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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 6

Expositor's Dictionary of TextsExpositor's Dictionary

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Verses 1-20

1 Corinthians 6:3

Astronomy without Christianity only reaches as far as 'Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels and put all things under his feet'; Christianity says beyond this 'Know ye not that we shall judge angels (as also the lower creatures shall judge us!)'

Ruskin, Mornings in Florence (137).

Reference. VI. 3, 4. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vii. p. 109.

1 Corinthians 6:9

Religion co-exists, as it were, in the mind of an Italian Catholic, with a faith in that of which all men have the most certain knowledge. It is interwoven with the whole fabric of life. It is adoration, faith, submission, penitence, blind admiration; not a rule for moral conduct. It has no necessary connection with any one virtue. The most atrocious villain may be rigidly devout, and without any shock to established faith, confess himself to be so. Religion pervades intensely the whole frame of society, and is according to the temper of the mind which it inhabits, a passion, a persuasion, an excuse, a refuge; never a check.

Shelley, Preface to The Cenci.

References. VI. 9. Expositor (4th Series), vol. x. p. 200; ibid. (5th Series), vol. x. p. 108. VI. 9-11. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvi. No. 2661. VI. 10. J. Aspinall, Parish Sermons (1st Series), p. 162. VI. 11. J. Keble, Village Sermons on the Baptismal Service, p. 86. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ix. p. 91. VI. 12. H. M. Butler, Harrow School Sermons (2nd Series), p. 30. Expositor (6th Series), vol. xii. p. 275. VI. 12-20. Ibid. vol. i. p. 280. VI. 13. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 42. VI. 15. T. Arnold, Christian Life: Its Hopes, p. 147. Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p. 366. VI. 17. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi. No. 961. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 49; ibid. (6th Series), vol. ix. pp. 63, 155.

The Body a Temple

1 Corinthians 6:19

Let us ask how as Christian people we ought to look upon our bodies, and what new light is shed upon their part in life through the redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ.

I. First note the dignity of the body. The text informs us what the Apostle believed about that. He has no hesitation in saying that these bodies of ours are temples of the Holy Ghost, or, as he puts it a verse or two before, 'members of Christ'. Think what that metaphor of the temple meant. There had been a temple in Israel before, all compact of ivory and gold and marble; and not many years were to pass, from the date of this letter, till its hour struck and it passed away. But, ere it fell, its place had been taken by the redeemed personalities in which Christ was dwelling. So St. Paul's argument is very simple only this; God inhabits us; we inhabit our bodies; therefore our bodies are God's temple. Though he had laboured the point for page on page, he could have added nothing to the solemn emphasis of that one word the body a Divine temple.

Let us lay the truth to heart, that Christ has redeemed both parts of our nature, and that His will for us covers both the material and the spiritual. The body has its own share in the great salvation. Certain ancient philosophers and some Christian thinkers who ought to have known better, have tended to despise the body; they have heaped abuse upon it, as the jail and prison of the soul; but the one fact of Christ's coming in the flesh has swept away all such shame and contempt and poured honour upon every member. Wherever His Gospel has penetrated, it has taught men a sweet and beautiful reverence even for the bodies of the dead. The nobility and sanctity of the human organism have been revealed in Jesus.

Moreover, if the body is redeemed, it is no longer our own, and has to be cared for as particularly as honesty bids us care for some one else's property. The guarding of health is a part of religion. To neglect or squander our bodily powers is to steal what belongs to God. As Charles Kingsley said once, and no man had a better right to speak: 'There has always seemed to me something impious in the neglect of personal health.... I could not do half the good I do do, if it were not for the strength and activity some consider coarse and degrading.'

II. Note, secondly, the gravity of bodily sin. Strictly speaking, this is the connection in which the text occurs. St. Paul is warning the Corinthians against the foul practices which made their city a byword, and tainted every breath they drew. On that subject he does not argue. He simply bids them consider that their bodies are God's temples.

