I recently came across a Huffington Post article that was published last year. It was about a woman from North Dakota who supposedly married herself.
Her name was Nadine Schweigert. She was 37 years old and, yes, there was a ceremony with friends and family in attendance. All of them were encouraged to “blow kisses to the world” after she exchanged rings with her “inner groom.”
She said, "Six years ago I would've handled a problem by going out and drinking," "I smoked, I was 50 pounds overweight ... this is just celebrating how far I've come in my life."
Schweigert (do you call her “Mr. & Mrs.?) said she came up with the idea through a friend. "I was waiting for someone to come along and make me happy," Schweigert said. "At some point, a friend said, 'Why do you need someone to marry you to be happy? Marry yourself.'"
You know, there are a lot of people out there in the same shoes as Nadine Schweigert. They may not be marrying themselves, but they are waiting for other people to come along and make them happy. That is the way a lot of people look at relationships.
While her marrying herself is a bit bizarre—and likely blasphemous—I’m actually glad for her honesty. She expresses what most people actually believe, but won’t say. When it comes to relationships, most people have a rather selfish attitude. They are seeking their own gain; their own pleasure; their own benefit; rather than the welfare of their spouse.
But that’s not the way relationships are to operate. A marriage is to be based on love. And one of the facets of love is that it “seeketh not its own.” That’s what Paul says in this passage in 1 Corinthians. As Paul unfolds the characteristics of love he says, that it is patient, it is kind, it is not arrogant or rude. And then he says that love seeketh not its own.
Of course, this does not mean that we set aside all of our needs and destroy all regard for ourselves. It’s talking about the excessive focus on yourself. What Paul is aiming at is that overly self centered attitude that we each have by virtue of our fallen nature.
I actually like some of the nuances of the original language. The word for “seek” here could actually be translated “worship.” That, I think, really helps us to understand what God wants out of our relationships. “Love worships not its own.” Or, to put it another way, “Love renounces self worship.”
You know, when you worship something, you are seeking it with a tenatious passion. Every ounce of your being is focused on that one thing, and nothing else. When you go to church to worship God, you are seeking to focus on Him and nothing else. You are seeking on his glory, his word, his praise.
Paul wants us to understand that each of us has our own little cult. We worship ourselves. You might say that we put the “I” in idolatry. We are always seeking the fulfillment of our own glory, our own satisfaction, our own happiness over and above everyone else’s.
And as you begin this marriage, each of you has to understand that this selfish spirit has to be suppressed. The orbit of your love has to extend much further now. And no longer can you be living for yourself and yourself alone. As a matter of fact, you are now called to a life of self denial. You have to sacrifice some of the happiness that you want in order to please each other. You have to be willing to seek her happiness above your own and vice versa.
In our counseling we talked a lot about the different roles that each of you will have as a husband and wife. Brian’s role is to lead. Faith, your job is to help and submit. And, we didn’t talk about this, but…sometimes it’s not going to be easy. There will be times where you disagree, and you are going to want to insist on your way. You are going to want to seek to gratify your desire to win the argument and have the decision work out the way you want it too.
You know what we call that? The technical, theological word that that scholars use is “nagging.” That’s all that nagging is. It is the insistence of one’s own way and a woman’s seeking her own.
Sometimes you will be called by God to give up that desire and leave it all in God’s hands. You are going to have to say to yourself, “I am going to trust God and let my husband be the leader God has called him to be.”
The same goes for you too, Brian. You can easily imagine having a tough day of work. Then you come home to mow the lawn. After that you’re wiped out. You are going to simply want to sit down and revert to your man cave for the rest of the evening. But there are going to be diapers to change, toys to clean up, and a wife who’s going to want to have some meaningful grown up conversation.
You are going to say to yourself, “I don’t want to do any of that.” I just need some me time. But that’s when the Lord calls you to sacrificial love.
The best way to put it, of course, is to simply say that you guys are called to imitate the love of our Lord Jesus. If there ever was a self renouncing love it was the one that Jesus had for us. Think about it: He could have easily said, “Let them burn in hell.” He was perfectly comfortable there in heaven. But he didn’t do that, did he? I’m sure he would have preferred to stay in heaven. The pleasures he had there were infinitely sweet. Yet, he humbled himself and took the form of a man. And he was obedient unto death, yea, even death on a cross.
Think about how he did not insist on his own way. Perhaps it was most evident in the Garden of Gethsemane. Some theologins actually say that his passion actually started there. Because he was obviously in a great deal of agony. He was tortured in spirit because he knew all that he would undergo in the upcoming hours. He was in such distress that it says blood began to roll down his face. I think it was safe to say that he didn’t want to do it. But as he prayed he said, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
Jesus sought not his own. He renounced any inkling of self worship so that he may lay down his life for us and become our Savior. Really, he gave up his own happiness so that he might bring eternal happiness to his bride.
Truly, that is love. And I pray that the selfless, self-sacrificing love that Christ has shown for sinners like us might stir you to do the same for each other.
 Huffington Post, Woman Marries Herself.
“Love and marriage, love and marriage. They go together like a horse and carriage.” This was the grand insight of that wise sage Frank Sinatra.
We are here today because you guys are pledging your love to one another. In a few moments you are going to take some vows saying, in essence, that you are going to love each other for the rest of your lives.
People talk of it in all different ways. Here are some ways that I’ve heard it talked about just recently. One person said that “Love is a war!” Well, that might define some people’s marriages, but I’m not quite sure that’s exactly what love is. I have also heard one say that “love is our destiny.” Frankly, I haven’t a clue what that means. Here’s the one I really like. Robert Frost once said that “Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.” Again, I don’t know what that means, but it sounds like something you might tuck away for your honeymoon.
