Principles of Liberty

I Corinthians 10

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
June 2024

23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. (I Corinthians 10:23-24 NIV)

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. (I Corinthians 10:31-33 NIV)

We have been studying I Corinthians.  This is our fourth and final week in I Corinthians 10.  We looked at a serious warning that the Apostle Paul gave to Christians at the beginning of the chapter.

It was a warning rarely talked about in church.  It is a warning of God judging His own people.  Peter says that judgment must begin at the house of God (I Peter 4:17).

God’s people in the OT had incredible privileges and yet most of them were judged by God.  They had manna falling from the sky.  They had free food.  They heard the audible voice of God.  The whole nation heard God speak out loud on Mount Sinai.

They had supernatural leading.  God led them day and night with a supernatural cloud and a pillar of fire.

They witnessed stupendous miracles done right in front of their very eyes.  They were given special divine revelation.  They were made part of a special covenant that no other nation had, and yet, Paul says that most of their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

Two million left Egypt and only two made it into the Promise Land.  Even Moses did not get in.  Paul used that as a warning to Christians.  It can happen again.

We looked at what Paul said about temptation.  The chapter has one of the most famous verses in the Bible on temptation in I Corinthians 10:13.

We talked about how God is faithful in temptation and makes a way of escape in temptation, but we have to take it.  He made a way of escape from the Egyptians as they were chasing them.  He split the Red Sea, but they had to cross it.

We also talked about fellowship with demons.  It is a strange concept.  You don’t hear too much about it in church, but Paul talked about that in this chapter.

He said that it is possible for Christians to be doing that and he told Christians not only to avoid idolatry but to flee it, to run from it, to get as far away from it as you possibly can.

Biblical Principles

Today, we are going to look at some biblical principles found in this chapter.  Many Christians do not like general principles.  They like cut and dry rules to follow.  We see this in legalistic churches.

Have you ever been in a legalistic church? Legalistic churches are strict.  They follow a lot of rules and many of the rules are not in the Bible.

Legalists love to add rules to the Bible.  That is what the Pharisees did.  You can’t go to a movie.  Women can’t wear pants.  They can’t wear make-up.  Hair has to be a certain length.

Legalists focus more on law, rather than grace.  They have a judgmental spirit.  They love to condemn people.  They have never heard of grace.

If you think even a little differently about some minor doctrine, they will call you a heretic.  There are no major or minor doctrines to them.  Everything is major.

Many people do not like that.  They like everything cut and dry.  They like everything black and white. The truth is that everything in the world does not fall into those categories.

Some things are black and white.  Adultery is sin.  Homosexuality is a sin.  Premarital sex is a sin.  Murder is sin.  Lying is sin.  Lying lips are an abomination.

Worshipping another god is a sin.  Unforgiveness is a sin.  Some things are clear teachings of Scripture.  There is no debate about them. However, there are other things that the Bible does NOT specifically address.

There are no verses on the topic.  They are what we call gray areas.  What are some of the gray areas of Christianity?  The type of music you like, including Christian music, is a gray area.  Wearing a tie in church is a gray area.

It is not wrong if you wear one.  It is not wrong if you don’t wear one.  The Bible does not say one way or the other how we should dress ourselves on Sunday mornings.

Education is another gray area.  Sending your kids to a private school or public school is a gray area.

Many think that some things are gray areas which are not.  Many say that alcohol is a gray area.  Many think that tattoos are a gray area, but the Bible actually addresses both topics.

Gray areas are the things that the Bible does NOT address.  There is no verse in the OT.  There is no verse in the NT.  How do you respond to these issues?  The answer is that you respond with biblical principles.

The Bible teaches both freedom and it teaches boundaries.  God does not say there are no boundaries.  It does not say that anything goes.  He also does not say that there is no freedom.

The Bible teaches freedom within boundaries. You are free to do what you want to do.  You are free to do what you want to do within the boundaries of Scripture.[1]

Today is going to be very practical.  Next week will be controversial but today will be extremely practical.

We are going to look at four principles for every Christian.  These are rules that should guide all of our conduct.  Some of these rules can help with decision-making.

Now, these are not the only ones found in the book.  Paul listed a few before this chapter.  Let’s review two before this.

The Peace Principle

In I Corinthians 14:33, we are told that God is a God of peace.  Paul said, “God has called us to live in peace” (I Corinthians 7:15 NIV).

God calls husbands and wives to live in peace.  He calls brothers and sisters to live with one another in peace.  He calls neighbors to live in peace.

We are called to be peacemakers.  One of the beatitudes is “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9 NIV).

Are you a peacemaker?  Some people are peacemakers and others are troublemakers.  The opposite of peace is war.  Many like conflict.  They like to argue and fight.  We are to be peacemakers.

Paul also said something else.  He said, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18 NIV).  Notice the two qualifications.  Paul was realistic.

He said, “if it is possible.” Paul knew that it is not always possible.  He said, “as far as it depends on you” because it takes two people to make peace and it is not always possible.

The Addiction Principle

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. (I Corinthians 6:12 NIV)

Paul said that he would not be mastered by anything.  That was his personal rule for himself.  Is it your rule?

Are you mastered by anything?  Are you a slave to anything in your life?  Do you let anything control you?

Is there something you are addicted to?  We are going to get real today.  Many men are addicted to pornography, including Christian men.

