1 Corinthians 6:12
"Everything is permissible for me," but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me," but I will not be mastered by anything.
Free, and Yet not FreeJ. Waite 1 Corinthians 6:12
The Lawful and the ExpedientE. Hurndall 1 Corinthians 6:12
The Lawful and the ExpedientR. Tuck 1 Corinthians 6:12
Cleansed by the SpiritHugh Macmillan, D. D.1 Corinthians 6:11-12
Moral TransformationsScientific Illustrations and Symbols1 Corinthians 6:11-12
The Great ChangeJ. R. Miller.1 Corinthians 6:11-12
The Great ContrastJ. H. Hughes.1 Corinthians 6:11-12
The Power of the Gospel in Changing the Hearts and Lives of MenE. Cooper, M. A.1 Corinthians 6:11-12
Triumphs of the Gospel At CorinthG. Weight, M. A.1 Corinthians 6:11-12
The Sanctity of the BodyJ.R. Thomson 1 Corinthians 6:12-16
Abuse of Christian LibertyH. Bremner 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Liberty in the Use of the LawfulR. S. McAll, LL. D.1 Corinthians 6:12-20
The Christian Rule in Things IndifferentJ. Lyth, D. D.1 Corinthians 6:12-20
The Human Body and its Relation to ChristC. Lipscomb 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
The Lawful and the ExpedientW. E. Hurndall, M. A.1 Corinthians 6:12-20
The Limits of Christian RightsF. W. Robertson, M. A.1 Corinthians 6:12-20
The Practical Distinction Between Things Lawful and ExpedientR. S. McAll, LL. D.1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Among the objects about him proper for use and enjoyment - those objects which accorded with his nature and position as a redeemed man - was there anything from which he was excluded? "All things are lawful unto me," and, in this sense, liberty and law are identical, the measure of the one being the measure of the other. If law is of God, so is freedom; if the former is the expression of the Divine will and character, so is the latter; and if man is the image of Christ in law, so is he in freedom. Observe, then, that it is not law and liberty as existing in a perfect world that the apostle is considering, but as found in this mixed and disordered world, in which probation is going on to its eternal issues. Ideally "all things are lawful," and yet, because life is a discipline, how could it be otherwise than that liberty should be abridged? One of the main purposes of probation is to discipline the will, to choose for itself among a multitude of objects addressing our sensibilities. Scores of things appeal daily to our senses, and, if all our sensations are converted into desires, thence into motives, thence accepted by volition, and made a part of ourselves, then certainly this is not freedom for the ends of moral discipline, but freedom for simple and universal gratification. Freedom in St. Paul's view is not a final cause, it is a means; and he would have the Corinthian remember that one of their greatest obligations was to restrain this freedom. The freedom itself had a large range as to the objects allowed its use and enjoyment. Should it cover the whole area of activity? Nay, says the apostle, this would be bondage in another form. "I will not be brought under the power of any," for "all things are lawful unto me," which is to say, "all things are in my power," and I will exercise my power by imposing limitations on self indulgence. Of course, then, this restraint put on individual freedom is our own voluntary act. Such is the stress laid on personality that a man's Christian virtue must be specifically his own, and recognized by infallible signs as his own. Development is a common duty, self development segregates a man from his fellows that he may grow in a given way. Self denial is a common duty, but under this law of individuality in using our freedom, self denial assumes a variety of shapes, and becomes wonderfully potential in human affairs by the diversity it presents. In this view the self denial of A is no guide for B. The special form of your self denial may not commend itself to me, nay, it may be hurtful to me; and, assuredly, it will lose its virtue if I adopt it merely because it is yours. And hence the value of example in this respect is not to create a slavish imitation on the part of others, but to set forth the worth inherent in the spirit of self denial. If this principle, so boldly urged by St. Paul, had been faithfully adhered to, it would have saved the Church from many inconsistencies. Private opinion, while it is content to be such, may be over stringent, and yet do no great harm. But in many cases it exceeds the limits of individuality and takes shape as the tyranny of public opinion. Morbidness is rarely satisfied till it acquires notoriety before the eyes of men, and so it comes to pass that we have ecclesiastical agitation and legislation about many things - for instance, amusements - concerning which no exact standard can be set up foreverybody. If we could have an exact standard, it would not compensate for the loss of personal freedom, since this is precisely one of those matters in which self denial owes all its excellence to the restrictions that it imposes upon itself. St. Paul's emphatic "I" in this connection is the "I" of every redeemed man, and accordingly, as a universal prerogative, this exalted characteristic of individuality is most carefully guarded. And how is it guarded? To say nothing of what Christian freedom is in itself as delegated by God in Christ, and conditioned widely different from Adam's sovereignty in Eden; to say nothing of its original limitations by the Divine Law, and the fixed barriers over which it may not pass, and, if true to itself, cannot pass; what is this liberty but a glorious privilege to be made still more glorious by our own self enacted laws of restraint? It is a new limitation peculiar to man. It is a limitation which each man under the grace of the Spirit originates and executes in attestation of his own endowments as God's redeemed servant, It is sonship in its most beautiful and tender form - the "Abba, Father," which is not heard in the responses of the Church, nor in hymns of social worship, but is an utterance that rises to God in those hours when loneliness is a supreme joy. I have the power; I will not use it; I will deny myself its exercise, and I will do it because "all things are not expedient." What other eye save his own could penetrate those mysteries, from which he draws reasons and motives for particular acts of self denial? Mysteries, we say; for many an advanced believer yields in this phase of experience to half awakened instincts and undefined impulses. How can ministers of the gospel, how can Churches in their official capacity, get at the knowledge of what is wisest and best in those matters that belong to the very highest attributes of personality as the ground of individuality? "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." "Fully persuaded" he can never be unless he use his liberty untrammelled. If you dogmatize and legislate, the full persuasion cannot be the outcome of "his own mind." If God can trust him, why not you? The safeguard has been provided - it is expediency. And this sense of expediency or of fitness and propriety is a conservative and prudential force, which operates to check all excesses, and binds about the man the golden