Devoted to God
Topic: Expository Passage: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
As I’ve done the last few years, I’d like to use this morning to introduce our theme for the year. Our theme in 2021 will be “Devoted to God.” I have to begin by explaining what I mean, because I’m using devoted slightly differently from how I used it in our theme for last year, “Devoted to Prayer.” Last year, we emphasized making prayer a priority, or being committed to prayer.
But this year, I’m using devoted in the sense of being set apart to God. So, think in terms of how the OT priests, the tabernacle, and other features of Israel’s worship were all devoted to God in the sense that they were set apart from common use to be used for sacred purposes. They belonged to God.
In a similar way, the NT teaches that all of us who are in Christ have been set apart from the world as God’s special possession (1 Pet 2:9–10). God states that we are his “special people” and that he has set us apart for his glory and his purposes.
This idea is worth emphasizing for a couple of reasons. On the critical side, there is the fact that so much of modern Christianity tries hard to look and feel as much like the world as possible. Holiness has almost become a bad word, and it’s certainly not something we emphasize. And our flesh is certainly sympathetic to that thinking. Our natural bent is toward worldliness and fitting in, not standing out.
Therefore, we need frequent encouragements toward holiness and an eternal focus. In particular, we need to see that it’s a wonderful privilege to be set apart to God and to be his precious possession. Seriously, what’s better—to belong to the world or to the God of the universe? There’s no comparison. So, we should be eager to pursue holiness, draw near to our God, and glorify him in the world.
Another reason I believe this theme is necessary is because living a holy life in this evil, deceptive, and media-saturated world is extremely complicated. Every time you turn on the radio or the T.V., and every time you buy a new outfit or review your budget you are making choices about what is holy and what is not, what will further your sanctification and glorify the Lord and what will not.
I’m looking forward to giving some practical instruction and to having discussions among us about how to make wise and holy choices in a wicked and complicated world. In sum, I’m excited about focusing in 2021 on our privileged position, on what God has called us to be, and on how to get there, and I’m looking forward to how the Lord will use this focus among us.
To kick off our theme, I’d like to consider a familiar and foundational passage, 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 (read vv. 12–20). I began in v. 12, because vv. 12–18 provide important context for vv. 19–20. Specifically, some of the Corinthians were arguing that it’s okay to visit the pagan temple prostitutes, because they believed our bodies have no spiritual significance; therefore, we can do with them whatever we please.
Paul replies that this is nonsense, and he presents several pointed arguments to prove that immorality is uniquely wicked and destructive. And he ends in vv. 19–20 with 2 climactic arguments that are foundational not just to sexual purity but to how we view our entire Christian experience.
First, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Second, Christ purchased our entire being on the cross. As a result, he concludes that we are obligated to glorify the Lord in all of life. We must live out the fact that we have been devoted to God. So, let’s take some time to walk through these two foundational truths about our relationships to God and what they mean for all of life. First…
I. Your body is a temple of the Spirit (v. 19a).
Again, to appreciate this assertion, we have to read it in context. The Corinthians had been raised in the context of Greek dualism, which taught that the physical world, including our bodies are wicked and inconsequential.
Therefore, there are no spiritual consequences to what you do with your body, because it doesn’t really matter. So, if you want to visit a prostitute, sleep with your step-mom, go to a pagan ritual, or abuse your body in some other way, than who cares?
Of course, we don’t live in the milieu of Greek dualism, but lots of people today don’t think much differently. Our culture increasingly believes that freedom of sexual expression is a foundational human right, and it is affecting the church. In some circles, pastors and theologians have been forced to carefully articulate why immorality is a nonnegotiable for a believer. It’s crazy that we’ve reached a point where this isn’t just assumed.
But maybe closer to home for this crowd is that sometimes we draw a hard line between a godly heart and what we do with our bodies. Many Christians would assume there is no spiritual significance to the drugs I put into my body or if I live a healthy lifestyle.
And many Christians assume there is little if any spiritual significance to how I dress and present my body or to the places I go. All that really matters is that I have a “sincere heart.”
But Paul says all of this matters, because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Back in 3:16, Paul said that the church collectively is the temple of the Spirit, but here he applies this image to each individual Christian.
To begin with, the Holy Spirit is an incredible gift of God’s grace. Paul drives this home by stating of the Spirit, “whom you have from God.” The point is that there is nothing in me that is worthy of this gift. If the Spirit were looking for some perfect dwelling place, it wouldn’t be this body.
But following Jesus’ ascension to heaven, God has graciously given us the indwelling Spirit to assure us of our relationship with God, to strengthen our faith, to guide us into truth, to convict us of sin, and to assure us that we will make it to glory. It is a phenomenal gift “from God.”
