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Your Bodies are Members of Christ
Comments on 1 Cor. 6:12-20
This study begins by reflecting on Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 6:12, which some read as an
"anything goes" statement, but the fullness of this verse, and one of the deepest and
most beautiful statements in all of Scripture, is further contemplated.
12. To me, all things are presently out-of-Being (or: All things continue from existence for me; or: All is authorized, right and permitted by and in me). But yet not everything proceeds to bear together for advantage, profit, help, or are for the best. To me, all things are authorized, permitted and out of [His] Being, but still I myself will not proceed in being brought under authority by anyone.
(or: With, to and for me, all is from the source of Being, and continues with right and
privilege. However, all is not habitually carrying together. With, to and for me, all is from
the source of Being, and continues with right and privilege; nonetheless, I will not continue
being put in subjection to rights and privileges under any person or under any certain thing,
pertaining to me.
or: All have rights with me, but on the other hand, not all things are advantageous. All, from
[his, her or its] existence, has privilege with me, although, as for me, I will not proceed in
being subdued under anyone's privilege.)
Statements that are almost identical to the first two sentences in this verse are made by Paul in 10:23, below. Something said twice has significance and importance. Even within these two verses, the idea is repeated; there is parallelism.
Now some read the first statement as “all is allowed for or by me” – an “anything goes” statement that Paul counters in the following statement, in both pairs of the parallelism. Ann Nyland’s The Source NT renders both this verse and 10:23 in a manner that suggests that Paul is citing a saying by some Corinthian libertarians. These interpretations have merit, but we shall investigate this verse as though it comes from Paul, since viewing it as quoting someone else is interpretive conjecture.
The personal pronoun “me” is in the dative case, so on offer are “to me, for me; by me and with me,” all of which make sense to the context. The verb is considered to be an impersonal verb. It is the third person, singular, present tense of the verb “to be; to exist” that is prefixed by the preposition which means “from; out of; forth from the midst of.” The common versions render this verb “allowed; authorized; permitted; lawful.” These are extended meanings, and make sense to the context, but they obscure the root idea in the Greek thought that bases its meaning on a verb of “being,” or “existence.” The noun associated with this verb is exousia and is found in Jn. 1:12b, “It [The Logos] gives (or: He gave) to them (or: for them; in them; among them) authority ([the] right; or: privilege from out of the midst of Being) to be birthed God’s children.” Since these cognates are based upon the same verb and the same prefixed preposition, I have stressed the idea of “being” and “existence” in my renderings. Therefore, we have “all things are presently out-of-Being,” or the alternatives, “All things continue from existence,” and “All is authorized, right and permitted,” in the first clause. Cf 12:4, below.
Paul says that these statements have a relation to him. It is “to his perception or his world view” that “all things come out of Being.” This would be similar to his statement in Rom. 11:36a, “forth from out of the midst of Him…” are all things. As Paul Tillich has put it, God is the Ground [i.e., Source – my word, here] of Being.
Now the next option, “All things continue from existence for me,” would suggest that Paul views the entire universe exists for him – meaning, of course, for humanity. Or, God made this world for us. But offering the verbal meanings of authorization, right and permission would be saying that these could be used by him or were in him. All of this makes sense, when we consider Paul’s place and function in God’s reign.
But we see Paul’s wisdom: he recognizes that “not everything proceeds to bear together for advantage, profit, help, or are for the best” with regard to building God’s Temple (as stated in ch. 3, above). But what about the corresponding parallel in the last part of the verse: I myself will not proceed in being brought under authority by anyone? Was Paul rebellious? Or was this a reference to his relationship to the Jerusalem congregation, or perhaps, to Corinth itself? The object of the preposition “by,” or, “under,” functions to signify either “anyone,” or “anything.” So he could be referring to religious or political systems, or even the emperor.
In the parenthetical expansion, I followed the lead of the Concordant Literal New Testament and rendered the subject of the first and third sentences as simply “all.” When this term is used as the subject of a sentence, it is plural and neuter, or neutral. However, the majority of the time where we find “all” in the NT it is speaking about people. NT Greek does not always follow the exact rules of Greek grammar. We suggest that it is possible to read these “all’s” as referring to people, and so offer it this way.
Following the first, bold, rendering are two optional renderings of the entire verse. The second option offers other meanings of the Greek words, and the third option offers a reading where “all” refers to people, instead of “things.” We suggest meditating on all three renderings, and let the Spirit disclose the possibilities of interpretive nuances.
In this verse, Paul is not taking away their freedom in Christ (Gal. 5:1), but is pointing them to the Wisdom of God for the benefit of the community. Our liberty should not harm the community (Rom. 14:13-16). After repeating the first half of vs. 1, above, in 10:23a, below, the explanation of 10:23b-24 enlightens us here:
“but yet not all things progressively edify or build up the house. Let no one be habitually
seeking the [interest, advantage, profit, welfare or edification] of, or pertaining to, himself,
but to the contrary, the [interest, advantage, profit, welfare and edification] of the other (or:
pertaining to the different) person.”
This all points us back to 3:21-23, above: “all things [are] yours…. yet you folks [are] Christ's.” Paul is still on the same theme as begun in 5:1, above, and this same theme continues on, below.
13. The foods (The things eaten) [are meant] for the stomach, and the stomach [is meant] for the things eaten, yet God will make both it and them useless and unprofitable (or: will also bring this and these down to being idle).
Now the body [is] not for prostitution (or: sexual immorality; or: = idolatry), but rather for the Lord – and further, the Lord [is] in (or: for; with) the body. 14. Yet God both aroused (awakened) and raised up the Lord, and He is presently and progressively (or: one-after-another repeatedly; or: keeps on) arousing and raising us up out of the midst [reading with p11.46*, A, D*, P and others; or: p46c2, B and others read: He fully aroused and raised us up (or: at one point arouses and raises us up out); or: p46c1, Aleph, C, D2 and others read: He will continue raising us up out] through His power and ability. [cf 15:29]
In vs. 13a, Paul seems to begin speaking to the idea of things that “bear together for advantage, profit, help, or are for the best” (vs. 12) in the community, with regard to “foods” and “the stomach.” But then he breaks off from this topic and does not address it until 8:4, below. In 13b he takes up the topic of “prostitution” and brings in the word “body.” Now the word that I have rendered “stomach” (koilia) literally means “cavity,” and thus could refer to either the organ of digestion or of sex, and sex is the underlying topic for the rest of the chapter, and on through chapter 7. Is Paul perhaps simply quoting a proverb or “saying” but with the intent on emphasizing the transient nature of all of this, in 13b? With the term “body,” as Paul uses the term, there are two levels of meaning and different layers of interpretation. Perhaps Paul had Sirach 23:6 (LXX) in mind when he said this:
“Let not the belly’s appetite and sexual intercourse seize me, and do not give me over to a
shameless soul” (A New English Translation of the Septuagint, Oxford Univ. Press, 2007 p
Or, perhaps this was an allusion to Mk. 7:19 where Jesus spoke of what went into the “belly” and then into the sewer. Paul does not explain what he means by “God will make both it and them useless and unprofitable (or: will also bring this and these down to being idle),” especially considering that he goes on to say “the body [is]… for the Lord – and further, the Lord [is] in (or: for; with) the body.” Of course, a spiritual/metaphorical meaning of “body” makes sense, here, and even our physical bodies belong to the Lord – He is our Owner/Master.
