1 Corinthians 6:15-20 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, "The two shall become one flesh." But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

Paul wrote this statement to Christians living in Corinth. The majority of them (a) had idolatrous backgrounds and (b) were converted from pagan lifestyles. With those backgrounds and lifestyles, sexual immorality was sanctioned and often considered "godly." Some temples [depending on the god or goddess worshipped] maintained sacred prostitutes in order to worship that god or goddess through sexual acts.

Paul informed these Christians this was an ungodly concept. That which belongs to Christ cannot be shared with a prostitute. Their bodies belonged to God through Christ. God's Spirit lived in their bodies. They belonged to God, not to sexual immorality. They could not unite themselves with sexual immorality and continue to belong to God.

The point called to your attention: while sexual immorality could not continue, the fact that in their confusion they were [as Christians] practicing this lifestyle did not immediately, automatically remove them from Christ.

Paul made the same point to the same congregation in 1 Corinthians 8. Some Christians thought idols represented actual gods. Some Christians knew better. Some Christians thought diet made one spiritual. Some Christians knew better. The Christian objective: do not allow correct knowledge to cause the weak to fall from Christ (verse 11). Does this sanction ignorance? No! It condemns the destructive use of knowledge.

Bottom line: we do not know how far God extends mercy and grace to those in Christ. God extends mercy and grace to every one of us! In all our situations, our personal ignorance is viewed by someone else as inexcusable stupidity! We must never forget it is God's mercy and grace, and He alone determines its limits in specific situations.

On what basis does God extend mercy and grace to an ignorant Christian? He extends both on the basis of that Christian's motives. If that person is in the process of growing toward spiritual completeness and understanding, God is patient. If he/she is justifying ungodly acts in defiance of God, God holds him/her accountable and responsible for the defiance. Our motives as Christians determine if God is patient with us or insulted by us.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 18 January 2004

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