Lucia's Blog: ARE ALL THINGS LAWFUL?
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Thursday, April 16, 2015

ARE ALL THINGS LAWFUL?

"All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything."  
I Corinthians 6:12


In the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul is addressing some issues that were brought to his attention by the house of Chloe back in I Corinthians 1:11.  There were contentions or quarrels.  This led him to address some of the issues that had developed since he was there last, Acts 18"For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you." 
“All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.”  I Corinthians 10:23-24

In some translations the word "expedient" is used in place of  "profitable."  One must understand first the true meaning of the word in order to understand the context of what Paul was talking about.  The definition of the word  "expedient" is: “convenient and practical, improper or immoral, advantageous, in one's own interests, useful, of use, beneficial, of benefit, helpful; practical, pragmatic, politic, prudent, wise, judicious, sensible.”  Let us focus on the importance of expediency of what we do.  Expediency is about making wise judgments for the good of a person. It pertains to all matters of opinion.  Expediency centers on "being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."  Ephesians 4:3.  It is all about making the most profitable and upright judgments rooted firmly in the will of God.  It is all about doing God’s will and not my will.  We must make wise judgments each time we decide how to expedite expediency.  This matter will define how sound a church is or is not.  Soundness is a vital part of expediency.  Sadly, we live in a culture that is not willing to understand this principle.  How can we maintain balance in matters of judgment or expediency and not argue over matters that don't amount to a hill of beans?  Again, the answer rests upon the Sacred Text. The key is to diligently search the Scriptures to make the wise and righteous application in any setting or relationship.  We allow the Spirit of unity to enter the church and all other personal relationships through His Word.  We must grow in our knowledge of Him.  This is the utmost of true expediency.  John 17:17; II Peter 1:2-11; 3:18.
"Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth."   John 17:17
"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."  II Peter 3:18

The word "expediency" is found in the Greek New Testament seventeen times.  It is also translated “profit” or “profitable.”  When one thinks of "expediency," he must think of matters that are profitable to the other person: something that is good, wise, sensible, or beneficial to the well-being or edification of the other person.  These are all matters of wisdom and judgment. So the question for us as Christians is “How can we best apply all matters of expediency with wisdom and righteous judgment?”

As I said earlier, Paul was going to deal with matters of expediency at Corinth.  Paul dealt with them in the most beneficial and edifying way.  Paul dealt with every matter according to the divine standard of our Lord and Savior as stated in I Corinthians 1:10, “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.”  and Colossians 3:17, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus."  The same divine standard must govern each church of Christ in all that we do or say.  This is a real challenge!  The focus and intent of the heart must be to do the will of God as revealed in the Sacred Text.
"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."  Hebrews 4:12.  


“All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify."  I Corinthians 10:23

In I Corinthians 10:23, Paul stated, "but not all things edify."  That is, not everything that is lawful under the Lordship of Christ, would necessarily edify, help or be profitable to the one who is weak in his faith.  And although we may have permission from God to do certain things, we might not be authorized to do them because they are not profitable.  The liberty that Jesus gives us does not give us the license to disobey God's commands or ignore His necessary implications.  Turning back a few pages to chapter 8, Paul discusses the matter of eating meats offered to idols.  Some were puffed up by knowledge.   Knowledge alone is not enough.  When love and knowledge are interwoven, edification can occur, I Cor. 8:1; 13:1-8. "Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies."  Here in chapter 8, Paul firmly states that their knowledge of the supposed liberty to eat meat sacrificed to idols amounted to nothing.  It is all vanity, I Cor.8:4-6.  You see, what Paul was trying to avoid was causing the weak brother to stumble in his faith.  Why?  Because these were babes in Christ who could be easily drawn back into idolatry and stumble or sin.  Why?   Because it would not be expedient, beneficial, profitable or edifying to affirm the liberty that would destroy his brother.  That is why in I Corinthians 8:9, Paul is urging the Corinthians to be careful and not allow their knowledge to become a stumbling block to those who were still weak in their faith, without much understanding, teaching or knowledge of those principles.  We as Christians must never cause another Christian who is still weak to stumble over matters of opinion.  The Truth is that if we do not obey this instruction of Christ, we ourselves will be judged by Him.   II Thessalonians 1:8-9…  Period!
 
