An Outline of Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians (Part 11)

M.A. Rudge

Christian Liberty: Its Use and Abuse (6:12-11:1)

The new section on Christian Liberty continues to 11:1, where again, Paul repeats the maxim, "all things are lawful unto me but ..." (6:12; 10:23). The whole section is arranged in a chiasmic order based on the three subjects in 6: 12,13.

(6:12; 10:23,24). "All things are lawful unto me but...All things are lawful for me but..."
(6:13a; 8:1-11:1). "Meats for the belly "Now concerning meats... ‘
(6:13b - 7:40). "Now the body is not for fornication but for the Lord;..."

It should be noticed that the question of liberty to eat meats, is closely linked with fornication in the opening verses of the section because of the association between meat offered to idols and temple-prostitutes. This point raises the general principle of questionable associations, which is taken up again in 8:9-12 and 10:14-3 1, where Paul makes it clear that believers must be careful that everything they are associated with, is consistent with assembly fellowship. Verse 13 is the first of a number of references to the very important subject of the Christian’s body. See 6:13 (twice), 16,18 (twice),19,20; 7:4 (twice), 34; 9:27; 15:44. Liberty in relation to the marriage relationship and in our daily calling is dealt with in chapter 7. The "time is short" and liberty should be used so that, as far as it is possible, and in every situation of life, we will be able to "attend upon the Lord without distraction." The subject of liberty to eat meats offered to idols is taken up again and dealt with more fully in chapter 8. Paul sets an example in this matter (8:13), which continues in chapter 9, as he speaks of his liberty as an apostle and his right to be maintained by the saints in material things. It was a liberty which he did not use (9: 15) and his exercise in this matter was both an example of consideration for the interests of Christ and of self-restraint, part of a self-imposed discipline. The need for self-discipline, is given a continued application in 10:1-13. The section closes with the completion of the subject of meats offered to idols (10:14-33), and general guidelines which include the final exhortations, "Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God "(10:31) and "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ "(11:1). It is here that the consideration of a right use of Christian liberty reaches its highest level.

"All things are lawful for me but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me but I will not be brought under the power of any" (6:12-20). The word "lawful" includes the idea of what is permissable, authorized, where there is power of choice and freedom to exercise one’s mental or physical powers (Matt 12:2). It occurs in various forms in 6:12; 7:4,37; 8:9; 9:4,5,6,12 (twice),18. "Expedient" is to be useful, profitable, advantageous. Paul places two restrictions upon the exercise of Christian liberty, where it may be legitimate but where we need to weigh up whether it is profitable or whether it will bring us under the power of things which are likely to exercise an undue influence over our lives. If the principle is applied without consideration it is self-destructive. In this situation, liberty is lost and we become enslaved by it. This will lead to our lives being spoiled for God. The maxim "all things are lawful unto me," ‘suited only too well the free disposition of the Greek mind..., there is something striking in the repetition of the words in our verse; it is intended to stigmatize the abuse of the dictum wrongly employed to justify evil’ (Godet).

"Meats for the belly and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy (bring to nought) both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body..." (vv. 13,14). In these two verses, Paul draws attention to two further matters for consideration in the exercise of Christian liberty, (i) matters which might be considered as morally indifferent, without any real implication and (ii) matters which come into an altogether different category and have serious consequences. Unlike the eating of meats for the maintenance of the body, the use of the body for fornication is not a matter of moral indifference, as it had become in the Gentile world. It is against this background, where fornication was socially acceptable, that it becomes necessary for the apostle to give such elementary teaching and go into such detail on the subject. (Cp. 1 Thes. 4:8,9). There is no liberty to indulge in fornication.

Godet writes, ‘The morally indifferent character of this domain (meats and the belly), appears from the fact of its approaching destruction: God will abolish these functions in the day of the redemption of our bodies. But it is not so with our bodies strictly so-called, with the body for which Paul exclusively reserves the name, and which he identifies with our very personality. This is the permanent element in our earthly organism, that which forms the link between our present and our future body. Now this element, the essential form of our personality, is that which is involved in the vice of impurity. And hence the profound difference between impurity and the natural functions of physical life. There exists between our bodies and the Lord Jesus Christ a moral relation analogous to the material and temporal relation which exists between the stomach and meats. The body is "for" Christ, to belong to Him and serve Him, and Christ is "for the body," to inhabit and glorify it.

