What Is Expediency?
Bryan R Braswell

The apostle Paul wrote by inspiration (I Corinthians 14:37; II Peter 3:15,16) of the Holy Spirit stated, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (I Corinthians 6:12).  Have you ever thought closely at what the apostle Paul was writing in this verse—context?  When Paul was writing this letter to the Corinthians we must look at the context to understand what he meant in the verse.  Paul is writing to them concerning several issues that had been brought to his attention according to chapter 1:11.  In This letter Paul, because of the house of Chloe, is going to address some issues dealing with “contentions” or factions that had developed since he had been there (Acts 18).

In order to understand the idea of what is an expediency it is very important to understand the context of how the word is used.  Plainly defined the word means, something advantageous, or advisable on practical rather than moral grounds, or something suitable, appropriate, or finally a means of attaining an end to a means.  This, in and of itself, is pretty vague without a context.  Expediency can be rather important depending on the situation we are talking about.  If it is an issue dealing with a broad application then it may have more of a broad importance, because of its effect on a society, or application.  If it is a matter of personal or individual application then it may not be deemed as important because of the immediate context and thus it would not be as influential, yet very necessary for personal relationships.  The point is this, expediency and matters of expedience are necessary in every setting whether individual or remote dealing with personal relationships and communication.  Expediency is all about making wise judgments for the good of a person or people.  Expediency and matters of expedience are all about “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
Examination of Expediency

When we look at the word in the Greek it is transliterated—sumphero.  The word is found in the Greek New Testament seventeen times.  The interesting factor is that the word is not always translated into the English as expedient or expediency.  It most often is translated in passages in other forms such as profit or profitable, better for, good etc.  (For the listing of passages see the end of the article.)  With this in mind, this gives other connotations of the meaning.  When we think of matters of expediency we need to be thinking about matters of profit, or matters that are profitable to the individual or persons, or something that is for the good or betterment of a people.

This definition is still vague though.  Without a context or standard it is impossible to arrive at a beneficial example of expediency.  Matters of Expediency are determined by a setting in which they evolve.  As noted in the first section of the article, they are matters that involve wisdom and judgment.  That is the main focus we want to shift to now.  What are biblical examples of expediency and how does it teach us to apply them in our lives as Christians contending for the faith once delivered unto the saints (Jude 3).
Examination of I Corinthians Context

As also noted in the first sentence of this article the apostle Paul is obviously going to deal with matters at Corinth.  Because of the several factions and heresies taking place, Paul deals with them in the most expedient way, or the most beneficial way.  Based upon the standard of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, Paul basis every matter as stated in I Corinthians 1:10 (Colossians 3:17).  Everything in the churches of Christ is to be based upon this standard.  This may sound simple, but when we look around us and see all the division in the world and especially in the church where do we turn?  Therefore the statement of Paul in I Corinthians 1:10 is simply profound!  It is a matter of focus and intent toward the will of God revealed unto us by His word (Hebrews 4:12).

The apostle Paul again refers to the idea in the tenth chapter after dealing with several issues in preceding chapters (10:23).  The key to this verse is the end statement, “but all things edify not.” That is, not everything lawful now under the authority of Jesus Christ (1:10) would necessarily build up or help one that may be weak in the faith.  The matters Paul will deal with are such as eating of meats and idols in the eighth chapter.  Paul in this chapter speaks of those being puffed up by knowledge—therefore knowledge alone is not enough, it takes love applied by knowledge which edifies (8:1; 13:1-8).  Paul addresses the issue of idols, and meats offered to them being nothing—vanity (8:4-6).  But, because some might not understand this as a “babe” in Christ this might offend them and it would not be “expedient” to partake or engage in this event.  A weak brother or sister without proper explanation and education of this principle might be offended—stumble (8:7-13).  Paul even states that we must be very careful not to let our knowledge be a stumbling block to those that are without understanding as of yet (8:9).  Paul states that it is a sin to do so wounding the weak brothers conscience (8:12; Romans 14:23).  These are matters of intent and we must not forget this.  This issue brings up many issues and those must be dealt with as they arise.  The point is this; we must not do things that are matters of opinion that will cause a weak brother or sister to stumble.  Our intent is always to edify and build up the body of Christ in the most beneficial way according to the pattern of the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).
Expediency Explained Practically

These issues and teachings in the New Testament are plain when the context is examined.  The apostle Paul also deals with similar issues in the fourteenth chapter of Romans.  Some have tried to teach this principle in order to justify matters of doctrinal error in the church.  Matters such as instrumental music, principles of fellowship, and all elements that destroy the purity of the church are not matters of expediency but destruction.  We need to make sure that we are doing all things to edify and build one another up in the most holy faith (Jude 20).

Elders have been given the responsibility to “feed the church of God” (Acts 20:28).  This responsibility does not include destroying the purity of the church, but rather expediting teaching and feeding based upon the will of God that will exude into unity (Ephesians 4:3).  Too many churches have been subdued into the modern trends of society when it comes to religion.  Elderships must decide what is most expedient for the congregation, but this is all based upon the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17).  Paul said that the Romans were established by the gospel of Jesus Christ and in that they would continue being established by it (Romans 16:25).  For some reason we have churches today that feel that entertainment is a part of this.  This is not Paul’s concept of feeding the church and certainly not a matter of Biblical expediency.  We must be very careful when we associate recreation with the work of the church.

Expediency is all about dealing with matters of opinion.  It is all about making the righteous decision’s based upon the will of God.  This is a matter all about God’s will (doctrine) and not my will.  We must make very wise judgments when it comes down to how we expedite expediency.  This matter decides how sound a church is or isn’t.  Soundness is a part of this.  We live in a society that doesn’t understand this principle.  When we are continually debating over the letter of the law and forget the spirit of the law then we may have lost our balance.  Or, if we only try to think about the spirit of the law and forget the letter of law the same may occur.  We must maintain balance in this matter.  The key here is to read and study your Bible individually and make the right application in a societal setting or with personal relationships.  If we will do this then the unity of the Spirit will permeate through our brotherhood and in our personal relationships.  Our sanctification is maintained through our knowledge of Him and in that knowledge we must grow, and that’s the ultimate expediency (John 17:17; II Peter 1:2-11; 3:18)!

Expediency in the Greek New Testament
1.  Matthew 5:29 = profitable
2.  Matthew 5:30 = profitable
3.  Matthew 18:6 = better
4.  Matthew 19:10 = good
5.  John 11:50 = expedient for
6.  John 16:7 = expedient for
7.  John 18:14 = was expedient
8.  Acts 19:19 = brought their books together—verb used here is transitive where all other places it is used intransitive
9.  Acts 20:20 = that was profitable
10.  I Corinthians 6:12 = expedient
11.  I Corinthians 7:35 = profit
12.  I Corinthians 10:23 = expedient
13.  I Corinthians 10:33 = profit
14.  I Corinthians 12:7 = profit
15.  II Corinthians 8:10 = expedient
16.  II Corinthians 12:1 = expedient
17.  Hebrews 12:10 = profit

Please e-mail me (Bryan Braswell) if you have any questions: bngbraz2@aol.com

©2001 This paper may be freely distributed as long as there is no cost to others and no changes to the content of any material in this paper.

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