Well, good morning. It is great to see you again. My name is Joe and one of the pastors here. And I’ll tell you what I was so excited about today. There’s so much great stuff happening. I had the opportunity to open God’s word today. We had child dedications. I’ve got a student that used to be in my life group who’s now a grown man that I have lunch with after church.
There’s a Super Bowl party later for high school students. So I set my alarm. I got up really early, got dressed, shaved my head, got in my car. I’m driving. I’m driving the church. And I am just about here. And I look down and I have only an undershirt on. I have my slacks, my dress shoes, no dress shirt.
And I’m like, is this real life? So I drove back home and found my dress shirt where it was hung up from the previous evening and came this morning. So that has nothing to do with anything. It’s just if you’re new here, just know we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We’re glad that you’re here and we’re glad to open God’s word this morning.
And to add maybe to the awkwardness, the text this morning from First Corinthians eight poses this question Should we eat meat that has been offered to idols? Interesting question. Probably not one that you thought of this week. You probably didn’t roll through the drive thru order of Big Mac and think has this meat been offered to idols? You may have had a lot of questions about its origins, but probably not if it was offered to idols or not.
Let me give you a little bit of background. So we’re in the study in this book called First Corinthians. It’s a letter from the Apostle Paul to the church in corns. They had written him a letter and asked him all sorts of questions. And this is his response. Now, the city of Corinth was sort of like Wall Street and Las Vegas combined.
It was where people went to make money. It was kind of an economic center of Greece. And it was also where people went to have a good time. And there was this little church plant. And there are people who are wondering, how do we live the Christian life in the context of the pagan surroundings? And they sent this letter again to Paul to ask him a lot of questions about how to do that.
One of the questions being, can we eat meat, sacrifice to idols? Now, here’s what was happening in pagan worship ritual. A meat sacrifice would often be brought to that specific pagan temple. Whatever God they were worshiping and the meat would be divided into three portions. The first portion would be burned as a sacrifice to the idol. The second portion would go to the priests or to the people who worked in that temple.
And the third would go back to the person who was bringing the sacrifice. And sometimes they would have a little picnic, sort of a religious meal around the temple. And then oftentimes what was what would happen is that very meat would get sold in the marketplace. So it could be difficult in accordance to actually find the meat that had not been a part of some sort of pagan ritual.
And there are two sides of the equation in the church at corn. There are people in the church of corn who are saying these idols, they’re just stone in wood. There’s no real God. There’s no real spirit. It’s not like the meat is going to be it’s going to have some sort of a demon in it or something.
Just eat it. It’s not that big of a deal. There are also some others on the other side who actually are like, you know, I’ve lived my whole life in this pagan ritual and eating meat offered to idols just makes me feel dirty. It goes against my conscience. It doesn’t make me feel right with God. And it could be that it even tempts me to go back into those old ways.
So they ask Paul, what which way is right? How do we make decisions about the gray areas in our faith? How do you and I make decisions about the things that the Bible doesn’t prohibit? And neither does it come in. It doesn’t say that you shouldn’t do this. Neither does it say that you should do this. And you know these like we bump into them all the time.
Maybe it’s can I, as a follower of Jesus, can I listen to the same music that I used to listen to? Do I need to listen to just Christian music now? Can I listen to Taylor Swift and I listen to Metallica? Where do I draw the line? Can I watch the same sort of movies that I used to watch?
Can I still date the same person? Can I smoke? Cigarets. What about cigars? How about a pipe? Can I get a tattoo? Body piercings now that I’m old enough to drink legally? Should I dancing? What sort of dancing is okay for a Christian? Do we celebrate Halloween or not? Is it okay for me to spend money on a luxury item?
How do we decide what’s right and wrong when there’s no clear biblical guidance? That’s what first Corinthians eight is going to teach us today. It’s probably not meat that sacrificed two idols for us, but this text has much to teach us about how we make decisions in the gray areas. So let’s pray together and we’ll go to God’s Word, God.