cestus of moderation. Expediency is never self willed and arbitrary. It presides over tastes and the minor moralities no less than over the more prominent virtues; nor does it trifle with trifles nor disdain the helps of look and tone and manner, but is cardinal to whatsoever reflects the man upon his associates. Keenly alive to discriminations, it educates us to know the best from the merely good, and, by its fine tact and subtle sagacity, goes on swift wing to the noblest objects. It considers, as though it were a part of itself, the welfare of others, and thus becomes a guarantee that a man's liberty shall not invade the rights of his fellow man. And remembering that "all things" are his only so far as he is Christ's, he realizes that it is "no more I that live, but Christ liveth in me." Then St. Paul proceeds to dwell on the sanctity of the human body - a favourite topic, on which he expends much thought. In the third chapter he had discussed it, and in subsequent passages, every one of them singularly clear and vivid, he recurs to this great topic. Here the leading idea is that our bodies "are the members" of Christ's body. "The body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body." And hence St. Paul, in his concrete method of thinking, refuses to separate, even in thought, body and soul, as they are connected with redemption, Matter and mind are perfectly unlike; they are known to us only by their infinite contrariety; and yet matter and mind meet and unite as body and soul, and the union is human nature. These two substances grow each in its own way, the natural union at birth becoming closer and yet closer as years progress, and the body subordinating itself more and more to the mind's service, in the mature man - the mechanic, the accountant, the artist, the poet, the philosopher - a vast advance has occurred in i he nearness and adaptability of the corporeity to the wants, demands, and aspirations of the spirit. If the providential idea in education and culture be fulfilled, the cooperative activity constantly increases, each forward step a step for both, and the law of development taking effect in mutuality of advantage. Still more fully is this fact brought out in Christian experience. St. Paul's figures on this subject stand for facts. Bodily appetites cease to be mere animal instincts. They are elevated and purified. If Christ was raised from the dead, so too our bodies shall be raised, for the companionship of mind and matter as soul and body is not a transient but an eternal fact. One may speak of being "here in the body pent" and of the "body of humiliation" (vile body), but the idea of body as an investiture of spirit and an auxiliary to its functions is a part of the original scheme of humanity, and will have its complete development in the future life. Little do we realize that the resurrection man is now in a process of training as to his corporeal form. This training is double - mental and material - and hence, while it is true that certain physical functions will expire and be known no more, yet the effects of their experience will survive in the soul itself. "A spiritual body" is assured us by Christianity and confirmed to us by Christ's resurrection; and, agreeably to this doctrine, the present growth of body into the mind's service, the tuition of the senses, the reduction of the nerves to the will, the command which is acquired over the lower organs, all indicate that the resurrection man of body and spirit is now in process of formation. If this is true; if the resurrection is not only a prospective glory but a realization now going on by means of the present ennoblement and sanctification of the human body; and, furthermore, if Christ's education of his own body to the offices he filled as Teacher, Miracle Worker, Philanthropist, Redeemer, etc., as to the spirit actuating him, an example to his followers; - then surely we have the weightiest of reasons for regarding the body as the "temple of the Holy Ghost." Greek philosophy had abused the truth that all creatures are for man, and that he is the measure of all things. Professing Christians had followed a carnal philosophy in the application of this truth. And now that St. Paul has rescued it from its perversions and set it in its proper light, he may well urge the conclusion, "Ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." Could anything more timely, more momentous, more significant of the aim of Christianity as it respected the social regeneration of mankind, have been said by St. Paul? The sin of the body; that one sin which surrenders the body to another and degrades it as nothing else can degrade; that sin of sins, which debauches the body where it ought to be purest, and sinks lowest that which should be highest; - could its wickedness be set forth in stronger language than when he speaks of the body as the tabernacle, in which not only the soul but the Holy Ghost dwells? "Which ye have of God," and therefore "not your own," but "bought with a price." And yet this redeemed possession, the purchase of Christ's blood, a member of his mystical body, a tabernacle of the Spirit, alienated, abused, prostituted to the most shameful and the most fatal of all vices. Of nothing is it so true as of this vice, that we become like that with which we associate. Association is assimilation, and, in this case, assimilation is the most dreadful form of desecration. These verses (18-20) contain, as has been suggested (Alford), the germ of the three weighty sections of the Epistle about to follow. And we do well to enter into their meaning and implore the grace of God to assist us, lest we fail to receive the profound impression sought to be made. It is useless to blink the fact that among Christian nations and in the nineteenth century this colossal vice of a desecrated human body is the Satanic citadel of iniquity. Take all the vices and sins on earth, aggregate them in one huge bulk, and the misfortunes, evils, catastrophes, tragic disasters, put together, would not outweigh the consequences morally and socially viewed of this enormity. Half of the man goes straight and quick into the hands of the devil, and the other half, unless God interpose, follows on in a fascination of blindness exceptional among illusions. God help us! For verily "vain," in this instance, "is the help of man." We need a much larger and bolder discussion of the religion of the human body; and if writers and preachers would study the art of doing this work, the Church and the world would be vast gainers. Any way, this is open to us all, viz. to lay a much greater stress than is commonly done on the dignity, worth, and glory of the human body as seen in the light of Christ's teaching. Full justice is not done this subject, not even approximative justice, and, therefore, no wonder the body is disparaged, vilified, tolerated by many as a nuisance, and immolated by thousands as a creature of appetite and lust. "Bought with a price," the blood of the Lord Jesus paid for it - a glorious thing to be bought and not too precious a ransom paid, and now sprinkled by that blood and hallowed by the indwelling Spirit. Oh what intenseness of soul should go into the pleading, "Glorify God in your body"! - L.

