In the Image of God: Discipline

Day 5: Discipline Requires Boundaries

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Whether it’s children escaping their cribs or adults escaping gravity for flight, we are people who like to push boundaries. Often we see boundaries as limits that prevent us from fulfilling our potential by restricting our freedom. This desire to push boundaries is a wonderful human trait which has brought a lot of good into this world, but it has a dark side as well.

In our passage, Paul makes the case to the Corinthian church that although they may be able to break through all boundaries because they are free in Christ, this will not necessarily result in spiritual growth. The Corinthian culture, like many cultures today, thrived on an ethic of personal freedom. Corinthian Christians had latched on to two catch phrases that were popular at the time: “Everything is permissible for me” and “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food.”

Paul wanted the Corinthian church to temper their freedom with wisdom. “‘Everything is permissible for me,’” Paul echoed, “but not everything is helpful. ‘Everything is permissible for me,’ but I will not be brought under the control of anything’” (v.12). Just because we are free to do something doesn’t mean it is wise to do it.

“‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food,’” Paul repeated, “but God will do away with both of them” (v.13). You can seek to satisfy every appetite that comes your way— culinary, material, sexual, chemical— but over-indulgence is not good for you, no matter how free you are. Don’t use your freedom to become a slave.

When it comes to following Christ, discipline helps us recognize the boundaries that are there for our own good so that we won’t be controlled by the things that hurt us. As followers of Jesus, we are not to do “whatever we want.” Why? Because we do not belong to ourselves anymore, but to Christ (vv.19-20).

When we place our trust in Jesus, we sign over the deed to our entire life— which includes our physical bodies— to the One who gave His life for us. When we look at boundaries this way, they become less about limiting our freedom or preventing us from satisfying our desires, and more about propelling us forward in our deepest desire to follow Christ and glorify God with all that we have and are.

May we embrace discipline and boundaries laid out for us in Scripture as we seek to become more like Christ.

written by Chris Comstock