We can see Paul’s practical concerns for both the physical and the corporate bodies: both are “for the Lord.” This calls to mind vss. 19b-20, below: we are not our own. Verse 13b is a logical conclusion of being “set-apart” to God, and this is in contrast to the temple prostitutes of pagan religions of the time. But there is a spiritual level to this topic of prostitution. It is an allusion to Israel having turned away from Yahweh and to pagan gods. We find the same situation presented in the visionary picture of “Babylon” in Rev. 17. We will cite just one instance from Israel's’ history, during the time of Isaiah: “Alas, the Faithful City has become a prostitute!” (Isa. 1:21).
Verse 14 is echoed in Eph. 2:6, as noted above. The term which I have conflated as “aroused and raised up” speaks of resurrection – a topic to which Paul will devote much of chapter 15, below. Note the present tense of this verb. It was an ongoing event (or, a “one-after-another” event) in Paul’s day. We suggest that it has been going on ever since. In 15:29 Paul rhetorically asks a question containing the subordinate clause, “If dead folks are not altogether (actually; absolutely; generally speaking) being habitually awakened and presently raised up…?” Notice the other MSS that have the verb in the past tense, and others that have it in the future progressive. This was, is and will be (conflating all the MS witnesses) done “through His power and ability.” And it is worthwhile to quote Col. 3:1a, again,
“Since, therefore, you folks were awakened and are raised up together in the Christ (or: If, then, you are aroused and raised with the Anointed One)…”
Paul experienced this spiritual resurrection as a present reality, as did the writer of Heb. 12:22, “you folks have approached so that you are NOW at Mount Zion – even IN a city of a continuously living God; in ‘Jerusalem upon heaven.’”
15. Have you folks not seen so as to know that your [other MSS: our] bodies are (exist being) members (body parts) of Christ? Upon lifting up and carrying off (or: bearing away) the members (body parts) of the Christ, will I proceed then in making (or: could or should I at any point yield) [them] members (body parts) of a prostitute? May it not come to be or happen (= Heaven forbid; = No way)!
16. Or, Have you folks not seen so as to know that the man continually joining himself (or: being habitually glued in intimate union) to (or: in) a prostitute exists being one body [with her]? For, He says,
"The two will continue existing, being [joined] into one flesh." [Gen. 2:24]
Being a “member, or body part, of Christ” was and is a spiritual reality that is expressed in a “body” metaphor. Paul will further develop this symbolic picture in chapters 11 and 12, below. However, many of Paul’s audience were “soulish” (2:14, above; cf Jas. 3:15; Jude 19) and “carnally minded” (Rom. 8:6), and they were still spiritual children (3:2, above), so he speaks to both the physical and the spiritual levels here. Both levels are also addressed in vs. 16, where he cites Gen. 2:24. Our life in the kingdom, here, is a living metaphor in the living letters that we are (2 Cor. 3:1-2). He will develop his reference to “prostitution” below. Cf the connection between the terms “body” and “flesh” in Eph. 5:28-29.
17. Now the person continually joining himself (or: being habitually glued in intimate union; in himself being continuously welded) to (or: in; with) the Lord exists being one spirit (or: one Breath-effect; one Attitude; one Spirit).
This is one of the deepest and most beautiful statements in all of Scripture. This statement is parallel to vs. 16, above, and he is, of course, speaking of a spiritual reality, but we suggest that it is also an existential reality – just as our being His home (temple) and His child are existential realities. Since God is Spirit, and we are spirit, this is not just a metaphor. But Paul is contrasting this present reality of “the body of Christ” to the potential reality of prostituting it – on both natural and spiritual levels. What he is describing here is the union of marriage. The language of vss. 15-16 is speaking about sexual union. In this verse, it is the spiritual marriage between the body of Christ and Christ Himself, just as there was this same relationship between Israel and Yahweh, under the old covenant. Read Ezk. 16, as well as the imagery in Hosea. Paul is in this verse using the physical sexual union of a man and a woman as a metaphor for our relationship to God. On the physical plane, it is the greatest union that people can experience. Thus our being joined to the Lord would by comparison be the greatest spiritual union that we can experience. With the explanation given by this verse, we have a key to Paul’s teaching about the body of Christ, which will follow. It is a spiritual Body, composed of physical/spiritual people.