It would seem like people are coming up with all kinds of definitions of love and always trying to grab this nebulous thing.
But if you really want to understand love, the best place to go is the Bible. As a matter of fact, the passage I just read gives us a perfect description of love. We are told in this passage how love really expresses itself.
The whole passage is worthy of consideration, and I would commend that you both take time to study it. But I want to highlight just portion of the text. I want to consider this little tidbit that says “love is kind.”
Now, we have an idea what kindness is. It means that we are to do good to one another, right? We have what we call “Random acts of kindness” day here in America. And that is supposed to be a day where you go and do nice things for people at random.
The word here in the Bible is actually an interesting word. It comes from a word that means “useful.” So, there is a sense in which you could translate this “Love is useful.”
And this is the way you need to see yourself in the context of your marriage. You must be kind to one another. You must make yourself the most useful to one another.
Perhaps you guys have seen the little cartoon of the cave man who has fallen in love and taken a wife. In one hand he carries a club; in the other he grasps her hair, dragging her behind him.
This may be a silly depiction, but it actually expresses very well the way most people see love and marriage today. “Me got wife. Me got slave. Me got someone to make me happy & do dishes.” “Me got someone useful to me.”
But this isn’t the way you are to perceive one another. Nate, it is not so much that she is useful to you, but that you are useful to her. The same is true for you, Jess. You are to go out of your way to do that which makes your spouse happy.
This is why kindness is so often thought of in terms of being courteous and using proper manners. When you say, “Can you please pass the butter,” what you are doing is speaking in a kind way. You are speaking in a way that pleases the other person and gives them no reason for offense. You could say, “Give me the butter!” Or, better yet, you can reach past their nose and stick your armpit right in their sandwich and get the butter yourself. But what does that do? That’s a real turn off. That makes the other person all kinds of disagreeable. Why so? Because that kind of behavior is not kind (it is not of any use to them—or any good use).
And that is one of the things that is incumbent upon each of you as you come together as husband and wife. From this point forward both of you need to make it your aim to fill your home with kindness.
So, Nate you need to recognize that you have an obligation to be kind to Jess. You are to seek Jess’s welfare. To be useful to her by being courteous, gentle with her, patient when she might be a little irritable. You are to be kind to her in that you give her the attention she needs, even when the game might be on.
And Jess, you are to do whatever is within your power to be useful/kind to Nate. When he biffs it, you need to control your tongue and have a forgiving spirit. You need to support him and do whatever is within your power to help him be the man he needs to be.
Now, I don’t doubt that I have not said anything overly surprising so far. Like I said earlier, we have an idea what kindness is.
But I would say this. We still don’t have a full understanding of love. It is still somewhat vague. We still don’t have a clear concept of what kindness is, and we will never have a clear picture until we come to grasp it as it is defined by Jesus.
You see, guys, we are sinners. By nature we are not kind. That’s the quirky thing about Random Acts of Kindness Day. Somebody made up this holiday because they recognized that we don’t show kindness as we really should.
And so that’s why we will never really know kindness apart from Jesus. And we will not really be able to show real kindness, until we come face to face with Jesus.
You see, Jesus has demonstrated the greatest kindness. He made himself useful in that he came down to earth to provide a way of salvation. And he did that by dying on the cross—by taking the penalty that we sinners deserve.
And if you look to him, he promises that he will do something amazing. He will not only do you the favor of forgiving you for all the unkind things you have done in your life.
A few weeks ago I had a chance to talk with some friends of mine, and they told me about their experience with kindness. My friends said that throughout much of their marriage they were yellers. It’s not that they didn’t love each other. It’s just that they weren’t very good at it. They yelled a lot, at each other, and they yelled at their kids. It was just their nature to yell.
You know what though? Things are different now. They have grandkids that come over quite a bit now, and they are just as sweet as anything with those kids. Some might attribute that to the fact that they are older now. You know, with age they’ve mellowed out. I don’t think so though. I attribute it to the fact that they have in recent years become Christians.
Their marriage completely changed because they themselves had been completely changed by the goodness and kindness of God.
Nate and Jess, my prayer is that as you are united today in marriage, you (like my friends) will also united to the Lord Jesus Christ, so that a fountain of kindness may ever flow in your home.
Recently I had a conversation with a pastor who had done a series of sermons on sex. I told him that I’ve talked with a number of people in his congregation about it and I told them that they were really enjoying the messages and finding them quite insightful. I told him because I wanted to just pass on a word of encouragement and let him know that what he was doing was a great thing.
I could tell he was grateful for the vote of confidence, but his response to me was somewhat interesting. He said, “Yeah, well. It has taken me long enough to talk about it.” (He has been in the ministry for a number of years now).
I thought, “Boy, I tackled that one in the first year and a half of my ministry!” We had a number of sermons on it when we were going through the book of Proverbs. And here we are, only 5 years into the life of our church and we are hitting it again pretty in depth!
You know, this is just one example of how the church needs a healthy balance. For a long time this was an issue that people didn’t speak about in the church. It is sad too, because our culture is so oversexed that we need solid biblical teaching on the matter. In fact, much of our ills today come from a lack of emphasis on the proper notion of sexual intimacy.
Today is Reformation Sunday and you know, this is a great topic for it. We need to think like Reformed Christians on the topic of the marriage bond.
Since it is Reformation Sunday, it is only proper that we begin with a quote from Luther, isn’t it? Luther once said the church can often be like a drunk that tries to mount a horse. You can understand the analogy that he uses when you imagine it. Here you have the inebriated fellow putting his foot in the stirrup and hoisting himself up. But because of he is so intoxicated he fails to maintain the proper balance. So what happens is that his momentum takes him flailing over the other side and down to the ground with a thud.
