1 Corinthians 10:23
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
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(23) All things are lawful for me.—The Apostle now proceeds to conclude, with some practical direction and advice, the question of the eating of meat offered to idols, from which immediate subject the strong expression of personal feeling in 1Corinthians 8:13 had led him to branch off into the various aspects of collateral matters which have occupied him since, and to which the subject treated of in 1Corinthians 10:14-22 of this chapter naturally lead back the thoughts of the writer. He repeats here the great principle of Christian liberty, “All things are lawful for me” (see 1Corinthians 6:12), but insists, as before, that its application must be limited by a regard (1) to the effect which each action has upon ourselves, and (2) its influence on the Church at large. “Does this act tend to my own spiritual profit? Does it tend to build up others?” should be the practical rules of Christian life.

1 Corinthians


1 Corinthians 10:23 - 1 Corinthians 10:33

This passage strikingly illustrates Paul’s constant habit of solving questions as to conduct by the largest principles. He did not keep his ‘theology’ and his ethics in separate water-tight compartments, having no communication with each other. The greatest truths were used to regulate the smallest duties. Like the star that guided the Magi, they burned high in the heavens, but yet directed to the house in Bethlehem.

The question here in hand was one that pressed on the Corinthian Christians, and is very far away from our experience. Idolatry had so inextricably intertwined itself with daily life that it was hard to keep up any intercourse with non-Christians without falling into constructive idolatry; and one very constantly obtruding difficulty was that much of the animal food served on private tables had been slaughtered as sacrifices or with certain sacrificial rites. What was a Christian to do in such a case? To eat or not to eat? Both views had their vehement supporters in the Corinthian church, and the importance of the question is manifest from the large space devoted to it in this letter.

In 1 Corinthians 8:1 - 1 Corinthians 8:13 we have a weighty paragraph, in which one phase of the difficulty is dealt with-the question whether a Christian ought to attend a feast in an idol temple, where, of course, the viands had been offered as sacrifices. But in 1 Corinthians 10:1 - 1 Corinthians 10:33 Paul deals with the case in which the meat had been bought in the flesh-market, and so was not necessarily sacrificial. Paul’s manner of handling the point is very instructive. He envelops, as it were, the practical solution in a wrapping of large principles; 1 Corinthians 10:23 - 1 Corinthians 10:24 precede the specific answer, and are general principles; 1 Corinthians 10:25 - 1 Corinthians 10:30 contain the practical answer; 1 Corinthians 10:31 - 1 Corinthians 10:33 and 1 Corinthians 11:1 of the next chapter are again general principles, wide and imperative enough to mould all conduct, as well as to settle the matter immediately in hand, which, important as it was at Corinth, has become entirely uninteresting to us.

We need not spend time in elucidating the specific directions given as to the particular question in hand further than to note the immense gift of saving common-sense which Paul had, and how sanely and moderately he dealt with his problem. His advice was-’Don’t ask where the joint set before you came from. If you do not know that it was offered, your eating of it does not commit you to idol worship.’ No doubt there were Corinthian Christians with inflamed consciences who did ask such questions, and rather prided themselves on their strictness and rigidity; but Paul would have them let sleeping dogs lie. If, however, the meat is known to have been offered to an idol, then Paul is as rigid and strict as they are. That combination of willingness to go as far as possible, and inflexible determination not to go one step farther, of yieldingness wherever principle does not come in, and of iron fixedness wherever it does, is rare indeed, but should be aimed at by all Christians. The morality of the Gospel would make more way in the world if its advocates always copied the ‘sweet reasonableness’ of Paul, which, as he tells us in this passage, he learned from Jesus.

As to the wrapping of general principles, they may all be reduced to one-the duty of limiting Christian liberty by consideration for others. In the two verses preceding the practical precepts, that duty is stated with reference entirely to the obligations flowing from our relationship to others. We are all bound together by a mystical chain of solidarity. Since every man is my neighbour, I am bound to think of him and not only of myself in deciding what I may do or refrain from doing. I must abstain from lawful things if, by doing them, I should be likely to harm my neighbour’s building up of a strong character. I can, or I believe that I can, pursue some course of conduct, engage in some enterprise, follow some line of life, without damage to myself, either in regard to worldly position, or in regard to my religious life. Be it so, but I have to take some one else into account. Will my example call out imitation in others, to whom it may be harmful or fatal to do as I can do with real or supposed impunity? If so, I am guilty of something very like murder if I do not abstain.

