Thursday, April 4, 2024

Abusing Christian Liberty (1 Corinthians 6:12-14)

"All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful" (1 Cor. 6:12).

Returning to our study of 1 Corinthians today, we find Paul dealing with immorality in the Corinthian Church. In the preceding paragraph, Paul declared that the immoral cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The Corinthians probably defended their behavior by using Paul’s own teaching on Christian liberty. No doubt the church had heard Paul’s instruction that “all things are permissible,” but the Corinthians had twisted his teaching to excuse their sin. Paul’s comment was made in reference to those things that are indifferent in the sight of God, such as those aspects of the Jewish ceremonial law concerning the distinction between clean and unclean meats. In this context, “all things are lawful for me” has to do with the eating of food and the ceremonial laws attached to it, laws that had been abrogated by God Himself.

The Corinthians were guilty of taking Paul’s instruction and using it to justify their idolatry, fornication, and homosexuality. “As the Greeks and Romans generally regarded fornication as belonging to the class of things indifferent, that is, not immoral in themselves; it is not surprising that some of the Corinthians educated in that belief should retain and act on the principle even after their profession of Christianity,” Hodge wrote. “They reasoned from analogy. As it is right to eat all kinds of food which are adapted to the stomach, so it is right to gratify any other natural propensity.” Paul’s answer to the Corinthians’ argument is twofold. He first declares that the principle of Christian liberty in things indifferent is to be restricted in its application. Second, there is no analogy between the cases mentioned. Food is a thing indifferent, but fornication is in its own nature a sin. Paul also maintains that just because something, like food, is a matter of indifference, you should still not become enslaved to your appetite, but should exercise control.

Because Christ has redeemed us, we should not corrupt ourselves by gratifying our sinful appetites. We should in all things live to the glory and honor of Christ who died for us and now stands at the right hand of God as our Lord and our King. May we be subject to Him in all things, putting away sin and temptation as we seek to obey Him and live in godliness and holiness.

It is not uncommon for Christians to use the teaching of Christian liberty as a license for all kinds of sin. Christian liberty does not give you the freedom to sin (Rom. 6). Take a serious look at your own life today. Are you using Christian liberty to excuse sin in any form? Even in those things that are lawful, do you let your appetites rule you?