Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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1 Corinthians 8-9

August 26th, 2012 by Vic

1 Corinthians 8-9

“The servant of Christ is really free”

August 26, 2012


We don’t have to worry today about food sacrificed to idols.  We may be concerned about growth hormones and pesticide residue, but that is more a question of health rather than conscience.  The Corinthians asked Paul about meat sacrificed to idols.  It was a question of conscience.  Some were having qualms about eating meat.  There were Jewish shops that sold kosher meat, but it was 2-3 times as expensive as meat at the public market.  Much of the meat at public markets came from the pagan temples.  Should Christians eat that meat?  The dilemma may be like being raised in a religion that worshiped the pig.  You were taught that good and bad demons could live on pork meat.  What changes when you become a Christian and learn that all foods are clean?

It was a dilemma for some new Christians in Corinth.  The best meats at the best prices were at the public markets.  They knew how the idol meat got to market.  It started when a pagan worshipper would offer a sacrifice in his temple.  He would offer the best he could afford.  But very little of the choice meat was actually burned.  The priest may just cut a few hairs and burn those on the altar.  The rest of the meat could be used for a banquet in the temple, taken home for a feast, or be sold at the public market.  This provided the priests a good income.


The pagan worshipper grew up believing that the gods were real.  When you dedicated your meat to a god, they believed that god lived on or inhabited the meat.  After they became a Christian some had qualms of conscience.  They could not help it.  They felt it was wrong.  For them there was a spirit of evil or demons associated with temple meat.  When there was a family celebration, a wedding, or any kind of party, this meat may be served.


Think about it.  When you see symbols from your past do you relive the old memories?  Do you associate something special to a picture or a favorite cup?  Does a favorite song bring back old memories?  I remember Nancy and Vicki were practicing a piano duet in Trinidad while I was reading “Through Gates of Splendor”.  Now I don’t remember what that song was, but I know when I hear it I think of our living room in Trinidad and reading that book.  When I hear the song “When the Roll is Called up Yonder” I think of Dori and I singing a duet together in the old church.


Barclay gives 3 principles in this chapter that are still valid today.

1. What is safe for one person may be unsafe for another.  What is temptation to one may not be temptation to another.  A weak conscience needs to be recognized and respected.

2. Knowledge is not a perfect basis for judgment.  Love provides more accurate judgment.  Knowledge easily makes a person arrogant while love considers the good of another.

3. No one has a right to claim a right, indulge in a pleasure, or demand a freedom that will harm someone else.  He must think of the weaker brother.


8:1-3 People with a sensitive conscience will be helped more by love than by logic.  Knowledge produces air bubbles.  Love produces solid buildings.


The one who thinks he knows something really does not know much yet.  Loving God is the key to knowing God and being known by God.  The fear of the Lord is the real beginning of wisdom.


8:4-6 As Christians we know that an idol is nothing or ‘nothingness’.  There is only one God.  That means if there are no other gods, then the idol represents a bubble of man’s imagination.  The Greeks had names for heavenly gods, earthly gods, and demons or wicked gods.  Americans have names for good spirits and evil spirits.  Our education system has tried to logically remove all gods and reverence the nothing god.  Some reverence mother earth, some the man upstairs.  Jesus told us there would be many antichrists and substitutions for God.


Denying Christ and refusing to believe in the God of Creation as the One God revealed in 3 persons does not change Him, intimidate Him, nor cancel His existence.  In him is life.  He created all things.  He sustains all things.  He continually finds ways to remind us that He is in control of our history.


8:7-8 However, a person’s worldview does not change overnight.  Knowing with your head that idols are nothing and knowing there is only one God does not make it easy for everyone to eat sacrificial meat.  We know that no special kind of food can make us godly.  Eating meat does no more for our relationship with God than fasting.  If our conscience allows us to eat meat, we are not better than the one whose conscience does not allow him to eat meat.


8:9-13 The bottom line is: don’t become a stumbling block to your brother in Christ.  If you have a freedom in Christ that allows you to eat and drink everything, you have a responsibility to not use your freedom in a way that hinders a more conscientious brother.


If you have a sensitive conscience regarding some food, drink, or activity, don’t be offended by your brother with more freedom in Christ.  To take an offence is a self-inflicted wound.  Hopefully your brother did not intend to hurt you with his freedom.  Don’t be critical.


Paul is writing to those who claim freedom in Christ because they know that idols are nothing and God is the only God.  If your knowledge causes your brother to sin, you are sinning against Christ.  You need to confess your sin and make it right.  The enlightened must consider the welfare of the unenlightened.


Paul’s principle of love applied to the matter of eating meats offered to idols is simple.  He would rather be a vegetarian than to cause a Christian with a weaker conscience to fall from his faith.  He would limit his freedom to help a brother in Christ.  The next chapter explains how Paul limits his freedom and does not claim his rights as a laborer.


If you are a new Christian how do you know if something is a sin against God?

1. What does the Bible say?  Is it clearly stated?  Marriage is a man and a woman.  Homosexuality is a sin.  Stealing is a sin.  Gossip is a sin.  Gluttony is a sin.  Drunkenness is a sin.

2. What does my conscience say?  God gave you a conscience to identify right and wrong.  It can become hard and calloused.  God can change your conscience.

3. What does my personality require?  Know yourself.  Avoid situations that lead to temptation.  David said, “I will set before my eyes no vile thing (Ps 101:3).”  He did not watch TV.  But sexual temptation was everywhere in Corinth.  It was similar to our visual world today.

