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Let’s take our Bibles and turn to the Book of the Revelation. As you’re doing that, I just want to echo as what Mark said earlier, we thank the Lord for seven years of great faithfulness to the church here. We believe that the future will even be greater than the past, and we’re excited about that and we give all the praise to him.
Revelation 2:18. We’re coming to take a further look at the church at Thyatira. We’re continuing on in our sermon, When Tolerance Becomes Intolerable. Here’s what the Lord Jesus says to this church in Thyatira chapter 2, verse 18, “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet like fine brass: I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. Nevertheless, I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce my servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.
Indeed, I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am he who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps my words until the end, to him I will give power over the nations. He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels as I also have received from my Father; and I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'”
When tolerance becomes intolerable. The young fella saw a pack of cigarettes lying on the ground. He’d never smoked before and so he thought he’d experiment. He ducked into a field just beside his home, and after some fumbling attempts, he got one lit. It didn’t taste too good as he thought. He coughed a little, his throat was burning, but it made him feel very macho. But out of the corner of his eye, he saw his father coming. And so he put the lit cigarette behind his back and acted all innocent.
Desperate to divert his father’s attention, he pointed to a billboard not far from their home that was advertising a circus that was coming to town. And he said, “Daddy, can we go?” The father quietly but firmly replied, “Son, never make a petition while at the same time trying to hide a smoldering disobedience.” I think the father was getting smoke signals that gave the son away.
Despite all the good things that were present in the life of the church at Thyatira, things that Jesus himself commands, doesn’t he hear their works, their service, their love, their faith, their patience? Despite all these things that are commendable, there was a smoldering disobedience that collided everything, that threatened to blot out the sunshine of God’s favor towards this church in Asia Minor. And before another prayer was to be prayed, before another deed was to be done, before another gift was to be given, this smoldering disobedience had to be stamped out, much like a man would stamp on a cigarette butt.
They were tolerating what Christ find intolerable. They were putting up with a woman whom Jesus labels as Jezebel, because he reminds her of the Old Testament Jezebel, a wicked woman who led the people of God astray, and this woman was doing this same thing in this new covenant community. She called herself a prophetess, and she encouraged and seduced and taught that it was okay for Christians to commit sexual immorality, and to eat things that had been sacrificed to idols. But that was not the case and Jesus begins to address that, doesn’t he? In verse 20, after commending them, he censors them. And if you were with us last week, we saw the progression in verse 19 and then we started to look at the transgression in verse 20, and that’s where we’re at this morning.
If you’re to visitor with us this morning, you’ll find that our modus operandi here at Kindred is just to start somewhere in a book or a section of the Bible and work our way through it, overturning every stone and meditating upon every line and precept. Now, we looked at this transgression that the Lord Jesus quickly and vocally identifies here. We saw the deception involved, didn’t we? Last week, we noted that this woman seduced God’s servants, perhaps through an exaggerated view of grace, perhaps through a doctrine of dualism that the spirit was more important than the body, or perhaps she intimidated them with this form of spiritual elitism. She had got a word from the Lord that they hadn’t God and so they’d better listen to her, and it led them astray. She advocated that it was okay for a Christian to have one foot in the church and one foot in the world.
She taught a certain dualism or dichotomy that there’s a neither and a or part to the Christian life, and both and and part to the Christian life, that you can worship God in your spirit and sin with him in your body. And the Lord Jesus Christ shows how that is incompatible with both the word as we find it in the Scriptures and certainly incompatible with him as the living Word. There’s to be no compartmentalization of the Christian life. He’s the Lord of all of our lives, all of our thoughts, all of our actions, our body and our soul in totality. But we’re picking up where we left off. You not only have the deception, we now move on. In looking at this transgression, we see a second thing, what I call the disloyalty. This disloyalty centers on this church’s lack of action, in feeling to remove this cancer from the body life of the church.
Jesus condemns him for that, doesn’t he? In verse 20, “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to lead my people astray.” They were making allowances for that which Christ found intolerable. They were turning a blind eye to that which he who has the eyes as a flame of fire could not easily look upon. There was disloyalty here, moral [inaudible 00:07:59] that led Christ to challenge this church, and in my view, he lays the charge of disloyalty at the feet of the church leaders. In verse 20, the word you is in the singular, it’s a singular pronoun, and it may well point to the fact that Jesus is directing this to the leader of the congregation. That’s the angel or the messenger, possibly the pastor of the church in Thyatira in verse 18.
