Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. NASB 1 Co 8:1–3.
Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. NASB Rom 14:20–21.
We have already seen in this Church at Corinth the major divisions of theology and Christian practice that existed amongst them. We learned last week that this letter was written as a response to some of these debates that existed among them. They wrote to Paul asking for his advice on certain issues. This week we come to the issue of whether or not it is appropriate for a Christian to eat food that had been offered to idols. The question they seem to be asking is this: How should the members of a gospel community exercise their Christian liberties?
Now, obviously, we do not have this same specific predicament in our culture. Rarely, if ever, do we know of someone who eats food previously offered to a pagan idol. But we do ask this same generic question when it comes to those “grey areas” in the Christian life.
For example: How should a Christian handle…
• Friendships, etc.…
There are usually a variety of opinions on how a Christian ought to navigate through these grey areas.
However, in the text this week, we find the two primary ways that the Church in Corinth was dealing with this question, which is how many believers still respond today. The extreme descriptions would be legalism and the other, licentious. The legalists would argue that nothing good could come from those “things” so stay away from them all together. While the licentious groups would argue the opposite, most likely ending up in abusing those liberties.
Both groups have their verses in the Bible that they can cite and their own experiences as well. So the question is: how do you reconcile these two groups back to a gospel community? Paul would say it is only through love.
Paul said at the beginning, “knowledge puffs up, but loves edifies.” Here is the question Paul is asking both groups: What is more important, your Christian liberty or your Christian Brother? What matters most, the conscience of the newer convert or the ability to eat, drink and do whatever you want? Which do you love most, your brother or yourself?
His point is simple, don’t let your liberties or your legalism shape the way that you handle these grey areas; instead, let love be the guiding factor of how you live your life. That is what it means to be a member of a gospel community.
After all, Jesus was the greatest example of this. The eternal Son of God laid down all of his rights, privileges and entitlements to come and be one of us. He gave up everything for love! The love he had for those who would eventually come to believe in him motivated him to lay aside his divine rights. If Christ can do that for us, certainly we can do it for our fellow brother and sister in Christ.
A challenge: If you find yourself in the freedom camp, just know this — you are only truly free if you can set aside your freedoms for the sake of others. If you instead find yourself in the legalistic camp, please know that the Pharisees were legalists and the very thing you are so against could be a barrier for evangelism and a law created by men, not by God.