Daniel 6, 1 Cor. 6:9-20

Daniel 6, 1 Cor. 6:9-20

SERIES: Integrity is No Accident: The Book of Daniel 

Flee Immorality

Introduction:  In Daniel 6 we were challenged to follow Daniel’s example of exceptional allegiance to duty in the face of temptation.  We considered a number of crises facing us today (integrity, marriage, parenting), but time did not permit us to examine the crisis in sexual immorality.  We return to that topic this morning.  

Pastors have been known to make sweeping statements, sometimes overstatements, to wake a congregation up, statements like: “Never before in the history of mankind has sin been darker,” or “Never have the righteous been more persecuted, or “Never has revival been more needed.”  I think we have to be careful or we will cry wolf too loud or too often, and then no one will take us seriously.  But would anyone argue with me when I say that we are today facing a crisis of historic proportions in sexual morality in our nation?

I thought of spending the first ten minutes of this sermon reciting statistics that would prove that things are out of control.  But do we really need that?  If you aren’t blind and deaf and living in a cave, then you know that our society is going to hell in a handbasket when it comes to sexual morality.  You can’t open a magazine, watch a TV show, attend a movie, or even walk through a mall without having your moral sensitivities assaulted.  And if you hadn’t noticed any of this, I would say that in itself is an indication of how desensitized you have become to the barrage of sensual images that are streaming at us.

What you may not realize is that the sexual revolution has also infected the church.  The church has always been too much of a mirror of the world and not enough of a light to the world.  But things are getting worse fast.  Adultery is no longer a shocking rarity in Christian families.  Christian teens are engaging in premarital sex at a rate only slightly less than pagan teens.  Several years ago, a close friend of mine working in another evangelical church told me of two 13-year-old girls in his youth group who confessed to having gone all the way with their boyfriends, both of whom were 12.  Unbelievable?  Well, it’s happening.  

Couples are living together without benefit of marriage in numbers that are growing by leaps and bounds.  We live in a nice upper middle-class neighborhood of single-family dwellings between Manchester and Des Peres.  Six months ago, a young unmarried couple bought the home across the street and moved in.  A few months later the bachelor who has lived next door to us for ten years moved his fiancée into his house.  Thankfully, both of these couples have gotten married in the past six weeks, but there was apparently no embarrassment in living together for a few months first.  But what really may surprise you is that it is not that unusual for Brad or me to be contacted by couples attending this church who are considering marriage, only to discover they are already living together.  Now don’t get me wrong; I’m glad they are coming to church here and I’m glad they want to get married, but what has happened to our perception of morality that allows these situations to occur in the first place? 

Then there are single men and women—professing Christians—who would never live together without being married, but who nevertheless go on vacation trips together, sharing the same tent or the same motel room (to be good stewards and save money, of course).  On the unlikely premise that some are able to abstain from sexual intimacy in such tempting situations, one still wonders, “Why aren’t they concerned about their reputations?”

Now I want us to open the Scriptures this morning and see what God has to say about adultery, fornication, and sexual immorality in general.  I am going to use as my text 1 Cor. 6, though there are many passages that would serve the purpose.  We could look at the 7th Commandment in Exodus 20, or the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, or the story of David and Bathsheba, or any number of other texts.  But 1 Cor. 6 is an especially valuable passage, because it both brutally confronts us with God’s prohibition of immorality, and it offers us rational arguments as to why we should avoid it at all costs.  Some people simply will not take “don’t” for an answer until they are convinced there is good reason.  I believe good reasons are given here.  

Please pay attention to the Word of the Lord as found in 1 Cor. 6:9-20:

“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 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 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.

12 ‘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. 13 You say, ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.’ The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 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! 16 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.’ 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 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; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

The Scriptures throw down the gauntlet on the subject of sexual immorality.  (9-11)

Here’s how the Apostle Paul broaches the subject:  “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived.”  Now you can be sure when the biblical author says, “Do not be deceived,” that there is grave danger that we will be deceived on the very subject he is addressing.  The fact is, there are many Christians who have deceived themselves into thinking that sin is no longer a serious issue for a person who has professed faith in Christ.  After all, doesn’t Rom. 8:1 say, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus?”  If I sin, God will forgive me.  That’s His job, isn’t it?  What’s to worry? 

That, friends, is wicked, godless thinking.  In fact, it reveals a heart that is unconverted, no matter what profession the mouth is making.  God says through the apostle, “the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  I’d say that’s pretty serious.  And then a list is provided of some of the wicked people who will be excluded from the kingdom of God.  The list focuses on the sexually immoral.

