“Purified for Purity”
Purified for Purity
Sanctity of Human Life Sermon, January 19, 2014
1 Corinthians 6:12–20
We notice when people do stuff backwards, right? I recently saw a movie where the hero was driving a car backwards towards the bad guys using the backup camera. It was kind of cool, but I do not think we want to see somebody really doing this. Billy Crystal played a guy in one of his movies who always read the last chapter of a book first, that way if he died before reading the whole thing, he knew how it ended. You know anyone who likes to eat their dessert first? I am sorry but that is just wrong.
This sermon is going to be backwards. I am going to start at the end of the text, where Paul says these things, our bodies, belong to God.
“You are not your own,” Paul writes (v 19). These things (our bodies) belong to the Lord. Does this surprise you? We belong to God, soul and body. There are a couple of reason for this. First of all, He created us. We might be our parents kids, but He is still involved. The Bible says that God’s hands knit us together and formed us in our mother’s womb (Ps 139:13; 119:73). Our bodies belong to God.
This speaks volumes on this Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. We belong to God from the moment of conception. This certainly shapes how we as a church approach the issue of abortion, and explains why we as the LCMS are vehemently opposed to abortion. We are here to support the babies and the moms to be. Life is a gift from God. That is why in these difficult situations we do not choose to love one or the other. We choose to love them both, the babies and the mamas.
Another reason our bodies also belong to God is because He bought them. “You were bought at a price,” Paul says (v 20). It seems strange that God would have to buy something that already belongs to Him. Sin is the reason for that. Sin separates us from the One who made us. But God still loved what He made and paid the penalty for that sin. It cost Him dearly. As Martin Luther writes in his explanation to the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed, “(Jesus) has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me . . . not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.”
So we belong to God, all of us. Paul says we belong to God and he also says that He purifies us. Paul writes that “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” (v 19a). If our bodies are going to be temples where God lives, however, they must be purified. Our holy God can only live in a holy place. It was in the Most Holy Place of the temple of the Old Testament in which God was present. When the temple was defiled by pagan sacrifices in 167 b.c., it had to be purified. We are by nature defiled with sin. We need to be purified if God is going to live in us.
That’s the meaning and message of the cross. John writes, “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7). Jesus took our sins upon Himself. He suffered the punishment we deserved. Therefore, John adds, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (v 9). Through faith in what Jesus accomplished on the cross, in His dying and rising again, God declares that we are purified! We are holy enough to be God’s temple.
This should also speak volumes to us on this Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. It addresses the concerns of women who have had abortions. For most women, abortion is not what they want. It is what they choose when pressured into believing they have no other choice. The reality of that choice is devastating and creates a spiritual burden. They feel anything but pure. They may feel that this sin is too big to be forgiven.
The Good News at the end of our text is that our sins are not too big to be forgiven. When we confess our sin, the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin, and yes, that includes the sin of abortion, too! Paul is reminding all sinners that we are pure enough to be temples of God Himself.
It is good to be reminded about the God-given purity we have. It enables us to honor God with our bodies by making decisions to live in purity. That is what Paul is arguing for in the first part of our text. Let’s go backwards and hear what he has to say there.
In this section of 1 Corinthians, Paul is addressing sexual sins. The Corinthian Christians had slogans that perverted the idea of Christian freedom. They said: “Everything is permissible for me” (v 12); “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food” (v 13). They thought that since the body was sinful, it really didn’t matter what you did with it. They actually thought that what you did with your body had no effect on your spiritual life! That is not what it says in the Bible.
Modern-day Christians sometimes use slogans to justify sexual sins. People today say: “I can act on these urges. They are natural.” People today say, “But we are so much in love.” People today say, “How can something that feels so right be so wrong?” We do sexual sins as if it has no effect on our relationship with God.
But Paul is clear. Not everything is beneficial (v 12a). Not everything that feels right is right. Paul says, “I will not be mastered by anything” (v 12b). Our desires are not to control us. We should control them, it should be the other way around. You cannot separate what you do with your body from God. The body is “for the Lord” (v 13). Our bodies are going to be resurrected and live forever with the Lord (v 14). Our “bodies are members of Christ himself” (v 15). We need to remember that we are not our own. We need to remember that we have been bought with a price. When we remember that, when we are listening to the Holy Spirit saying that in HERE, then we are able to live in purity in a world where “everything is permissible.”
Being reminded of all that, then we also need to be reminded that we need to make good decisions. Since God’s Holy Spirit lives within us, we can make good decisions. If I were one of you young people out there, I would be insulted the way many adults treat you, the politicians and school health people. you know, the ones who think there is no point to teaching abstinence. Often you are treated as if you are incapable of making good decisions, as if you are nothing more than a bunch of raging hormones! You are much more! You are purified temples of God, and He lives in you. You can honor God with your bodies. You can make God-pleasing decisions.
Many are, indeed, making good decisions. Teen sexual activity has decreased. Teen pregnancies have gone down. Purity and chastity are now being seen by more folks as wise and healthy choices. You can make good decisions based on more than fear of pregnancy or getting some disease. Your bodies belong to the Lord. He has purified you to be His temple.
Therefore, I would like to issue some challenges. I would like to challenge you young single folks to love your future spouse—whoever that may be—right now by saving your gift of sexuality for that person in marriage. That will not be easy. Satan will place temptations in your path, even though our bodies have been purified through Jesus. But you can say with Paul, “I will not be mastered by (those temptations).” (v 12). What if you have already made mistakes? Confess that sin and leave it at the foot of the cross here today. Jesus will forgive you, and you can start over purified by His blood. I challenge you married couples to renew your vows today to love and honor each other as temples of God and to remain faithful to each other until death parts you. Again, if mistakes have been made, leave them here and start over purified by Christ.
Ok…let’s sum all this up. We were a little backwards today starting at the end of the text. However, before we can avoid the kind of behavior some of the Corinthians had, before we can live in purity, we need to hear loud and clear that our bodies belong to God and have been purified by the blood of Jesus to be His temple. Only then will we be able to honor God with our bodies by making good decisions.
We have been purified for purity.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.