Where lies the gravity and guilt of sins like gluttony, intemperance, or lust in any form? In this, for one thing, that they give the body the upper hand. The only right and safe thing is that the body shall always serve. Any attempt to reverse the Divine law of our nature, that that part of us which is akin to God must rule, means a loss of true manhood and inevitable suffering. Forget this, and the appetite which was but a means in the Divine plan comes to be an end it itself. 'Hold off from sensuality,' Cicero writes, 'for if yon once give yourself to it, you will not be able to think of anything else.' The body ceases to be the soul's instrument or servant, and becomes its dungeon, then its tomb; so that the drunkard reeling down the street is, in too many cases, a man whose body has already become the grave of a lost spirit.

Then again, bodily sin is so heinous because it defiles what Christ has redeemed. The reason why Christ's atoning passion was endured, and followed by triumphant resurrection, lay in God's great purpose that our human nature, in both its parts, should be cleansed and restored in beauty and purity. For this He bore the shame, the grief, the scourging, the spitting, the awful desolation of the last hour. The aim and issue of it all was that we should become a habitation of God through the Spirit. Gross sin in the body thwarts and defeats that purpose. Therefore it is to be feared and avoided by men and women who have a stake in the Divine redemption, and know that God has called them unto holiness.

III. Lastly, note the prospects of the body. What is supremely important here also is to fix in our minds that truth, that the body has its own real share in the hopes and promises that cluster round the name of Jesus. The heathen said our modern heathen say still the body will perish like the animals; what matters it how we treat it? let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. Nay, replies Christian faith, there is a second and nobler chapter in the story even of this frail tenement we here inhabit, which sheds back its light upon the chapter we are living in now. God, who raised up Jesus, shall in due time also quicken your mortal bodies.

H. R. Mackintosh, Life on God's Plan, p. 129.

1 Corinthians 6:19

'The body the temple of the living God,' Kingsley writes in one of his early letters. 'There has always seemed to me something impious in the neglect of personal health, strength, and beauty, which the religious, and sometimes clergymen of this day affect. It is very often a mere form of laziness.'

References. VI. 19. J. C. Hill, Preacher's Magazine, vol. v. p. 130. J. Stalker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 346. R. J. Wardell, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xvii. p. 266. W. Unsworth, ibid. vol. xix. p. 33. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 42; ibid. (7th Series), vol. v. p. 498. VI. 19, 20. Brooke Herford, Courage and Cheer, p. 191. D. W. Simon, Twice Born and Other Sermons, p. 141. T. Arnold, Christian Life: Its Hopes, p. 147. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii. No. 1004; vol. xxvi. No. 1554.

The Body in the Light of the Resurrection

1 Corinthians 6:20

The Resurrection of Jesus, which we celebrate afresh at Easter-tide, is the witness not to the existence of a shadowy, unsubstantial life separated from these delightful shores by the untravelled sea, but to the largeness of a life that knows no death, and is as real, every bit of it, as the sky above us and the earth beneath our feet.

What a great thing it would be if people could be brought to see, as the Christians of whom we read in the New Testament most certainly saw, that it is a matter of supreme moment, not so much to what is sometimes understood by our eternal welfare, as to our whole view of what is meant by the life through which we are now passing, whether our conduct and conception of the world are really governed by our belief in Jesus' Resurrection.

I. It was no spirit from the vasty deep that first affrighted and then gladdened the eyes of those who had seen their Master die on the deserted cross of Calvary. Ghosts do not change the lives of men, inspiring the fearful with courage, the despairing with hope, the dying with life. 'Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself.' It was no impalpable apparition that stood in the midst of those who had been the disciples of the crucified Nazarene, and said, 'Peace be unto you'. It was Jesus Himself in all the fulness, in all the reality of His rich, warm personality.