Sexually immoral people will not inherit the Kingdom of God.  The first category mentioned are simply called “the sexually immoral.”  In the original Greek the term is porneia, from which we get our English word pornography.  It is a general term for sexual sin that can include everything from adultery to exhibitionism.  However, when mentioned with other categories of sexual sin, as is the case here, it most often refers to fornication, or premarital sexual intimacy.  Our society is fast approaching the point of virtual universal approval of premarital sex.  It is exalted in books, magazines, movies, and TV as the norm, and vast numbers of young people are buying into that.  But fornication is a terribly destructive habit and God clearly forbids it.  

The second category mentioned are “idolaters.”  We generally think of idolaters simply as believers in false gods, but in the ancient world they almost always engaged in sexual perversion.  In fact, the greatest building in Corinth was the Temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, where idolatry and sacred prostitution flourished side by side.  Third, “adulterers” are those married persons who indulge in sexual activity outside the marriage bond.  Because marriage is so sacred and is a picture of the covenant relationship between God and man, adultery is especially heinous in God’s sight, actually requiring the death penalty in the Old Testament, even when it involved consenting adults.  Then he mentions “male prostitutes and homosexual offenders,” which constitute the passive and active partners, respectively, in a same-sex relationship.  

So, in effect, the first five of ten sins which Paul claims will exclude a person from the kingdom of God are sins of sexual immorality.

Now I’m sure many of you are thinking hard right now about this exclusion from the kingdom.  What does it mean?  Who qualifies as a sexually immoral person—one who has committed just oneof these sins just one time?  Or does it only refer to habitual offenders?  I believe we get some valuable help in answering these questions from verse 11:  “And that is what some of you were.” This is a statement of hope following a verse of despair.  It is a statement of triumph following a verse of defeat.  This verse tells us that it is possible for someone who has been sexually immoral to become someone who is not definable in those terms. 

Sexually immoral people do not have to stay that way.  With some people you never seem to be able to live down your past.  What you were is what you will always be as far as they are concerned.  If you ever once lied to them, then you are a liar.  If you ever stole anything, you are a thief.  If you ever got pregnant out of wedlock, you are a slut. If you ever abused alcohol, then you are a drunk.

Not so with God.  He can make a person a former idolater, a former adulterer, a former alcoholic, yes, even a former homosexual offender.  The Church at Corinth had examples of each.  There is no life so sinful that Jesus Christ cannot make a past tense out of it.  The only person unredeemable is the one whose heart is too proud to accept God’s forgiveness and restoration.  All others can experience the transformation which is described in verse 11 in a three-fold manner: “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.”  

All three of those verbs—washed, sanctified, justified—are in a tense in Greek which generally speaks of a once-for-all action.  Something climactic happened to the Corinthians of whom Paul is speaking and they would never be the same!  He is undoubtedly referring to the time of their conversion when they received Jesus as personal Savior and Lord and had their sins washed away.  Jesus Christ continues to be the only real answer for someone caught up in any immoral lifestyle. 

Now we must not miss the point of this paragraph.  Paul is warning believers not to live like unbelievers.  He is fighting the common tendency so many have to divorce morality from faith.  There are many professing Christians who feel that what they believe is far more important than how they behave.  Though they would never say it in so many words, their position amounts to the conclusion that you can practice fornication or adultery or homosexuality and still go to heaven ifyour beliefs are orthodox.  Well, Paul doesn’t buy that.  To him it’s a distortion of all that Christianity stands for.  A Christian must never view his standing with God as a free ticket to sin but rather as a compulsion to forsake sin.

Now the second main point I would like to mention today is that …

The Scriptures offer reasoned arguments against sexual immorality.  (12-20)

I see six of them in verses 12-20, and the first is that …

Christian freedom, though remarkable in its extent, does not extend to sexual license.  (12).  Freedom is one of the great truths Christ and the Apostles introduced to the family of God.  Old Testament religion had little of it; in fact, every area of the believer’s life was so circumscribed that there was little room for the individual to make personal decisions or to exercise discernment.  His diet was regulated, his lifestyle was regulated, his worship was regulated, his giving was regulated.  I’m glad I don’t live under Old Testament rules and regulations.  

Nevertheless, it is possible for a believer to overstate his freedom in Christ.  In fact, that was happening in Corinth.  Some of the believers there were slinging around a slogan, “Everything is permissible for me,” by which they meant, “Since I’m no longer bound by the Mosaic Law, I’ll do it my way.”

