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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 6:15-16 United with a prostitute?

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, January 20, 2023

15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that when a man is united with a prostitute he becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”

About Temple Prostitution in Corinth:

The ancient geographer Strabo wrote: “The temple of Aphrodite [in Corinth] was so rich that it owned more than a thousand temple slaves, courtesans, whom both men and women had dedicated to the goddess. And therefore it was also on account of these women that the city was crowded with people and grew rich; for instance, the ship captains freely squandered their money, and hence the proverb, ‘Not for every man is the voyage to Corinth.’” (Book VIII 6:20). However, Strabo was writing about the Corinth that was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC, not necessarily the rebuilt Corinth (44 BC) that was by this time just a little more than a hundred years old. Was temple prostitution still all the rage in Corinth? One answer seems to be here in this passage. While Paul mentions sexual immorality as a sin common to the churches and to people everywhere (Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 5:9; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3), this is the only letter where Paul mentions prostitution. It is likely, even almost certain, that this temptation had re-asserted itself, at least as a sideshow of temple worship if no longer directly a part of it.

Adam’s poetic declaration at his wedding was that the woman “is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). Adam was saying firstly that the woman, “bone of my bones,” came from him. He understood her origin and praised God for it. Secondly, Adam was saying with this superlative that she was the best of his bones; the best of what was inside him. Thirdly, he acknowledged Eve as a continuing part of him. She was not his bone only formerly, but still: She was a part of him and he a part of her just as if they shared all of their bones together, for they were one and not two. Fourthly, Adam said that Eve was the best of his flesh, and therefore a continuing part of his flesh. Fifthly, through this bones / flesh declaration, Adam understood that Eve was for him the thing that made him more than he had been when he was alone in the Garden (Genesis 2:20). She was the best part of him, whether of his bones (the inside of him) or his flesh (the outside of him). She was the best part of his structure, his covering, himself.

This beautiful unity of marriage is given by Moses in his comment after recalling the marriage of Adam and Eve: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). So the union of the marriage also means the dissolution of part of a person’s early family life. The man removes his feet from beneath his father’s table, and he stretches them out under his own table. He and his wife have become their own family. His father is now someone he turns to for advice, but his father is not the head of the man’s household; the man is.

This union is a choice we make, but only in this sense: We may choose our spouse, although in some cultures a man’s wife is chosen for him. But we do not have the ability to say, “I will sleep with this girl and that girl, but I will not become one flesh with either one.” For it is the sexual act that makes one flesh, not a decision from the two who participate. There is no difference between a sexual act and a sexual union. Therefore Paul says: “Shall I take the members of my body—my body which belongs to Christ and is his temple—and unite them with a prostitute?”

The only difference between the union of marriage and a union with a prostitute (or any other sexual union apart from marriage) is that the present government doesn’t care and permits people, at least legally, to do as they please. But God’s will does not change with the whims of governments and their laws, just as other nation’s laws do not change with the whims of other governments (as one basketball player recently discovered).

Luther explained: “Let each one see to it that he remains with his wife and vice versa, and that both keep their bodies pure, not only outwardly but also that you may not set your heart upon another. They shall ‘become one flesh,’ it is said (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:6), and this they do on account of the first commandment: Fear God! What you must say is this: Even though I have chances to kick over the traces [be insubordinate to the law like a horse kicking its legs over the straps tied to the wagon], nevertheless, since God says, Fear me! I will not do it. Even though the government will not find it out, God who is above me will. Therefore I say, O my God, grant me grace that I may not fall and that I may keep my marriage pure. This means that you are to live chastely in your marriage, in body, words, gestures, and heart. That’s why God gave to each his spouse.”

The union of marriage is precious, delightful, fulfilling, unexpected, and a source of countless lifelong blessings. Except in very rare cases, those who are single should pursue marriage, striving above all for a Christian spouse, so that we may praise God with everything we say, think, and do. Let no one say, “I am not worthy of marriage,” as if they do not deserve God’s blessings. God will bless whom he blesses, and it is not for us to make that choice for him. But his will is that we will find a spouse to love, honor, support, and be faithful to until death. What a delight to walk in step with the holy will of God, to “walk according to the law of the Lord” (Psalm 119:1).

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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