All Things are Lawful
Text: I Corinthians 10:21-33
I. I Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23 are sometimes cited to justify actions.
A. Everything can be right.
B. It forms the foundation for situational ethics, where right and wrong is not determined by what is done (or not done), but upon the situation.
C. People will agree that something is not in the Bible, but it doesn’t matter to them because they can claim everything has a lawful use.
D. Notice, though, that such a reading would lead to a contradiction.
1. In I Corinthians 10:23, the all things are lawful is preceded by warnings that Christians cannot be idolaters and is followed by advice not to offend a brother’s conscience.
2. If all things are lawful, why did Paul list things that would keep a person out of the kingdom of God just prior? - I Corinthians 6:9-11
3. This apparent and immediate conflict tells us that Paul is using a literary technique.
II. The meaning of “expediency”
A. The Greek word behind “expedient” or “helpful” is sumphero.
1. It refers to actions that are ultimately for good, though they may not appear to be good at the present time.
B. Matthew 5:29-30 - Note “more profitable” is the translation of sumphero
1. Jesus is not literally advocating the removal of an eye or limb, but pointing out the relative value
2. Limitations in this life, such as a loss of sight or the ability to walk, if it allows us to enter heaven is far better that full ability and hell awaiting us in the next life.
C. Matthew 19:10
1. After discussing the strictness of the remarriage issue, the disciples expressed that it seems better to not to marry at all.
2. Jesus points out that it is more profitable for a man to become celibate for the kingdom’s sake than to insist on full sexual freedom - Matthew 19:11-12
3. This fully punctures the argument made by divorce people who justify their remarriage by stating “God wouldn’t want me to be unhappy.”
4. It is better to take on a limitation of no sexual relations than to commit adultery and lose your right to heaven.
D. Jesus did not look forward to his death on the cross, but he argued that it was for the greater good
1. John 16:7 - “to your advantage”
2. Caiaphas unknowingly made a similar prophecy - John 11:50
E. Discipline is of the same nature - Hebrews 12:9-11
1. No one enjoys discipline at the moment it is received
2. But we understand that it ultimately leads toward the greater good
III. In I Corinthians 6:12, Paul is granting the argument given to justify many of the sins listed I Corinthians 6:9-11
A. Paul is not stating that he can do anything that he pleases.
B. But the commonly made point, “There’s no law against ...”
C. “God made our desires, so it is not a sin to satisfy these desires.” - I Corinthians 6:13
D. To show how wrong this philosophy is, Paul grants their point and shows that it leads to an undesirable conclusion.
E. Let’s assume all things are lawful
1. Yet, you and I would admit that everything is not always in our best interest.
2. Food is lawful - I Timothy 4:4-5
a. Does it mean I can eat anything without harm?
(1) What about toadstools? Anyone want a salad of poison-ivy leaves?
b. Can I indulge all I want with any quantity or at any time?
(1) No, such would not be healthy
c. What happens when my appetite becomes my goal?
(1) Instead of a liberty, it becomes my taskmaster - II Peter 2:19
(2) We cannot use liberty to justify the flesh - Galatians 5:13
(3) If we commit sin, we become its slave - John 8:34
d. Even here we know some foods are sinful - Acts 15:28-29
e. The argument just doesn’t hold water
3. Paul then applies the same argument to the desire of sex
a. Can sex be indiscriminately indulged without harm? - Proverbs 6:32-33
b. Can I indulge at any time, with anyone? - Proverbs 6:34-35 (the neighbor’s husband would disagree)
c. Paul then proves that sex binds - I Corinthians 6:15-16
d. Sex outside of marriage causes harm to one’s self - I Corinthians 6:18
e. Sex outside of marriage causes harm to one’s relationship with God - I Corinthians 6:19-20
F. Instead of proving that all things are lawful, Paul is chopping a poor argument to pieces with the hard logic of God.’s word.
IV. Even when an action is lawful, it might not be the proper action to take in every circumstance - I Corinthians 10:31-33 (“my own profit”)
A. Paul was willing to take on limitations if those limitations furthered the acceptance of the gospel message - I Corinthians 10:24
B. I Corinthians 9:19-22
C. Contrast this to the popular notion that my “rights” must be upheld.
V. No one is ever outside law. Notice again I Corinthians 9:21
A. Expediencies do not give a right to go beyond what God has said.
B. Actions must be first lawful, then we may choose to restrict our lawful choices for the greater good. This is expediency
1. Authority to assemble as a church - Hebrews 10:24. The use of a meeting house is an expedient way to fulfill the command to assemble.
2. Authority to teach - Ephesians 4:11. Dividing up into Bible classes is an expedient way to fulfill the command to teach.
3. Authority to take up a collection - I Corinthians 16:1-2. Using collection baskets to gather funds during worship is an expedient way to fulfill the command to take up a collection.
4. Baptism is commanded in Acts 2:38. Having a baptistry to have water available is an expedience.
5. Singing is commanded in Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16. Using song books is an expedience.
D. In each case there are multiple ways to fulfill each command.
1. But every possible method is not necessarily the best method for a given time or place.
2. For example, a rapidly growing church might find owning a meeting house too restrictive to growth, while a stable group might find renting too large of a drain on the budget.
3. Each group purposely restricts its options for the greater good.