Speaking where the bible speaks, and silent where the bible is silent.

Archive for Aug. 17, 2017

Are All Things Lawful For Me?

“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” (1 Cor. 6:12).

Are all things truly “lawful”? Of course not! There are some things that God has forbidden under any and all circumstances. In the Galatian letter, Paul wrote, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21). Are the aforementioned attitudes and actions lawful? Obviously not! Therefore, the statement by Paul must be reexamined in the light of the context and the “all things” must be found to have some limitation.

In the context Paul also says, “but all things are not helpful” or “expedient” (KJV). This would also eliminate another category of things which are lawful, and that is those things which God has bound upon man. Again, Paul wrote in the Galatian letter, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23). Is there ever a time or circumstance when the aforementioned characteristics are not “helpful” or “expedient”? Again, we must answer in the negative.

What then is Paul speaking of when he says, “All things are lawful”? We are forced to conclude that he is not talking about those things that God has through his will forbidden nor is Paul speaking of those things which God has bound upon man. Thus, we are left with only one category of things which Paul has under consideration – those things wherein God has not legislated and which are therefore matters of indifference to God, matters which God allows but does not obligate man to do. For example, marriage: God allows us to marry but he has not commanded us to do so. Therefore, it is something that is lawful, but may not prove to be “helpful” or expedient under a given circumstance. In 1 Corinthians Paul determined that the matter of eating meats was a matter of indifference to God (morally neutral or a liberty). Yet, he determined that if the eating of meat was not spiritually profitable but instead destructive, he would never eat meat again (see 1 Cor. 8). Therefore, God would have us to conclude even among those things that may be right and lawful within themselves as to whether or not they will (under a given circumstance) build up my faith, hinder my influence, draw me closer to God, distract from my heavenly goal, etc. We are called upon to ask, “Will it be advantageous under a given circumstance to exercise my liberty in this matter of moral neutrality?” And there should not be anything that we would not be willing to forego for the sake of spiritual interests.

In addition, Paul adds a second principle to “expediency” or “helpfulness” for making such choices among “all things” of moral neutrality. Paul suggested, “I will not be brought under the power of any.” We all are perhaps “creatures of habit” but none of us can afford to allow a “habit” to become an “addiction.” “Gluttony” (the failure to be in control of one’s appetites) is forbidden in any realm. Peter wrote, ‘for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage” (2 Pet. 2:19b). And again Paul wrote, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16) We can never allow ourselves to become a “slave” to any habit or practice even of moral neutrality. When we do, we lose our ability to practice the first principle Paul suggested. We will no longer be able to determine when a matter of liberty is or is not expedient or helpful. Being enslaved, we will be powerless to say “no.” Later in 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul said, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” Paul is not here speaking of staying away from evil things or things forbidden by God, but instead he was talking about staying away from lawful things. He uses the illustration of an athlete (1 Cor. 9:24-26) to say that just as an athlete chooses to abstain from many good and right things to keep himself in training and strive for the prize, so too the Christian must exercise control over his desires. We must always be in a position to be able to say “no” concerning anything of moral neutrality or liberty. When a Christian clutches to his “liberty” too tightly it becomes his lord. And for a Christian to be overpowered by any custom or habit or practice, no matter what it is, is sin.

Is there anything in your life that is your habit or practice and it really is not helpful or expedient to serving the Lord and living for him under the present circumstances? Why then does it continue to be your habit or practice? Is not the kingdom of God, serving the Lord, encouraging your brethren, and leading others to Christ more important than any matter or liberty? Or do you continue in the practice because the “liberty” has become an “addiction” and is stronger than you are? Recognize that such enslavement is sin. Give the matter over to the Lord and let him and your brethren help you to become “disciplined” so as to “deny self” and have Christ enthroned. “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you become slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17,18).

The Church and Salvation

Where is the passage that says one must be a member of the church of Christ to be saved? Paul wrote, “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the Savior of the body” (Eph. 5:23). This statement by the inspired apostle is in every properly translated New Testament. Yet, it is generally overlooked and disregarded. Christ is head of the church and Savior of the body. There is one body (Eph. 4:4), and that one body is the church (Eph. 1:22, 23 f; Col 1:18). These passages make no mistake about the importance of the church to our salvation. Christ is the Savior of the church. We, therefore, must be a part of the church to be saved.

The church is God’s family

Paul wrote, “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly; but if I tarry long, that you may know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:14, 15). The word “house,” as used here, means “family.” Paul is not expressing concern about conduct in a church building; but rather he is speaking of one’s conduct as a member of the family of God. The church is that family.

 Christ is over God’s House.

He is called by the writer of Hebrews an Apostle, High Priest, and Son over God’s house (Heb. 3:1-6). The Father gave Him to be head over all things to the church (Eph. 1:23). He has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18).

Reconciliation to God is in the church

The mystery of the salvation of the Gentiles and their reconciliation unto God was revealed by Paul. How God planned to save the Gentiles was a mystery until it was fully revealed by inspired men. In Eph. 2:11-22, Paul tells how both Gentile and Jew are presently reconciled unto God. “But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself on the two one new man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (vs. 13-16). Notice that reconciliation to God of both Gentile and Jew is “in one body.” We have already shown that this body is the church.

The church is a habitation of God

Paul speaks of the “household of God” and calls it a  “holy temple” and “a habitation of God” (Eph. 1:19-22). Again, we note that he is not talking about a material building, but those whom he calls “fellow-citizens the saints.” These are the household of God. They are the church. This is where God dwells.

The Lord adds those who are being saved to the church

“And the Lord added to them day by day those that were saved” (Acts 2:47, ASV). In the KJV we read, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” When one repents and is baptized, they receive remission of his sins, and he is immediately added by the Lord to the church. The Lord does His job daily. He does not get behind. He adds people who are being saved to HIS church (Matt 16:18), not to the churches of men. Hence, there are no present day, accountable, saved people outside the Lord’s church.

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