Sermon for Second Sunday after Epiphany

Sermon for Second Sunday after Epiphany

(Transcribed by machine 04/08/2024)

You were bought with a price.
You may be seated.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Dear Saints, I have all week been trying to get away from the Epistle lesson.
I wanted to preach about the Gospel.
I just couldn’t.
There’s so much wisdom for us, especially in our own day, in this passage from 1 Corinthians
6.
So this morning, in the early service, I tried to preach 1 Corinthians 6 and then preach
the Gospel.
And I’ve even given up more now, I’m just going to look at the epistle lesson, 1 Corinthians chapter 6,
because I think that there’s, for us right now, where we are in this world and in time,
I think there’s so much wisdom for us that we want to lean right into it.
The Corinthian church was surrounded by sexual immorality, so that’s not unique.
But it was bad in Corinth, in fact it was so bad in Corinth that if someone was sexually immoral,
you would call, I mean, even if you lived in Athens
or you lived in Rome, you’d call them,
oh, they’re a Corinthian.
It’s kind of like Las Vegas, I suppose,
or something like this.
It’s just like all morals were gone.
It’s probably, I mean, part of it is Corinth
was on this little isthmus, and so the sailors would go,
and they’d come to the land, and the slaves
would haul the boats across, you know,
a couple of miles across the land,
and in the meanwhile, the sailors would go
and visit the temple of Athena where they would worship with all the temple
prostitutes and this was just kind of saturated the culture in Corinth like it
has saturated our own culture in the midst of the sexual revolution and it
had worked its way even into the church and they were using in the church truths
to cover up their own immorality. Now what Paul’s gonna do is he’s gonna
address this, the sixth commandment, that we should live chaste and decent lives
and what we say and do. He’s going to address this, but he’s going to also
address the underlying assumptions that determine how we live. In other
words, the sixth commandment is not just a do this and don’t do that, but rather
it fits in the whole framework of who we are, what’s good, what’s bad, and how
we’re to live. In fact, it centers around the main question is what is your body
meant for? What is the purpose of your body? What is the meaning of your body?
What is the end of your body? And Paul’s gonna take this question straight on
because the Corinthians had confused it, and so has our world confused this
question. What is our body meant for? I think if you, I mean, first of all, I don’t
think many people are even asking the question. They just avoid the question
altogether because most people are not trying to live a
consistent life, but I imagine if you did find someone who has just kind of handed themselves
over to a worldly life, and you’d say, well, why do you have a body?
What’s it for?
Say, well, it’s for me.
It’s for my own pleasure.
It’s for my own story of self-identity.
It’s in fact, it’s my own creation.
I’m building my own meaning with my body, and I want to have a pleasurable, happy life,
and that’s what my body is for, to serve myself.
Paul is gonna say no, but he’s gonna, at least for me,
he’s gonna surprise us with what he answers.
It’s maybe not what we expect.
But let’s look at the text.
Can we look at it?
It’s there in your bullet.
In 1 Corinthians chapter six, started with verse 12.
Because what Paul’s gonna do is he’s gonna start
with two things that are true that the church is using
to excuse their sexual immorality.
In fact, in Corinth, this is the only example we,
well, one of the very few examples,
Maybe we have two or three, but the most explicit example of excommunication happens right here
in 1 Corinthians, because they had in their midst a man who was committing sexual immorality,
openly boasting of it, with his father’s wife, so with his mother-in-law, best construction.
And Paul says, hand him over to the devil, and that’s where we get our example of excommunication.
But you see the kind of things that were happening in Corinth.
There was this sort of boasting in their freedom to live however they want.
Now, Paul is the preacher of freedom, he says that you’re free in Christ, let no one enslave
you to a yoke of bondage, let no one put you under slavery, you’re free.
But they were using that freedom as a cover-up for vice.
Look at how he starts, all things are lawful for me, that’s what they were saying in Corinth,
I can do all things are lawful, nothing is sinful.
Paul says, alright, look, fair enough, you’re free, all things are lawful, but not everything
is helpful.