‘What harm is there in betting a shilling? I can well afford to lose it, and I can keep myself from the feverish wish to risk more.’ Yes, and you are thereby helping to hold up that gambling habit which is ruining thousands.

‘I can take alcohol in moderation, and it does me no harm, and I can go to a prayer-meeting after my dinner and temperate glass, and I am within my Christian liberty in doing so.’ Yes, and you take part thereby in the greatest curse that besets our country, and are, by countenancing the drink habit, guilty of the blood of souls. How any Christian man can read these two verses and not abstain from all intoxicants is a mystery. They cut clean through all the pleas for moderate drinking, and bring into play another set of principles which limit liberty by regard to others’ good. Surely, if there was ever a subject to which these words apply, it is the use of alcohol, the proved cause of almost all the crime and poverty on both sides of the Atlantic. To the Christians who plead their ‘liberty’ we can only say, ‘Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.’

The same general considerations reappear in the verses following the specific precept, but with a difference. The neighbour’s profit is still put forth as the limiting consideration, but it is elevated to a higher sacredness of obligation by being set in connection with the ‘glory of God’ and the example of Christ. ‘Do all to the glory of God.’ To put the thought here into modern English-Could you ask a blessing over a glass of spirits when you think that, though it should do you no harm, your taking it may, as it were, tip some weak brother over the precipice? Can you drink to God’s glory when you know that drink is slaying thousands body and soul, and that hopeless drunkards are made by wholesale out of moderate drinkers? ‘Give no occasion of stumbling’; do not by your example tempt others into risky courses. And remember that ‘neighbour’ {1 Corinthians 10:24} resolves itself into ‘Jews’ and ‘Greeks’ and the ‘Church of God’-that is, substantially to your own race and other races-to men with whom you have affinities, and to men with whom you have none.

A Christian man is bound to shape his life so that no man shall be able to say of him that he was the occasion of that one’s fall. He is so bound because every man is his neighbour. He is so bound because he is bound to live to the glory of God, which can never be advanced by laying stumbling-blocks in the way for feeble feet. He is so bound because, unless Christ had limited Himself within the bound of manhood, and had sought not His own profit or pleasure, we should have had neither life nor hope. For all these reasons, the duty of thinking of others, and of abstaining, for their sakes, from what one might do, is laid on all Christians. How do they discharge that duty who will not forswear alcohol for their neighbour’s sake?1 Corinthians 10:23-24. All things, &c. — He here comes to speak of another case, namely, the buying and eating privately, meats which had been offered to idols: are lawful for me — All kinds of meats according to the gospel. See on 1 Corinthians 6:12. But — Granting this, it must also be acknowledged that all such things are not, in every circumstance, expedient — For the reasons mentioned before; (see on 1 Corinthians 8:9-13;) and all things edify not others — Do not help them forward in holiness. And we ought certainly to consider what may most effectually conduce to the edification of our brethren, and of the church of God in general, as well as what may suit our own particular inclinations or conveniences; for we may find good reasons for declining many things as insnaring to others, which, were we to consider ourselves alone, might be perfectly indifferent. Let no man, therefore, seek his own — Advantage or pleasure; but every man another’s wealth — Or weal, namely, spiritual; the edification and salvation of his soul, 1 Corinthians 10:33. Or, let no man prefer his own temporal profit or satisfaction before another’s spiritual and eternal welfare.10:23-33 There were cases wherein Christians might eat what had been offered to idols, without sin. Such as when the flesh was sold in the market as common food, for the priest to whom it had been given. But a Christian must not merely consider what is lawful, but what is expedient, and to edify others. Christianity by no means forbids the common offices of kindness, or allows uncourteous behaviour to any, however they may differ from us in religious sentiments or practices. But this is not to be understood of religious festivals, partaking in idolatrous worship. According to this advice of the apostle, Christians should take care not to use their liberty to the hurt of others, or to their own reproach. In eating and drinking, and in all we do, we should aim at the glory of God, at pleasing and honouring him. This is the great end of all religion, and directs us where express rules are wanting. A holy, peaceable, and benevolent spirit, will disarm the greatest enemies.All things are lawful for me - See the note at 1 Corinthians 6:12. This is a repetition of what he had said before; and it is here applied to the subject of eating the meat that had been offered to idols. The sense is," Though it may be admitted that it was strictly "lawful" to partake of that meat, yet there were strong reasons why it was inexpedient; and those reasons ought to have the binding force of law."

