1 corinthians 10 as a parallel to 1 corinthians 6

lol-cat

In an article called freedom from the law under paul, I explain (from what it seems) is the most natural reading of the text. Paul introduces a concept in which “all things are lawful”, which I suspect the Corinthians began using as motto to enable their sinful lifestyles (perhaps a widespread phenomenon referenced in 2Pe 3:16). The Corinthians seem to have fully embraced Paul’s teachings. They seem also to be free from Judaizers until at least 2 Corinthians is written.

Paul writes as if he is on a mission to reclaim the phrase “all things are lawful”. This is used in two key places:

1Co 6:12 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
1Co 10:23 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.

Both places sound like Paul is embracing the teaching that “All things are lawful”, but he adds modifiers. He doesn’t want the idea to stand on its own (perhaps due to the wickedness that Paul describes as tolerated in the Corinthian church). While the context of chapter 6 is about sinful things that are widely disavowed by works-salvation proponents today (thus driving those proponents to disclaim what seems like the most natural reading), chapter 10 is about food and food idolatry. Paul’s style of argument can be more neutrally observed here.

1Co 10:15 I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say.
1Co 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
1Co 10:17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.
1Co 10:18 Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?

In 1 Corinthians 10:15, Paul begins building an argument. He begins by illustrating through Israel that communion unites worshipers. Recall that in Chapter 8, Paul informs his listeners that eating food offered to idols is of no consequence (1Co 8:4). In that chapter, Paul then explains that the reason that Christians should refrain is if there is an observer who doesn’t understand this, and perhaps believes that Christians are worshiping false gods. This argument is picked up, starting in verse 16. Paul argues that communion unites. He then states that the same applies to pagan communion:

1Co 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
1Co 10:17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.
1Co 10:18 Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?

The argument holds that if Jewish communion unites under Yahweh, then pagan communion is meant to unite under the false gods. But Paul again makes clear his concern is not that real pagan worship is occurring, rather a fake worship is occurring:

1Co 10:19 What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything?
1Co 10:20 Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.
1Co 10:21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons.

Paul’s argument is not that Christians will be worshiping false gods if they partake with pagans. Instead he argues that they might be befriending demons, which is scary and dangerous. Paul says that his hearers cannot partake in both fellowship with demons and fellowship with Yahweh (Paul may believe that knowingly choosing another god rather than Yahweh was a clear disqualifier as a Christian). Paul makes clear his concern is not that Yahweh will be jealous, after all, the idol sacrifices are nothing:

1Co 10:22 Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?

In this context, Paul says that all things are lawful for him:

1Co 10:23 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.

The pattern is the same as in Chapter 6. Paul states a rule, and then modifies it. One would think Paul would then give examples, related to the context, as to how this is true. Paul does do this, using the same topic he had just been writing about:

1Co 10:24 Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.
1Co 10:25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake;
1Co 10:26 for “THE EARTH IS THE LORD’S, AND ALL ITS FULLNESS.”
1Co 10:27 If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake.
1Co 10:28 But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; for “THE EARTH IS THE LORD’S, AND ALL ITS FULLNESS.”
1Co 10:29 “Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience?

Verse 24 points out that people should be looking out for each other (which becomes the primary thrust of Paul’s commands to refrain from certain foods). In context, Paul argues that it is not lawfulness that compels people to eat or not eat pagan food, but concern for people who do not understand the law. In this sense, yes, it is lawful to eat the food, but it is not expedient. It is lawful to eat the food, but it is not edifying.

Within Corinthians 10, we see how Paul’s mind works. When dealing with what he does not consider unlawful, but bad taste or harmful, Paul condemns the action. He then explains this does not negate the truth that “all things are lawful”. Then then modifies that general truth to explain why, even if something is lawful, that one should refrain from that action. Paul is arguing systematically, and in a focused manner.

Applying the same understanding of how Paul argues, one can see that “all things are lawful” as stated in 1 Corinthians 6, is all about “sexual immorality”. That is the subject being addressed. Paul believes that although “all things” are lawful, there are perfectly valid reasons to refrain from those activities, and the church should condemn such acts.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
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One Response to 1 corinthians 10 as a parallel to 1 corinthians 6

  1. Hello, I responded briefly to this in the same paper I responded to your last post in. Hopefully it is helpful.

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