And then they use it again, all things are lawful for me, but look at what Paul says,
But, I will not be enslaved by anything.
We probably need to think for a couple of years about that little phrase.
We’ll just start now.
The devil wants to tempt us to break God’s law to be free.
In other words, the devil comes to us and he says that the constraints that the commandments
put on us, you shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You should have no other gods.
The devil wants us to think that those commandments of God are binding us.
They’re locking us down.
They’re controlling us, and if we want to be free, then we have to live like we want
to live in disobedience to God’s law.
Now God does not give us the commandments to enslave us.
The devil tempts us to think that, so that when we break the commandments, we think that
now we’re being free and that’s exactly what was happening in Corinth.
I’m free to do whatever I want.
Paul says if you pursue that kind of freedom, the result is, look at what he says, the result
is that you’re enslaved.
If you try to chase after your own lusts and fulfill your own desires and live in the freedom
that comes from chasing after the flesh, the result is not freedom at all, in fact the
result is slavery. Slavery to the belly? Slavery to death? Slavery to sin? It’s
exactly what we see. So pursuing that kind of, pursuing freedom through sin
results in slavery. Their God is their belly, their end is destruction. They are
slaves of their passions. That’s how Peter talks about it. So we
have to just know that. Now that comes right into what comes next in
verse 13 where the Corinthians are arguing the food’s meant for the stomach and the stomach
is meant for food.
Now what they were saying, and they weren’t talking about food, what they were saying
is the body is meant for sexual pleasure.
Sexual pleasure is meant for the body.
That’s the purpose of it.
That’s what we discern from it.
We look at our eye and we say, oh, that’s good for seeing.
And we look at our feet and we say, oh, that’s good for walking.
And we look at our body, we say, oh, that’s good for satisfaction of my own lust.
And Paul, and if you wanted to, kind of a, I don’t know, a way of defining our own culture
in the midst of the sexual revolution, that would be a good way to do it.
Your body is meant for that kind of pleasure.
Paul just blasts this to pieces.
The food, the stomach for food, the food for stomach.
Look at what he says, God will destroy both.
The stomach’s going to be destroyed, food’s going to be destroyed, you’re chasing after
death.
If you are chasing after your own pleasures, you are chasing after the grave, and you cannot
be satisfied this way.
This is one of the great mysteries here, is that your stomach will never be satisfied,
at least not for long.
It will always want more.
And if you chase after happiness and pleasure by chasing after happiness and pleasure, you never actually get there.
It’s the boomerang paradox. Remember the boomerang paradox?
The problem with a boomerang is you never hit what you’re aiming for.
In fact, the best way to make sure you’re going to miss something with a boomerang is to throw it right at it.
And you will not hit it because it will spin.
This is so also with our own lives.
Otherwise, if you want to make sure that you’re never happy, then try to be happy.
If you want to make sure that you’re never fulfilled in life, then try to be fulfilled
in life.
If you want to, this is the point, if you chase after those things, you will by definition
never gain them.
The one who loves his life will lose it, that’s how Jesus teaches us, but the one who loses
Jesus’s life, we’ll find it, so that there’s these things that you cannot hit by aiming
for them, but the problem is we’re always tempted to try, and if you want to see a parable
of our own culture, it’s this, that they’re trying to find meaning and trying to find
purpose in their own pleasure, and it’s simply empty.
That’s not what the body is meant for.
The body is not meant, if you want to underline a phrase here, it’s in this verse, Paul says
the body is not meant for sexual immorality.
Now don’t keep reading because I want to guess what Paul should say next.
If the body is not meant for sexual immorality, what is it meant for?
We can learn something of this both from nature and also from the scripture because each of
us is given a body, at least that I can see. That was a funny joke. Oh boy. So
every one of us is given a body so we have to say, well what is this for? Well
here’s the point is that we could look by nature and say,
well look, the boys are given bodies so that they can be husbands and fathers.
