1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1
:Context of ‘meats’ offered to idols
One of the struggles in the early church concerned meat which had been sacrificed to idols. Debates over what to eat might seem strange to most of us in modern society, but to the first-century believers, it was a subject of great consequence. As the apostles dealt with the issue, they gave instructions on several broader topics with application for today:
Unity within the church.
In the early years of the church, as Gentile converts began joining Jewish believers in local fellowships, an issue arose concerning the eating of meat. Greco-Roman society was saturated with idol worship, and it was common for meat sold in the marketplace to have been consecrated as a sacrifice to false gods prior to its sale. The Jews would have nothing to do with such meat, wary of “unclean” food-handling practices and believing that to partake of consecrated meat was to give tacit approval of idol worship—kind of a “second-hand” idolatry. The Gentiles rejected the notion that such meat was tainted and held that they could eat meat sacrificed to idols without endorsing idolatry—they had not actually offered the sacrifice, after all. The matter was becoming a point of contention within the church.
The church in Syrian Antioch, comprised of both Jews and Gentiles, struggled with this issue (
). The Jerusalem Council settled the matter by urging Gentile converts to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols (
). This decision was made not to promote legalism but to keep peace within the church. Since eating meat offered to idols was a divisive issue—carrying the possibility of scandalizing fellow believers—abstinence was expedient. Compliance with the council’s directive assured that, at the next church potluck, a Jewish believer could eat the brisket he was served with confidence, knowing it had never been part of a sacrificial cow. And the Gentile believer could not be accused of participating in idol worship.
With its ruling, the Jerusalem Council affirmed the need for deference, or consideration for the scruples of others. The principle is one of self-denial; we should be willing to lay down our personal rights for the sake of maintaining unity in the body of Christ. Spiritual growth takes priority over personal preferences.
Causing a weaker brother to sin.
1 Corinthians 8:4-13
, Paul clarifies the teaching on this subject. First, he says that eating meat offered to an idol is not immoral, because “an idol is nothing at all.” An idol is an inanimate object. “Food,” he says, “does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.” The meat itself is amoral. However, there is more to consider, namely the brother with a weak conscience. Some believers, especially those with a background of idol worship, were still very sensitive concerning this issue and considered it morally wrong to eat meat sacrificed to idols. Under no circumstances, Paul says, should a believer encourage another believer to violate his conscience. To the pure, all things are pure (
), but to one with a weak conscience, meat taken from pagan temples was spiritually defiled. It would be better never to eat meat again than to cause a believer to sin against his conscience.
The “weaker” brother is not someone who simply objects to a certain practice, but one who is in danger of falling into sin. To illustrate, let’s say there are two 1st-century Christians named Demetrius and Clement. Both are former idolaters, now saved by faith in Christ. Demetrius shuns everything to do with his old way of life, including the meat sold in the marketplace, because, for him, eating such meat would constitute a return to paganism. Clement avoids the temple and refuses to participate in the pagan festivals, but he has no problem eating the meat from the market. Clement understands (correctly) that an idol has no power to corrupt good meat, and, for him, eating such meat is a non-issue. Then one day, as both men are in the marketplace, Demetrius sees Clement eating meat that was sacrificed to idols. Demetrius is horrified, but Clement laughs it off and encourages Demetrius to eat some, too. When Demetrius hesitates, Clement cuts off a piece and hands it to him. Demetrius—emboldened by Clement’s confidence—eats the meat. Biblically, both believers have sinned. Clement sinned by violating the conscience of a fellow believer. Demetrius sinned in that he essentially returned to idolatry—at least, that’s what his conscience is telling him. More importantly, Demetrius is learning how to ignore his conscience—a very dangerous thing to learn.
The principle here is that the conscience of a weaker Christian is more important than individual freedom. Doing something “permitted” should never hinder the spiritual health of someone else.
Maintaining a pure testimony.
1 Corinthians 10:25-32
, Paul again emphasizes the believer’s liberty and what should limit that liberty. If you buy meat for your own use, don’t inquire where it came from; it doesn’t really matter whether it was sacrificed to an idol or not. “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it” (
). However, if you are invited to dinner and someone there says, “This meat was offered to idols,” then graciously refrain from eating. Since your associate obviously considers the meat to be “tainted” by the idols, do not eat it for his conscience’s sake—even though your own conscience is fine.
The Christian glorifies God when he limits his freedom for the spiritual benefit of others
Compromise with the world.
