(1 Corinthians 6:12)
The message contained in this single scripture is incredibly powerful. It drives powerfully to many of the problems we face today and used correctly forces us to think hard about many of the actions and decisions being taken by people in the world today. Look at the verse closely.
12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12 – RSV)
There are so many instances I can recall where people have misused the message of this verse, for they fail to see what the message is. Two prominent issues come to mind, (not the only ones I must add), one to do with a false teaching of the church and the other to do with the way the world is currently thinking and behaving, especially at present in the light of the rise of terrorism and mass shootings in the USA as well as in other places.
The Truth of This Verse
One of the messages of Christianity and one of the purposes for the coming and death of Jesus was to set man free from sin and death. To do this effectively Jesus died also to set man free from law. The essence of this is that those who have faith in Christ are set free from the law, and thus cannot break the law because they are no longer under it. And if you cannot break the law because you are not held under it, then you do not sin.
Of course that does not mean there will be no consequences for doing the wrong things. It just won’t be counted as sin against you since God has set you free from sin and the law through Jesus Christ’s death.
This verse tells us as much. Paul shows that although all things are now lawful for us, since we are set free from the law, that does not mean we can do anything we like. For example, the law of Moses given by God prohibits adultery on punishment of death. Just because we are set free from that law does not mean we can commit adultery. And the consequences of families and friendships torn apart, of vilification, strife and separation from friends and colleagues that occurs as the result of adultery does not just disappear because we have been set free from the law. The consequences still remain and are still as destructive whether we are under the law or not.
That is why Paul shows us that while we are no longer under law and thus all things are lawful, not all things are helpful. Not all things are good for us even though we are set free from laws concerning those things.
Pornography, drunkenness, violence, debauchery, fornication, gambling, lies, greed, lust and all the many addictive behaviours of humanity such as smoking, drugs and alcohol. None of these things can be considered even remotely as being helpful. They are destructive both to the individual doing these things as well as those around them.
And in this list of human problems there are many addictive behaviours as well as many others I am sure you can think of, which Paul considers in the second part of the verse above. All things may be lawful to those in Jesus Christ, but we can still be overpowered and become slaves to these addictions.
We have not been called to Christ to be enslaved to anything. We have been given a free will and are called to exercise that free will to say “NO” to the passions, lusts, desires and addictions of humanity. We have been called to Christ to learn to live the life Jesus set out before us so that we may inherit the kingdom of God with Him.
That is why we need to reject all such thoughts and desires even more now that we are set free from the law, because God has given us this freedom in Jesus Christ NOT to do as we please, but to do what is holy, just, good and right in His eyes. We have been called to freedom to be free, not to use this freedom for licentiousness or to become slaves to anyone or anything.
Once Saved Always Saved
Which brings me to this false teaching in some parts of the church today.
The belief of this false teaching is that once you have been saved you cannot be rejected by God. That is rubbish!
If you come to Christ and then turn your back on Him you will not receive salvation. Even people in the world reject those who reject them, so how much more will God reject those who reject Him!
If you have any doubt in this matter there are any number of scriptures that confirm this quite clearly. Perhaps the clearest of these is in Ezekiel 18:21-32 where the Lord describes the outcomes of the lives of both those who turn to God from a life of wickedness and receive life, and those who turn away from God back to wickedness and receive the punishment of death. It is clear that those who once followed the paths of righteousness then to turn away from God by doing what is wrong in His eyes do not receive salvation but instead receive death.
As a further example of the foolishness of the “once saved always saved” doctrine, let us consider the words of the writer of Hebrews which says,
4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. 7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. – (Hebrews 6:4-8)
Can this be any clearer to show the stupidity of the OSAS doctrine? How have these people who came to Christ rejected Him? By falling away to do the evil that the rest of the world does.
And worse, they believe they can do anything they like because they are saved regardless of what they do. In fact what they are doing is committing licentiousness. This false teaching licences the people of God to do what is wrong, and by it they will NOT receive salvation but will receive the punishment described in the last few words of the verse above as their “…end is to be burned.”
Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians 6:12 is the exact opposite of the OSAS doctrine. Paul shows us that although we are set free from the law and all things, we do not reject the truth that the law gives us. We do not reject the justice and wisdom contained in the law because the law was given to man for our benefit. There is much that can be learned from the law to show us freedom from the lusts, addictions and passions of the human condition.
