Words of Faith 5-24-17
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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1 Corinthians 6
 "Everything is permissible for me"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"--but I will not be mastered by anything.
Paul had dealt with some of the biggest and most visible issues in the church at Corinth, division over leaders and believers taking other believers into civil court. But there was a laundry list of other matters and none of them could be called unimportant.
Many of these concerned the expression and limits of freedom. They had to do with everything from sex and marriage to food and worship. There were a number of questions and problems that had been raised by the believers at Corinth as they tried to negotiate Christian life in a pagan world in a way that was faithful to Hebrew Scripture and to the Gospel of freedom that had been declared among them.
One of the problems in the ancient world was the penchant for religious slogans. Humans love slogans because they are simple and give a focused thought or principle. Today, slogans are used for advertising all the time. Who would have thought that the phrase "So easy a Caveman can do it" would become almost a cult classic? And to be fair and balanced... we all know that "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there…" and that "You're in good hands with Allstate".
Religious slogans serve a different purpose in focusing a much of a belief system into a simple guiding principle. We have all heard slogans like, "Where the Bible speaks, we speak..." or "The world is my parish". In Corinth, the slogan "Everything is permissible for me" had become a guiding premise for many people to the point that it was quoted in defense of activities that were immoral and hurtful.
The problem with the slogan "Everything is permissible for me" is that it is essentially true! We are free in Christ, indeed! We are not bound by the Law. We do not earn our righteousness before God through good works or rule-keeping. Jesus said: "Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean' "(Mark 7:14-15). It is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephes. 2:8-9). It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Gal. 5:1).
The problem with slogans is that they usually capture some of the truth, perhaps most of it, but not all of it. Paul gave two significant qualifications that needed to be imposed upon the popular expression of the day. Freedom had become a cloak for immorality for some.
"Everything is permissible for me," but not everything is beneficial. "It might be permissible, but it still is hurtful!" The word translated "beneficial" means something that builds up or is profitable to all, something that contributes to a good or gives, "collects together".
There are things that won't cause you to lose your salvation, but they can be very hurtful to you and to others, or just don't contribute to anything good or godly.
Christian freedom is not a license for unbridled self-indulgence. Freedom is tempered with the principle of love applied to both neighbor and self-- "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:30-31). Freedom that is hurtful to others breaches the command to love others. Freedom that loses sight of love for others is not an expression of the Mind of Christ.
Paul also tempered the issue of freedom with the principle of mastery and enslavement. "Everything is permissible for me," but I will not be mastered by anything. There are some things that are "permissible" because we are not under the Law, but they enslave us! This is not the goal of the freedom Christ gave us. There are activities that will not cause us to forfeit salvation, but they will cause us to miss most of the wonder and blessing that God has for us in this life.
Some of the Corinthians had misunderstood Christian freedom to be freedom FROM the guidance and protection of God, when, in fact, Christ offers us the freedom to be under the guidance and protection of God. (That sentence is so good you should read it again!)
How do we apply this to our lives? Paul will be working through many issues over most of the remainder of the Corinthian letter. There will be many lifestyle, family, and worship issues.
Today, we can start thinking about the balance that Paul is teaching. Everything is permissible, but is this helpful? Everything is permissible, but could this enslave me? Everything is permissible, but could this hurt someone? Everything is permissible, but will this really build up the Body?
Father God, thank You for the freedom that You have given to me in Christ. Help me to delight in the expression of that freedom, but always toward the benefit and freedom of others. In Jesus' Name.