Once again this morning, I just want to come to you and and ask for your help. All these words I can say that I have planned. And unless your Holy Spirit does a miracle of taking these words and imprinting them upon the hearts, in the minds of the people that are here, we’re wasting our time. So we recognize our feebleness today.
We recognize that our minds are in constant need of being transformed. We recognize that our hearts, our affections, we often love ourselves more than we love you and more than we love others. And so we need correction. We need the guidance of your Holy Spirit. And we need the instruction of your inspired word. So would you give us ears to hear eyes to see what you would say to each of us?
Lord, there are hundreds of different life scenarios in this room, and I can’t possibly make application for all of them. And so we trust your spirit to each person in this room that you would impress upon their hearts and their minds what you want them to learn from this text today. We ask all this in Jesus powerful name in.
Then. Well, again, we’re in First Corinthians Chapter eight. If you would turn there with me, how do we make decisions? How do we determine what’s right and what’s wrong? In the gray areas, I think Paul gives us at least three guiding principles in this text. Here’s the first one. We’ve got three points. This first one’s probably going to be the longest.
So bear with me as we move through this. And then first one, let your knowledge lead to love. Let your knowledge lead to love. Verse one Now concerning food offered to idols, we know that all of us possess knowledge. No one to stop there. Really quickly, you’ll see in your Bible and on the screen, there’s this quote. We know that all of us possess knowledge.
And you’ll see these quotes throughout First Corinthians. And there there are two possibilities. The first possibility is that this was just a common maxim that Paul is quoting back to the people, or it’s possible that he’s actually quoting some words that were in the letter that they wrote to him. And so what he’s saying here is, like, I hear what you’re saying.
So maybe one of the one of the believers or one of the people who thought that it was okay to eat meat, said, hey, I know all the scriptures. I have the knowledge about what you can do and what you can’t do. And in this area, eating food, sacrifice to idols, there’s there’s freedom. I’ve studied. I have the right theology.
I have the knowledge. I know what’s the right way. And Paul says now, concerning food offered to idols, we know that all of us possess knowledge, this knowledge. So he’s talking about a specific type. This knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something he does not yet know as he ought to know.
But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. Now, it can’t be that Paul is saying that knowledge is bad because that would go against what Scripture tells us about knowledge. Gaining knowledge is important where to study and to know we will find the truth and the truth will set us free. Proverbs is dedicated to wisdom and knowledge, so it can’t be that Paul is saying that all knowledge is bad.
What he is saying is there is a specific type of knowledge that pops up. There’s knowledge that is not worked out in love, that is problematic, it’s incomplete. It’s lacking. This knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know his, he ought to know. So what’s Paul getting at?
He’s getting it. This sometimes we can have right theology and the way we wield that right theology is unloving and therefore is a problem in the relationships with our brothers and sisters. And he’s going to begin to work it out here in just a second. But then he’s this weird statement, read verse two and three again with me.
If anyone imagines that he knows something he does not yet knows, he ought to know. So I get that if you think you’re really smart and your knowledge is not working itself out in love, well, your knowledge is really incomplete. I get that. Then he says, But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. What I would expect him to say something like, but if anyone loves God, He knows as he ought to know, or he has complete knowledge or something like that.
And I wrestle with this for a while. It’s on my whiteboard in my office, trying to figure out what is what is so weird. Sentence structure. And here’s what I think Paul is doing. He’s comparing knowledge that puffs up with knowledge that humbles now the word knowledge or gnosis in the Greek is used in different senses in the Bible, in the same way that the word bough in English can be used different ways it can mean to bend at the waist or it can mean the front of a boat.
Okay. No. Knowing is used in different ways in Greek. It can mean knowledge. I know something. It can mean intimacy. Adam knew his wife and they conceived was much more than knowledge of his wife. That was happening right. And it can also be used to define relationship that God knows us and we know him. So it’s not just head knowledge of God that saves, but this word knowing is, is the love of God reaching and extending and us knowing God is loving him.
And the Bible tells us right very clearly that knowing the right theology is not what saves us. It’s not what brings us into God’s family. Right. Religious practice is not what brings us into God’s family. You can have all of the right theology and not have a relationship with God. We don’t find God. He seeks us. And so I think I think that’s what Paul’s comparing here.