All things are lawful to me, but all things are not expedient.
I. WHAT IS LAWFUL FOR US IN LIFE? All things indifferent, i.e., not evil in themselves. The Christian has the widest liberty. He is not under the restriction of the older economy. To him every creature of God is good (1 Timothy 4:4). He must abide within the limits of the lawful; nothing that seems expedient outside those limits must be touched by him.


1. The Christian must not use his liberty indiscriminately; he must consider probable results. The end does not justify the means, hut the end often determines whether means, justifiable in themselves, shall he used or not. Means good enough in themselves may under certain conditions lead to most undesirable ends. Those ends foreseen determine that those means should not be employed.

2. The Christian has to select the truly expedient out of the truly lawful. Unlawful means ruin thousands; lawful means, unlawfully used, tens of thousands. Nowhere does the devil build his chapels more cunningly than by the side of the temple of Christian liberty. A Christian, before availing himself of his liberty, had need ask what will be the effect —(1) On myself. Shall I be made less spiritual and useful?(2) On my liberty. Liberty may commit suicide. Undue indulgence of liberty results in slavery. Paul was anxious "not to he brought under the power of any," even lawful things.(3) On my fellows. Will it aid or hinder them? (1 Corinthians 8:13).(4) On God. Will it glorify Him?

(W. E. Hurndall, M. A.)

