The inexcusable sin and shame of fornication.
All things are lawful unto me. The abruptness with which the phrase is introduced perhaps shows that, in the letter of the Corinthians to St. Paul, they had used some such expression by way of palliating their lax tolerance of violations of the law of purity. By "all things," of course, is only meant "all things which are indifferent in themselves." They erroneously applied this maxim of Christian liberty to that which was inherently sinful, and thus were tempted to "make their liberty a cloak of viciousness." St. Paul, as Bengel observes, often, and especially in this Epistle, uses the first person generally in gnomic or semi-proverbial sentences ( 1 Corinthians 6:15 ; 1 Corinthians 7:7 ; 1 Corinthians 10:23 , 1 Corinthians 10:29 , 1 Corinthians 10:30 ; 1 Corinthians 14:11 ). But. This is St. Paul's correction of too broad a formula. Are not expedient. St. Paul illustrates this in 1 Corinthians 8:8-10 . We have no right to do even that which is innocent, if it be disadvantageous to the highest interests of ourselves or others. "He alone," says St. Augustine, "does not fall into unlawful things who sometimes abstains by way of caution even from lawful ones." Will not be brought under the power. The play of words in the original might be imitated by saying, "All things are in my power, but I will not be brought under the power of any." In other words, "boundless intemperance" may become a tyranny. The pretence of moral freedom may end in a moral bondage.
"Obedience is better than freedom? What's free?
The vexed foam on the wave, the tossed straw on the sea;
The ocean itself, as it rages and swells,
In the bonds of a boundless obedience dwells."
I will be master even over my liberty by keeping it under the beneficent control of law and of charity.
Christianity in relation to the body.
"All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient," etc. It would seem that there were those in the Church at Corinth who regarded Christianity as giving them a kind of liberty to do whatsoever they wished. Some of them having left Judaism with its various restraints, and others paganism, which also had restrictions, they were too ready to push the doctrine of religious liberty, as proclaimed by Paul, far beyond its limits. The apostle here states, perhaps in answer to a question on the subject, that there is a limitation to Christian liberty. He says, "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient." As the liberty which they seemed to covet was a liberty in relation to the gratifications of bodily appetites, he takes occasion to state certain things in relation to the body. His remarks suggest to us the relation of Christianity to the human body. We observe—
I. THAT IT RECOGNIZES ATTENTION TO THE NATURAL NEEDS OF THE BODY AS PROPER . "Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats." This means the body has appetites, and there are provisions intended and fitted to satisfy them. Christianity allows man to partake of those provisions in nature necessary to satisfy and strengthen his physical nature. To act thus is to act in harmony with the constitution of nature. All animal existences act in this way. Christianity, instead of requiring you to starve the body by lastings, and to exhaust its energies by painful pilgrimages and self mortifications, says, "Eat and be satisfied, eat and be strong, take care of your bodies. If you choose to eat the meat offered to idols to allay your appetites and to invigorate your frames, well, eat it." Feeding the body, however, Christianity regards, though proper as very temporary; both the food and the body must perish. They are not like spiritual existences and spiritual supplies, that have regard to an immeasureable hereafter. "All flesh is grass."
II. THAT IT RECOGNIZES INDULGENCE IN THE GRATIFICATIONS OF THE BODY AS WRONG . "Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body." This is not a necessity of the body, like eating and drinking, but an immoral indulgence of its propensities. Man should attend to his bodily propensities as reliefs, not as gratifications. He who attends to his physical propensities in order to get pleasure out of them, sinks lower than a brute, violates the laws of his nature, degrades his being, and offends his God. Hence intemperance, whether in eating or drinking, is a moral outrage. The crime and curse of men in all ages have been seeking happiness out of the gastric, the sexual, and other propensities of their physical being.
III. THAT IT RECOGNIZES THE PROPER TREATMENT OF THE BODY AS IDENTIFYING WITH CHRIST .
1. It is a property of Christ. It is "for the Lord; and the Lord for the body." It is not ours; we are its trustees, not its proprietors; we hold it "for the Lord," and we should use it according to his directions. It is his will that it should be used by the soul to convey from the external universe quickening and hallowing impressions of the Divine, and used to express and develop the holy thoughts and purposes which such impressions should produce. It is to let in God to the soul and to reveal God to our race.
