“All things are lawful (permissible) for me, but not all things are
profitable (beneficial). All things are lawful for me, but I will not
be mastered by anything. Food is for the stomach and the stomach is
for food, but God will do away with both of them.” 12-13
This is not an argument for universal license to do as one may please in any category of behavior. Paul is not defending one's participation in things that are forbidden. What he is talking about is the exorcise of Christian rights. Even those things that are in themselves good and right for the Christian, must be limited by revealed principles. The exorcise of our rights must be tempered by discretion. One must consider, is it permissible, is it expedient, is it enslaving, is it edifying, is it loving?
Even those things that are permissible can become sin when the exorcise of those things violate other revealed principles such as allowing one's self to be enslaved to it. Paul uses the simple illustration of eating foods. Eating is good, enjoyable, and beneficial to the body but when eating become enslaving or as Paul says, when it becomes the master, then it becomes a problem. Self-control and proper judgment must be exorcised in all things. Even in those things that are permissible for us.
Immorality is one of those things that is divinely forbidden, 12-20.
“Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do
away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for
the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. Now God has not only raised
the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. Do you not know
that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the
members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never
be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute
is one body with her? For He says, 'The two shall become one flesh.'
But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee
immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body,
but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that
your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have
from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with
a price: therefore, glorify God in your body.”
God has made our bodies to desire foods and to accommodate the eating of foods. They were designed for one another, but eating meats has no more than a temporal, biological effect on the body. When the body dies, so also dies the bodies need for the meat and the meat has no effect on the body or the soul.
This is not true of fornication. Unlike the meats for the stomach, our bodies were not made for fornication. Fornication is a contradiction of divine intent for the body. It is a violation of function and a sin against one's own body. The consequences of fornication not only follow us beyond this world but also affect the man in this live as well. The sin of immorality is unique in that this sin is a violation of our own body because it unites the body that belongs to the Lord to another in a relationship that God has forbidden. You do not give the temple of God to a prostitute. The best way to avoid immorality is to “flee from it.”
The principle then that we find here concerning Christian liberties and things that are lawful and expedient are those things that are matters of complete indifference, things that we are free to determine by our own will. Fornication is not one of our Christian liberties. We are quite free to decide for ourselves which food we will eat. It makes no difference because both will eventually be destroyed; but whether or not we are free to engage in immorality is a decision that has been made by the Lord and it is not up for discussion. Unlike the foods for the stomach that only fulfill a temporal need, immorality carries with it, eternal consequences.
Immorality was the problem in chapter five. It is a forbidden behavior. Sexual activity is good, enjoyable, and it is proper in its assigned context of marriage between a man and a woman, but when it is perverted into any form of immorality then it has become an enslaving sin.
Our bodies are not our own to do with as we please. We have been bought with at extreme cost and we owe the allegiance of our bodies to the one who has bought us. Our bodies are to be used for the expressed function of glorifying God. Our bodies belong to the Lord and he decides what is good and proper conduct, and it does not matter how strongly one's feeling may be invested in the matter.