What are some things that women are addicted to?  Someone in my class suggested potato chips.  Others added chocolate, cell phones, social media, Hallmark movies, and romance novels.

It is not wrong to like certain things.  I like some of them.  It is not wrong to like a cup of coffee in the morning, especially if you put cream in it. Paul said that God has given all things richly to enjoy (I Timothy 6:17).

It is only a problem if you become a slave to something and let it control you.  We should never let anything master and control us.  Now, lets look at four more principles found in I Corinthians 10.

The Edification Principle

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. (I Corinthians 10:23 NIV)

What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. (I Corinthians 14:26)

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (Romans 14:19 NIV)

This is the first principle in this chapter.  It is the edification principle.  When you leave church, you should leave edified.  You should be built up in the faith.

When you leave a worship service, you should be edified.  When you leave Sunday School, you should be edified.  When you leave a small group session, you should be edified.  Paul said, “EVERYTHING must be done so that the church may be built up.”

To edify means to build up, to be encouraged, to be strengthened spiritually.  Lots of things are not wrong, but do not really edify you, like playing video games for six hours straight.

That may not be sinful, but it is not edifying.  It is not profitable.  It is not a good use of your time.  We spend a lot of time on things that are not edifying.  They are time wasters.

They are not going to help us grow spiritually.  That is a principle we could use in our daily lives.  How many things do we watch on TV that are not edifying?

How many things do we read that are not edifying?  Watching the news twenty-four hours a day is not edifying.  That will depress you.  That will just make you angry, as you see all of the evil in the world.

The Selfless Principle

This is the second principle found in this chapter.  Notice what Paul says.

No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. (I Corinthians 10:24 NIV)

Even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. (I Corinthians 10:33 NIV).

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4 NIV)

Are you self-centered? Are you a selfish person? What are some signs you are self-centered?

We are self-absorbed.  We focus on ourselves.  We focus on our own needs.  We focus on our own problems.  We should be focusing on the needs of others

We are always talking about ourselves.  Everything is about us.  We want everything done our way.  We have tons of pictures of ourselves on social media, lots of selfies.

We do not see what other people are going through.  We are blind to other people’s problems.

We do not have any have compassion for them and their problems.  We might even be critical of them.  We look down on others and think we are superior.

The Stumbling Principle

Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God (I Corinthians 10:32 NIV)

If you notice, Paul puts all of humanity into three groups of people.  There are Jews.  There are Gentiles (Greeks) and there are Christians (the Church of God).   In Christ, they are neither Jew nor Gentile (Galatians 3:28).

The ESV reads, “Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God.”  That is similar to what the KJV and NKJV reads.  The word ἀπρόσκοποι is translated “no offense.”

That translation is misleading.  Paul is not saying that he would do nothing to ever offend anyone.

If you preach the gospel, you will offend people.  If you preach against sin, you will offend people.  If you call anything sinful or wicked, you will be called intolerant.

If you tell people that without Christ are going to Hell, you will offend people.  If you tell them that Jesus is the only way to heaven, you will offend people.  If you say that other religions are false, that will offend people.

Paul talks about “the offense of the cross” (Galatians 5:11 NIV).  Jesus said some things and we are told that people “took offense at him” (Matthew 13:57; cf. Matthew 15:12).

Jesus said some things that offended people.  Paul said some things that offended people.  Christianity is offensive.

That doesn’t mean that Christians should be rude and obnoxious to people.  It does not mean that they should be jerks.  The message itself is offensive.

It is not only offensive.  It is foolish.  The world thinks our message is stupid.  Paul said that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (I Corinthians 1:18 NIV)

What does Paul mean when he says, “Do not cause anyone to stumble?”  He is not saying do not ever do anything that would hurt anyone’s feelings.

He is saying do not do anything that would cause anyone to sin or to cause that person to stumble.

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea (Mark 9:42 ESV)

That verse makes you shudder to think what will happen to child abusers and those involved in the sex trafficking of children.

The Glory Principle

Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you may do, do all for the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31 NIV).

Now we come to a verse that could change your life.  This verse can be the guiding principle of our life.  It is a command.

This principle can help with decision making.  If you don’t know if it is the right thing, ask if you can do it to the glory of God.

Can you eat meat in an idolatrous pagan temple to the glory of God?  Can you commit idolatry to the glory of God?  No.

Can you visit a prostitute to the glory of God?  No.  Can you cheat on your spouse and commit adultery to the glory of God?  No.

Paul says WHATEVER you do, do ALL for the glory of God.  Whatever includes everything.  It includes big things and little things.  It includes eating and drinking.

He does not just say “Read the Bible to the glory of God.”  He does not just say “Pray to the glory of God.”  He says, “Do ALL for the glory of God.”

How do you do all things to the glory of God?  How do you wash dishes to the glory of God?  How do you brush our teeth to the glory of God? That is taking care of the body God gave us.

We can eat to the glory of God and thank Him for the food He has given us.  We can buy groceries to the glory of God.  We can go to work for the glory of God.

The problem today is we compartmentalize our life that.  Most of us put things into two categories.  There is the religious and secular.

There is the spiritual and non-spiritual.  Paul does not believe in that philosophy.  He says that we can do everything to the glory of God.

What is the purpose of life?  What is the ultimate goal in life?  It is not to become rich.  It is not to become  successful.  It is not to become famous. The ultimate goal of the Christian life is to glorify God.


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