Help for Fighting Lust: Applying the Gospel to Sexuality

The following is a guest post by Joe Tyrpak, Assistant Pastor of Tri-County Bible Church in Madison, Ohio.

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One of the great errors within modern biblical Christianity is a minimization of the Gospel. This often takes two correlating forms. First, the Gospel message focuses only on the sinner’s initial response to Christ; the Gospel is equated with, “Repent and believe.” (which is the biblical response to the Gospel). Second, Christians often think that the Gospel is intended only for non-Christians. They think that once a person believes in the Gospel, he/she is ready to move on to more meaty things.

However, according to Paul (and every other NT writer), the gospel message centers on the death and resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:3-4), and also encompasses the broader scope of His person and work: His eternal preexistence, His virgin birth, His sinless life, His substitutionary death, His actual burial, His bodily resurrection, and His certain coming to judge and reign. The good news also includes the Father’s sovereign election as well as the Spirit’s gracious application. All of these are facets of the gospel which Paul preached.

A very basic reading of the NT reveals that the Gospel is as critical for Christians as it is for non-Christians. When Christians were proud, Paul applied the Gospel more deeply to them (1 Cor. 1-4); when Christians were legalistic, Paul preached the Gospel to them again (Gal.); when Christians are tempted to live licentiously, Paul explored the Gospel implications in greater detail (Rom. 6). The Gospel should transform every aspect of a believer’s life, including his or her approach to sexuality.

How does the Gospel affect my approach to sex? I think that’s a question that most believers have never asked, a connection most believers have never explored. What does Jesus’ resurrection have to do with my sexuality? What does my union with Jesus Christ have to do with who I sleep with? We don’t readily see the relation. 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 is one of the clearest texts in which we learn how the Gospel relates to our sexuality.

Here’s a quick one-sentence overview of the paragraph: after confronting three Corinthian mottoes (6:12-13), Paul gives two commands (“Flee sexual immorality” in 6:18, “Glorify God in your body” in 6:20) which are rooted in four Gospel arguments. Got that? :) In other words, our responsibility to be sexually pure is rooted in four Gospel realities. Here is a quick description of the four “Gospel arguments” Paul uses to urge Christians to be sexually pure.

1. Your body will be raised (6:14). This one-verse preview of chapter 15 hints at the vast implications of our bodily resurrection. When you believed in Jesus, you were united with Jesus’ work-with his death, burial and resurrection. And because Jesus rose bodily from the grave, we will, too. Therefore, what we do with our bodies matters! The Gospel should change the way we view our bodies. Right now, they are decaying and dying, but that does not mean that we can trash them by how we live.

2. Your body is united with Jesus (6:15-18). We are united, not only with Jesus’ work (His death and resurrection), but also with Jesus Himself. Paul’s point in 6:15 is that our physical bodies are spiritually united to Christ. Then, after arguing that the Christian has a spiritual oneness with Christ, Paul argues that sexual intercourse expresses a physical oneness with one’s sexual partner (6:16). In light of these two realities, Paul exclaims: “Will you make Christ’s members one with a prostitute?!” The second argument, then, is this: your union with Christ should be a controlling factor in your sexual behavior.

3. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (6:18-19). Paul’s third argument for sexual purity is similar to his second: the Holy Spirit indwells every believer’s body. This is a Gospel reality for every Christian (cf. Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9-10). The Gospel message includes the Spirit’s gracious work of conviction, illumination, regeneration, baptism, sealing and indwelling. And these have implications for a believer’s practical sexuality! This means that our bodies are the Holy Spirit’s temple, and how we use (or abuse) them matters!

4. Your body belongs to God (6:19-20). Through the redeeming work of Jesus, God purchased my body. He purchased me! He owns me. I’m His property. Another way of wording it: Jesus didn’t merely pay the price to free me from my bondage to sin, He paid for me. The Gospel message means that I serve a new master; I’m no longer the ruler of my life; sin is no longer my boss; Jesus is my master, my Lord; He owns me…and my body. This means that in sinning sexually against my body, I’m abusing something that doesn’t belong to me; I’m damaging Jesus’ property which he bought at the cost of His life.

Did you notice how each of these arguments is rooted in the basics of the Gospel? This passage so clearly teaches that right thinking about the Gospel has everything to do with how you live, how you treat your physical body, and how you use your God-given sexual capacities. It also powerfully shows us that we need to treasure, meditate on, and apply the Gospel to a much, much greater degree. Our simplistic thinking about the Gospel is, no doubt, a significant reason for our many failures in this area. The reason so many Christian men and women so regularly fall to sexual temptation, whether physical or mental, is that they have not applied the Gospel to every part of life.