The text leads us to the contemplation of two very important particulars, the latter illustrative of the former, and closely connected with it, yet demanding separate consideration. The first is the practical distinction between things lawful and expedient; the second, the universal inexpediency of all those things which, by bringing us under their power, I will just remark that while the former of these particulars leads us to guard against the evils arising from external events and influences, the latter points more immediately at such as exist within us: the former has most direct reference to the effect of our conduct generally, and perhaps, in a principal degree, to its effect on others; the latter has relation chiefly to its operation upon ourselves. We may be led by both to the avoidance of one and the same evil; but they will present it under different aspects: the first as manifestly irreconcilable with our integrity or our profession, or injurious because of its obstructing the great purposes of our life; the last as insidious, as tending to lower the standard of our views and feelings, abating the energy of our resolutions; enfeebling the operation of our loftiest motives; making us, in short, less holy, less spiritual. These remarks will be confirmed by a simple reference to the text, which, in the most forcible manner, places the two points unitedly in our view. Of lawful things there are some it describes as to be avoided by a Christian, because they are not expedient; others it warns us to shun, because they would bring us under their power. Rather, perhaps, we ought to say, it speaks of the same objects, and leads us to regard them as connected with a twofold evil; that they are unprofitable in their direct influence, and calculated, in their indirect, to impair our spiritual and mental freedom. We may apply the passage in either way, and in both with manifest advantage. In some cases these evils are separate, in others they coincide. There are some things that merely hinder and obstruct our usefulness, and are for that reason inexpedient; there are others that have a perpetual tendency to debase us, and to bring us into vassalage under their power; but the greater number of inconsistencies unite both these effects, and are therefore to be avoided not only as improper in themselves, but because they will make us feel enslaved by them for the future. Having thus glanced at the general bearings of the subject, we shall now confine ourselves to the former of these particulars. We proceed, therefore, to exhibit the practical distinction between things lawful and things expedient. Is it asked, then, what is the foundation and essential nature of virtue? what the ultimate standard of morality? The answers to this question are various, and each appears supported by an array of the most specious reasonings. All cannot be true. They may, and do in many points, coalesce; but as far as they differ, they afford a presumption that each of them is imperfect, if not erroneous. It is said the standard is expediency; the tendency of every action to promote or hinder the general good: that those actions are right which advance, those unlawful which impede, the happiness not of the individual only, but of the whole. Thus morality is made the same thing with expediency, and the only reason for which any particular conduct is right, is because it is calculated for the increase of the general good. Now, against this principle there are very strong objections, and some which involve the most extensive consequences. When, in reply to such inquiries as these, "Why am I obliged to speak the truth?" (proposed by Dr. Paley himself, the author of the system referred to); or, "Why is falsehood to be accounted criminal? When this limited answer is given, "Only because they are contrary to the general good," we apprehend there is involved a serious and fundamental error, the substitution of what is secondary and adventitious for what is primary and in its nature essential. Surely there is a distinction, prior to all considerations of utility, between truth and falsehood, justice and injustice, probity and baseness, spotless chastity and brutal indulgence. Surely there is another and an earlier reason for which to condemn some of these things, and to approve the opposite. We apprehend, also, that even if the principle were true, it would be practically inapplicable and useless; for it could be known only to God what actions were really calculated to advance the happiness of the whole. The ultimate consequences of every action are obviously beyond our knowledge, demanding a comprehensiveness of thought not less than that of Omniscience itself. Again, it appears to us to imply what can never be admitted in practice: that such considerations should, in many cases, prevail as relate to the general and last consequences of our actions, in opposition to all those which connect themselves with the individual and his present circumstances; for certainly no man is bound to sacrifice his personal welfare, and all that is most dear and necessary to himself, from a vague regard to the increase of the general happiness, nor yet to suspend all reference to the present, whatever its character may most imperiously require, till he shall have traced out the issue of his determinations in a distant and unknown futurity. Yet this impracticable and visionary principle is truly involved in the question of ultimate expediency as the law of our conduct. We will add only once more that this standard cannot be applied to the actual and immediate determination of men's conduct, and hence is of no practical utility even if it were ever so well established by argument. Before we could act according to this rule we must first balance and examine all the results of our conduct, through the wide extent of all connected being, and the long series of all even collateral and accidental consequences. But this is impossible, and the system which requires it cannot, as we think, be true. It is worthy of observation, then, that in the text there is an evident distinction made between the expediency and the lawfulness of actions, for it affirms that those things may be lawful that are not expedient. May we venture to deduce the converse — that some things may be, or seem, expedient, which yet are not lawful? We are aware that the advocates of the system to which we now object would demur to this suggestion, and say that nothing can be truly expedient, that is, truly and in the largest sense useful, which is not in itself good; and we admit that the statement is well founded, but it will not prevent the most mischievous mistakes in practice. He that shall make expediency alone, whether political or religious, or of whatever kind, his guide in conduct, will be betrayed inevitably into the most dangerous errors. When what is useful is substituted for what is just, or made identical with it, and the standard of rectitude is abandoned for, that of utility, the door is opened to a thousand evils. There are not wanting those who will plead for the worst abuses, the greatest perversions of principle and practice, upon the pretence that they are productive of advantage more than sufficient to outweigh the evil of their own nature. What other plea is adduced by those who disguise or modify their own Christian profession, lest they should give offence to the unthinking and the profane, on whom they may choose to be dependent? Paul resolves not, "I will perform those things that are expedient, though they be not lawful; but I will not venture even upon lawful actions, if they be not expedient." I fear there is but too little of this strictness of principle amongst us. Many, alas! are willing to make a sad commutation of the just, the honourable, and the lawful, for the convenient, the profitable, and the agreeable, both in religion and in common life. Suffer me now to call your attention to the import of that striking expression in the text employed to characterise the things that are thus to be avoided: they are "not expedient"; rather, "they are not profitable." They will not coalesce with that great purpose of the Christian life which alone is worthy of our desire and our exertions: that we may advance the glory and the cause of God; that we may be useful to our fellow-creatures. To the generous mind of the apostle nothing else seemed honourable or happy. Like his blessed Lord he had made it his meat and his drink to do the will of God. You behold, then, illustrated in the personal history of the apostle, the extent of his own language, and you will need no further comment on the phraseology of our text. Do you for a moment ask what is it that he disavows as inexpedient? You are prepared yourselves to reply; all that is thus unprofitable; or, as he has varied the expression in another place, "All things are lawful for me, but all things edify not" (1 Corinthians 10:23). All things are inexpedient which are found to be unprofitable — not those alone which may issue in direct injury. Whatever hinders his preparation for the exercises of religion, for the duties of common life, for the endurance of the Cross, for the resistance of temptation, and for his entrance, even in its very performance or enjoyment, into the world above, is thus manifestly unprofitable and inexpedient. That, too, is inexpedient which would restrict the usefulness either of our direct exertions or our general example, impairing the uniformity, the completeness, and the accuracy of our representation in practice, of all that constitutes the Christian character. For the same reason we must avoid what would, in any measure, interfere with the fullest and most unembarrassed discharge of every obligation, whether official or personal. There ought to be no disguise, no mystery, nothing dark and unintelligible, in one who is not of the night but of the day. Many things which the men of the world allow in others, they deem unsuitable to the character of a Christian. We should respect their judgment. We should watch over our actions with a godly jealousy. There remains one other class of cautions more momentous than the whole, which we have not hitherto presented. We must abstain, then, from the things that we have specified, not merely as tending to diminish our personal happiness and piety, or to lessen the effects of our example in promoting that of others, but as operating in a pernicious manner upon the cause of God and the honour of the Redeemer. Little do we often think how much our conduct is identified with that of Christianity itself, in the estimation of the world around us. We shall suppose the principle, then, to be admitted. You readily subscribe to the sentiment that if any action be found to be unprofitable and inexpedient it must therefore be avoided, even though it be not absolutely unlawful; and now you have no other duty remaining but to propose to your own conscience, as in the sight of God, the following practical inquiries. Is the indulgence in question such as would, in any measure, oppress or agitate my feelings, and indispose me for the duties of the sanctuary, or the family, or the closet? Should I reflect on it with approbation, or with regret, upon the bed of sickness, or in the chamber of death? Would it tend to the diminution of my present usefulness, bringing a cloud to hide the lustre of my character in the sight of the world; and so presenting an imperfect and inadequate, not to say positively erroneous, view of the Christian life?

