Lesson 34


Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

10:18 Consider Israel after the flesh. Don't those who eat the sacrifices have communion with the altar?

10:19 What am I saying then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 10:20 But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God, and I don't desire that you would have communion with demons. 10:21 You can't both drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You can't both partake of the table of the Lord, and of the table of demons. 10:22 Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? 10:23 "All things are lawful for me," but not all things are profitable. "All things are lawful for me," but not all things build up. 10:24 Let no one seek his own, but each one his neighbor's good. 10:25 Whatever is sold in the butcher shop, eat, asking no question for the sake of conscience, 10:26 for "the earth is the Lord's, and its fullness." 10:27 But if one of those who don't believe invites you to a meal, and you are inclined to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no questions for the sake of conscience. 10:28 But if anyone says to you, "This was offered to idols," don't eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for the sake of conscience. For "the earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness." 10:29 Conscience, I say, not your own, but the other's conscience. For why is my liberty judged by another conscience? 10:30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced for that for which I give thanks? 10:31 Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 10:32 Give no occasions for stumbling, either to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the assembly of God; 10:33 even as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.  


Today's Lesson 

 Paul has been writing about the obligations of those who would worship God that live in a pagan culture. In the last section he began once more to discuss the problem of eating meats that had been sacrificed to idols. This was a significant problem for both Jews and Christians because most food in a Greek city such as Corinth would have been dedicated and "sacrificed" to a pagan god before being sold in the marketplace. The Jews solved this problem by developing strict codes for what could and could not be eaten and methods of food preparation. What Paul offers here for Christians is something else entirely.

 

The Christian is not proscribed by the Jewish dietary laws from eating at the table of an unbeliever. Quite the opposite. The law of love in Christ Jesus causes us to welcome strangers and to be welcomed in their homes just as Jesus was willing to eat with sinners. But Paul writes to us that the law of Christ compels us to consider far more than what the Law of Moses does. The Christian must consider the conscience of those with which we interact.

 

Now an idol is nothing and food that is offered to an idol is not tainted. No one receives punishment of damnation for eating of sacrificed food. That is not to minimize the sin of idolatry. Paul characterizes it as "communion with demons." Idolatry is a great sin against God and should be taken seriously by believers. However, when we have been baptized into the body of Christ all our sins are forgiven -- even the great sin of idolatry.

 

So for the believer all things are lawful. But that does not mean that all things are profitable for us nor do all things build us up. Our position in Christ forbids us from wallowing in sin. What business does a believer have in "communing" with demons?

 

If a Corinthian were to sit at table with a neighbor then it should be assumed that all the food is worthy to be eaten. But if a man were to say, "This food has been offered to an idol," a believer should refrain from eating. It is not that the food has changed. What has changed is that the man who is concerned believes it to be sin. A believer should be willing to forgo freedom and pleasure for the sake of the conscience of another. We should never knowingly encourage someone to sin or to doubt even when we are told by God Himself that we are free from sin and death and beyond such things ourselves.

 

We have not been set free so that we might indulge the flesh. We have been set free so that we might serve God through a newness of Spirit. We should take the example of Christ Jesus in the exercise of our freedom. Though finding Himself being equal with God, He made Himself to be the servant of all mankind. In the same way we have been set free and given great privilege in Christ. That privilege should spur us to serve others in the same Spirit that our Lord and Savior served others. Our freedom is not the freedom to indulge, but the freedom to serve.

 

How are you using your freedom in Christ today? Are you imitating Christ when using that freedom?

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