First streamed on 2.22.23. First posted on 2.23.23. Also see the previous study on 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.
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What are we training for? What are we training for?
Are we training ourselves to be worldly, or are we training ourselves to be godly?
Are we training ourselves to resemble the culture, or are we training ourselves to resemble the Christ?
Do we have a healthy spiritual diet? Do we have a healthy spiritual exercise routine?
Are we disciplining ourselves to be good disciples?
We must train our hearts to surrender to the Savior. We must train our minds to be renewed by the Redeemer.
To be a good spiritual witness, we need good spiritual fitness. We need to be Cross Training – training ourselves to be like Christ.
But what are we training for? It seems to me that – whether we realize it or not – everyone is training for something.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but to be a good dancer, don’t you have to make it a habit of practicing your moves?
To be a good musician, don’t you have to make it a habit to practicing your notes?
To be a good choir, don’t you have to make it a habit of practicing your harmonies?
Whether you are in training for an academic competition, an athletic contest, or a promotion at work… whatever your objective is, to reach it, one has to develop and maintain good habits.
However, if we fail to develop and maintain good habits, this doesn’t just mean that we’re failing to meet a certain objective, it means that we are training ourselves for an altogether different objective. We are developing habits that lead to a different outcome.
For instance, if I have poor study habits, am I not training myself to be a poor student?
If I slack off in practice, am I not training myself to be a poor competitor?
If I’m always late to work and never follow directions, am I not training myself to be a poor employee?
If I sit at home and watch TV all day, am I not training myself to be a couch potato?
It seems to me that the habits we develop determine what we are training ourselves to be.
They can determine our destiny.
As it’s been said:
“Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character. Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny”.1
My brothers and sisters, if we have unhealthy habits spiritual habits, are we not training ourselves to be spiritually unhealthy?
If we have worldly habits, are we not training ourselves to be worldly?
But if our goal is godliness, should we not try to train ourselves to be godly (cf. 1 Tim 4:7)?
I argue that the word is telling us that we need to be Cross Training – training ourselves to be faithful followers of the Lord — disciplined disciples of the Divine.
You know, we used to say, “You gotta be in shape to worship at Alpha Baptist Church.” But, during the lockdowns, many may have fallen out of shape – in more ways than one.
And what’s more important than being in physical shape is being in spiritual shape.
Many may have gotten used to sitting on the couch rather than serving for the Christ. Many may have gotten used to constantly consuming cultural carbs and the sugar of sin… and, thus, have put on some worldly weight.
But we gotta be in shape to follow Christ.
Most of us can’t run around the sanctuary everyday. But everyday we should be running for the Savior.
But doing so takes stamina. You know, when giving up our dreams, things can get difficult. When trying to live holy, things can get hard. When carrying our cross, things can get heavy.
This is why we need to be Cross Training. To have perseverance, we need practice. To have endurance, we need exercise. To be disciples, we need discipline.
We need to be Cross-training so that we can be Cross-Fit.
Context: The Body Is A Temple
Now, before we get into our text for tonight, let’s first discuss the context. Context is always important.
Now, spiritually, the church in the city of Corinth was out of shape. As it’s been said, they were “spiritually flabby”.2
And if one just reads this letter to the Corinthians from start to finish (which is how letters are meant to be read) one will see that much of the Corinthians’ spiritual flab was due to idolatry (1 Corinthians 8) and sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 5; 6:9-20, 10:8).3
That said, as many of us know, even before the lockdowns, it was hard to get people to come out to church.
Now back in the day, from what I understand, one couldn’t do much on Sunday besides go to church.
The stores were closed on Sundays, wasn’t no little league on Sundays, wasn’t many other programs on Sundays.
But, nowadays, there isn’t much one couldn’t do on Sundays.
It’s hard to compete for people’s attention when there’s so many other things they can be doing.
And, if we’re honest, many of these other things seem a lot more appealing.
I know if I go past 8:00PM I’m creeping into television’s prime time. Nowadays, it’s hard for a guy talking about the Holy Word to compete with Hollywood.
And back then, in the first century, when the Corinthian church was only a few years old, they also had quite a bit of competition.
Now I realize that there may have some children watching. Thanks be to God. But, about such things, if we don’t teach the youth the truth, believe you me, the world will teach them falsehoods.
I say that because it’s important to understand that, back in Paul’s day, pagan temples not only had idols and altars to pagan gods, but they often had temple prostitutes4 (cf. 1 Cor 6:15-16).
