We have been looking at Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians as he teaches these Christians how to move from being selfish to selfless. The problem in Corinth is that there are divisions among them (1:10), along with fighting and jealousy (3:3). These divisions and fights have come from them behaving selfishly and acting arrogantly (4:6, 18; 3:18). The first solution Paul presents to us is that we are to regard ourselves as simply servants performing the task God has assigned to us. But their arrogance and selfishness have bled into another area of their lives: the relationships in the church and the intimate relationship of marriage.
Sexual Immorality (5:1-13)
Chapter 5 contains a problem regarding sexual immorality which come from their selfishness and arrogance. The church is tolerating those who are practicing sexual relations that are condemned by God. In particular, you can see in verse 1 that man is having relations with his step-mother, a sin that even the world at that time would condemn. While this is clearly a sin, you will see in verse 2 that the apostle Paul’s attention is on the response of the church. They are proud about this. They accept and approve what these two people are doing. In verse 6 we see that they are boasting about this situation. Paul says in verse 2 that they should have been mourning over the sin and removing this sin from their midst. They are accepting this sin and arrogant about this.
Now there are two areas of selfishness and arrogance against God occurring in this chapter. The first area of selfishness and arrogance is for the church to not do something about the open sin that is being practiced in the group. Look at verse 11. You cannot continue in a spiritual relationship with someone who says they are a follower of Jesus but continues openly practicing these sins. We cannot let people openly and publicly break God’s law and not say something about it. Now where does selfishness come into this? Where does arrogance come into this? Here is where the selfishness comes in: I do not want to have to address those sins. It is so much easier and so much more pleasant to not have to confront the public sins of others. I do not want to do it. I do not want to have to correct. I do not want to have to confront the sin. It is so much easier to just let everyone do what they want and say nothing about it. But do you see how that is selfishness? It is selfishness because I am doing what is comfortable and easy for me and not what is best for you. It is easier for all of us to ignore each other’s sins rather than coming to each other and helping each other do what God have called for us to do.
The second area of selfishness and arrogance is deciding that I can do what God has clearly condemned. You cannot live your life doing what you want to do and call yourself a Christian. You cannot decide what is right for your life and say that you are a follower of Jesus. This is what Paul is going to say in the middle of chapter 6. Look at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. You were washed, made holy, and justified. So do not be deceived that you can continue in the sins listed in verses 9-10. But it is in our arrogance and selfishness that we declare in our hearts that we can do these things and the church should accept our sinful decisions and lifestyles.
Friends, sexual immorality is all about selfishness. We are doing what feels good to us without any regard for the other person. We are getting what we want. We are taking what we want. We are not concerning ourselves with the spiritual well-being of the other person, the physical well-being of the other person, or the emotional well-being of the other person. We do not care. We are just taking what we want. Now Paul is going to move us from this kind of selfish thinking to selfless thinking in chapters 6-7.
Be Wronged (6:1-11)
Before the apostle Paul explains what selfless thinking looks like, he wants to show another problem that is going on in the Corinthian church. When these Christians have grievances against each other, they are taking each other to court. They are filing lawsuits against each other. They are having their disputes settled in a court of law rather than handling their issues themselves. Paul asks how it could be possible that there was not someone among them that could help them settle whatever the dispute is (6:5). But listen to verse 7. It is already a defeat for you when you have a dispute against another Christian. Listen to those words. You have already lost when you press your dispute against another brother or sister in Christ. You have already lost. Your selfishness has been put on display. You are not showing you belong to God and have been transformed by the blood of Christ. You are acting just like the world.
Listen to what Paul says we ought to do in verse 7. “Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?” Selfishness says that I am not wrong nor should I be wronged. I am right and I am going to show how right I am. Paul says that this is not how we are to be thinking. This kind of thinking is the thinking of the world. Selfish thinking says that I am going to get what is due to me. I am going to get every cent that is owed to me. I deserve this. I deserve justice. I deserve to be made whole. Here is the problem with this kind of thinking. Jesus did not do this with us. Jesus suffered wrong. Jesus was defrauded for us. When we see the selflessness of Jesus, we are then to follow in his footsteps because we are his disciples and be selfless. Just be defrauded for the cause of Christ. Jesus knows what you are giving up. Jesus sees your sacrifice. Do not push yourself forward. Be wronged and push Christ forward.