4. What do my friends need?  Put others before myself.  Love supersedes my liberty.  What about alcohol, smoking, tattoos (Rev 19:16, Jesus has a tattoo)?  Do the right thing for your loved ones.


9:1-2 Paul explains to the Corinthians that he also has freedom in Christ.  But he chooses to limit his freedom.  He also has rights and privileges as an apostle and as their founding pastor.  He also chooses not to demand those rights.  He has a right to receive support from the church.  He saw Jesus and was commissioned to be an apostle.  They themselves are a seal of confirmation regarding his calling.  He has rights.


9:3-14 Some were asking why they should be sending support to Paul.  Why should we support a pastor with a wife and family?  Can’t they earn a living just like everyone else?  Paul and Barnabas are supporting themselves.  Why can’t all the other preachers work?


Paul presents a defense for supporting ministers (3).  First he points out basic human rights to food and family.  Creation teaches that fruit should come from our labor.  Then he reminds them that he and Barnabas have neither claimed their rights nor renounced their rights (6).


Paul compares the minister first to a soldier fighting against satan and evil in this world.  The minister is also like a farmer planting churches and watching people grow in the field of grace.  He is like a shepherd caring for his sheep (7).  He is like an ox who faithfully works for his owner (9).  He is like a farm laborer who receives a share of the crop (10).  He is like a priest who receives a share of the tithe (13).


The Bible does not say, “Pay your minister.”  It is a principle of life that you should be able to recognize and apply to the church.  When God said, “Don’t muzzle the ox while he is threshing” was God only concerned for the ox (9)?  Stop and think.  God only gave us 10 Commandments.  The rest of the Bible teaches us about God’s will and ways.  A little common sense should be able to discern what God is like and what He expects.  He wants respect, honor, and humane treatment for Himself and all creation.  Simple illustrations from life around us show that the laborer is worthy of his hire (Lk 10:7).  All workers receive fruit from their labor.


In our world today we work for money.  We sometimes miss the satisfaction of a job well done.  For us there seems to be a disconnect between our labor and our salary package.  There is also a disconnect between our giving and the receiving ministry.  The Jews had an interesting practice of supporting the wise man that chose to live in their city.  They believed that supporting him was useful to the city and pleasing to God.


9:15-18 This paragraph has some double meanings and innuendoes that expand the truth that Paul is trying to teach regarding freedom, rights, and stewardship.


Paul has not demanded his rights and he is not writing this letter to now claim his rights.  He says the only boast he has in preaching the gospel is that he does not expect a salary.  He cannot boast or claim any credit for preaching and teaching.  Jesus commanded him to do that and he had not choice about preaching so deserves no credit for doing it.  He cannot boast about his oratory or preaching ability because God entrusted him a stewardship with those gifts.  The only reward he can receive is the satisfaction of not demanding his rights but preaching the gospel without charge.


Socrates and Plato took no money for teaching.  Their critics said they were paid what they were worth.


9:19-23 All Christians are free in Christ.  We are no longer slaves to sin and the expectations of man.  However, in Christ, we are servants with a desire to share the gospel so that all may find abundant life in harmony with the Creator.  We are free to do what we want, but the love of God compels us to do what we ought and share the gospel without being offensive.  Those with knowledge must remember that love builds.  We accommodate ourselves to different worldviews without compromise.  Paul gave up his own will, his own way, his own comfort, his own pleasure, and his own profit to persuade all men to follow Jesus.  We are to be gracious servants of God.


The total focus of Paul’s life was to declare the gospel (23) so that everyone could celebrate it with him.


9:24-27 Paul compares the focus of his life to the focus of Olympic athletes.  The Christian life is not easy, but the prize is eternal.  A life of discipline is required to be Christlike.


Corinth hosted the Isthmian games, one of 4 great national festivals of the Greeks.  The Greek athlete had rigorous training for 10 months.  He lived with a trainer and agreed to eat what was set before him, abstain from all delicacies, exercise at the prescribed times, drink nothing cooling, drink no wine, and obey the trainer.  The events for the games included horse, foot, and chariot-racing; wrestling, boxing, music, and poetry.  Paul only mentions the foot race (24), wrestling (25), and boxing.  The prize for the Corinth games was a crown of pine boughs.  Olympic games presented the olive leaves.  The Pythian games prized laurel.  The Nemean games prized parsley.


The Christian race is different.  All who finish receive the prize not just the first across the line.  Keep on running so you will receive your prize.


The Christian prize is different.  Their prize is already wilting when they receive it.  Our crown will never fade.


The Christian life is not just preparatory training and shadow boxing.  We are right now in the competition.  We are not just aimlessly practicing for life; we are focused on the goal.  Shouldn’t we be much more disciplined than athletes?  Jesus did not promise us a rose garden, but He did say we would suffer.


The Christian is not disqualified with a broken leg or hand.  He is disqualified if he does not finish the race.  When he loses his focus and gives in to his appetites and pleasures he is out of the race.  When he breaks the rules he is disqualified.


The Greek athletes suffered much not knowing if they would win the prize.  And they did it for a corruptible prize.


Paul says the Christian life is not easy.  He does not presume on the grace and mercy of God.  He disciplines his body like a boxer competing in the games.  He does not rest on his laurels.  He keeps fighting.  He is not complacent.  This is not the time to rest, but to watch and pray.  Jesus is coming again.  Keep your eyes on the goal.

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