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Paul’s advice to the Corinthians


In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul writes to the Christians in the city of Corinth who were having some serious troubles. Corinth, being at a crossroads for travel, was a kind of east-meets-west melting pot, which religiously meant a lot of idol worship and rituals that were not compatible with Christianity, such as ritual prostitution in the temple of Aphrodite.

In the first verses of the chapter, Paul addresses a specific problem where a church member is known to have committed “fornication” with his father’s wife — his step-mother.

Etymology: The word fornication was translated from the Greek porneia, which refers to any sexual relations outside of marriage. Porneia is also the root word for pornography.

Paul is clearly concerned about the effect such members may have on the others when he asks in verse six,

“Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?”

C. S. Lewis taught that everyone has this “moral law” inside them, and that although you can dull it with wrongdoing, most of us can never really get rid of it. It presses upon us to do the “right” thing, often when doing so is difficult or inconvenient. That, he thought, was evidence for a supreme being, because it often goes against our natural, carnal inclinations.

Paul advised the Corinthian Saints “not to company with fornicators”. He wanted the Christians in Corinth to keep that sense of moral law from being dulled. He wanted, even though they were surrounded by filth, for the saints to keep it at a distance and not let it enter the mainstream of the church. In verse 8, he admonished them to live with “sincerity and truth” around them.

“Do not company with fornicators—not because you are too good for them but, as C. S. Lewis wrote, because you are not good enough. Remember that bad situations can wear down even good people.” — Elder Neal A. Maxwell

Is that true? Does it even matter what others do with their own bodies? Does it matter what we do? How does something like fornication — between consenting persons — hurt anyone?

Elder David A. Bednar uses Paul’s words to answer this important question:

“Those who believe that our bodies are nothing more than the result of evolutionary chance will feel no accountability to God or anyone else for what they do with or to their body. We who have a witness of the broader reality of premortal, mortal, and postmortal eternity, however, must acknowledge that we have a duty to God with respect to this crowning achievement of His physical creation. In Paul’s words:

“‘What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

“‘For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s’ (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).

If this is true, if this is a lost truth — lost to many Corinthians, and lost to many in our modern society — then it does matter how we use our bodies, sexually or otherwise, and by extension it matters what those around us do, what waters we swim in. Elder Bednar goes on to broaden this principle:

“Acknowledging these truths … , we would certainly not deface our body, as with tattoos; or debilitate it, as with drugs; or defile it, as with fornication, adultery, or immodesty. As our body is the instrument of our spirit, it is vital that we care for it as best we can. We should consecrate its powers to serve and further the work of Christ. Said Paul, ‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God’ (Romans 12:1)” *

It’s really not about a specific symptom, as in the fad for tattoos (please, ladies, the lower-back stamp is just not pretty!) or recreational marijuana, which my town now has many stores for. It is about people not understanding that their body is actually the instrument of the spirit. That’s huge! Not one of us can afford to let things dull the spirit, we need strong women, strong men, and that’s why it matters what waters we swim in, morally. Paul knew. It was never about “tolerance” or some other diluted humanist propaganda. It was about saving one’s soul, and saving the poor fledgling Christian church. It still is, today.

Now I could turn this argument into a pro-homeschool rant, but I’ll let you connect those dots. 🙂

The Kairos Life

next week: 2 Corinthians and Galatians

* Elder Bednar: “Reflections on a Consecrated Life,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 17.