“All things are lawful,” says Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:12. Does that mean that idolatry, murder, stealing, sexual sin, and perjury are lawful?
That’s exactly what it means. And Paul wrote that to a church where he observed elsewhere that some of them had formerly been just like that.
Christians are not under law. That is, Christians do not have a long list of dos and don’ts to live up to. We’re under grace. Paul goes on to say, “not all things are profitable.”
Idolatry, murder, stealing, sexual sin, and perjury are lawful. Nonetheless, they’re still sin. Sin is not profitable. It pays out in death. It destroys and fouls everything it touches.
Paul considers the point so important that he immediately restates it. The verse continues, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”
For nearly two millennia now, the church has lurched between pairs of errors.
Hardly anyone will be saved, says one kind of false teacher. Nearly everyone will go to hell. This bunch has preached to what they regard as a room full of sinners in the hope that maybe one or two will pay attention.
These people cheapen holiness by reducing it to a bunch of rules. They cheapen grace by reducing it to some notion of God’s inscrutable favoritism to people who somehow manage to get “religion.”
Everyone will be saved, says another crowd. And it doesn’t really matter what you do so long as you’re sincere and acting in “love.”
Joseph Fletcher, an Episcopal priest, published a book called Situation Ethics: The New Morality in 1968. The new morality was nothing but the old immorality dressed up for church.
Fletcher and likeminded preachers cheapen grace by using it as an excuse to sin. The bunch that preach hellfire and damnation, they say, have missed God. God’s love in unconditional. So far, so good.
Times have changed, they say. (But God and his standards haven’t.) A loving God would never condemn anyone to everlasting punishment; there is no hell. (Jesus explicitly says otherwise, both before and after his resurrection.)
And so the church itself has been infected with the disease of denying Christ for the sake of condoning sin. Ordained clergy have taken leadership in condoning what the Bible condemns.
If people in their congregations have not been convinced, they haven’t spoken out, either. Or at least they haven’t had the Biblical teaching and vocabulary to speak out effectively.
Just look at the acts once considered abominations within living memory that these false teachers now want the church to celebrate:
- Unmarried couples living together
- Abortion on demand
- Unmarried women and children having children
- Gay marriage
Tolerance of each of these progressively weakens families. It makes it progressively less likely that children will ever hear any accurate teaching about Jesus and what the Bible means by love.
It also makes it less likely to anything meaningful from the pulpit addressing the ways married heterosexual couples cheat on each other.
What’s next on the list of outrages that some preacher will expect the church to celebrate? Polygamy? Infanticide? Child molestation? Don’t forget that the whole idea of gay marriage seemed inconceivable just 20 years ago.
While Jesus’ time on earth was still a living memory, Jude pointed out that this twisting of grace had already invaded the church.
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once and for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. (Jude 3-5, NASB)
God made a people for himself out of slaves and delivered them with a powerful hand. Most refused to believe that he could fulfill all of his promises. All of their corpses had to fall in the wilderness before God could fulfill his promises for the sake of their children.
Thousands of years later, God made a church for himself largely from social outcasts based on the power of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. And while people were still alive who remembered it, unbelievers came out of the woodwork to lead many astray.
Turning grace in to licentiousness denies our Master. If Jesus isn’t our Master, something else will be. Despite our pretentions to the contrary humans cannot be masters of their own destiny.
Look back at those bullet points of what I called abominations. Every one of them is lawful. Not a one of them is profitable. Every one of them is still sin—falling short of the glory that God promises to his people.
For all the people who, reading this far, are outraged by my “intolerance,” I serve an intolerant God. He hates sin. He will destroy it. Bad luck for folks who cling to it. And yes. There are plenty of other abominations besides sexual sin. You can find long lists of them in the same context where Paul denounces sexual sins. They are equally abominable. No more, no less.
Sin of any kind will bring nothing but ruin if you let it master you. And master you it will if you don’t seek and experience true grace, which is power to turn away from sin and let God transform you by renewing your mind.