Luther says that this is a picture of the church. One moment she is on one side of the horse, involved in some extreme practices. Then she reacts and strives for reformation. But the balance is lost. Her momentum only causes her to topple over the horse and land in another extreme.
This is exactly what we’ve experienced with the notion of Christians and intercourse. For a long time, such teaching was repressed and seen as taboo. But what has happened? The church has had a knee jerk reaction. Things are now at the other extreme. Immorality is at high tide.
The church is always in danger of extremism. And certainly it was the case here in Corinth. For the last couple of weeks we have been dealing with the issue of purity when it comes to sexual relations. We’ve seen & heard that the Corinthian culture was a cesspool when it came to such things. It was a debauched society, and the church wasn’t much different. But in the midst of all the immorality there, there arose a group that went to the opposite extreme. And that’s what we see in this passage.
As you see from the first verse Paul begins to address some questions the Corinthians had posed to him. They wanted some clarification on the matter of celibacy. Apparently people were beginning to think that abstaining from sex was a greater form of spirituality. You can see how it works, “Sexual immorality is a terrible problem here. So let us be gone with it altogether!”
Really, we need this teaching. This is a great teaching for our day because we are at a place where we can be in danger of doing that knee jerk reaction, and many people within Christian circles already have. So it is good for us to initiate a reformation on the topic and consider the spirituality of sexual gratification. I want us to think about the Reformed view of sex.
The first thing to discuss regarding a Reformed view of sex is our sexual orientation.
I. Our sexual orientation [1-2, 6-9]
Now I recognize that when you use the word “sexual orientation” today it has to do with whether a person is a homosexual or heterosexual. That’s not what I’m talking about though. We all know that homosexuality is wrong. Paul just mentioned it in the previous verses.
When I say sexual orientation I am talking about how we are divinely oriented towards sexual intimacy. That is to say, God has worked into our system the natural desire for sexual fulfillment.
Paul brings this out a number of times throughout this passage. Look at the first verse. He says, “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”
Now a lot of people have taken this verse the wrong way. They say that Paul is here pushing the single lifestyle because he says it is good. That is to twist what Paul is saying though. Paul is not saying that the single life is good in that it is a higher spiritual life or better than being married. He is saying that if you are able to do it that’s fine—i.e. if you have the gift, it is not wrong for you to remain in that state. However, that’s not the norm!
Paul is saying that typically, people who are single struggle with sexual temptation. Why is that? It is because they have hormones! And from whence came those hormones? The answer is that they came from God. That’s the way he created us! He has planted within us that desire—he gave us that orientation that longs for that intimacy. So, when you reach a certain age, you start to have those cravings.
And Paul points out that’s why God created marriage. It is because those desires that he gave you are so strong. Moreover God wants you to fulfill those desires in a way that brings you the most pleasure. That’s why Paul says at the end, if you can’t control yourself, get married. It is better to marry than to burn. God doesn’t want you to suffer. He gave you those desires for your greater happiness.
Do you hear what I’m saying here? True spirituality is not consist in thinking that these desires are sinful and pleading with God to take these desires away. God has given us sexual desires. A person is not to be considered a monster when they have these yearnings.
Too often I have heard Christians talk about how we shouldn’t even have the desire for sexual intimacy until we are married and if we do then that young person is sinning. And this has lead to too many of our young people becoming mixed up and living in so much frustration
To say such a thing is not true. To say that that we shouldn’t even have those feelings is to devote the good things of God to the devil. I’m serious, that kind of notion give the devil a creative power that he doesn’t really possess. It is to say that somehow Satan zapped us and planted those desires in us so that he could tempt us and torment us. That can’t be true though. Satan doesn’t have that power. He can’t create anything. He can only tempt us to twist or abuse the good things that God has created.
Do you remember what happened after God created Eve? Do you remember what happened when she and Adam met? Adam didn’t go up and shake her hand and say, “Hi I’m Adam. Nice to meet you. Can you help me change the oil in the tractor?” No! Adam was immediately spell bound when he laid eyes on her. The tractor was the last thing on his mind. As a matter of fact, he sang a song: “This is at last bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!” Why do you think he said, “This is at last”? It was because he was very happy to see her! Evidently, he was longing for some deeper companionship that he couldn’t get from the rest of the animals.
Now don’t think that I am saying that Adam was lusting. Of course he wasn’t. He was still in his upright state. The desires he had were pure and they were good because that’s the way God had made them. That same orientation has continued on down to today.
So we all need to recognize that God has given us an orientation towards sexual intimacy. He was the one who built those passions into our system. That’s why he says that every man should have his girl and every woman his guy, unless he has the gift—that is the gift of celibacy as mentions in verse 6.
I don’t know if I need to mention or not that this is why the Roman Catholic Church has so many problems with its clergy. There are so many pedophiles and perverts there because they make their priests take a vow of celibacy. But that’s a vow top which they cannot live up. To even take the vow is to defy our divine design. It is to open the door to all kinds of sexual immorality.
They think they are being so spiritual though, don’t they? I’m going to be married to the church and I am therefore renouncing all women. That’s not spiritual. That is unspiritual.
If you don’t mind me doing so, I’ll quote from Martin Luther again. Luther said that true holiness consists in taking up your daily duties before God. He said there is nothing more holy than a man who digs a ditch, a woman who changes a diaper, or a young couple who engages in sexual intercourse.
