I Thessalonians 5:22 + Romans 14:13


1 Th 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

Rom 14:13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.

So often, conversations about whether or not we should do something (watch a certain movie, play a certain game, go to a certain place, drink, etc.) all come back to 1 Cor 10:23 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

I have heard it explained (and even said it myself) that we can do pretty much anything we want as long as we don't cause other's to stumble and it doesn't take us away from Christ. This idea has even come into our churches and church services.

Have we gotten to the point where we are so concerned with what we want that we've forgotten that we serve and represent a Holy God to the people around us; that we are truly bought with a price and are no longer our own; that we are called to redeem the time for Him and not ourselves? Or (as Victoria Osteen says) Does God really want us to be happy and doesn't care what we do when the doors are closed and the shades are drawn?

Have our churches and lifestyles gotten so about bringing people into the church that we've entirely pushed Christ out and instead adopted merely the appearance and words of Christ so as to not offend anyone?

The Pharisees were blamed with Legalism (the obedience to the law in deed but not in spirit). Does The Law have a place in our Christian lives that helps us show Christ more effectively to others or should it be completely gotten rid of?

How often do we claim the freedom of 1 Cor 10:23 without ever considering the requirements of Romans 14:13 and 1 Thessalonians 5:22?
This is another example where people take one verse of scripture out of context and then use it as a mallet to beat on their particular ideological drum. Taking 1 Corinthians 10 first.

If you examine the entire chapter, it gives a little different flavor to the quote from v. 23. This is reinforced when you examine the theme of the entire book. Paul is responding to questions which were posed to him by the church at Corinth apparently in a letter which has been lost to time. Two factions have developed within the church, one appears to be former Jews who believe that eating meat which has been sacrificed to pagan gods is sacrilegious and must be avoided. The other faction appears to be primarily Hellenistic Christians who believe that there is only one God, therefore all these other gods are fake and eating meat that has been sacrificed to them doesn't really mean anything. This was an issue as many non Christians would sacrifice animals to their patron deity before cooking them to serve to guests or for sale at the market. (These two groups are also referred to as the strong and weak of faith.)

Paul's response, rather than saying if it is permittible to eat the meat, is that love should be the guiding principle. In this example, if you invite the Jones over for dinner and they happen to believe that you shouldn't eat meat sacrificed to idols, and you grill up a nice juicy porterhouse from the butcher who gets his meat from the temple, and serve it to the Jones you are not acting out in love but are putting a stumbling block before your brothers and sisters. Similarly if the Jones barge into your house while you are eating a nice porterhouse and begin condemning you (or give you a hard time at Church on Sunday because they could smell you grilling the porterhouses), they aren't acting in love either.

You will notice that in v. 23, "'All things are lawful'" is in quotation marks. That was a popular statement in the church of that day. That our freedom in Christ breaks us free from the shackles of the law, we can do anything we want. Rather, Paul is saying that while we are indeed free of the shackles of sin not all things we can do are beneficial to us, or other believers. When it comes to an issue which is not a central issue of faith we must operate from a position of love. Are our actions going to shake another believer's faith? If so, is it an issue which is central to our faith in Jesus, or an issue which may affect their salvation (recognizing that God is the final arbiter of that) can we address it in such a way that we express Jesus' love without shaking their faith? People like to think of Jesus as this lovey dovey hippie, but remember he also made a mess at the Temple, knocking over tables and chasing people around with a whip. Yes, had partied with prostitutes, but he also told them to "go and sin no more."

You've also brought up two more issues...

1 Thessalonians 5. Both of the letters to Thessaloniki deal with end times. It seems that the church at Thessaloniki was sort of obsessed with Christ's return. They had people running around saying that if you died before Christ came back you are out of luck. That because Christ hadn't come back, Paul was full of it. Because Christ could return any time, why should I bother to work? In Chapter 5, Paul is wrapping up the letter saying "don't listen to false prophets or teaching. Don't silence the Spirit, but test the prophets, embrace the real ones and hold fast to good teaching, do what is right and avoid all evil." Paul is not specifying what is evil aside from what he has been talking about in his letter.

The Law.

Jesus came in fulfillment of the Law, not eliminate the Law. The Law (Torah) can be divided into three kinds of laws moral, ceremonial, and civil. The ceremonial laws pointed toward Jesus as a foreshadowing of what was to come, and example of this is the sacrificial system. Jesus came as the perfect sacrifice for our sin, thus we no longer need to offer the sacrifices for our sin. (This includes the dietary laws which were specifically set aside in Acts. I've heard Christians say that you're not supposed to eat shellfish so how is that different from X. Well God didn't tell Peter to set aside X but he did say that nothing is unclean that God has made.) The civil laws regulated the Israelites' day to day life. Those laws were context dependent and generally don't apply today but can be applied in principle (I would really love a year of Jubilee every seven years. Forgiveness of all debts, no work. I just don't see that working.)

The moral laws still apply today. They are a guide for right living. (Remember the purpose of the law, to make us aware of our own sin and see our need for Jesus Christ.) No, braking one of the moral laws will not condemn you to Hell for all eternity. Not following the laws will lead to negative consequences and for someone who engages in a consistent pattern of willful violation of the moral laws I have to question the sincerity of their profession of faith. Sure we all struggle with sin. We live in a fallen and sinful world. But for the person who joyfully engages in behavior which is clearly called out as sin in Scripture, I am deeply concerned for that person's spiritual well being. The world is full of idols. You can claim to follow Jesus Christ, but if he is an image you've made for yourself as some lovey dovey who lets you do whatever you want, and not the Jesus Christ which is revealed to us in Scripture then it is just another idol. You can call your idol Jesus, but that doesn't make it Him.
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