The Problem of the Proper Use of the Body - Page 2 of 8 (series: Lessons on 1 Cor.)
by John Lowe
all things are lawful for me,
Paul repeats himself for the sake of saying what follows. It is a catch phrase which evidently had wide acceptance among the Corinthians. The liberty in Christ which made "all things lawful" was a relative, not an absolute principle; and any notion that the existence of appetites justified their gratification was not true then, or ever. "Some of them were evidently quoting this to justify their promiscuous sexual behavior; but Paul positively stated that it did not apply to that."
Paul says, All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Even in lawful things, he would not be subject to the impositions of an assumed authority: he was so far removed from the perception that in the things of God it was lawful for any power on earth to impose its own opinion. Note, There is a liberty by means of which Christ has made us free, in which we must stand fast. But surely he would never carry this liberty so far as to put himself into the power of any bodily appetite. Though all meats were supposed to be lawful, he would not become a glutton or a drunkard. And furthermore, he would not abuse the maxim of lawful liberty to put up with the sin of fornication, which, though it might be allowed by the Corinthian laws, was a trespass upon the law of nature, and utterly unbecoming a Christian.
but I will not be brought under the power of any.
This deals only with the effect on the individual himself. Paul is saying here, “All things are within my power, but I will not put myself under the power of any of them.” If the believer abuses his liberty, it will lessen his power of self-control; if this happens, then what is supposed to be liberty will become bondage. Regardless of however lawful (or at least that there is no law against them) anything may be, if it occupies my time or energy in a way that does not bring glory to God, and the edification of others, I am in danger of allowing myself to fall into bondage to it. Only by careful watchfulness and fear of the Lord in the heart can we prevent that which is legitimate—business, amusements, dress, food, or even our family—from gaining dominion over us and enslaving us, instead of being the bondslave of Jesus Christ and a servant of our fellow believers. Paul said, “…I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Phil 3:8; KJV). In comparison with the immeasurable value of the knowledge of Christ, all worldly things are to be regarded as nothing at all. When he accepted Christ he gave up all the world holds dear. But he did not miss them; because he considered them filth and something to be avoided; if only he may win some for Christ.
It is somewhat difficult to know what in particular Paul has in view here, whether it has to do with what he has most recently addressed, concerning going to law before unbelievers; and his viewpoint may be, that however lawful this might be in itself, yet it was not suitable, since it was exposing them to ungodly persons, and put them under their power to judge and determine as they pleased. Or he may have in mind whether to eat meat forbidden under the law, or offered to idols; which could be lawfully eaten, since every creature of God is good, and not to be refused and considered common and unclean; yet it was not advisable to use this liberty, if doing so would upset a weak brother, or cause a man to become a slave to his appetite. Notwithstanding that they are all lawful, yet they are not expedient; there is no necessity for them; and some of them are abominable, and forbidden by the law of God and nature, whether forbidden by you or not; while others, such as eating meats offered to idols, will almost necessarily lead to bad moral consequences: and what Christian, would obey his appetite and do these things for the sake of self-gratification? If a man is brought under the power of anything which he cannot give up, he is the slave of that thing, whatsoever it may be, which he cannot give up; then, to him, it is sin. The "power" ought to be in the hands of the believer, not in the things which he uses or else his liberty is forfeited; and he ceases to be his own master—“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Gal 5:13; KJV). One of the character qualities of the believer is self-control—“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal 5:22-23; KJV). “Temperance” is the character trait of self-control.
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.
Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats:
This was probably a current proverb among the Corinthians with the meaning suggested by Marsh—“As one indulges an appetite for food, that being the function of the stomach, so should the physical urge for sexual indulgence be gratified.” Paul refutes this argument with his, “that stomach and food are physical; but the body is not.” All sorts of food are provided to satisfy the appetite and stomach, to fill the belly, and nourish the body; and the belly, and all the parts through which the food passes, are purposely formed by God for the passage and digestion of food. The meaning here is that the natural appetite belongs to the physical body and physical nature, which is how God created it. Meats, food and digestion are matters that belong to our present state. This body is destined to return to dust, and these things will cease their operation at the death of the body—or when we are changed at the Rapture. Foods and digestion (denoted here by Meats for the belly) have no moral significance within themselves; they acquire moral significance in particular individuals, under certain circumstances.
The Corinthian Christians were probably using this motto—“Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats”—to justify giving their bodies whatever their bodies wanted. "My body wants food, so I eat. My body wants sex, so I hire a prostitute. What's the problem?" But Paul will not let them take that slogan, which applies to irrelevant food restrictions, and apply it to sexual immorality, because the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. Because of our lustful sexual appetites, it may seem that God did make our bodies for sexual immorality. But God did not make our bodies that way; sinful Adam did. We see the wisdom in God's design for the body and for sexual purity when we look at the problems of unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. These are the price one pays in the body for using the body in a way the Lord never intended—the body is not for sexual immorality. One day God will destroy our stomachs, in the sense of being dependent on food and affected by hunger (though, there will be food and eating in heaven). Yet, our bodies themselves—in their moral character, relevant to our sexual conduct—will be raised up by the Lord at the resurrection. So, what we do with our bodies in regard to food does not affect us in the same way as what we do with our bodies in regard to sex.
But God shall destroy both it and them.
The Greek verb used for “destroy” is katarjao and means “to render inactive.” It is also used in 1 Corinthians 1.28 and 2.6.
• “And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are” (1 Cor 1:28; KJV).
• “Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought” (1 Cor 2:6; KJV).
There is a time coming when the human body will no longer need food. Some of the ancients suppose that this means the belly as well as the food will be done away with; and that though the same body will be raised at the great day, yet not with all the same organs, some being utterly unnecessary in a future state, such as the belly for instance, when the man is never to hunger, or thirst, or eat, or drink. This supposition does not stand up to the truth as it is presented in scripture: There it says that on the last day, the body will be raised perfect, consisting of all its parts; yet there will be no appetite, no desire in the stomach for meats, no need for them to fill the belly, and so there will be no need for these parts to function as they do now; because the children of the resurrection will be like the angels, and will not need to eat or drink. But, whether this is true or not, there is a time coming when the need and use of food will be abolished. Note, The expectation we have of being without bodily appetites in a future life is a very good argument against being under their power in the present life. This seems to me the gist of the apostle's argument; and that this passage is plainly to be connected with his caution against fornication, though some make it a part of the former argument against contentious law-suits, especially before heathen magistrates and the enemies of true religion. These suppose that the apostle argues that though it may be lawful to claim our rights yet it is not always expedient, and it is utterly unfit for Christians to put themselves under the power of infidel judges, lawyers, and solicitors, on these accounts. But this connection does not seem to fit the context.