First Corinthians 6 contains verses that encapsulate the principles that have been addressed in this Bible study guide. For example, the topic of oneness has been previously discussed when talking about the body and sexuality. In verse 18, Paul then exclaims in an interesting phrase, “Flee sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18)! The Greek verb pheugo denotes running away to seek safety. While the verb is used for escaping conquering armies and enemy forces, Paul uses the verb in a phrase interjected in the midst of his explanation of sinning against the body. In a sense, he equates sexual immorality and fornication with the external enemy forces. The tone is not advice, but one of the strongest possible command forms, the present imperative. God, through Paul, gives an order: it is emotive and abrupt.
When it comes to encounters with danger such as with wild animals, the body releases adrenaline that triggers the modes of “fighting” or “flighting.” One either stands up to the menace or escapes as fast as possible. For certain struggles, the Bible gives instruction to fight. James 4:7 admonishes us to resist the devil so that he would flee from us. Second Timothy 2:1–4 uses military language directed to soldiers. Whether it is about the training for spiritual warfare, the strategy of our weapons and enemy tactics, or the knowledge of the weapon of warfare, the Bible is clear that there are conditions for victory and that we are to be on the Victor’s side of the war.
But in the specific battle against sexual immorality, Paul instructs us that we are to flee. This is not a fight to be engaged in; we are simply to run away. This phrase has a parallel with the well-known narrative of Genesis 39, when in his youth Joseph encountered a particular temptation.
In the story, the young lad was in a position of responsibility (vv. 4–6) and physically attractive, or “handsome in form and appearance” (v. 6). The sexual temptation to sleep with his master’s wife is found in the following verses. First, she “cast longing eyes on Joseph” (v. 7). Clearly, she was using her charm and weapons of allure, attraction, and appeal to get him to fall. Second, she used an imperative: “Lie with me.” Not only was it commanded once, but verse 10 says the temptation came “day by day.” The temptation wasn’t merely to lie with her but to be with her. Joseph knew that proximity was also a dangerous path. Last, the circumstances of the temptation were chosen to make it conducive for Joseph to yield. The servants weren’t around, and the time of the incident was made convenient for her.
Happily, Joseph did not succumb. Genesis records that Joseph “left his garment in her hand and fled and ran outside” (v. 12). In fact, the word for “fled” is found four times in that story. Despite being naked and being misunderstood, he did not go back to reclaim his dignity or justice, but he “fled” sexual immorality. Secrets to his integrity and sexual purity can be found in several verses of the passage as well. A great question is posed that reveals Joseph’s heart: “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Though he had many horizontal relationships to think about—father, master, master’s wife, brothers, other servants, Egyptian society—his primary focus was on His relationship with God. He knew that this was not God’s desire, His plan, His will, or His pleasure. The second repeated phrase is found in verses 2, 3, 21, and 23, where the Bible says that “the Lord was with Joseph.” Clearly this is something that Joseph was constantly aware of and treasured this presence, the source of his strength, integrity, and purity.
Joseph’s struggle however is much more than a story about virtue. This one act would have impacted Joseph’s life in Egypt. In turn, this would have snowballed into a very different narrative leading to disastrous consequences not only to Joseph, but also impacting God’s plan for Israel. One seemingly little fall for an individual could lead to a different life course altogether.
The question is, Do we know that the Lord is with us? And also, Are we fleeing the scenarios as we should?