I would appreciate any light you could shed on another biblical issue: the “all things are permissible” concept Paul presents in 1 Corinthians 10. 


This passage can be a bit difficult to know how to apply. Most scholars believe that there should be quotes around “all things are permissible.” Paul is giving an important concept, but he is being a bit ironic at the same time. In other words, he is mimicking what some in the church have said. Some in the church had been trumpeting their freedom in Christ—perhaps even to the point of using that freedom to do things which were blatantly sinful. He is not denying the claim, but is explaining how to apply it. Now, from the Bible we know that not ALL things, literally are permissible. For example, drunkenness is not permissible. However, as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 9, we do have a rather surprisingly wide range of freedom in Christ. We can live where we want, eat what we want, take what job we want, marry or not marry, etc. However, such freedom should be used with caution. In the context of 1 Cor 10, it should not be used in a way which makes a weaker brother to stumble, for example. Paul uses an example which is not very relevant for us today, which is the eating of meat sacrificed to idols. Paul admits that idols are not real, so eating meat “sacrificed” to something which does not even exist does not, technically, make it sinful to eat the meat. However, if we know people for whom the eating of meat sacrificed to idols is a huge stumbling block to their “weak” consciences, then we should not eat it for the sake of not creating a stumbling block.

There are many possible applications for the modern-day Christian. It might be drinking. For example, a Christian probably should not drink in the presence of an alcoholic, for whom drinking the smallest amount of alcohol is very problematic. It is probably not sinful to drink coffee, but if we have a friend—Christian or otherwise—who is extremely offended at the thought of a Christian drinking coffee, then we ought not to drink coffee in the presence or knowledge of that person. We could apply this to what movies we watch, and even what political party we vote for.

I hope this helps.

John Oakes

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