by Christopher Harbin

The Beneficial Test
Christopher B. Harbin
1st Corinthians 10:23-11:1

We often want definitions of sin and God's will to follow arbitrary rules and regulations. We want all of life to fall into nice, neat, clean categories, where everything is black and white. Indeed, there are some categories like that which we can identify. Jesus taught a broader understanding of God's will, principles on which Paul built in his discussion with the church at Corinth. While there are some black and white issues, there are areas of gray; Jesus would take us deeper into the underlying issues.

Understanding what is right and just can be a challenge for us. On the other hand, the greater challenge is living up to the definitions of just and right that we can understand. As Samuel Clemmons stated, "It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand." Knowing what is right, just, and ethical is but the first step in a life of faith. Knowing, accepting, and doing are related, yet wholly different categories.

Throughout 1st Corinthians, Paul writes in response to messages from Corinth. "Everything is lawful" seems to be a Corinthian phrase he quotes back to them. He quotes their statement to offer a correction. "Everything is lawful… but," he says. He then sets forth two tests, "Is it beneficial?" and "Does it edify?" Paul then goes on to set forth another principle, "Don't seek your own individual interests, but what is best for others."

Reading along in 1st Corinthians, we notice these principles appear in other passages. Paul applies them to food sacrificed to idols, as well as to the use of spiritual gifts. They offer resolution for divisions in the church body. If words, decisions, and actions flowed from these principles, there would have been no conflict for Paul to have addressed in the first place. There was conflict, however, for the church had not yet decided to place their issues in subm ...

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