The Problem of the Proper Use of the Body - Page 1 of 8 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Commentary on First Corinthians

By: Tom Lowe

Lesson 5.0: The Problem of the Proper Use of the Body
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 6.12-6.20

1 Cor 6.12-20 (KJV)
Section 5.0-A: We Have Been Changed

12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
Section 5.0-B: We Belong To the Lord
13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.
14 And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.
15 Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.
16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.
17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.
18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.

The Corinthian believers were ignorant of some basic truths of the Christian life.

Section 5.0-A
We Have Been Changed (12). We are not what we once were, so why should we live as we once lived? It is a matter not of “What is lawful?” but of “What is helpful?”

Section 5.0-B
We Belong To the Lord (13–20). He made the human body, He dwells in believers by His Spirit, and He purchased us at the Cross. The believer’s body belongs to God and must be used to glorify Him.


Section 5.0-A: We Have Been Changed

12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

All things are lawful unto me,
Paul is not referring to things that are sinful and ungodly. There are many things which believers could do which would not harm them individually and would not be contrary to the laws of God and of spiritually; but for the sake of other believers and those who are not Christians, we do not dare to do those things.
I am not suggesting that our feeling some things are not wrong will make them right; but there are places where an individual believer could go which would have no ill effects on him—yet if another believer having a different temperament, and perhaps saved from a different background would attend or visit the same place, it could bring to mind old sins and cause temptation that could be the cause of the weaker brother’s stumbling.

The thirteenth verse seems to relate to that early dispute among Christians over making a distinction between meats, and to Paul’s warning against fornication. The connection seems plain enough if we listen to the famous determination of the apostles (See Acts 15:19-29), where the prohibition of certain foods was joined with that of fornication. Now some among the Corinthians seem to have imagined that they were as much at liberty to practice fornication as they were to eat all kinds of meats, especially because it was not a sin condemned by the laws of their country. They were ready to say, even in the case of fornication, All things are lawful for me. Paul opposes this destructive behavior: he tells them that many things that are lawful in themselves were not at all appropriate at certain times, and under particular circumstances; and Christians should not only consider what they can legally do, but what is appropriate and proper for them to do, considering their profession of faith, character, relations, and hopes. Furthermore, they should be very careful not to carry this maxim too far, where they would be brought into bondage, either to a crafty deceiver or a carnal inclination.

It is likely that some of the Corinthians had argued that the offence of the man, who had his father's wife, as well as the eating the things offered to idols and attending idol feasts, was not contrary to the law, as it then stood. To this the apostle answers: Though such a thing is lawful, yet the case of fornication, mentioned 1 Corinthians 5:1, it is not expedient—it is not agreeable to modesty, decency, order, and purity. It is contrary to the social norms of the best and most enlightened nations, and should not be tolerated in the Church of Christ. They might have made this argument in favor of their eating things offered to idols, and attending idol feasts:--an idol was nothing in the world; and since food was provided by the

bounty of God, a man might partake of it anywhere without defiling his conscience, or committing sin against the Creator.

In both 1 Corinthians 5 (in the section dealing with the sexual immorality of a certain member of the Corinthian church) and in 1 Corinthians 6 (in the section where certain sinners are described), Paul has brought up the issue of the sexual conduct of Christians. Now, he will address some of the questions and problems the Corinthian Christians had in regard to understanding and doing what God wanted them to do in regard to sex. “All things are lawful for me” was probably a phrase Paul had used when teaching the Corinthian Christians about Christian liberty. We could just hear Paul telling the Corinthians exactly what he told the Colossians in Colossians 2:16-17: that when it comes to what we eat or drink or on what day we worship the Lord, all things are lawful for me. I am at liberty, and I should not let anyone put me under bondage, and legalists are prone to do just that.

but all things are not expedient:
“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient.” What the apostle is saying here is “I am a bond slave of Jesus Christ and I refuse to be brought under the power of anything except the grace of God and the power of the Gospel of grace. In this verse (as in chapter 10 verse 23 of this epistle) Paul is speaking about himself—and the subject is food: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” I may lawfully eat all kinds of food, but it would not be appropriate for me to eat some, because I could by this offend and grieve many weak minds. (1 Cor 10:23; KJV) The Corinthian Christians were taking the idea that all things are lawful and applying it to areas Paul, or the Lord, never intended. They were using their "liberty" as a license to sin. This can be seen specifically, from the reference to the harlot in 1 Corinthians 6:15—“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.” The point seems to be that the Corinthian Christians thought they had the liberty to use the services of prostitutes. This would have been culturally accepted in the city of Corinth, and it would have been accepted in the religious community among the religious pagans—who saw nothing wrong in a "religious" person using prostitutes.

In Paul’s day animals were sacrificed to idols, and according to Jewish custom they were not to eat the meat of an animal that had been offered to an idol. Paul knew he was saved by the grace of God, and he knew his salvation depended upon the grace of God, and not upon abstaining from any meats; yet he said, “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Cor 8:13; KJV). The apostle is careful not to invalidate the important doctrine of Christian liberty by leading these people back under Judaistic legalism. Rather, his intention is to circumscribe its application through proper restrictions. These are expressed, first of all, in the principle of “expediency.” Not everything is beneficial. Whether a law of prohibition exists or not, it is wrong to do something to ourselves or others simply because it is beneficial (See Rom 14:15–23; I Cor 8:7–13; 10:23–33).

Paul’s statement that all things were lawful unto him had been misunderstood and abused by those who wanted to practice the habits of the old life. It was absurd for those who were lax in their moral living to think that Paul had suggested such a thing. There has never been a man who has walked on this earth who lived a more dedicated, consecrated, separated life than the apostle Paul. He preached what he lived, and he lived what he preached, and no one had any reason to think that he had suggested that Christian liberty related to food made it lawful to be lax in moral matters.

The Greek word for “expedient” is sumphero, of which the literal meaning is “to bring with, or together, to profit withal.” It signifies that which is helpful to us, or to others. Christian liberty is ours only when beneficial to our individual lives, to the lives of other believers, and when it is not a hindrance to those who are not saved. No believer has a right to do something that he may consider to be innocent, if his actions might prove to be detrimental to others. Everything about the believer’s life must be regulated; not only from an ethical point of view, but from the standpoint of whether or not it is pleasing to the Lord. Believers should never forget that our Savior also has the right to be Lord of our life, and all that we do should be done to His glory.

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