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All things are lawful, but…
1 Corinthians 10:23 We may do things that are within the law, but are they making us better followers of Christ?
“All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.”
1 Corinthians 10:23 NASB1995
After a short detour to the Old Testament for a few days (Proverbs and Psalms, to be exact), we’re back to the heart of the New Testament with another epistle from Paul. This time, he’s writing to the church in Corinth.
Paul really knew his stuff when it came to the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh or Mikra), so when he was writing this chapter of his epistle and warning the church not to act like Israel, he knew exactly what to use as a reference to get his point across. Here Paul is trying to explain the Jewish dietary laws concerning food and drink, and why those laws are no longer pertinent — many of the laws had to do more with idolatry (eating meat sacrificed to idols) than any other reason.
By the time we get to verse 23, Paul is essentially teaching the Corinthians a principle: don’t just avoid those things that are harmful to you, but also pursue things that are good for you. The Christians in Corinth were too focused on their own “knowledge” and “rights”, asking only one question — “What’s the harm to me?” Paul is saying that they also need to ask a secondary question — “What good can this be for me?”.
The Corinthians were doing what was permitted by the new law, but they weren’t necessarily doing what was beneficial to themselves or the church. Paul realized that they weren’t seeking to do things that were helpful or edifying, so in this one verse he’s pointing out the error of their ways. Rather than changing their lives to be more like Jesus, the people of the church in Corinth were instead testing the limits — trying to figure out how much they could get away with and still be considered followers of Christ!
This is still true today. Some who call themselves Christians may do things that are within the laws of the city, state and nation in which they live, but those things may be totally at odds with becoming more Christ-like. When we think that some action isn’t necessary harming ourselves, we should also consider how that action harms others or society as a whole.
I’ll end today’s devotional with this commentary from David Guzik at Enduring Word:
Just because something is fine for me does not mean I should do it. My own “rights” or what I know to be permitted for myself are not the standards by which I judge my behavior. I must consider what is the loving thing to do towards my brothers and sisters in Jesus.
Heaven On Wheels Daily Prayer:
Lord, I thank You for the freedom I have in Christ, and ask You to help me live a life worthy of You. Assist me to be more helpful and beneficial to my brothers and sisters in Christ in all that I say and do, so that I may conform more closely to the likeness of Jesus. In His name I pray, AMEN.