Take note of the semantic range of the word joining: “glued in intimate union; welded.” The Spirit Himself must reveal to us what it means to be “one spirit/Spirit/Breath-effect.” The idea of a “spirit” being an “attitude” is more easily seen: one Attitude – like having the mind of Christ. But the potentially ontological reading of Paul, here, can blow our minds – even if we understand the metaphor of the joining of Husband-wife, which is how Paul is speaking. In Ps. 73:28 (72:28 in LXX) we read:
“Now it continues being good for me (in me; with me) to be continuously joined face-to-face
with God (or as a middle: to repeatedly glue myself focused in God), and to place my
expectation in union with the LORD (set my expectant hope centered in [Yahweh])” (LXX,
18. Constantly flee (Repeatedly take flight [from]) the prostitution. [note: this would also apply to idolatry in pagan temples which used prostitutes as part of the idol worship] The effect (or: result) of every sin (failure to hit the target; error; mistake; deviation) – whatsoever a person may do – exists being outside of the body. Yet the one habitually committing prostitution (practicing sexual immorality) is habitually sinning (sowing errors and mistakes) into his own body. [note: both his physical body, and the body of the called-out community]
Notice the imperative: Constantly flee (Repeatedly take flight [from]) the prostitution. This calls to mind Rev. 18:4, “Come out of her, My people.” But it also implies, “stay away from situations that could lead to involvement with a prostitute” – whether it be an individual, or a corporate, situation. Most of the prostitution that Israel fell into was primarily that of corporate idolatry. But temple prostitutes also profaned the individual, if he got involved in it. Cf Prov. 6:25-35. In 10:14, below, we find the same verb as used here: “be habitually fleeing away from the idolatry.” In 1 Tim. 6:11, Timothy is advised to FLEE the love of money (vs. 10), and “continuously PURSUE fair and equitable dealings in right relationships in the Way pointed out (rightwisedness; justice; = loyal covenantal living), faith (trust; trustworthiness; loyalty), love… (etc.).”
On the corporate, and thus spiritual, level, this meant to not be involved with an institution that God considered to be a prostitute. Israel’s leaders had both done that, and become that, as in Ezk. 16:15ff.
This admonition applies on both levels. Paul put it this way in 2 Cor. 6:14,
“Do not of yourself continue (or: Stop) becoming yoked differently (or: unevenly yoked; yoked with ones of a different sort) with folks without faith (or: by those without trust; to unbelievers; with disloyal people), for, what mutual holding (having-with: sharing; partnership; communion; membership) [have] rightwised living and lawlessness (or: fairness/equity, and a lack of following rules; deliverance to right relationship which accords with the Way pointed out, and [the] inequity or wrong which come from violation of law), or what common existing (participation; partnership; sharing of Being) [is] in Light [directed] toward, or face to face with, darkness (or: [is there] for light with dimness from murky obscurity in the realm of shadows)?”
Failure to hit the target of bearing the image of God, or of reflecting the glory of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18) might be something that was an error or a mistake that was “outside of the [corporate or individual] body.” But prostitution implied intimacy with one that was not a spouse, and therefore it violates the sacred union of the marriage (whether this be an individual matter, or a corporate situation).
19. Or, have you folks not seen so as to know that your body (or: the body of you folks) is a temple of the set-apart spirit (or: a sanctuary belonging to the Holy Spirit; a holy place and a holy of holies which pertains to the Sacred Breath; or: that the body, which is you folks, exists being a divine habitation which has the qualities and characteristics of the Holy Attitude) – within the midst of you (or: in union with you folks; or: among you people) – which you people constantly hold and progressively possess from God? And further, you are not folks belonging to yourselves (or: Also then, you people do not exist from yourselves),
20. for you people were bought, as at a marketplace: [there was] value and honor involved in the price (or: [you are] of value)
(or: = you see, you folks were bought and paid for; or: it follows that from a valuable price
you folks were bought at market).