It’s very interesting that Paul doesn’t denounce their slogan, but rather puts some parameters around it.  I think the reason he doesn’t denounce their slogan is that Christian freedom was a beautiful thing to Paul.  In fact, in Gal. 5 he himself wrote, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery . . .  For you were called to freedom, brothers.”  Again and again, he makes the point that believers are “not under law but under grace.”  There is a tremendous tendency for Christians to put themselves back under a legalistic system, but Paul refuses to do that to us.  

However, Paul does make it clear that the freedom we have in Christ is not without limits.  He suggests there are two questions the believer should ask before he decides upon any course of action.  First, “Is it beneficial?”, the implication being that we should not do things that produce no benefit.  And second, “Is it something that could control me or become my master?”  If we ask those two questions about sexual immorality, we readily discover that such behavior does not qualify as a freedom.  It produces no lasting benefit (in fact, it is very destructive) and it definitely enslaves a person.  

On the other hand, when a person experiences the power of Christ, he becomes not the slave of his body, but its master.  Often when a person says, “I do what I like,” he is merely justifying his slavery to a habit or passion.  He couldn’t stop if he wanted to.  We’ve all heard people say, “I smoke because I like to smoke; I could quit anytime I wanted.”  Sure!  If you believe that, I’ve got some land in Florida I’d like to sell.  It is only when a person has the strength of Christ in him that he can really claim to be free.  William Barclay has observed that “the great fact of the Christian faith is, not that it makes a man free to sin but that it makes a man free not to sin.” [i]

So, Christian freedom, though remarkable in its extent, does not extend to sexual immorality.  Paul’s second argument is this:

The body is not designed for immorality.  (13) Verse 13 reads, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”—but God will destroy them both.  The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”  It seems the Corinthians had another slogan, namely “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food.”  What they inferred by that is body parts should be used as they were designed to be used, so, just as food is for the stomach and the stomach for food, so sex is for body and the body for sex.  All bodily functions are equal.  God gave us appetites for food and appetites for sex, and what you should do with an appetite is to satisfy it.  

Paul responds by challenging the analogy.  Food and stomachs are adapted for one another, true.  But this is a just a temporary arrangement.  Food has no effect upon the eternal destiny of the body.  But, bodies and immorality are not adapted for one another.  As a matter of fact, immorality, as he will tell us in a few moments, results in destruction of the body.  So, in place of the formula:

food           x          sex

stomach               body

Paul offers a different formula:

food            x       body

stomach               Lord

Using the body for the Lord means to use it in accordance with Scriptural principles, and when one does that, the inference is that he will find maximum pleasure, fulfillment, and productivity.  

Now a third argument is offered in verse 14:

The body is eternal through resurrection.  (14). “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.”  Paul has just stated that food is for stomachs but that both food and stomachs are destined to perish.  In contrast, he now adds that the body and the Lord are destined for resurrection.  What an intriguing avenue of thought he is using here!  Because our bodies are going to be resurrected in the future, we should not mistreat them now through immorality.  Perhaps we can state the point a little differently. “If God considers our physical bodies sufficiently important to resurrect them, then we ought to consider them sufficiently important to abstain from misusing them through sexual immorality.” Fourthly, …

Immorality counteracts our intimate relationship with the Lord.  (15-17) Please look at verses 15-17:  “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 he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.”  The term “member” signifies the closest possible connection.  If one of the members or parts of your body gets hurt, you hurt.  If you smash your thumb your stomach gets sick.  If your neck muscles tighten up, your head aches.  That’s because there is an organic connection between each member of the physical body and the whole body.  Applying that truth to the spiritual realm, Paul asks, in effect, “What sense does it make for one who is a member of Christ to become a member of a prostitute?  Perish the thought!  May it never be!”  

Imagine your reaction if you should come home from work someday to find that your neighbor has built a fence in your front yard and moved in some hogs.  It begins to rain, and in a few hours your rich green turf is turned into mud and filth.  Your anticipated outrage would certainly be justified, for to use the property of another against his consent, and for purposes detrimental to him, is both inconsiderate and illegal.  In the same manner, the body of the believer does not belong to himself.  His body is a member of Christ. 

