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When Members Insist on Their Way

 

I Corinthians 8:1-4, 7-13; 10:31-33
Related Sunday School Lesson, Bible Studies for Life, Mar 21

 

This lesson is important because Christians often act selfishly, insisting on their rights with no thought of how their actions impact others. Also, they often do not stop to consider whether their actions will bring glory to God. This lesson offers biblical principles for making wise decisions that will build others up and glorify God.

 

Let love rule - I Corinthians 8:1-3

Paul had received a letter from the Corinthians filled with questions. He begins to answer their questions in I Corinthians 7 and continues to answer them in chapters 8-10. The issue in chapters 8-10 is the problem of questionable practices, which in Corinth centered around eating food that had been offered to idols.

In verse one, Paul discussed “food offered to idols.” The Corinthians were polytheistic, meaning they worshipped many gods. They had a god, or group of gods, for every circumstance, need, or activity. Also, they were polydemonistic people, believing in many evil spirits. They believed the air was filled with all sorts of evil spirits.

Therefore, these food sacrifices were very important in regards to their beliefs. They believed evil spirits were constantly trying to invade their bodies.

The easiest way for these spirits to accomplish this was to attach themselves to food before it was eaten. The only way for the spirits to be removed from the food was to sacrifice it to a god. These sacrifices served two purposes; it earned the favor of the god and cleaned the meat from demonic contamination.

The meat sacrifices offered to idols were divided into three parts. One part was burned on the altar. The second was given to the priests who served at the temple. The third was kept by the offerer.

Because of the large number of offerings, the priests were not able to consume all of their portion. The meat not needed was sold in the marketplace. It was highly valued and often served at feasts and special occasions.

For some believers, especially for those coming out of this idol worshipping system, this meat brought back memories of their pagan lives. If someone saw them purchase this meat, that person might think they had reverted back to paganism.

However, some Christians were not bothered by buying or eating this meat. To them, meat was meat. Their consciences were clear in this matter.

Paul addresses the issue of what should guide our decision making when we face those “gray” areas of living. There was a group in the church who believed knowledge should be your guide. They knew that eating the meat could not contaminate them spiritually. They felt totally free to eat whatever they wanted.

It is interesting to note that Paul uses two different Greek words for “knowledge.” In verse one, he uses a word that refers to gaining knowledge through the process of investigating. In verse two, he uses a word referring to a knowledge gained by experience that leads to moral wisdom.

True knowledge of God involves experiential knowledge that we gain by loving God.

Paul stresses that our behavior should be guided by love. Knowing what is not forbidden is not enough. When we consider the interests of others, we are on the road to mature, loving, Christian behavior.

 

Avoid the stumbling blocks - I Corinthians 8:4, 7-13

According to verse 4, there were some who reasoned that since these gods were not real, they had the freedom to eat the meat. However, Paul reminds them there is an additional fact to consider when exercising Christian liberty.

In verse 7, he writes, “not everyone has this knowledge.” In other words, not all believers were mature in their knowledge and understanding of spiritual truths.

Some were new Christians whose past experiences in paganism were so fresh that they rejected all that was related to it. To participate in any way was to be tempted to fall back into former practices.

In verse 9, Paul warns us not to be a stumbling block to others. If an immature brother sees us doing something that bothers his conscience, his spiritual life is harmed. We should never influence a fellow Christian to do anything that the Holy Spirit is protecting him from.

In verse 13, Paul restates the principle he has been explaining. In regard to doubtful things, a Christian’s first concern should not be to exercise liberty, but to care about the well-being of his brother in Christ.

Paul set the example. He would never do anything else his own conscience allowed him to do if that would cause his brother to stumble.

In deciding about participating in any behavior that is doubtful, the following is a good checklist to follow.

Excess – Is the activity or habit necessary?

Expediency – Is what I want to do helpful?

Emulation – Is this action good and right?

Evangelism – Is my testimony going to be helped or hindered?

Edification – Will I become spiritually stronger?

Exaltation – Will the Lord be lifted up and glorified in what I do?

 

Do all for God’s Glory - I Corinthians 10:31-33

Paul emphasizes that our life’s purpose is to glorify God. Even in the most mundane, routine things of life, God is to be glorified. His glory is to be our life commitment.

A person either lives a life that honors God or dishonors God. God is dishonored when everyone sins, but is especially dishonored when His own people sin. God honors us with His forgiving grace and we should honor Him with an obedient life.