Sermon based on 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Dear temples of the Holy Spirit: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
“I can say and do whatever I want” is a very common saying that much of society holds as sacred. The god of freedom reigns supreme in the world. We have seen this recently with all the cries and demonstrations for free speech that have taken place since the French magazine Charlie Hebdo was attacked by Muslim terrorists. Great masses have held signs which say, “I am Charlie” to express support for the freedom of speech they feel we should all have.
But what freedom of speech are they talking about? The freedom of speech that shuts down pro-life speeches at our universities? The freedom of speech that has Christians fired from their careers because they hold to Biblical views against homosexuality? The freedom of speech that bans God’s Word from the public sphere by calling it “hate speech”? The world’s idea of freedom of speech certainly doesn’t apply to anything I say from this pulpit. I can assure you the purveyors of “free speech” would be ready to lynch me for just about every Word of God I speak here.
No, the world’s idea of freedom of speech is one-directional. Freedom of speech is permitted only for those who want to kill unborn babies. Freedom of speech is only for those who push the lesbian, bi-sexual, homosexual, transgendered agenda. Freedom of speech is only for this filthy French magazine that printed images of the Holy Trinity in perverted sex acts.
It is just this kind of worldly freedom which our Epistle lesson speaks against. All things might be lawful for me to do, but not all things are beneficial. All things might be lawful for me to do, but I should not be enslaved by anything. Here we see how blind the world’s idea of freedom is. The freedom to say or do whatever I want is nothing more than slavery to sin. It’s not freedom. It’s following the way of the prince of this world. It’s following the corrupt, sinful nature. It’s not freedom; it’s slavery to sin. Sin lies: it promises freedom but gives only slavery. The subjects of sin find themselves caught in a cycle of bondage and corruption that leads to death and hell.
Apparently, some of those in the church at Corinth visited prostitutes and defended their actions by the fact that it was legal in the Roman Empire to do so. “All things are lawful for me” they claimed. “The law and the culture give me the freedom to do so”. Or perhaps they said that as Christians they are not under the law so that means they are free to do whatever they want.
God’s Word says, “Not so fast”. “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord” (v. 13). “Flee from sexual immorality” (v. 18). You cannot do whatever your sinful flesh wants because, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (vv. 19-20).
You are not your own; you are the temple of the Holy Spirit. As we heard extensively last week, you received the Holy Spirit through Baptism. You are not your own; you were bought with a price: the holy, precious blood and the innocent suffering and death of Jesus has purchased you and redeemed you from all sins, from death, and the power of the devil (cf. SC II.2).
Those who desire to be their own; those who do not want to be members of Christ or the temple of the Holy Spirit: they do whatever they want. They have sex outside of marriage. They live in sinful relationships outside of marriage. They practise homosexuality and every other form of perversion. But concerning them God says, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 6:9-10). In other words, those who practise such sins are not members of Christ. They have severed themselves from Him. They are not the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Is this hate speech? In the eyes of those who do such things, yes it is. But this is not written in the Bible with the purpose of causing anger against God and His Word. It is written with the purpose of warning; with the purpose of turning people from their sin and receiving forgiveness. It is anything but hate speech.
What kind of a pastor would I be if I took this warning from God and hid it from those who committed such sins? What kind of a pastor would I be if I did not warn the wicked to turn from his ways and receive life (cf. Ezek. 3:18)? I would be an unfaithful pastor, and the blood of the wicked person who dies in his sin would be required from my hand by God Himself (Ezek. 3:18). Thus I preach God’s Word to you even though many consider it hate speech.
It does matter what you do in and with your body. Your body is meant “for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (v. 13). And the power of God that raised Jesus from the dead will raise your body also (v. 14). Your body is a member of Christ (v. 15). Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (v. 19). Thus you are warned not to sin against your own body, which belongs to God (v. 18). You are called to glorify God in your body (v. 20).
So don’t be fooled by the freedom that sin promises. It is not freedom, but it is slavery (cf. Rom. 6:16). But now we have been rescued from slavery to sin. We are free in Christ. We are free to do what is good, which is impossible for those who are not in Christ.
But we are also free from the accusations of the Law. Christ fulfilled the Law on our behalf. He was accused of the sins we have committed against our bodies. Jesus was found guilty of every time you have defiled the temple of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was crucified and allowed Himself to take the guilt for all sexual immorality, for every homosexual act, for every perversion that has taken place under the sun. He died for every sin that you have committed and that your children have committed. He died for the sins of the whole world.
He did this to free you from sin, so that you would no longer be enslaved to sin. He died for your sins so that you will not be punished in hell for you sins forever. He died to give you true freedom forever.
Through Jesus’ death for you, He has bought you for Himself. “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price”. You now belong to Jesus. You past sins have been removed from you as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). Jesus also has given you the Holy Spirit who has called you to faith. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit because He dwells in you. The Holy Spirit keeps you in the faith by continually giving you the forgiveness of your sins through the Gospel and through Holy Communion. The Holy Spirit also works through God’s Word to guide you in living a life that is pleasing to God.
See the world’s freedom for what it really is. Understand that the world’s idea of free speech is anything but free. On the other hand, Christ has given me speech to give to you that is freer than any other speech. It is speech that actually gives you freedom. There is no speech that is freer than the speech that forgives you your sin. The Word of Absolution frees you from sin, death, and the power of the devil. The Word of Absolution gives you the forgiveness of sins Christ earned on the cross. That is truly free speech. So go in peace, your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.