Now could you imagine if there was a pagan temple, today, that offered legal, socially-acceptable prostitution? I doubt they would have any issues with attendance. I suspect those pews would be packed! I bet the line would be around the block.
Well, in the first century, Paul is living in a world where legal, socially acceptable prostitution was the norm at many pagan temples.
Yet, in stark contrast, Paul is preaching a message of spiritual and sexual purity.
So, can’t you see how it’d be hard to compete with pagan religions and their sex appeal?
You ever wonder why – in the Old Testament – the Israelites are apparently so easily enticed to worship other gods? Well, the worship of other gods often entailed sex!
Even in the Old Testament days, people would go to pagan temples and engage in ritual sex with temple prostitutes.
Now this ritual sex was thought to stimulate pagan gods like Baal and Asherah to have sex in heaven.5 And their sex was thought to stimulate procreation on earth – namely new births in flocks and herds, and new growth for crops.6
So sex was a common facet of idol worship.7 And it eventually became common in Israel.
For example, when King Josiah was enacting reforms in the Jerusalem, in 2 Kings 23:5-7, it says:
5 He did away with the idolatrous priests appointed by the kings of Judah to burn incense on the high places of the towns of Judah and on those around Jerusalem—those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and moon, to the constellations and to all the starry hosts. 6 He took the Asherah pole from the temple of the LORD [YHWH] to the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem and burned it there. He ground it to powder and scattered the dust over the graves of the common people. 7 He also tore down the quarters of the male shrine prostitutes that were in the temple of the LORD [YHWH], the quarters where women did weaving for Asherah. (2 Ki 23:5-7, NIV; cf. Amos 2:7-8)
You see, there was idol worship and pagan sexual rituals even in the Temple of the LORD!8
It gets so bad later in Israel’s history that fathers and sons were having sex with the same temple prostitute (Amos 2:7-8).9
Now, there isn’t much of such ritual sex and idol worship in our society today. But we know that our society still worships American idols. People idolize the stars on they see on the screen.
And, of course, Hollywood knows that sex sells. This is why they try to get our attention with sexy actors, sexyactresses, and gratuitous sex scenes.
And, we gotta be honest: it’s hard to compete with sex appeal.
As has been the case for millennia, God’s people have to stand for spiritual and sexual purity in a world where – sexually – almost anything goes.
While others are preaching promiscuity, pagan practices and self-indulgence, Paul is preaching the cross of Christ, wholesome holiness, and self-denial.
Now, for many, that’s a hard choice. But when we are Cross Training we have to exercise self-control.
But, apparently, the Corinthians were not. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5:1-2:
1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? (1 Cor 5:1-2, NIV; cf. 1 Cor 5:9-13, 6:9-11)
You know, many are also proud of their sexually immoral lifestyles today. But according the word of the Lord, the Creator of our bodies, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, sex should be between a husband and a wife. All else is sexual immorality.10
And, mind you, Paul is writing against sexual immorality in the church. The Corinthians were spiritually out of shape.
Furthermore, in Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus says:
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Mt 5:27-28, NIV)
In other words, Christ says that if a man even thinks about sex with a woman who’s not his wife, it’s sinful in God’s sight.
Now we know the corrupt culture hates Christians and the principles of the Prince of Peace, but we be cannot ashamed of the commands of Christ (lest we want Him to be ashamed of us on Judgment Day (Mk 8:38)).
In any case, Paul, who founded the Corinthian church, is trying to whip them back into shape. As it’s been said, “drastic times call for drastic measures.”
So, he says in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13:
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister a but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. (1 Cor 5:9-11, NIV)
12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” (1 Cor 5:12-13, NIV)
Now, church discipline is a topic I will save for another day. But I just want to briefly review some of the context concerning why 1 Corinthians was written. Context is always important.
Apparently, in the Corinthian context, many are celebrating those who are sexual immoral instead of putting them out of fellowship in order to bring about repentance (1 Corinthians 5).
And as he tries to whip them into spiritual shape, Paul quotes the Old Testament command repeated over and over in Deuteronomy, “Expel the wicked person from among you.” (Dt 13:5; 17:7; 19:19; 21:21; 22:21, 24; 24:7).11
Speaking of quotes, later in chapter 6, we find one of the most frequently used and abused quotes of Scripture: “the body is a temple”.