Interestingly, some commentators have argued that Jezebel may very well be the wife of the senior pastor. In fact, there’s some manuscripts that aren’t accepted by all, but there’s a few Greek manuscripts that include the possessive pronoun “your” in verse 20. So it would read like this, “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you, the pastor, the messenger, the angel at the church at Thyatira, because you allow your woman Jezebel, who claims to be a prophetess.” Now it’s not a hill we’re going to die on. If you want to write a PhD on it, go ahead, I’ll be interested to listen or to learn, but we know this, there’s a good chance that Jesus is chastising the leadership. And if he isn’t, then he’s chastising the church more broadly by implication. The greatest onus and the greatest responsibility falls upon the leadership to guard the life and the legacy of this church.
And so there’s disloyalty here. Sin and heresy had found an open gate into the church life at Thyatira. The leadership had been falling down on the job. Why hadn’t somebody confronted her? Maybe they had, maybe she had promised some repentance and they were waiting, but that repentance hadn’t come and they didn’t want to go back and poke that hornet’s nest again. And so perhaps there was a failure in terms of [inaudible 00:10:04]. Perhaps some favoritism was at work here. If it was the pastor’s wife, perhaps it was a lack of discernment on the part of the leadership. But the guardians of the truth, the elders and the pastors of this church, had gone AWOL and they had allowed the Trojan horse of false theology to now live inside this assembly. What the church at Ephesus had guarded itself against, the church at Thyatira had left itself unguarded.
We saw it, didn’t we, last time that Jesus commends the church at Ephesus because they were on their guard? Jesus says in verse 2 of chapter 2, “I know your works, your labor, your patience, that you cannot bear those who are evil and you have tested those who say they’re apostles and have found them to be liars.” They wouldn’t suffer error at Ephesus, which opened them up to the sin of cold judgementalism and heartlessness, but they were guarding the gate while the church at Thyatira had left the gate open. I’m not going to belabor this point other than to remind ourselves that it is one of the roles of the leaders of a church. It’s my role. It’s the pastors of this church’s role. It’s the elders, collectively together, their role also to guard the gate to this church, to protect it against sin, against false theology, against that which draws us away from simplicity in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The elder has a twofold role according to Titus 1:9, if you want to turn there. The twofold role includes that he must know, live, and teach the gospel, and on the other hand, he must contradict those who teach a false gospel, another gospel. What does Titus say? Titus 1:9, “Holding fast,” speaking of elders, “the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convince those who contradict.
John Calvin said, “A pastor needs two voices, one for gathering the sheep and the other for driving away the wolves and the thieves. The scriptures supply him with the means for doing both.”
Well, in fact, one of the titles of a pastor is what? An overseer. You read about that in Hebrews chapter 13 or 1 Peter 5, or Acts chapter 20. The word overseer is the Greek word episcopals from which we get Episcopalian, that’s a body of churches that are under the authority of bishops, overseers, that’s one of the mark of an Episcopalian church. The word means to oversee, to watch, to stand guard upon. And you know what? You need to pray for us and you need to submit yourself to us as we seek to guard the gate. We watch what’s being read, what’s being studied, who’s being listened to because you and I need to remember Jesus warned us again and again that we need to beware of false teachers, of wolves in sheep’s clothing. And that’s why it’s so naive for people to say, as some people have said to me, “Pastor, why don’t you just preach positively? Why do you call out some religions? Why did you point out errors here and attach it to certain churches there?” Because that’s my role.
The Bible says here in Titus 1 that one of the roles of a pastor is to convince those who contradict. It’s to stand in the way and in the face of false teachers and it’s to warn God’s people of the danger. It’s the role of the shepherd, not just to feed the sheep, but to make sure that they don’t become food for ravenous wolves. That’s why John Stott, in fact, speaking on this verse in Titus 1:9 says this, “The emphasis is unpopular today. It is frequently said that pastors must always be positive and their teaching never a negative, but those who say this either have not read the New Testament, or having read it, they have ignored it. For the Lord Jesus and his apostles gave the example and even set forth the obligation to be negative in refuting error. It is possible that the neglect of this ministry is one of the major causes of theological confusion in the church today.”
