Khloe Kardashian is reputed to have said ‘I went to Catholic school and they basically just said don’t have sex, but would never explain anything.’ The Bible is explicit in urging us to flee from sexual immorality (1 Cor 6:13, 18, Acts 15:20, 1 Cor 10:8, Eph 5:3, Col 3:5, 1 Thess 4:3), but it also explains the reasons behind this and is not shy in talking about sex.
Today’s society may well seem obsessed about sex, but this is no recent phenomenon; Corinth was in a similar position, declaring freedom from rules and a hedonistic lifestyle (‘I have the right to do anything’ (1 Cor 6:12)) and the fact that sex was merely a physical pleasure like eating (1 Cor 6:13). Paul refutes both arguments in 1 Cor 6:12-20, going back to God’s original purpose in creating male and female and arguing that as the One who created sex, He has the right to establish the rules for sex as well. Gen 2:24 is the key passage in showing us that sex is about more than physical union; it involves a ‘joining together’ (the word means ‘to glue’ or ‘cement’) which is both spiritual and physical, mirroring the relationship between God and people (see Ezek 23 & Rev 21 for the way God describes His union with people as marriage and spiritual idolatry as adultery; see also Eph 5:23-31 for Paul’s connection between earthly marriage and the church’s relationship as bride with Christ as bridegroom.)
Sexual union is not just about fulfilling a physical appetite. ‘There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact.’ (1 Cor 6:18, The Message) No matter how determined people are today to treat sex as a physical function or bodily appetite (the Marquis de Sade, whose contribution to the English language through the word sadism is hardly a recommendation for his views, said ‘Sex is as important as eating or drinking and we ought to allow the one appetite to be satisfied with as little restraint or false modesty as the other’), Paul teaches that sexual immorality cannot be equated with these things, but involves a spiritual oneness and goes on to declare that for the believer, our bodies are vitally important. Leon Morris says ‘The body cannot be disregarded as unimportant. The body is for the Lord. It is the instrument wherein a man serves God. It is the means by which man glorifies God.’ (Commentary on 1 Corinthians, P 100) Since God raised Christ’s body from the dead (a fact Paul will elaborate on in 1 Corinthians 15), we cannot treat our bodies as unimportant but as holy temples in which God the Holy Spirit dwells (1 Cor 6:19-20). Our bodies and whole lives belong to God, and therefore we have an obligation to flee from sexual immorality.