on 1-corinthians 6 :12
All things are lawful unto me - It is likely that some of the Corinthians had pleaded that the offense of the man who had his father's wife, as well as the eating the things offered to idols, was not contrary to the law, as it then stood. To this the apostle answers: Though such a thing be lawful, yet the case of fornication, mentioned 1 Corinthians 5:1, is not expedient, ου συμφερει - it is not agreeable to propriety, decency, order, and purity. It is contrary to the established usages of the best and most enlightened nations, and should not be tolerated in the Church of Christ.
They might also be led to argue in favor of their eating things offered to idols, and attending idol feasts, thus: - that an idol was nothing in the world; and as food was provided by the bounty of God, a man might partake of it any where without defiling his conscience, or committing sin against the Creator. This excuse also the apostle refers to. All these things are lawful, taken up merely in the light that none of your laws is against the first; and that, on the ground that an idol is nothing in the world, there can be no reason against the last;
But I will not be brought under the power of any - Allowing that they are all lawful, or at least that there is no law against them, yet they are not expedient; there is no necessity for them; and some of them are abominable, and forbidden by the law of God and nature, whether forbidden by yours or not; while others, such as eating meats offered to idols, will almost necessarily lead to bad moral consequences: and who, that is a Christian, would obey his appetite so far as to do these things for the sake of gratification? A man is brought under the power of any thing which he cannot give up. He is the slave of that thing, whatsoever it be, which he cannot relinquish; and then, to him, it is sin.
on 1-corinthians 6 :12
All things are lawful unto me - The apostle here evidently makes a transition to another subject from that which he had been discussing - a consideration of the propriety of using certain things which had been esteemed lawful. The expression, "all things are lawful," is to be understood as used by those who palliated certain indulgences, or who vindicated the vices here referred to, and Paul designs to reply to them. His reply follows. He had been reproving them for their vices, and had specified several. It is not to be supposed that they would indulge in them without some show of defense; and the declaration here has much the appearance of a proverb, or a common saying - that all things were lawful; that is, "God has formed all things for our use, and there can be no evil if we use them." By the phrase "all things" here, perhaps, may be meant many things; or things in general; or there is nothing in itself unlawful.
That there were many vicious persons who held this sentiment there can be no doubt; and though it cannot be supposed that there were any in the Christian church who would openly advocate it, yet the design of Paul was to "cut up" the plea altogether "wherever it might be urged," and to show that it was false and unfounded. The particular flyings which Paul here refers to, are those which have been called "adiaphoristic," or indifferent; that is, pertaining to certain meats and drinks, etc. With this Paul connects also the subject of fornication - the subject particularly under discussion. This was defended as "lawful," by many Greeks, and was practiced at Corinth; and was the vice to which the Corinthian Christians were particularly exposed. Paul designed to meet all that could be said on this subject; and to show them that these indulgences could not be proper for Christians, and could not in any way be defended - We are not to understand Paul as admitting that fornication is in any case lawful; but he designs to show that the practice cannot possibly be defended in any way, or by any of the arguments which had been or could be used. For this purpose, he observes:
(1) That admitting that all things were lawful, there were many things which ought not to be indulged;
(2) That admitting that they were lawful, yet a man ought not to be under the power of any improper indulgence, and should abandon any habit when it had the mastery.
(3) that fornication was positively wrong, and against the very nature and essence of Christianity, 1 Corinthians 6:13-20.
Are not expedient - This is the first answer to the objection. Even should we admit that the practices under discussion are lawful, yet there are many things which are not expedient; that is, which do not profit, for so the word συμφέρει sumpherei properly signifies; they are injurious and hurtful. They might injure the body; produce scandal; lead others to offend or to sin. Such was the case with regard to the use of certain meats, and even with regard to the use of wine. Paul's rule on this subject is stated in 1 Corinthians 8:13. That if these things did injury to others, he would abandon them forever; even though they were in themselves lawful; see the 1 Corinthians 8 note and Romans 14:14-23 notes. There are many customs which, perhaps, cannot be strictly proved to be unlawful or sinful, which yet do injury in some way if indulged in; and which as their indulgence can do no good, should be abandoned. Anything that does evil - however small - and no good, should be abandoned at once.
All things are lawful - Admitting this; or even on the supposition that all things are in themselves right.
But I will not be brought under the power - I will not be subdued by it; I will not become the "slave" of it.
Of any - Of any custom, or habit, no matter what it is. This was Paul's rule; the rule of an independent mind. The principle was, that even admitting that certain things were in themselves right, yet his grand purpose was "not to be the slave of habit," not to be subdued by any practice that might corrupt his mind, fetter his energies, or destroy his freedom as a man and as a Christian. We may observe:
(1) That this is a good rule to act on. It was Paul's rule 1 Corinthians 9:27, and it will do as well for us as for him.
(2) it is the true rule of an independent and noble mind. It requires a high order of virtue; and is the only way in which a man may be useful and active.
(3) it may be applied to "many things" now. Many a Christian and Christian minister "is a slave;" and is completely under the power of some habit that destroys his usefulness and happiness. He is the slave of indolence, or carelessness, or of some vile habit - as the use of tobacco, or of wine. He has not independence enough to break the cords that bind him; and the consequence is, that life is passed in indolence, or in self-indulgence, and time, and strength, and property are wasted, and religion blighted, and souls ruined.
(4) the man that has not courage and firmness enough to act on this rule should doubt his piety. If he is a voluntary slave to some idle and mischievous habit, how can he be a Christian! If he does not love his Saviour and the souls of people enough to break off from such habits which he knows are doing injury, how is he fit to be a minister of the self-denying Redeemer?
on 1-corinthians 6 :12
6:12 All things - Which are lawful for you. Are lawful for me, but all things are not always expedient - Particularly when anything would offend my weak brother; or when it would enslave my own soul. For though all things are lawful for me, yet I will not be brought under the power of any - So as to be uneasy when I abstain from it; for, if so, then I am under the power of it.