And young women are given bodies so they can grow up to be mothers, wives and
mothers. And we see that the purpose of the body is not in ourselves,
It’s not in our own body, but that we’re given a body for another.
When God looks at Adam and he’s by himself and he says it’s not good for man to be alone.
Now it’s fine for Adam to be alone and it’s fine if you’re single, if you’re not married,
it’s fine.
It’s great.
There’s nothing missing.
But if the Lord, to bring about what he was identifying there as good is life to be furthered
on is that Adam can’t do it by himself.
Adam needs Eve.
So that the two would become one flesh.
And the result is Cain, and Abel, and Seth, and all of us.
So that if there’s going to be this perpetuation of life, it can’t be that the end of ourselves
is our own body.
There has to be the body of another.
And I would expect Paul to say, the body is not meant for sexual immorality, but the body
is meant for the other.
The body of the husband is meant for his wife, and the body of the wife is meant for her husband,
and the body of parents is meant for their children.
In fact, he goes on to argue something like that in chapter 7.
But that’s not here what Paul says.
When you look at your own body and you say,
what is this meant for?
Why do I have it?
What’s the end of this body that the Lord has given to me?
What’s its purpose?
Is it marriage?
Is it having children?
Paul says this, he says,
the body is not meant for sexual immorality.
The body is meant for the Lord.
Now, what could that mean?
The reason why the Lord has created you with a body is so that he could unite himself with you.
So that he could come to you and bless you and forgive you and give you life.
The purpose of the body is seen most explicitly at Christmas.
When the Son of God says, I’m going to take on a body, flesh and blood like you so that I can redeem you.
and it will be seen fully on the day of the resurrection when the Lord raises
that the body that you have this body the Lord will raise on the last day
when he raises that body to give to that body glory that will never end the body
is meant the purpose and meaning of the body the telos of the body the the goal
of the body is so that the Lord Jesus would unite himself to you the body is
not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord meant for the body.
And God raised the Lord and will raise us up by His power.
The purpose of your body is to be raised on the last day, to be able to stand before the
Lord in glory and to receive His gifts.
Do you not know that your body – this is how Paul goes on to argue, this is really
quite amazing.
He’s going to say, if you don’t understand this, if you don’t understand the purpose
of your body, then you’re going to do all sorts of stupid things with it.
And the top of the list of stupid things to do with your body is sexual immorality.
And he said you don’t even realize the damage that you’re doing.
In fact, Paul’s going to argue in this place, you know, this thing comes up all the time
in the church where like one sin is like another, one sin is just as bad as another, and I suppose
in some sense it’s true because every single sin is absolutely offensive to the holiness
of God, and it only takes the slightest offense to deserve condemnation and eternal life
in hell, eternal death in hell.
But not every sin is the same.
They have different consequences.
Jesus says, if you call a man a fool, you’ve murdered him, but I’ll tell you that I would
much rather you call me a fool than run me over with your truck.
They just have different temporal consequences.
But not only temple, they have different spiritual consequences, and Paul goes, he
goes on to make that point explicitly in the text. Listen, I’ll give you a couple
verses. He says, starting with 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! Or do you not know
that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it’s
written the two become one flesh but he who is look at this you can’t you have
to write this verse with gold letters verse 17 it’s it’s almost too good to be
true you see but he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him we do
not become one flesh with Jesus by baptism he becomes one flesh with us by
his incarnation but in baptism and in the gospel the Lord makes himself of
one spirit with you.
How does that work?
I think that, I want to give you an analogy and see if this makes sense.
Remember how God gave Moses instructions to build the tabernacle in the Old Testament?
And the tabernacle had the outer court, and then the tabernacle itself, and the tabernacle
itself had two rooms.
It had the holy place, and then it had the holy of holies, that cubical space that was
dark.
It would have been pitch dark in there.
And there’s the mercy seat and the priest would go in just on the day of atonement and he’d pour the blood over the mercy seat
now you I want you to think of this as a picture of you the outer court is your body the the
tabernacle is your soul and that Holy of Holies is your spirit and
God created you with the spirit if you with a place in fact if you will
but it’s dark until remember when the tabernacle is completed and Aaron is anointed and
And Moses prays and then God’s presence comes and dwells in the Holy of Holies, the pillar
of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.
