1 Cor 8:1-13-11:1 – Freedom in relation to our Neighbour
So where are we again:
Corinth a city full of idols; Basically an idol for everything; Emperor was seen as Lord; Strong believe in demons. The problem was that most idols and their temples were related to sacrificial systems. So the question was what do we do with the meat that is sacrificed; Can we eat it?; Can we buy it?
It is difficult to address chapters 8, 9 and 10 separately because they are part of an argument that Paul is making: “Freedom and Responsibility” So in this preach I will try to address all 3 chapters.
The council at Jerusalem
The big meeting about what to do with the gentiles…. Explain the situation (read Acts 15)…. Many gentiles became Christians and the question was what do we do with? What do we ask of them relating to their lifestyle. Do they need to obey the law, circumcision? Conclusion of James the leader in Jerusalem.
19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.
So is Paul contradicting this conclusion by James in his letter to the Corinthians? He is definitely challenging James’ argument. It is argued that Paul is the only one he permits eating food offered to idols… The Jews would have had objections since: It was meant for idolatry; no tithing by gentile over the meat; it wasn’t killed in the right way. Paul was faced with a dilemma. Keeping both parties happy…
- Choosing to build up
1 Corinthians 8:1-3
Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God.
Two parties: Legalistics: “Do what the law says”; Libertines: “We know better – be free.” So the question is: What is the most important thing when it comes to food regulations or any regulations in general: our motivation should be LOVE driven.
11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”
“Knowledge devoid of love and of power to edify, when we look at it more nearly, is not even true knowledge.”
Paul’s word choice is interesting: ‘knowledge’ (gnosis) = like a balloon – inflate by blowing; ‘builds up’ (oikodomei) = oikos (house) demeo (to build) – to build a house.
“Prick a balloon and it bursts; lean on a wall and it holds your weight.”
8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces[d]? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?
It is more about God knowing us than we knowing Him. Which has priority in our life? Knowledge should not lead to pride but to humility. The outcome of true knowledge should result in an attitude of giving. What can I give instead of what’s in it for me. God being the ultimate example, He has given and is giving everything He has.
1 Corinthians 13:8
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
So it is not about how much we know or how good we are with applying our knowledge, it’s about building up our brothers and sisters up in love. Applying knowledge with wisdom. So some questions we can ask ourselves as a church: Are people brought closer to God? Are Christians strengthened in their faith? Are people glad to have met us?
- There is no competition
1 Corinthians 8:4-6
4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
We serve the same God so we don’t have to compete with one another, but similarly we serve the one God so we don’t need other gods or idols. On of the Corinthian slogans was “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” Paul emphasises that they are right about the fact that there is one God, he only reminds them that all other so called “gods” are idols and not the same as our God. Not all ways lead to the same God. Paul saw Jesus (his conversion – see Acts 9) – he needed to convince people but he would never doubt his own faith in Christ. I was reading about two testimonies in the Middle east of a Turk and a Sudanese; one of them was on a pilgrimage when Jesus appeared to him in the middle of the day; the other awakened by Jesus in the night on three occasions!!! So if there are multiple ways that lead to God why is Jesus revealing himself to people who so called other gods? Paul wants to make sure that the Corinthians would never think that their are any more gods beside the one God. There is only one God and the rest that are claimed to be gods are idols. We serve one God, the father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ!
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
This is what the Jewish religious people literally do. And it’s something we can forget to pass on to the next generation. Idols are an expression of unreality. The only real God is YHWH and every other god can be classed as false.
17 They sacrificed to false gods, which are not God—
gods they had not known,
gods that recently appeared,
gods your ancestors did not fear.
People who worship idols, worship demons…. That is not something you hear everyday…
1 Corinthians 10:19-24
19 Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. 22 Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he? 23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
We shouldn’t underestimate the influence of idol worshiping on an unbeliever since most situation they need deliverance when they become Christian since idol worship is basically demon worship.
- It’s not about me
7 But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. 9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.
One can say that different things in life have a different impact on an individual; because of our freedom we are not necessarily affected by it, but! This doesn’t mean we should do everything we want to. It should lead us to live according to God’s values but just so important to build our fellow believer or even our neighbour!
23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
We are called to life a live of focus. The western world is facing one of the biggest issues we can face: DISTRACTION! It leads you into a place where you don’t want to be! The faith of somebody else can be affected by our actions which can lead them away from God which Paul takes really serious (verse 12). True freedom places your brother or sister’s need before you own……
In chapter 9 Paul goes on to describe how his rights are not his primary focus in life. He wants to life so that others might be saved. He comes to the following conclusion:
1 Corinthians 9:26-27
26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Further on, Paul gives a summary of Israel’s journey from Egypt to warn us against idolatry.
1 Corinthians 10:6
6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were
Than Paul goes back to his train of thought from chapter 8. So Paul goes on talking about eating food offered to idols in which he says the following:
1 Corinthians 10:15
15 I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.
1 Corinthians 10:23-24
23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
So what? What will I do with this knowledge? How can I apply food offered to idols to the Western world I live in?
1 Corinthians 10:27-29
27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience?
We are free to eat if we don’t the origins of the food, but if we know the origins of the food we are free to say no since we are free from other people’s judgement. If we say no, we decide on behalf of our weaker brother or sister.
1 Corinthians 10:31-33
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
1 Corinthians 11:1
1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
Thought and prayer for the week:
What could be an area in your life where you apply your freedom in Christ in a way that is not helpful for your walk in discipleship?
Challenge for the week:
Access in which way your freedom in Christ is visible in your daily life.
See below a summary of the different sources used. Most of them are good quality commentaries on Corinthians. You can always ask me (Jeroen) for the full titles.
1. Bailey, 229.
2. Godet, I, 408.
3. Prior, 143.
4. Bailey, 247.