1 Corinthians 8 (5)
Pray Psalm 69.1-4.
Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
Where there is no standing;
I have come into deep waters,
Where the floods overflow me.
I am weary with my crying;
My throat is dry;
My eyes fail while I wait for my God.
Those who hate me without a cause
Are more than the hairs of my head;
They are mighty who would destroy me,
Being my enemies wrongfully;
Though I have stolen nothing,
I still must restore it.
Sing Psalm 69.1-4.
(Greensleeves: What Child Is This?)
Save me, O God, deep waters rise and threaten to undo me!
No foothold in the mire I find; the floods must soon subdue me.
Hear, Savior, my weary cry; my throat is parched, unclear my eye.
Foes hunger for me to die and without reason hate me.
Read 1 Corinthians 8.1-9; meditate on verses 7-9.
1. What did Paul warn the Corinthians about concerning their liberty in Christ?
2. What did he say about believers who have a “weak” conscience?
Paul had already exposed the Corinthians’ tendency to think about themselves above all. This was the cause of their division, their turning a blind eye to wickedness, and their going to court against brethren. He was schooling them in the ways of love, since they were not their own and belonged to Him Who loved them and gave Himself for them. In these verses he continued unpacking the way of love in more detail.
Love does not ask, in the first place, “Can I do this? Is this lawful for me?” Rather, it does not ask such questions only. As he wrote to the Philippians, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2.4). We must consider not only what might be lawful or good for us, but how our choices and actions might affect others.
Food is a matter of adiaphora—things indifferent as to sinfulness (v. 8). In such areas, Christians are free to do or enjoy certain things, or not. Yet the Corinthians should not allow their freedom to eat food offered to idols to cause a neighbor to stumble (v. 9). Not everyone has reached the same level of spiritual maturity. They must be careful not to mislead someone into moral compromise or give the impression that it’s OK to honor idols at the same time they professed to believe in Jesus as Lord.
In short, think about others, lest you encourage them to violate or harden their conscience in ways that might have detrimental effects down the road. Put another way, if you have the freedom to do something, though it might cause another to stumble, have the love not to do it.
Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Twinkies, beef, or asparagus?
Twinkies, beef, or asparagus offered to idols?
Should we partake or not?
But is that the essence of what Paul was talking about?
Again, it was not a matter of the palate or stomach, it was a matter of the heart.
For most truly, if we have the freedom to eat candy corn (but really, who does that?)
we have the responsibility not to if we run the chance of making a weaker Christian stumble.
Jesus had some important words to speak on this same matter:
“Are you thus without understanding also?
Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him,
because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated,
thus purifying all foods?” (Mk. 7.18, 19).
And then He went on to expound on what does defile us:
“What comes out of a man, that defiles a man.
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.
All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mk. 7.20-23).
Not a mention of “don’t smoke, drink, or chew, or go with girls who do”.
We have been so legalized and categorized that we cannot seem to think for ourselves about what God really wants from and for us. We have focused on the don’ts and not on the dos of a heart striving to know God.
Solomon warned, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov. 4.23).
As Jesus said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Lk. 6.45).
All things that are not prohibited by the Law of God are given to be enjoyed, IF it does not make someone stumble. And then all bets are off. Also, God uses our own conscience to guide us as to what we are at liberty to do or consume, and what we are not. As Paul said, “I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men” (Acts 24.16).
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5.1).
Free to eat Twinkies if you choose, but not free if it will make another stumble.
Therefore, consider first, your beloved brethren in Christ…and your own health, for that matter.
1. What are some things that you are free in Christ to do but which might cause a brother or sister in the Lord to stumble?
2. How can prayer help us in thinking not only on ourselves but on the interests and needs of others?
3. How can you know when you might be stumbling into sin? What should you do then?
Eating one kind of food, and abstaining from another, have nothing in them to recommend a person to God. But the apostle cautions against putting a stumbling-block in the way of the weak; lest they be made bold to eat what was offered to the idol, not as common food, but as a sacrifice, and thereby be guilty of idolatry. He who has the Spirit of Christ in him, will love those whom Christ loved so as to die for them. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8.7-13
Pray Psalm 69.13-15.
Call on the Lord to make you alert to temptation and to give you grace to resist the devil.
Sing Psalm 69.13-15.
(Greensleeves: What Child Is This?)
O LORD, I make my prayer to You; receive my words, O Savior!
Let lovingkindness see me through, and answer me with favor!
Lord, lift me above the mire; deliv’rance is my one desire!
Let not the floods conspire to swallow me forever!
T. M. and Susie Moore
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter, available by clicking here.