Posts Tagged ‘Obedience’

1 Corinthians 10:20-23

In 1 Corinthians 10:20-23 Paul continues to teach around the eating of meat offered to idols. Some of the Corinthian church felt that by their participation in the Lord’s table, they were safe in Him. But Paul answers that they disgrace the Lord’s table when they fellowship with idols. “No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.” The seemingly innocent fellowship of some of the Corinthian Christians with demons, by participating in the dinners at the pagan temples, will provoke the Lord to jealousy. He has a right over all our worship, and has a right to be offended if we give our fellowship to demons. Our worship must be His and His alone.

We can’t have a split loyalty in our worship. Jesus demands to be the only One we worship. We can’t have it both ways. “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” It doesn’t matter that the Corinthian Christians didn’t intend to worship demons at these heathen feasts in pagan temples. If a man puts his hand into the fire, it doesn’t matter if he intends to burn himself or not, he is burned just the same. Just the act of eating based on food offered to idols was participation in idol worship and Paul is clear it has to be stopped.

Why, you ask? Because God along is worthy of our praise. He has the right to demand and require that it be His and we are not free to spread it around. If we do, we will provoke Him. “Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?” The argument from the Corinthian Christians was that they had the right to eat at the pagan temples because of their strong faith. But that does not excuse wrong behavior. And when that faith is put alongside God, which will be stronger? We don’t want to be in a position of provoking God’s jealousy by our actions. He is far stronger than we will ever be.

Paul boils it down to a principle – don’t just avoid things that are harmful, but do the things that are good. It’s really pretty simple. Life is full of choices that we face each day. We have to choose wisely. The Corinthian Christians focused on their own “rights” and “knowledge,” only asked one question: “What’s the harm to me?” Instead of only asking that question, they needed to also ask, “What good can this be for me?“ “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.” Just because something is permitted does not mean it is beneficial. The Corinthians did not seek the helpful things, or the things that would build up the body of Christ. Instead of wanting to walk with Jesus as much as they could, they wanted to know how much they could get away with and still be Christians. That’s the wrong approach!

1 Corinthians 10:15-19

In 1 Corinthians 10:15-19 Paul challenges the church in Corinth, who think they are wise and know the truth, to carefully consider what he is saying. “I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.” Of course, all of Paul’s teaching needs to be compared to scripture as the ultimate authority of what is true and right. That’s the judgment Paul wants them to do. Paul continues to teach them around the culture they were participating in – eating at a pagan temple which was really fellowshiping with the altar related to idols. It was not behavior that was acceptable for a Christ Follower.

Just as the Christian practice of communion speaks of unity and fellowship with Jesus, so these pagan banquets, given in the honor of idols, spoke of unity with demons who took advantage of misdirected worship.“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” Their intent was not to be a partaker of idolatry in all likelihood, but to eat at the same table with someone indicated friendship and fellowship with that person. By eating at the pagan temple banquets, it appeared to others that these Corinthians Christians were worshiping idols.

And since they ate of one bread, that made them one body, because they shared the same food at the same table. So to eat at the table of a pagan temple restaurant was not as innocent as it seemed. “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” The symbolic outcome of the decision to eat meat sacrificed to idols is that the person was aligned with idol worship. It sent the wrong message to everyone. “Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?” Actions mean things, and sometimes how we act brings a message that does not align with what we mean to communicate.

Paul’s been clear that idols are dead – nothing at all in this world. He isn’t changing his position here, but he does say demonic spirits take advantage of idol worship to deceive and enslave people. Without knowing it, idol worshippers are glorifying demons in their sacrifice. “What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?” The Corinthian Christians thought, “Since an idol is not real, it doesn’t matter what we eat, and it doesn’t matter where we eat it.” Paul answers by agreeing that an idol is in itself nothing, but also explains that demons take advantage of man’s ignorant and self-serving worship. So while it isn’t technically an issue to eat it, the act sets one up for other issues much more severe.

1 Corinthians 10:13-14

In 1 Corinthians 10:13-14 Paul is teaching a key principle and promise we all need to cling to. God is faithful – He will never let us down. If we fall to sin it is because we made that choice, not because God failed us. God has promised to supervise all temptation that comes at us through the world, the flesh or the devil. He promises to limit it according to our capability to endure it – according to our capability as we rely on Him, not our capability as we rely only on ourselves. “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability…” Remember that Satan’s desire for you and me is to “kill, steal and destroy”. He would destroy us in a minute if God would let him.

