Free to Do What?
1 Corinthians 10:23-11:16
This week’s lessons teach us that we do not have unrestricted freedom to do as we please.
Following up on the first two points that Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 10:23-33, he next repeats a point he made in chapter 8, verse 9: Not everything is constructive. Here, he has in mind the other person. Not everything is beneficial for me, and neither is everything constructive for the people around me. It is very clear that that’s what he’s talking about because he follows by saying, “Nobody should seek his own good but the good of others.” In other words, there are many things you can do that God does not condemn and many of those things would not necessarily hurt you. However, some of those things that you are otherwise free to do could hurt another person. At that point you have to ask yourself, “What am I here for? Am I here simply to indulge myself, or am I here with a certain spiritual responsibility to those who are my brothers and sisters in the Lord?” There are things that you may be able to do, things that may not harm you but may be very harmful in the life of someone with whom God has put you in contact or – what is even more serious – someone for whom God has given you a particular responsibility. There are things that parents ought not to do, for the sake of their children; there are things that officers in the church ought not to do, for the sake of those who are in the church. So, Paul says when you talk about freedom, you have to begin to understand it in spiritual terms. You must recognize that our freedom is restricted somewhat for the sake of our own well-being and also for the well-being of others.
Paul gives his fourth and final principle, which he suggested in chapter 8 and develops here in verse 31. Paul lists guidelines for Christian conduct in doubtful situations and he sums it up saying, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Then he ties this to what he said before by saying, “If you do that you won’t cause anyone else to stumble.” This brings us back to my introduction when I asked, “What is it we are destined to do and how do we find freedom in terms of our ability to do that for which God has created us?” God has created us to glorify and enjoy him. Our freedom, in the ultimate analysis, is based upon this point that Paul states so brilliantly, “Whatever you do, make sure you do it for the glory of God.” If you do it for the glory of God, then it follows, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, that you will enjoy God and all the joys that he imparts to men and women.
I suppose, at this point, there are people who would suppose that Paul makes an entire break in thought because in the chapter that follows, he begins to talk about the relationship of men to women within the Church of Jesus Christ and also in marriage. Some people would say this is an entirely different subject, but I do not think it is. Paul is saying that in the relationships of life – particularly in relationships between men and women in the church and in marriage – the same kind of restrictions on our freedom apply.
Before God, men and women are created equal so that it is absolutely not the case that all women have to submit to all men. But, if a woman becomes a wife, then this is an area of submission in which she willingly commits herself, which as Paul spells out, is a reflection of the order we find in the universe. Here Paul talks about spiritual order because in the third verse, as he introduces the subject, he says, “I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” In other words, Jesus the Son is submitted, in the economy of salvation, to God the Father.
This does not make him unequal to the Father. When Christian theology speaks of the Trinity, each member is entitled to equal honor and glory. Yet, within the functioning of the Trinity, there is what theologians call “a functional submission” of Christ to the Father and of the Holy Spirit to both the Father and the Son. The relationship of men and women in the Church is analogous to the relationship of the three members of the Trinity. We will look at this further in tomorrow’s lesson.
What four points does Paul make in 1 Corinthians 10:23-33?
Think of specific examples of things that may be permissible, but not constructive for the people around you.
To what other relationship does Dr.Boice compare the marriage relationship?
Do you strive to do everything to the glory of God?