All things edify not - All things do not tend to build up the church, and to advance the interests of religion; and when they do not have this effect, they are not expedient, and are improper. Paul acted for the welfare of the church. His object was to save souls. Anything that would promote that object was proper; anything which would hinder it, though in itself it might not be strictly unlawful, was in his view improper. This is a simple rule, and might be easily applied by all. If a man has his heart on the conversion of people and the salvation of the world, it will go far to regulate his conduct in reference to many things concerning which there may be no exact and positive law. It will do much to regulate his dress; his style of living; his expenses; his entertainments; his mode of contact with the world. He may not be able to fix his finger on any positive law, and to say that this or that article of dress is improper; that this or that piece of furniture is absolutely forbidden; or that this or that manner of life is contrary to any explicit law of Yahweh; but he may see that it will interfere with his great and main purpose, "to do good on the widest scale possible;" and therefore to him it will be inexpedient and improper. Such a grand leading purpose is a much better guide to direct a man's life than would be exact positive statutes to regulate everything, even if such minute statutes were possible.

23. All things are lawful for me, &c.—Recurring to the Corinthian plea (1Co 6:12), he repeats his qualification of it. The oldest manuscripts omit both times "for me."

edify not—tend not to build up the spiritual temple, the Church, in faith and love. Paul does not appeal to the apostolic decision (Ac 15:1-29), which seems to have been not so much regarded outside of Palestine, but rather to the broad principle of true Christian freedom, which does not allow us to be governed by external things, as though, because we can use them, we must use them (1Co 6:12). Their use or non-use is to be regulated by regard to edification.

All things here must necessarily signify many things, or, at least, (as some think), all those things I have spoken of, to eat meat offered to idols, &c. But if we interpret it in the latter sense, it is not true without limitations; for the apostle had but now determined, that to eat meat offered to idols in the idol’s temple, was to have communion with devils. I had rather therefore interpret all by many, as that universal particle must be interpreted in a great multitude of scriptures. So as the sense is: There are many things that are lawful which are not expedient; that is, considered in themselves, under due circumstances, they are lawful, but considered in such and such circumstances, are not so, because they are not for the profit or good, but the hurt and disadvantage, of others. Thus the apostle himself expounds it in the latter clause of the verse, where he saith, they

edify not, that is, they tend not to promote the gospel, or the faith and holiness of particular Christians. All things are lawful for me,.... All sorts of food are lawful to be eaten, every creature of God is good, there is nothing common or unclean in itself, polluted or polluting; and so things offered to idols may be lawfully eaten, but not as such, or in an idol's temple, or before a weak brother; to do which is contrary to the honour of God, and the edification of the saints: and therefore

all things are not expedient; to be done always, and in all places, and before all persons. The apostle suggests, that though they might be lawful to him, and he might make use of his liberty in eating them; yet they might not be expedient, or of service, but on the contrary hurtful to others; and which therefore ought to be judged a sufficient reason for the omission of them:

all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not; though things of an indifferent nature may be lawfully used, yet they do not always tend to the edification of others, which should be consulted; and when this is the case, they ought to be disused. This is observed in answer to an objection taken from the doctrine of Christian liberty, allowing the free use of all the creatures, and disengaging men from an observance of the distinction of meats and drinks which the apostle grants; and yet argues from his own example, and the edification of the saints, that this is not always to be closely pursued; but believers should forego what they have a right to use, when the peace and welfare of their fellow Christians require it.

