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Didn't Paul Say, All Things Are Lawful?

When Paul acknowledges in his 1st letter to the Corinthians that “All things are lawful” (1Cor 6:12), he uses a word that occurs about 40 times in the New Testament regarding whether a behavior is legally permissible.

Since Paul adds in another letter that we are under grace, not law (Rom 6:14-15), how do we celebrate and live out our freedom without ruining ourselves and one another with all kinds of self-indulging behaviors?

Seems to me that there are two sides to this coin. On one hand, when it comes to our eternal relationship to Christ, the law didn’t give it to us, and the law can’t take it away. God’s favor is found not by complying with his laws, but by believing in his Son (John 3:14-21).

The other side of the coin is that Paul acknowledges that “all things are lawful” while urging us to avoid any kind of behavior that is unloving, unhelpful, and unbecoming to our liberty in  Christ.

So where do we get this spiritual freedom that is more helpful than trying to comply with moral law? And what does such liberty look like? Paul gives us the answer. In his letter to the Galatians he describes a freedom from the law that is marked by “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.” All of these, according to Paul, are “fruit of the Spirit” and, “against such things,” he adds, “there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

In short, we affirm that “all things are lawful” and experience something better than moral compliance by cultivating a daily and life-long relationship with the Spirit and life-changing grace of Christ.

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17 Responses to “Didn't Paul Say, All Things Are Lawful?”

  1. pegramsdell says:

    A previous pastor and good friend once said that we have the right to drink, but, is it right to drink?
    We have the right to do all kinds of things, even within the law, but, is it right to do them?
    And, does it fall within the “fruit of the Spirit”,

  2. SFDBWV says:

    I like what it say’s in the “Living” Bible. 1Cor6:12,
    “I can do anything I want to if Christ has not said no,but some of these things aren’t good for me. Even if I am allowed to do them, I’ll refuse to if I think they might get such a grip on me that I can’t easily stop when I want to.”

    Paul also said that when we become born again, a new spirit, that we are like babies. Who need to be fed milk. Spiritual milk easy to digest and sustain us as we grow. As we mature in gradual steps we are fed a more heartier food and if able to digest the meal the nutrition stays with us.

    We are not under the law. But God has written right and wrong in our hearts. As we give our desires over to the desires of the Holy Spirit. Our own desires change. Some right away others take longer. But we are not condemed. We are allowed to “grow” spiritualy through the process in union with the Spirit of God.

    We may be changed in an instant when we accept the Lord Jesus Christ. But the process of growing mature in the Lord will take the remainder of our lives. Which is why it is always a battle within us. But we remain under grace. Protected by God spiritualy as we strive toward HIM.

  3. macsisson22 says:

    I find it interesting that whenever our liberties in Christ are discussed, our mind takes us toward the negative instead of the positive. When I want to carry on a simple discussion about the subject, my mind wants to speak negatively about legalism rather than positively of LOVE. We set up a list of don’ts in our mind and then camp on them. What if we could set up a list of positive things and act on them instead. Whatever things are pure….

  4. MarkieMark says:

    I hope I am not just butting in on this blog – I have been reading it for weeks now and just thought I would quietly step in here and make a comment because this has been an interest for me for years. I have been a Christian all my life and through college, social acceptance played a big part in deciding whether or not to drink. Even in the midst of the college drinking scene (years and years ago)God found a way to use me as a witness.

    While I would not recommend drinking for the Christian I would not say that it was the end of your faith or anything – It just depends on when it becomes a stumbling block or an idol for yourself or anyone else that it is a problem. Self control is the key!