(R. S. McAll, LL. D.)

Our aim, in the former discourse, was to excite you to Christian vigilance and to a high appreciation of the obligations and effect of Christian consistency. We now proceed to a somewhat different view of the same subject, founding our remarks not on the former but the latter clause: "All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any"; and our object is to show that there is a necessity of caution in the use of even lawful things from their probable effect upon ourselves; that many may be dangerous which are not originally criminal. We shall endeavour to convince you that there are many things which, in single instances and acts, may not be very censurable, which yet, when suffered to become habitual, would tend to diminish or to destroy the holiness and elevation of a Christian character. You will be reminded that all the powers of men are in a state of imperfection and disorder; that they naturally incline to the corruptions of that state through which we now are passing. We shall call on you to recollect how hard it is to retrace our steps — to regain the path from which we may have wandered. The design which we shall principally pursue is to warn you against yourselves — against the allowance of too great a latitude to your natural tastes and inclinations. There may be some to whom the exhortations of our former discourse might seem inapplicable. They may reason thus: "It is true that such indulgences as I delight in, and think it no crime to enjoy, might be most unseemly for a man of piety; but I have made no such profession; I am not, and I wish not to appear, a pious man." Now, in such circumstances, our text is fitted to afford a most instructive lesson. You are in the greater danger, and require the more scrupulous caution. You are the more liable to fall beneath the power of those indulgences which you think not sinful. What if in such as you they be not unlawful, are they, therefore, expedient? Will they involve you in no exposure to evil? And is there no need of watchfulness in one, that, even according to his own confession, is without God in the world — a man left to himself? Are you safer, then, while you are destitute of the grace of God than such men are with it? But, you reply, it is not the danger to their principles that would render such things inexpedient, neither is that danger to be apprehended to your own; it is the incongruity of their performance with the name they bear, and the superior strictness they are pledged ever to maintain. Still, the sentiment of our text applies to you; for that sentiment supposes that there is danger even in lawful things, and that the form wherein it is most to be apprehended is that they bring us insensibly "under their power." And, besides, the question solemnly recurs, Why are you not a follower of Christ? Is sin not sin, then? Are trifling and dissipation and folly free from the charge of evil? But I must recall your attention to the subject immediately before us. There may be some who reflect that the cautions we have already given are suited only to the circumstances of such as are advanced in life; that they apply, with the greatest force to those in public stations, and of a conspicuous character; but that they are exempt. Their state of life is humble and obscure, or their age excuses them from the burden of so great a responsibility. Their example will not be productive either of injury or good. Now, surely there is no man, whatever his age or station, that can plead exemption from the necessity of the caution we would thus enforce. It is often a happiness and a safeguard to feel that our circumstances call on us for vigilance. But, on the other hand, I scarcely know a more fatal mistake than, from undervaluing the effect of our example, to suppose ourselves at liberty to relax our watchfulness.

I. We will briefly glance at the first of these particulars. It may perhaps surprise some to hear that we regard the text AS PRESENTING AN ENLARGED AND NOBLE VIEW OF CHRISTIAN LIBERTY. They may fear, from the comprehensiveness of the terms, lest we are about to loosen the obligations of all morality, and maintain the pernicious dogma that there is no sin to a believer in Christ; that his transgressions are so fully visited upon his Surety, in their guilt and punishment, that they no longer attach to himself. We go as far as any man in maintaining the extent and absoluteness of the imputation of our sins to the Redeemer. But far be from us the impiety of saying, that in their case morality and immorality cease to retain their opposite and immutable nature. "All things are lawful to them." Surely not such as are in their own nature criminal; but all that are usually regarded as indifferent. To be a Christian is to be delivered from the obligation of all that is ritual and secular in the ordinances of religion, and to be brought into the enjoyment of a faith the most pure, simple, spiritual. Further, the impositions of all authority which is merely human are contrary to the genius and spirit of the gospel. Again, a Christian is not to be subject to the scruples and superstitious fears that so often perplex the mind, when it has conceived, in an inadequate manner, of the boundaries of its obligations and duty. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty, and the man who has that Spirit is to preserve himself from bondage, with relation to those groundless apprehensions that perpetually haunt the consciences of many among the disciples of Jesus. Niceties of phrase and of observance, of dress and manners and external circumstances, reaching not to the vitals of Christianity. Good men sometimes encumber themselves with an unnecessary yoke, by the excess of their suspicion as to the lawfulness of many things to which no law can apply, and which can, in the strict sense, constitute neither a fulfilment nor a violation of our duty. There is a sickly tenderness of conscience, an excessive and shrinking sensibility, which not only exposes us to a large amount of pain such as it was never the design of our Master that we should be called to endure, but which also incapacitates us for the vigorous and efficient discharge of our duty. We may go on, then, upon our way rejoicing; and let no unnecessary fears harass and distract us. There are many gratifications and indulgences which the law of Christ has not forbidden, and of them therefore His followers may freely and innocently partake. Yet they have been prohibited as sinful by the injudicious zeal and false prudence of some who call themselves His disciples. Christianity is not a system of restriction and oppression. There is nothing forbidden us but what is evil either in itself or in its influence.