Why did he think that? It is because those are the kinds of things that please God. God is pleased when we start thinking this way. Or perhaps a better way to say it is, “God is pleased when we start acting this way.” Because he has created us to be sexually oriented creatures and he has created marriage for the gratification of the desires he has placed in us.
Being that we are on the topic we can easily transition to our second point. Now that we’ve talked about our orientation towards sexual intimacy, we can talk about our obligations regarding sexual intimacy.
II. Our obligations regarding sexual intimacy
Paul is very direct here. He tells us that if and when we get married, we are duty bound to satisfy the desires our spouse. Look at what he says. In verse 3 he says, “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights,” and vice versa. And he even gives the reason, “you body is not your own.” As Alistair Beg says, when you get married, your spouse becomes an equal shareholder!
Then he goes on to reiterate what he has just said with even stronger language. He says, “Do not deprive one another.” There is to be no withholding going on, unless it is agreed upon. And even then, Paul limits how long you should abstain. It should be for a limited time, he says! And as soon as the time is up, you should come together again.
A lot of people think that the puritans were a bunch of prudes. But that is not true though. The puritans had a very high view of sex, and they did a good job of teaching on this subject—to the point where most of us would blush. They preached that a husband and wife were to keep the marriage bed hot. That was the title of an actual sermon in those days! “Keep the marriage bed hot!” They took the subject seriously.
In a sermon on this topic one puritan said that our spouse is to be considered “a playfellow who has come to make our age merry.” Think about that! A play fellow!
All this is to say that the puritans understood the reformed view of sex and they emphasized the fact that we are divinely obligated to be not just husbands and wives, but lovers of the most erotic type. As a matter of fact, there is one instance recorded where a man was put under church discipline because he was not attempting to gratify the physical desires of his wife! I would also go so far as to say that if your spouse is not providing for you, you may have the right to divorce. That would be the grounds of sexual immorality and desertion.
But why would they put a man under discipline for such matters? It is because they understood this teaching right here. They understood that God commands us to keep the marriage bed hot. And if there is one thing that we need today it is a red hot Reformed understanding of intimate love.
Do you know why there is so much infidelity today? There are a lot of reasons, but part of it is because people are not obeying what God says here. A man or a woman are not having their desires satisfied. As a result, they are looking to other places to find that gratification. It is as Calvin said in his commentary; the remedy for fornication is a right teaching regarding the marriage.
As I said, there are a lot of other factors, but that is one. Let’s just pose a scenario. Think about it this way. A man and a woman get married. Rather than following the Biblical ideal, the woman takes a job. She wants to find her fulfillment in her occupation and the newlywed couple can earn a lot of money. Already you see that their priorities are not right.
So each morning the two wake up, make their lunches together, and then they head out for work. After 9 hours of being on the job they come home. Then they have the rest of the day together. The first few years go along just fine. They are happy and they end up having a couple of kids together. But that’s when life starts getting rough. Now, after a long day at work—dealing with the hassles of a grumpy boss and grouchy clients—the couple comes home to two incredibly demanding kids. Both are already exhausted, the wife probably more so because she is the weaker vessel. But they both then have to pour more energy into the kids. After finally getting them calmed down and settled down into bed, they collapse into bed themselves. All energies for any other sort of extracurricular activities is gone, particularly of the woman.
With a lifestyle like that, it is not going to be long before one is going to start looking to find other wells from which to drink.
That is just one scenario. A million more could be posed. What is important to understand here is that a woman’s focus should be on fulfilling her man’s desires. The man should be focused on being everything that a woman wants.
Your goal as a couple is twofold. We know that God commands us to keep the marriage bed pure. That’s a no brainer. But it should also be our goal to (as the puritans said) to keep the marriage bed hot. As a matter of fact, we keep it pure by keeping it hot.
We make the joke sometimes about people come to church twice a year, on Christmas and Easter. But there are marriages that operate on that principle too. Along comes Valentine’s Day and the anniversary and, well, we got to muster up the strength. You know that I’m exaggerating so some degree here. But you understand what I’m getting at. That can be the mindset we have. But that is sinful. That’s not the way we are to be.
You should ask yourself, “If the thermostat were kept in our bedroom, would that affect the rest of the house?” Now if you answer that question by saying things get pretty cold in that section of your house, there is something very wrong.
Yes, that’s right. It is wrong. It is sin. These are divine commands and if you stand in opposition to them you are rebelling against God. As a matter of fact, I will go so far as to say that if you are a good husband or wife in every other way, yet you do not fulfill these obligations, then you are not a good spouse at all because this is the ultimate expression of love.
If you would, allow me one more quote from Martin Luther. In the book, “A Rhapsody of Love and Spirituality” David Fekete puts outlines Luther’s view of love. And he deals quite a bit with the notion of sex. Luther is quoted as saying this,
“Conjugal excels all other forms of love. The love towards one’s spouse burns like a fire and seeks nothing but the person of the spouse. It says, “I do not desire what is yours, I desire neither silver nor gold, I desire neither this nor that; I desire you yourself; I desire you entirely, or not at all. All other love seeks something else than the person of the loved one. Conjugal love alone wants the entire person of the loved one himself.”
If you need any more proof, just go and read the book of Song of Songs. There in that book you see to people who are enraptured with each other. Their love finds its fullest expression in their union.
And yes, this passage does find its fulfillment in Christ. The intimacy of the marital union finds a correlation in our union with Christ. Christ said in his high priestly prayer, “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them." There could be no better expression of closeness or love than that. There is a oneness and union that is beautiful, and it is replicated in the union that we have in the context of the marriage bond.
