1 Corinthians 6:12-13a NKJV
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them.
The Corinthians had become obsessed with the idea that they were “free from the law.” Wrongly, they applied this concept to the idea that, if they were free from the law, then they were free to do anything they liked. That freedom from the law was akin to license.
Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. Romans 7:4-6 NKJ
Arnold Fruchtenbaum (from Ariel Ministries) teaches that while we have been released from the Law of Moses, we are called as Christians to a higher law, the law of Christ. Freedom doesn’t give us the right to do anything we please, but rather empowers us to do what pleases God.
Matthew Henry writes:
- The connection seems plain enough if we attend to the famous determination of the apostles, Acts 15, 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 in the point of fornication as 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. This pernicious conceit Paul here sets himself to oppose: he tells them that many things lawful in themselves were not expedient at certain times, and under particular circumstances; and Christians should not barely consider what is in itself lawful to be done, but what is fit for them to do, considering their profession, character, relations, and hopes: they should be very careful that by carrying this maxim too far they be not brought into bondage, either to a crafty deceiver or a carnal inclination.
I believe that here (from Henry) what is most important is that:
“Christians should not barely consider what is in itself lawful to be done, but what is fit for them to do” so that they should not become “a crafty deceiver or a carnal inclination.”
Often we believe that we are doing the right thing because it is the thing we want to do. And yet, if we truly want to please God, we will be willing to do the difficult thing, the hard thing, the painful thing because that is what is “fit” for us to do.
Do we truly believe Romans 8:28, that God will work all things out for our good? Or do we, in our hearts, not really trust God to do what He says, and think that we must do what is for our own good? I think that if we are honest, we will admit that often we aren’t willing to wait for God to act; we act in His place and then ask (or assume) His blessing on our own choice, our own action. I know that, in my own case, I’m often not willing to wait on God’s timetable, but want to do things in my own time. I don’t trust Him to get things done and when I don’t see Him acting (when or how I think He should), I go ahead on my own. Unfortunately, I often experience bad consequences because of my own impatience.
When I wait on God, I am trusting Him and I’m thinking of others around me (rather than myself). And isn’t that the point? To love those around us more than ourselves? When I force the issue, I’m thinking of myself. When I allow God to work in His time, I’m thinking of all the others involved in the situation and allowing God to do what is best. Sometimes He will direct me to act, but more often, He directs me simply to trust and let Him act.