THE BODY: THE TEMPLE OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Text:1 Corinthians 6.9-20
(all comments initially moderated)
We welcome you who are sharing this hour on television and on radio. This is the pastor bringing the message to young people in keeping with this beautiful and meaningful day. It is an exposition of the last part of the sixth chapter of the first Corinthian letter:
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you, but you’re washed. You’re sanctified. You’re justified in the name of the Lord by the Spirit of God. All things are lawful unto me but all things are not expedient. All things are lawful for me but I will not be brought under the power of any. Meats for the stomach and the stomach for meats but God shall destroy both in them. Now, the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord. And the Lord for the body. And God hath both raised up the Lord and will also raise up us by His own power. Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ. Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? Know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? For two, saith He, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body. But he that commiteth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have of God. And ye are not your own. For you are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body which is God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:9-20
Now, to the exposition, first, the subject; what is he talking about?
He is talking about one thing. And he emphasizes it in a tremendously effective way. He is talking about the human body. He is talking about the physical frame in which our souls abide. He is talking about the body. Now, a pious scribe, a copyist, when he read that, he thought that cannot be the dignified part of an apostle like Paul. So, he added to it: “therefore glorify God in your body” [1 Corinthians 6:20]. Then he added, “and in your spirit which are God’s.” No! No! The copyist just added “and in your spirit.” He is talking about the body, and that is one of the great addresses of the Christian faith. Listen to this. In the twelfth chapter of Romans: “I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies”—he is not talking about one’s soul or one’s heart or one’s mind—that ye present your bodies, a living sacrifice wholly acceptable unto God which is your spiritual service. And be not conformed to the world” [Romans 12:1]. The subject is the human body.
Will you notice a second thing? There is a great fundamental basic Christian avowal in the text: “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is given you of God” [1 Corinthians 6:20]. Now, there is more in that than you just think for when you read it like that—“your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have of God”—that is a reference to the great Pentecostal difference.
What difference did Pentecost make when God poured out the ascension spirit of the Holy Ghost upon this world? The difference is this. In the days past, the Holy Spirit of God dwelt in the Tabernacle and in the Temple. He dwelt in a visible form. The Talmud calls it of the Shekinah of God. The presence of God seen in a brilliant flaming light hovering lambently, rising above the Ark of the Covenant but after Pentecost, the habitation of God changed and no longer in a tabernacle or in a temple. But God’s Spirit dwells in the human frame, in the human body. The temple of God now is you individually, and we collectively. The dwelling place of God now is in this house, this tabernacle, this human frame.
Will you notice again how he flagrantly and fearlessly and courageously attacks and challenges the abuse of the body that characterized the culture of his day?
One of the most marvelous things you’ll read in human story is this, that the Christian witness boldly and fearlessly attacked the idolatrous culture, the moral culture of the day in which they began first to preach the gospel of the Son of God. Now, you look at it. He is describing the culture of that day. And when I read it out of the Bible, you will think he is talking about the pagan culture of our day.
First, he attacks the institution of prostitution. That was an accepted way of life in the day of the Greco-Roman empire. That is the oldest profession. And they worshiped the goddess of love whether her name was Aphrodite or Astarte or Venus. Every nation had its own goddess of love. And they worshiped the goddess of love by cohabiting with temple prostitutes. It was a way of life. It was in the culture of the Greco-Roman world. And he says, “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ. Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid” [1 Corinthians 6:15]. It is unthinkable in a Christian culture and in a Christian life. “What? Know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? For two, saith he, shall be one flesh” [1 Corinthians 6:16]. And shall it be in the Christian frame and in the Christian confession that one takes the members of the body of Christ and joins them to a prostitute? It is unimaginable says the apostle.
The second thing I pick out that he names is:
“the effeminate and the abusers of themselves with mankind” [1 Corinthians 6:9]. Now, I read that ever since I was a little boy. I had no idea what he was talking about. It was not until I was grown that I was ever introduced to what homosexuality is. And it was not until I came to the big city that I was ever able to learn the definition of homosexuality. Here it is translated the, “effeminate and the abusers of themselves with mankind.” All of that, “the abusers of themselves with mankind” is a translation of one Greek word.
Now, let me translate it so that I could understand it; the effeminate, the lesbian and the abuser of themselves with mankind, the sodomite, the lesbian and the sodomite. Isn’t it a strange thing that that pagan heathen culture that Paul so fearlessly assailed is coming to be the acceptable culture in modern American life? If you don’t believe that, you look at the diatribes that are daily castigations now of Anita Bryant. In her county, Dade, in her city, Miami, and in her state, Florida, they are preparing to accept by legal deviation lesbian woman homosexuality, sodomy, male sexuality. And because of her Christian stance against it, she has been taken off the television and the radio of one of the great corporate lines of America that she advertises and presents and is in danger of losing the other.
More and more and more the sodomy that characterized the ancient world and the lesbian homosexuality that characterized the ancient world is coming to characterize our modern American life and culture.
