Sermon on 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Text: 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.
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.
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.
As citizens of the United States, we are guaranteed certain freedoms. Some of the include the freedom of religion, the freedom of assembly, and the freedom to keep and bear arms. We hold and guard these freedoms. If someone tries to infringe on these freedoms, we resist. However, we run into problems when we have to figure out where my freedoms end and where yours begins. In addition, we have the balance between having the freedom and using the freedom. I have the freedom to say what I wish, but there are times when it would not be appropriate to do so. There is the freedom of the press. However, do they have the obligation to print everything that they know about everyone, or are there times when the privacy of the person and just plain good taste are more important? It is a tricky balancing act between having a freedom and using that freedom. The same holds true in the life of a Christian. This morning, we are encourage to EXERCISE YOUR CHRISTIAN FREEDOM CAREFULLY. 1. God Gives You Christian Freedom; Treasure It. 2. God Gave You Fellow Christians; Love Them.
A bit of background is necessary for understanding the reason that Paul wrote the words of our text. In ancient Corinth, there were many temples dedicated to the various gods of the Greek religion. Part of their worship was to take animals and sacrifice certain parts on the altars that were there. Some of the parts were prepared and a sacred banquet was held with the deity as the honored guest. The parts of the animal that were not used for the sacrifice or for the banquet were taken to the marketplace and were sold in the meat market. The question arose as to whether or not it was allowed to buy the meat in the market. After all, it had been, at one time, part of an offering to an idol.
Paul reminded the Corinthians of these facts in verses 4-6, “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.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 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.” First and foremost, Paul states that “An idol is nothing at all in the world.” Idols are nothing. They are meaningless. The reason for this is the fact that, as Paul says, “There is no God but one.” There is only one God. Even though others may call things “gods,” they do not exist. So, any worship of them is useless. In that day, there was the worship of the emperor. He was looked upon as a deity. Yet, they, too, are subordinate to God. It all comes down to this statement: “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.” This God that we worship showed his almighty power in the fact that he created us. He also showed his amazing love in the fact that he came to the earth to rescue the sinner from the fires of hell. He redeemed us. He bought us with his own blood so that we would be his own and live for him, and him alone.
Since this is true, since we live for the one true God, Paul says, there is no reason per se to be concerned with eating that meat that was sold in the market place. This is what Paul means when he wrote, “Food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.” Eating the meat was a matter of indifference that does not affect their eternal standing before God.
This entire subject that we are dealing with in this sermon is the subject of adiaphora, that is to say, those things that God has neither commanded us to do or forbidden us from doing them. There are certain things that God is very clear about, as to whether we do them or not. His law, as we see, for example, in the Ten Commandments, so very clearly shows us what is right and what is wrong. In this regard, there is no debate. However, there are many things that you and I have the Christian freedom to choose what we want to do or not to do.
For example, we can choose whatever foods we might like to eat. In the Old Testament, they had very specific laws about their diet. We are free to eat whatever we might like. There is no more God-pleasing diet than another. Another example would be that we are free to choose the clothing we would like to wear. As long as it is modest, there is no law saying that we must dress this way or that. The list goes on and on of the things that we have the freedom to choose.
Sometimes, this freedom is abused when someone insists that it must be this way or that. They make a law where God has not. Some churches say that it is a sin to eat any meat or that certain meats are not allowed on certain days. Others will tell the women in their church that they have to dress a certain way. If they allow their arms to show, it is a sin. They insist where God has not. The inevitable offshoot of this is legalism, which leads to the idea that you are doing something to help out God in your salvation. You are better than the rest because you are following extra laws. This is what the Pharisees of Jesus’ time were doing. If someone insists that you do something or not do something that has not clearly said one way or the other, we must resist, lest it harm our salvation. God has given us freedom. We want to treasure it and protect it.
Taking it a step farther, Paul writes, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” While you would have no problem doing or not doing something, there may be a fellow believer who would have difficulty doing it. Even though they know that is neither forbidden nor commanded, it would bother their conscience to do so. What are you to do, then? We need to be careful that our exercise of our freedom does not harm their faith life. Yes, it may be perfectly fine for me to do this, but for me to insist upon it at the expense of a fellow believer’s faith would be wrong.
For example, a number of years ago, there would be some who would say that any sort of playing cards was wrong. We know from the Scriptures that God has neither forbidden nor commanded it. If I was with a fellow Christian who was having difficulty with the concept of playing cards, it would be completely unloving of me to flaunt my freedom and play cards. Yes, I have the knowledge of right and wrong, but I would not be looking out for the best interests of my brother or sister in the faith. This point is summarized for us in the first verses of our text, “We know that ‘We all possess knowledge.’ But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.” Yes, you know that you have the right to do something, but is it loving for you to insist on it to the point of harming someone else’s faith?
Paul brings this point into focus in verses 11and 12, “So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” When we act this way, Paul says, we are sinning against them. It is a sin against the command, “Love your neighbor.” Furthermore, Paul says, we are sinning against Christ. Jesus loved that person so much that he came to rescue them from the eternity of punishment in hell. How dare I set myself up as being more important and my freedom being more important than theirs is?
May God forgive us for the times that we have done this, when we have insisted that it be this way or that way, as though God himself were saying it was so, and if you are not doing it this way you are doing what is tantamount to sin. We come to him and confess those times to him. We hear from him that our sins are forgiven because Jesus came for us to be our perfect Sacrifice, who rose from the dead. We pray that God would give us the wisdom to see the freedoms that we have been given and the love to use them in a way that is beneficial for his Church. This might even come to our own personal expense. Paul gives an example in verse 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.” If he thought that the exercise of his freedom to eat this meat would so harm the conscience of his fellow believer, he would basically become a vegetarian. Why? The answer is that Jesus loved that person so much that he died for them. Since that is true, I want to do nothing that will put stumbling blocks in their faith walk, so that they get distracted from keeping their eyes on Jesus. May God give us the same love for those around us, that we do everything we can to help them, as together we serve our Lord. This is another way that we put our faith into action. That is what is being described in verse 3, “Whoever loves God is known by God.” I show that I am known by God, that I am a believer, as I live my life of love for him and for those around me.
As we said earlier, we have certain freedoms in our country. With those freedoms come certain responsibilities. I have the freedom of speech, but it would be wrong for me to yell, “Fire!” in a crowded room. The exercise of my freedom would cause confusion and possibly injuries to the others that were in the room with me. We thank God for the freedoms that are ours because of the work of Jesus. We thank him that he gives the opportunities to choose how we will praise him, since we want every part of our lives to glorify him. We pray that he would help us to see them as freedoms and not laws that we must insist upon. We also pray that God would give us such a loving heart that we will look upon our fellow believers and see how we can help them as they live for God, as well. May we take to heart the words of verse 1, “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” May God give us this spirit of love for him and for others. Amen.
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