If anyone loves God, right? If you love God, it’s not because you loved him first. It’s because he knew you. He loved you first. Are you tracking with me? I know we’re doing a little bit of gymnastics here, so I think what Paul’s comparing is you have this knowledge, this right theology, and it’s causing pride in you. What ought to be happening is you should see the fact that when you were yet an enemy of God, he knew you and he loved you, and he extended his grace to you.
That doesn’t puff you up. That humbles you. So he’s trying to get people’s hearts and minds into the right framework to where he can work out this issue of food, sacrifice to idols. If you just know the right things and it’s puffing you up, you’re completely off track being rescued by the grace of God, by the love of God, or to humble you.
Okay, Corinthians. Okay CVC Now he applies it to this specific area. Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that an idol has no real existence again quote and that there is no God but one for all. Though 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. 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.
So what’s happening here?
People have made statements that people who think it’s okay in their Christian freedom to eat meat offered to idols. They’re going, There’s these idols aren’t real. This is fake. It’s wood and stone. There’s there’s nothing spiritual here. Eat the meat. It’s not a problem. But Paul says not everybody realizes that. I just watched a documentary on Netflix about a really right wing fundamentalist conservative sect of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter day Saints.
And they raised these kids up in a very guarded environment, so they were not allowed out into the culture. Everything that these children learned was controlled. Well, to make a long story short, what happened is the leader of this cult, he was called the Prophet. And they presume, like everybody, like whatever the prophet says goes, he is God’s voice on earth.
And what happened is he ended up getting arrested because he was marrying off underage girls in this polygamist know they have multiple wives. He gets arrested, he goes to jail for child abuse. And this whole thing unravels and it’s clear as day that anybody watching this documentary that this guy is running a scam. He is he’s he’s got millions of dollars in the bank running this whole thing.
And they think he’s the prophet. And get this, he’s still running the church from prison because there are people that still believe him. Now, why? Because they’ve been raised in this from the time they were born and they know nothing else. So imagine a man or a woman who’s raised in a pagan religion in Corinth from the time they’re little.
That’s all they know. And they come to faith in Jesus Christ. But they’re really struggling in their mind with what these idols represent. And they’re they’ve just not quite turned the corner. And so eating meat sacrifice to those idols really bothers their conscience. Paul is saying that not all possess this knowledge, and instead of holding your right theology over their head, you need to have a little bit of compassion.
You need to let your knowledge lead to love. Here’s maybe an example. Part of my job is to make the Bible understandable to different people and different seasons of life. Different parts of their different at a different place in their spiritual growth at different ages. So if I take a concept, a theological concept, it’s difficult like justification. And I’m trying to explain, okay, how is it that a holy God takes my sin and puts it upon Jesus and takes Jesus righteousness and puts it upon me and declares me right in His eyes?
How do I explain that to a sixth grader? My job is to pray and to press my knowledge and my skill and ask for help. How do I explain this to a sixth grader now? If you were to come over, I’m teaching in Middle school and you hear me teaching at a seminary level using all sorts of big words.
Right. And the kids are zoned out. A couple of things. You probably think these kids are catching nothing of what he’s doing, but you probably think this Valente is a little full of himself. That’s what’s happening in Corinth. The people who actually know the truth, who have lived deeper into their freedom in Christ, instead of having compassion on the younger or newer brothers and sisters, they’re just trying to convince them to do what their conscience is, not allowing them to do.
Using the example of alcohol, we go out to eat with a friend and I know the friend is a new convert. Let’s just say he just came to faith in Jesus a couple of weeks ago and he came out of a life of alcoholism and partying. Now we go to dinner. Let’s say I want to drink a beer.
The Bible tells me that that’s okay. As long as I’m not getting drunk, I can order beer, dinner and drink it. There’s no guidance. One way or the other. Now, I know this brother will call him Hank. I know Hank is coming to dinner. I know Hank. Story. Well, what am I going to do in that moment? Is it helpful for me, for this brother who’s brand new in the faith and who just left a life of alcoholism and drugs and partying to say, have a beer, Hank.
