Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” 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. (1Co 8:1-3)

Though Paul acknowledges that the Corinthians had knowledge, he sees it as something that is puffing them up and inflating their egos. They had knowledge that the gods of the pagans were idols, that food was something that was not a morally important issue, and knowledge of many other things to be sure. The problem was that this knowledge of theirs was not joined with love. Knowledge without love is self-serving and reveals a deeper ignorance of spiritual matters.

Some thought that it was sin to eat food offered to idols; others had more knowledge and understood that they could eat such food. But the “stronger” Corinthians would defile the conscience of the “weaker” by eating the food in front of them, and perhaps even trying to get them to eat it with them. This reveals the shallow, fleshly knowledge that the “stronger” had.as their focus was on the food and not on the love that they should have for their weaker brother. They used their knowledge in a way that harmed their brethren, and that is terribly ignorant of the more important things.

How is our attitude towards our brethren in the Lord? Do we take such pride in our knowledge that we will use it even to the point of causing our brothers to stumble? I pray that God would humble us and drive us to cling to our love of God and each other as we grow not only in knowledge, but also in piety.

Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. (1Co 8:8-9)

Because it’s easy to overlook ways that we can cause others to stumble in their walk with Christ we must take great care to be aware of the conscience of our brothers and sisters. We are called to come along side the weak and help to build them up to maturity, not to trample them unlovingly under the guise of “right teaching.” There is no such thing as right Christian teaching without love.the two are always connected to each other.

It also helps to consider that the weak and the strong are perspectives that we look upon each other from. The weak are strong to those who are weaker than themselves, while the strong are weak to those who are stronger than themselves. Understanding this will help keep the “strong” from pride and the “weak” from despondency.

For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. (1Co 8:10-11)

How can a brother in Christ be destroyed? Does this contradict the preservation of the saints.that once you are saved you will always be saved? The word destroyed here should not be understood as meaning eternal damnation. Christians who sin may be destroyed in the sense that they will invoke God’s discipline, or it may mean that the one who sins against his own conscience will have internal turmoil and have his peace destroyed. Even though they repent, God may still bring about their physical, though not their spiritual, destruction to some degree or another. It is an awful thing to call destruction upon a fellow believer by failing to recognize his tender conscience. It’s even worse to cause him spiritual anguish.

If you have harmed a brother or sister in Christ’s conscience, go to them and as for forgiveness. Seek out ways to build them up and encourage them in their walk with Christ, no matter what their maturity is. Remember that Christ loves these other believers and died for them. Also consider that the way you treat others in the Body of Christ is the way you treat Christ Himself.

…Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Mat 25:40)

Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. (1Co 8:12-13)

It is a serious business to sin against brothers and sisters in Christ because when we sin against the brethren we sin against Christ Himself. Paul’s solution to the strong versus weak conscience is to go along with the weaker in conscience so as not to cause them to stumble. It is more important to keep a brother or sister from sinning against conscience than it is to prove ourselves right in our understanding of Scripture. This does not mean that we neglect rightly teaching the Word of God, but we do so out of love and not with the motivation of proving how much we know or how right we are. After all, the problem with the weaker brother is a lack of knowledge.therefore rightly teaching the Word of God out of a love for Christ and the brother will grow them in the area that they are weak in.

Is our love for the brethren, even the weaker ones, evidenced by our denial of self-interests for their benefit as Paul did? This takes a great deal of both love and patience, as our flesh always loves to boast in its knowledge at the expense of others and the promotion of self.

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. (1Co 9:1-2)

Paul has just finished telling the stronger Christians to give up their rights to eat meat for the sake of their weaker brothers. Now he uses himself as an example by pointing out his rights as an apostle. In these opening verses he asks rhetorical questions about his apostleship, including a primary qualification, having `seen Jesus Christ our Lord’. The Corinthians themselves, as those `in the Lord’, were proof of his apostleship, because he was instrumental in leading them to Christ. He appeals to his apostleship firstly to remind them that he is equal to all the other apostles. Because he is a legitimate apostle he has the rights and privileges of the apostleship. Paul also recognizes that others reject his apostleship, so we must bear in mind that we will have contentions with others because of the principle of sin that still resides in us. Those who rejected the apostle had no right to do so; rather they were acting from self-interest and in sin. Many liberal churches today reject the clear teaching of the apostle Paul as well as other Scriptures. For example, they reject the Scriptural role and place for women because it doesn’t suit them or the culture that they live in. To reject clear teachings of Scripture is nothing less than rejecting Christ and His authority over us.

