Studies in First Corinthians
Lesson 19: The Principle of Profanity
I Corinthians 6:13-20
Hebrews 4:12 says that “the word of God is alive and powerful . . .” and this means that it touches every area of our lives. Many people, even among believers, have the idea that there are some things that are “spiritual” and other things that are “secular.” But one of the places where scripture most clearly contradicts that is the one before us today, because this deals with a subject that is very practical and important, but rarely discussed: the use of the body. The first part of the chapter deals with “the problem of disputes” in verses 1 through 11. Then the second part has to do with “the problem of sexual depravity.” And in our last study we looked at two principles that apply to that problem, both in verse 12: “the principle of profanity” in verses 13 through 17. But before we look at those verses we need to think about “the definition of profanity.” And actually, that is best given in Hebrews 12:14 through 16:
Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord . . . (16) Lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.
Why was Esau a “profane person”? Because he sold his birthright for a bowl of stew (the story in its entirety is found in Genesis 27.) And what was profane about that? Because the birthright was never intended as a medium of exchange. So “profanity” is the act of taking anything out of its God intended context.
Then in verses 12 and 13 Paul gives us a demonstration of profanity. And there are two items given as a demonstration of this principle: First, in verse 13a, There is the misuse of the stomach
Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods . . .”
The phrase “foods for the stomach and the stomach for food” was a popular Greek slogan of that century (much like “get all the gusto you can get”) But the point is that food is temporary, whereas the body is eternal. So taking food out of its God given context can do damage to that body. Then in verses 13b through 15 he gives a second example, and it is the misuse of sex:
(13) Now the body is not for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. (14) And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power (15) Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot?
Of the many important aspects of sex, the most unique is the way it influences the whole body. So much so that Freud built a whole system of psychology around it. Even secular studies have shown that nothing is as destructive to mental health and marital relationships as the misuse of sex. So obviously, sex taken out of context can be extremely destructive.
But the conflict comes because of the fact that, strong as the sex drive is, the body was not created for sex, but for the Lord. And verse 14 indicates that this is guaranteed by the resurrection.
And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.
Thus there is a real conflict when you allow your body, which is so precious as to be permanent, to be to become involved in something as dominating as illicit sex. Look at verse 15:
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!
Now we need to be careful at this point to remember that God is not saying that sex is inherently bad. In fact, the principal of profanity is further demonstrated in Hebrews 13:4
Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled, but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
Look at the two uses of sex in this one verse; marriage in the first part and fornicators in the second. And the activities in both uses are the very same, but one is honorable and the other will be judged by God. What is the difference between them? One is within the bounds of marriage and the other is not. Now hopefully by this time you are seeing what a powerful principle of profanity is. But maybe at this point you are thinking, “what can I do about it?” Well going back to I Corinthians 6, the next verse answers:
The dissolution of profanity is given in verse 18
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.
The first phrase of this verse gives the secret of victory over sexual sin: Run away from it. The basic thing to be learned about sexual sin is that you cannot live with it.
And Paul is not alone in saying this. This statement is made in one form or another 38 times in scripture! And that “running away may actually be literal at times – remember Joseph in Genesis 39. To underscore this secret, the seriousness of the situation brought out in verses 18b and 19
Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.
This doesn’t mean that sexual sin is he worst kind of sin. But it does mean that it is the most damaging to relationships. And this is where the Lord comes in: because we have a relationship with Him.
In looking at the Christian’s use of his body, first there was “the principle of appropriateness,” then “the principle of addiction,” then “the principle of profanity,” Now, finally there is the principle of possession” in verses 19 and 20.
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have of God, and you are not your own? (20) For you were bought at a price. therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God’s.
The first thing to notice in these verses is that our body is the dwelling place of God! In verse 19.
The word “temple” is a translation of the Greek word “naois,” which referred, not just to the temple, but to the Holies of Holies – the very place of God’s presence in the Old Testament tabernacle and temple! Thus, what this verse is saying is that your body has the same importance to God that the Holy of Holies in the Old Testament had! And because that is true, verse 20 brings out the demand of God
Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
You see, sin involving the body is a matter of “relationship,” not “religion.” You will never be able to stop sexual sins just because “Christians don’t do such things.” Or even because “I love Jesus.” But simply because when He saved you He bought you. Your body is His dwelling place. And because of that, sin involving the body (whether sex or overeating, or whatever,) can be overcome by means of His strength within us.
In closing, let me say that perhaps this whole concept of the Christian and his body can best be summed up by a story about Saint Augustine, a great Christian of the 4th century. Before his salvation he had been a real renegade. One day, years after his salvation he was back in the neighborhood where he had lived when he was unsaved, and an old girlfriend called to him. But when he saw who it was he ran from her and she chased after him. She said, “why do you run, its only me,” to which Augustine replied, “I run because it is no longer I”
The purpose of these studies is to draw you closer to Jesus Christ. If you do not know him, it is my prayer that they will help you understand that Romans 3:23 says that you, like all of us, have sinned and come short of the glory of God. And Romans 6:23 says that the result of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ. And Acts 16:32 says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. If I can be of help to you in understanding any of this information I can be reached at