It’s okay. I might negatively affect Hank’s conscience. He might be trying to get as far away from some of that old life as possible. And I need to let my knowledge lead to love. In first Corinthians 13, Paul says, If I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, if I have all faith so as to move mountains but I don’t have love, I am nothing.
Let your knowledge lead to love. Number two Let your rights lead to responsibility. Let your rights lead to responsibility. Verse eight Food will not. And this to God, we’re no worse off if we do not eat and know better if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the week.
For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged if he’s if his conscience is weak to eat food offered titles? And so by your knowledge this week person is destroyed. The the the brother for whom Christ died, thus sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience. When it is weak, you sin against Christ.
See, Paul lets us know that we’re not talking about an essential area. There are a lot of things in the Bible that are very clear Do this, don’t do that. It’s nobody’s talking about it’s very clear on a lot of things about because it’s very clear instructions. It’s not talking about this that here. And so he says food for instance what you eat it doesn’t commend you to God one way or another.
It has no effect on your salvation, your membership in God’s family. You need a hot dog. You can eat a stick of celery no matter but, he says, but be careful that this freedom of yours, this right of yours, does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. Let me use the same example of me and Hank at the restaurant.
Here’s what this says. That beer, that beer that I want to drink. If I know that it’s going to hurt Hank’s conscience, if I know what’s going to be a stumbling block to his faith, I have taken something like a beer that is not a sinful thing by itself. And I have made it sinful by the attitude of my heart.
That’s significant, that we can take something that’s in this gray area by itself. It neither commends us to God. It doesn’t have any effect. It’s not sin. One way or another. You can drink it, you can eat it or not. It doesn’t matter. But I can take that thing and if I’m puffed up and arrogant about my I have freedom in Christ.
So Hank better get on the road and figure it out. If that’s the attitude that I have, I sinned against Hank, and I sin against God as older brothers and sisters. Whether you’re older and age or older and spiritual maturity, we have a responsibility to those who are younger than us, who are newer in the faith in us.
When when I went so my little brother and I used to get into tons of trouble. Now this is the God honest truth. He would get in more mischief than I did to this day, I am the rule follower. He is the rebel like he’s okay anyway. I don’t want to defame his name publicly. I love my little brother.
But here’s what would happen. We would get in trouble. It was probably his fault. We broke something. We fell down, somebody bleeding and we would come to Mom and dad and they would look at me and go, Well, you ought to know better. How did how did this get put on my plate all of the sudden? You’re the oldest any first born in here that used to get that one, you’re the oldest.
You should know better. But that’s actually what Paul’s talking about here, that you may have some rights and some freedom in Christ, but we need to be willing to curb our rights and adjust them in order to be responsible to those who are newer or younger in the faith. When we don’t take that responsibility seriously, we can take something, whatever it is that is not sinful by the prideful attitude of our heart, by not considering our brother and sister, we make that thing sin and it’s dangerous.
Finally, number three Let your liberty lead to limits. Let your liberty lead to limits. No. Let’s recap briefly. There’s a certain type of knowledge of knowing the right spiritual things that is undesirable because its aim is self-centered as opposed to others centered, its prideful knowledge for knowledge sake. So we’re to reject this type of knowledge, particularly knowledge about spiritual things and push by the power of the spirit that our hearts would be transformed so that any knowing we have of God’s Word would be fleshed out in love for our brothers and sisters, not just to sound smart or tell them where they’re wrong.
And then secondly, we’re supposed to recognize the significance of ignoring this teaching that we take things that are not sin and we can make them sin just by the attitude of our heart and our actions. And so what do we do with all that information? How do we behave? Paul gives us the answer in the final verse. Therefore, Paul says, If food makes my brother stumble, I’ll never eat meat lest I make my brother stumble.
