The topic discussed in these two chapters is sin – specifically the sin of sexual immorality and judging one another.
At the beginning of Chapter 5, Paul gives a warning about sin and how it must be dealt is. He reminds us that though our Salvation frees us of our sins, it is still imperative for us to confess and repent.
He speaks of an adulterer he has heard about who is a part of the Corinth church:
Assemble the community—I’ll be present in spirit with you and our Master Jesus will be present in power… It will be totally devastating to him, of course, and embarrassing to you. But better devastation and embarrassment than damnation. — 1 Corinthians 5:4-5 (The Message)
We are reminded that we must deal with sin promptly, rather than just brushing it under the carpet and hopes that no one finds out and it is forgotten about. As Christians, we must humbly confront the sinner and do whatever is necessary to lead him into the light. No one is perfect and Paul recognises this – our Salvation is not a one-time thing that saves us from Hell. Many Christians will continue to struggle with sin, but the difference is that we know God’s love and by fostering a relationship and communicating with Him, we can be forgiven and pray for strength to become better followers of God.
Though the verse specifically talks about a case where there is sexual sin and public scrutiny, the same mentality can be applied to different sins and those that are less serious. The message Paul is trying to get across is that we must face repenting sin to save ourselves from damnation, even if it means damage to our reputation and worldly loss (e.g. friendships, money, job). That being said, I feel that the idea of public scrutiny conveys the importance of living in the light. A good way to judge our righteousness is to ask ourselves whether it is something that we would keep in the dark and away from others.
In Chapter 6, the sexual sin is further discussed. Paul describes why it can be more dangerous than sins such as theft, dishonesty or violence.
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.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. — 1 Corinthians 6:16-18
Here, Paul discusses how sexual sin is a sin against our own body, making it different from other sins. He illustrates this effect in two ways.
The spiritual significance of sexual intercourse is that the ‘two will become one’, which is very much what marriage is all about. God created sex for marriage and having sex outside of marriage, or even having multiple sexual partners creates these ‘unwanted spiritual connections’. In terms of two becoming one, I can envision the repulsive image of someone being joined with all his/her sexual partners and all of the sexual partners of each of those people all lumped together. God created this level of intimacy for only the level of commitment a husband and wife would share.
He also goes onto describe something that is commonly occurring in our society, especially amongst polygamous individuals. Intimacy devoid of commitment leaves the longing, emptiness and loneliness, which essentially drives the person for more. Sexual pleasures are only temporary fulfillments and each time, it only leaves a person even thirstier before: it is a viscous cycle.
Sexual immorality is a sin to one’s own body also in the sense that it is a pollutant. Our bodies are the temples of God and the Holy Spirit – how can we expect God to intervene and dwell in our hearts and our lives when we’re only making it filthy. We were given the gift of life and of love – our response should be to reciprocate devotion and sacrifice to the Lord.
This is an extremely important message as what’s most dangerous about sexual sin is that it seems so harmless on the outside. The world views it as just two people getting intimate and enjoying each other’s bodies – they confuse pleasure with righteousness and this is a big pitfall to trap people into sexual immorality. We also see that this is a problem that has been inherent to mankind for at least 2,000 years. It is a struggle that is not only due to modern day culture as Paul has identified this problem in Corinth.