The Slavery of License and the Freedom of Being God’s Own (Tues. August 3)

The word of the day is “God’s.”  In our study of Romans, we learned that Paul proclaimed freedom from the Mosaic Law.  But does that freedom mean license to do whatever one pleases?  Today in our reading of 1 Corinthians 6:20-7:12St. Paul discusses various cases of sexual relations.  Upholding the principle of genuine freedom, the apostle states, “For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (OSB 1 Cor. 6:20).  Today, we will explore the difference between the slavery of license and the freedom of Christian liberty.

The Roman statesman Cicero (+43 BC) wrote, “Maritime cities also suffer a certain corruption and degeneration of morals; for they receive a mixture of strange languages and customs and import foreign ways as well as foreign merchandise” (Cicero 1928, Book 2).  This was undoubtedly true of Corinth, a thriving port city with two harbors.  Most of the congregation members were Gentiles with the background of the loose morality of a Roman seaport.

The Maxim of License

Therefore, it is not surprising that much of Paul’s letters to Corinth had to do with sexual and other forms of immorality.  The maxim that justified the toleration, if not practice of debauchery, in the congregation must have been “All things are lawful for me’ since I am freed from the Law” (1 Corinthians 6:120.  Against this decadent attitude, Paul responded, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Cor. 6:12)

Paul teaches that license is not freedom but slavery to indulgence.  To defend this claim, Paul reminds his wayward flock that they had been under the power of sin, death, and the devil.  This slavery had made them liable to the judgment, condemnation, and punishment of the Law.  But they had been baptized and redeemed from that bondage (1 Cor. 6:11).

License Enslaves Us to New Tyrants

Paul then goes on to say that freedom to do anything that one wants puts one under new tyrants that are just as enslaving.  They are the passions such as gluttony (1 Corinthians 6:13) or lust (1 Corinthians 6:15).   If uncontrolled and unrestrained, these cravings[i] will lead the baptized right back into the sinful life before the “washing of regeneration.”

We Are Not Our Own

Therefore,  St. Paul repudiates the idea that freedom from the Law means license saying, “You are not your own.  You were bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).  Remember that St. Paul had stated that Corinthians are called to be saints (1 Cor. 1:4).  To be a saint is to be holy.  And to be holy is to be dedicated to God.  Moreover, in 1 Corinthians 3, St. Paul had repeated that the faithful belong to God in Christ.  He wrote, “You are Christ’s, and Christ’s is God’s (1 Cor. 3:23).

St. John Chrysostom elaborates with the thought that those who believe in Christ have been made God’s own twice.  They are His “not only because He brought them into being, but also because, when they were alienated, He won them again a second time, paying as the price, the blood of the Son” (NfPf1:12, 102”).

For Reflection

Those who are baptized into Christ belong to God in both soul and body.  Therefore, St. Paul writes to the Corinthians that they should “glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Cor. 6:20).  This is true freedom.  It is the liberty to “be ourselves,” that is, to be what we were made for–the true human persons that God made in His image.  The more we dedicate ourselves to God in body, soul, and all that we are and do, the freer and more fulfilled we are.

Works Cited

Cicero. 1928. On the Republic Translated by C. W. Keyes: Attalus.



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