Thursday, January 30, 2014

Corinth's Communion (part 14)

Continuing in this stream of thought, Paul goes on to write “Or do you not know that anyone who is united with a prostitute is one body with her?  For it is said ‘The two will become one flesh.’” (1 Corinthians 6:16)  Paul then hammers home the communal aspect of his use of “body,” thus enabling us to read “But the one united with the Lord is one spirit with Him” (6:17).  To this is then added “Flee sexual immorality!” (6:18a)  Having made this statement, Paul goes on to quote what must have been a portion of what has been reported to him about this church, writing “Every sin a person commits is outside of the body” (6:18b). 

This seems to have unavoidable communal implications, as if Paul was being informed that practices in which some were engaging, which it could be argued did not rightly bear out the image of the Creator God as was intended for ambassadors of the kingdom of that God that had been established upon the earth, should not have a negative effect on the way that Paul views this church or the way that the church is viewed by the community in which it is present---especially if the practices would not necessarily have been considered scandalous to the observing community or if it might have been proposed that such practices were a means of outreach and inclusion of all and sundry in the mold of Jesus’ inclusion, at His tables, of those outside the boundaries of the covenant people. 

To this, Paul replies “but the immoral person sins against his own body” (6:18c).  The use of “immoral” is clearly linked with the previously referenced sexual immorality and the mention of prostitutes, while the use of “body,” taking into consideration the union and uniting aspects that Paul has already mentioned, should be taken as a reference to the church.  Therefore, Paul’s critique asks to be understood as a critique of practices that are allowed to take place within the church (and not necessarily personal practices of individuals in their “private lives”), with these practices causing the church as a body to fall short of its responsibility to bear the image of the Creator God, which it can only do as it imitates Jesus---seeing the Father in Him and in the deeds and practices of His ministry. 

Naturally, Paul is not buying their argument, so the dissertation closes with Paul writing “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  For you were bought at a price.  Therefore glorify God with your body” (6:19-20).  With this, there are obvious and unmistakably individual and corporate applications and implications.  Clearly, if all of this is considered within the responsibility of the church and its members to be the representatives of a kingdom (a community), one is not to be separated from the other.  

Returning to the thirteenth verse then, it is most interesting to note that talk of prostitutes and sin and the body follows immediately after “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both” (6:13a), which in turn follows Paul’s rejoinders of “but not everything is beneficial” and “but I will not be controlled by anything” (6:12b,d), which are his apparent responses to the statement that has come to him (again, presumably from this church) that “All things are lawful for me” (6:12a,c).  The juxtaposition of an elaboration on what is lawful, beneficial, controlling, and food, against a statement about sexual immorality and the body, cannot help but cause one to consider yet another common and accepted aspect of ancient meal practice upon which this study has yet to elaborate.  This situating of content concerning sexual morality (or immorality) in the context of food considerations and meal practice may be quite telling for an understanding of the issues at hand in the church at Corinth.

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