What does Paul say to the Philippians concerning the Judaizers in Philippians 3:2? “Beware of the dogs.” Was kind of pun. The Judaizers looked upon the Gentiles as dogs, but Paul said they’re theological dogs, they’re rabid and they’ll give you theological rabies. Beware of the dogs. What did he say to the Galatians? “Beware. Even if an angel or someone coming in the name of the apostles come and preaches another gospel, let them be anathema, cursed, damned.” The church must always be on its guard.
I may have told you before of an old pastor in Belfast in Northern Ireland, where I grew up. He was the pastor for many years of the Temple Moore Hall in the east of the city. And even if he wasn’t preaching and for a while after he had retired, he would often sit in a large armchair behind the visiting speaker. And if he didn’t like what he heard, he had a little bit of a walking stick and he would wrap them on the ankles and he would say, “That’s enough of that.” It may be eccentric, it may even be wrong, but you know what? Metaphorically, it’s a great picture. Every pastor needs to stand up high with a big stick and say, “That’s enough of that. That’s undermining the glory of Christ. That’s leading our people away from the truth. That’s a danger. That’s a virus that we mustn’t allow to infect the body life of this church.” Do you see the deception? Do you see the disloyalty? Thirdly, do you see the delay?
The Lord Jesus is on the war path, that’s for sure. “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you. You allow this woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce my servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent.” Isn’t that so much like the Lord Jesus? We marvel at God’s long-suffering impatience, don’t we? “I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality.” Jesus just didn’t go in and cut Jezebel off of the knees. As grotesque and heinous as her sin was, he give her time to repent. He showed grace. He offered mercy, but she did not repent.
“Indeed, I will cast her into a sick bed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death.” He’s on the war path. Some serious stuff coming down on this church, but there is a delay. He is against those who are putting up with the woman who is against him and he is against her and those who have made their bed alongside her. Nevertheless, before he raises his hand in judgment, he holds out that hand in promised forgiveness. God’s hand of justice is being restrained by the arm of his long-suffering.
We all know that verse or we should know that verse and 2 Peter 3:9, where Peter’s been talking about the promised coming again of the Lord Jesus, the day of the Lord and a deluge of God’s wrath being visited upon the earth and the scoffer says, “Oh, you’ve been saying this forever and it’s never happened and it’s never going to happen.” And Peter says, “Here’s your mistake. The Lord’s not slack concerning his promise, he intends to do this.” The great storm of God’s wrath is gathering and someday it will break, but don’t misunderstand. The Lord is long-suffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved. And the reason God’s hand has not been lifted in judgment upon this nation and other nations is because the arm of his long-suffering is holding it back. That you might be saved, that you might indeed close in with the overtures of God’s Spirit and the overtures of God’s grace in your life. The judgment will come, but not until God has given you ample time to repent. God’s merciful delay is not the same as God shrugging his shoulders and walking away in disgust. Time is being given to you to repent, but remember that mercy rejected is judgment invited. Mercy rejected is judgment invited, and the sun someday will set upon mercy’s length in the day and the sun will rise to the gathering clouds of God’s judgment. And my call to you is Jesus’ offer to Jezebel, repent. Because every day you put it off brings you closer and closer to the jaws of death and hell itself, and every day you feel to repent, you make it harder for yourself to repent because you’ve got more sins to repent of and less days to repent in with a harder heart to repent with.
Jesus said, you know what? “I gave her time to repent.” He’s giving you time to repent. My friend, if you feel to receive the Lord Jesus Christ or even as a Christian, if you feel to turn from a path of sin, you’re inviting God’s discipline and the unbelievers inviting God’s endless wrath. And Christ’s strongest threat to the saboteurs in this church, concerns not so much their sin but their reluctance to repent. If you do nothing about your sin, God will do something about your sin. In fact, he has done something about your sin in the person of the Lord Jesus. He has judged it in him so that if you’re in him, you will not be judged. To them that in Christ there’s therefore now no condemnation. He has done something in Christ about your sin, but if you willfully love your sin too much to worship God, then you will be left looking into the face of an angry God. You say, “Pastor, are you sure?” I’m sure.
Over in Hebrews 10:26, the writer to the Hebrews gives this warning: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there is no longer remains a sacrifice for sin.” He’s saying this, if you and I having come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ as the full and final sacrifice for sin, as the one great high priest and mediator between God and man, that’s the thesis of the Book of Hebrews. If we willfully sin and we have received this knowledge but willfully sin, turn our back on the offer of God’s mercy in the blood of Jesus Christ, there therefore remains no more sacrifice of sin. It’s simply a way of saying there’s no other way, there’s no other salvation, there’s no other option. You missed that road and you have missed it buddy. And here’s what it says, “After that, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fiery indignation of God which will devour his adversaries.”
Listen, to do nothing about our sin is to inadvertently do something. It’s to invite the wrath of God and it’s to invite the work of Satan. It is Satan who whispers in your ear, “Not today, tomorrow. Not this week, next week.” In fact, I came across a story that struck me of. An atheist in Finland who steered in his will that he wanted to leave his farm to the devil. And when the man died, the legal system dumbfound as to what to do, began to discuss and deliberate the man’s will and they come up with this decision. The best way to carry out the farmer’s wishes was just to let the farm be, just let it fall into disrepair. And so the barns weren’t painted and the house wasn’t maintained and the weeds overgrew the fields and the fences. When the pronouncement was made, the court declared “the best way to let the devil have possession of anything is to do nothing”.
“I give her time to repent, but she did nothing,” which invites the work of Satan and invites the wrath of God. Do you see the deception? Do you see the disloyalty? Do you see the delay? Let’s make a start this morning. We’ll finish this next week at the discipline. “I gave her time to repent, but she didn’t.” So what happens? There’s this promise of judgment, discipline.
I think there’s a mixed audience here. I don’t think Jezebel was a believer, so she’s facing the wrath of God and the judgment against her sin apart from Jesus Christ, but I do believe there were some believers caught up in her sin. Jesus recognized the fact that “she deceived my servants”. And so along with her, there are some who are being promised certain discipline, temporary discipline, even to the point of death in the life of a Christian because we are told, aren’t we, in 1 John 5:16, that a Christian can sin so willfully and so egregiously that they sin a sin onto death, that the Lord will terminate the life of a Christian because they’re bringing such distribute to the church, such disloyalty to the gospel. And this is what’s going on here. He’s going to send her to hell and he’s going to dispatch some believers to heaven maybe earlier than would’ve been expected, which raises an interesting thought that there are Christians who although forgiven are going to heaven, and going to heaven are too sinful to stay on earth. And so you have this discipline here.
Indeed, verse 22, “I will cast her into a sick bed and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation unless they repent of their deeds, and I will kill her children. It could be her physical children, because remember sexual immoralities involved here, and so some children have come of these illicit unions, but probably not. I think we’re speaking of her spiritual children, those who have followed her doctrine. I mean that’s a way the Bible talks about disciples or followers. I mean, when John writes his letters, what does he say? “My little children.” He’s not speaking about his physical offspring, he’s speaking about those who have come to Christ under his ministry, who are under his fatherly care.
So here we have this discipline that’s been extended to those who along with Jezebel have been caught up in this sin. The cancer has to be cut away, the life of this church cut out, done away with because although God’s judgment is not swift, it is sure. God is slow to anger, but in time his anger comes to a boil, then it will spill over. There are limits to the Lord’s patience, so let’s not test those limits.
Now, what’s striking here is that Christ is utterly committed to the purity of his church. I mean, this is strong language, isn’t it? “I’m going to put her in a sick bed. I’m going to throw all those into great tribulation and I’m going to kill her children.” This isn’t the Jesus meek and mild we keep hearing about. “Oh, Jesus wouldn’t do that. Jesus wouldn’t judge people.” Oh, crikey! Come on, come on. Read your Bible and pray every day that God would give you wisdom to see this. He who died for the church will kill that which threatens the life of his church. The Christian and the church need therefore to be constantly killing sin or sin will be killing us, or failure to kill sin will invite a radical discipline on the part of Christ that may even lead to us being killed. The sin onto death.