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Notes:

  • Joe’s sermon on this passage (“Gospel-Controlled Sexuality”) can be found here.
  • The first two entries in the “Help for Fighting Lust” series can be found here (Transparency) and here (The Pious Prostitute).
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16 Responses

  1. My dear brother, Joe,

    I just listened to your sermon. Well done. Pastor Chris sure is lucky (as John Calvin would say) to have you there.

    I thank God for you.

  2. Indeed.

  3. Thanks for posting these. This one in particular! I always appreciate when we connect our Christian living-thinking with the Gospel. We need to keep doing this. I believe it is a key to understanding the real issues at hand as well as being motivated to the change that the Christian life calls us to.

    I have not listened to the sermon yet–maybe this week.

    For His glory,
    CJM

  4. […] Help for Fighting Lust: Applying the Gospel to Sexuality […]

  5. What about the sin nature, my brother? How do we deal with it (as IT IS the root of the problem)!!! What you point to seems to me to be a lot of self-effort (applying various principles… that surely is not our answer…. if it was… Why did Jesus come?

  6. Larry,

    I am very aware of your concern. I have experienced for years the inadequacy of mere “Biblical principles” for victory. However, understanding why Jesus came and what Jesus did most certainly involves propositions regarding how our union with Jesus’ work affects our sin nature and newness of life. Further, these truths (e.g., that our bodies will be raised or that we are now owned by God) must be meditated upon, reckoned to be true, and lived out by the power of the indwelling Spirit.

    Joe

  7. I find sexual temptations very hard. I wish it would be discussed more, and more help available to fight the temptations. People talk as if they’re angels and won’t admit they’re struggling with it themselves. I hate the sin and i hate the control it has over me. Its wot’s barring me from the gates of Heaven. I really really despise Lust, but i cant seem to beat it and dont think i ever will!!

  8. If anyone can help me with this, please do. Though i doubt any of you will.

  9. Paul, I’ll try to help out as much as I can via email. I’m glad you commented. I’ll be in touch privately.

  10. Chris, you said you would try to help out as much as you can via email, but I haven’t had much help so far. Plus any help you give me i would like to receive on here so that it can help others too. This topic is far too hush hush, let it be seen as a problem to be tackled for all the world to see. I do no not mind speaking openly about it.

    Thank you.

  11. Do you struggle with this sin Chris?

  12. Paul,

    I apologize for my delay in responding. Have you been able to listen to the message on the gospel which I recommended to you?

    As I’ve mentioned throughout this series, I do indeed struggle with lust. I know it can be a life-dominating, very grievous thing. I still think it would be most profitable to address your situation in private, though I hope to continue posting on the topic more generally on my blog. I’ll be in touch.

  13. can ANYONE help me. I really do need help. Jesus does reward those who help others.

  14. Thanks for the response Chris

  15. Paul,

    I’m sorry I’ve not been able to correspond as readily as I had hoped. I do care, and I do know (by experience) the despair the cycle of lust brings.

    Have you been able to listen to the recording I suggested via email? It’s not just busy work. It really is a crucial thing—the crucial thing, in fact.

    I say this as kindly as I can, and with the awareness that you may be offended by it, but per your email, you’re in a church (Roman Catholicism) that focuses on human works rather than divine grace. The idea that salvation is earned by obedience, by good works, by sacraments, etc. is contrary to Scripture. Indeed, it leads people to hopeless despair, because nobody can keep God’s Law flawlessly. If it’s up to you to be right with God by “being good,” you’ve got no hope.

    Biblical Christianity, on the other hand, focuses on the grace of God through the work of Jesus Christ. The difference is astounding, and the consequences of it eternal. The Bible teaches that although we’re hopelessly sinful (read Eph 2:1-3) God offers us salvation through Jesus Christ (read Eph 2:4-7). That salvation comes not by doing good works, but as a gift received by trusting in Jesus alone (read Eph 2:8-9). This results in doing good and enables doing good (Read Eph 2:10). But whereas Roman Catholicism presents good works as the cause of being right with God, Biblical Christianity presents them as the result of being right with God. The difference in life is hope vs. despair. And frankly, the difference in eternity is heaven vs. hell. Look at Titus 3:5, Galatians 2:16, Philippians 3:4-11, and Romans 4 regarding faith vs. works, as well. My point is, you’re in a religious system that cannot help you, but instead fills you with perpetual guilt. You can’t be good enough for God to accept you. You need Christ, not Christ-plus-works or anything else.

    I have other practical tips that I think can help, as well, but this is really foundational to any victory over sin. Please consider it. Read the verses above. Take your time. Listen to the recording I mentioned, more than once if necessary. After you spend some time on this, we can talk some more.

    But what you need isn’t a strategy. You’ve tried those. You need the freedom only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ—established by grace, not works—can give.

    I believe that you really want help, hopefully enough to consider these eternally significant things. I’m praying for you!

  16. […] also recently preached a sermon on 1 Cor 6:12–20 entitled “Gospel-Controlled […]

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