My Way Or The Wrong Way – (1 Corinthians 8)

First Corinthians was written by Paul to the Corinth church in response to several areas in which there was confusion and division. In chapter 8, Paul is addressing the issue of whether or not it was spiritually correct to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. And his response tackles the difficult subject of how we as Christians are to balance exercising our freedom in Christ with our responsibility of restricting our freedom when it comes to edifying others.

The matter of whether or not to eat the meat may seem a trivial one to us, but to the people of Corinth it was a very important matter. Almost all social gatherings had a religious connotation, and usually the meat sold in the marketplace had been sacrificed to idols in the pagan temples. Some believers were concerned that by eating the meat they were defiling themselves or participating in idol worship. Yet others who were more knowledgeable in the Gospel, felt free to eat the meat with no condemnation. For as 1 Timothy 4:4 tells us, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude.”

In ancient Greek culture knowledge was everything. The Corinthians, including members of the church, prided themselves in all they knew. But Paul taught there’s a difference between worldly knowledge and spiritual knowledge.  “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that

we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.”, (vs. 1-3)  Worldly knowledge can lead to arrogance and cause us to promote ourselves. But knowledge that is led by the Spirit and expressed with godly love, frees us to serve Him and His people.

For Paul it didn’t matter if it was right to eat the meat. And he didn’t say, “There’s my way and the wrong way”. Instead Paul warned how our behaviors can detrimentally impact those around us. In this instance it was immature members of the church who didn’t feel at liberty to eat the sacrificed meat. He cautioned hat by seeing fellow believers partake, they would become confused, and stumble back into their old sinful ways. “For if someone sees you who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died.”, (vs. 10-11)

Have you ever really stopped to think about how your actions and decisions can affect fellow believers?  Have you ever been in a situation where you knew you were free in Christ to participate but declined for the benefit of another? For example, lets say you’re at a New Years Eve party. At the strike of midnight you raise your glass of champagne ready to toast and drink. Yet as you do, you notice a fellow Christian who struggles with alcohol watching. What do you do? Paul tells us the right response is to set the glass down. Better to limit our own freedom than to cause a weaker believer to sin. It’s natural for our first concern to be our needs and rights. But if we follow the teaching of Paul, all we do will be with the view of glorifying God, edifying His people, and growing His kingdom.

We are all familiar with John 15:13 which says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”  Love dictates that as followers of Jesus we want the best for all of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to be willing to give up our life for another, but what about our prejudices, biases, opinions, rights, and political views?  Are we also willing to give up the idea of “my way or the wrong way” and instead, in love, lay down anything that would cause another to stumble?

 

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