- Category: The Church: The Higher Calling
Theme Text– ‘All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable’ - 1Corinthians 6:12.
1) If the church is not called to fight sin, why do the Apostles advise us to avoid certain things?
Paul writes to the Corinthians - ‘All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable’ - 1Cor 6:12. First of all, what an unabashedly bold statement! All things are lawful for the church! Yes, we stand justified by Christ, and hence God does not count sins we commit in our flesh. So all things are indeed lawful for us! The Corinthians started taking advantage of that knowledge. So Paul rebukes them –
‘It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud!’ - 1Cor 5:1-2.
He goes on to reprimand them that certain things are not profitable. (The NIV renders it as ‘not beneficial’).
2) ‘All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable’ – Not profitable for what purpose?
Certain things (like sexual immorality) would not be profitable for our spiritual race of proclaiming the gospel. So it’s good to follow the New Testament’s instructions on such things. Anything that distracts us from gospel work is to be avoided -
‘The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy…and the like. I warn you that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God’ - Gal 5:19-21.
If we unrepentantly continue in such things, we won’t inherit the Kingdom as we would lose our focus from running the gospel race. But the objective of refraining from such inexpedient things is not self-justification, as that can be achieved only by keeping all 613 commandments of the Law.
We should never forget we are reckoned justified only by our faith in Christ. Sola fide! By Faith Alone!
3) But we are in fallen flesh, won’t we fail in such things at times despite our best efforts?
Yes, we will. Whenever that happens, we should repent and seek forgiveness. Even that pervert Corinthian adulterer was forgiven. Paul writes them in his second letter– ‘If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him’ - 2Cor 2:5-8.
4) Does avoiding such non-beneficial things constitute our spiritual race?
Paul explains –‘Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith’ - Heb 12:1-2.
- He asks us to throw off sinful activities that entangle us…from doing what? - Deeds of faith.
- What else does he say we need to throw off? - Everything that hinders. Yes, everything (including lawful worldly desires/relations) that hinders our race must be sacrificed.
- But for what purpose? - To run the race marked out for us i.e. to do deeds of faith.
Paul says there is a race marked out for us to run after we throw hindering things off. So throwing them off is definitely not that race. Proclaiming the gospel is!
5) Paul continues - ‘Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood’ - Heb 12:3-4. Is this a call to resist sin to the point of shedding blood? Does that even make sense?
- Jesus suffered unto shedding his blood on the cross because of opposition from sinners of this sinful world (‘such opposition from sinners’) working against him.
- Paul extends that to us - Just as sin i.e. the sinful world rose against Jesus, it would oppose our gospel work too. And we shouldn’t hesitate to resist it to the point of shedding our blood. He shows us Jesus’ example and asks us to do likewise. He simply refers to the sinful world as sin.
Our Fight of the Faith is the gospel fight. The Apostles died as martyrs for it. The sinful world will fight against our gospel. We should not lose heart, but be ready to even shed our blood in that fight.
6) Doesn’t Paul talk about self-control in 1 Corinthians 9?
He says why - ‘To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people. I do all this for the sake of the gospel. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize’. 1Cor 9:22-27.
Paul says he keeps his body under control as everyone competing in a race should have self-control.
- Many read the last verse out of context, and start preaching that our race is to struggle to achieve self-control. But when we study what Paul says in its entirety, aren’t we able to easily understand that he’s actually asking us to control the body in order to properly compete in the gospel race?
- It’s absolutely no use sitting at home trying to control the body. We have to run the gospel race!
7) When the gospel race is biblically explained, it excites those who finally see what the higher calling is, but it also gets some accusers to cry out “You’re saying it’s okay to sin!” How about that?
- In these studies, we learnt core scriptures - from Jesus and his apostles. They are the real deal. Especially after Jesus, it was Paul who boldly declared the foundations of the Christian faith – ‘None can attain self-justification! Grace is necessary. Our calling is to suffer for the gospel.’ And during his time, some slandered even the Apostle. He writes - “Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—“Let us do evil”? Their condemnation is just!” - Romans 3:8. Yes, such accusers existed even then!
- Satan has made many forget that Christ has freed us from the Law and Sin.
Faith is to be proved by gospel work, but he keeps them focused on fighting a losing battle against sin in fallen flesh.