II. We proceed, then, to the second of the particulars, IN WHAT MANNER THAT CHRISTIAN LIBERTY OF WHICH WE HAVE SPOKEN IS TO BE PRACTICALLY SECURED; it is, in one word, by the exercise of Christian moderation. We are to say, with reference to every enjoyment, It is not unlawful, but it is inexpedient, and I will not be brought beneath its power. Are you solicited by gratifications that would consume your invaluable time, perhaps not in a very extensive degree in their single instances, but in their almost inevitable repetition; in their preparation and their consequences? Then stop; consider; calculate the results; ask yourselves whether you will gain or ultimately lose by such indulgence. Say if you have arrived at the conclusion that they will be hurtful in the end. They are lawful; I forswear them not. I could mingle, like others, delightfully in all the raptures they are fitted to impart; but I am a dying man; I know not how soon the frail thread of life may be cut off for ever; I must work while it is called to-day. Is the character of the delights you are tempted to participate, such as to excite, to undue and dangerous activity, any of the passions of our nature? Then they are inexpedient and hurtful. Let a Christian learn, in such things, to restrain his freedom that he may be truly free. There are forms of pleasure which, though innocent in themselves, yet place our conduct, in their ulterior consequences, injuriously in the power of others. They cannot be enjoyed alone, and hence they bring us into associations, the effect of which, though not immediately apparent, is to abridge our personal freedom by placing us in contact with the opposite sentiments and practice of those whom it is not safe to follow, in matters that even remotely affect religion and the concerns of the soul. But for such enjoyments, we might have remained in a happy separation from the ungodly. The recurring sight of what is evil, or even the habit of associating, without visible discrimination, with those who practise it, will tend to abate our positive disgust at its commission. In such instances, again, we behold the necessity of acting upon the salutary maxim presented in our text. It must be familiar to every serious and reflecting mind that there are many pleasures which, if they were in all other respects free from reproach, yet are on this account to be suspected; that they have a secret tendency to indispose and unfit us for the regular fulfilment of our duty. They exhaust the feelings; they impair our spirituality; they generate other and uncongenial habits; they are unfavourable to retirement; they produce a vagrancy of thought. I think it will be readily conceded by the candid hearer that our judgment, relative to the lawfulness or impropriety of many of our pleasures, is affected in a degree it would be very difficult to estimate, by our natural and constitutional temperament; by our tastes and aptitudes to the several diversities of sensitive or intellectual enjoyment. And hence arises a twofold fallacy. There are not a few who too severely condemn those whose gratifications they are themselves unable to participate. There are others who will at all hazards excuse and justify their own. Men of the former class need to be reminded that moroseness is not principle, and that a defective or a failing sense is a far different thing from Christian self-denial. And those of the latter must be warned that they extenuate not, in their own favourite department, what they would denounce with unmeasured condemnation in every other, that they do not substitute the impulses of natural feeling, or the pleasures of physical excitement for the joys of piety and the dictates of religion. Let them suppose the gratification in question to be one of another class, adapted to the indulgence of a different sense or a faculty which they have not cultivated, and then judge of their own as they would of that which their fancy has thus placed in its stead. Let the lover of music, for example, the man who professes himself exalted to the third heavens, while he listens to the deep and solemn strains of the pealing organ or the majestic choir; let him then, I say, while he feels the thrilling luxury of magic sound, and calls it worship and religion, imagine only that the lover of statuary or painting should, under the influence of the like excitement, describe the ecstasy of his enjoyments by the same appellation, and plead for the indulgences from whence they arise with the same earnestness, and on the same pretext. And, if he should plead by arguments like these for the introduction of objects calculated to afford him such delight in the same circumstances and on the same occasions, let the supposed devotee of music decide the question whether his plea were legitimate and his principles well founded; then let him transfer this judgment to himself, and he will perhaps discover that it is not his conscience but his taste, that has hitherto determined him with reference to those pleasures that he has accounted sacred; and he may thus be guided to a more just decision; and so in every case. We are not concerned, then, to maintain that no emotions of piety, no sense of sacredness and reverence, may be connected with such enjoyments as we should account unseemly for a Christian, and from which it would be our counsel that he should conscientiously abstain, lest they lead him into danger, or fetter him in mental vassalage. From the whole subject we would briefly deduce the following practical exhortations. Bear ever in mind the intimate connection between your general consistency and the satisfactory evidence of your Christian character. Forget not that such consistency has an equal and inseparable connection with your habitual preparation for heaven. Reflect seriously on the awful consequences of being involved, through our unwise and dangerous indulgences, in the ruin and final condemnation of our brethren. Does any man object that we make the way of piety gloomy and difficult? We reply, this is at least more desirable than to leave it insecure.

