Reflecting on I Corinthians for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

From First Corinthians by George T. Montague, SM, commenting on I Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20

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As in the previous passage, Paul concludes by placing the whole issue in the context of the Trinity. Being one spirit with Christ means that the Christian shares in Christ’s own character as a temple of the Holy Spirit. The very body of each Christian then becomes a temple of the holy Spirit.

Paul does not say that the soul is the temple. Philo, an Alexandrian Jew who was a contemporary of Paul, spoke of the intelligence as being a temple, but he never applied the image to the body. But in the Christian view, it is the body itself that enjoys union with the divine persons. In relation to Christ, the believer’s body is a member (v. 15); in relation to the Holy Spirit, the body is a temple.

The emphasis is on the Holy Spirit, which makes sexual immorality a sacrilege. The Spirit is from God, but he is also truly possessed by the Christian (you have the Holy Spirit from God). Christians may not dispose of their body as something of their own. Each believer has been purchased. The whole theology of redemption is contained here.

There was an ancient practice of freeing a slave by a rite in the temple of the gods. He was declared “servant of Apollo” and thus entered the state of freedom from slavery to his human masters. Much was made of the price paid on this occasion, and the term used for slave was sōma, “body.” When we realize that the majority of the population of Corinth were slaves, and that many in the Christian community were either slaves or freed slaves, we can understand how meaningful would be the allusion to the liberating ransom of redemption by Christ (1:30; Gal 4:5; 5:1).

© 2011 George T. Montague and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.