So here in lies the essence of true spirituality. True spirituality does not consist simply in sitting in a corner of your house all by yourself with a bible in your lap. It may involve that from time to time. You need also to realize that being off by yourself may sometimes be a direct revolt against true spirituality.
God has ignited within us the fires of passion, and he calls us to let that love bloom and blaze with passionate strength. His design is that we kindle these embers of love by seeking out one with whom we can share these desires and likewise make merry.
Ultimately, the Reformed view of sex provides a trinity of pleasure. We gratify our own God given desires and those desires of our beloved. And ultimately, God himself is pleased. For he delights when his law is obeyed, and he receives the greatest pleasure when his children delight themselves in each other.
One of the assignments I have my juniors when I taught high school Bible was to create a pamphlet for tourism. We were studying the missionary journeys of Paul, and I asked them to choose a city and research it. They were then to create a pamphlet that would introduce the city and give an idea of what it was like at the time Paul came to it.
I remember well one of the student’s pamphlets, mainly because it was so vulgar. It made me think that perhaps I should have thought through the assignment a bit more thoroughly. He had chosen the city of Corinth. The title on the front of the pamphlet was “The City of Sin!” And when you opened up the flyer, there were some pictures that would not necessarily qualify as pornographic, but were certainly pushing the limits of being in good taste.
While my student’s project was overtly offensive (and lacking tact for a school assignment), I couldn’t help but say that he depicted well the lascivious lifestyle of the Corinthian people. A depiction of the city of Corinth would have to read like an guide to the Hugh Hefner mansion if it was going to be anywhere accurate to the reality
To say that the Corinthians were a promiscuous society would be perhaps the understatement of the century. The lewdness of the city was so notorious across the Roman Empire that the term “to corinthianize” was coined, and it referred to the idea of sexual indulgence or any other sort of corrupt practice.
And it was within this sex crazed culture that a church was born. As is the case at all times, the church had a hard time separating herself from the culture in which she existed. So it would be inevitable that Paul would have to spend a great deal of time outlining the biblical notion of sexuality.
Certainly we find yet another reason why this book is a book for our time. Each of you knows well that I don’t have to spend a lot of time detailing how our contemporary culture shares the addiction to sexual fornication. To see how debauched we are all you have to do is turn on your television or stand in the checkout line at the grocery store.
There is no doubt that churches today need to renew their interests in what the Bible says about the proper boundaries of sex. And we can begin to do so as we look at what the Lord teaches in the passage that is before us this morning.
Paul’s argumentation here is splendid. To combat the sexual immorality that was rampant there in Corinth Paul does two things. First, he attacks the antinomian spirit that the Corinthians had embraced, and then he articulates a theology of the body—something that would have been quite new to them. Being that those two lessons are so very much needed in our day, we will do well to listen to these points.
Now, to maintain sexual purity in our day the first thing we must do is resist the theology of “anything goes.”
I. We must resist the spirit of “anything goes”
One of the greatest problems we have today is what is called “antinomianism.” That’s the belief that we are forgiven in Christ, so we can do anything we want. Oddly enough, this is nothing new. The Corinthians did the same thing. You can see that in verse 12. Paul quotes a motto that was frequently touted throughout the church. The Corinthians were going around saying, “All things are lawful for me.”
What had apparently happened is that the people had heard that they were free in Christ. No doubt Paul would have preached like he did to the Galatians that for freedom Christ has set us free. But they had twisted that idea of liberty. Their mindset had come to believe that when it comes to the Christian life they didn’t need the law anymore.
And this is true of many people today too. This same mantra is used today. But that’s not true. All things are not lawful for us. This is a twisted notion. And we know that it is twisted for at least three reasons. One reason is because it disdains the propriety of the law.
A. Antinomianism disdains the propriety of law,
When we say we are freed from the law, that is a very true statement. But it can be misleading if you do not take it in the right way. When we say that we are free from the law, what we mean is that we are freed from the curse and condemnation of the law. We are free from the punishment that we deserve as lawbreakers because Christ has taken that curse for us. But that does not mean we are freed from the law in its entirety. We cannot cast it off as something that is null and void and completely useless.
Think about a man who has been sent to prison for murder. After he does his time and gets out, is he free go murder again? Of course not. He is still obligated to honor those laws. He’s been freed from law’s condemnation, but its obligation is still in effect.
Christ has set us free from the curse of the law because he has taken that law. However, he has not set us free from the obligation of the law. If anything, he has set us free so that we can begin to obey the law.
Let me put it this way. In the history of the church there have been defined three uses of the law. One use is that it acts as a civil restraint. When people see and hear the law, it restrains them from doing evil. This is why so many people want the law out of public places. They want to be free to do as they please and live a life of sin. If that law is there, they are restricted from doing that.
Another use of the law is that it points out our sin and drives us to Christ. In other words, it shows us that we need a savior. The third use of the law is that is serves to show us how to live as Christians. It is our guide on how we may please God. This third use is what many people forget. The law doesn’t only drive us to Christ. It is there to help us live for Christ.
So we need to watch out for this antinomian spirit. It is twisted because it disregards the propriety of the law. But our passage also shows us that this antinomian spirit attacks the wellbeing of our neighbors.
B. Antinomianism attacks the wellbeing of our neighbor
Paul says, “‘All things are lawful for me’, but not all things are helpful.” Paul is saying, “let’s say for a second that everything is lawful. Even if that were the case, there are still some things that are not helpful. That is to say there are things that are harmful and infringe upon our neighbor’s personal estate.”
We know that this is true of things that are not necessarily wrong in and of themselves. Is there anything wrong with having an alcoholic beverage? Of course not. The Bible permits that. But what if we are drinking a beer in front of a bunch of guys who are former alcoholics, is that wrong? Of course it is. What is permissible isn’t helpful in that situation.