2. It is a member of Christ. "Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?" If we are genuine Christians, he regards even our bodies as having a vital connection with him. He had a human body, and that human body raised to heaven is the model into which our bodies shall be changed. This being so, the prostitution of the body to sensual indulgence of any kind is an incongruity and an outrage. "Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit," etc.
3. It is a temple of Christ. "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God?" Christ, by his Spirit, claims the body as a temple, in which he is to dwell, be revealed and worshipped. It is his property. "Ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." The language here is, of course, figurative. It does not mean that there was a strictly commercial transaction in the redemption of man, a literal quid pro quo, for the thing spoken of pertains to spiritual interests and relations, and not to commerce.
The human body and its relation to Christ.
Among the objects about him proper for use and enjoyment—those objects which accorded with his nature and position as a redeemed man—was there anything from which he was excluded? "All things are lawful unto me," and, in this sense, liberty and law are identical, the measure of the one being the measure of the other. If law is of God, so is freedom; if the former is the expression of the Divine will and character, so is the latter; and if man is the image of Christ in law, so is he in freedom. Observe, then, that it is not law and liberty as existing in a perfect world that the apostle is considering, but as found in this mixed and disordered world, in which probation is going on to its eternal issues. Ideally "all things are lawful," and yet, because life is a discipline, how could it be otherwise than that liberty should be abridged? One of the main purposes of probation is to discipline the will, to choose for itself among a multitude of objects addressing our sensibilities. Scores of things appeal daily to our senses, and, if all our sensations are converted into desires, thence into motives, thence accepted by volition, and made a part of ourselves, then certainly this is not freedom for the ends of moral discipline, but freedom for simple and universal gratification. Freedom in St. Paul's view is not a final cause, it is a means; and he would have the Corinthian remember that one of their greatest obligations was to restrain this freedom. The freedom itself had a large range as to the objects allowed its use and enjoyment. Should it cover the whole area of activity? Nay, says the apostle, this would be bondage in another form. "I will not be brought under the power of any," for "all things are lawful unto me," which is to say, "all things are in my power," and I will exercise my power by imposing limitations on self indulgence. Of course, then, this restraint put on individual freedom is our own voluntary act. Such is the stress laid on personality that a man's Christian virtue must be specifically his own, and recognized by infallible signs as his own. Development is a common duty, self development segregates a man from his fellows that he may grow in a given way. Self denial is a common duty, but under this law of individuality in using our freedom, self denial assumes a variety of shapes, and becomes wonderfully potential in human affairs by the diversity it presents. In this view the self denial of A is no guide for B. The special form of your self denial may not commend itself to me, nay, it may be hurtful to me; and, assuredly, it will lose its virtue if I adopt it merely because it is yours. And hence the value of example in this respect is not to create a slavish imitation on the part of others, but to set forth the worth inherent in the spirit of self denial. If this principle, so boldly urged by St. Paul, had been faithfully adhered to, it would have saved the Church from many inconsistencies. Private opinion, while it is content to be such, may be over stringent, and yet do no great harm. But in many cases it exceeds the limits of individuality and takes shape as the tyranny of public opinion. Morbidness is rarely satisfied till it acquires notoriety before the eyes of men, and so it comes to pass that we have ecclesiastical agitation and legislation about many things—for instance, amusements—concerning which no exact standard can be set up foreverybody. If we could have an exact standard, it would not compensate for the loss of personal freedom, since this is precisely one of those matters in which self denial owes all its excellence to the restrictions that it imposes upon itself. St. Paul's emphatic "I" in this connection is the "I" of every redeemed man, and accordingly, as a universal prerogative, this exalted characteristic of individuality is most carefully guarded. And how is it guarded? To say nothing of what Christian freedom is in itself as delegated by God in Christ, and conditioned widely different from Adam's sovereignty in Eden; to say nothing of its original limitations by the Divine Law, and the fixed barriers over which it may not pass, and, if true to itself, cannot pass; what is this liberty but a glorious privilege to be made still more glorious by our own self enacted laws of restraint? It is a new limitation peculiar to man. It is a limitation which each man under the grace of the Spirit originates and executes in attestation of his own endowments as God's redeemed servant, It is sonship in its most beautiful and tender form—the "Abba, Father," which is not heard in the responses of the Church, nor in hymns of social worship, but is an utterance that rises to God in those hours when loneliness is a supreme joy. I have the power; I will not use it; I will deny myself its exercise, and I will do it because "all things are not expedient." What other eye save his own could penetrate those mysteries, from which he draws reasons and motives for particular acts of self denial? Mysteries, we say; for many an advanced believer yields in this phase of experience to half awakened instincts and undefined impulses. How can ministers of the gospel, how can Churches in their official capacity, get at the knowledge of what is wisest and best in those matters that belong to the very highest attributes of personality as the ground of individuality? "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." "Fully persuaded" he can never be unless he use his liberty untrammelled. If you dogmatize and legislate, the full persuasion cannot be the outcome of " his own mind." If God can trust him, why not you? The safeguard has been provided—it is expediency. And this sense of expediency or of fitness and propriety is a conservative and prudential force, which operates to check all excesses, and binds about the man the golden cestus of moderation. Expediency is never self willed and arbitrary. It presides over tastes and the minor moralities no less than over the more prominent virtues; nor does it trifle with trifles nor disdain the helps of look and tone and manner, but is cardinal to whatsoever reflects the man upon his associates. Keenly alive to discriminations, it educates us to know the best from the merely good, and, by its fine tact and subtle sagacity, goes on swift wing to the noblest objects. It considers, as though it were a part of itself, the welfare of others, and thus becomes a guarantee that a man's liberty shall not invade the rights of his fellow man. And remembering that "all things" are his only so far as he is Christ's, he realizes that it is "no more I that live, but Christ liveth in me." Then St. Paul proceeds to dwell on the sanctity of the human body—a favourite topic, on which he expends much thought. In the third chapter he had discussed it, and in subsequent passages, every one of them singularly clear and vivid, he recurs to this great topic. Here the leading idea is that our bodies "are the members" of Christ's body. "The body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body." And hence St. Paul, in his concrete method of thinking, refuses to separate, even in thought, body and soul, as they are connected with redemption, Matter and mind are perfectly unlike; they are known to us only by their infinite contrariety; and yet matter and mind meet and unite as body and soul, and the union is human nature. These two substances grow each in its own way, the natural union at birth becoming closer and yet closer as years progress, and the body subordinating itself more and more to the mind's service, in the mature man—the mechanic, the accountant, the artist, the poet, the philosopher—a vast advance has occurred in i he nearness and adaptability of the corporeity to the wants, demands, and aspirations of the spirit. If the providential idea in education and culture be fulfilled, the cooperative activity constantly increases, each forward step a step for both, and the law of development taking effect in mutuality of advantage. Still more fully is this fact brought out in Christian experience. St. Paul's figures on this subject stand for facts. Bodily appetites cease to be mere animal instincts. They are elevated and purified. If Christ was raised from the dead, so too our bodies shall be raised, for the companionship of mind and matter as soul and body is not a transient but an eternal fact. One may speak of being "here in the body pent" and of the "body of humiliation" (vile body), but the idea of body as an investiture of spirit and an auxiliary to its functions is a part of the original scheme of humanity, and will have its complete development in the future life. Little do we realize that the resurrection man is now in a process of training as to his corporeal form. This training is double—mental and material—and hence, while it is true that certain physical functions will expire and be known no more, yet the effects of their experience will survive in the soul itself. "A spiritual body" is assured us by Christianity and confirmed to us by Christ's resurrection; and, agreeably to this doctrine, the present growth of body into the mind's service, the tuition of the senses, the reduction of the nerves to the will, the command which is acquired over the lower organs, all indicate that the resurrection man of body and spirit is now in process of formation. If this is true; if the resurrection is not only a prospective glory but a realization now going on by means of the present ennoblement and sanctification of the human body; and, furthermore, if Christ's education of his own body to the offices he filled as Teacher, Miracle Worker, Philanthropist, Redeemer, etc., as to the spirit actuating him, an example to his followers;—then surely we have the weightiest of reasons for regarding the body as the "temple of the Holy Ghost." Greek philosophy had abused the truth that all creatures are for man, and that he is the measure of all things. Professing Christians had followed a carnal philosophy in the application of this truth. And now that St. Paul has rescued it from its perversions and set it in its proper light, he may well urge the conclusion, "Ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." Could anything more timely, more momentous, more significant of the aim of Christianity as it respected the social regeneration of mankind, have been said by St. Paul? The sin of the body; that one sin which surrenders the body to another and degrades it as nothing else can degrade; that sin of sins, which debauches the body where it ought to be purest, and sinks lowest that which should be highest;—could its wickedness be set forth in stronger language than when he speaks of the body as the tabernacle, in which not only the soul but the Holy Ghost dwells? "Which ye have of God," and therefore "not your own," but "bought with a price." And yet this redeemed possession, the purchase of Christ's blood, a member of his mystical body, a tabernacle of the Spirit, alienated, abused, prostituted to the most shameful and the most fatal of all vices. Of nothing is it so true as of this vice, that we become like that with which we associate. Association is assimilation, and, in this case, assimilation is the most dreadful form of desecration. These verses (18-20) contain, as has been suggested (Alford), the germ of the three weighty sections of the Epistle about to follow. And we do well to enter into their meaning and implore the grace of God to assist us, lest we fail to receive the profound impression sought to be made. It is useless to blink the fact that among Christian nations and in the nineteenth century this colossal vice of a desecrated human body is the Satanic citadel of iniquity. Take all the vices and sins on earth, aggregate them in one huge bulk, and the misfortunes, evils, catastrophes, tragic disasters, put together, would not outweigh the consequences morally and socially viewed of this enormity. Half of the man goes straight and quick into the hands of the devil, and the other half, unless God interpose, follows on in a fascination of blindness exceptional among illusions. God help us! For verily "vain," in this instance, "is the help of man." We need a much larger and bolder discussion of the religion of the human body; and if writers and preachers would study the art of doing this work, the Church and the world would be vast gainers. Any way, this is open to us all, viz. to lay a much greater stress than is commonly done on the dignity, worth, and glory of the human body as seen in the light of Christ's teaching. Full justice is not done this subject, not even approximative justice, and, therefore, no wonder the body is disparaged, vilified, tolerated by many as a nuisance, and immolated by thousands as a creature of appetite and lust. "Bought with a price," the blood of the Lord Jesus paid for it—a glorious thing to be bought and not too precious a ransom paid, and now sprinkled by that blood and hallowed by the indwelling Spirit. Oh what intenseness of soul should go into the pleading, "Glorify God in your body"!—L.
The sanctity of the body.
At Corinth idolatry assumed a most imposing, luxurious, and voluptuous form. It is quite in accordance with all we know of the opulent and pleasure loving inhabitants of and visitors to "the star of Hellas," that those controversies and scandals which are dealt with so fully in this chapter should arise in a Christian society planted by the apostle at Corinth. It should be more especially noticed that there is a sufficient reason for the remarkable fact that sexual matters should be treated more fully in this Epistle than in any other part of the New Testament. The apostle in this passage demolishes the sophistical arguments and excuses by which certain professed Christians at Corinth were disposed to defend the practice of fornication. It was said that matters relating to the bodily life were indifferent to the moral welfare of men, that as an enlightened man will eat this food or that, irrespectively of any superstitious prejudices, inasmuch as food and the digestive system are naturally in corelation with each other, so he will satisfy the sensual appetites of his body in whatever way may be convenient and agreeable to him. Against this doctrine of devils Paul here argues, not on grounds of asceticism, but on grounds which must be conceded as secure by the moral and especially by the Christian thinker.