But God doesn’t just let him destroy us. Like a mom who keeps her child from the candy aisle in a store, knowing the child couldn’t handle that temptation, God keeps us from things we can’t handle. But what we can and can’t handle changes over the years. God has promised to not only limit our temptation, but also to provide a way of escape in tempting times. He will never force us to use the way of escape, but he will make the way of escape available. It’s up to us to take God’s way of escape. “…but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

The way of escape does not lead us to a place where we escape all temptation (that is heaven alone). The way of escape leads us to the place where we may be able to bear it. We will be tempted, that’s clear because the enemy wants to destroy us and temptation that he can use to lead us to sin is his chosen way to do that. But Paul reminds us that to be tempted is not sin, but to entertain temptation or surrender to temptation is sin. It is the choice we make regarding temptation, which is totally our own, that determines whether temptation becomes sin or not. When we bear temptation, Satan often condemns us for being tempted, but that is condemnation from Satan the Christian does not need to accept. It is merely a lie of the enemy.

Paul then tells the Corinthians to flee from  the idolatry at the pagan temples. It was there and happening around them every day. “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” Though the Corinthian Christians had the liberty to buy meat at the pagan temple butcher shop and prepare it in their own homes, Paul tells them they should flee from idolatry in regards to the restaurant of the pagan temple. Using the example of Israel, and their lapse into idolatry, Paul tells the Corinthian Christians not to participate in the dinners served at the pagan temple. It may seem harmless, which is how Satan always positions temptation, but there are consequences that we must be wise to so we can resist.

1 Corinthians 10:5-8

In 1 Corinthians 10:5-8 Paul continues his history lesson on the days of the Exodus. He reminds the Corinthian church that despite all the blessings and spiritual privileges give to the Israelites in the wilderness, they did not please God. In light of all those blessings, gratitude should have made them more pleasing to God, but they were not. “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.” “Most of them” is a significant understatement. Only two men from the adult generation that left Egypt came into the Promised Land, that being Joshua and Caleb. The rest never made it in.

The displeasure of God with the Israelites was evident because they never entered into the Promised Land, but died in the wilderness instead. For all their blessings and spiritual experiences, they never entered into what God really had for them. Paul warns the Corinthian church to beware, because just as Israel was blessed and had amazing spiritual experiences, they still perished – and the same could happen to some of the Corinthian Christians as well! Clarke wrote “It seems as if the Corinthians had supposed that their being made partakers of the ordinances of the Gospel, such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper, would secure their salvation, notwithstanding, they might be found partaking of idolatrous feasts; as long, at least, as they considered an idol to be nothing in the world.”

We can, and should, learn from Israel’s failure in the wilderness. “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.” They failed in that they could not say “no” to their desires, and so we must not lust after evil things as they did. The Corinthian Christians who insisted on eating meat sacrificed to idols, even though they led other Christians into sin, just couldn’t say “no.” “Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” Israel failed to keep their focus on God, and they started giving themselves to idolatry. Some in the Corinthians church made an idol out of their own “knowledge” and their own “rights.”

But wait, there was more to learn from their example. Israel, in their idolatry, surrendered to the temptation of sexual immorality. “We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.” We know the Corinthian Christians were having trouble with sexual immorality and it is connected with their selfish desire to please themselves. God made clear how he felt about the disobedience of the Israelites as 23,000 died in a single day. They sinned, and God responded. Paul is warning the Corinthian church that God is still on the throne and they are putting their future are risk by indulging in sexual sin.

1 Corinthians 8:9-13

In 1 Corinthians 8:9-13 Paul continues teaching about eating meat sacrificed to idols. He’s been clear that it isn’t wrong to do so. Not everyone may choose that approach, but now he gets down to the real truth about how we respond to a number of these personal choice issues as Christ Followers. A Corinthian Christian with “superior knowledge” might feel the personal liberty to eat meat sacrificed to idols. But is he exercising this liberty in a way that becomes a stumbling block? “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” How we live and the choices we make impact more than merely ourselves. Paul challenges us to look around.

There was a feeling by some in the Corinth church that not eating this meat was a sign of weakness. Why is the brother who will not eat the meat sacrificed to an idol considered weak? Many Christians would consider such a one to be the “stronger” Christian. But Paul is not speaking about being weak or strong in regard to self-control, but in regard to knowledge. “For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?” We don’t live in a bubble that has no impact on those around us. We have to pay attention to those we touch.

