Everything is Permissible

1 Cor 10:23″Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. 24Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

This has been one of those weird un-understandable verses to me for a long time, but with what I am learning about law and rules I’m wondering if I’m beginning to understand it.

A couple of the problems with rules, in my mind, are:

  • They can’t guide you to do the best, optimum thing at any moment, because they are generalised ideas.
  • Knowing a moral rule is not the same as knowing God – following rules can in fact appear to reduce your reliance on knowing God. I say ‘appear’ because we are tempted to think that we are better because we followed the rule and perhaps if we are better then we don’t need to know God so well.

I’ve started to notice that Jesus never forces us to do what he would like us to do, he very much leaves things to our own free choice. You could say that, therefore, he permits us to do anything – which leads us to choose, ourselves, what we will actually do. By moving from a set of rules, where you were permitted to do certain things and not permitted to do others, to acting out of a changed spirit inside it would seem that everything is now permitted. Note the second verse above “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” Also note that we are still capable of acting independently of God’s guidance, acting out of our will rather than His – that we can and do still do wrong.

Antinomianism P.S. I Love You trailer Clue full

is listed in Wikipedia as “Antinomianism (from the Greek αντι, “against” + νομος, “law”), or lawlessness (in the Greek Bible: ανομια), in theology, is the idea that members of a particular religious group are under no obligation to obey the laws of ethics or morality as presented by religious authorities. Antinomianism is the polar opposite of legalism, the notion that obedience to a code of religious law is necessary for salvation.”

Often antinomianism is painted as a way of life that means you can sin as much as you want to! Well, that would be a horrific lifestyle, but one that I don’t think antinomianism is responsible for. There is a big difference between “no rules” and “no rules, be as evil as you like”. To me antinomianism is “no rules, follow God’s heart in you” – where’s the evil in that?

Surely obeying a rule instead of acting out of God’s guidance is just as much an act that is separate from God as breaking a rule outside of God’s guidance. The act, whichever one it is, still comes out of a separation from God and therefore is a sinful act – sin being separation from God and sinful acts being what you do in your separation from God. Rules do not bring the desired result, in fact they tend to reinforce our ‘stuck in death’ state.

So looking at the opposite behaviour – having a relationship with God and acting directly out of it, having the Holy Spirit inside and acting from that – we see that rules have no place within our relationship with God. God breaks through the barriers and allows us to know him, meaning we no longer have to approximate what he wants, we can know what he wants and do that – in fact we will want to do that just as much as he wants us to do that.

When we are ‘in Christ’ there is no room for rules, rules which cannot bring us to doing the right thing. We are left instead with the single broad command to love – and we can only love when we are acting in God’s will that we know through his Holy Spirit… surely…

3 thoughts on “Everything is Permissible

  1. Good post. I like the link between blindly obeying rules and seperation from God. I guess this is where the pray constantly, is important, to be in relationship/dialogue with God and self as we approach each and every situation

  2. I agree, I think that often Christians and congregations focus on finding a list of rules and applying them to everyone then the legalism and the rules become more important that the command to love. This leads, in my experience, to narrow-mindedness and a belief that if a someone is not acting in the way you think a Christian should then they are not a Christian and need to be reprimanded or ‘brought back into the fold’. Attitudes like this can be damaging. It’s the relationship with God and the desire to do what is right in his eyes that matters.

  3. Hi Peta. I agree with all of your points. What I want to try and understand now is how we can perceive a problem in someone’s life, so that we can help them, without using a rules framework to determine right from wrong. I guess it is more to do with being sensitive to someone’s relationship with God rather than focusing on whether they meet a strict rules based criteria for behaviour. I’m going to have to give this some more thought.

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