How much more harmful then, are those things that God forbids? This is especially true when it comes to sexual immorality. That’s what we will talk about more deeply in a moment, but it serves well to note it here. Sexual sin is one of the most dangerous sins because of all the damage that it does, be it to yourself or to someone else. We live in a day where sexual sin is thought to be no sin at all and that promiscuity has no repercussions. Just look at the television sitcoms. People hook up and sleep together, and it is portrayed as a wonderful thing. Then the episode ends. It doesn’t show all the consequences that follow: the heartache, the worry, the shame, and all the other ramifications.
This is why the Lord said in the Old Testament, “do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it might go well with you.” What this is saying is the exact opposite. When you don’t follow God, you will find that the all round well being of your neighbor will suffer.
There is one more thing that you should note about this antinomian spirit though. It not only disdains the law and attacks our neighbor. It destroys our liberty.
C. Antinomianism destroys the notion of our liberty
In verse 12 Paul talks about being enslaved. He says that we should never be enslaved by anything. What he is talking about is an addiction. He is talking about something that has come to dominate your life. At one time you may have had a hold on it, but now it has a hold on you.
Some of you might have seen those toy tubes, where you put a finger in each end of the tube. Somehow your fingers get stuck in there, and the more you try to pull, the tighter the grip becomes on your finger.
This is the idea that Paul is talking about here. We can toy around with something for a while. We can think that it is nothing. But we can become trapped in it if we are not careful. Of course, it doesn’t begin all at once. It happens over time. You dabble in it for a while. Perhaps you started and there was no thought ever of sticking with it. But you did it once, and you decided to do it again. After a while a pattern is established. You become hooked on it. Then one day, you find that you cannot live without it. You are addicted to it. You have become enslaved to it.
When Christ came into our lives, he came to set us free from this slave mentality. He came proclaiming liberty to the captives. And if we turn our backs on his law—or if we brush it off like it means nothing, we destroy the notion of true liberty. What we do is put our hands out to the shackles of sin.
We have to understand that the antinomian spirit is not a Christian spirit. It is the spirit of the devil. It is the spirit of the anti Christ. So we have to resist it. And if we do, we will be well on our way to guarding against sexual immorality.
But to remain sexually pure, you must not only resist the anything goes spirit, you must also develop a theology of the body. And that’s what Paul does in the rest of these verses.
II. We must develop a theology of the body
The Corinthians had a terrible theology of the body. That’s what you see in verse 13 where it says, “food for the stomach and the stomach for food.” And then it goes right into talking about sexual immorality. Apparently they thought that the craving for sex was just the same as the craving for food. So you fill the craving of one like you do for the other.
I don’t know if that mentality exists today. But we don’t have any better thoughts about the body. We typically think that we can do with the body what we like. It is as disposable as tissue paper. We don’t have a high view of the body.
But Paul here shows us that we should. This passage is great because it shows that our body relates to each person of the Trinity. It begins by telling us that…
A. Our bodies are consecrated to the Father.
Look at verse 13. He says, "The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” Then at the end of the passage he says, “You are not your own, you were bought with a price.”
The language there is that of the slave market. Slaves would be bought and sold at auctions there in the public square. And once he was purchased, he was to devote his body to the service of his master.
What Paul is saying that our bodies are to serve a higher purpose now because the Father owns us. God the Father purchased us with the blood of his Son. He sent his Son to die in order to pay the redemption price. Now we belong to him, and our bodies are to be dedicated to his service.
When the Lord redeemed Israel from the land of Egypt, they were supposed to be devoted to the Lord. They were no longer slaves in Egypt. They were the Lord’s people. After coming out they were to be consecrated to his service.
That’s what has happened to us. We do not have the right to do whatever we please with our bodies. They are God’s property and they are to be used in the way that he wants them to be used.
But not only are our bodies consecrated to the Father, they are united to Christ.
B. Our bodies are united to Christ
Look at what Paul says in 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 prostitute? Never! (16) Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, "The two will become one flesh." (17) But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.”
Paul is talking about how we have been united to Christ. It is one of the most fundamental teachings of Paul. He is saying that we now have a spiritual union with Christ, and that spiritual union has physical implications. It shows us that sexual activity is no just a physical thing that is neutral spiritually. Because we are united to Christ, we are bound to be pure as Christ was pure.
The third person of the trinity is mentioned in verse 19. Paul tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. By that he means that our bodies are indwelt by the Holy Spirit
C. Our bodies are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
In the OT the temple was the place where God was said to reside. And the Jews took the greatest care to keep the temple from being defiled. When it was defiled, that was an extremely profane thing.
Likewise, when we become Christians, the Spirit makes his home in us. And it would be a horrible thing to defile the place where God lives.
In the OT it talks about the abomination that causes desolation. What that refers to is the time when the temple was desecrated. There is one instance where Daniel prophesied about in Daniel 11. Many scholars believe that Daniel was prophesying about a guy by the name of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. About 165 years before Christ Antiochus came and sacked Jerusalem. But taking the city wasn’t enough for him. He went so far as to desecrate the temple. It is said that he made all sorts of pagan sacrifices in it. But he also is said to have sacrificed a pig right on the alter just to spite the Jews. Now to a Jew, that would have been a horrendous thing.
But that defiling of the temple is the same sort of thing that a Christian does if he goes off and fornicates. Our bodies are not just physical entities like the Jewish temple. The Holy Spirit really resides within us. So we should be even more motivated to keep it pure and free from immorality.
