Paul And The Slaves Of Lust

According to Paul, transformation in Christ resulted in a decisive break with the depravity of the world. Gentiles were "enslaved to lust"; Christ-followers became "slaves of God" (Rom 6:13-23). Gentiles characteristically commit porneia (1 Thess 4:5; Gal 5:16-26; Rom 1:18-32); Christ followers glorify God in their bodies (1 Cor 6:15-20). Gentiles join their bodies to prostitutes (1 Cor 6:15); Christ followers exercise self-mastery, or they marry and thereby channel their passions appropriately (1 Cor 7:1-16, 25-40). In this way, Paul juxtaposed the brothers and sisters in Christ with the (allegedly) depraved gentile idolaters, condemning the "crooked and perverse generation" (Phil 2:15) for sexual corruption while setting the "saints" apart on the basis of their strict self-control. Sexual immorality on the part of Christ followers cannot be tolerated. For example, when Paul heard that a brother was guilty of porneia of a kind "not even found among the gentiles" (1 Cor 5:1), he instructed the Corinthians to hand him over (paradidomi)55 to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, "that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord" (1 Cor 5:5). No Corinthian Christ follower should associate with a "brother" (i.e., member of the community) who is a prostitute/fornicator (pornos), or who is greedy, or an idolater, reviler, drunkard or robber (1 Cor 5:11). Rather, "drive out the wicked from among you" (1 Cor 5:13).

This sexualized language had a two-fold purpose: to produce difference between the "saints" (hagioi) of God and those who would face God's wrath; and to persuade the audience to accept a kind of sexual morality that, Paul argued, belongs to Judeans and gentiles-in-Christ alone. Accusing gentiles of sexual depravity, Paul participated in a long-standing polemical strategy familiar to Greeks, Judeans, and Romans alike: vilifying outsiders and defining insiders on the basis of sexual virtue and vice. Furthermore, he adopted the conventions of both Greek rhetoric and Judean anti-gentile polemics to do so. Paul's example was imitated by later Christian authors who also condemned outsiders for depravity and celebrated the exceptional virtues displayed by their own community.56 According to Paul, rejection of God is the problem, sexual depravity is the symptom, and Christ is the cure. Those who continued in sexual sin were promised a divinely initiated punishment. Those who suppressed the truth necessarily engage in "unnatural" lust, Paul argued, a direct result of their rejection of God (Rom 1:18-32). Those involved in porneia, idolatry, homoerotic sex, and adultery, among other vices, will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-11; compare Gal 5:16-26). The Lord will punish those gentile Christ followers who dare to continue in the lustful passions that characterized their former idolatrous lifestyle. In other words, they must accept Paul's particular definition of sexual self-control or face eternal destruction (1 Thess 4:3-6; 1 Cor 10:7-22). This is clear from an exegesis of Paul's letters to the Romans and to the Corinthians, as well as from the anti-gentile argumentation he employs throughout his letters.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment