1Co 6:12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
In 1 Corinthians Paul tells Christians that “all things are lawful” for him. He is using himself as an example for others, saying “all things” are lawful for all Christians. This is in the direct context of Paul listing moral sins (as opposed to symbolic laws such as circumcision).
1Co 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
1Co 6:10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
1Co 6:11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
So what does 1Co 6:12 mean? To illustrate this verse Paul then uses two examples: food and fornication:
1Co 6:13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.
Food concerns the symbolic law and fornication concerns the moral law. It is not a coincidence that Paul uses these examples. Paul says “all things” are lawful for him, and places this between two sets of verses talking about moral sins. Paul is saying that he very well can sin because he is not under the law. Both the symbolic and the moral law do not apply to him. Paul tells us not to sin because “it is not expedient”. Sinning hurts ourselves and others, but it will not lead to damnation.
So what how do modern Christians criticize “salvation by faith alone”? One way is to play on moral outrage. This takes multiple forms:
1. Pointing out that persistent sinners might go to heaven. For example: “Are you saying a serial killer that keeps killing children will go to heaven?”
2. Pointing out that there are no incentives to not sin. For example: “If that is true, then there is no reason not to sin.”
3. Pointing out that if we are shown grace by being forgiven of our sins, then the more we sin the more grace will be shown to us.
Paul was not immune to the same criticism. Paul actually spends his time addressing these concerns:
Rom 5:19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
Rom 5:20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound…
Rom 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
Paul’s critics were saying that Paul’s gospel led to the logical conclusion of continuing in sin. Paul was well aware of these criticisms as uses Romans 6 to address them. He answers and says:
Rom 6:2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
His point is not that people will not be saved, but that we should abandon sin. He reemphasizes this point later:
Rom 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
Rom 6:15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
Paul’s critics were saying that Paul was giving people licence to sin. Paul’s response is not “oh no, you do not understand me. Salvation is only to those who do not sin.” No, Paul responds by saying sin is hurtful and we should be servants of God (see also 1 Cor 6:12). It is not a matter of salvation or damnation; it is a matter of principle:
Rom 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
In Paul’s theology there was no such thing as losing salvation due to subsequent sin. In Paul’s theology faith in a historical event was the main focus (1 Cor 15). In Paul’s theology Christians did not have to persist in good works to continue in salvation. If modern preachers are not getting the same criticisms that Paul was receiving, they might want to reevaluate what they are preaching.