Certainly there is more that Paul could have said about our bodies. This isn’t a full blown theological dissertation on the body. But it does point out that every person of the Godhead has some dealing with our physic, and that should be enough to make us realize how important it is to keep ourselves from being sexually immoral.
Certainly this will not be his last word on the matter of chastity either. The next chapter will continue to focus on it. But this initial teaching provides some strong points to ponder. So let us remember how important it is to remain sexually pure. God calls us to flee the mindset that we can do anything we want anytime we please. We don’t live by the belief that “anything goes.” God has given us his word to direct us on how to live. Christ has set us free, but he has set us free to live now in obedience to him.
I don’t know if this is safe or not, being that I am in the company of men I deeply regard for their holiness and intellect. But I am going to begin this message by talking about professional wrestling.
I’m sure that you’ve all seen the old episodes (even if you are too ashamed to admit it!). I caught some shows as a kid. It seemed that they had a template that they followed for every show (and a crude one at that).
You would have one of the superstar wrestlers going up against a twerp of a fellow. The no name wrestler was obviously a prop. You knew that just by looking at him. But that would never stop him from making a show of himself. When his name was announced, he would flaunt himself and act like the heavens had just trumpeted the arrival of one of the gods.
You know the routine too. As soon as the bell rang, he would spring out from his corner and immediately be pummeled by his opponent.
I have you recall that silly little episode because it so clearly illustrates what is in the passage before us this morning. If we could size up the passage we might say that in this corner we have the a towering figure. He is Lord Jesus Christ and the truth he has revealed in the Scriptures. And in this corner we have the challenger. We will call him Man-Thought. He is a twerp of a fellow by comparison, but he’s whooping it up.
In our passage here this morning the Lord wants to solidify this image in our minds. He wants us to see the Divine smack down he gives to every philosophy that exalts itself against him. He wants us to see that every philosophy that is contrary to Christ—every worldview that is built apart from the fear of God, will fail.
We often don’t see things this way. From our perspective man centered thinking often seems rather alluring. We are often tempted to conform to the wisdom of the world and not base our thoughts fully on the grounds of Scripture. But the Lord wants to remind us that we shouldn’t do that. He wants us to remember that Man-Thought has absolutely no way of winning. As a matter of fact, Man-Thought gets pummeled quite easily. It is evident in the first verse that we read.
I. Man’s wisdom is foiled by God [19-20]
Verse 19 we see how God foils man’s wisdom. Paul pulls out this awesome quote from the book of Isaiah. It says, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Those of you who are of my generation may remember the old Scooby Doo cartoon. Do you remember how every episode ended? It never failed that at the end they would catch the bad guy and they would pull off the mask and reveal who the culprit was. One of the last things you heard was the evildoer saying something, “I would have gotten away with it if you kids hadn’t gotten in the way.” Scooby Doo and his gang were always thwarting the bad guy’s plans. Every scheme and every evil plan was foiled by Scooby Doo and his gang.
Well, that’s exactly what this passage says. Man’s wisdom is no match for God. It doesn’t matter how erudite he may be or how crafty he is, or how slick his plans are. God is sovereign over the affairs of the world and he enters history to demolish man’s wisdom.
That’s why Paul can go on in verse 20 to say, “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” Paul is saying here that there is no one who can stand up against God. Every sage, every guru, every college professor or therapist whose worldview is built on humanistic principles better watch out. God will run their wisdom right into the ground.
Just look at any of the ideas that have come from the popes of the professional world. Standing on this side of 2-3 hundred years of humanism, we have a good view of how it has been run into the ground. How about the world of education? It’s no secret that it is plummeting. Even the secular world will tell you that it is in a tailspin. Studies say that are descending to 3rd world levels in Math and Science. A friend of mine who is in an education program said that the first thing his professor said was that the education system is broken.
Well, there’s no wonder. Our education system was fostered by guys like Jean Jacques Roussea and John Dewey—two of the most godless men we can think of. Rouseau abandoned his 5 children on the doorstep of an orphanage, and he’s the guy we look to as an expert on the education of children.
There shouldn’t be any surprises here. Even if you didn’t have the testimony of Scripture that you have here, that should be a no brainer.
But we could look at any other area and see the same results. Follow the intellectual footsteps of Karl Marx. See the paths of blood it takes you through and the ruin it eventually comes to. See the spoils of Thomas Malthus and the other acclaimed philosophers of our time.
As the passage clearly states: The humanistic mind will be thwarted. God will foil any knowledge man postulates apart from the fear of God. Even though man’s wisdom props itself up as something intellectual and grand, eventually it will become nothing other than an intellectual ruins, pointing to the all consuming power of God.
But when it comes to man’s wisdom, you will notice that God not only foils it, he frustrates it too.
II. God frustrates it [21-25]
The ironic thing is that they are frustrated because they find God to be both elusive and repulsive. Look at verse 21. It says, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom.”
Let me say that again, “The world did not know God through wisdom!” The funny thing about this worldly wisdom is that even though it is a system of thought that has rejected God, it is trying to find God. Yet, for all its work, it can’t. God keeps eluding them. Despite having all this wisdom and despite being so intelligent, they can’t find the one thing they seek the most.
Have you ever played that game Marco Polo? We used to play that at the pool all the time when I was a kid. The person who was “it” had to close their eyes and try to tag the others in the pool. What he would do though, is call out, “Marco!” Then the others would have to call out, “Polo!” to give him an idea of where they are so that he could go tag them.
But what would always happen is that someone would begin to toy with the person who was “it.” He would stand right beside the person who was it. The person who was it would call out, “Marco!” And he would be right in front of them saying, “Polo!” But he was just out of the guy’s reach. And just before he would lunge for the person they would turn to the side to elude them. And that would happen again and again. That kid was just out to frustrate the guy who was it.