I. THE GROUNDS UPON WHICH CHRISTIANITY ESTABLISHES THE SANCTITY OF THE BODY . As here presented, they may appear to some readers to be mystical, but in fact they are in harmony both with the facts of human nature and with the great doctrines of the New Testament.
1. The Lord Christ and the body of man are "for" each other. In his incarnation Christ has assumed the human body, in his ministry he has honoured it, in his death he has redeemed it. Not the soul only, but the body, is God's creation, and the object of Christ's regard, and partaker of the benefits of his mediation. As the Lord is for the body, so is the body for the Lord.
2. More particularly, the bodies of Christians are members of Christ. The ransomed and renewed humanity is one glorious whole, one Divine organism, the Lord Jesus being himself the authoritative Head. If the Head, the informing Spirit, is holy, must not also the subordinate members be also pure and consecrated?
3. Christ having been raised from the dead, it is appointed that the body of every follower and friend of Christ shall share in this resuscitation and exaltation. In what way this shall take place is immaterial to the argument. The spiritual renewal is the earnest of the high and immortal resurrection of the whole man. These things being so, the body of the Christian standing in relation so intimate to the glorious and holy Mediator and Lord,—is there any consistency between such a connection with the King of saints and a life of filthy sensuality? The incompatibility is apparent and undeniable.
II. THE PRACTICAL CONSEQUENCES WHICH FOLLOW UPON THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OF THE BODY . These are broadly distinguished into two classes.
1. Food is a matter of indifference. Many weak Christians laid great stress upon clean and unclean food; some objected to eat what had been or might have been offered to idols. Now, the apostle claims all this as a province of Christian liberty. Diet was a matter "without" the body. All things were lawful. Those who ate and those who refrained from eating were forbidden to despise one another; for both alike were called upon to act in this matter "as unto the Lord."
2. Impurity is absolutely forbidden. There is a vital difference between the satisfaction of hunger and the gratification of the sexual appetite. This latter is only permissible within the boundaries of holy matrimony. Fornication is an abuse of the body, a defilement of Christ's members, an insult to the Lord himself, whose property it not only takes by theft from him, but hands over to a harlot. This is very plain speaking on the part of the apostle. But it is just; and if it was necessary in those days, it is equally necessary now. Physiology is often invoked to sanction vice; but it is well to listen to the nobler and purer counsels of the apostles, which are not more in harmony with the loftiest ethics than they are with the soundest conclusions of physical and of social science.—T.
The lawful and the expedient.
I. IT IS IMPORTANT TO ASCERTAIN WHAT IS LAWFUL FOR US IN LIFE . All things indifferent ( i.e. not evil in themselves) are lawful for the Christian. He has the widest liberty. He is not under the restriction of the older economy. To him "every creature of God is good" ( 1 Timothy 4:4 ), and to be received with thanksgiving. The Christian must abide within the limits of the lawful. Nothing that seems expedient outside of the lawful must be touched by him. He is under the rule of righteousness, and must not allow himself in aught that is unrighteous. Note: Nothing is really expedient outside of the limits of the lawful, but many things may appear to be so.
II. BUT ANOTHER QUESTION HAS TO BE ANSWERED BEFORE CONDUCT CAN BE DETERMINED , VIZ .— WHAT IS EXPEDIENT WITHIN THE LIMITS OF THE LAWFUL ? The Christian must not use his liberty indiscriminately; he must consider probable results. The end does not justify the means, but the end often determines whether means (justifiable in themselves) shall be used or not. Means, good enough in themselves, may under certain conditions lead to most undesirable ends; those ends foreseen determine for the believer that those means shall not be employed. The Christian has to select the truly expedient out of the truly lawful. It has been well said, "Unlawful things ruin thousands, lawful things (unlawfully used) ten thousands." And also, "Nowhere does the devil build his little chapels more cunningly than right by the side of the temple of Christian liberty." A Christian, before availing himself of his liberty, had need ask such questions as the following:—
1. What will be the effect upon myself? Shall I be made less spiritual, less useful, less pleasing to God? All that we do we do more or less "unto ourselves." We mould ourselves very largely by what we allow to ourselves.