(R. S. McAll, LL. D.)


1. Every creature of God is good.

2. May be used with thanksgiving.


1. It may rob us of influence, &c.

2. It may become a stumbling-block to another.


1. Otherwise we become slaves.

2. Which is to degrade and imperil Christian character.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

Men in the Corinthian Church, having heard the apostle teach the law of liberty, pushed that doctrine so far as to make it mean a right to do whatsoever a man wills to do. By these self-gratification was maintained on the ground of —

I. THE RIGHTS OF CHRISTIAN LIBERTY. Their watchword was, "All things are lawful." It is easy to understand how this exaggeration came about. Men suddenly finding themselves freed from the restrictions of Jewish law naturally went very far in their Dew principles. St. Paul met this by declaring that Christian liberty is limited —

1. By Christian expediency. There are two kinds of "best." It is absolutely best that war should cease. Relatively, it is best under present circumstances that a country should be ready to defend itself. A defensive fleet is expedient, and relatively best, but not the absolutely Christian best. Now that which limits this liberty is the profit of others.

2. By its own nature. "I will not be brought under the power of any." It is that free self-determination which rules all things, which can enjoy or abstain at will. This liberty can manifest itself under outward restrictions. A Christian, as Christ's freed man, had a right to be free; but if by circumstances he is obliged to remain a slave, he is not troubled. He can wear a chain or not with equal spiritual freedom. Now upon this the apostle makes this subtle and exquisitely fine remark: — To be forced to use liberty is actually a surrender of liberty. If I turn "I may" into "I must," I am in bondage again. For observe, there are two kinds of bondage. I am not free if I am under sentence of exile, and must leave my country. But also I am not free if I am under arrest, and must not leave it. So too, if I think I must not touch meat on Friday, or that I must not read any but a religious book on a Sunday, I am in bondage. But again, if I am tormented with a scrupulous feeling that I did wrong in fasting, or if I feel that I must read secular books on Sunday to prove my freedom, then my liberty has become slavery again. It is a blessed liberation to know that natural inclinations are not necessarily sinful. But if I say all natural and innocent inclinations must be obeyed at all times, then I enter into bondage once more. He alone is free who can use outward things with conscientious freedom as circumstances vary; who can either do without a form or ritual, or can use it.

II. THE RIGHTS OF NATURE. There is some difficulty in the exposition of this chapter, because the apostle mixes together the pleas of his opponents with his own answers.

1. The first part of ver. 13 contains two of these pleas.(1) "Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats" — a natural correspondency. "Nature," said they, "herself says, 'Enjoy!'"(2) The transitoriness of this enjoyment. "God shall bring to an end both it and them." They do not belong to eternity, therefore indulgence is a matter of indifference. It is folly to think that these are sins, any more than the appetites of the brutes which perish.

2. To these two pleas St. Paul makes two answers.(1) "The body is not for self-indulgence, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body," He tells of a more exact mutual correspondency. He reveals a true and higher nature. There is much confusion and dispute about this word "nature." The nature of a watch is correspondence with the sun, perfect harmony of wheels and balance. But suppose that the regulator was removed, and the mainspring unchecked ran down, throwing all into confusion. Then two things might be said. One might say, It is the nature of that watch to err. But would it not be a higher truth to say, Its nature is to go rightly, and it is just because it has departed from its nature that it errs? So speaks the apostle. To be governed by the springs of impulse only — your appetites and passions — this is not your nature. For the nature is the whole man; the passions are but a part of the man. And therefore our redemption must consist in a reminder of what we are — what our true nature is.(2) To the other plea he replies, The body will not perish. It is the outward form of the body alone which is transitory. Itself shall be renewed — a nobler, more glorious form, fitted for a higher and spiritual existence. Now here is the importance of the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, and an awful argument against sin. Our bodies, which are "members of Christ," to be ruled by His Spirit, become by sensuality unfit for immortality with Christ.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

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