“For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:20).
In the Old Testament law, it said this: “If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her to make her his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins” (Ex. 22:16-17).
While this is sometimes confusing to moderns, it is actually a wonderful law for protecting the rights of women, the authority of fathers, and for deterring sexual sin. It is the origin of a dowry. A dowry is often understood by moderns to be only an inheritance that a father gives his daughter when she is given away in marriage, and while that may have been included in the ancient world, it also used to include money that a man gave to the woman he was seeking to marry as a sort of insurance policy against him leaving her. It would be enough money for the woman to live on her own and provide for herself if the man was unfaithful or deserted her. What this law required was that a man must pay that bride-price or dowry if he seduced a woman prior to betrothal or marriage, whether or not the father agreed to give his daughter away in marriage.
This seems to be in the background as Paul addresses sexual sin in 1 Corinthians 6: Christians belong to God, and in particular, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. But if the Holy Spirit has been given to us, and He dwells in us, then we are betrothed to God, married to Him. We have been made one with the Lord. We do not belong to ourselves, any more than a husband’s body is his own, or is a wife’s body her own. When the two become one flesh, their bodies belong to one another. And how did we come to belong to God? He bought us with the bride-price of the blood of Jesus and gave us His Spirit. But there is more.
Earlier in 1 Corinthians 6 it says that fornicators and adulterers (among other notorious sinners) will not inherit the kingdom of God, and then it says these wonderful words: “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).
This is the center of the Christian gospel: God saves sinners. And He saves them by washing them clean, making them holy, and justifying them in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God. How does this work? Justification is the doctrine of Christian courage. To the extent that we live in a land of cowards this is because we are a land that has abandoned the gospel of the Reformation, and the doctrine of justification in particular.
And so here it is: the doctrine of justification is for guilty sinners. And it is only for guilty sinners. Good people have no need for justification. The healthy don’t need a physician. But justification is the act of God’s free grace whereby He declares sinners completely righteous for the sake and received by faith alone. In Galatians, it says that God calls those things which are not as though they are. This is the glory of justification. A moment before God’s pronouncement we are filthy sinners and the moment after we are still filthy sinners in ourselves. But God has hammered his gavel in Heaven and declared “not guilty.” Everything about us screams that we are guilty. We have been unfaithful. But God declares us “righteous.” And when we ask, “How is that possible?” God says that the penalty has been paid by another, and the righteous obedience of that Other has been reckoned to us.
The really amazing thing is that our sins were sins against God. We were betrothed to God, and we cheated on God. We cheated on God with other gods, idols, lusts. Like the prodigal son, we wasted our dowry on riotous living. And yet God in His mercy gives another. The One who did not sin, paid the bride-price for the one who did sin.
Because the penalty has been paid, God freely forgives. This is what it means to be washed. But we need to be clear here too. When God forgives, He promises not to hold against us what we have done against Him. He promises to reckon all our sin paid for by the blood of Jesus. And this is the only basis for Christian fellowship. We are one with God because of the price that Christ paid. And we have fellowship with one another because of the price that Christ paid. And the currency is the blood of Jesus – and this blood cleanses us and restores fellowship when we confess our sins to God and one another and forgive one another for the sake of the blood of Christ. This is what it means to be bought with a price. This is what it means to be a blood-bought people.
Elijah, my charge to you is to imitate this self-sacrificial leadership of Christ. You are being called today to lay your life down for Evangeline. This means taking responsibility for her, just as Christ took responsibility for us. Christ had reason and right to say that our problems were not His problems. But instead He drew near and claimed our problems as His own. So you must see Evangline as youself, as your own body. And as Christ has forgiven you, you must forgive her. As Christ bled and died to make you righteous, you must bleed and die for Evangeline’s good. This doesn’t mean doing whatever Evangline wants. If Christ had asked us what we thought He should when He came to earth, none of us would have been in favor of Him dying. But Christ did what we needed, what was for our good, and so we are saved. So likewise, you must study Evangeline and you must study the gospel so that you will see clearly to know what it is you must do. And it’s a pretty wonderful thing that Evangeline’s name means “gospel” – that way you will never forget.
Evangline, my charge to you is to receive Elijah’s self-sacrificial leadership in the Lord. Elijah is not Jesus, but He is required by God to imitate to Jesus. And you are required by God to receive that imitation with all respect and honor and submission. Just as the Church receives the love of Christ with deep gratitude and honor, receive Elijah’s love and leadership and return it to him with joy and thanksgiving. Respect particularly focuses on noticing accomplishments, praising and thanking for diligence, hard work, and achievements. The first few words out of every little boy’s mouth are “watch this!” And this is because God has wired men to thrive on respect. So respect your husband. Look up to him. Seek his counsel. Serve him. And forgive him, as you have been forgiven. Just as you will be greatly blessed by Elijah’s love for you; Elijah will be greatly blessed by your respect for him. Just as you have been purchased by Christ and belong to Him, so now you belong to Elijah and he belongs to you.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.