2. What will be the effect upon my liberty! Liberty may commit suicide. Undue indulgence of liberty results in slavery. Paul was intensely anxious "not to be brought under the power of any;" even lawful, thing. It is of the greatest importance to the moral health and needful freedom of the soul that it should not be in subjection to any appetite or desire, however innocent.
3. What will be the effect upon my fellows? Will it aid or hinder them? "No man liveth unto himself." Every man is "a man of influence." Innocent things to us may be by no means innocent things to others. By example we may lead men to destruction, whilst we withal escape. "If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth" ( 1 Corinthians 8:13 ).
4. How will my conduct appear to God? Is this that I propose to do, not only good in itself, but the best thing for me to do at this time? Whatever the Christian does, he is to do to the glory of God, even in matters of eating and drinking. Can I do this to the glory of God? The familiar question, "Is it wrong to do this or to go thither?" is often both misleading and utterly irrelevant. The answer to the question may be "No." Then the fallacious reasoning follows, "If it is not wrong, I may do it without sin." Stop! that is unsound logic. The thing thoroughly right may be unutterably wrong! "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient," and the Christian is bound by every obligation to do that which is expedient within the realms of the lawful. He must do what is best; to do aught else is to sin. What he ought to do, and what he may do lawfully, are often two very different things. "Ye are not your own; for ye are bought with a price" ( 1 Corinthians 6:19 , 1 Corinthians 6:20 ).—H.
Abuse of Christian liberty.
It appears that the principle of Christian liberty, "All things are lawful for me," had been greatly abused by some in the Church at Corinth. It was cited in defence of fornication, as well as of eating all kinds of meats. They confounded it with the philosophical maxim that man is the measure for himself; from which they drew the conclusion that the sexual appetite may be gratified in the same indiscriminate way as that of hunger. This pernicious abuse the apostle corrects, first by setting the doctrine of Christian freedom in its true light, and then by presenting a variety of arguments against the sin of fornication.
I. CHRISTIAN LIBERTY , ITS GROUNDS AND LIMITS , "All things are lawful for me." Under. the old dispensation there was curtailment of freedom in respect of meats and drinks and days; but this is now removed. In Jesus Christ the believer is restored to dominion over the creatures, all things being put under his feet ( Psalms 8:6 ; Hebrews 2:7-9 ). "All things are yours" ( 1 Corinthians 3:22 ). The world and its contents exist for the sons of God, to subserve their welfare. But this large freedom has obvious limitations.
1. The limit of expediency. Many things in our power may not be for our good, either in themselves or because of special circumstances. This is true of foods, and of many forms of work and pleasure lawful in themselves. Here, too, the good of others comes into view as a limiting consideration. The exercise of my liberty must be tempered by a regard to the welfare of my brother ( 1 Corinthians 8:13 ). Apply this to certain forms of amusement, the use of wine, etc.
2. The limit imposed by the duty of preserving our liberty. "I will not be brought under the power of any." "Every creature of God is good" ( 1 Timothy 4:4 ), but only when used as a servant. We must not suffer ourselves to be brought into bondage to anything. Music, e.g., is a legitimate and healthful enjoyment, but I must not become its slave.
II. THE SIN OF FORNICATION .
1. Fornication is not warranted by the analogy of meats. "Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats." The one has been created for the other. The stomach demands food, and all kinds of food have been made for the stomach; hence it is lawful to eat whatever is good for us. But there is no similar adaptation between the body and sensuality. The one was not made for the other. Again, both the belly and its food belong to a transitory condition of things. Both shall be brought to nought when this present world age is completed, and the natural body becomes the spiritual body. But the body shall not thus perish; it has an eternal destiny. In both these respects, therefore, the analogy fails; and fornication cannot be defended as a case of nature.