Are there parts of the Scripture that you question? One we start asking ourselves, “yea, hath God said.” we fall into the trap of the Devil himself just as Eve did in the Garden. Examine your attitude towards Holy Scripture today and commit to receive it as the Word of God and to walk in obedience to it, even if it doesn’t suit you or your culture.

For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1Co 9:16)

Many preach the Gospel to get the praises of men. Many more preach a false Gospel that gives no offense to the carnally minded precisely because they want the accolades of men rather than God. A preacher of God proclaims the truth of God’s Word regardless of the acceptability of the message. He does it because he can do no other; He is driven by God to do so. With Jeremiah, the true preacher says:

If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. (Jer 20:9)

This responsibility does not lay in the hands of the pastorate alone, but rather we are all called to speak forth the Gospel to a perishing world, we are called to proclaim God’s Word as we put our faith that God’s Word will not return void. Consider the terrible danger that lost souls are in. They could pass on into eternity at any time, and as watchmen it is not our choice but rather our duty to sound the alarm:

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand. (Eze 33:6)

A person’s soul in the light of eternity is nothing to be neglected, least of all by those who have the words of life.the very words that God can use to save that person.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Rom 1:16)

May we practice faith upon this Scripture and be bold for our Lord, boldly proclaiming words of life to souls that are dead. The Gospel that we have been given is the power of God for salvation, God help us if we neglect it.

For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. (1Co 9:17-18)

Paul sees preaching the Gospel as an absolute necessity, not as a choice that he has made. Paul wasn’t reluctant, but rather took great joy in this necessary preaching of the Gospel, much in the same way that a parent takes joy in the necessity of feeding their children. We must never confuse necessity with joylessness; just because something is necessary does not mean that it’s a burden. Quite the contrary, many necessities bring us joy. Paul had a great zeal and commitment in proclaiming the Gospel message. And what was his reward? In his own words he tells us it was to “present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.”

Clearly, Paul’s attitude points to a self-sacrifice in serving God and his fellow man rather than serving himself. In God’s wisdom the more selfless we are the happier we are. When we are more concerned about God and others than with ourselves we have a great liberty to work for Christ’s glory rather than our own.

Are you living a life of self-sacrifice, or is your life focused on your own desires and needs? Is your driving concern to serve God and others just so that you can glorify God and enjoy His presence in your life?

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:1-2)

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. (1Co 9:19-21)

This is a great instructive against the idea of piety through seclusion from others. Paul maintained a healthy freedom from all men, that he would not be obligated to follow their influence and opinion on spiritual matters. But that did not mean that Paul stood aloof from the needs of others nor did he seclude himself from others. Quite the contrary, he actually became their slave. And he did this so that He could be a vessel which the Lord used to bring many into the kingdom of God’s glory.

Are you a slave for others in the same sense as Paul was? If so, then the Scriptures say that you are doing well.

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. (Jas 2:8)

To love God and one’s neighbor sums up the whole moral Law of God. Paul loved people, and he had the great desire that they would experience the same salvation that he was blessed with. He knew that this would only happen for God’s elect, but he also understood that we don’t know who God’s elect are as that is part of God’s hidden will. This prompted Paul to serve both the Christian community and those outside of the visible Church.

What’s the range of your service to others? Do you think your duty is done when you have served your family? Do you think you are done when you’ve served your local church? God not only wants more from us that that, He demands it. As you go about your daily business, consider that you are to serve others and demonstrate your love of God and your love of them.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1Co 9:24-27)

Athletes put a great emphasis on their diet. Though the diet may be different depending on the sport, all athletes must be moderate in what they eat and not go beyond what their training requires of them. Paul’s disciplining of his body would include diet as well as all other things that the body engages in, it’s a spiritual discipline that keeps the body in check. This word “discipline” comes from a word that means “to beat black and blue.” Paul uses the word here to give us the significance and seriousness of our spiritual discipline over our own bodies. It is not our bodies that are to control us, but rather the Spirit of the living God.

Consider this: Every time we are told that Jesus hungered we are also told that He did not eat. Christ, though having human needs like food, did not allow His hunger to rule over Him, but the will of His Father. Therefore, Christ ate when it fell within the will of His Father to eat, and not when His body craved food.

Do we allow our bodies to direct what we do? Whatever directs our path is our God. Let us pray that God would give us the intimacy with Him that will bring us into coming under His influence even above the influence of our own bellies, and that our bellies would not become our god.

Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. (Php 3:19)


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