1 Corinthians


4. Some moral issues affecting unity, 5:1-6:20

iii] Visiting prostitutes


Focusing again on sexual holiness, Paul now deals with the issue of porneia, "sexual immorality", or particularly here, sex for hire / prostitution. In the introduction to his argument Paul makes two points: First, Christian freedom frees us to do good, not evil; Second, Christ is Lord of our body, a body destined for resurrection and so we are not free to do with it as we will. Paul then develops his case against hiring others for sex: a) The body of a believer is an extension of Christ's body and so it is unthinkable to unite Christ with sin, v15; b) Sexual union produces a one-flesh union. To unite with a prostitute is to become with them and thus unite Christ with them, v16-18; c) A believer's body is indwelt with the Holy Spirit, a gift appropriated at great cost to Christ, and so we should honor it, v19-20.


i] Context: See 5:1-13.


ii] Background: See 5:1-13.


iii] Structure: Paul's argument against sex with prostitutes:

Opposed propositions , v12-14 (18b);

The theological grounds against sex with prostitutes, v15-20:

A believer's body is an extension of Christ's body, v15;

Sexual union produces a one-flesh union, v16-18;

A believer's body is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, v19-20.


iv] Interpretation:

Under the topic of sexual sins, Paul has first addressed a particular situation where someone in the church has married their "fathers wife." Paul tells the church that they should deal with this problem, that they should pass judgement on it. This then led him to discuss the problem of lawsuits between members of the church. They should deal with such disputes within the church itself, given that evil-livers "will not inherit the kingdom of God." Paul now, in the passage before us, returns to the issue of sexual immorality.

It is obvious that some of the members of the Corinthian congregation think that it is acceptable to relieve their sexual tensions by visiting prostitutes. In Corinth, this was acceptable practice, and so it is possible that they are using what is socially acceptable to justify their actions. At any rate, Paul makes it clear to them that their behavior is unacceptable, and to drive the point home, he outlines a number of supporting reasons. Thrall notes the following:

• The body is not just for pleasure, "it is for the Lord";

• "The Lord is for the body"; the body is a substantial part of a person's being and should be respected;

• Our body is destined for eternity, it will be raised "by his power";

• Our body is spiritually "one with Christ";

• "The indwelling Holy Spirit" is within our whole being, body and all;

• Our whole being belongs to Christ, "bought" by Christ, body and all;

• Sexual sins particularly affect our body and thus our being; they are "against our own body."


Paul's application of the principle "The two will become one flesh." It is very interesting how the one flesh union of marriage is extended by Paul to cover casual sex. His point is that casual sex, as with sex within marriage, forms a mutual attachment / bond. This idea stems from the OT where the sexual act of itself constitutes the basis of a marital union, which union cannot be broken under God, eg., the requirement of those who engage in premarital sex to formalize the union in marriage - ie., the public leaving is to be added to the cleaving, but it is the cleaving that makes for the one flesh union, Gen.2:24.

It is interesting how today believers often view causal sex before a formal church wedding as though it is of a different order to casual sex after the church wedding. The assumption is that marriage is dependent on words said by a minister of religion and a piece of paper issued by the government, when, under God, it comes down to leaving and cleaving - now usually cleaving and then leaving, or worse, lots of cleavings and then a leaving!!!! And guess what! divorce is not the breaking of a legal contract made at the time of a public leaving, but the dissolution of a one flesh union formed by an act of cleaving. This means, of course, that many believers are divorced and don't realize it. It also reveals how stupid it is for Christian denominations to refuse remarriage to divorcees, but happily support the marriage of young people who have had numerous sexual partners.

Thankfully, our salvation rests on the perfection of Christ, for we are all adulterers, if not in flesh, then certainly in mind.


v] Exposition: A simple verse-by-verse exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 6:12

Sex for hire, v12-20: i] Introduction to the issue, v12-14. In verses 12, 13 and 18b, Paul quotes slogans used by his opponents and then details an argument against them. In the opening verse he notes that it is true that in Christ we are free from the constraints of the law, sin and death. Such freedom is beneficial. Yet, freedom can be used in a way that is not beneficial. So, we can use our freedom to place ourselves in slavery again, to be "mastered" by something or someone. Clearly, Paul has in mind "fornication" - physical sexual union with someone outside a marital relationship, in particular, visiting prostitutes. Not only is fornication an enslavement to sin, but it is an enslavement to the sexual partner. Each is psychologically imprinted onto the other. We were not set free to become a slave of sin.