When I was in Virginia about three weeks ago, I spent hours with newspaper reporters. After I came back, they sent me a daily newspaper and half of a page was the presentation of that interview. And one of them was this. What do you think about homosexuality? What do you think about the lesbian and what do you think about the sodomite? And I replied simply:
“Sir, as long as the first chapter of the Book of Romans is in the Bible, and as long as the city of Sodom remains under the judgment of God, sodomy and homosexuality is a disgrace and a reproach to any nation and to any people.” This is the unmitigated, bold affront to God and as such was challenged by the holy apostle.
Will you look again? And I have time for just one more. Will you look again, drugs, drugs? A drug is any kind of a chemical or any kind of a substance that alters, that changes the mind or the body. Alcohol is a drug. It is liquid pot. Grass is a drug—marijuana. LSD is a drug. Acid, heroin is a drug. Anything that alters the mind or the body is a drug. And we are beginning to pay a fearful price in America for our acceptance into our pagan society and culture; drugs, the increasing use of addictive chemicals that destroy our minds and ruin our bodies. This is a truism. Death is in that drug, always will be—always has been. That’s why the apostle challenges it so fearlessly.
Take in America. There are more people killed on the highways of America than in all of the wars that our nation has ever fought from beginning until this present hour. And one half of all of those slaughtering tragic casualties on the highway is due to a drug, to alcohol. Beside the uncounted numbers that are maimed and crippled and blinded, and yet it is one of the most acceptable things in modern culture; drugs.
Not only alcohol, but with increasing and spreading rapidity do we see the use of other drugs and other chemicals in the young life of America. A survey was made in Great Britain. And they found that it is in the elementary schools that drugs are pushed so fearfully. A like survey was made in America with the admonition to us in America that high school is too late. Junior high is too late. We must face this problem of death and drug addiction in the elementary grades among small boys and girls. What the child does not realize is that the reason the man is pushing that is for his making money. And if he can’t succeed in seducing you, then he goes broke. He cares nothing about your body or your life or your mind or your future. All he’s interested in is to sell his wares and there is death in that pot. His success depends upon his prostitution of you.
I copied this out of a daily newspaper. It is an Associated Press report that was printed on the front page of a daily newspaper. And I copied it word for word. The headline is: “His last long trip.” It was dated from Tacoma, Washington, and the Associated Press report. This is it:
A railroad employee found the well-dressed body of a young man in a corner of an empty boxcar behind the Union Pacific depot. In the jacket pocket were an empty pillbox and a billfold identifying the youth as—and then it published his name.—When the body was moved, a suicide note was found. It read:
Dear Dad, dope ruined my life and took away my happiness forever. I thought I was experiencing life. I found out it was death. I hope to God people taking dope find what I found in it sooner than I did. Goodbye, Dad. Your son, love, Ricky.
That is an unthinkable thing in a Christian culture, in a Christian nation. But increasingly we are becoming pagan and heathen in all of our definitions of morality. And more and more we are accepting into our way of life the culture of drugs.
Then the apostle turning aside from his challenging in the name of Christ of these things that decimate and destroy the human body, and that means also the mind and the spirit and the soul, then he speaks of the Christian faith and the Christian redemption, “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of God. And you are not your own. You are bought with a price” [1 Corinthians 6:19]. The Christian is someone who has been ransomed and redeemed by the price, the blood of the crucified One.
Will you notice how the apostle avows our ownership to God?
We are God’s by creation. He made us yet he never mentions it. We are God’s by preservation. The reason I’m here is because of a guardian angel watching over me but he never mentions it. We are God’s by right of sustentation. The air that we breathe, the very sunlight that warms us, the verdant fertile earth that feeds us—all are from the hands of God. But he doesn’t mention it. He says, we are bought. We are redeemed. We are ransomed by the price of the blood of Jesus our Lord. This is a price, a ransom by blood, by atonement, by sacrifice, by love, and not by power. What do you mean we are ransomed by blood, by love, by price, and not by power?
By power, you have it illustrated in Abraham. When those kings came and took away Lot, and Lot’s family, Abraham organized his servants into a young army. And they overwhelmed and slew the kings and redeemed and ransomed and brought back Lot and his family. You have it by power illustrated in the life of David. When David and his men were away, the Amalekites came and burned down their village, Ziklag and carried away their wives and their children. And David crying to God for mercy and help took his men and overcame the Amalekites and destroyed them and brought back, ransomed back those wives and children, both for him and his army. That is a ransom by power, by force.
But our ransom is not by power or by coercion or by force. Our ransom is by the blood of the crucified One, something more precious than silver and gold, something dearer than life and breath. We are not our own. We are bought with a price. Then the great purpose, “therefore glorify God in your body” [1 Corinthians 6:20]. Glorify God in your body. Not our own, we belong to Him for a holy and high and heavenly purpose. The Westminster Catechism has a question in it—the first one: “What is the chief purpose of man? Answer; to glorify God.” That is why God has made us and redeemed us and bought us—that we might glorify His holy and heavenly name.