The Law of Christ mandates the church to assemble on the first day of the week to observe the Lord´s Supper.  Is it lawful to set a time during the week for Bible study?  Many congregations have met on Wednesday nights for years with little change.  What is the difference?  The Lord's Day assembly is mandated by Acts 20:7; I Corinthians 16:1 and Hebrews 10:25.  The other times of Bible study are profitable but they are not mandated by Scripture.  We have authority given in Scripture to assemble on Sunday to observe the Lord's Supper, that is, to remember His death and resurrection, and to “lay by in store as we have prospered.”  Is the church given a law as to what hour to meet on the first day of the week?  No.  So again, the issue is what is expedient.  In I Corinthians 11:23-33, Paul said that when we come together to eat the Lord’s Supper, we should wait on each other.  Notice that this is an action to be done together as a church.  They need to do it when the body can come together as one, Romans 12:4-5; I Corinthians 12:14-7.  What this means is that each member of the body is thinking about what is expedient, beneficial or profitable to the other members of the body.  And while it is not mandated by the Law of Christ that we meet during the week, it is lawful at any time to study the Scriptures.  Acts 2:46, Hebrews 3:13.
 
Sadly, there are many that would charge us with being "legalistic."  Why?  Because if one as a Christian keeps all laws, obeying all of God's commands, they say that he is a “legalist.”  Some would go as far as to say that since we are under "Free Grace," there are no laws or rules for us Christians anymore.  That we are under liberty to do as we please because grace covers us.  So I don't have to work out my salvation with fear and trembling, Philippians 2:12.  Let us not forget that all Christians are under the Law of Christ, Rom. 8:7; James 1:25There are doctrines, rules and commands that we must follow and obey.

In I Corinthians 6:12, Paul stated, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything."   So, what did Paul mean with "All things are lawful for me?"  Did he mean that it was lawful or acceptable for us as Christians under the Law of Christ to defile the marriage bed?  To lie?  To cheat?  To quarrel?  To murder?  To fornicate? To get drunk?  To covet?  To steal? To dress immodestly and provocative?  The list can be long.  Notice, what Paul is telling them three verses earlier, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.  Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”  Moreover, in verse 18, Paul commands them to flee all immorality but rather glorify God in their bodies.  Why?  Because they were bought by the precious blood of our Lord, v. 20.   Because our bodies are His temple, v. 19.

Also, in other letters such as the letter to the Galatians, the Ephesians and of course the Corinthians, Paul is giving them a list of sins which without a doubt were unlawful for Christians.  (Ephesians 5:3-5; Galatians 5:19-21; I Corinthians 6:9-11).  Take note that the list of unlawful things precedes the discussion of all things that were lawful but not expedient.  For example in Romans 8:7, Paul is telling them that they were to obey "the Law of God."  And although Paul taught them that they were no longer under the Law of Moses, Rom. 10:3-5; Gal. 3:25; 4:9-12, 21-31, he was not saying that they were under no law of any kind.  Why?  Because we, Christians, are under the laws or commands of the New Testament, the Law of Christ.  Are you aware that 9 out of 10 commandments under the Law of Moses are repeated in the Law of Christ, the New Covenant?

The utterance "All things are lawful for me" was apparently a slogan the Corinthians had embraced in order to justify their sinful behavior.  When the Corinthians referred to "all things," they meant all things not specifically forbidden in the Scriptures.  By the way, Paul uses the same slogan to get their attention.


This is seen clearly in I Corinthians 6:1-20 and I Corinthians 8:1-11:1.   Here Paul is referring to our liberty in specified areas.  It is undeniable that we have much freedom in our walk with Christ and that we have free will to choose what is right or wrong, yet we have serious restrictionsWhy?  Because our purpose is not to cause anyone to stumble.  He implies that there might be times when we must abstain even from those lawful thingsWhy?  Because we can become enslaved or mastered by those things that are lawful.  That is to say that if at any given moment, we find ourselves brought under the control of the fleshly or worldly things, it is then that we must choose to cease from it.  We must make every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:5Therefore, one must restrict his liberty, for example, in the matter of habits or addictions.  Why?  Because to become addicted or dominated by anything, even those things that are not specifically forbidden in Scripture, is wrong.

So my question is: Are sports, fishing, hunting, gardening, reading, writing.... and even too much TV or computer networking and even our jobs be harmful addictions?  Although, they can be morally neutral, they can become harmful addictions if one is not careful.  One example is a husband neglecting his wife and his children to pursue some of these things.  Many try to rationalize by saying, "what is wrong with sports, fishing, hunting.... It is not forbidden in the Bible."  The same with drinking alcohol or wine and legal drugs.  And although the Bible does not specifically forbid these altogether, a good and faithful Christian must abstain from them under most circumstances.  Why?  First, because it is wise from the standpoint of not causing your brother to stumble.  Second, we are not to be mastered by anything that is not our Lord.  And third, it might cause the ruin or downfall for many. The Lord warns us not to be mastered by anything.  We are not to be brought under the control of anything else that it is not Him and His rule.  He as the Master has all power and authority over us Christians.  We are His slaves.  He is the only One who can dictate what He wants us, His slaves, to do or not do.  Unfortunately, many including Christians are mastered or enslaved by the wrong master.  They are simply mastered by worldly things and habits.  They indulge in the desires of their flesh.  They are enemies of His cross whose final state will be their own destructionPhilippians 3:18-19.

