Monday, January 13, 2020

"All Things Are Lawful For Me, But I Will Not Be Brought Under The Power Of Any": What Is It?

In 1 Corinthians 6:12, the Apostle Paul writes the church at Corinth:
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.
What is he talking about?  To understand, you need to back up to the start of the chapter.  Most people I read have said that the first half of chapter 6 discourages the bringing of lawsuits against other Christians.  Not exactly.  First, it is about not taking an internal conflict of a church outside the church into a secular court.  The conflict between two people should be resolved by the church membership.  Often commentators will denounce the "airing of dirty laundry," which causes damage to the church.  It doesn't say that anywhere in the passage, but I understand the implication, even though it isn't the central issue or point.

In principle, the passage is about the elevation of the world and its spheres of power above that of the church.  Believers are not to see it that way.  This is clear as you work your way through the first eleven verses.  First, Paul says the saints will judge the world during the kingdom, not vice versa (v. 2), and even will judge the angels (v. 3) perhaps after the kingdom.  Even the least esteemed church members would do a better job than those in the world (v. 4).

Going outside of the church for rulings brings disrepute on the church, the premier institution of God's authority on earth.  Jesus is its Head.  People in the world need to understand that a church is trustworthy for making decisions and has the ultimate authority or power.  It's a shameful disparagement of the wisdom of God.  It also looks like, because it is, unresolved infighting in a church.  The church can't settle itself.  It's not the laundry being aired.  It's the depreciation of the competence of the church, a stain on the assessment of God's institution.  I find this normal today, putting worldly opinions, worldly fads, worldly ideas, psychobabble, fake news, all the lies of this world and foolishness, ahead of the church.

Paul is so serious about his point that he says that he expects that church members should rather be defrauded than take something outside the church, that's how serious it is (vv. 6-8).  He says it's a shame (v. 5).  Strong language.  To add emphasis to it, he compares the people they were bringing their conflicts to (vv. 9-10), to the ones who should be making the decisions (v. 11).  The people of vv. 9-10 look like the wrong people to look for counsel, to resolve conflicts, really for anything.  What are professing Christians doing?!?!  They are sacrificing the permanent on the altar of the immediate.

Then we arrive at verse 12.  It might be lawful to do the thing Paul is discouraging.  It's not expedient though.  There is no advantage to bringing church conflicts to the world.  The world doesn't have an advantage over believers.  People outside of the authority of Jesus Christ are not better.  That is fake news.  The world thinks it's better, and then professing believers, or just plain fellow unbelievers, just play right into its (and their) hands.

Advantage, expedience, is based on the right judgment.  It's not an advantage to give up eternal things for temporal ones.  It might feel good in the short term.  It might be short term "advantage" without being real or true advantage.  Someone is not actually better off with it, which is why the world shouldn't be making the decisions.  God's people will rule over the kingdom, which is the point of all of this.  What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses the kingdom, the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the return to Paradise?  It's the same as losing your soul.

Why do people want the world more?  In many cases, they're not saved.  They are the world, and you can tell by their little mention of God, the Bible, the things of God.  They are ashamed of them.  That's the easiest call.  They are loving the world by giving the world this priority.  I know professing Christians right now lapping it up.  They go to the world for their opinions and judgments, because the world offers them agreement with their lust.  They think it's freedom too, when it really is bondage.

And we come to the second half of verse 12, which supplies the words of the title of this post.  Again, it might be lawful to go to secular courts or even get advice.  However, we should not be brought under power of any.  The "power" is not ability, but authority.  We should not be under the authority of any but God.  It is the verb form of exousia, which is the word for authority.  It is "to have the right of control."  Believers should stay under the control of God and not submit their control to the world.  They stay under the control of the Lord in the church and by submitting in the church.  Nothing should take authority from Jesus Christ over the believers life, which is the ultimate point or issue of this passage.  Jesus should be the Lord of everyone and He will be in His kingdom.

The "not lawful" verbiage puts this instruction in the context of liberty.  The Christian life is not about what you get to do or you don't get to do.  It's about doing what is advantageous and about the right relationship with God, which is staying under His control.  People looking to the world for their mentorship, their advice, and their resolution of conflicts are being brought under the authority of someone else besides Jesus Christ.  This is not characteristic of a believer.  This is someone more at home with his own lust and the ways of the world.  Like Paul says, it is a shame, a complete shame.

No comments: