A Question I Was Asked:



Can you explain 1 Corinthians 6:13?






The Question:

Can you explain 1 Corinthians 6:13? I haven't got a clue as to what it means.


UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, here is your verse:

'You say, "Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both." The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.' (1 Corinthians 6:13).

You cannot just look at that verse and get the full understanding, you need to look at the context here. If one checks the context of this chapter it is clear that Paul was accusing some of the Christians at Corinth of 'sailing too close to the wind' in their interactions with the immoral society at Corinth. He complains about their willingness to take legal action against each other (verses 1-6), but then he picks up a quote which he had obviously heard from one, or more, of the Corinthian brethren:

'"I have the right to do anything," you say - but not everything is beneficial. "I have the right to do anything" - but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, "Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both." The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.' (Verses 12-13).

We get the quote (or, quotes), here in bits. Putting everything together, the superior New Testament scholar - and committed believer - F.F. Bruce believed the full quote (which Paul had probably heard at Corinth), was something like this:

"Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, but God will destroy both one and the other. Sex for the body and the body for sex." (F.F. Bruce, 'Paul - Apostle of the Heart Set Free,' p 261, 2000 paperback edition).

In short, the reasoning was apparently something like this: Christianity is of the mind and heart and spirit, but the body is neutral in those areas. The stomach needs food for human existence, but in the resurrection stomachs will not be needed. In like manner, God designed men and women to seek sexual expression, but - again - it is a purely physical matter, in the resurrection our bodies will be changed, sex will be no more. On that basis, some at Corinth were saying that immoral sex (which was freely available at Corinth), was spiritually neutral because the body needed to be 'fed' in this way, just as the stomach needed to be fed. It seems that some were using this reasoning - that is, not to enjoy normal, healthy intimacy with ones spouse - but to enjoy the illicit sex of Corinth. Paul points out that this reasoning is to take things too far because sexual relationships affect not only the body, but the whole person; the mind, heart and spirit indeed become affected.

Paul's response forms the last few verses of this chapter:

'By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh." But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.' (1 Corinthians 6:14-20, NIV).

Paul's target was obviously prostitution, some at Corinth were saying that for a man to take a prostitute was an entirely neutral manner from a spiritual point of view, simply that the body needed to be 'fed.' Paul said that that was a nonsensical viewpoint. He had already made this very pointed comment in verses 9-10:

'Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.'

So both male and female prostitution were Paul's targets. He said - in effect - that people who take prostitutes, and then attempt to justify the practice as simply 'feeding the body,' will not be in God's kingdom - full stop. The greatest part of the error was the attempt to justify such behaviour as being acceptable for the Christian. Paul is not here attacking human weakness in the face of temptation, he is attacking certain vocal ones at Corinth who were teaching that to take a prostitute was purely a fleshly, bodily matter, it was to 'feed the body,' and was a spiritually neutral matter.

When certain ones at Corinth boasted that, "I have the right to do anything..." (verse 12), that was plainly antinomianism. The fact that a believer under grace is no longer under the law should never be seen as a licence for immoral behaviour. If one sees it that way, one is not truly on the Christian path and has gravely misunderstood.
Robin A. Brace. February 25th, 2012.


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