Well, that is exactly what happens to those who try to build their worldview without God as their starting point. God says, “I’m going to frustrate you and show you just how foolish you are!” So they are every looking around, but never finding God.
Think about it. Every time they look into a telescope or peer into a microscope, people gaze right into the handiwork of God. They get an extreme close-up on God’s creation. And they pick and probe and theorize and hypothesize, but they never come close to capturing the real knowledge their hearts are really craving. God just keeps leading them along. He keeps letting them be wise in their own eyes. But he won’t let himself be found by their foolish contemplations.
But the elusiveness of God is not the only frustrating thing to them. They are frustrated by God’s repulsiveness too.
You will notice that God does not accommodate himself to their erudition. Verse 22 says that Jews seek signs and Gentiles seek wisdom, but what do we have to offer? We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to gentiles. They find Christ to be absolutely repulsive. They don’t want anything to do with him. They don’t want anything to do with his salvation. And they certainly don’t want anything to do with his base means of salvation.
A while back I came to the story of Naaman. Here is a good illustration of a guy who thought the means of salvation were just downright reprehensible. He was a prestigious Syrian general, but he came down with a case of leprosy. And he went to Elijah to be healed, and the prophet told him to take a couple of dips in the Jordan River. How did Naaman react? He was outraged! He said, “Surely I thought he would come out and wave his hand over the spot.” You know, a little razzle dazzle and hocus pocus. And then he was mad because he had to go to the Jordan River, a body of water that wasn’t the cleanest of places.
But that’s the way men are. They want God to be packaged in just the right way: Their way! But God doesn’t do that. He comes in the form of a lowly servant and he comes bearing a heavy cross. He comes through the baseness of a preacher. Its just too much for them to take! Those who are inflated in their pride will only be repulsed by it.
And their intellectual acumen will just make them more and more frustrated.
But there is another thing that God does to Mr. Worldly Wiseman. God not only foils his prized wisdom. He not only frustrates it. He also degrades it.
III. God disgraces it [26-31]
In verse 26 Paul points out that the Corinthians were a lowly bunch. They were not wise by the world’s standards. Neither were they powerful or of prestigious linage. But verse 27 says, “God chose the foolish things in the world to shame the wise. He chose the weak to shame the strong. He chose the lowly and despised so that he could humiliate the high and the mighty.”
This is just like something you would see on an ESPN highlight film!
Perhaps you remember the dunk by Kevin Johnson on the towering Hakeem Olajuwon. Here was a guy who was just about my size. Olajuwon stands to what looks like twice his size on the film. Johnson drove baseline and does a monster dunk right on the giant. Hakeem got baptized with by this little guy.
And they never tired of playing that clip over and over. It was bad enough that this little guy just humiliated him like that. But Hakeem was shamed again and again as they replayed the clip again and again. This time in slow motion. This time in real time. Analyze the footwork. Look at it from this angle, how about from this angle. Over and over he was degraded on national television.
That’s exactly what Paul’s talking about here. Man in his wisdom thinks he is so great. He prances around like he is something so grand and worthy of praise. But God chooses these unseemly people. And he uses this seemingly stupid bunch of Christians to make a complete mockery of man’s wisdom.
From how often it occurs in Scripture, it almost sounds like God likes degrading his enemies like this. It is almost like he keeps playing the highlight clip over and over. Back in the OT, in Psalm 8, it says, “Out of the mouth of babes and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.” How humiliating is that! Here’s the headline on the front page: Lowly baby wards off the violence of the mighty avenger. (*snicker!)
And who did God use to change the world? Who were the ones that he made to be his ambassadors? A bunch of unsophisticated fisherman! And you may remember that story in the book of Acts where Peter and John are standing in front of all the religious leaders. What a sight. Here are the wisest men in all the land—the ivy league of the scholastics of the time. They were all sitting around in their robes which made them just ooze with sophistication. And yet, this bunch of scribes, lawyers and religious scholars couldn’t answer them a word. It had to be the most humiliating, the most degrading moment of their lives.
And that is exactly what God likes to do. He likes to make a mockery out of the lofty things in the world with the very things that the world deems foolish.
I like what Paul then goes on to say in verse 29. He gives us the reason why the Lord does this. He says, “that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” Then verse 31 says, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
One of the most humiliating things is having to say, “You were right.” Better yet, when a boxing match is done you know what they always do? They always make the two contestants come out and stand in front of everyone. Then the referee raises the victor’s hand. And the loser has to stand there in front of everyone. He not only has to face the humiliation of defeat, but he has to acknowledge that the other is the victor and deserves all the glory.
That’s exactly what God does in the gospel. He disgraces man’s wisdom by silencing every lip. And, at the very same time, he makes abundantly obvious to all the world that Christ alone is where true wisdom is to be found.
With all that is said here regarding the fate of man’s wisdom, I hope you find great comfort.
I know that you are looked down upon in today’s society. And your are there in the trenches of the battle against the humanistic spirit of the age.
As the world runs faster and faster after the foolishness of human philosophy, you can bet you are going to be treated with more and more contempt. You are going to face those situations where you’ll say something to the effect of, “Well, that’s because the Bible says…” and the person will look at you with eyebrows raised and a silly smirk on their face as if to say, “Oh, you are one of those!”
But just remember that they are the fools and it will only be a matter of time until their foolishness is foiled and completely disgraced.
In the meantime we must do our best to hold fast to Christ and his word.
[The above message was delivered at the meeting of the Ohio Presbytery.]
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.