But at the same time we must remember that we are set free from the law and are not bound under it as sinners. We live now, through Jesus Christ, under the grace of God. And God gave us freedom by His grace not to do as we please but to do what pleases Him.
God knows we are works in progress and so His grace covers the failures we will go through and the mistakes we make as we continue walking forward in Jesus Christ. His grace brings us to repentance so that we can continue to grow into Jesus Christ into maturity as Christians.
His grace was not a “get out of jail free card” to do as we please.
The other issue I mentioned above that this verse of Paul’s to the Corinthians has to do with terrorism and mass shootings, especially in the USA but in other places as well. Now I know this might upset some of my American readers, but please be assured, I am not having a cheap shot at the American way of life. It is just that there are some laws widely accepted in the USA that do not promote the ways of God. And to be honest there are plenty of other laws in other places that do the same.
In the USA in particular there is a law that gives every American the right to bear arms. It is written into the constitution as the second amendment and is widely quoted every time there is any mention of gun control or whenever there is a mass shooting. It is even more often quoted in recent times with the rise of terrorism as many Americans see the need to be armed believing it to be the best and most effective method of ensuring peace. They feel that by holding guns it will be a deterrent that will make terrorists think twice before taking actions on American soil.
We see the response of many Americans whenever a mass shooting incident occurs through an increase in gun sales. After one of the recent mass shootings the gun manufacturers Smith and Wesson noted a sharp spike in sales of their products, stating the mass shooting as the reason (as this article shows). And they have shown this is a normal occurrence after shootings occur.
Now as Christians we are told by Jesus to think with sound judgement and not by appearances only. He said,
Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” – (John 7:24)
So without getting caught up in the rights or wrongs of the second amendment and the whole political debate that is going on in the USA, let us move beyond the “appearances” of this gun issue and look at some truths.
First, what is a gun? It is a mechanism designed to shoot projectiles at high velocities into a target. That target may be inanimate, such as on a rifle range or it may be an animal, like vermin on farmland and sometimes it may be a person. In relation to the spike in gun sales mentioned above I would suggest that most of those may be for the purpose of self-protection against others who might seek to shoot them.
Now, as the NRA and others have rightly said, guns do not kill people, people kill people. And yes, they are technically correct. A gun under normal conditions does not shoot itself. Someone has to load it and pull the trigger while pointing it at another person to do them harm. So the responsibility for death by gun sits fairly and squarely on the shooter not the gun.
And there are many other ways that people can kill other people. Knives, swords, electrocution, poisons, strangulation and so on.
But for a mass killing as we have seen so often in the USA, guns are the weapon of choice because they can and do inflict greater destruction more easily. And you don’t have to get up close and personal with a gun like you do with say a knife, garrotte or to strangle with bare hands. You can shoot people from a distance.
Which brings me to the next critical truth about guns. Guns are not about shooting, they are about power. Indeed all weapons, whether guns, knives or whatever are about power.
The person with the gun has power over those who do not have a gun. It is all about who has the most power. The person holding the gun will have greater power over a person with no gun. Similarly a person with Annie will have greater power over an unarmed person. Weapons are all about the struggle for power.
But if two people come together against each other with guns, then the power equation becomes equal or neutral. And this is what the gun lobby proposes as the solution. If everyone has a gun then everyone is equal.
But if everyone has a gun, then how do those who wish to take power do so? Simple. They pull the trigger! When two people stand opposed to each other, both with guns, the only way one can exert power over the other is to shoot the gun. After all, that is what the gun is designed to do. It is designed to give one person power over their environment, whether that is protection in the jungle from wild beasts, or power in the urban jungle against “two-legged wild beasts.”
That is what guns are all about. Exercising power over another person or animal so as to enforce your desires and designs for either protection or aggression in stand off situations.
And too many people have fallen for this trap believing guns and more guns are the answer. They are NOT the answer. They are part of the problem and until that is recognised no change or improvement will occur.
At the time of writing this there have been 353 mass shootings in the USA where a mass shooting is defined as any shooting event where four or more people are killed or injured. That is more than one per day (1.03/day) and it is getting worse as there were 336 mass shootings in 2014 (0.92/day) and 363 in 2013 (0.99/day). (See here for breakdowns).