The word used for “unite” here in verses 15-17 is the Greek word for gluing something.  Paul says a man glues himself to a woman when he has sexual relations with her.  Isn’t that a strange term to use of a one-night stand with a prostitute?  Aren’t many immoral relationships purely physical, without any real personal interaction?  “No!” Paul says, “It is impossible to have a physical-only sexual relationship—even with a stranger.”  The reason is that the sexual act is such an intimate act that it involves and affects the whole person.  

The apostle then quotes the Old Testament to prove his point.  Gen. 2:24 says, “the two will become one flesh.”  C. S. Lewis explains this well: “Every time a man and a woman enter into a sexual relationship a spiritual bond is established between them which must be eternally enjoyed or eternally endured.” [ii]  Fornication involves a person in a degrading solidarity, incompatible with the believer’s spiritual solidarity with Christ.  

Now let me try to anticipate a reaction that some may have to this fourth reason.  You may be saying to yourself, “Paul is talking about paying a prostitute for sexual favors.  That’s disgusting.  I would never do that.  There’s no love involved—just pure lust.  (Pure lust?  That’s an oxymoron if I ever spoke one, but you get what I mean.)  But there’s no way you can compare the relationship I have with my boyfriend or girlfriend or significant other in such terms.”   Fair observation, but I don’t think it will get you out of the woods.  

Even though there is undoubtedly a moral distinction between a one-night stand with a streetwalker and a passionate interlude with a steady date, still sin is sin.  I don’t think anyone would want to argue that since armed robbery is worse than shoplifting, therefore petty theft is O.K.  Yes, it is true that Paul is addressing the specific issue of prostitution in verses 15 & 16, but the theme of the whole passage is clearly broader.  He is dealing with all kinds of sexual immorality, including premarital sex. 

Allow me to quote William Barclay from his great book The Ten Commandments for Today, regarding sexual relations between unmarried people who love each other:

“There is sexual intercourse by what we might call anticipation.  This is a situation in which two people claim that they love each other so much, and that they are so certain to marry, that they can anticipate marriage by having sexual intercourse before they are actually married.  There is no question of promiscuity, or of what one might call deliberate immorality.  There is simply the anticipation of that which will, as they believe certainly, be someday a right.

There are two things to be said here.  The first is that it would be equally possible to say that they love each other so much that they will not have sexual intercourse until they are totally and irrevocably committed to each other…. that love has taught them that self-control, self-discipline and self-giving are very closely connected.  The second thing is that nothing is certain in this life, and it is not certain that they will marry.  All of us have seen two people who seemed utterly certain to marry, but who in the end did not.  The human heart is not so completely predictable that anyone can take its future movements for granted.  It is not wise to anticipate that which we have neither the right nor the power to anticipate.[iii]

Now a fifth reason the Apostle offers to argue against sexual immorality is that …

Immorality is self-destructive.  (18) Verse 18 reads, “Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.”  This verse contains the first actual command given in our passage:  “Flee sexual immorality.”  It is a present imperative and should be translated, “Make it your habit to flee immorality!”  or “Keep fleeing until the danger is past.” The Bible’s advice for avoiding sexual immorality is simple:  stay as far away as possible from the persons and places likely to get you into trouble.  Proverbs 5:8 says concerning the immoral woman, “Keep to a path far from her, and do not go near the door of her house.”  When repeatedly enticed by Potiphar’s wife, Joseph refused not only to sleep with her but even to “be with her.”  (Gen. 39:10).  When she tried to seduce him by grabbing his coat, it was not the time for argument or explanation or rationalization, but for flight.  An enticing situation is not to be considered a spiritual challenge to be met but rather a spiritual trap to escape.  

And why should a man flee?  Because sexual immorality is a unique sin.  Other sins involve the use of that which comes from outside the body, but sexual sin arises from within.  Other sins serve exterior purposes (i.e., drunkenness enables one to forget his problems, at least temporarily; theft gives a person the utility of the item stolen), but sexual sin has no other purpose than the gratification of the lusts.  Many actions are sinful only in excess; sexual immorality is sinful even in moderation. 

The book of Proverbs describes the self-destructiveness of sexual immorality by stating that the one indulging in it will come to discover that he has lost his “years to the cruel one,” that his “hard-earned goods” have gone “to the house of an alien,” and that he will groan in his later years and find his “flesh and his body are consumed.”  (Proverbs 5:7-23The “stolen water” of sexual relations outside of marriage “is sweet; and bread eaten in secret is pleasant,” but “the dead are there.” (Proverbs 9:17-18)  Sexual sin is a no-win situation.  It is self-destructive.  