By all means then, glorify God (bring a good reputation to God; manifest that which calls forth praise to God) within your body (or: within the midst of the body which you folks are)!
Verse 19a repeats what he said in 1 Cor. 3:16. Here, depending on how one reads the genitive case of the plural, personal pronoun “your/of you folks,” the “temple” is either the individual, or the corporate body. The “the set-apart spirit” can refer to the “Attitude” that was imparted into the group from hearing the Good News from Paul. But this is also the Holy Spirit, or, God’s Sacred Breath, which had taken up residence within, and among them. Existential experience attests to the Breath-effect/Spirit inhabiting the individual – this is how we come alive in Christ. We can get more insights into what he is saying here, by reading his later letter to Rome. In Rom. 8:
10. But since Christ (or: Yet if [the] Anointing) [is] within you folks, on the one hand the body is dead (lifeless) BECAUSE OF sin (through failure, deviation and missing the target), yet on the other hand, the Spirit, Attitude and Breath-effect [is] Life BECAUSE OF an eschatological act of justice that brought a rightwising deliverance into equitable, covenantal relationships within the Way pointed-out (or: on account of the covenantal Faithfulness of a liberating Turn into the Right Direction of the Living Way/Path).
11. Now since the Breath-effect (or: Spirit; Attitude) of the One arousing and raising Jesus forth from out of the midst of dead folks is continuously housing Itself (making His abode; residing; making His home; by idiom: living together as husband and wife) within, and in union with, you folks, the One raising Christ Jesus forth from out of dead ones will also continue progressively giving Life to (or: will even habitually make alive) the mortal bodies of you folks (or: your mortal bodies) through the constant indwelling of His Spirit (or: the continual in-housing of His Breath-effect; the continuous internal residing of the Attitude, which is Him,) [other MSS: because of His habitually-indwelling Spirit] within and among you folks.
Notice the near identity of the terms “Christ/Anointing” and “Breath-effect/Spirit/His Spirit” in these two verses. You have One, you have the Other.
Notice that what he says in 19b is something that they “constantly hold and progressively possess from God.” So what had they received, so that they now possess it? May we suggest that it was “a new creation (or: [it is] a framing and founding of a different kind; [he or she is] an act of creation having a fresh character and a new quality)” (2 Cor. 5:17). It was the framing of the “divine habitation” which God had founded within and among them. They possessed “a holy place and a holy of holies which pertains to the Sacred Breath, the Holy Spirit.” Paul spoke of this in 2 Cor. 5:1, where he uses the term “tabernacle” (which later was replaced by the temple),
“You see, we have seen, perceived and know that if our House – from the Tabernacle which was pitched on the Land – would at some point be dismantled (or: that whenever our house, which is this tent upon the earth, should be loosed down), we constantly have (continuously hold; presently possess) a dwelling structure or place (a building for an abode; or: a household; = a family or a possession) forth from out of the midst of God: an eonian act of building a roofed house (or: a covered building for dwelling having qualities and character which pertain to the Age [of the Messiah]; a structure of edification for, and pertaining to, the ages) – not made by hands [cf Heb. 9:1-8, 11; Dan. 2:34, 45; Eph. 2:11; Col. 2:11] – resident within the atmospheres (or: in union with the heavens).” [cf 6:16, below; 1 Tim. 3:15; Heb. 9:24]
Notice, in this quote, that Paul uses the same verb: we “constantly have (continuously hold; presently possess)” it. And notice that in this letter he also refers to it as “a dwelling structure or place (a building for an abode).” And just as in vs. 19, above, here in 2 Cor. 5:1 this structure is “forth from out of the midst of God.” In both passages, this “temple” or “dwelling structure” can be seen on both the individual and the corporate levels.