And when you consider the OT significance of Israel’s temple as the holy dwelling place of God, this image is massively significant. Adding to the significance is that there are 2 Greek words for the temple. Hieron is the more general term, which was commonly used for the entire temple complex with all of this courts and rooms.
But Paul uses the more specific term vaos, which refers to the inner sanctuary of the temple, where God dwelt in the Holy of Holies. This was the most sacred location in the world. Israel’s priests were the only people who were allowed to enter the sanctuary and only with tremendous care.
There was nothing casual about how Israel cared for and approached the temple. And God’s wrath was poured out whenever Israel dishonored his temple. Nadab and Abihu were killed for bringing strange fire into the tabernacle (Lev 10:1–7), and when King Manasseh set up an Asherah pole in the temple, it was one of the last straws that led God to destroy Jerusalem (2 Kings 21:7). So, this image ought to be very sobering.
But it also ought to be a source of great joy over the grace of God. Afterall, the OT saints constantly rejoice over God’s marvelous grace in choosing to dwell among Israel in the temple. Moses, David, Solomon, and many others recognized that it was an amazing blessing to have God so near.
Therefore, if you are in Christ today, you should give thanks for the gift of the Spirit. Israel had to travel to the temple to be near to God, but God is with you all the time, everywhere you go. And he always carries with him a full supply of grace for every need.
But the clear emphasis of v. 19 is that being temples of the Holy Spirit brings with it sobering responsibility. Specifically, my body, and by extension my entire person, is a sacred possession. It is devoted to God, and it has been set apart for God’s special purposes.
Therefore, I’m not free to just go where I want to go, do what I want to do, consume whatever entertainment pleases me and think that none of it really matters. No, I must present my body and my spirit in a way that clearly declares that I am a temple of the Spirit.
I must guard my eyes, my ears, my hands, and my mouth, from consuming things that are not worthy of the Spirit’s temple. And I must guard what comes out of my mouth, making sure that it reflects the Spirit’s presence.
In sum, I’m not just a regular guy who can mostly fit in with an ungodly, wicked world. No, I have been devoted to God, and I must reflect this wonderful gift in all of life.
Maybe you would respond, “But what if I don’t want to live like a temple. What if I want to make some of my own decisions regardless of what God thinks?” Well, Paul gives you a blunt answer with his second foundational truth…
II. God bought all of you at the cross (v. 19b–20a).
I have to mention at this point that there is some controversy among translators about the sentence structure in these verses and about what to do with “and you are not your own.” The NKJV includes it with the question about us being temples of the Spirit (read).
However, I believe that some other translations are probably correct to end the first statement with “from God and to view, “and you are not your own,” as connected with the opening assertion in v. 20. So, the second assertion Paul makes is, “And you are not your own, for you were bought at a price.” This makes good sense, because “you were bought at a price” explains why “you are not your own.”
Again, it’s important that we begin by viewing this statement in context. Again, Paul is arguing against immorality, and notice what he says in vv. 13b–14. To put it simply, we aren’t free to pursue sexual sin, because our bodies belong to the Lord, and he will glorify them someday.
And in v. 19, Paul returns to this theme, and bluntly states, “You are not your own.” That’s very appropriate for our day isn’t it? How many times have you heard the Pro-Choice crowd declare, “My body, my choice”? And advocates of sexual freedom often say similar things.
But Paul says, the human body is made “for the Lord.” We weren’t created with the goal or even the right to use our bodies to pursue whatever vain desires we prefer. No, we were made to glorify the Lord and to find our joy in submission to him.
And vv. 19–20 say that this is especially true of the believer. So, if you are ever tempted to say, “No one is going to tell me what to do,” or “God has no right to dominate this part of my life,” Paul would firmly reply, “None of it is yours. You are not your own.”
It’s a simple and direct truth that we need to remember often, because it’s easy to forget. And it is so clarifying for my decision making. If there is ever a conflict between my will and the Lord’s, then the Lord’s will wins, because I am not my own.
And why is this? It’s because, “You were bought at a price.” With this statement, Paul draws on the imagery of buying and selling slaves. If a man in Corinth wanted to purchase a slave, he would go to the agora (i.e, marketplace), and he could purchase a slave from another master. By paying a price, the slave was transferred from one master to another.
As always, we need to be careful not to read more into this illustration than Paul intends. Specifically, God did not purchase us from Satan. Rather, our debt was to God’s own justice.
And God paid the steepest price possible to make us his own. As we saw 2 weeks ago, God “sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). And Jesus suffered our punishment on the cross as God’s just wrath against sin was poured out on him.