The sun shone with fairer light, as the old carol has it, on the morning when Jesus Christ arose. Many philosophers have taught that the soul is immortal; Christians believe in the resurrection of the flesh. Earth and sky seem more real to the sons of the Resurrection. We cannot picture to ourselves the garden of the Holy Sepulchre but as spread with a carpet of living green and decked with the fresh flowers of spring. The Christian falls in love afresh with the beauty of the world, as he is awakened by the joyous pealing of the bells in the dawn of Easter Day. If we meet a young man striding down the valley on his way to the early Communion, we find ourselves rejoicing in the strength of his limbs, in the glory of his manhood, in the dew of his youth, as from the womb of the morning. And the lithe form of a maiden tripping across the fields brings a new sympathy with the poet's fancy when he sings, 'her feet have touched the meadows and left the daisies rosy'.

This could never be, unless we felt instinctively that to the Christian the world meant infinitely more than it could ever mean to such as have never found that inexhaustible capacity for pure enjoyment which comes from drinking of the Well of Life. We who have been redeemed at the cost of God's own tears and blood, not from the body, but from the curse which has rested upon it, take our true place in universal nature, and amid the chorus of the birds, the hum of the bees, the sounding waves, the rushing winds, the breath of a living and life-giving earth, know how good it is to be alive as we offer the praise of redeemed lips, the thankful exercise of all our liberated forces to Him Who is the Father of our whole being.

II. St. Paul was a much greater Christian than those who came after him, and who emended the grand simplicity of his text until the shadow of that fatal distinction between body and soul, which in the history of the human race has again and again proved either the sanction of a maimed experience or the excuse for sinful indulgence, seems almost to rest upon one of the most magnificent passages in the whole Bible?

Do not let us mar the directness of this appeal by imitating the timidity of those later interpreters who read: 'Glorify God in your body and in your spirit'. We do not want to have our life divided up into body and spirit, secular and sacred, weekday and Sunday. The Devil likes to keep us talking about what we ought not to do on Sunday morning, because none knows better than he that our destinies are really determined by what we do on Saturday night. A few reserves which are labelled 'sacred' are the best guarantee that Beelzebub can have for undisturbed possession of the character. 'Give me the body' is the cry of every claimant for the citadel of Mansoul, 'and let who will have the spirit.'

Yes! there is but one problem in human life, and that is the problem of the body, the organ through which alone life manifests itself, the home of our activities, the seat of our desires. 'Glorify God in your body' was the straight appeal of one who knew what it was to stand fast in the liberty with which Christ had made him free. 'I beseech you,' he cries, 'by the mercies of God' by the very form, that is, which your redemption has taken, by the manifestation of the Son of God in the likeness of sinful flesh, by the offering, not of the spirit, but of the body of Christ once for all, by the condemnation, the killing, the extermination of sin in the flesh, by the return of the Body which was crucified from the grave by which it could not be holden, and by the quickening of our mortal bodies of which that Resurrection is the pledge 'I beseech you by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice,' a holy offering, to the God Who has redeemed them. That, and that alone, is 'your spiritual service'.

J. G. Simpson, The Church Times, 19th May, 1911.

References. VI. 20. E. M. Geldart, Echoes of Truth, p. 234. J. B. Lightfoot, Cambridge Sermons, p. 283. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx. No. 1163. Expositor (4th Series), vol. vi. p. 29; ibid. (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 279; ibid. vol. ix. p. 44. VII. Ibid. vol. i. p. 284. VII. 1 . Ibid. p. 253; ibid. (5th Series), vol. v. p. 142; ibid. vol. vi. p. 73; ibid. (6th Series), vol. i. p. 284. VII. 2. Ibid. vol. x. p. 278. VII. 1-25. Ibid. vol. vii. p. 117. VII. 5. Ibid. (4th Series), vol. i. p. 350; ibid. (5th Series), vol. i. p. 15; ibid. (6th Series), vol. x. p. 372; ibid. (7th Series), vol. vi. pp. 20, 23. VII. 6. Ibid. vol. i. p. 373; ibid. vol. iii. p. 277; ibid. vol. i. p. 373. VII. 7, 8. Ibid. vol. v. p. 442.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 6". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/1-corinthians-6.html. 1910.
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