2. It takes away from Christ that which belongs to him. The Christian's body is the Lord's.
3. It is inconsistent with the eternal destiny of the body. The relation of the body to Christ is abiding. He who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also quicken our mortal bodies ( Romans 8:11 ), raising them to a glorious life in him. The resurrection of the body tells us that it is not to be treated as a temporary thing, belonging only to this stage of existence. It is not to be destroyed like the belly and meats, but is united to Christ forever. Fornication, therefore, decades the body, inasmuch as it is thereby treated as the instrument of a perishable appetite.
4. It is in its own nature degrading. The act itself is a union with the vilest characters ( 1 Corinthians 6:16 ). Think of the dignity of the Christian's person as a member of Christ, standing in everlasting union with him; and with what holy horror should we regard this sin!
5. It is peculiarly a sin against the body. ( 1 Corinthians 6:18 .) "Drunkenness and gluttony are sins done in and by the body, and are sins by abuse of the body; but they are still without the body—introduced from without, sinful not in their act, but in their effect, which effect it is each man's duty to foresee and avoid. But fornication is the alienating that body which is the Lord's, and making it a harlot's body; it is sin against a man's own body, in its very nature—against the verity and nature of his body; not an effect on the body from participation of things without, but a contradiction of the truth of the body, wrought within itself" (Alford). The awful effects of this sin are frequently written in characters of fire in the physical system.
6. It is a profanation of the Divine temple. 'I he body is "a temple of the Holy Ghost" ( 1 Corinthians 6:19 ). What was said before of the believer is here said of the body ( 1 Corinthians 3:16 , where see homily). The body is the outer court of the temple, but still a part of it, and therefore holy. Dare we admit unholy feet to tread this court? Dare we profane the sanctuary by devoting it to sacrilegious uses? Will the Spirit of God continue to dwell in a polluted temple?
7. It contradicts the Divine proprietorship of the body. Believers are not their own, but the purchased position of God, bought for himself with precious blood ( 1 Corinthians 6:20 ; Acts 20:28 ; 1 Peter 1:18 , 1 Peter 1:19 ). Our bodies are not our own to do with them as we please. We are God's bondservants, bought for the purpose of serving and glorifying him ( 1 Peter 2:9 ). How weighty an argument for entire devotion to (God's service! Love to our redeeming God is the only sufficient motive for a holy life. "Glorify God therefore in your body."
1. The sacredness of the body.
2. The extent of sanctification—it reaches to the utmost circumference of our being ( 1 Thessalonians 5:23 ).
3. Flee fornication. Victory here is to be won by flight, not by fight ( Genesis 39:12 ).
4. Watch against everything that might lead to this sin.—B.
Free, and yet not free.
The first step to a right understanding of this passage is to observe that the "all things" of which the apostle speaks are things in themselves indifferent ( ἀδιάφορα ), not things in which any vital principle of morality or point of Christian doctrine is involved. Nothing could be "lawful" to him that was in its essential nature unlawful. There are matters in which the question of right and wrong is fixed, absolute, changeless; and there are others in which it is variable, conditional, determined by circumstances. It is of the latter that he speaks. He is consciously raised above the bondage of mere conventional or traditionary distinctions of clean and unclean, sacred and common, etc. A man is free from the restraint of external law when he has the spirit of it in his heart. All things are lawful to him when the governing principle of his life is that "love which is the fulfilling" of all holy law. The singularity of this declaration is that, while the apostle asserts his freedom, he at the same time surrenders it. He asserts it by voluntarily submitting to that which seems to be a denial of it. There is something paradoxical in this. But are we not familiar with many similar paradoxes? External nature is a marvellous combination of what seem to be conflicting elements—laws that limit, forces that balance each other, processes that run in opposite directions. What a strange commingling is there in the world around us of beauty and deformity, economy and waste, order and disorder, life and death! Divine providence presents the same characteristics. The wheels of the great providential plan move in different, often contradictory, directions; but the sovereign Spirit that controls and guides them develops from them one grand result. What is every man's daily history, in the common relationships of life, but a perpetual working and counterworking of what seem to be incongruous principles. He loses that he may win, serves that he may rule, stoops to conquer, sacrifices liberty in one direction that he may secure it in another, denies himself to please himself, suffers that he may enjoy, dies that he may live. No wonder there should be a similar balancing and limiting of seemingly discordant principles in the sphere of Christian doctrine and Christian life. Two views of personal freedom are here given.