Their corporate body is “a sanctuary belonging to the Holy Spirit,” and it has “the qualities and characteristics of the Holy Attitude.” That Holy Attitude was one of taking the place and form of a servant and living a cruciform life. This is why they, as a covenant community, have been “set-apart” for God. In vs. 20 Paul uses a marketplace metaphor and term to remind them that they “were bought,” and that there was “value and honor involved in the price (or: [you are] of value).” So it follows that “they do not belong to themselves.” If we ponder the metaphor that Paul uses here, we can see that they (and, thus, likewise we) had no choice or say in the matter. They had been like slaves that were bought at the marketplace. Now they belonged to God and Christ; they had a new Master. Now, as God’s possession, “By all means then, glorify God (bring a good reputation to God; manifest that which calls forth praise to God) within your body (or: within the midst of the body which you folks are)!” Once again we have the potential readings of this referring either to the individual, or to the group. They were to be living their lives like members of the Household of God; they represented God and were, in fact, God’s home. This, by the very nature of the situation, brought a responsibility to them – but God’s grace and power were what would enable them to meet this responsibility. [Editor’s note:
“The same is true for us today. As God brings our attention to ways in which we may
improve how we live “set-apart,” as members of God’s Household in our daily lives; God
also progressively enables us to meet the responsibility. God fulfills the requirements (Matt.
5:17), by liberating and empowering us with a joyful desire and ability to progressively walk
in a greater measure of Love. God’s requirements are not meant to hurt us, they are meant
to transform us into His image (1 John 3:2), enabling us to walk in a greater measure of
Love. So when we, like Peter, may say in our hearts “depart from me; for I am a sinful
man, O Lord”, as we may fear the inability to fulfill the requirement, Jesus states: “Fear
not…” (Luke 5:1-11). We do not have to separate ourselves from God, because of the fear
of failure. Like Peter, we may feel shame because of our failures and flawed human
nature. However, what is so encouraging to me, is that when we are in union with God
(exist “being one spirit”), there is no condemnation (Rom. 8:1), as the same Spirit that
raised Jesus from the dead is continuously residing within us; progressively giving us Life
(Rom. 8:11). Such a powerful reality; and through this, God is continuously making us
come alive to the truth that God will enable us to “Turn into the Right Direction of the Living
Way/Path.” This is the beautiful hope, promises and destiny of 1 Cor. 6:14 & Rom. 8:10-11
for us all!”]
Now most Christians are not normally taught this. The words, “your body (or: the body of you folks) is a temple of the set-apart spirit (or: a sanctuary belonging to the Holy Spirit),” often seem to be only “mouthed,” or are that to which assent is given, and then passed over without further meditation upon the proclamation. But Paul is going to great lengths to enlighten them as to their new existential situation. They need to be living like they are God’s house; His new creation; His special possession. Conzelmann makes a cogent observation: “The body is the place and the means of glorifying God” (ibid p 113). They had been “jointly roused and raised (or: suddenly awakens and raises) [us] up, and caused [us] to sit (= enthroned) together within the things situated upon [thus, above] the heavens” (Eph. 2:6). If this attitude permeated them, there would be no thought of prostitution or idolatry. [Editor’s paraphrased/bolded note:
“And when this attitude (i.e., God’s Sacred Breath-effect/Spirit inhabiting us and making
us alive in Christ) permeates us (individually and corporately), an attitude that we have
received from God’s indwelling, so that we who are in union with Christ are a ‘new
creation…having a fresh character and a new quality’ (e.g., 2 Cor. 5:17), there will be no
thought of prostitution or idolatry. This, too, is our hope, promise and destiny. Truly a
manifestation of God’s Glory!”]
May God’s goodness overwhelm you,
[with added insights and editing by Joshua Mitchell]
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GOD'S MESSAGE OF
WHICH BRINGS GOD'S
GIFTS OF HIS SPIRIT,
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FAIRNESS, HIS PEACE
AND HIS LOVE