In my reading through history, I came across a great pastor by the name of Gregory. He was the undershepherd of the flock of the Lord in Rome in the 500s AD. As all of you know, the Roman Empire, if I could describe it as one thing above any other, I would describe it as an engine of slavery. All of those provinces—and they conquered the civilized world—all of those provinces that the Roman legions conquered were placed under the iron heel of a Roman Caesar. And the people became slaves in captivity. If you had walked down the streets of Rome, walked down the streets of Ephesus, walked down the streets of Corinth or Athens or Antioch or Alexandria in the days of Paul, three men out of every five you met were slaves, chattel property. In a population of a hundred million people, sixty million in the Roman Empire were slaves. And it was an institution that is unthinkable to us because when a man bought a slave, no property, no rights, no appeal, no anything, did with the slave as he pleased, abused the slave as he might choose.
Well, as you know what we call today Great Britain, the particular England, what we know today as England was conquered by the Roman legions. And the slaves were brought down to Rome by the thousands and sold there on the auction block. They are very noticeable because all of the people of the Roman Empire were dark-eyed and dark-haired and dark-skinned. And these slaves that came back and were brought back from Angle-land, they were fair-haired and fair-skinned and blue eyed. And this pastor, Gregory, the under-shepherd of the church in Rome went down to the slave blocks in Rome. And when one of those Angles, a fair-haired, fair-eyed, fair-skinned youth was placed on the auction block, he bought the lad. And every time there was an Angle offered on the auction block, the pastor bought the lad. And then having bought him, told the young fellow, “You’re free. I haven’t bought you to abuse you. Nor have I bought you for menial tasks and labor. I haven’t bought you to be a servant or a slave in the house. I have bought you that you might be free.”
Then the pastor would say, “I invite you to come with me. And out of the fullness of your heart, would you study the Word of God? Could I introduce you to the blessed Jesus? And would you follow me in the discipleship of the Christian faith?” And the pastor, Gregory, who lived in the 500s in Rome, the pastor took those Angles and he taught him the word of God. And he led them into the Christian faith. And he sent them back home to Angle land; comes out in our modern language England. And he sent them back to England, that they might Christianize and evangelize and win England to the Lord. That’s where we came from. Our great, great, great grandparents and our great, great, great, great grandfathers and grandmothers were those pagans to whom those fair-haired Angle youth were sent with the gospel of the message of the Son of God.
And when I read that, I thought in my heart that is exactly what God calls to the young man and the young woman today. He has bought us and redeemed us by His own blood that we might be for Him emissaries and disciples and missionaries and teachers and doctors and lawyers and scribes and merchantmen representing Christ in the earth and to our people.
When a youth feels in his heart God has called me to be a doctor. That means he’s to be a Christian doctor. God has called me, says a girl, to be a nurse. That means a Christian nurse. God’s called me to be a lawyer. That’s a Christian attorney. God’s called me to be a housewife. That’s a Christian housewife rearing her children in the love of the Lord. God’s called me to be worker. That means a Christian laborer. God’s called me to be a farmer. That means a Christian farmer. That is the purpose for which God hath redeemed us, that we might glorify His wonderful name. And to give ourselves to that holy, high, heavenly calling is the sweetest commitment that any youth could ever make.
I had walked life’s way with an easy tread.
Had followed where comforts and pleasures led.
Until one day in a quiet place
I met the Master, face to face.
With station and wealth and rank for my goal
Much thought for my body but none for my soul.
I had entered to win in life’s mad race
When I met the Master, face to face.
I had built my castles and reared them high
Until they pierced the blue of the sky
I had sworn to rule with an iron mace
When I met the Master, face to face.
I met Him and knew Him and blushed to see
That His eyes full of sorrow were fixed on me.
I faltered and fell at His feet that day
While my castles melted and vanished away.
Melted and vanished and in their place
Naught else did I see but, the Master’s face.
I cried aloud, “Oh, make me meek
To follow the steps Of Thy wounded feet.
My thoughts are now for the souls of men
I have lost my life to find it again.
Ever since that day in a quiet place
I met the Master, face to face.
[Author and title unknown]
Ye are not your own. Ye are bought with a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body, in your life, in your commitment, in your dedication, which is your right and reasonable and spiritual service. This is the way of life everlasting. This is the fullness of the abundance of living; walking in the way of the Lord.
And that is our invitation to you this morning, to give your heart to Christ, to put your life in the fellowship of His church, a family you, “Pastor, this is my wife and these are my children. All of us are coming today.” A couple you or just one somebody you in the balcony round, down one of these stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “I have made the decision, pastor, for God. And here I am. I am coming now.” On the first note of the first stanza, do it. Make it now. Make the decision in your heart now. And when you stand up in a moment, stand up walking down that stairway, walking down that aisle. May angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
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