THE VALIDITY OF EXPEDIENCY
Paul said, "all things are lawful to me, but all things are not expedient" (1 Cor. 6: 12 ; 10:23 ). Did he mean it was lawful for him to do anything he pleased? Are fornication, drunkenness, stealing or such things lawful, but not expedient? No, the "all things" of which he speaks must be understood as relative to the category or activity to which he refers. In 1 Corinthians 6:12 it concerns the eating of certain meats. Was it lawful for him to eat the meat under consideration? Yes, but it may not have been expedient, for if a thing is expedient, it must expedite. He says (v. 13), "meats for the belly, and the belly for meats, but God shall destroy both it and them." Eating of meats here has no bearing on life hereafter, for both meats and the belly shall be destroyed; Eating of meats here has no bearing on life hereafter, for both meats and the belly shall be destroyed: neither of them are abiding.
Paul then goes to another illustration "the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord." While meat is for the belly, fornication is not for the body. There is no parallel between liberty to eat meats to satisfy hunger and to commit fornication to satisfy sexual desire. In 1 Corinthians 10:23 he writes along two lines. First, liberty as it pertained to eating meats, and second, problems in the Corinthian church over eating meat that had been offered to idols. The Christian is at liberty to eat meats, yet it may not be expedient, for "all things edify not." Hence, for a thing to be expedient relative to law, it must be helpful or profitable in the performance of that law. We might illustrate: God's law calls for men to be baptized. To sprinkle and call it "baptism" is not expedient to the law, for it violates the nature of the law. But to use a baptistry is merely an expedient, for it does not violate the nature of baptism.
Nothing can be expedient which is not first lawful. How can a thing be lawful if not authorized, and why plead "expediency" if it is authorized? For example, an assembly is authorized; a meeting house is then an expedient. Giving is authorized, hence a container of some sort is expedient. Singing is authorized, hence a song book is expedient. All these do nothing more than expedite the command given. Before we urge the "law of expediency" for our practices, let the authority first be cited. Some have tried to justify church support of human institutions, such as benevolent societies, or the college, on the grounds of expediency. No, let them first be shown to be lawful, then it will be time to talk about expediency.
Let us briefly consider "faith and expediency." Faith is based upon testimony; and matters of faith are things upon which God has spoken (Rom. 10:17 ). There can be no faith where there is no word. In this way, God regulates, or his word is regulatory in nature. That word sets forth essentials in a perfect system, and when it is followed, unity results. We cannot set aside God's word, replace it with human wisdom and expect unity. While God's word gives all the essentials, all things are not matters of faith. It is here that we get into the realm of expediency. Expediency includes things about which God has spoken, but has led to human judgment.
In modem language, "expediency" is generally equated with "options," but not so in the New Testament. Sumphero is used 16 times in the New Testament, but never used with reference to one "method" out of many, anyone of which may be permissible. Yet, some things are optional. Methods of teaching, singing, etc. are examples. Methods of travel in response to the command to "go preach;" the hour of worship, might be things in that category. These are not in the purview of expediency, but in that of general authority. Things in the realm of option
are not necessarily in the realm of expediency.
Let us be careful about expediency, that we don't confuse it with authority as such. First determine a thing to be lawful and then expediency may begin to be considered. If it is not lawful, then expediency need not even be considered.
By Bill Moseley
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