We’ve got the Corinthians falling asleep, which is a euphemism for death. In 1 Corinthians 11:29-30, they’re falling asleep because of what? Their abuse of the Lord’s table. There are Christians, as I’ve said, who although forgiven and going to heaven are in danger of falling into sin to such an extent that the Lord won’t let them stay on earth. But I need to get to a point here for the last 10 minutes, but I do want to underscore something we’ve underscored before because it is striking. The striking thing about this section is that the greatest threat to the church in Asia Minor was the sin on the inside, not persecution, censorship or opposition of the world on the outside. Taken as a whole, these letters disturbingly present Jesus killing or threatening to take out of circulation some churches and some Christians inside the church.
In fact, as I read over this again on Friday, at least in the short snippet at the beginning, I realized it’s only a window of time. There are more Christians being threatened to die at Christ’s hands and at the hands of an angry society. Well, we’ve only got one martyr there mentioned. Antipas. “My servant Antipas has given his life.” Now, the Church of Smyrna were saying you need to be faithful onto the death, which seems to indicate that some of them were maybe facing the possibility of martyrdom, but boy, to the church at Ephesus, Jesus said, “I’m going to take away your lampstand.” To the church at Pergamos he says, “I’m going to come and fight against you with the sword of my mouth.” And here to the church at Thyatira, “I’m going to put her in a sick bed. I’m going to put some of those in great tribulation and the children I’m going to kill.” Serious stuff, serious stuff. The greatest threat to the church is the church.
This church will die because of our prayerlessness, our lack of grace, our lack of giving, our worldliness, our aligned false doctrine that permeate the life of the church, formality, apostacy, sexual immorality. These are the things that Jesus says in these letters that kill a church. And we better be killing sin or sin will be killing us. The greatest threat to the church is the church.
In fact, former prime minister of Israel, Shimon Peres, spoke as part of the distinguished lecture series at the University of Texas in Tyler February 19, 1999, and here’s what he said: “I’ve heard someone say it’s only the communists who will bring down communism.” And in the end, isn’t that exactly what happened? Who brought down communism? Yeah, in Southern California we think Ronald Reagan did, but he had a part in it and certainly the bravery of our soldiers and the resilience of our government to fight the Cold War. But really beneath it all, the people got sick of the hypocrisy and the emptiness of the communist system and they brought it down. They pushed the walls over between East Germany and West Germany. Seems to me that that may hold true for us, that the church may be the ones that kill the church.
But here’s a poem. I’ll just take up about eight minutes here to get into this a little bit. I want you to see how Jesus looks upon this sin. The sin that really is, although mentioned earlier, alongside the eating of things sacrificed to idols, the sin that’s again set out and violently visited upon is the sin of sexual immorality. Verse 21, “And I give her time to repent of her sexual immorality.” I think you and I want to see how deadly the sin of sexual immorality is in the life of the church as considered from Christ’s perspective. He vigorously and violently comes across against this sin.
This is the Greek word porneia from which we get our English word pornography. It speaks of illicit sexual activity before, within, and outside of heterosexual marriage. It’s a word that came to mean by consistent use throughout the New Testament, premarital, extramarital, unnatural sexual intercourse beyond the Christian norm. It speaks of fornication, adultery, homosexuality, lesbianism, pedophilia, bestiality, pornography and lustful masturbation. All those things are poured into this idea. She must repent of her sexual immorality, her pornea, her disgusting behavior that transgresses the Christian norm concerning sex and sexuality. Jesus condemns it and he goes to war on, “I’m going to cast her into a sick bed.” It’s kind of an irony. We’ll come back to it next week. “Be sure your sins will find you out. What you sow you’ll reap.”
“She was in a bed of sin; I’m going to put her into a bed of suffering.” A bed of sin, a bed of suffering. This is serious stuff. “I’m going to cast others into great tribulation and because of this and the life of my church, I’m going to kill some children of hers.” Those are followers and disciples. You and I want to grasp the serious nature of this.
In fact, just beginning right now for a few minutes and then we’ll really take this up next Sunday morning. I want us to go on a little bit of an excursion in 1 Corinthians chapter 6, and I want us to see this worked out again in the life of another church and see how serious sexual sin is. In fact, I don’t have time to establish this. We’ll leave this to next week. I want to make one point, but I’m going to establish for you next week that sexual sin is a serious sin. In fact, I think it’s a greater sin than some other sins. Hopefully that’ll raise your level of interest because I think there’s an idea today in the church, “All sin’s sin, isn’t it, pastor? So whether I have sex outside of marriage or I speak a word in anger, it’s all sin. No difference.” No, it’s not true. Not all sins are equal. They’re all heinous and they’re all damnable, but they’re not all equal in character or cost or consequence.