Given that the "everything is permissible" is probably a libertine slogan, quotation marks should be added, as NIV, possibly with an added introduction, "some of you say", CEV, or even, "some of you have quoted me saying there is nothing which I may not do, but I would like to add, it is not everything whose results make it worth doing (profitable). So yes, there is nothing which I may not do, but there is also nothing by which I will allow myself to be dominated", cf., Barclay. The saying "seems to be a Pauline utterance wrenched from its context", Zerwick.

exestin (ex-eimi) " is permissible / [I] have the right to do [anything]" - [all things to me] are lawful, right. "All things are lawful", NRSV, etc., is misleading since the slogan claims authority to act independently of any law or convention, so "I am free to do anything", Thiselton.

moi dat. pro. "for me" - Dative of interest, advantage.

all (alla) "but" - but [not all things are]. Strong adversative.

sumferei (sumferw) "is beneficial" - better, an advantage, helpful. "Not everything is profitable or expedient for the Christian life", Bruce.

ouk egw exousiasqhsomai (exousiazw) fut. pas. "I will not be mastered" - [all things are lawful, but] i will not be enslaved, ruled over, bound as by a yoke, mastered. Unfettered liberty enslaves; "I will not allow anything to get the mastery over me", Bruce.

uJpo + gen. "by [anything]" - Expressing agency.


It is often argued that in this verse Paul introduces another slogan / maxim, as TNIV, "You say .... and God will do away with both of them", so Barrett, Thiselton.... Obviously the slogan will include all bodily functions, including sex, and all will one day be consumed, but the sexual function of the body is of a different order to the function of eating. So, rather than another slogan, it is more likely that Paul states a basic and widely accepted truth - food is for the belly and both will be destroyed. He then contrasts this fact with a piece of high theology - the body is for the Lord and it will not be destroyed. For Paul, the body is "the place where the claim of the resurrected-crucified Lord is received, and where his lordship is to be manifested", Furnish, NT Theology. Given this fact, Paul then deduces that "the body is not meant for sexual immorality."

ta brwmata (a atoV) "food / you say food" - various kinds of food is. Nominative subject of an assumed verb to-be.

th/ koilia/ dat. "for the stomach" - to = for the digestive system [and the digestive system to = for various kinds of food]. Dative of interest, advantage; food is for digestion." A string of datives of interest follow; "for ....."

de "and" - but/and. Probably not adversative here, rather coordinative; "and".

kai .... kai - "[God will destroy] them both" - [god will destroy] both [this] and [these]. Correlative.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step to a contrasting point; God will destroy food and the belly, but not so the body, since it is designed for resurrection rather than sexual immorality.

th porneia/ (a) dat. "for sexual immorality" - [the body is not] to = for fornication. Dative of interest, although B&L suggest purpose, "the body is not meant for the purpose of fornication." This classification does not work for the following dative, "for the Lord." The context implies "consorting with prostitutes." The RSV "immorality" is not specific enough.

alla "but" - but. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction.

tw/ kuriw/ (oV) dat. "for the Lord" - for the lord [and the lord for the body]. Again dative of interest, advantage, "as food is for the belly so the body is for the Lord", although possibly instrumental, "you should use your body to serve the Lord", TH, or even local, "the body belongs to the Lord as the Lord belongs to the body", Barrett - "belong" = "incorporated with", "part of."


The slogan / false claim made by some of the Corinthians relates to an assumed dichotomy between our spiritual eternal being, and our "body", our humanity - the living, breathing, self. Some of the church members obviously put great trust in the slogan "food for digestion and the digestive system for food, and God will do away with both of them" - implying that the functions of the body, including sex, are of matters of the flesh and of this age, and therefore, unimportant. Not so, argues Paul. We have been raised with Christ, intimately united to Christ, such that our new self is certainly not for fornication. We are being transformed into the likeness of Christ and fornication is totally incompatible with that transformation.

dia + gen. "by [his power]" - through, by means of. Instrumental, expressing means.