There are two Greek pieces that are really, really interesting here. The first is the word here that is rendered in English. Therefore, so it’s not the same, therefore that you’re used to. So one is the Greek for therefore that is used 400 plus times in the New Testament. This is a different word here. We won’t go into it.
It’s a different word in Greek that is only used twice in the whole New Testament. And Paul uses it here. In English, we just see, therefore. But in Greek, basically what it’s saying is, here comes the conclusion. And it should be obvious to you, or perhaps instead of. Therefore, another way to render it in English would be. So of course.
Right. Verse 12. Thus sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sinned against Christ. So of course, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat. Paul’s sort of saying with the word he uses for therefore he shouldn’t even need to say it. He shouldn’t even verse 13 shouldn’t even need to be there.
We should be here. This thing you’re doing, your ethics, you’re exercising your rights and your freedom in, you’re doing this thing that has no bearing one way or another. But what it is doing is it’s hurting a brother, sister. You shouldn’t need me to tell you what to do. Don’t do it. The other thing that’s neat in Greek is there’s a double negative.
It’s again, it’s not rendered in English. In English, when we have a double negative. It creates a positive. But in Greek, when there’s a double negative, it doubles down. So here’s what it might be. Again, let’s start from verse 12, thus sending against your brothers and wounding their conscience. When it is weak, you sinned against Christ. So, of course, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never, ever eat meat again forever.
If it makes my brother stumble. You see, here’s what Paul’s trying to get at with us. It’s not about meat. It’s not about the music. We listen to. It’s not about cigars or alcohol or piercings or Halloween or any of that. It’s not what it’s about. It’s about the heart that we have, the love that we have for one another.
It’s about for you, more mature believers in the room. In my willing to lay down some of the freedom that I have, I have it in Christ. We’re going to change our theology. I have this freedom. Just I’m going to lay it down. I’m going to surrender some of my rights because the heart, the growth, the spiritual development of this younger believer is more important than whether I do this thing in this moment.
When you start to think about it, it’s insane. It’s insane that we would say, like, if there was a beer here and a brother in Christ, Neil, that I would say. Me drinking this beer is more important than Neil. That’s insane. I would say this cigar smoking this cigar in this moment is more important than Michael. That’s insane.
But I’ll tell you what. I will be the first to raise my hand that I can be so selfish that I do some of those things anyway. And Paul is pleading with us that we would consider laying down our rights, laying down some of our preferences, laying down some more of our freedoms in order to love one another.
There’s this little filter that Rick Duncan and I are working on the same text he’s preaching at the Brunswick campus today, and he found this. I think it’s really helpful. You probably can’t read it. It’s a little small, but we have printed copies for you out in the foyer. You can get it on the digital worship God or you can go to CBC blog dot org.
All of those places will have this today, and I think it’s just a helpful little guide. I’m going to just walk you through it very quickly. Question number one, does the Bible allow it? Well, if the Bible says, no, don’t do it. Stop saying. But if the Bible does allow it, there’s not a specific prohibition. We go down.
Does my conscience allow it? One of the ways that the Holy Spirit works in us is He causes us to feel different things. And there may be something that the Bible doesn’t prohibit, but you don’t feel comfortable doing it. That’s okay. You don’t have to do it. Now we do want to guard against we want to guard against his legalism.
Legalism says, here’s the list of dos, here’s the list of don’ts. And if you don’t do the don’ts and you do do the do’s, then you’re super Christian. That’s not what we’re aiming for. What we’re aiming for is walking in the power of the spirit. That’s what New Testament Christianity is about right? We walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and one of the ways that the Holy Spirit helps us through our conscience.
God controls our conscience. I don’t feel comfortable with. That’s okay. Don’t do it. But if my conscience allows it. Yes. Then the question is, should I exercise my freedom? And there are three ways that we’re going to see this. This week, next week and the week after in first Corinthians eight, nine, ten. Today, the question has been, does it have a bad effect on other believers?
Next week, first Corinthians nine. The question is, does it have a bad effect on nonbelievers? And third, will it have a bad effect on my Christian growth if any of those things are true? Don’t do it. But if you feel like I can exercise my freedom with this thing and this situation. But there are different situations you may not lose.
