Saturday, 28 June 2014
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 1 Corinthians 6:12
In what seems a dramatic shift to another subject, Paul begins today with, “All things are lawful for me…” He will go on to speak about foods in another verse, and so it seems that he is referring to something newly introduced. But then he will return to the subject of sexual immorality, demonstrating that he hasn’t really changed course at all. He has been speaking about this issue already and is merely taking another approach to help the issue sink in.
Therefore, when he says “All things are lawful for me..,” it is speaking in a general sense, not literally that “all” things are lawful. In other words, “sex” is lawful, but “sexual immorality” is not. He will introduce “foods” in order to get us to think on a different level concerning this. From his previous comments in this epistle, it is completely inescapable that committing acts of a perverse sexual nature are forbidden. He has already shown that to be true. And so he continues. Yes, “all things are lawful, but all things are not helpful.”
In this, Paul is speaking of “license.” What are we free to do in Christ, and how can we misuse that freedom which actually turns into bondage? And so again, he states, “All things are lawful…” He is emphasizing the matter to capture our full attention and to ensure that we understand what he is desperately trying to tell the Corinthians (and thus us as well who are reading his words).
Yes, “all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” God created sex (which we are using as an example of a general principle) and therefore it must be “good.” But we can abuse what God has given to the point where it is no longer “good.” This takes us down several paths. Sex is normally lawful, but inappropriate sex is not helpful. If it is not helpful, then it is harmful. There is a self destructive nature to inappropriate sex.
Likewise, sex is normally lawful, but we can be brought under the power of inappropriate sex and become enslaved by it. If we are enslaved by it, we are no longer serving the Master who bought us and “sanctified” and “justified” us as was noted in the previous verse. We are working contrary to what God has intended. The penalty for this has already been noted – to be expelled from the fellowship. This concept will be built on by Paul in the verses ahead. To understand what he is saying in this verse, the words of C.J. Ellicott will provide clarity –
“There is a verbal contrast in the Greek here which can scarcely be rendered fully in English. The Greek words for “unlawful” and “be brought under the power of” are cognate words. What the Apostle says is, ‘All things are lawful for me, but I am not the one to allow them therefore to become a law over me.’ There is such a thing as becoming the very slave of liberty itself. If we sacrifice the power of choice which is implied in the thought of liberty, we cease to be free; we are brought under the power of that which should be in our power.”
Understanding this, we see that being brought under the power of something other than Christ is a return to bondage and therefore teaching, practicing, or allowing sinful license is contrary to the gospel. If it is contrary to the gospel, then it is not “of” the gospel and must be condemned. This is why Paul was so strict in his judgment against the sexually immoral sinner in the previous chapter. and it is why the church must continue to be strict in such judgments. There is but one gospel and it must not be polluted or corrupted.
Life application: Paul wrote his letters under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. What he says are, therefore, God’s words, not just his. To reject what he has written is to reject what God expects. Stand fast on the truth of the gospel and the need for purity and holiness within the church.
Lord, help me to honor you with every breath I take. I tend to get distracted by the momentary things which pop up and suddenly I find myself walking once again in the flesh. Remind me to be filled with Your Spirit, walking in obedience to You, and ever mindful of the great and honorable title of “Christian” which I bear. This I pray to and for Your glory. Amen.