autou gen. pro. "his" - [the power] of him. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, but possibly ablative, source, or verbal, subjective; "by the power that comes from God."

hgeiren (egeirw) aor. "raised" - [god] raised up. Christ is raised, not rises; he is the object or the act.

kai .... kai ".... and" - and = both [the lord] and also. Coordinative construction.

exegerei (exegeirw) fut. "he will raise" - he will raise up [us]. As well as future, there are past and present variants, exhgeiren, exegeirei. The past tense, being the less probable reading and therefore possibly original, actually helps make Paul's argument, namely that it would be quite unnatural for a person who has been raised with Christ and empowered to live for him (in a spiritual sense), to then go and visit prostitutes; "and he raised us also by his power", cf. NJB margin.


ii] Paul now develops his case against the hiring of others for sex: a) The body of a believer is an extension of Christ's body and so it is unthinkable to unite Christ with such a sinful act, namely, sex for hire, v15. At this point, Paul theologically tackles the issue of fornication. He points out that the Corinthians have failed to understand the true nature of sexual intercourse. Based on Genesis 2:24, the idea of "one flesh" in marriage, Paul explains that an integral union is established between a man and a woman in the sex act. Yet, there is also an integral union that exists between Christ and the individual believer. Thus, if the sexual union is illicit, say with a prostitute as here, then the two unions become mutually exclusive.

ouk "not " - [do you] not [know]. In a question, this negation implies an affirmative answer; "yes".

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they should know.

melh (oV) "members" - [the bodies of you are] members. Predicate nominative. A believer's body, as with their soul (the two being an indivisible whole of the true self), is an integral part of the person of Christ, belonging to Christ / in union with Christ. Paul then poses an inferential question which draws out the incongruity of uniting what is an integral part of the person of Christ with a prostitute. "Your bodies are limbs and organs of Christ", REB.

Cristou (oV) gen. "of Christ" - The genitive is adjectival, possibly possessive, "your bodies belong to Christ", or partitive / wholative, "your bodies are parts of the body of Christ", CEV. Since we are raised with Christ, we belong to Christ / we are one with Christ, united to Christ.

oun "then" - therefore. Drawing a logical conclusion / inferential; "so".

araV (airw) aor. part. "[shall I then] take" - having taken away, carried off, snatched, wrenched [the members of christ]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the deliberative subjunctive "make, do", lit. "having taken away the body parts / members that belong to Christ, shall I make them members of a prostitute?" = "shall I take away a member from Christ's possession and give it over to a prostitute", so Garland.

poihsw (poiew) aor. subj. / fut. "shall i .... unite them with" - shall I make. Deliberative subjunctive, or a future indicative with interrogative intent. Am I then going to / shall I "take the limbs which rightly belong to Christ and make them limbs which belong to a prostitute?", Barclay.

pornhV (h) "a prostitute" - [them members] of a prostitute, harlot. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, as above.

mh genoito aor. mid. opt. "Never!" - may it not happen. Emphatic. Optative expressing a wish; "perish the thought", "God forbid", AV.


b) Sexual union produces a one-flesh union, so to unite with a prostitute is to become one with them and this in turn intimately associates Christ with them, v16-18. The prostitute would probably not be a believer, although we can well imagine a believer trapped in this sordid trade. If the prostitute is aligned with forces of evil, then in the sexual encounter the believer has not only linked themselves with the dark side, they have done the same for Christ.

h] "-" - or. Variant, probably not original.

oJti "that" - [do you not know] that. Dependent statement as for v15. "Don't you realize that when a man joins himself to a prostitute he makes with her a physical unity?", Phillips.

oJ kollwmenoV (kollaw) pres. pas. part. + dat. of persons "he who unites himself with" - the one joining with. The participle serves as a substantive; meaning "has sexual relations with", TH.

th/ pornh/ (h) dat. "a prostitute" - Dative of direct object after the verb "to be united with / to."

e}n swma "[is] one with her in body" - [is] one body? Predicate nominative. "Becomes physically one with her", REB, Barclay ..., although "physical" is probably going beyond what Paul means. The term "one body" reflects Genesis 2:24, "one flesh". The union he is referring to is surely psychosomatic. Sexual union "is an act which, by reason of its very nature, engages and expresses the whole personality in such a way as to constitute a unique mode of self-disclosure and self-commitment", D.S. Bailey.

gar "for [it is said]" - for [it, he says, is written, the two will become]. Introducing a causal clause explaining, by means of a quotation, why sex with a prostitute forms a one-body union. "As the scripture says", Barclay, although Paul has not used the usual gegraptai and so may mean something more personal such as "for as Moses said."

eiV + acc. "[one flesh]" - into [one flesh]. The prepositional phrase serves as the predicate nominative of the verb "will become."