I. FREEDOM LIMITED BY THE THOUGHT OF MORAL ADVANTAGE . That is in the highest sense "expedient" which is morally right and good. A thing may be "lawful" and yet, considering all the conditions of the case, not desirable, because unprofitable. Legitimate enough in itself, it may have bearings and involve consequences that are neither right nor good. In such a case a man of fine Christian sensibility will feel that, while perfectly free in one sense, in another sense he is not free. His conscience and the sympathies and affections of his religions life will restrain his use of that freedom. There is something dearer to a noble soul than even liberty. The thought of the higher profitableness of a thing should be more to us than the thought of its abstract lawfulness. Freedom is not in itself an end, but the means to an end above and beyond itself. To seek after "whatsoever things are true, honest, just," etc., even though it may involve us in many penalties, is better than to be always jealously maintaining our exemption from the bonds of external restraint. One of the finest examples of this principle is supplied by our Lord's payment of the temple tax ( Matthew 17:24-27 ) Though "the children were free," yet, lest there should be "offence," he will pay the claim and work a miracle to provide the means of payment. The Sonship that relaxed one law only made the other the more sacred and binding. The apostolic Epistles are full of illustrations of the same principle ( 1 Corinthians 9:14 , 1 Corinthians 9:15 , 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 ; Galatians 5:13 ; 1 Peter 2:16 ). Never are we so loftily conscious of our Christian freedom, and never is that freedom so manifest, as when, for some high end, we choose to forego it.
"A life of self renouncing love
Is a life of liberty."
II. FREEDOM CONTROLLED BY THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF MORAL POWER . "I will not," etc. This is self assertion of the right order; the manly use of the power by which it is given us to determine our own course, and not allow it to be left at the mercy of outward influences, or to be determined for us by the persuasive force that happens to be the strongest. As a mere act of self discipline, this is good; for the will, like any other faculty, grows by use, and self mastery by the power of a resolute will is the basis of all moral excellence. Think what differences there are among men in this respect. The secret of success or failure in the lower interests of human life lies mainly here. It depends far less on native talent, favourable circumstances, etc., than it does on the energy of a self regulating will. This power is necessary to give due effect to any other power. Many a man has noble qualities both of mind and heart—quick intelligence, wise judgment, warm enthusiasm—but lacks the steadfast will that would bind them all together, giving unity and strength to his character and effective force to his endeavour. According, however, to the greatness and strength of this faculty, so is the danger of its being misdirected—like the forces of nature, water, steam, electricity, etc. Self will is blind, lawless, immoral, and therefore not really free. Moral freedom lies in the mastery of a will that determines for the right, chooses to move in harmony with the Divine will, the "will that is holy and just and good." Learn chiefly two grand lessons.
1. That things lawful and innocent in themselves may become evil by being allowed to gain an undue mastery over us.
2. That our only effectual preservative against this is the resistive energy of a will inspired by the Spirit of the well beloved Son.—W.
The lawful and the expedient.
"All things are lawful for me; but not all things are expedient." This is the statement of a general principle, which may be thus expressed: when a man is renewed in Christ Jesus, he becomes a law unto himself, his regenerate conscience sufficiently attests what is lawful and what is expedient. The apostle is applying the principle to two subjects of discussion which were closely connected with the heathen worship:
I. EVERY MAN MUST RECOGNIZE THIS DISTINCTION . In all the practical relations of life it comes up to view continually; in the home, in the business, and in society, a man has constantly to say, "I may, but I will not. I have an absolute right to do it, yet for others' sakes I must not do it." Observe that the expedient is not here the self serving or the time serving. A man's limitations are not, first of all, his own personal interests, but
Illustrate the distinction as applied to such questions as the use of strong drinks; modes of keeping sabbath; limits of permissible amusements, etc.
II. THE DISTINCTION NO MAN FINDS SO SEARCHING AS DOES THE CHRISTIAN , By reason of