In the letter to the church of Thyatira, Jesus rebukes them for tolerating a prophetess who “misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols” (
). This is a different situation from what Paul was dealing with in Corinth. It seems that members of the church of Thyatira were partaking of the pagan “love feasts,” celebrated with gross immorality and feasting. These believers were not simply buying meat in the marketplace; they were actually attending idolatrous festivals and joining in the sin of the idolaters. (See verse 14 for a similar rebuke of the church of Pergamos.)
Here is a summary of the Bible’s teaching on eating meat sacrificed to idols:
Love dictates that all Christians make allowances for their weaker brothers.
There are certain cultures today where idolatry is still practiced and where the specifics of the Bible’s teaching about sacrificial meat are still timely. For the rest of us, here are the principles which should govern our participation in the “gray areas” of life:
: What determines our conscious?
1) the consciousness of anything 2)
the soul as distinguishing between what is morally good and bad, prompting to do the former and shun the latter, commending one, condemning the other
2a) the conscience.
Our conscience is developed and employed by different cultures, religious beliefs by traditions and beliefs about morality, etc.
: My Sermon title today, ‘What should I do?’
What do we need to know about having freedom from religious regulations and what we should still understand.
1) Having the “right” to do something does not mean we are free to do it in every circumstance, regardless of its effects on others.
2) The believer’s liberty in Christ can and should be voluntarily limited in order not to cause a weaker brother to sin by violating his conscience. Liberty is limited in love.
3) Maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of love may require a believer to give up his personal “right” to a thing. “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” (
4) We should avoid anything that would make a weak Christian think less of his faith or that would make an unsaved person feel more at ease in his sin.
: There is a very general question that we should ask and then answer as it relates to ‘What should I,’ or ‘what should I not do?’
If it’s better that I don’t, then I shouldn’t.
Keeping it Lit
Introduction: On last week on what we’ve been discussing about preaching the gospel because the last days are getting nearer and then judgment. Transition: Matthew 25 is a continuation of chapter 24 as Jesus continues to teach about being aware and prepared. I ended last week on Matthew 24:14 The rest of chapter 24 looks…
Good News In Bad Times
Matthew 24 Introduction: Last week I did not have an opportunity to fully unpack my notes about the preaching of God’s Word and why so critical. I did explain that the context was judgment; God judging all people, the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1-5). Let me add or include something I didn’t get…
Ready, Willing & Able
2 Timothy 4:1-5 Introduction: Paul calls and reminds the younger Timothy that to be a part of God’s kingdom community is He will need to be Ready, Willing, and Able. Transition: I’m going to start with the reason or conclusion of this portion of writing. Paul tells Timothy that a time is coming, 2 Timothy…
Father Knows Best
Job 38 Introduction: I want to assume that in most Christians Life, at one time or another, we have wondered and even somewhat questioned God about matters that we face or things we don’t understand. it’s dimensions, supports its foundation, laid the cornerstone, morning stars sang together & angels shouted for joy. From the…
Righteousness & Holiness
Introduction: My last week in 4 of ‘things worth fighting for.’ Cross, Others, Local church and today righteousness and holiness. Righteousness and Holiness Righteousness is one of the chief attributes of God as portrayed in the Hebrew Bible. Its chief meaning concerns ethical conduct (for example, Leviticus 19:36; Deuteronomy 25:1; Psalm 1:6; Proverbs 8:20). In…
The Local Church
Introduction: And a brief prayer, an old Anglican prayer: ‘Father, what we know not, teach us. What we have not, give us. What we are not, make us. For your Son’s sake. Amen’. Time to fight for the Local Church! The following was mainly taken from https://www.challies.com/articles/why-the-local-church-really-matters/ Introduction: As we prepare to worship God tomorrow,…
In Support of One Another Introduction: Week 2 of things we should rally around. To ‘rally around’ is an idiom: to join together to support (something or someone) in a difficult time or situation! And a brief prayer, an old Anglican prayer: ‘Father, what we know not, teach us. What we have not, give…
Introduction: And a brief prayer, an old Anglican prayer: ‘Father, what we know not, teach us. What we have not, give us. What we are not, make us. For your Son’s sake. Amen’. I want to speak to you about the things we should be fighting for! Application: Maybe it would be a good idea…
Matthew 6:19-34 Introduction: Have you ever heard the term/expression worry wart? Have you ever wondered where that came from? In the late 1920’s a character called ‘worry wary’ appeared in a cartoon strip in Dell comics and was drawn by J.R. Williams. ‘Worry Wart’ became a generic nickname or insult for any character who caused…