Crucial Context

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #117

“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” (1 Cor. 10:23).

There are verses where the surrounding context does not matter as much in the reading of the verse, and there are verses where the surrounding context matters a great deal. The phrase all things is qualified in context, but is unqualified within the confines of the verse. Apart from context, this passage appears to urge us on to the higher grace of antinomianism. But in context, Paul is talking about a particular set of behaviors—eating meat offered to pagan idols.

He is talking about particular cases of conscience. He is not talking here about, say, fornication, drunkenness, or extortion, as we can readily see by flipping back a few pages (1 Cor. 5:11). Here is a paraphrase of the passage, tailored so that it cannot be made to stand alone. “All the things we are talking about are lawful for me, but they are not expedient. All of those things are lawful, as I said, but doing them won’t help you edify your brother.”