There is a great danger when one satisfies his own appetites, because he becomes his own god.  He has surrendered to his own flesh, his master is sin.  He serves his lusts and appetites. "Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?"   Romans 6:16.  On the other hand, the one who presents himself as a slave for obedience to the Lord, he is a wise person who willingly, without being forced, obeys His Master from a sincere and pure heart.  Lest we forget, Christians are not to be mastered by anything but our Lord and Savior.  Let us not allow all of God's blessing to entrap us, that we should serve them as gods abandoning our Master.  Remember, that Christ is our only Lord and Master.  Why?  Simply because He is the One chosen by the Father to be Lord and Christ, Acts 2:22-23; Eph. 4:5.  And if He is Lord, then we must obey Him in everything, Luke 6:46.

So, my question is:  How is Jesus our freedom?  He declares this freedom in John 8:31-32How?  If we continue abiding in His Word, then we will be set free from the slavery of sin, verses 33-36.  Moreover, freedom in Christ means that we have liberty in every aspect of our life.  Yet, we must not be slaves to unrighteousness and we must not abuse such freedom.

Christians often make unwise choices because of their liberties.  They forget the enormous impact that they may have on others, especially those who are weak in the faith.  We must take this seriously because we might be the stumbling block that causes someone to do wrong, even as we exercise our liberties, I Cor. 8:8-9Paul is even warning us, to not let our knowledge and by extension our example encourage a brother to violate his own conscience which is weak for lack of knowledge.  Paul strongly calls this a sin.  Why?  Because the moment that you do that, you are wounding the conscience of the one who is weak or is lacking in understanding, I Cor. 8:12; Romans 14:23.  Let us be careful not to “shed innocent blood!”  Let us be diligently careful in matter of opinions that will cause the weak brother to stumble or sin.  Our focus and intent must be that of building up the body of Christ in the most beneficial and loving way according to the divine pattern of the Law of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Galatians 6:1-2 So, if our choices will cause another Christian to stumble, we are to restrict our liberty, I Corinthians 8-10.

Hence, let not our righteous stand in liberty become unrighteous by causing one to stumble.  This is not to say that we are going to stop teaching all Truth just because someone thinks it is offensive and causing him to stumble.  The teaching of the Truth is not controlled by the conscience of others, but by the revealed Word of God.  II Timothy 4:2; Hebrews 4:12.  One cannot stop teaching what needs to be taught just because some might be offended, Matthew 15:1-14.  For instance, some misuse our Text by using it to justify all matters of doctrinal error in the church.  They attempt to justify matters such as instrumental music, fellowship with sin and such issues whose main target is to destroy the purity of the gospel and the work of the church.  Sin and false doctrine destroy and do not edify, they are not expedient.  Everything that we do in word and in deed must be for the well-being and benefit of the church, the edification of the body of Christ and their holy faith, Jude 20. 

Accordingly, elders are given the task of feeding the church of God, Acts 20:28.  This does not mean that they are to abuse their authority by destroying the purity of the church, but rather to expedite their teaching and feeding with the Word of God and His divine authority.  This is the only way to radiate unity.  Paul's concept of feeding and edifying the church was absolutely not by means of fleshly “expedients” such as entertainment.  It is not Biblical expediency.  Elders must take this seriously!  Why?  Because all decision-making must be done according to His will, His doctrine and not our will.  So let us be careful that all the work of the church is truly expedient and not just recreation.

In Conclusion:   Are we using our freedom to disregard what's good, beneficial or profitable for our neighbor? Are we denying ourselves and taking up our cross and following Jesus for the benefit of our neighbor and the glory of God?  I Corinthians 10:23-24.

Let us not allow our liberties to judge one another, but rather let us choose in our hearts to never put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother, he whose heart wants to serve God.  Instead, let us use our liberties to pursue peace and mutual edification, lest we destroy the work of God!  Let us be more concerned about the well-being of the souls of others, than our own rights, or our opinions that condemn the weak in knowledge.  Let us not ignore the message of Romans 14 Let us not deceive ourselves by trying to find excuses to seek unity in the diversity of false doctrines.  Let us take to heart the true message of Romans 14, which is to put aside our liberties (things that are lawful but not required) in order that we may not wound the conscience of others.  Let us exercise what is truly expedient and let us have the mind of Christ, Philippians 2:1-8. 

May the Lord help us to always do what is expedient to the salvation of our brethren while reverencing the sacred authority of Jesus our Lord and Savior.

Luci