You Are Not Your Own
We have said many times that the Church in Corinth had its problems. At the root of many of these problems was the failure of the Christians in Corinth to understand the ethical implications of their salvation.
Over the years I have heard more than one minister declare, ‘God loves you unconditionally.’ This is indeed true, but there are at least two ways of hearing that message. As I interpret the phrase ‘God loves me unconditionally’ through the lense of the New Testament, I conclude that my salvation is not based on any condition that I could meet. In that my salvation does not depend on anything that I can do, it is unconditional.
Another way of hearing the message that ‘God loves you unconditionally’ is to conclude that you are free to behave in any manner you wish and God will still welcome you into His kingdom. Theologians refer to this as antinomianism.
It appears that the Corinthians had made this erroneous conclusion. Every appearance suggests that the Corinthians had divorced their profession of faith from their morality. There is evidence that there were some who professed Christianity as a system of doctrine, and as a form of worship, but not as a rule for how to live one’s life (Hodge). All such persons are warned by Paul, “do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (6:9, 10).
Paul tells the Corinthians, in the plainest of terms, that not everyone will get into heaven. Paul reminds us that “the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of heaven”. Paul then goes on to provide a list, which is likely not exhaustive, of those living in a manner that demonstrates that they have yet to receive the grace of God unto salvation.
We should note how Paul describes this group. The wording suggests that these are people who are habitually engaged in the sins listed by Paul. It is not the case that the “unrighteous” have committed a particular sin once, or twice; these are individuals who, by persevering in a particular sin, demonstrate that they have yet to be redeemed.
Now, I am well aware of the fact that some of the behaviours listed by Paul are not regarded as deviant by our society. We should be careful to note, however, that 1st Century Greek culture was far more tolerant regarding sexual practices than we are in 21st Century Canada. The number, and nature, of these sexual practices of 1st Century Corinth prevent me from naming them in this context. So, it is not as if Paul is simply heralding the ancient standard of sexual morality here. He is, in fact, going against it. What Paul teaches about sexual morality flies in the face of what was accepted within the society in which Paul lived.
And so it must be with us. We should not be surprised to find that upholding a biblical view of sexual morality pits us against the views of the society in which we live.
Admittedly, it appears that Paul is being quite harsh with a great many people here. But we must not stop at verse 10, for if we do, we will miss the note of hope sounded by Paul in verse 11, “And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.”
You see, Paul is not simply condemning those presently engaged in sinful lifestyles, but he is also writing to Christians who used to be engaged in those very things, “And such were some of you”, he says.
This note of hope sounded by Paul reminds us that the road a person is presently on is not necessarily the road a person will finish on. It is not necessarily the case that those who are presently engaged in a sinful lifestyle are destined to eternal condemnation. There remains the hope that they will be washed and sanctified just as we were.
Beginning at verse 12, Paul goes on to spend the duration of this chapter outlining the ethical implications of being redeemed. For those who have been washed, sanctified, and justified, Paul answers the question: How shall we then live?
Paul exhorts the Christians in Corinth to “not to be mastered by anything”(6:12), and he emphasizes once more the need for Christians to flee immorality (6:15-18).
Paul then concludes this section by providing a most reasonable statement for why we should heed his counsel. Paul writes, “you are not your own. You have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body” (6:19, 20).
Charles Spurgeon gives a most helpful 3-point outline of these verses, suggesting that what we have in this declaration is 1) a blessed fact, 2) a plain consequence, and 3) a natural conclusion.
First, a blessed fact, “You have been bought with a price”. Paul could have employed many different reasons if he wanted to demonstrate that we are not our own—Paul could have argued, ‘You did not create yourselves; God created you.’ Paul could have employed Creation as the great motivator for us to live for God. He might have also argued, ‘You do not preserve yourselves; it is God who keeps you alive and you would die if He withdrew His power.’ Paul could have used God’s providence as a sufficient reason for us to pursue holiness. But Paul does not employ these reasons—he does not say ‘You were made’ or ‘You were nourished’, but he says instead, “you were bought” (6:20).
Paul calls us back to that blessed day when we were bought. We were enslaved by our sinful nature and the sentence of death loomed over us as our just wages. We were neither capable, nor willing, to obey God as we should . . . but then along came our Substitute. Paul wants us to recall that the price of our redemption was the Holy Son of God, beaten, whipped, and crucified, that we might be reconciled with our Heavenly Father, and that we might be freed from the bondage and penalty of our sin.
Your salvation was not purchased with gold or silver, but with something infinitely more precious: You have been bought with a price—the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a most blessed fact and should not be regarded lightly.
This blessed fact also has a plain consequence: You are not your own. This hardly needs to be argued. If you have been purchased by the blood of Christ, you have ceased to be your own property. You belong to Him who purchased you.
The blessed fact and the plain consequence belong together. You cannot be redeemed by the blood of Christ and then act as if you have no Lord. You cannot share in the benefits of redemption and, at the same time, shun the implications of redemption. You are not your own. You have been bought with a price.
This leads us to a most natural conclusion: Therefore glorify God with your body. Human beings are inclined to look after things that belong to them, but we tend to be even more careful when looking after things that belong to someone else.
We see an example of this in 2Kings 6:5 where one of Elisha’s sons is hewing wood when the axe head falls into the water, and he cries out, “Alas! master, for it was borrowed.” It would be unfortunate, but tolerable, to lose one’s own axe head, but to lose that which is borrowed is doubly grievous.
I would not consider myself a reckless driver, by any stretch of the imagination, but I do confess that when I am in my scratched up, grand-am, I am comfortable driving with a certain measure of assertiveness. By contrast, I sometimes have occasion to drive my mother’s Cadillac, and when I do so, my entire disposition, and my approach to driving changes—not simply because of the value of the car, but also because the car does not belong to me.
I remember as a young child being so energetic that I regularly damaged things around our home. There was the time I broke a bathroom mirror while playing hockey inside the house, and there was the time I put a puck through the garage door while playing outside. There was the time I clogged our swimming pool filter by leaving toys in the pool, and there was the time where I killed one of our pear trees by repeatedly hitting it with a croquet mallet. In all of this, I was without remorse or regret.
I also remember, as a young child, breaking a drinking glass at my aunt’s house and crying uncontrollably. I was inconsolable. Why? Because human beings tend to treat things that do not belong to them with extra special care. And it grieves us to lose or destroy that which is entrusted to us by another person.
Beloved, because our bodies belong to God, we must be careful to glorify God with our body. From our head to our feet, with our bodies we are to honour the Lord (Rom. 12:1,2). The things that we look at, how attentive we are when reading and listening to God’s Word, how we speak to others—all of these things are to be done to the glory of God. The things we consume, the places we visit, and the activities we engage in should be done for the honour of Christ. As Paul says a bit later on in this letter, “Whether then you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (10:31).
If we are not our own, if we have been purchased by Christ, the first fruits of our service must go to Him. God must not get our leftovers—He must not get our leftover energy, our leftover time, or our leftover contributions. The price that has been paid demands from us a practical surrendering of ourselves to the service of Christ, and His kingdom.
One of the television shows I enjoy watching is the show about the U.S. President, called ‘West Wing’. And, one of the things that impresses me within the show is how dedicated the West Wing staff is to preserving and protecting something that they believe deeply in. I was particularly struck, in a recent episode, by the words of the President’s assistant, Leo, who said to the President, “I would rather die than let you down.”
Could we say this in the context of our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ? Do we so deeply desire to honour Christ that we would regard death as preferable to disappointing Him?
He has already died for us. A price has been paid for your redemption. You are no longer your own; therefore glorify God with your body. Amen.