that my perspective is seeking to bring glory to God, rather than indulge sinful temptation. We’re looking to see how far we can go to honour him—not because it earns us our standing before God, but because he has rescued us, and because our bodies matter to him.

Questions to ponder

  • What motivates you to flee sexual immorality? How can you make sure that it is grace, not a list of rules, that guides your actions?
  • How valuable do you consider your body to be? Do you believe it to be as valuable as God does?
  • If Paul came to visit you today, would he describe your conduct as ‘fleeing sexual immorality’? Where are you most prone to push the boundaries?
  • How important do you consider your thought life? How much does it “glorify God”? If your thoughts were projected onto the wall, would you be seen fleeing sexual immorality?
  • Are you helping Christian brothers and sisters to flee sexual immorality? How can you be more helpful in e.g. the way you dress? The way you speak?