Paul has explained that a person who has sex with a prostitute "becomes one body with her." He now explains that the believer is united to Jesus through the indwelling Spirit. The two unions are irreconcilable because they are mutually exclusive.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, here to a contrast; "on the other hand", Phillips .... "as for the believer who chooses not to unite with a prostitute, but rather with the Lord ........" The clause carries a consecutive flavor, expressing the result of uniting with the Lord instead of a prostitute.

oJ ... kollwmenoV (kollaw) pres. pas. part. "he who unites himself to [the Lord]" - the one uniting with [the lord]. The participle serves as a substantive. As above, kollaw takes a dative of direct object, here tw/ kuriw/, "the Lord."

eJn pneuma (a atoV) "one with him in spirit" - [is] one spirit in union with him. Predicate nominative. Expressing the result of uniting with Christ; we become one with him, "spiritually speaking", Cassirer. "Paul is probably referring to the work of the Spirit, whereby through the one Spirit the believer's spirit has been joined indissolubly with Christ", Fee.


Avoid fornication like the plague. It seems likely that Paul goes on to quote another slogan: "Every sin that a person commits is outside the body", NRSV, ie., sin does not affect the true self ("other" is not in the Greek). Paul treats this slogan with disdain. Of course sin affects the self and this is easily demonstrated when it comes to fornication. Fornication "attacks" the self, psychologically imprints the prostitute onto us and tears us away from Christ. Because Christ is intimately united to us, there is a sense where our body now belongs to him; we are one with him. Sin tears at our union with Christ.

feugete (feugw) pres. imp. "flee from" - run away from, flee. Introducing an emphatic command which encapsulates Paul's argument. "Flee" can be expressed in the terms of "avoid / keep away from"; "avoid sexual looseness like the plague", Phillips.

thn porneian (a) "sexual immorality" - fornication. Accusative direct object of the verb "to flee." As noted above, the word primarily concerns dealings with prostitutes, so Phillips' "sexual looseness" is highly misleading. Barclay's specific "fornication" is more to the point, thus removing this verse from the arsenal of those who include masturbation and the like under the catch-all of "sexual immorality."

o} ean + subj. "all other" - [every sin] whatever, whichever. The relative pronoun with ean + subj. becomes indefinite, and here forms a relative conditional clause 3rd. class which "makes no assertions about concrete realities", BAGD; "whatever sin, as the case may be, [a man does/commits] then [it is outside the body]." Usually expressed as "every, all other, every other [sin/s]" given the following contrastive de (better exceptive, see below). It is possible, following the emphatic command, v18a, that we have here the beginning of a new paragraph and that Paul is putting up another Corinthian slogan to demolish; "every sin that a person commits is outside the body", NRSV. If the clause is a quote, inverted comers need to be added. The slogan would imply that sin does not affect the self. Paul would argue that all sin affects the self, and when it comes to visiting prostitutes, any fool can see that it affects the self. On the other hand, the clause may not be a slogan. Paul could just be arguing that there is a qualitative difference between sin in general, and sexual sin, so Bruce. When it comes to the sin of fornication itself, Fee argues that a believer who unites with a prostitute undermines the redemptive work of Christ in their life; "In the context, sex with a prostitute severs the union with Christ and sabotages its (the body's) resurrection destiny", Garland. Against Garland, it is unclear whether in visiting a prostitute a believer loses their salvation, but it is clear that such an act is "uniquely body-defiling", Fisk, NT Studies 42.

anqrwpoV (oV) "a man" - a man [my do]. Nominative subject of the verb "to do." In the sense of "human"; "all other sins that people may commit", NJB.

ektoV + gen. "outside [his body / the body]" - [is] outside [the self]. Spacial. Of course, taken as a slogan, it is not true.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, contrastive, or expressing an exception; "every sin a person commits is outside their body, with the exception of, the fornicator who sins against their own body", cf., Barrett.

