1 Corinthians 6:12-20 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What does Paul tell us about the purpose of our bodies? See 1 Corinthians 6:13b (printed below)

Now the body is not intended for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body. (1 Corinthians 6:13b)

The apostle informs us that “the body is…for the Lord.” This statement is explained by such a passage as Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” The apostle goes on to say, “the Lord is for the body.” What he means is that the Lord gave Himself not only to redeem our soul, but also our body (note Philippians 3:20-21). The view that the body is of no true and lasting value, and therefore can be employed for any kind of sexual experience, is not biblical. God created man as a combination of soul and body (note Genesis 2:7), and the final redemption shall included the redemption of the body as well as the soul.

2. What else does the apostle tell us about our bodies in verses 15 and 19 (printed below?)

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? God forbid. (1 Corinthians 6:15)

Do you not realize that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You do not belong to yourself (1 Corinthians 6:19)

In verse 15 the apostle further emphasizes the significance of the body by reminding us that as Christians our bodies are ‘members of Christ.” Not only our soul, but also our body, belongs to Christ, is inhabited by His Holy Spirit (note verse19), and shares in His spiritual life.

3. According to 1 Corinthians 6:16 (printed below), what happens when someone engages in the sexual act?

Do you not realize that he who has intimate relations with a prostitute is one with her in body?—for it says, “The two shall become one flesh.” (1 Corinthians 6:16)

In verse 16 the apostle reminds the Corinthians and us that “he who has intimate relations with a prostitute is one with her in body”—the man who has a sexual relationship with a prostitute “becomes one with her in body.” To indicate the profoundness of this act the apostle refers to Genesis 2:24, “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” When a man and a woman engage in the sexual act there occurs a profound unity in which they become “one flesh”—there is the uniting of bodies and spirits resulting in the experience of a unique oneness (note Matthew 19:5-6a). This profound relationship that God intended exclusively for marriage, and that is on a human level a model of the Christian’s relationship with Christ, must never be cheapened or abused by engaging in any type of sexually immoral act. Note that whereas verse 16 refers to the committing of a sexual act with a prostitute, verse 18 speaks in the broadest terms when it commands us to “flee fornication”—fornication is a general term that covers all acts of sexual intercourse outside of marriage.

4. Contrast the difference between having a sexual relationship with a prostitute (or any other illicit sexual relationship) and the Christian’s spiritual relationship with Christ. See 1 Corinthians 6:16-17 (printed below)

Do you not realize that he who has intimate relations with a prostitute is one with her in body?—for it says, “The two shall become one flesh.” (17) But he who is in union with the Lord is one with him in spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:16-17)

In verses 16-17 the apostle draws the contrast between being united to a prostitute (or any other sexual union outside of marriage) and being united to Christ. If a man engages in a sexual relationship with a prostitute, he becomes one with her in body: there is a union, but that union is essentially physical, earthly, and immoral. A man “who is in union with the Lord is one with him in spirit;” this union is of a spiritual nature (involving the person of the Holy Spirit), it pertains to the immediate realm of God and it is sacred. The apostle brings out this contrast in order to emphasize two facts. First, as Christians, we are in a relationship with Christ that we must not violate by entering into immoral sexual relationships of any kind. Second, our relationship with Christ is far superior to any illicit relationship we might be tempted to pursue.

5. What negative commandment does the apostle give in verse 18 (printed below) and what positive commandment does he give in verse 20b (printed below?)

Flee from fornication. Every other sin that a man commits is without the body, but he who commits fornication is sinning against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18)

…you were bought with a price. Therefore, glorify God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:20)

In verse 18 we are confronted with the commandment to “flee from fornication.” An Old Testament example, one which the apostle probably has in mind here, is provided by Joseph as recorded in Genesis 39:6b-12 (“Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, (7) and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, Come to bed with me! … (11) One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. (12) She caught him by his cloak and said, Come to bed with me! But he left his cloak in her hand and fled out of the house). In verse 20 we are given the instruction to glorify God with our bodies.