More guns is not the answer because there are more people owning guns now than ever before and as a consequence more people are getting shot.
Violence has become a way of life and it is reinforced in video games, movies and television shows so that the next generation will continue the mistakes and make them worse than this generation. Furthermore with the reduction or removal of discipline and making things like corporal punishment in homes and schools an offence under law, the next generation can only get worse.
Yes it is wrong to violently beat a child for no reason. It is also wrong to do nothing when they deserve to be disciplined. The point of discipline is to teach children to be disciplined so that as they grow to be adults they know right from wrong. Leave them without discipline, believing that they can do whatever they want without consequences and you end up where we are today. And it will be worse tomorrow.
Which brings me back to the second amendment and the right to bear arms as it relates to this verse in 1 Corinthians 6:12.
In the USA people have the right to own a gun. It is lawful to do so. But I ask the question that Paul asked, is it helpful?
As Christians you are protected by God. You do not have to take the law into your own hands. God said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” (Romans 12:19, Hebrews 10:30).
Jesus also taught us not to worry about the things of this world. We should not worry about what we will eat, drink or wear. Nor should we worry about the violence of men against one another, even when or if it is directed at ourselves. God is in control and He will deliver His people from all situations and also will judge those who oppose Him as it says here.
…the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, – (2 Peter 2:9)
Remember that the very hairs of your head are numbered and that not even a sparrow will fall to the ground unless it is His will. There is no reason to fear for the timespan of our lives as Christians are under God’s control and you will not perish unless and until it is His will, as we see here.
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. – (Luke 12:4-7)
So as it says, we need have no fear of man who can kill the body but cannot take away your eternal life. Only God has that power and He will not allow it to happen when and until it is your time. No gunman has the power over you, and in fact as a Christian we have more power over the gunman than He does over us because the Lord is on our side.
Look at how God rescued Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Lot, Noah, David and the many trials the apostles went through to the glory of God. Consider Paul who was shipwrecked, stoned, beaten and even bitten by an asp and was rescued from all these things.
So coming back to 1 Corinthians 6:12, while it is lawful to own a gun in the USA, it is not helpful. Gun ownership does not provide any more protection and it does not promote the truth of the kingdom of God.
As Christians we put our trust and faith in the power of God. But gun ownership makes people to put their trust in the power of the gun which is the power of violence and is not of God. They are saying in effect that they do not trust God to get them out of all situations and instead are taking the law and judgment and the place of God into their own hands. I am not talking about those who shoot to hunt or as a pastime/sport but those who feel they need the protection of a gun against other men.
It may be lawful in the USA but it is not helpful. The statistics show that more guns have not made life better in the USA which has the highest rates of gun related death and injury of any western civilised country in the world. The death rates are certainly higher in some of the third world countries known for drug cartels and so on such as Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador and some of the African countries where gun violence is just a part of life. But in middle to high income countries with good education systems and standards of living, the USA stands alone at the head of the list as the place where gun violence is most prevalent, typically by a factor of five to ten to twenty times or more worse than places like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan. (See here for data).
Am I having a shot at the USA? No I am not. I am pointing out only that this is one perfect example of where just because something is lawful does not mean it is helpful.
We are set free from the law of God in Jesus Christ, but that does not mean we should or can reject it. The law of God is good and teaches us much about truth, right, wrong and justice. We should learn the wisdom of God that He embodied in the law as given to Moses.
We have the right to do anything but not everything will help us or be good for us. Believing the false teachings of OSAS will not lead to salvation as they believe but instead will lead to death.
Owning a gun just because it is permitted under the laws of the USA will not commend us to God and will not provide greater protection for us either. If gun ownership provided greater protection then the rates of gun related death should be the lowest in the world in the USA who have the highest rate of gun ownership of any country in the world on a per capita basis. (See here for details).
We all need to think with sound judgment and to put our trust in God alone to help us and protect us. He will and He does protect us in all situations. We do not need to take matters into our own hands. Just obey Him and follow Jesus in truth and we will receive the reward He has set aside for us.
(Photo sourced from freeimages.com provided by Carlos Reyes)
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