These verses have been applied, or should I say misapplied, as a doctrine of Christian freedom, allowing for wiggle room for doing all thngs that please us. It is seen as a means to stretch God’s grace to the limits without crossing that line into sin. In other words, following Christ has no boundaries as long as there is a connection to Christ even if that connection is as frail and as weak as a piece of thread.
But these verses are not instruction for us and they certainly are not doctrine. The verse “Everything is permissible for me” is a quote from the congregation of the Corinthian church boasting that they had a right to do whatever they pleased. Paul counters this boast in the next line – ‘not everything is beneficial’. The first verse is repeated again, notice the quotes, and he counters it again with ‘I will not be mastered’.
The instruction for us is not the first verse from Corinth but the second verse from Paul. Christians have been following a boastful quote from the Corinthians and applying it to their lives as doctrine when in reality, they have become one with them.
That’s the first error.
The second is the context. This isn’t about everything or any situation a Christian will ever encounter. The context is about sexual immorality specifically. The very next verse says…
1 Corin. 6:13 “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food” – but God will destroy them both. The first part of that verse is also quoted from the Corinthians which is not meant for us to follow or use as doctrine, and Paul refutes it in the next line ‘God will destroy them both’.
What the congregants were claiming is that the physical acts of eating and digesting food have no bearing on one’s inner spiritual life, so the physical act of promiscuous sexual activity does not affect one’s spiritual life. If you read further, you’ll see Paul correcting them in this erroneous thinking of sexuality, which confirms the overall message of sexual immorality only from verse 12 to the end of the chapter. This has nothing to do with other areas in a Christian’s life or liberty thereof. This is specifically about sexual immorality defended by the congregation.
Corinth was a hotbed of sexual immorality. The worship of Aphrodite fostered prostitution in the name of religion. At one time, 1000 sacred prostitutes served her temple. The immorality became so well known that the Greek verb “to Corinthianize” came to mean “to practice sexual immorality”.
Paul wrote about many problems the church was having in an effort to restore them back to Christ. This is just once instance. But some Christians have used the words of the immoral Corinthians as doctrine of Christian freedom instead of following Paul’s words rebuking them plus this entire belief and way of thinking and was taken out of context to begin with.
“Everything is permissible” is repeated in 1 Corin. 10:23 but again, we must look at the context which is eating sacrifical meat. Paul gives specific instructions on how we’re to handle that particular situation but Christians have stretched those verses, again, to apply the freedom principle of anything goes as long as it’s loosely based on Christ. Once againk it is a quote from a sinful church not to be taken as instruction or doctrine for us.
The only broader application that Paul makes is in verse 31.
31So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
But unfortunately, those that try to stretch God’s grace will use this verse to support their lifestyle, or style of irreverant worship, or their worldly entertainment mixed with Christ. (remember the frail, weak thread connection?)