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The Scriptorium

Watch Out for That Conscience!

We are our brothers' keeper. 1 Corinthians 8,10-13

1 Corinthians 8 (6)

Pray Psalm 32.1, 2.
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Sing Psalm 32.1, 2.
(Hendon: Take My Life and Let It Be)
Blessed are they whose sins the LORD has forgiven by His Word!
Pure their spirits are within; them He charges with no sin;
them He charges with no sin!

Read 1 Corinthians 8.1-13; meditate on verses 10-13.

1. What did Paul say about the conscience?

2. What is our responsibility toward the conscience of our brethren?

In the soul, three interrelated and interacting spiritual components are continuously at work. At least, that’s how the Scriptures encourage us to think about the soul. The mind receives, processes, coordinates, and stores information. It is the part of the soul where thinking takes place. The heart nurtures and deploys our affections—feelings, attitudes, dispositions, and the like. And the conscience holds our default values and choices. It can also be regarded as the seat of the will.

When information, affections, or a choice engage the soul, mind and heart work to sort it out and bring together what we feel and how we think about the matter. But it’s the conscience that determines what we do with it. Paul says the conscience judges between the mind and heart to process thought and desires into action (Rom. 2.14, 15). The Holy Spirit understands all this, of course, so He directs our thinking toward the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2.16) and our affections toward love for God and our neighbors according to God’s Law. The conscience, trained by the Spirit, “reads” the content of the heart and mind and, based on its settled priorities and values, engages the soul to put our bodies in motion.

All this is strictly analogical, of course. But Paul urges us to take it seriously. Think about your weaker brother. Just because he is “weaker”—because his sense of Christian liberty is not as developed as yours—is no ground to look down on or disregard him. Rather, love him enough not to throw a wrench into his conscience, so that it functions contrary to where the Spirit has brought him to this point. The danger is our freedom may cause our brother to embrace a wrong value and thus bring corruption into his conscience (vv. 10, 11). Value your brother’s needs more than your own, just as Jesus would (Rom. 12.3). And, for the sake of your brother’s conscience, do not act on the liberty you have in Christ. We are our brother’s keeper, so watch out for his conscience and do nothing that would lead him to compromise the values the Spirit strives to build into him.

Sin against your brother and you sin against Christ (v. 12). May it never be (v. 13).

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162.
“If food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Cor. 8.13).

But what if it entails more than what I eat?
What if it is my bad attitude?
Or my anger?
Or how I choose to spend the Sabbath?
Are those things to be considered as well?

Yes, of course they are. This is not just about food offered to idols. It is about everything that has to do with the way we live out our Christian life before our watching brethren, and the world.

We are to diligently study how to be God’s people, approved by Him as workers who do not need to be ashamed of the way we live, but able to rightly understand the Word of God, so we are not an offense or a stumbling block to others (2 Tim. 2.15).

And the means to this end is through reading His Word daily, meditating on it, and praying it into our lives.
“But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1.2).

Pleading with the Holy Spirit to give us the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2.16). “Seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3.1-3).

When we are full of the Spirit, we will be exhibiting His fruit. And His characteristics will not be offensive:
love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” And as Paul so cogently summed up: “Against such there is no law” (Gal. 5.22, 23).

(Here, just as a tiny aside, it will be good to add that some people in our Personal Mission Field are just not able to be pleased. They may be stumbling away from God, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with us and our witness and walk. They may just be excessively sinful and miserable.)

As Solomon opined, “The foolishness of a man twists his way, and his heart frets against the LORD” (Prov. 19.3). As God said to Samuel, “…for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them” (1 Sam. 8.7). God will give us the wisdom to know the difference.

If our one heart’s desire is to know God, and to be searched and known by Him (Ps. 139.23, 24), filled with His Holy Spirit, then we can be assured that He will give us that desire. “Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37.4). And in so doing runs our greatest chance of never doing anything or “eating any meat” (1 Cor. 8.13) that could cause our brother to stumble.

Because NEVER do we want to:
1. Sin against Christ, or
2. Play any part in the eternal perishing of one for whom Christ died (1 Cor. 8.11,12).

May it never be!

For reflection
1. In what sense is Paul using the idea of a “weaker” brother?

2. How can you know whether you are a weaker believer? What can we do to keep growing stronger in the Lord?

3. What are some keys to making sure you’re not the cause of a weaker brother stumbling into sin?

Let Christians beware of approaching the brink of evil, or the appearance of it, though many do this in public matters, for which perhaps they plead plausibly. Men cannot thus sin against their brethren, without offending Christ, and endangering their own souls.
Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8.7-13

Pray Psalm 32.3-11.
Pray that God will make you sensitive to others, that you may not do anything, even though you are free to do so, that would wound a brother’s conscience.

Sing Psalm 32.3-11.
(Hendon: Take My Life and Let It Be)
When in silence I remained, groaning in my sinful pain,
You Your hand upon me lay; all my strength You drained away,
all my strength You drained away.

I confessed my sin to You; You forgave me, ever true!
Let confession’s pleading sound reach You while You may be found,
reach You while You may be found!

When flood waters threaten me, You my hiding place will be.
O’er them I will rise above, buoyed by Your redeeming love,
buoyed by Your redeeming love.

Teach me, LORD, how I should live; sound instruction ever give.
Let me never stubborn be; let Your eye watch over me,
let Your eye watch over me.

Though the wicked wail and weep, they rejoice whose souls You keep.
Trusting, we exult with praise, joyf’ly singing all our days,
joyf’ly singing all our days!

T. M. and Susie Moore

The Church in Corinth was in need of revival. But there was much to be done before that would happen. The Church today is in need of revival, and the same is true for us. Our book, Revived!, can help us to discern our need for revival and lead us in getting there. Order your copy by clicking here.

Support for Scriptorium comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

And please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe with your prayers and gifts. You can contribute online, via PayPal or Anedot, or by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 103 Reynolds Lane, West Grove, PA 19390.

Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from theNew 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 fromThe Ailbe Psalteravailable by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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