LIBERTY AND LAW
“All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” 1 Cor. 10:23
Let us remember that when the Greek used this phrase and declared "all things are lawful," he referred to the sum total of material things and moral values, and all the forces of life of which he was conscious. How, then, did Paul use the term "all things"? We are not left to speculation. In 1 Cor. 3:21-23 is his own definition. "Wherefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours," and then there is a parenthesis evident in the fact that the main argument is taken up at vs. 23, so that if you read directly from that central word of the 21st verse to the end of the 23rd verse, you will find the main statement, "All things are yours . . . and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God’s." Between the first affirmation, "All things are yours," and the latter words there is Paul’s exposition of his own use of the phrase, "all things" "whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come." Not only, therefore, does the Apostle include all that the Greek philosopher included, but he sweeps out into a realm that far transcended anything that the Greek philosopher saw or understood. "All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas." The naming of these men is the naming of emphases of truth for which they stood and the words of grace they added to the lives of those that they ministered. Every system of thought is yours. Again, "the world" is yours, with all its forces, and its movements. And "life," which you are perpetually attempting to analyze and account for; and "death," which to you is but a cessation of life, and a mystery, but the point where you are set at liberty and unstraightened, both are yours, that is "things present," an inclusive phrase which is the boundary of the thinking of the Greek philosopher; and things to come, which Greek philosophy denies, but which Paul includes in his "all things." Thus, when Paul wrote, "all things are lawful to me," he included all the schools of thought, and the world, and life, and death, and things present, and things to come. All are in the constraints of the Law. Then notice the claim in its nature as well as in its inclusiveness, "All things are lawful." Here, again, we take the word "lawful," and ask what its real meaning is. The root idea of the word is that of being out upon the public highway. It is the opposite of imprisoned. With regard to all things, I have liberty, I am not in prison, I am not shut away from any of them. I am on the great highway walking amidst them, and I am free. I have power and authority in respect to these things; they are permitted to me. He thus affirmed the freedom of the Christian man with regard to all things in the universe of God—material, moral, and spiritual. If we are to understand what the Apostle means there must be contextual exposition. You will find in 1 Cor. 2:15 a principle of discrimination. "He that is spiritual judges all things." The Christian man in the midst of things lawful to him does not take them promiscuously, but with discernment. He puts upon things lawful to him the measurement of the infinite. He that is spiritual judges or discerns all things. Further on, we have a balance of relationship. "All things are yours" is not his last word, for he adds, "and ye are Christ’s and Christ is God's." The final thing for the Christian man is not the all things which are lawful, but the Christ who reigns over him, and God Who is at the back of the Christ. It is a great cosmic conception which the Apostle gives us here. First, the infinite God, then Christ, then the Christian man, and, finally, all things stretching out beyond him, the man recognizing that he is crowned in the midst of all things, but never forgetting that he must exercise the principle of discrimination in dealing with them.