“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not” I Corinthians 6:12
When it comes to the subject of “Christian Liberty”, it is not a topic that merits the attention of nominal Christians, but it is of immense importance to those that desire a bountiful entrance into the kingdom of heaven! If your ultimate goal is only focused on your future residence and not future rewards; this subject will be of little interest to you. Paul’s passionate desire was not to just procure a place, but to please a person; an objective that would call for some difficult choices. It not only means making a right choice, but making a righteous choice! It would mean making a choice between pleasing self or pleasing the Saviour.
On four specific occasions Paul will makes a statement; “All things are lawful unto me, but.” Paul’s statement carries with it immediate conflict; similar in nature to the little book that John was given to eat, “And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter” (Revelation 10:10). The book was sweet to one area of John’s life and bitter to another area; sweet when tasted, but bitter when digested. So it is with the statement made by the Apostle Paul. The controversy is; liberty will let him satisfy the “me”, love demands that he sanctify the “Master.” Please take a moment to ponder this statement; “Lawful things that are pleasing to the taste of the flesh can prove to be bitter when digested by the Spirit!”
With respect to Christian liberties, Paul set in place three tests that will determine a response that will crucify self while crowning the Savioiur; a response that is not only indicative of a resident of heaven, but one that anticipates the rewards of heaven.
(I) The Test of Contribution – “are not expedient” I Cor. 6:12
Paul said, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient.” The word “expedient” means to bear together or to contribute, an advantage when collected or that which is for the better. Paul realized that it is not just about can I, but will it contribute? Will it contribute to the saint’s witness? Many Christians live a life much like the invisible man; they neither enhance nor injure the cause of Christ. While it is distasteful to one’s self-righteous palate, they are merely lukewarm at best. Speaking to the church of the Laodiceans, Jesus said, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot” (Revelation 3:15). Paul’s objective was to make a choice that would magnify and exalt the Lord Jesus Christ before a lost and dying world; “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2). Secondly, will it contribute to the Sovereign’s work? As an ambassador of Christ, Paul acknowledged the fact that he had been given a message and a ministry; “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation” (II Corinthians 5:18). Paul wanted everything that he did to have a positive impact on the work of God!
(II) The Test of Control – “I will not be brought under the power of any” I Cor. 6:12
Paul said, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” The thought behind the phrase “brought under the power of any” is to exercise authority upon or to be brought under the power of. Paul was determined to have but one master! Like James, Paul knew the dangers of trying to maintain a dual allegiance; “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). It’s not a question of can I take that job, play a particular sport, or purchase this item, but will that choice relegate Christ to any place other than Lord of my life? Will Christ have to be subordinate to my will? Who is in control?
(III) The Test of Construction – “but all things edify not” I Cor. 10:23
Paul said, “All things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” The word “edify” means to be a house-builder, to construct or confirm, to be built-up. By means of the new birth, we have come to rest upon the sure foundation of Christ’s complete and finished work at Calvary. Upon that foundation, we begin construction of a life typified for us as a building or house. Paul tells us in I Corinthians 3:12 that the building materials for this building consists of “gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble.” Three of which are eternal and three that are temporal. Rewards will be determined by those materials that will endure the fire of His judgment; “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (I Corinthians 3:13-15). When Paul chooses, he wants his choice to build-up the building (his life) and the body (the church).
Paul said, “All things are lawful unto me.” The word “lawful” means it is right through the figurative idea of being out in public. I think Paul is emphasizing that which has the acceptance of society. Paul is not just interested in a life that pacifies society, but pleases and personifies the Saviour! It would be much easier to satisfy self by living a nominal Christian life; but love for the Saviour means some difficult choices have to be made. While the heavenly residence is free, the heavenly reward means forfeiting our liberty for the sake of love!