  5. cb56 says:

    “Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. 1Cor6:12 NIV
    IMO this says it all when you include the second half of the verse.
    I spent decades as an alchoholic and didn’t care until I decided to become an active Christian again. When I rededicated my life to Christ, I didn’t immediately stop drinking. It was a struggle that lasted close to two years. It wasn’t until after I realized that my addiction wasn’t only hurting my health and damaging the relationship with my wife and family, but that it was also damaging my spirit and my relationship with God that, through prayer and the power of God, I was released from the chains of addiction. Now that’s real tangable freedom !
    The question is not whether an act is permissible or not, drinking, over eating, lying etc… The queston is are we making wise Godly choices in our lives?
    I know for a fact that if I take one drink of alchohol, I will be right back to where I was before. Addicted!
    But would it mean that I’m no longer a Christian? No?
    It would mean I’m a Christian who has made an unwise potentually damaging choice.
    Permissible, yes. Benificial, No!
    If someone can enjoy drinking or any other activity that is permissible but not neccesarily benificial I guess that’s ok but I would encourage them to be very carfull with the choices they make.
    When considering these choices, it might be helpful to ask yourself, would this choice bring glory to God? Will it help me in my Christian walk?
    God bless!

  6. pegramsdell says:

    Exactly cb56! For me it was smoking. I know that 1 is all it takes to make we want it all the time. I thank God that I was finally able to quit.
    God bless you too.

  7. sawaybon says:

    I am grateful for the recent topics on Paul’s writings. They are helpful for me as I am currently writing a paper for my Biblical Foundations course on the legitimacy of Paul’s writings. The main question that I must unpackage is distinguishing what is to be taken literally and what is to be read derivatively in light of cultural circumstances. The issue of ‘permissible but not beneficial’ applies directly to contextual or cultural appropriateness. For example, the topic of drinking alcohol that is being discussed in today’s blog is one where my experience has shown greater permissibility when we were missionaries in Brazil than living at home here in North America. That decision is based on differences in cultural norms and acceptability, which addresses the ‘beneficial’ question. It was more offensive to decline a glass of wine from my Brazilian neighbors than it is to refuse to drink beer with my slo-pitch teammates here. There is also the danger of becoming a stumblingblock, and I am still trying to sort that one out.

    ‘Freedoms’ like drinking and smoking easily become addictions, and it is interesting that the topic of our church service yesterday was Being Held Hostage by Addictions. The service concluded with the version of Amazing Grace by Chris Tomlin where he adds “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free…” That is true freedom.

    Today’s Our Daily Bread article describes a very common addiction — gossip. I find interesting the suggestion to pray rather than gossip. I have experienced so many prayer meetings where the prayer request time basically turns into a gossip session. So here is an idea: If you are so addicted that you need to gossip, gossip to God. That is the only way it can be justified.

  8. cherielyn says:

    Many years ago I had the opportunity to lead someone to the Lord. Later, we invited her & her husband to a dinner function. We arrived before they did & hubby & I had a drink. When they came in the lady’s husband walked up to me, with an accusing look in his eyes, and said, “I thought you didn’t drink!” Since I had no previous contact with him, I can only assume that his reaction was because of whatever his wife had shared with him and perhaps ideas he had formulated in his mind from other Christian contacts. It gave me pause to think about what impression one drink had on an unbeliever. Because of that incident, I really put things in perspective and while I don’t think it is wrong to have an occasional drink or glass of wine, does it ruin my testimony? In that case it did. I don’t know if the man ever accepted Christ as his wife did. I wonder if my one innocent drink was a stumbling block to him. Because of that incident I knew that even one drink, viewed by the wrong person, could possibly ruin my witness, so, in my opinion, it is wrong for me. Who else might be watching me at any given time?

  9. CarrieP says:

    I often think about, and am confronted with this very subject. It always come down to a comment made by a priest,that I heard long ago… “Love the Lord with all your heart, your mind and your soul…AND DO WHAT YOU WANT TO.” Seams to me if I do that I won’t want to do anything not pleasing to HIM.

  10. drkennyg says:

    I am reminded of Eph 6:10 … “Finally be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might”. Thanks for the post and all the responses because it has cleared things up a bit more for me. I realize that some of Paul’s words can be misleading until I remember that they are God’s words and must be taken in context. The idea that we are free to sin and give in to temptations without consequence to our salvation and regard it as “God’s job” to forgive us anyway is a concept that some think to be true. But not me because of the overwhelming gratitude for His grace it always moves me to repentance and a strong desire to share the Gospel. I have lots to learn but my new journey is exciting and comforting as well as life-changing.

