One of the key things that Paul taught in his letters was freedom from the law. That we are no longer under law, but under grace. But much as people do in this time, people in Corinth were corrupting that teaching.
Paul had just finished lambasting the Corinthian church for the way they were treating each other, and he told them,
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (9-10)
How were the Corinthians responding?
“But you said, ‘Everything is permissible (or “lawful”)for me.’ So why can’t I do these things. It’s my life, after all.”
But Paul answers, “All things may be lawful for you, but not all things are beneficial.” We will see an example of this in chapter 8, where he says that eating food sacrificed to idols is lawful, but we shouldn’t do it if it will cause another Christian to stumble. Our eating such food would not be beneficial to our brother’s spiritual well-being.
He then says again, “All things may be lawful for you…but you should not be mastered by anything, least of all sin.”
Paul expands on this in Romans,
Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey–whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 7:16)
Many times people start out choosing to sin, but ultimately find themselves in slavery to it. Gluttony is an example of this. Pornography is another. In both cases, people start out by indulging themselves, but in the end, find themselves out of control. Even if the doctor says they need to lose weight or risk suffering a heart attack, they can’t stop. And even if pornography is destroying their marriage life, they find they cannot get away from it.
Some of the Corinthians said, “But God created us to eat. That’s why he gave us stomachs, after all. And he created us as sexual beings. God created us to fulfill those needs. Why then all the restrictions?”
But Paul reminds them that while God did indeed give us stomachs and create us as sexual beings, nevertheless, meeting these needs were not the main purposes for which he created us. We were not created simply to live for and please ourselves. Paul said,
“Food for the stomach and the stomach for food” (what the Corinthians were saying) –but God will destroy them both. (13)
In other words both food and the stomach are temporal things, not eternal. We weren’t created simply for indulging our stomachs.
And Paul goes on to say,
The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. (13)
Put another way, our body is not meant for sinful purposes, but for the Lord’s. We were created to be his temple. And he paid a great price on the cross that we might be his.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (19-20)
What does freedom in Christ not mean? It doesn’t mean that you live for yourself and indulge yourself in sin. Rather, it means being set free from the sin that was destroying you. It means being free to walk with God without fear of being punished. Rather we walk in the knowledge that God loves us, and is now dwelling in us through his Holy Spirit. And each day we live out the purpose for which we were created for: to love, honor and glorify God.
How about you? How are you using your freedom?