The Principle of Profanity
Tim Temple


God's Word was designed as a practical book, dealing even in those things which are difficult to ascertain. Many people, even among believers, have the idea that there are some things that are spiritual and some things that are secular, and that those things are not necessarily connected; but one of the places that most clearly contradicts that is the passage that we want to look at in this lesson.

The verses that we are going to look at today deal with a subject that is very practical and very important and rarely discussed, the use of the body. The first part of chapter 6 of I Corinthians, as you may remember from previous studies, deals with the problem of disputes in the local church. The second part of the chapter has to do with sexual depravity. In our last study, we talked about the problem of sexual activity. We looked at two principles that apply to that problem. Both of those problems are summarized in verse 12 and then elaborated on in the other verses. Notice verse 12:

I Corinthians 6

12All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

We distilled from that verse two principles: the principle of addiction and the principle of appropriateness. There are some things that are not prohibited by the Word of God specifically but are just not appropriate for the Christian life. God has not specifically said, “Thou shalt not do this,” but based upon all the things that He has said about the Christian life, there are some things that are just not appropriate for a Christian to do; or there are some things that are appropriate in some circumstances but not in another set of circumstances. In the Christian life, as we think about the things that we do with our bodies, or that we refrain from doing with our bodies, the principle of appropriateness is always to be kept in mind.

In the second part of verse 12, we have the principle of addiction. There are some things done in moderation which are perfectly all right, but we always need to keep in mind that many things can become addictive, and they can do so to the point that our priorities in the Christian life are put aside. We have talked about those principles in detail, so I am not going to elaborate on those any more than that.

Many Christians have the idea that there is some kind of a list of things that we do and we will automatically be spiritual, or that there is a list of things that we don't do and we will automatically be spiritual. The Word of God gives us principles by which we live, and it gives us the power of the Holy Spirit with which to enact those things. Christians have to be the most carefully thinking people around because God does not give us a simple list of dos and don'ts. Oh, there are things in the Scripture that are prohibited to us, and there are things in the Scriptures that are enjoined upon us, but it is not a matter of doing these one or two or five things and automatically becoming spiritual. It is a matter of constantly walking in the direction of the Holy Spirit.

That brings us to the third principle, and we find that in verses 13-17, the principle of profanity. At the end of our last study, I summarized this, and so some of what I am going to say will be repetition; but I want us to think more carefully and more in detail about the principle of profanity in verses 13-17.

Definition of Profanity

Turn, please, to Hebrews, chapter 12, because there we have the definition of profanity. I am sure that if you are hearing this for the first time, you are thinking, “Well, profanity is not such a big issue. How does that deal with the use of my body?” The definition of profanity is given for us very clearly here in verse 16, but we ought to look at verse 14 to get the gist of the passage:

Hebrews 12

14Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

So the context of profanity is holiness. Then down in verse 16:

Hebrews 12

16Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.

Notice that phrase in verse 16, “or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.” Esau, that Old Testament character, is referred to here as a profane person. Why was Esau profane? Was it because he swore and cursed a lot? That is what we usually think of as profanity. This verse tells us why he was a profane person–because he sold his birthright for a bowl of stew as Genesis, chapter 27, tells us. What was profane about that?

Without taking the time to go into all of the Old Testament history and background involved in that, let me just say that the birthright was never intended as a medium of exchange. The birthright was a very important document. It was not only the matter of being the heir to the bulk of the father's estate, it was–much more importantly–the right to be the priest of the family. The father of the family, in the Old Testament, was the priest of the family. The birthright designated who the successor to the father would be. Normally it would be the oldest son, but not always. There were exceptions to that where, at God's direction or at the wisdom of the father, the birthright would be given to one of the younger sons.

In Genesis, chapter 27, we have the story of how Jacob, the younger son, tricked his older brother into giving him the birthright. In effect, Esau sold his birthright. He was a hunter, and he came in from the fields, and he was hungry. His younger brother was a gourmet cook and had prepared some delicious stew, and Esau said, “I would give anything for some of that stew.” Jacob said, “Do you really mean that? Give me your birthright, and you can have some of my delicious stew.” Esau sold him the birthright.

The real problem with that was that it dishonored God because God never intended the birthright to be used as a medium of exchange. It was a very honorable thing; it was a very holy thing. Esau, in effect, took something that God had designed to be a very spiritual privilege as well of great financial importance, and he used it as money. Because of that, God said Esau was a profane person.

From that we know that profanity is not just talking in the wrong way, but profanity is a much broader principle than that. Profanity is a matter of taking anything out of the context that God intended it to be used in. In Esau's case, it was the birthright. In other cases, it may be language. It may be taking words that God intended to describe very holy things and using them in a very careless way. By way of summary, the reason it is wrong to curse and swear is that cursing and swearing involves the name of God or the actions of God and appropriates them to mere human beings. It is true that God is going to damn people to Hell, but you have no right to talk that way. That is God's business. You can't damn someone to Hell; you can't tell someone to go to Hell. God never intended those words and the concept of those words described to be used in that way. But language is only the tip of the iceberg of profanity.

Related to Food

Going back to I Corinthians, chapter 6, the principle of profanity applies to the way we use our bodies in general, not just the way we use our tongues, though that is certainly a part of it. In verses 12 and 13, Paul gives us a demonstration of profanity. There are two items given as a demonstration of this principle. First, in the first part of verse 13, there is the misuse of the stomach. Notice:

I Corinthians 6

13Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats…

The phrase, “meats for the belly,” in Greek was a popular Greek slogan in the first century. It was something like the phrase that we sometimes hear in television advertising, “get all the gusto you can get,” or something like that. It was the concept of living it up, getting all you can out of life. The point is that that is a misuse of the body. Look at verse 14:

I Corinthians 6

14And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.

The point is that food and the enjoyment of food is temporary while the body is permanent, so taking food out of its proper context can do damage to the body. Certainly God expects us to eat, and He has provided the digestive process. He has provided all kinds of food, and there is nothing wrong with food as long as it is kept in that proper context; but when it comes to the point that food becomes an end in itself, that gets us into the principle of profanity. Even though it is something that we try to find ways around, the misuse of food is as sinful as many of the other things that we think of as heinous sins. In fact, it is interesting to me that the other illustration that Paul uses in this passage is sexual sin. Probably everyone agrees about the seriousness of sexual sin, and yet we overlook as much as possible the misuse of the stomach. God puts them right here together in the same passage.

People get really nervous when we start talking this way. This isn't just talking about someone who is a few pounds overweight. It is saying that a person who devotes himself to food, a person whose life revolves around food or a person who has a weight problem and is unwilling to do anything about it, is guilty of violating the principle of profanity because even though God has provided the ability to eat and the taste buds and made it an enjoyable experience, it should not become the dominating factor in our lives.

Related to Sex

In the last part of verse 13 through verse 15, he gives another example, and it is the misuse of sex.

I Corinthians 6

13Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.
14And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.
15Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.

Here is the more commonly accepted kind of sin, the kind that everyone agrees is sin. It is specifically pointed out here in verse 15 the matter of sexual sin. As I said earlier, this is one of those things that we don't really deal with a great deal in the pulpit. We sort of smooth over it as quickly as we can and pass it by. Yet one of the values of studying the Word of God on a systematic basis is that we come to these things because the Word of God is so practical and deals with every area of life.

I want to think very carefully about the principle of profanity as it relates to sex, the principle of taking the sexual aspect of our lives out of its proper context and misusing it. We know already that that was a problem in Corinth. Corinth was a society much like the United States in the twentieth century. We certainly know that the misuse of sex is a real problem in our society today, so we need to think very carefully about this.

There are many very important aspects of sexual sin, but I think the most unique is the way sexual sin can influence the whole body. Sexual sin can gain control of the whole body, of all the activities of an individual so much so that Sigmund Freud a good many years ago built a whole system of psychiatry and psychology around that principle. Much of Freud's approach has been discredited and discarded, but the sexual aspect of things is so significant that for many years a whole system of the psychological aspects of life were accepted with that as a base. Even secular studies have shown that nothing is as destructive to mental health and to marital relationships as the misuse of sex. So obviously, sex, taken out of its God-intended context, can be extremely destructive.

Our Eternal Habitation

The conflict comes because as strong as the sex drive is, and we all need to recognize that the sex drive is a very legitimate and a very strong part of life and we need not gloss that over, the body was not created for sex. The body was created for the Lord. No matter how legitimately important the sexual aspect of life is, there is something that is more important and that is God's honor and glory. Notice again in the last part of verse 13:

I Corinthians 6

13…Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.

In these next few verses, Paul develops the idea that God's involvement with our bodies is as thorough and as definite as any kind of involvement that we might get into from a sexual standpoint. In fact, verse 14 indicates that this is guaranteed by the Resurrection:

I Corinthians 6

14And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.

The human body is eternal. The human body, though we bury it in the ground and it goes through a process of decay, is going to be resurrected and renewed. It will be the same body in a different form. We don't have time to go into all of those details about being recognizable in Heaven, etc., but the Scripture indicates that when we are in the eternal state–in Heaven–we will know each other, and we will be recognizable. Though there is some degree in which this very body that you and I inhabit today is an eternal body, though with the imperfections removed in the glorified body, still this body is the body that we are going to inhabit throughout eternity. The same thing is true for those who do not go to Heaven and end up in Hell. Our bodies are eternal is what this Scripture is telling us.

The Dwelling Place of God

So there is a real conflict when we allow our bodies which are so precious to God as to be permanent to become involved in something as dominating as illicit sex. Notice verse 15:

I Corinthians 6

15Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.

The Greek text says, “May it never be so.” You see, our bodies are a part of what Christ died for. When we are told that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life, our bodies are a part of that which God saw and which God loved and which God redeemed. Verse 15 stresses that. This is God's body. In fact, notice down in verses 19 and 20:

I Corinthians 6

19What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
20For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.

The word “temple” there in verse 19 is a translation of a Greek word which is actually a reference to the Holy of Holies. In the temple of the Old Testament, there was the outer court where the sacrifices were made. Then there was the inner court, and in the innermost part of the inner court where the Ark of the Covenant rested, was the Holy of Holies. That was the holiest place in the whole temple and only the high priest could go there, and that was only once a year, and that only with blood. It was the most extremely holy part of God's relationship with man, and now God says that your body occupies that place. You body is the Holy of Holies, the very dwelling place of God.

With that in mind, how can we dare misuse those bodies in a sexual way? That is what he is saying in verse 15 as graphically as is possible. We all know of the great controversy which arose a while back–and rightly so–about the movie, “The Last Temptation of Christ”. The thing that upset people the most was this very concept; the movie dealt with the blasphemous concept that Jesus Christ was involved sexually with a harlot. The Word of God uses this very illustration, but the interesting thing is that people got so up in arms about that movie, and yet there are Christians who do that very thing all the time. Every time a Christian gets involved in sexual sin, it is exactly what that movie was only hinting at–taking the members of Christ and making them members of a harlot. God forbid! That is why the use of our bodies is so important to God.

Proper Use of Sex

We need to be very careful at this point to remember that God is not saying that sex is sinful. I particularly want you teenagers and younger children to listen to that because I think it is very easy for children and teenagers to get the idea when we try to be careful with what the Scripture says about sex that we adults are saying that all sex is sinful. God is not saying that. Turn with me to Hebrews, chapter 13, verse 4:

Hebrews 13

4Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

Notice carefully the first part of that verse: Marriage is honorable in all. Notice even more specifically that the bed is undefiled. The marriage bed, the sexual relationship between a husband and wife–God says that is holy; that is pure; that is undefiled. In fact, the sense of the Greek wording of this verse is, “Let marriage be honorable in all.” Be careful that you defend the honorable sexual relationships within the bounds of marriage. Don't let anyone try to tell you there is anything sinful about that. Marriage is honorable in all of its aspects. There should be nothing smutty or wrong about that. “…but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”

Do you see the two parts of this verse, the two uses of sex? Marriage is in the first part of the verse, and fornicators are in the other part of the verse. Do you see what that says? There is a use of the sexual aspect of our bodies that is pure and holy and beautiful and designed by God to be enjoyed. Anyone who is here today who has had the beautiful experience of a legitimate sexual relationship within the bounds of marriage will thank God for what a wonderful provision that is. The pure joy and ecstasy of a legitimate sexual relationship is something that only God could have designed. He gave it to us as a gift.

On the other hand, those who take that gift and use it outside of the marriage relationship, God will judge. On the one hand, used properly, it is a beautiful thing that we ought to be careful to protect and not let anyone try to tell us it is not a wonderful thing; on the other hand, it is a sin. It is entirely based on the context in which it is used. On the one hand, a holy thing; on the other hand, a sin. It is the principle of profanity.

Disillusion of Profanity

Hopefully by this time you are seeing what a powerful principle this principle of profanity is. Again, I hope you are seeing that it is not just a matter of the way we talk or how much we eat or the use of sex. These are the illustrations that God uses, but the principle applies to all kinds of situations in life. It applies to the use of our money. It applies to the use of our tongue in other areas besides cursing and swearing. Maybe by this time you are thinking, “Well, this is a real area of need in my life. What can I do about it?” Thankfully, verse 18 tells us about the disillusion of profanity. What can we do about it? Notice I Corinthians, chapter 6, verse 18:

I Corinthians 6

18Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

The first phrase of this verse gives us the secret of victory over sexual sin. What is it? Flee fornication. Can it be said any more clearly than that? Run away from it. Avoid it. I don't think there is any instruction from God that is more difficult in the society in which we live than that instruction right there. I don't think there is any sin with which we have to deal that is any more prominent in our society than sexual kinds of sin. As you well know, it is used in every kind of advertising, in every kind of communication. Madison Avenue has found ways to work provocative, sexual scenes into the most unlikely places. You can't even watch a football game without having a lot of sexual innuendos in the advertising. You can't drive down the street and look at a billboard advertising carpet or soap or anything else without most of the time seeing some kind of sexual implication. So when the Scripture tells us to flee immorality, it is a very difficult instruction, and yet it is the instruction of the Word of God.