We cannot be reminded too often that Jesus paid the ultimate price for our salvation. He gave everything, “that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9).
Therefore, we always want to emphasize that there is no way I can ever pay the price for my redemption, and there’s no way I can accidentally stumble into heaven. And no one is born a child of God. No, I need a Savior, and so do you. And Christ is that Savior. He paid the price for our salvation, when he died on the cross. And the Bible states that this salvation can be yours, if you will repent of your sin and place your faith wholly in Jesus for your salvation.
Acts 16:31 promises, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” If you have never done that, I pray that you will do so today. You can leave this afternoon knowing that Christ has purchased you, and you belong to him, and you are forever secure in his grace.
And if you are saved, our text says that Jesus did not just purchase your life for eternity; he purchased your life today. You belong to him. You have been devoted to God through the death of Christ. As the song states, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”
Yes, the sacrifices God demands are not always easy or pleasant, but Christ is worthy of every one of them. And when I see what he did for me, when I appreciate, “Love so amazing, so divine,” I will gladly follow wherever he leads, even when it’s not easy.
“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Cor 5:14–15). May the Lord cause all of us to respond to the cross with this same compelling drive to honor our Savior in response to the amazing love of Christ. So, the first foundational truth is is that your body is a temple of the Spirit. The second foundational truth is that God bought all of you at the cross. As a result, the passage ends with a foundational command.
III. Glorify God in your body (v. 20b).
I have to begin my mentioning that there is a variant in this verse. If you are looking at a newer translation, the verse ends with, “glorify God in your body”; however, the NKJV adds, “and in your spirit, which are God’s.” The first option keeps the emphasis on the body, as it has been throughout vv. 12–20 and the second broadens the application to the entire person.
Regardless the basic point is the same. In light of the fact that your body is a temple of the Spirit and God purchased you on the cross, Paul states, “Therefore.” BTW, he uses a particularly sharp conjunction that makes what follows emphatic. “Therefore, glorify God.”
Again, in context, Paul’s primary point is that Christians must glorify the Lord in how they use their bodies and especially in the sexual arena. There’s no room for a Christian to behave promiscuously. It’s not “My body, my choice.”
But this command clearly applies broadly to all of life. My redemption means that I must glorify the Lord in all of life. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). Glorifying the Lord is my most basic and foundational responsibility. Every other biblical duty and command comes back to this basic truth.
Now I realize that this puts us in strong opposition to our culture. I’ve been slowly working my way through a very complicated but fascinating book on the foundations of the sexual revolution, and it’s been fascinating to understand more fully how free sexual expression is becoming a foundational value and assumption of our culture. Our society increasingly believes that you only belong to you and that there is no higher act of courage and honor than to freely express what is in your heart. These assumptions are everywhere in our entertainment, our clothes, and even our birthday cards.
Therefore, it is essential that we frequently come back to the basic truth of this text. I belong to God, and my highest priority is not to show the world the ugliness of my heart but the beauty of my Savior.
And contrary to the claims of our world, this is not some sort of hypocrisy or oppression. No, God loves us, and he has prepared an eternal home for us in his presence. And think about this, the climax of human joy will be when we see our Savior and we are perfectly conformed to his image.
So, God’s glory is not contrary to our joy; instead, God has designed salvation in such a way that the climax of human joy will be in perfectly glorifying our Lord. God’s purpose is incredibly wise, beautiful, and compassionate.
And if our hope for perfect joy is in glorification, then we ought to find our joy in glorifying the Lord today. Folks, the world’s pursuit of happiness in sexual expression and other fleshly appetites is a fool’s errand. It will never satisfy. But Augustine was absolutely right, when he said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
So, don’t buy the world’s lies about happiness. And don’t listen to those sectors of Christianity that are ashamed of genuine holiness (I realize there is a false, hypocritical holiness that is vile) and obedience and act as if God doesn’t really care how you live.
No, let’s stand amazed that Christ purchased us with his blood, and he has set wicked sinners like us apart as his “special people.” We are devoted to God, and we are temples of the Spirit. God has bestowed on us the greatest honor he has given to any part of his creation.
And then by the grace of God, let’s commit to living out this privileged position. “Glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:20). “Not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
And finally, let’s commit to doing the hard work of discerning what exactly holiness is for your family living in Apple Valley, CA in 2021.
I’m excited about what the Lord is going to do this year through this emphasis. I hope you will pray that the Lord will use it to search your heart, to transform your thinking, and to make you a better temple of the Spirit. And then anticipate the joy that will come today as you glorify the Lord, and the joy of heaven, when you will be perfectly devoted to God.
More in Devoted to God
February 21, 2021The Privilege of Holiness