The body is "for the Lord", it belongs to Him and exists for His service (Rom. 6:12,13,18,19). Fornication is a violation of its design. The Lord is "for the body." He has a personal interest in its well-being and this will be demonstrated finally by its being raised, even as God raised up the Lord. The two are inseparably united, both now in a spiritual union and in a future day, in bodily resurrection (15:22). Fornication is an illicit union and totally incompatible with the purpose for which the believer’s body is designed and destined.

"Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ and make them the members of a harlot?...he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit." (vv. 15- 17). Special note should be taken of three expressions in verses 16,17, "he which is joined to a harlot is one body," used to describe the fleeting, debased, impersonal, physical union with a harlot; "one flesh" used to describe the personal intimacy and permanence of the marriage relationship, and "one spirit," used of the even more intimate and permanent union between the believer and the Lord. "‘One body:’ is not the natural and noble expression of love and oneness, by having been Divinely joined together - it is an immoral and debasing male and female relationship’ (A. Leckie). Paul is speaking against the background of a lax attitude towards fornication, and to emphasize the glaring contradiction of the debasing, illicit ‘oneness’ of physical union with a harlot, and the elevated truth of the believer’s spiritual union and ‘oneness’ with the Lord, . . . shall I then take (away) (airo), the members of Christ (from Him) and make them the members of an harlot? he which is joined to an harlot is one body (with her)? ...But he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit (with Him)." (v.15). Fornication was inconsistent with the purpose for which the believer’s body is designed and destined, and incompatible with its being, "members of Christ."

The word "For," "For two, saith He, shall be (unto) one flesh." (v. 16b), is not an explanation of the first part of the verse, "...he which is joined to a harlot is one body" but part of a quotation from Gen. 2:24 (Sept), (note inverted commas - Newberry Bible). Paul makes a distinction between "one body" and "one flesh." He uses the language of the legitimate physical union of the marriage relationship, in speaking of the illegitimate, physical union with a harlot. The use of this verse to teach that adultery, the fleeting, passionate, illegitimate union with a harlot breaks the marriage bond or to equate it with the marriage union, is not only a misrepresentation of what the verse teaches but a debased view of the marriage union itself.

Further to this point, we should notice that adultery does not break or cancel the marriage bond and cannot therefore be used as a ground for divorce and remarriage, not even in the case of unsaved persons. This can be seen in the words of John Baptist to Herod, concerning his unlawful union with Herodias, which led to John’s death. Mark’s account of this incident (Mark 6:17,18), repeats the fact that, even though "he (Herod) had married her", she was still "his brother Philip’s wife" (v. 17)." "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife. " (v. 18). Secondly, we should notice that marriage is more than physical attraction and more than a physical union. Mary is described as Joseph’s "wife", "before they came together" inaphysical union (Matt. 1:18, 20, 24, 25). Cp. Ex. 22:16. The unique creation of the woman, "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh", and the language of Genesis 2:18-25 (Matt. 19:4-6; 1 Cor 6:16), not only teaches us that marriage is an indissoluble union, but that it involves a recognized, public, coming together, in which the woman is "brought...unto the man", and the man "shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh (Matt. 19:5). It is at this point that marriage becomes a covenant between two persons, "the wife of thy covenant" (Malachi 3:14) and the man and woman are "joined together" by God - "and (the man) shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh. Wherefore they are no more twain but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matt. 19:5,6).

"Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body." (v. 18). Fornication is a distinctive sin, "against his own body," because of the involvement of the whole body, inwardly and outwardly, in a sense which is not true of other sins. Paul ‘distinguishes between the organism composed of flesh and blood, which forms the outward wrapping of the man, and the body strictly so-called, one with the person which animates this wrapping. Now it is to this inner body that the sin of the fornicator extends; it is by and against this inner organism that he sins, while other sins only reach its wrapping, the external body’ (Godet).

Paul has shown clearly that the body is not for fornication. He also emphasises that it is "for the Lord" and this emphasis continues throughout chapter 7. The points which he has made in 6:12 20, can be summarised as follows: (i) We should always be in control of ourselves (v. 12b); (ii) the body is for the Lord, it belongs to Him and exists for His service (v. 13); (iii) it has an eternal future in the resurrection world (v. 14); (iv) our bodies are members of Christ, united with Him in a most intimate and permanent relationship. They should be used exclusively to further His purpose and His interests (vv. 15-17); (v) the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (v. 19) and the utmost care should be taken that we do not allow corrupting influences in our lives (v. 19); (vi) our body is not our own. We have been bought with a price. We are responsible to glorify God in our body (vv. 19-20).