{6} {t} All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

(6) Coming to another type of things offered to idols, he repeats that general rule, that in the use of indifferent things we ought to have consideration not of ourselves only, but of our neighbours. And therefore there are many things which of themselves are lawful, which may be evil when done by us, because of offence to our neighbour.

(t) See before in 1Co 6:13.

1 Corinthians 10:23. In connection, however, with this matter also, as with a former one, 1 Corinthians 6:12, the principle of Christian liberty in things indifferent admitted of application, and had no doubt been applied in Corinth itself. Paul therefore now proceeds to treat the subject from this purely ethical side, introducing the new section without any connective particle (Buttmann, neut. Gram. p. 345 [E. T. 403]), and enunciating in the first place the aforesaid principle itself, coupled, however, with its qualifying condition of love. Thereafter in 1 Corinthians 10:24 he lays down the general maxims arising out of this qualification; and then in 1 Corinthians 10:25 if. the special rules bearing upon the eating of meat offered in sacrifice.

οἰκοδομεῖ] promotes the Christian life of the brethren, 1 Corinthians 8:1. Comp on Romans 14:19. See the counterpart to this in Romans 14:13; Romans 14:15; Romans 14:20.

As to συμφέρει, see on 1 Corinthians 6:12.1 Corinthians 10:23. On πάντα ἔξεστιν κ.τ.λ., see notes to 1 Corinthians 6:12. The form of that ver. seems to be purposely repeated here (μοι only omitted), with the effect of bringing out the altruistic as complementary to the self-regarding side of Christian expediency. On Paul’s dialectical use of the words of opponents, cf. 1 Corinthians 8:10 ff. and notes. Closing his discussion about the sacrificial meats, P. returns to the point from which he set out in ch. 8., viz., the supremacy of love in Church life—there commended as superior to knowledge, here as supplying the guard of liberty; in both passages, it is the principle of edification.—The tacit obj[1543] of οἰκοδομεῖ (see 1 Corinthians 8:1, 1 Corinthians 3:9-17) is “the Church of God” (1 Corinthians 10:32). Edification, in its proper meaning, is always relative to the community; P. is safe-guarding not the particular interests of “the weak brother” so much as the welfare of the Church, when he says, “Not all things edify”.

[1543] grammatical object.

1 Corinthians 10:23 to 1 Corinthians 11:1. § 34. LIBERTY AND ITS LIMITS. The maxim “All things are lawful” was pleaded in defence of the use of the idolothyta, as of other Cor[1541] laxities; so the Ap. has to discuss it a second time (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12). In ch. 6. he bade his readers guard the application of this principle for their own sake, now for the sake of others; there in the interests of purity, here of charity (1 Corinthians 10:23 f.). When buying meat in the market, or when dining at an unbeliever’s table, the Christian need not enquire whether the flesh offered him is sacrificial or not; but if the fact is pointedly brought to his notice, he should abstain, to avoid giving scandal (1 Corinthians 10:25-30). Above all such regulations stands the supreme and comprehensive rule of doing everything to God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). Let the Cor[1542] follow Paul as he himself follows Christ, in living for the highest good of others (1 Corinthians 10:32 to 1 Corinthians 11:1)

[1541] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1542] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.23–Ch. 1 Corinthians 11:1. Practical directions on the subject of Meats offered in Sacrifice

23. All things are lawful for me] A repetition of the words in ch. 1 Corinthians 6:12, with a more emphatic enunciation of the doctrine that the great limiting principle of liberty is our neighbour’s edification. It is scarcely possible to help seeing in this repetition a confirmation of the view that the words were originally St Paul’s own, but had been used in a sense in which he did not intend them to be used.

edify not] See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 8:1.1 Corinthians 10:23. Συμφέρει, expedient) 1 Corinthians 10:33. The power, by which all things ἔξεστιν, are lawful, is given by God: συμφέρον, expediency, is a thing affecting myself: οἰκοδομὴ, edification, relates to another.Verse 23. - All things are lawful for me (see 1 Corinthians 6:12). The "for me" is not found in א, A, B, C, D. St. Paul repeats the assertion and its limitations, because he has now proved their force. He has shown that Christian liberty must be modified by considerations of expediency and edification in accordance with the feelings of sympathy and charity.
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