Posted by: SandreS | October 20, 2010

Important Principles in the Details of Life – Principle #3: Expediency (or Benefit)

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not (I Corinthians 10:23).

Paul introduces to us two principles in this verse: expediency and edification. Today we will look at expediency. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines expediency as “appropriate to a purpose.”

Although all things were indeed lawful to Paul, he had the wisdom to realize that not all things were appropriate to the purpose he sought to accomplish. In other words, Paul lived purposefully. His actions were not mindless, but thoughtful “as unto the Lord.”

Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God (:31).

Our actions should be deliberate and with forethought. This is what the believer’s life is intended to be – rather than a mindless spur-of-the-moment “going along” – so that any action can be done “heartily as unto the Lord.”

To this same end Paul exhorts the believer to a “reasonable” rather than mindless life: “your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

Other translations of this phrase are helpful to see the thoughtfulness to which Paul was encouraging the believer:

your intelligent service (Darby, Young)
your logical divine service (Concordant)
your rational divine service (Rotherham)


God’s will for our lives does not involve the mindless of following of this world’s course. Instead our lives are to be “reasonable” (i.e., well thought out, with purpose). The world’s social, cultural, political, economic and religious courses will constantly pressure us to conform. Paul exhorts us not to give sway to this conformity (“and be not conformed to this world”).

According to Galatians 5:1 Christ freed the believer for the purpose of freedom! He freed us to be free – not to be entangled again into bondage. Christ did not die for theoretical liberty. He freed us to experience and live in freedom. Observe how various translations have rendered the first part of this glorious verse:

Christ has set us free in freedom; stand fast therefore” (Darby)
For freedom did Christ set us free: stand fast therefore (American Standard)
It was for freedom that Christ has set us free; therefore keep standing firm (Common Edition)
For freedom Christ frees us! Stand firm, then” (Concordant)
For freedom did Christ make us free; stand fast, therefore (Weymouth)

It is in this context of personal freedom that Paul then considers what is the most expedient course of action in the details of his life. It is also in this context of this personal freedom that Paul makes personal determinations as to the value of any activity as unto the Lord. Notice that he says “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient.” Paul was making personal assessments as to what things were expedient, and what things were not.

The Greek word sumphero, which is used to translate “expedient” carries the meaning of “profitable” and “beneficial” as can be seen in the following translations:

all are not profitable (Darby Bible)
not all things are profitable (Rotherham)
not everything is profitable (Weymouth)
all things are not profitable (Young)
not all things are beneficial (Emphatic Diaglot)

Although all things were lawful to Paul, not all things were profitable or beneficial. So it is with each of us. In our individual walk with the Lord we should not live mindlessly in our freedom, but thoughtfully and with purpose toward the end of expediency. This determination varies from situation to situation, and would also vary from person to person in their own variable and unique circumstances.

One must be careful when dealing with others on this point, because underlying this principle is the clear issue of personal faith.

Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind (Romans 14:5).

Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God (Romans 14:22).

Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith you stand (II Corinthians 1:24).

Our view of expediency is then to be borne out of personal faith!

Tony Smith wonderfully describes this important principle:

Everything is permissible to me. So why should I take issue with a brother who decides that the thing that I find not to be beneficial to me is entirely beneficial to him? For freedom Christ freed us, so why should I condemn a brother who exercises his liberty?

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
© Bible Student’s Notebook

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