Lesson 21

Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

6:12 "All things are lawful for me," but not all things are expedient. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be brought under the power of anything. 6:13 "Foods for the belly, and the belly for foods," but God will bring to nothing both it and them. But the body is not for sexual immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. 6:14 Now God raised up the Lord, and will also raise us up by his power. 

Today's Lesson 

In this passage Paul returns again to the theme of sexual immorality in the Corinthian church. He had  been dealing with the problem of believers within the Corinthian assemblies suing other believers in the city courts. Just before that he dealt with a particular sexual sin that was disrupting the Corinthians and now he returns to the subject. This has led many to believe that in some way the lawsuits that Paul discusses are somehow involving sexual sin, though in what way that could be true is unclear.


What is clear is that the Greek understanding and attitude toward sex was very different from the Judeo-Christian pattern that Paul was attempting to present to them. One has only to read about Greek mythology and Greek life to know that chastity before marriage and fidelity after marriage were not ideals that the Greeks held themselves to.


In today's passage, Paul repeats several slogans that the World English Bible that we use here correctly translated into quotation marks. Paul doesn't correct these slogans that were being used in the Corinthian church as inaccurate, but he does correct some underlying basic assumptions that relate to them. The first slogan that he quotes is, "All things are lawful for me."


Paul taught that the essence of the gospel was that Christ had set us free from the law of sin and death. God does this so that we might be free to serve Him in a new way. In Christ we are forgiven. In Christ we are set free. As such it is true that, "All things are lawful for me." We have been set free from the law and are no longer bound by it.


But Christ did not set us free from the law so that we might become slaves again to sin. We have been freed so that we might serve God from a new heart. As such, while all things are lawful, Paul declares that not all things are "expedient," or appropriate. It is not expedient that the Christian should return to the old sins that bound him before he knew Christ. The old life is gone and we are made new in Christ Jesus. It is not right that, having been set free, we return to serve the old master that enslaved us. We were set free in order to become the children of God.


The second slogan that Paul repeats is, "Foods for the belly, and the belly for foods." While this slogan might have some truth as it relates to dietary laws, since Paul is here dealing with sexual sin, it is safe to assume that the idea was being extended into other aspects of the physical. No doubt the Corinthians were arguing something along the lines that since God has made us sexual beings, it is appropriate to gratify the sexual urges in any way that seems fit and natural. This line of argument was probably as popular in Corinth as it is today.


But Paul tells them that such things are transitory. The body and its needs are passing away. Sin is passing away. God will bring all of it to nothing. We should not be serving the temporary needs of the body and the transitory pleasures of sexual immorality. God has raised us up in Christ to have a new eternal life that is based on the living principles of the kingdom of God. It is true that God made us as we are. It is also true that the new life in Christ is a new life as a child of God, not as a slave to the sins of the flesh.


Often in our rush to move on to the next idea, though, we overlook the obvious. God has set us free. We are no longer slaves to sin or slaves to the law. And even though the Corinthians abused their freedom and even though you and I still abuse ours, God has not withdrawn that freedom. God still offers mankind freedom in Christ. All things are lawful for me. That's an amazing gift that we have in Christ.


But, instead of using our freedom to serve the flesh, let us exercise that freedom to serve God. Let us lift our heads and our hands as free men and women to praise and serve the living God that has set us free to a new life in Christ.


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