John MacArthur is not far off when he states that “sexual sin has broken more marriages, shattered more homes, caused more heartache and disease, and destroyed more lives than alcohol, drugs and probably every other cause combined.  It causes lying, stealing, cheating, and killing, as well as bitterness, hatred, slander, gossip, and unforgiveness.” [iv]

Now the Apostle turns to his final, and perhaps strongest, argument:

The believer’s body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  (19-20)  For the sixth time in this one chapter, Paul asks the same rhetorical question, “Do you not know?”  “Do you not know that your body is a temple 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 body.”  The word for “temple” here is the term which refers to the Holy of Holies.  The believer’s physical body is so sacred that the Shekinah glory of God dwells there.  

Almost no one would commit an act of fornication in a church sanctuary, but the fact is, as disgusting as that would be, it is no worse than committing the sin anywhere else.  A church sanctuary is never called a Holy of Holies, but the believer’s body is.      Everything I do with this body, everything I put into it, everything I say with it, everywhere I take it, I am doing to, putting into, saying with, and taking the Holy Spirit of God.  

Earlier in the passage Paul had called for sexual purity because of the way sexual sin affects the body.  But here he goes back a step further and calls for purity because the body it affects is not even the believer’s own.  We no longer belong to ourselves because we have been bought (or redeemed).  Peter says we were not “redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold but with precious blood, the blood of Christ.”  (1 Peter 1:18) What better motive could one need for using his or her body to glorify God?  

Now there’s one final issue I think we should touch upon this morning.  It comes in the form of a question:  

What should you do if you’ve already been sexually immoral?  

Confess the sin, recognizing that God is able and willing to forgive you.  The first and most important one to confess to is God.  David prayed to God following his sin with Bathsheba, “Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight.”  Oh, he had sinned against others alright—against Bathsheba, against her husband Uriah, against the child that was born to them, and against the whole nation.  But the sin against God was so much greater that the other victims paled into insignificance.

The question of confession of sexual sin to others besides God is a difficult one.  Some Christian leaders have suggested that a person who has ever been guilty of sexual immorality, no matter how long in the past, should search until he finds that person and ask for forgiveness.  I personally see far more potential for harm than for good coming from such a procedure.  However, if one has regular contact with a person one has sinned against, or if that person could be contacted without injuring innocent people, then I think confession is in order.  Generally, I believe the Bible teaches that confession should go as far as the sin went and no further.

We must recognize that confession will not always produce forgiveness from people.  Some will refuse to forgive us, but God will not refuse, and His forgiveness is far more important than anyone else’s.

Purpose in your heart to cease and desist before the temple of your body is ruined.  Some people are tempted to say, “I’m already guilty.  I’m a fornicator or an adulterer or a homosexual, so one more act of fornication or adultery or homosexuality isn’t going to make any difference.”  Don’t kid yourself.  Sexual sin is cumulative in its damaging effects, kind of like carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide stays in a person’s system for a long time, with the result that a non-lethal dose can sometimes kill because of the accumulation of poison in the system.  Friends, a second act of immorality is not a freebie—it compounds the sin of the first one, spreads the cancer further, and eats away a little more of one’s personality and spirit.  The only way to deal with such sin is immediately, radically, and permanently.  Covenant with God that you will never let it happen again.  

If not guilty yourself, be willing to forgive others who are.  “But you don’t understand, Pastor.  That immoral behavior by my spouse was a breach of faith that was so traumatic I will never be able to forgive.”  I have just one question for you: “How much has God forgiven you?”  Was this sin in the life of your husband or wife or child or closest friend, any worse than the cumulative sins youhave committed?  And has God forgiven you?  Jesus said, “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”  

Conclusion:  I would like to read a paragraph from John MacArthur:

“Sexual allurement is extremely enticing and powerful.  It seems nice, enjoyable, and good.  It promises nothing but pleasure and satisfaction.  But what it ends up giving ‘is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword….’  The first characteristic of sexual sin is deceit.  It never delivers what it promises.  It offers great satisfaction but gives great disappointment.  It claims to be real living but is really the way of death.” [v]

Some of us need to improve the maintenance on our temples.  Only if we keep them holy can the Holy Spirit continue to dwell in them with all His power and glory. 

DATE: September 11, 1994


Sexual immorality








[i] William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians, 56-7.

[ii] C. S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters, 83.

[iii] William Barclay, Ten Commandments for Today, 148-9.

[iv] John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 1 Corinthians, 147.

[v] Ibid.

Daniel 6
Daniel 5