All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)
The statement, All things are lawful may have been a common Corinthian saying in that liberated society. Paul borrows it and, playing off it, says, “It is so for me, too. Every sin I as a Christian commit is forgiven in Jesus Christ.” But no sin is ever right or good, and no sin ever produces anything right or good. Sin can never be worthwhile or profitable. Profitable (sumphero) means “to be to advantage.” In the sense that believers are free and no longer under the penalty of the law in any way, all things are lawful for them. But the price for doing some things is terribly high, terribly unprofitable. Sin never brings profit; it always brings loss.
All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. Paul was free in the grace of Christ to do as he pleased, but he refused to allow himself to be mastered by anything or anyone but Christ. He would not become enslaved to any habit or custom and certainly not to any sin. “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).
It is not as easy to be in control of ourselves as we sometimes think. Many people are deceived in thinking they are perfectly in control of their thoughts and actions, simply because they always do what they want. The fact, however, is that their desires and passions are telling them what to do, and they are going along. They are not masters of their desires, but are willing slaves. Their flesh is controlling their minds.
Paul himself testifies that he had to “buffet [his] body and make it [his] slave, lest possibly, after [he had] preached to others, [he himself] should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). Buffet (hupopiazo) means literally, “to give a black eye, or to beat the face black and blue.” To keep his body from enslaving him, he had to enslave his body. Otherwise he could become disqualified, not for salvation but for holy living and useful service to God.