To influence the weak brother to go against his conscience (and thereby wound their weak conscience) is actually to sin against Christ. The Corinthian Christians who were abusing their liberty might have been thinking it was a small matter to offend their weak brothers, but they did not understand they were offending Christ. “And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.” When we cause another to stumble, we are in fact guilty of sin. Our freedom does not give us a ticket to hurt another. “Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.”

So Paul ends the chapter with the principle we need to learn. He makes the principle clear. Our actions can never be based just on what we know to be right for ourselves; we also need to consider what is right in regard to our brothers and sisters in Jesus. “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” It is easy for a Christian to say, “I answer to God and God alone” and to ignore his brother or sister. It is true we will answer to God and God alone; but we will answer to God for how we have treated our brother or sister. Are you paying attention to those in your patch who watch what you say and do? We have responsibility to live in a way that doesn’t cause others to stumble.

1 Corinthians 8:5-8

In 1 Corinthians 8:5-8 Paul tackles the concept of ‘so-called gods’ that we may believe exist. Indeed, in the ancient world, there were many, many different gods – and even gods known as the unknown god to cover any gods one might have missed! He also calls them ‘lords’ which signified a deity that one might worship. That was the environment of the day, and those gods and lords found there way into the church in Corinth because they were so ingrained in the culture from long ago. But Paul takes a hard stand in correcting those who believed there were many of either gods or lords. He makes it clear there is One.

Paul isn’t distinguishing Jesus from God, as if Jesus were not God. When Paul calls Jesus ‘Lord’, he uses the Greek word kurios, and this word would have meant something to Bible reading people in Paul’s day. Here’s what Morris said about Paul’s use of the word Lord: “This term could be no more than a polite form of address like our ‘Sir.’ But it could also be used of the deity one worships. The really significant background, though, is its use in the Greek translation of the Old Testament to render the divine name, Yahweh…. Christians who used this as their Bible would be familiar with the term as equivalent to deity.”

Paul makes it even more clear that there is one God and one Lord when he reminds us that all things flow from and through them. Nothing happens that doesn’t flow through the purview of God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. “For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth – as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords” – yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” The Corinthian church was questioning eating meat offered to idols but Paul makes clear that anything other than the true God doesn’t even exist.

The Corinthian Christians who felt free to eat at the pagan temple may have based their freedom on correct knowledge. But not everyone had that knowledge. “However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.” Paul makes clear that you aren’t more spiritual if you know idols are nothing, and feel a personal freedom to eat meat sacrificed to idols. “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.” Nor is anyone less spiritual for abstaining from meat sacrificed to idols. The point is that this decision is not universal for all, but rather what we know and how God leads us.

1 Corinthians 8:1-4

In 1 Corinthians 8:1-4 Paul moves on from teaching about marriage to their questions regarding eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Quite a shift in topics. The meat offered on pagan altars was usually divided into three portions. One portion was burnt in honor of the god, one portion was given to the worshiper to take home and eat, and the third portion was given to the priest. If the priest didn’t want to eat his portion, he sold it at the temple restaurant or meat market. This was usually cheaper than what was available anywhere else, so some saw it as a bargain and felt it was a deal too good to pass up.

But some in the church had issues with this practice and didn’t feel it was appropriate to eat meat that had been brought to the temple as a sacrifice. “Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.” Instead of talking about food, Paul first talks about the principles of knowledge and love. Christian behavior is founded on love, not knowledge; and the goal of the Christian life is not knowledge, but love. Both knowledge and love have an effect on our lives in that each of them make something grow. The difference between puffs up and builds up is striking; it is the difference between a bubble and a building. Some Christians grow, others just swell!

The reality is that none of us really know anything apart from God and His wisdom and knowledge which He makes available to us because of His love for us. Based on our own ability we don’t know squat. “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.” If we think we know it all, we really don’t know anything. Yet, there is a knowledge that is important: the knowledge God has of those who love Him. “But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” God alone is the source of all wisdom and knowledge and we receive that from God through relationship with God. He gives it to us as He loves and knows us.

Paul levels the discussion to the reality that there is nothing except God and a bunch of fake stuff that become idols made by human means. Because there is only One True God, idols are not competing gods. Idols are therefore nothing in the world, and are only so-called gods because man chooses to make them such. Their existence is meaningless because they are not real. God alone is worthy of our praise and adoration. He alone sits on the throne of the universe as ruler of all mankind. “Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” Any concern about idols is misplaced as they aren’t even reality.

%d bloggers like this: