1 Corinthians 6:13-16
Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication…

1. In remonstrating with the Corinthians for their litigiousness, Paul was forcibly reminded how imperfectly they understood the moral requirements of the kingdom of God, and that they were quoting some of his own sayings in defence of immoral practices. If "all things were lawful" to them, then this commonest of Greek indulgences was lawful; if abstaining from the meat which had been killed in a heathen temple was a matter of moral indifference, then this other common accompaniment of idolatry was also a matter of indifference.

2. St. Paul there-fore lays down two principles. First he insists that the question of duty is not answered by simply ascertaining what is lawful; we must also ask, Is it expedient? The Christian is a law to himself; he has an internal guide that sets him above external rules. Very true; but that guide teaches him to consider, not how much indulgence he may enjoy without transgressing the letter of the law, but how he can best forward what is highest in himself and in others. Again, "all things are lawful for me"; all things are in my power. Yes, and therefore "I will not be brought under the power of any." I am free from the law; I will not on that account become the slave of indulgence. There are several practices and habits which no one would call sinful, but which enslave a man quite as much as worse habits. And it is the very lawfulness of these indulgences which has ensnared him. He alone attains the true dignity and freedom of the Christian man who can say, with Paul, "I know both how to be full and to be hungry," &c. "All things are in my power, but I will not be brought under the power of any."

3. Paul then proceeds to apply these principles. The Corinthians argued that if meats were morally indifferent, so also a man was neither better nor worse for fornication. To expose this error Paul draws a distinction between the organs of nutrition and that body which is part of our permanent individuality, and which is to flower into an everlasting body. These two differ from one another; and if you are to argue from the one to the other, you must keep in view the distinction as stated in vers. 13, 14. The organs of nutrition have a present use; they are made for meats, and have a natural correspondence with meats. Any meat, therefore, which the digestive organs approve is allowable. Besides, these organs form no part of the future spiritual body. They pass away with the meats for which they were made. They serve a temporary purpose, like the houses we live in and the clothes we wear; and as we are not morally better because we live in a stone house, and not in a brick one, or because we wear woollens, and not cotton — so long as we do what is best to keep us in life — so neither is there any moral difference in meats. But the body as a whole — for what is it made? "For the Lord." He finds in it His needed instrument; without it He cannot accomplish His will. And "the Lord is for the body." Without Him the body cannot develop into all it is intended to be. Our adoption as God's children is incomplete until the body also is redeemed and has fought its way through sickness and death, into likeness to the glorified body of Christ. But this cannot be believed, far less accomplished, save by faith in the fact that God has raised up the Lord Jesus, and will with Him raise us also. And the Spirit of Christ within us inclines us while in the body, and by means of it to sow to the Spirit and thus to reap life everlasting. The only future of the body we dare to look at without a shudder is the future it has in the Lord. The Lord is for the body, and as well might we try to sustain the body now without food as to have an endurable future for it without the Lord. But if the body is thus closely united to Christ, then the inference is self-evident that it must be carefully guarded from such uses and impurities as involve rupture with Christ (ver. 15). And if any frivolous Corinthian still objected that such acts went no deeper than the eating of food ceremonially unclean, that they belonged to the body that was to be destroyed, Paul says, It is not so; these acts are full of the deepest moral significance (ver. 18), i.e., fornication is the only sin which by its very nature alienates the body from Christ, its proper Partner. Other sins indirectly involve separation from Christ; this explicitly and directly transfers allegiance, and sunders our union with Him.

4. These weighty reasonings are concluded by the statement of a twofold truth which is of much wider application than to the matter in hand (vers. 19, 20). We are not our own; we belong to Him who has loved us most; and His love will be satisfied when we suffer Him to dwell in us, so that we shall be His temples, and shall glorify Him. And it is the consciousness that we are God's temples which constantly incites us to live worthily of Him. In nothing can God reveal Himself as He can in man. It is not a building of stone which forms a fit temple for God; nor even the heaven of heavens. In material nature only a small part of God can be seen and known. But through us God can express and reveal what is best in Himself. Our love is sustained by His, and reveals His. Our approval of what is pure and hatred of impurity has its source in His holiness. But if so, what a profanation is it when we take this body, which is built to be His temple, and put it to uses which it were blasphemous to associate with God!

(M. Dods, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.

WEB: "Foods for the belly, and the belly for foods," but God will bring to nothing both it and them. But the body is not for sexual immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.

Duties to the Body
Top of Page
Top of Page