You may have heard that: we shouldn’t smoke because the body is a temple. We shouldn’t drink because the body is a temple. We shouldn’t eat unhealthy because the body is a temple.
But, context is important. Paul is not talking about our physical diet.
Starting at 1 Corinthians 6:16, Paul tells the church:
16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh [Gen 2:24].” 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. (1 Cor 6:16-17, NIV)
Continuing at verse 18, Paul writes:
18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Cor 6:18-20, NIV; cf. 1 Cor 3:16)
Brothers and sisters, regardless of what the wicked world tries to tell us, sex is not merely a physical act. When two people become one flesh (cf. 1 Cor 6:16; Gen 2:24), there is a union between more than just their bodies.12
Because sex is very sacred in God’s sight, apparently there is something very sinful about sexual immorality in God’s sight.
And we should flee from such sin because our body is a temple – a temple of the Holy Spirit.
Our bodies have been redeemed, thus our bodies belong to our Redeemer. And we must glorify God with our bodies.
And we body of believers (1 Cor 12:12f.; Col 1:18) need to keep the body in shape.
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2-22-23 Bible Study Slides 1 Corinthians 9_24-27
What are we training for? Are we training ourselves to resemble the culture or are we training ourselves to resemble the Christ?
Are we developing and maintaining worldly habits or are we developing and maintaining godly habits?
If we profess that “Jesus is Lord”, we ought to be Cross Training as hard as we can – training ourselves to be like Christ. Let’s give our everything to the One who gave us everything.
Paul says that we should run the Christian race as if we were trying to win first prize – a way that requires discipline and self-control.13
Moreso than physically, spiritually we have to stay in shape. We must train our hearts to surrender to the Savior. We must train our minds to be renewed by the Redeemer.
We must have a healthy, spiritual diet and exercise routine, so that we might bring every facet of our lives under control – for the sake of the Gospel – and with the help of the Holy Spirit.
And we do so not for earthly glory that fades, but everlasting glory that will never pass away.
Brothers and sisters:
We gotta run this race, and pick up the pace Keep your eyes on the prize; run to win first place Master your body, train yourself to be godly Don’t care if they stare or look at you oddly Because we’re disciples, a spiritual witness And we need discipline for spiritual fitness So, if you’re not maintaining or you think that you’ve lost it Let’s get back to Cross Training, so we can be Cross-Fit
- Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. [BDAG]
- Blomberg, Craig. 1 Corinthians. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994.
- Chilton, Bruce, Philip W. Comfort, and Michael O. Wise. “Temple, Jewish.” Dictionary of New Testament Background: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000. [DNTB]
- Ciampa, Roy E., and Brian S. Rosner. The First Letter to the Corinthians. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.
- Cross, F. L., and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. [ODCC]
- Davis, James A. “1-2 Corinthians.” In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, 3:958–97. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995.
- Dockery, David S., ed. Holman Bible Handbook. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992.
- Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology: Second Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001. [EDT]
- Fee, Gordon D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. Edited by Ned B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, Gordon D. Fee, and Joel B. Green. Revised Edition. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014.
- France, R. T. Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 1. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985.
- Freeman, James M., and Harold J. Chadwick. Manners & Customs of the Bible. North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998.
- Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Second Edition. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2014. [IVPB]
- Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993.
- Morris, Leon. 1 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 7. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985.
- Prior, David. The Message of 1 Corinthians: Life in the Local Church. The Bible Speaks Today. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985.
- Richards, E. Randolph, and Brandon J. O’Brien. Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012.
- Schreiner, Thomas R. 1 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary. Edited by Eckhard J. Schnabel. Vol. 7. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. London: Inter-Varsity Press, 2018.
- Silva, Moisés, ed. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014.
- Simmons, William A. Peoples of the New Testament World: An Illustrated Guide. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008.
- Stuart, Douglas K. Exodus. Vol. 2. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006.
- Taylor, Mark. 1 Corinthians. Edited by E. Ray Clendenen. Vol. 28. The New American Commentary. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2014.
- Thiselton, Anthony C. The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000.
- Vaughan, Curtis, and Thomas D. Lea. 1 Corinthians. Founders Study Guide Commentary. Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2002.
- Wallace, J. Warner. Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. David C. Cook. Kindle Edition. 2013.
- Water, Mark. The New Encyclopedia of Christian Quotations. Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd, 2000.
- Winter, Bruce. “1 Corinthians.” In New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, edited by D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, and G. J. Wenham, 4th ed., 1161–87. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.