I think sexual sin is a particularly heinous sin. It destroys people’s bodies. It mangles relationships. It destroys children, it brings disease, brings death and divorce. It’s a heinous sin. And we’re going to see it worked out in the life of the church at Corinth and how serious a sin it is. And there’s some interesting parallels because this was a church in a sexually charged culture. This was a church according to 1 Corinthians 5, that was a [inaudible 00:35:43] of sexual sin to spread, and this was a church that wasn’t dealing with sin in the assembly. There was a certain brother who had done something that even the Gentiles would whisper about. He had been with his father’s wife, incest in the church, and they hadn’t put him out. And we’ll look at this more fully next week, but this is a very important passage.
Indulge me for a couple of minutes here. 1 Corinthians chapter 6. In fact, we’ll just read it quickly and then I’m just going to make one point which will hopefully hook our interest to come back and hear the rest next week. In 1 Corinthians 6:12, Paul says, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 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 harlot? Certainly not!”
It’s kind of very strong, God forbid, unthinkable. But the unthinkable is happening with greater rapidity in the church today.
Look at verse 16, “Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot…” And while Paul’s addressing the issue of harlotry or prostitution, don’t be limited into that. He’s just talking about any illicit sexual relationship. Just that in this city, harlotry and prostitution was very rife. In Corinth, you had the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess to sex and love, and there were a thousand temple prostitutes that served the men of that city. And some of the brothers at Corinth were struggling. They’d come out of that lifestyle. Were they gone back to it? Were some of them fallen back into it? We can’t be sure, but Paul’s addressing this head on and he says, “Look, if you join yourself to a harlot, you’re one body with her. The two shall become one.” Isn’t it what Genesis says? Look at verse 17. “But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.”
Just put a footnote there. This is identifying the uniqueness to sexual sin. We’ll explain this next week, but he said, “Hey, there’s certain sins you do outside your body. This is one you do with your body.” Sexual sin is a great sin, even a greater sin for some reasons we’ll look at next week. Look at verse 19, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit whose you are, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”
I’m just going to look at one thing for five minutes, but the thing that strikes me is there’s five reasons for sexual sin here being so grieve and grievous. I’ll just line them. We’ll look at the first one. Sexual sin is greave and grievous because we commit sexual sin with a body that’s destined for heaven. And when we commit sexual sin, we join Christ to our sin. How grievous is that? And when we commit sexual sin, we will pay a heavier price than with other sins physically and psychologically. When we commit sexual sin, we defile the temple of God. We commit sacrilege. And when we commit sexual sin, we defraud the very Son of God who bought us with his blood. This is a serious sin.
Here’s the first thought. When we commit sexual sin with our bodies, we commit sexual sin with a body that’s destined for heaven. Look at verses 13 and 14, 13 and 14. This is Paul’s argument here as he addresses this issue, “Foods for the stomach and the stomach for food, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise up us by his power.”
This church was in the Corinthian culture, a Greek culture where many people thought little of the body. We’re back to this Greek dualism. Remember we talked about it a little bit. There was this kind of thought among Greek philosophers that you know what? The body is really a sack of dung. It’s just a ball in a chain. It houses the spirit. It’s a street jacket. Someday we’ll throw it off. What counts is the spirit. The body doesn’t count. And there was a certain disdain, therefore, and disregard for the body. The body was a prison house of the soul. Listen to one of their philosophers. “I am a per soul shackled to a corpse.” He meant his body’s like a corpse. He’s carrying about this dead weed. The sooner he can get rid of it the better. And therefore the body had no moral significance and someday it would be shed. And therefore it was simply a biological entry. Mark that. It was simply a biological entry, a physical mechanism, a physical machine. Therefore, what you did with it and what you did to it didn’t really count in the long run.
And so sex was put into this category of being simply a physical act, a biological function. Does that start to ring a bell with our culture? See, the more pluralistic we become, the more pagan we become. We’re buying into new age and Greek mythology and theology. And so the Corinthians had this idea that sex is simply a physical act, a biological function, not unlike eating and sleeping. And you hear that today, don’t you? “What’s the big deal about sex? You know we’ve got all sorts of appetites. When I’m hungry, I eat. When I’m thirsty, I drink. And when I’m lonely, I have sex. I satisfy that appetite, I satisfy that idea.” And Paul picks that up, you see? “Food for the stomach, stomach for the food.” But Paul goes going to say, “Of course that’s true. We have appetites, but remember these are certain bodily functions that’s going to end at the resurrection.” Some things are going to be destroyed, but not our bodies. Not our bodies. That’s Paul’s point.
He picks this thought up and he reminds the Corinthian believers that while food is in the stomach, the stomach will perish, but the body will not perish in its entirety. Our bodies belong to the Lord. And the Lord has big plans for our bodies, doesn’t he? “He who raised the Lord up,” verse 14, “is going to raise us up.” God’s not going to discard our bodies, therefore we shouldn’t despise our bodies. We should treat them with dignity. We should make them subject to the will of the one to whom they belong. We should present our bodies, as Paul says, as living sacrifices in an act of worship because God never intended us to be soulless creatures. In the next life we’ll have bodies. In fact, you’ll have the same body but just better. That’ll encourage you. Of course your body will be reconfigured. It will die. It will be ground to dust. But the Bible says our bodies will be resurrected. The same body will be reconfigured, reconstructed after the image of Christ’s glorious body, Philippians 3:20-21. And you get the point as we close.
Obedience or disobedience is expressed in our bodies. Our obedience to God can’t be expressed anywhere else. Our bodies are important to God. They are eternally significant. And therefore, obedience in the life of a Christian is a body activity. Present your bodies, not just your thoughts and your emotions, your body, the totality of who you are, your hands and your feet, every part of you. If I may say it with all respect, even your sexual organs. All of your body must be presented to God as an act of worship because God’s got big plans for your body. In fact, we’ll see later on. It’s the very temple in which his Spirit dwells. Jesus bought it and intends to redeem it and turn it into a glorious body fashioned after his.
Obedience is a total body workout. And that’s why sex outside of marriage is a no-no. Sex as a result is more than a biological function. From a Christian perspective, it’s an act of worship dedicated to the one who formed and fashioned our bodies to reflect his glory. The body is not for immorality, it’s for the Lord. Our bodies are not to be despised. They are not dispensable. They are the very instrument by which we serve God now and the very instrument by which we will reflect his glory forever.
So Paul says, “Don’t give me this stuff. Food for the stomach, stomach for food.” As if sex is just a appetite issue or a biological function. Nothing in the Christian life is not sacred. Obedience is a total body workout.
Baseball great Mickey Mantle was in his early 80s when he said this, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I would’ve taken better care of myself.” My friend, we are going to live forever. And although this body in a sense is going to disintegrate and die, in another sense, even this body will be reunited to it when it’s being glorified. And so we need to take care of these bodies because they’re going to live forever and they have eternal significance and God has eternal purposes for them. And the last thing we should do with them is lie down with someone in a bed outside the will of God.
Listen to C. S. Lewis. “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations, these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. Their life is as a life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, exploit, immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” There’s only two kinds of people someday after the resurrection. Those who are everlasting horrors and those who are everlasting splendors patterned after the Lord Jesus. Let’s pray.
Lord, we thank you for much, it’s very impacting and penetrating this morning from this letter. Lord, guard us as a church against false teachers and false teaching. Help us not to be naive enough to believe that what befell the church at Thyatira couldn’t befall the church at Kindred. May we as a body of elders, have our antenna up and our eyes peeled. Help us to be strong and bold, committed to the gospel, able to refute those who contradicted.
O God, we thank you for your mercy, your patience. And if there’s someone here this morning who has not repented, Lord, you’ve given them time to repent, may they repent today. As a believer, may they repent so they may indeed store your discipline in their life. And if they’re without Jesus Christ, may they repent lest they tumble into hell forever.
O God, help us to take sin seriously. Help us to take sexual sin very seriously. O God, help us to have a Christian view of the body. Lord, help us to take care of it. It’s ours forever and you’ve got great plans and purposes for it. Help us not therefore to prostitute that body with a prostitute or with sexual sin. The body belongs to the Lord and it is not for sexual immorality. Lord, help us to live as those who someday will live as everlasting splendors. And everybody said, amen.