Question: "What does it mean that "you were bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23)?"
Answer: Twice the apostle Paul informed believers at Corinth, “You were bought with a price.” In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul was making a passionate appeal against sexual immorality. He concluded his argument, stating, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, ESV).
A Christian’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. At salvation, the Holy Spirit takes up residence, transforming the believer’s body into a sanctified place, a home for God’s holy presence (Hebrews 10:10). In union with Christ, the Christian receives a new nature and a new identity (2 Corinthians 5:17). When a believer engages in sexual immorality, he or she violates that new creation, which was purchased at a very high price.
The price we were bought with is disclosed in 1 Peter 1:18–19: “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (NLT).
When Paul said, “You were bought with a price,” he meant that believers were purchased and paid for with the sinless, spotless perfection of Jesus Christ’s blood. Jesus Himself said that He came to give His life as a ransom for us (Matthew 20:28). Since we were obtained at such a tremendous expense, we are to use our bodies to honor God with good deeds: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10, NLT).
Paul reminded the Corinthians that ownership of their bodies had been transferred to Christ. They no longer had the right or freedom to use their bodies any way they wished. Just as slaves were purchased in the ancient world, we were bought with the price of Christ’s blood on the cross. We now belong to Him (1 Corinthians 7:22). We don’t have the right to rebel against our Master by using our bodies in ways He forbids.
Paul repeated this teaching in 1 Corinthians 7:23, but with an emphasis on spiritual freedom: “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings.” Believers are set free from the dominion of sin through the death of Christ (Galatians 1:4). Our spiritual freedom comes at the price of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). Consequently, since we now belong to Christ, we must not let ourselves come under the control of other humans.
Paul’s phrase become slaves of human beings was meant metaphorically. We are not to let human ideas and worldly systems rule over us. Legalism, for example, should not rule us; we are not bound by the rules of men. Rather, we are “responsible to God” (1 Corinthians 7:24). Jesus Christ alone is our Master.
In one sense, the blood of Christ paid for our liberation, setting us free from sin; but in another inference, His sacrifice changed our ownership, making us slaves to God alone. “You were bought with a price” means God was willing to obtain possession of us on Calvary by paying the ultimate price—the blood of His own Son (Acts 20:28).