August 10, 2015
I Corinthians 6:12; 10:23
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
I heard on our local Christian radio station a teaching by a minister concerning Gray Areas. I was impressed by the way he presented the idea, and thought it would make a good blogging subject.
What are Gray Areas? One definition reads, “…an ill-defined situation or field not readily conforming to a category or to an existing set of rules….ambiguous, unclear, uncertain, doubtful, indefinite, indistinct, indeterminate, debatable, open to question.”
There are many Gray Areas in the matter of Christian living according to the will of God. For instance, what about drinking alcoholic beverages? What about the profession which may pursue for my life’s work? Should I register as a Democrat, a Republican or an Independent? What church should I join – and of what denomination, if any, should its affiliation be? To what kind of music should I allow myself to listen? Should a Christian display a crucifix? We could go on and on!
First of all, I will highlight what Paul told Timothy in II Timothy 3:16 and 17:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine,
for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man
of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
While all scripture…is profitable…, the scriptures do not speak openly about everything that we may encounter in our lives today! But the Bible does shed its light one way or another on everything! Sometimes it is by direct teaching or command; sometimes by example – good or bad; sometimes by inference; sometimes by general principles which is then left up to us to apply; sometimes by putting together the teaching of several scriptures; sometimes by silence! But there is nothing that we can face in this life – nothing about which the Bible does not speak!
Let’s consider two verses from I Corinthians that will help define what we should do in any situation – verses 6:12 and 10:23:
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….All things
are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful; all things are lawful for
me, but all things do not edify.
You might say Paul was a libertarian – if you concentrate on the first part of these two verses: “All things are lawful for me….” Yet the restrictions that are applied to our conduct by the rest of these scriptures are quite defining! There are three strictures that are here presented:
• I Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23 – “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful.” The phrase, not helpful is two words in the Greek. The word translated not is the absolute negative of the word it modifies. The modified word by itself means “to bear together or conduce to the advantage of all.” (Strong’s). The phrase in both the Greek and its English translation in the New King James is exactly the same! What other English words are used in the Bible to translate this Greek word rendered helpful? “Be better for, bring together, be expedient for, be good, be profitable.”
The fact that it is repeated exactly in both of these I Corinthian verses is important! God is not wasteful with words. So when in scripture this occurs, we need to sit up and take notice! God is saying something important!
Is what you are considering to do or to say helpful or advantageous to you and those around you? Will it bring you together with others so you can together bear whatever situation you are addressing with your words or actions? If not, then refrain from those words or that activity!
Paul further dealt with this issue when he wrote in Romans 14 concerning food offered to idols and then sold in the market place – which was common in New Testament times. Some early believers felt it was acceptable to eat such food. But others were highly offended that it had been offered to idols first. While the word translated helpful is not found in the following Romans 14 scripture, the principle can and does apply to what we are discussing. Here are verses 14:13 through 16 and 19 through 21 (see also I Corinthians 8:9-13):
…let us not judge one another anymore: but rather resolve this, not to put
a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. I know and am
persuaded by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to
him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your
brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love.
Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore, do
not let your good be spoken of as evil….Therefore let us pursue the things
which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Do
not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure,
but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. It is good neither to eat
meat, nor to drink wine nor to do anything by which your brother stumbles
or is offended or is made weak.
We have to consider our Christian brother or sister – how they will be affected by our words and actions! While we as Christians are allowed to do all things, we are restricted first of all by the fact that “…all things are not helpful.”
We will examine more restrictions that cover Gray Areas in our next blog.