oJ ... porneuwn (porneuw) pres. part. "whoever sins sexually" - the one fornicating. The participle serves as a substantive.

eiV + acc. "[sins] against" - [sins] to, into, for = against [the = his own body]. Here expressing disadvantage, "against". Fornication turns back on and "into" the self, "attacks / invades." This sin leaves the psychological imprint of the prostitute, which in turn, tares the self away from the Lord. The two unions are mutually exclusive. "It is not possible to mention anything worse than fornication", Chrysostom. The unique nature of fornication, in its affects upon one's personal identity, does not mean that it is more serious, in the eyes of God, than say the exploitation of the poor through wealth or power. Although sin is varied in its nature and consequences, all sin is abhorrent to God.


c) A believer's body is indwelt with the Holy Spirit, a gift appropriated at great cost to Christ, and so we should honor it, v19-20. Since our real self belongs to God, we must glorify God in the way we treat the self. We are the sanctuary of the Spirit in the sense that we are intimately associated with the divine. This being the case, we are not a free agent. This state of grace was gained at great cost; Christ died for us "therefore honor God with your bodies" - "be engaged in the Lord's service"

Verse 19 is best treated as a single sentence, " ....... and that you are not your own?", NAB.

h] "-" - or. Disjunctive. "Or, if you cannot see that unchastity is a sin against your own body, are you ignorant that the body of each of you is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit", R&P.

ouk " not" - [do you] not [know]. Used for a question expecting a positive answer.

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they should know.

uJmwn gen. pro. "your [body]" - the body [of you]. The genitive is possessive.

naoV (oV) "temples" - [is] a sanctuary. Predicate nominative. Commonly understood as the dwelling place of God; "the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit", Bruce. Note that Paul later develops the idea of the Holy Spirit resident in "the body of Christ", ie., the church. Here the body is the individual self of a believer, and that self is a sanctuary, a set-apart place to commune with the divine.

tou .... aJgiou pneumatoV (a atoV) gen. "of the Holy Spirit" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive, "a temple which belongs to the Holy Spirit", or idiomatic / content, "full of / filled with the Holy Spirit."

en "who is in [you]" - in, with, by [you]. Carrying a local sense, expressing sphere / metaphorical. This preposition can be read numerous ways: "within you", NRSV; "in you", TEV; "where the Holy Spirit lives", CEV; "your body is a temple of the indwelling Holy Spirit", REB. Best understood in the sense of "in union with", reflecting a relational idea rather than an actual indwelling (a continuation of the "one flesh" idea, of which sex is a visible expression of the "cleaving" in marriage).

ou| gen. pro. "whom [you have received]" - whom [you have]. The relative is genitive due to attraction to the genitive "of the Holy Spirit."

apo + gen. "from" - from [god]. Expressing source, origin.

eJautwn gen. ref. pro. "your own" - [you are not] of yourself. Predicate adjective, the genitive being possessive; "you therefore do not belong to yourselves", Barclay.


gar "-" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why we are not our own

hgorasqhte (agorazw) aor. pas. "you were bought" - you were purchased. The only time Paul uses this word to describe our redemption, although redemption may not be in mind, so R & P. The imagery takes up on "you are not your own", the imagery of a slave, and now a slave purchased by another.

timhV (h) gen. "at a price" - of a price, amount, cost. The genitive is adverbial, measure / price, expressed "purchased at a price", or "with a price,", NRSV, or "for a price", Moffatt. The "price" / cost, is obviously Christ's sacrifice, his faithfulness on our behalf ("faith / faithfulness of Christ"), cf., Rom.3:24, Eph.1:7.

dh "therefore" - Here inferential, drawing a logical conclusion, "so ......", but it could just provide emphasis, "indeed, honor God with your bodies."

en "with [your own body]" - [glorify god] in [the body of you]. Probably instrumental, expressing means, "with", as NIV; "be engaged in the Lord's service", Thiselton.

kai en tw/ pneumati uJmwn atina esti tou qeou "-" - and in your spirit, which is of god. Variant from the Byzantine text. Lightfoot suggests it is a versicle response to "glorify God in your body" which somehow got attached to the text.


1 Corinthians Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]