And so the Spirit of the Lord enters into that Holy of Holies.
Well that’s what happens with us.
You are created with a place for the Spirit, but it’s dark and it’s empty until the Holy
Spirit comes to you by baptism, by faith.
And now the Holy Spirit dwells in you.
Christ himself dwells in you.
He’s one it says here. He is one with your spirit. It’s no longer darkness in
your heart. It’s light and glory and that’s why you were given a body so that
the Lord can baptize you, so that the Spirit can fill you, so that the Lord
will mark you as his own, so that he’ll raise you on the last day, so that you
can stand before him in glory. That’s what it means. He who is joined to the
Lord becomes one spirit with him. So what do we what do we do? If we know this, if
we know that the reason why we’re this physical creation, well, flee sexual
immorality. Every other sin a person commits outside the body, but the
sexually immoral person sins against his own body. There’s drastic
consequences to breaking the sixth commandment. It tears up the conscience
more than any other commandment and and the Lord wants us to have this purity
not only of body but also of soul. And then he completes the picture.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you
whom you have from God? You are not your own. This is what it means
to have flesh and blood.
There’s an old story that Luther tells.
In the Catholic tradition, some of you have heard
of the Corpus Christi processions.
I don’t know if, on Corpus Christi day,
the Corpus Christi means the body of Christ.
And the Catholic church has a celebration
that once a year on Corpus Christi day,
that they would take the consecrated host
and they would put it in a glass,
and they would, like a cross, but a thing,
and they would march around the town in parade,
Corpus Christi parade.
And the idea that the body of Jesus that was there
was being brought around the city
to bless everyone that was there.
Now, Luther and the reformers,
when they’re thinking about that,
they said, well, first of all, it’s silly,
and second of all, it’s wrong,
because Jesus didn’t say take and parade.
This is my body, take and march around.
If he said that, we would do it,
But he didn’t say it, he said, take and eat.
So what we do with the body of Jesus is what he says, we take it and eat it, rejoicing
in his presence.
But Luther says that when we take and eat the body of Christ, we become the monstrance,
the vessel that holds the body of Christ.
And when we leave this place, we are on Corpus Christi parade.
We are bringing the body of Jesus, the blood of Jesus,
and the spirit of Jesus with us wherever we go.
We march around this, I don’t know if you’re gonna go
marching this afternoon, you’ll probably go home
and start a fire, or huddle close by until the recital
this afternoon, I don’t know what you’re gonna do,
but you’re gonna go around, and you’re gonna bring
Jesus with you, and he’s going to sanctify wherever you go.
He is going to bring his sanctifying presence with you,
and that, dear saints, is the purpose of the whole thing.
The reason why you have a mouth,
so that you can receive the body of Christ
and sing his praises.
The reason you have ears,
is so you can hear the proclamation
that Jesus loves you and has died for you.
The reason you have eyes,
is so you can see where you’re going to get to church.
And also to see your neighbor in their need.
And also on the last day to see the face of God.
The reason you have feet is to carry you to church and then carry you to your neighbor so you can bless them in your need.
The reason why you have a hand is so you can receive the gifts of God and you can pass them on to other people.
The reason why you have a head is so that there’s something to be baptized on your baptismal day.
The reason why you have all of these things given by God is so that He can bless you, He can call you, He can sanctify you,
He can forgive you, and He can bring you through this life into the life to come.
You are not your own.
You are the bride of Christ.
His blood is the dowry.
You were bought with a price.
So you now glorify God in your body.
May God grant it by the Spirit that our bodies are, that we know that our bodies are not
meant for sexual immorality, that we don’t use them for such, but that we know and confess
in our hearts and with our lives that our bodies belong to Jesus and his body
belongs to us. May God grant it for Christ’s sake. Amen. And the peace of God
which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.