The phrase that Paul repeats means: ‘I am free to do whatever I want’. It actually appears 4 times in the Book of 1 Corinthians - see 1 Corinthians 10:23. Each time, Paul considers it necessary to add something to the basic statement. There is something true about the statement. But by itself, the statement is wrong and dangerous.
Christians are free people because of their relationship with Christ (Romans 8:1-2; Galatians 3:24-25). The purpose of God’s law is not to control his people; they are genuinely free (Galatians 5:1). The law exists to show people that they need Christ to save them (Galatians 3:19; Romans 2:12). But after God has saved someone, the Holy Spirit should guide that person’s life (Galatians 5:18).
The Christians in Corinth considered themselves free. And they had seen evidence that the Holy Spirit was working in their lives (14: 27-32). But Paul insisted that they were not yet mature in their Christian lives (3:1). They were doing what they themselves wanted to do (3:3). So they were not doing what God wanted them to do.
When a Christian really is mature, there is no difference. The mature Christian wants to do whatever God wants him to do. For that person, the statement is true: ‘I am free to do whatever I want’. That is the person whom the Holy Spirit really is guiding.
For other people, however, the statement is wrong. They may be free, but they want the wrong things. Christians should not do evil and bad things. Christians should not allow wicked desires to rule their lives. Instead, they must actively choose to do the things that God wants them to do.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.