In 1 Corinthians Paul deals with matters in a particular sequence. First he deals with soulish desires and aspirations; second, with the fleshly lusts; and third, with the claiming of rights. As we have pointed out, this sequence is very meaningful. In this message we come to Paul’s dealing with the abuse of freedom in foods and in the body, the fourth matter covered in this Epistle.
Foods for man to exist and marriage for man to propagate himself are both necessary and ordained by God. Man has the right to use them. However, he should not abuse them, nor should he be under their power, controlled and enslaved by them. Abusive eating, like the eating of sacrifices to idols, causes the weak brothers to stumble (8:9-13; 10:28-30, 32), and excessive eating damages our body. Both foods and our belly will be done away with; God will bring both to nothing (6:13). The abuse of sex is fornication. It is not only condemned by God; it also destroys our body (v. 18), which is for the Lord.
Both eating and marriage have been ordained by God and are necessary for the existence of mankind. If mankind is to continue on earth for the fulfillment of God’s purpose, there is the need for eating and for marriage. Food is not only created by God, but also ordained by Him for our existence. Marriage is for the propagation of mankind. Because eating and marriage are both ordained by God, both are legal. In each case we have freedom, the freedom to eat and the freedom to marry. However, fallen man has abused his freedom in these matters. For this reason, after dealing with soulish aspirations, fleshly lusts, and the claiming of rights, Paul turns to the matter of the abuse of freedom.
Some teachers of the Bible do not regard 6:12-18 as a separate section. Instead, they place it with the following two sections, the sections on marriage and the problem of eating idol sacrifices. This portion is considered an introduction to the following two sections, since these verses deal with eating and marriage. Many years ago, I did not think that 6:12-18 was an individual section. But after reading this book again and again over many years, I now believe that these verses are a separate section dealing with the abuse of human freedom.
We have seen that soulish people open the door to the lusts of the flesh and that fleshly people will insist on claiming their rights. Following this comes the abuse of freedom. In the church the soul must be denied. This is the basis for the church life on the negative side. On the positive side, the basis of the church life is the truth regarding Christ and His cross. In the church life we all must learn to deny the soul; that is, not to give any ground, occasion, or opening for the soul to do anything. Once the believers in a church become soulish, the church life is terminated, for the door will be open to the lusts of the flesh, and these lusts will give rise to the claiming of rights. There will even be the building up of a base both for claiming rights and for the abuse of human freedom. As we consider these matters, we realize that the sequence in which Paul deals with the problems in Corinthians is marvelous.
Paul opens this section with these words: “All things are lawful to me, but not all things are expedient. All things are lawful to me, but I will not be brought under the power of anything.” The Greek word rendered lawful literally means under my power of choice to do; hence, permissible, allowable, lawful. The word for expedient means profitable (not merely convenient), advantageous, good, worthwhile. This Greek word means profitable, economical, convenient, helpful in reaching the goal quickly. It also refers to things that are good. Here Paul’s thought may be that all things are lawful, but not all things help us to remain in the central lane of God’s economy. All things are lawful, but not all things help us in bearing the cross or are profitable in experiencing Christ.
If we would understand Paul’s use of the word expedient here, we need to have a proper realization concerning the book of Corinthians as a whole. All things are lawful to us, but not all things help us to gain the profit revealed in this Epistle. Not all things help us to live the Body life. Yes, you may be free to do certain things, but those things will not help you in the church life, and they will not strengthen your prayer life. If we apply what Paul says in 6:12 according to the context of the entire book of 1 Corinthians, we shall see that Paul’s word here is all-inclusive. In 6:12 Paul seems to be saying, “All things are lawful to me, but not all things are good, profitable, convenient, or economical for me to live the Christian life, the church life, and the Body life. Not all things help me to enjoy Christ or keep the feast of unleavened bread.”
© Living Stream Ministry All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.