You Do Not Own You (6:12-20)
Now Paul is going to help us understand how to get to this point. In verse 12 Paul returns to this thinking that says I can do what I want to do. I can live my life how I want to live. As we noted earlier, Paul addressed this false thinking when it came to sexual immorality, warning us that those who practice such things do not inherit the kingdom of God. But this is such a problem that he comes back to this point. We want to declare that I have the right to do whatever I want to do. Verse 12 is a powerful point for our consideration for life decisions. You might say that it is lawful, either by the law of the land or by God’s law. But is it helpful? Just because I can do something does not mean that I should do it. Further, Paul says that we want to watch that we are not overpowered or dominated by anything. We do not want to be captured by our desires. We do not want to be captured by the flesh. We want to continue to have power over our desires so that we are not ruined by them.
But the argument that we make and continues to be made repeatedly is this: it is my body and therefore I have the right to do whatever I want. Listen to what Paul says about this in 6:19-20 to move us from this kind of selfish thinking. Your body belongs to God. Your body is to represent God. Your body is supposed to be dedicated to the Lord. Your body is to be used so that the world will come and find God. To use our theme from last year, our body is to be used so that rivers of living waters flow from us to the world. Your body was made by God. So it is not yours. Your body was purchased by God. So it is not yours. Therefore, you are to glorify God with your body. Let me say it this way: you do not own you. God owns you. Your body cannot be used for selfish purposes because your body belongs to God. Your body can only be used to honor God. We will move from selfish to selfless thinking when we act like people whose bodies are not their own but belong to the Lord.
Unselfish Marriage (7:1-40)
This flows into chapter 7. I do not have the time nor purpose to speak to every aspect that is found in chapter 7. I have preached through chapter 7 before. If you would like a fuller treatment of this chapter I would encourage you to go to the website and listen or read the lessons on this chapter that are found there. Paul begins by talking about preventing sexual immorality. Friends, this is a growing problem in our culture. When I was a kid, pornography was hard to access. It was pay television or magazines that were covered up and out of reach. Now it is accessible to every computer and every device. Affairs and infidelity have become the norm in relationships. As I stated earlier, sexual immorality is selfishness. Sexual immorality is you getting what you want and taking what you want without regard for the other person. Notice the picture of marriage in verses 3-5. The husband is giving to the wife what she needs and the wife is giving to the husband what she needs. Verse 4 makes this very clear. Marriage is not about selfishness. You are giving yourself to the other person. That is why it is important to take great care in who you choose to marry. Marriage is about you giving yourself to other, not you thinking about all you are going to get out of marriage.
This explains why Paul confirms the teaching of Jesus in verse 10 that divorce is not an option. Now think about for a moment. If both the husband and the wife are acting selflessly, will either person ever think about divorce? Divorce means someone is acting selfishly and that is destroying the marriage. The marriage can be made whole again if both people will stop thinking about themselves, stop taking what they think they need, and start giving themselves to each other again. Some people miss this but from verse 10 all the way to verse 24 Paul’s argument is why Christians must not divorce. Again, I do not have the time nor is it the purpose of this lesson to explain this. But Paul is illustrating the need to for marriages to stay together. Divorce is not an option. Adultery is not an option. Affairs are not an option. Sexual immorality is not an option. Give yourself to the other person. Stop thinking about yourself.
So how does Paul want us to move from selfishness to selflessness? The central teaching of these three chapters can be observed in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. Your body does not belong to you. You do not own it. You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. This is another way of saying: it is not about me. It is about God. Sexual immorality does not glorify God. Ignore public sinning in the church does not glorify God. Winning arguments and disputes against each other does not glorify God. Saying that I can live my life how I want does not glorify God. Acting selfishly in marriage does not glorify God. Selfishness does not glorify God. God is glorified when we sacrifice ourselves for others. God is glorified when for his sake we choose to be defrauded and wronged. God wants us to use our bodies in selfless ways.
As Paul traces these ideas it becomes easy to see how easy and how far-reaching selfishness can be in our lives. God is asking us to look at the various relationships we have and consider how we are acting selfishly. If you are unmarried, are you acting selfishly and arrogantly by practicing sexual immorality? If you are married, are you acting selfishly in your marriage, not giving yourself to your spouse but looking out for your own interests? Are we acting selfishly in the church? Are we unwilling to address the sins of others that we know about because it is easier for us to just avoid it? Are we unwilling to be defrauded or wronged because we want to make a point and show how right we are? You are not your own. You were bought with a price. Glorify God with your body.