All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. 1 Cor 6:12
The Christian’s freedom in Christ is a truth that Paul never tired of preaching. He exhorted the church at Rome that all believers “are not under law, but under grace” (Rom 6:14), later instructing (7:6) “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.” He continually rejoiced in “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom 8:21). To the church at Galatia, Paul emphasized that they “were called to freedom” (Gal 5:13); instructing them that they were no longer children of the slave but of the free woman. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Gal 4:31-5:1). It is by God’s grace alone that a Christian is saved, justified, sanctified, and counted righteous and holy in God’s sight (Rom 4:22-25, 8:33, Eph 2:8-9), so that a Christian can commit no sin that is not covered by God’s grace through the sacrifice of Christ’s blood. That issue was settled and undoubtedly emphasized during Paul’s time among the Corinthian church as well.
Whenever Paul writes of Christian freedom it was either in relation to freedom from a “works righteousness” – that is, earning salvation by good deeds, or freedom in “gray areas” – those activities upon which there is no specific command in the Scripture. The Corinthians however, had perverted the idea of Christian freedom in order to justify their sinning. They pretended to have a theological excuse to continue the sinful activities they enjoyed while still in ‘Sin City.’ They might have used the argument that Paul anticipated as he explained grace to the Roman church: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?” (Rom 6:1). The statement, “everything is lawful for me,” may have been tossed around the church at Corinth as a slogan to justify their immorality. Emphasizing their freedom in Christ, they ignored the complementary truth, which Paul would also have most surely taught them. “… only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh” (Gal 5:13); “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (Rom 6:14). So Paul reminds the church at Corinth that while they are indeed free, that “not all things are helpful …I will not be enslaved by anything.” (1 Cor 6:12, 10:23). The limits of Christian liberty is going to be an important theme in chapters 8-11, as Paul instructs them to take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak (1 Cor 8:9); however here in chapter 6, dealing with the theme of sexual immorality, his exhortation is much stronger. In 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 Paul reveals the evil of sexual sin: it is harmful to everyone involved; it gains control over those who indulge in it; and it perverts God’s purpose for the body. In light of the Gospel – Christ’s perfect sacrifice which purchased us off the slave block of sin – you now have the freedom to glorify God in your body (1 Cor 6:20). Believe it, stand firm in it, and walk in the beauty and freedom of holiness.
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