Abuse of Christian Liberty
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
All things are lawful to me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me…

It appears that the principle of Christian liberty, "All things are lawful for me," had been greatly abused by some in the Church at Corinth. It was cited in defence of fornication, as well as of eating all kinds of meats. They confounded it with the philosophical maxim that man is the measure for himself; from which they drew the conclusion that the sexual appetite may be gratified in the same indiscriminate way as that of hunger. This pernicious abuse the apostle corrects, first by setting the doctrine of Christian freedom in its true light, and then by presenting a variety of arguments against the sin of fornication.

I. CHRISTIAN LIBERTY, ITS GROUNDS AND LIMITS, "All things are lawful for me." Under. the old dispensation there was curtailment of freedom in respect of meats and drinks and days; but this is now removed. In Jesus Christ the believer is restored to dominion over the creatures, all things being put under his feet (Psalm 8:6; Hebrews 2:7-9). "All things are yours" (1 Corinthians 3:22). The world and its contents exist for the sons of God, to subserve their welfare. But this large freedom has obvious limitations.

1. The limit of expediency. Many things in our power may not be for our good, either in themselves or because of special circumstances. This is true of foods, and of many forms of work and pleasure lawful in themselves. Here, too, the good of others comes into view as a limiting consideration. The exercise of my liberty must be tempered by a regard to the welfare of my brother (1 Corinthians 8:13). Apply this to certain forms of amusement, the use of wine, etc.

2. The limit imposed by the duty of preserving our liberty. "I will not be brought under the power of any." "Every creature of God is good" (1 Timothy 4:4), but only when used as a servant. We must not suffer ourselves to be brought into bondage to anything. Music, e.g., is a legitimate and healthful enjoyment, but I must not become its slave.


1. Fornication is not warranted by the analogy of meats. "Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats." The one has been created for the other. The stomach demands food, and all kinds of food have been made for the stomach; hence it is lawful to eat whatever is good for us. But there is no similar adaptation between the body and sensuality. The one was not made for the other. Again, both the belly and its food belong to a transitory condition of things. Both shall be brought to nought when this present world age is completed, and the natural body becomes the spiritual body. But the body shall not thus perish; it has an eternal destiny. In both these respects, therefore, the analogy fails; and fornication cannot be defended as a case of nature.

2. It takes away from Christ that which belongs to him. The Christian's body is the Lord's.

(1) It exists for him, and he for it. The relation is mutual. Christ redeems, sustains, rules, and glorifies the body; the body is subject to him for his service.

(2) It is a "member of Christ" (ver. 15). Our bodies are essential parts of ourselves, and as such belong to Christ's body (Ephesians 5:30). The same Spirit dwells in him and in us (ver. 17); the life of the Head is the life of the body and its members. How awful the sin of prostituting that which is a member of Christ!

3. It is inconsistent with the eternal destiny of the body. The relation of the body to Christ is abiding. He who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also quicken our mortal bodies (Romans 8:11), raising them to a glorious life in him (comp. ch. 15.). The resurrection of the body tells us that it is not to be treated as a temporary thing, belonging only to this stage of existence. It is not to be destroyed like the belly and meats, but is united to Christ forever. Fornication, therefore, decades the body, inasmuch as it is thereby treated as the instrument of a perishable appetite.

4. It is in its own nature degrading. The act itself is a union with the vilest characters (ver. 16). Think of the dignity of the Christian's person as a member of Christ, standing in everlasting union with him; and with what holy horror should we regard this sin!

5. It is peculiarly a sin against the body. (Ver. 18.) "Drunkenness and gluttony are sins done in and by the body, and are sins by abuse of the body; but they are still without the body - introduced from without, sinful not in their act, but in their effect, which effect it is each man's duty to foresee and avoid. But fornication is the alienating that body which is the Lord's, and making it a harlot's body; it is sin against a man's own body, in its very nature - against the verity and nature of his body; not an effect on the body from participation of things without, but a contradiction of the truth of the body, wrought within itself" (Alford). The awful effects of this sin are frequently written in characters of fire in the physical system.

6. It is a profanation of the Divine temple. 'I he body is "a temple of the Holy Ghost" (ver. 19). What was said before of the believer is here said of the body (1 Corinthians 3:16, where see homily). The body is the outer court of the temple, but still a part of it, and therefore holy. Dare we admit unholy feet to tread this court? Dare we profane the sanctuary by devoting it to sacrilegious uses? Will the Spirit of God continue to dwell in a polluted temple?

7. It contradicts the Divine proprietorship of the body. Believers are not their own, but the purchased position of God, bought for himself with precious blood (ver. 20; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 1:18, 19). Our bodies are not our own to do with them as we please. We are God's bondservants, bought for the purpose of serving and glorifying him (1 Peter 2:9). How weighty an argument for entire devotion to (God's service! Love to our redeeming God is the only sufficient motive for a holy life. "Glorify God therefore in your body."


1. The sacredness of the body.

2. The extent of sanctification - it reaches to the utmost circumference of our being (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

3. Flee fornication. Victory here is to be won by flight, not by fight (Genesis 39:12).

4. Watch against everything that might lead to this sin. - B.

Parallel Verses
KJV: All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

WEB: "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.

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