Again, I’ll use the same example. You may not have the beer when Hank’s at the table, but you can have the beer later on when you’re home by yourself. You don’t have to stop everything because Hank, you’re just going to abstain while you’re around him as a way to love him. Well, here’s an example, and then I’ll close.
I like to dance. Okay? I’m not good at it, but I enjoy it. And for a 40 year old married Christian man, there is a lot of outlet. You know, that’s why I like when when when there’s like a student who’s getting married. I’m like, yes, wedding. You know, that it’s appropriate for me to dance there. But like, let’s let’s just.
Let’s just, like, walk. I want to dance. Where am I going to go? Dance. Live? I could dance at home. I do a lot of that, do a lot of dancing at home. But let’s say I want to go dancing. So I say to my wife, I when I need to go dancing and she is embarrassed by my dancing.
So she’d probably like, you’re on your own body. So let’s say I make a decision. I’m going to go downtown. I’ma find a dance club, and I’m going to walk into the dance club. And let’s say I decide to have a beer while I’m dancing. I’m not going to drink more than that one beer. I’m just going to have that beer.
So there’s Pastor Joe now is that I haven’t broken any rules in the Bible. Is that wise? Imagine one of our young adults walks in and sees me on the dance floor with a beer in my hand without my wife again. I haven’t done anything wrong. That’s what Paul says. You’re like, What if a brother sees you having food offered to idols and his conscience is hurt right.
That’s probably not a wise choice for me. It’s time to make people angry, but I hope that it’s helpful to your heart. A couple of years ago we had one of these gray areas that had never happened in the history of church before.
And it was this question Should I wear a mask or not? Oh, he’s going there. I’m not just going there because I think it’s really apropos. The mask. You can say the same thing about it. As Paul says about food offered to idols. Does it commend you to God? Doesn’t matter one way or another. Wear it, don’t wear it, doesn’t matter.
Now I have pretty strong views. Surprised. I have pretty strong views about vaccines and about masks. And in my house we were not mask wearers. There was some place I had to go, you know, I’d wear a mask. But here’s the situation that came up. I had a brother in Christ of mine and I invited him over for dinner and he had some illness in his family and he had a different conviction than I did.
And he said, Man, we’d love to come over and hang out with you guys, play games, have a meal. My only stipulation is, is we’ve got to wear masks. And when we eat, I’m going to we’re going to eat at the other side of the table. Now, there are only two options for me. I can say, sorry, I’m not doing that.
We’ll have to have dinner at at another time or I go, sure. Mass doesn’t commend me to God. Am I willing to lay down some of the freedom that I have and just do it now? Hopefully, like Paul says, my answer would be, well, well, if it’s going to hurt my brother and cause him to stumble, then of course I’ll put on a mask.
Right. Care? It’s uncomfortable. My face is sweaty, but let’s compare it. Am I willing to have a sweaty face to enjoy company and dinner and Christian fellowship with my friend? It should be a no brainer. So here’s my question to you. Is leave today. Is there anything in your life, any opinion or habit, and is in the gray area that you are unwilling to compromise on, unwilling to give up for the sake of a brother or sister in Christ?
You know how the Bible tells us that the world around us will know that we’re followers of Jesus because we have all the right theology and wrong answer? How will the world around us know that we are followers of Jesus? How, by our love for one another, by our love for one another. So if there’s something that you’re not willing to lay down, something as inconsequential as a glass of beer or a cigar for the love of your brother or sister.
My prayer would be, would be that the Holy Spirit would convict you. And there are a lot of areas that the Holy Spirit has convicted me this week, and my prayer is that we would grow in love for one another, that we let our knowledge lead to love, that we let our rights lead to responsibility, and that we would let our liberty lead to limits so that we would love one another fully and the world around us would know to whom we belong.
Amen. Amen. Let’s pray. God, we thank you for this text and we trust your Holy Spirit to convict us where necessary. Would you help us to respond to the movement of your Holy Spirit into the truth of your word? We ask this in Christ name. Amen.