1 Corinthians 6:12 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

1 Corinthians 6:12, NIV: I have the right to do anything,' you say--but not everything is beneficial. 'I have the right to do anything'--but I will not be mastered by anything.

1 Corinthians 6:12, ESV: “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.

1 Corinthians 6:12, KJV: 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 Corinthians 6:12, NASB: All things are permitted for me, but not all things are of benefit. All things are permitted for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.

1 Corinthians 6:12, NLT: You say, 'I am allowed to do anything'--but not everything is good for you. And even though 'I am allowed to do anything,' I must not become a slave to anything.

1 Corinthians 6:12, CSB: "Everything is permissible for me," but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me," but I will not be mastered by anything.

What does 1 Corinthians 6:12 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Christian teaching about God's grace can create uncertainty for believers about what is or is not acceptable behavior. On the one hand, Scripture is emphatic that those who are in Christ are not subject to the law of Moses. Christians are free to eat old-covenant-restricted animals, for instance, and not to participate in all the special holidays required for religious Jews. More than that, as Paul has written in the previous verse, those in Christ have already been washed of their sins, sanctified in Christ, and declared justified by God. That transaction is complete. We are saved.

Why not continue to do whatever we want, then? Why not participate in what we used to call sexual immorality? Why not do whatever comes naturally, whatever our bodies desire? That's the question Paul seems to be answering in this and the following verses. In doing so, he also sheds light on the problem of using trite clichés, which don't come from the Bible.

Quotation marks and other punctuation were not used in ancient writing. However, the phrase Paul uses here appears to be a slogan or common expression. Perhaps it was even being used by the believers in Corinth: "All things are lawful for me." It is true that nothing—including sin—can ever separate a forgiven Christian from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38–39). However, it's possible the Corinthians were practicing sin and using this idea to justify their actions.

Paul writes that this is a wrongheaded standard for believers. Christian liberty is not an open excuse for any behavior or attitude. Whether participating in something will "send me to hell" is not a sufficient question for the born-again believer. Instead, we must ask, "Will this help me and other people?" "Will this activity master me, cause me to lose control of myself?"

Paul is urging the Corinthians to live up to who they are now in Christ. He is encouraging them—and by extension, all Christians—to make this the standard for their choices. This contrasts with "living down" to the standards of what is acceptable in a sin-drenched culture.