It is not God's fault that the advertising industry has made this so difficult for us. I am simply recognizing that it is a very difficult thing to do, but that is what God says. Be careful even how your mind operates in this particular area. Run away from it.

The Danger of Pornography

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is a Christian psychiatrist about a situation in which I was involved. The son of one of my close friends had gotten involved in very gross sexual sin. In fact, it was an illegal kind of thing, and he is now serving a prison sentence. This Christian psychiatrist said, “What people don't realize is that pornography is just as addictive as alcohol or drugs, and it is easy for us to talk about alcohol and drugs because that is more socially acceptable, but no one wants to admit that sex can be just as addictive and just as destructive.”

This young man, who was a Christian, who was a graduate of a seminary and almost through with his doctorate degree from another seminary, was arrested for a whole series of rapes. In the courtroom part of his statement as he pled guilty to those crimes was that his problems began with watching pornographic movies when he was in college. I am telling you today, on the basis of the Word of God, that this is an area that we must come to grips with, that we as parents must be careful to instruct our children about, that you children must be careful to recognize. God says to flee sexual immorality.

I recognize that various ones of us have various areas of weakness in our sin nature. It may be that you are fortunate enough to not have a problem in this area. If you don't have a problem in this area, no doubt you have a problem in some other area that Satan can trip you up with. It seems to me that all of us to some extent have this area that we must come to grips with and that we must be careful about. The secret of victory over this sin is to flee sexual immorality. If you have a weakness in this area it is probably better to not even go in those stores where sexually explicit magazines or videos are sold or displayed because it is so easy to trigger this kind of weakness and so easy to find yourself in this kind of sin before you even realize what is happening. Joseph, in Genesis, chapter 39, literally ran away from a woman who was trying to seduce him.

The Seriousness of Sexual Sin

To underscore this secret, the seriousness of the situation is brought out in the last part of verse 18:

I Corinthians 6

18…Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

This doesn't mean that sexual sin is the worst kind of sin. The thing that we need to continually remember, especially when we are preaching about one kind of sin, is that sin is sin in God's sight. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Sin is coming short of the glory of God. If you are less perfect in any area of your life than God is, then you are a sinner. I want to say that because it may be that this is your particular area of weakness, and you are thinking, “Boy, he sure is picking on me.” Well, number one, it is not me picking on you; it is the Word of God. Number two, no one is picking on you anyway. It is just that this particular sin is being used as an illustration of the principle of profanity. Your exercise of the principle of profanity may be in some other area, but the important thing to remember is that sexual sin does affect a large area of life.

Listen to me young people, teenagers, those who are not married yet whether young or old, you who are anticipating marriage. You will never have the kind of marriage God wants you to have if you become involved in sexual immorality before you are married. That doesn't mean that you will never be happy. It doesn't mean that you won't have a good marriage. It means that you will not be able to have the kind of marriage that God wants you to have if you spoil it with sexual immorality before marriage. It goes without saying that you cannot expect to have the kind of marriage that God wants you to have if you are involved in extramarital sex, if you are committing adultery. It doesn't mean that it is impossible to keep a marriage together after a situation like that; it means that that marriage will never be all that it could have been. It is against our own bodies.

Remember the Scripture says that when we accept a wife or a husband, the two become one flesh? So, this has extremely serious consequences; it has extremely long-lasting consequences. Keep that carefully in mind in the use of your body, but most of all, and this is where the Lord comes in, because we have a relationship with Him. Verses 19 and 20, which we have already talked about, tell us that our bodies belong to God because Jesus Christ, when He died on the Cross, redeemed our bodies as well as our souls. Even more importantly than that, in verse 19, “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.” Not only did Jesus Christ die for our sins and for the body in which those sins are committed, but then He chose our bodies as His dwelling place. In the Old Testament, He dwelt in the tabernacle made of tents and animal skins. Before that, He didn't have a dwelling place on earth, but He would come and appear on earth as the Angel of the Lord or various forms before the tabernacle was constructed. Later the more permanent form of the tabernacle, the temple, was built. In those places, His appearance and His presence was a very special and holy thing. Wonder of wonders, in the dispensation in which we live, God has chosen to take up His residence in your body. Because it is God the Holy Spirit Who comes to us, He can be in each of our bodies because He is a Spirit.


Is the use of the Christian's body important? How ridiculous to even ask! Shall I take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? God forbid! The use of the Christian's body is not just a matter of our comfort or our pleasure. It is a matter of honoring God even in the very way we use our physical bodies day by day.

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