  11. poohpity says:

    Wow what a great topic although I feel this is the basis of so many issues that unbelievers have with us. They think we live a life of rules. The responses here show that when we are so busy loving the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind that we will show others the love, grace and mercy we have received and are unable to follow all the rules that show us we are sinners. It is the Lord who changes us and creates a clean heart to be able to show His love towards others that we have been shown. The freedom to serve those who feel so unlovable and show them they are worth being loved. Loved by the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the creator of everything and the great “I am”. NOW that is what I’m talking about in my “FREEDOM”. We have freedom to do good, if we are so busy watching every step we take when can we be Jesus to the world?

  12. daisymarygoldr says:

    All things are lawful and with the Spirit and life-changing grace of Christ there is freedom from moral laws…will do whatever pleases my sweet soul…drink, smoke, commit sexual sin, watch porn… and experience something better than keeping all those horrible restricting moral laws by cultivating my personal relationship with Christ to produce “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.”- not my words but those of my young and handsome cousin who died with AIDS a month ago… a few days shy of his 30th birthday. Don’t know about his eternal destiny but my heart bleeds for that life that got prematurely terminated… and for the widowed mother who, a couple of years ago lost her 48 yr-old husband – my uncle, to alcohol addiction…and for the younger siblings who have lost both their father and big brother….and for my entire family who dearly miss our loving Uncle and kind cousin. To reaffirm in response to your Q, yes, Paul says all things are lawful…

  13. SFDBWV says:

    I would suggest that anyone who wants to, read Galatians chapter 5. ALL of it.

    We are given freedom, but with responsibility. If we follow our own inclinations, sin and destruction will follow.

    DMG, I am sorry for your pain.

  14. blowentw says:

    Reading Galations five is a great idea. When looking there we need to remember what Paul says we are free from. The slavery from which we are free is the law, the burden of laboring under “the rules.” According to Paul, the only thing that the law can practically do for us is show us our sin. What is the alternative that Paul discusses? Living by the Spirit.

    The amazing thing is that in Christ we can now _choose_ to live by the Spirit, whereas before we truly could not. If we are led by the Spirit, we are not under the law, and we will choose to do those things that reflect the fruit of the Spirit. That means that our actions and deeds will be many and varied, but the way we do them will reflect the fruit of the Spirit. Or maybe I should say “ought to.”

    The thing that has changed is our ability to choose, brought about by a recreated heart. It is reflected in a new relationship Paul talks of in chapter 4 verse 7- we are sons (and daughters) now, and heirs of God in Christ. We are not under the law, but free from it as sons and heirs. Our attitudes and actions should grow out of our relationship with God, a relationship based on love, not rules. How I relate to my family, my coworkers, my neighbors, my enemies should reflect the love of God in my life. As well as I understand God’s love and let it rule in my life, that is how well I will live for Christ, or how well I can choose to live for Christ. Regrettably I find myself often still falling short of that which I do understand – or to put it another way, I still choose poorly sometimes and sin. But God wants us to find our motivation for living in our love for Him.

    In the long run, whether I drink or do not drink, whether I tithe or do not tithe, is not a matter of law or rules but a matter of my relationship with God. It is not a matter of another’s preconceived ideas of what a Christian should be, but of my understanding of what God wants me to be. In the end we must be as Paul – ready to stand before the Father with a clear conscience for who we are, and what we have done. Whatever is outside that we need to confess and deal with now.

    Sorry for running on so long . . . .

  15. poohpity says:

    Amen blowentw! If a person is close to the Lord it will reflect in actions and not a word needs to be spoken. Gosh wouldn’t it be nice!! The manifestation of God in someones life is the fruit that is displayed. One will reflect although not perfectly, the love of God for all to see. Not the rules we speak that not one is able to keep but the life lived in Jesus name.

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