Summary: We are in a very unique portion of Scripture in this seventh chapter of I Cor. We are not dealing here with absolute issues of right and wrong. We are dealing with issues that are very complex, and where the question is not, what is right or wrong, but what is the best under the circumstances.
Bruce Larson in Dare To Live Now, tells of his experience as a new recruit during World War
II. He sat down to his first breakfast in the mess hall, at Fort Benning, Georgia. He saw something
in a large bowl that looked like cream of wheat. He scooped out a lot of it into his bowl, and poured
milk and sugar on it. A tall mountain boy sitting across the table from him was bug-eyed, and he
asked, "Is that the way you eat grits?" Larson says, as a Chicago boy he heard of grits, but never had
seen any. He did not want to admit his ignorance, so he said, "Yes, this is how we eat them in
Chicago." It was awful tasting, but he manage to down the whole bowl. He learned that they were
meant to be eaten with butter, salt, and pepper. Some days later the same soldier sat at his table, and
he ate another bowl of grits with milk and sugar, rather than admit he had made a mistake.
Had he admitted his mistake, he would not have needed to sin, by telling a lie. Human nature
hates to admit to mistakes. We all freely admit that nobody is perfect, but we hesitate to exhibit
ourselves as proof of the rule. But the fact is, mistakes are distinct from sin. This means, not
everything that we do that may be unwise, is a sin. It is not necessarily a violation of God's
commands or will.
Paul makes it clear in verse 28 that if the Corinthians do not give heed to his
advice, they do not sin. If you don't sin by ignoring Paul, what is it? It all depends on how it turns
out. If you find you are in all the trouble he tried to spare you, then you have made a mistake. He
warned you, but you did not listen. Now you must suffer the consequences, but the fact remains, you
have not sinned. If you find you overcome all of the problems, and are very happy, and your
marriage does not hinder, but even helps, your service to God, then you have not sinned, nor even
made a mistake, but have, as we say today, lucked out. You took a risk, and you won.
We are in a very unique portion of Scripture in this seventh chapter of I Cor. We are not dealing
here with absolute issues of right and wrong. We are dealing with issues that are very complex, and
where the question is not, what is right or wrong, but what is the best under the circumstances. The
result is, the choice will not be for sin or righteousness, but for what is wise, or for what is a potential
mistake. Let's not minimize mistakes, for though they are less than sins, they do violate wisdom.
They are not necessarily less costly than sins, however. If I steal a thirty cent candy bar, I have
sinned, and I need to confess it and be forgiven, and make restitution by repaying the thirty cents.
This is not a costly sin, even though Christ had to die for that one too. But if I make a mistake, and
get married to the wrong person at the wrong time, I have not sinned at all, but that mistake may be
It was no sin that someone left off a mere hyphen in the instructions fed into the guidance system
of Mariner I, but that mistake caused it to go off course into oblivion, and cost the nation two
millions dollars. Mistakes can be costly, but they can also be trivial. Like the pastor who preached
on gossip, and then closed the service with the hymn, I Love To Tell The Story. Many mistakes are
harmless, and even humorous, but they can also be horrendous. Paul takes mistakes seriously, and
that is why he offers his opinion on the matters the Corinthians struggle with. Paul is not laying
down a set of laws to guide the church for all time. He is not even telling the Corinthians they are
laws for their time. He is simply giving them his advice as to how they should conduct themselves in
the circumstances they find themselves in.
One of the biggest mistakes Christians make is that of ignoring Paul's attitude, as he gives this
advice. Most are not as wise and humble as Paul. Most tend to become legalistic, and they demand
that their advice is absolute. Paul refuses to take this attitude. He says if you ignore my advice, which
I feel is the best Spirit led decision I can come to, you do not sin. Ignoring even the best advice is not
a sin, even though it may be a great mistake. How many counselors can openly admit that their