Who Does the Joining (1 Cor. 6:16)?

By Timothy Sparks


(All Scriptures quoted are from the NKJV unless otherwise stated.)

“Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ‘the two,’ He says, ‘shall become one flesh’” (1 Cor. 6:16).

[Note: I have found no Greek text that has “one flesh” for a man joining himself with a prostitute. The text is ἓν σῶμά ἐστιν (“is one body”). Paul then quotes Gen. 2:24, referring to the God-joined union of a husband and wife. The joining a man does with a harlot is “one body.” God does the “one flesh” joining of husband and wife.]

Paul uses an illustration of a man joining himself to a prostitute. God does not do this joining. The NASB may reflect better that the joining to a harlot is done by a man and not by God: “Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her?” If it is not completely clear from 1 Cor. 6:16 that God has nothing to do with a man joining himself to a prostitute, Paul clearly implies such in his previous statement: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!” (1 Cor. 6:15).

If we wish to understand God’s joining, Jesus directs our attention to the beginning of creation (with Adam and Eve) (Mt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10:5-9). Adam and Eve had no betrothal. God even completely joined Adam and Eve before a sexual union. Sexual activity does not complete a God-joined union as some may falsely assert. Adam and Eve did not have a sexual relationship until God completely united them: 

“Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:22-24).

Adam’s words of acceptance serve as his vow of commitment that Eve would be his wife for life: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23a). His words “flesh of my flesh” provide the foundation of the one flesh union that God accomplished in uniting Adam and Eve. God unites a man and a woman into one flesh based on a vow for life that is bound for life (Rom. 7:2; 1 Cor. 7:39). God does not unite two into one flesh based on sexual activity.

God joined Adam and Eve before they had a sexual relationship. The sexual relationship is only approved by God after God unites a man and woman. Sexual activity is a privilege and obligation (1 Cor. 7:3-4) authorized by God within a God-joined union. A sexual relationship outside of a God-joined marriage (such as a man joining himself to a prostitute) is sinful.

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