Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Your Freedom vs. The Gospel
As we begin chapter 8, Paul answers a second question the Corinthians posed. And for that I want to mention two things:
1. I want to go back to what I?ve said throughout this study. As believers in Jesus Christ we are first being transformed into the character of God (Rom 12:1, 2 Corinthians 3:18) and secondly, that character is being used by God to shine out the gospel into a dark world (2 Corinthians 5:20) as ambassadors.
Everything we do and say ought to have this in mind. As Paul said ?you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body? (1 Cor 6:20).
2. (Rom 8:2) ?Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death? (NIV). Though we are free, it doesn?t mean we can just do anything we want whenever we want, given the reality of point 1.
Take a look back at 1 Corinthians 6:12 ?Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is helpful.? We can apply this to our lives, not everything we do will help our walk with Christ, though it is technically permissible. But in Chapter 8 we also apply this to our interaction with others in the culture.
(Gal 5:13-14) ?For you are called to freedom, brothers; only don\'t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love.?
This includes the way we treat others who are not as far along as we are in our understanding of the freedoms we have in Christ?and that?s what chapter 8 is all about.
As we read it, think of the freedom of Christ juxtaposed with responsibility to be an ambassador and example to the world and to young Christians.
1 ? 6
The culture of Corinth was very pagan. Temples and idols were a dime a dozen there. Part of the worship of those false gods was in animal sacrifice. Once the animals were sacrificed to a pagan god, they were consumed. You didn?t just go down to Safeway and buy a nice rib eye, most of the time the meat you bought in the meat market had been sacrificed to a demon.
The Corinthians were of the opinion that since they didn?t partake in the religious aspects of the meat, they were free to eat it without guilt.
In the Holman, ?we all have knowledge? is in quotes, as if it was part of the letter they had written to Paul. Their arguments continued in verse 4 ?an idol is nothing in the world? and ?there is no God but one.? It was a sound argument. In fact, on its face they are correct and he?ll say that basically in a moment.
What they needed to do was go beyond the legality of eating pagan-sacrificed meat to the expedience of doing so in the sight of others. He is appealing to the Corinthians to go beyond themselves.
There is a great tendency when you know a lot about God to begin to put yourself above others. The truth of the matter is, the more you get to know God and are known by Him, the more you get His heart, which is not a heart that says ?I?m pretty special because I know a lot of stuff that you don?t? but ?I?m going to use my knowledge to find a way to reach out in love, even if it means personal sacrifice.? When you love God, God knows you and you begin to share His love-giving character.
Verse 6 seems to be quoting perhaps a hymn or poem of the day. It is true, and is among the most incredible things you can learn, that despite all the ?gods? in the world, there really is only One God and One Lord. It really is all about Jesus. The world?s gods are really simply puppets for demons.
The problem is, not everyone knows this, and especially as they are considering whether the claims of the Bible are true, or have recently come into faith in the One Lord Jesus.
7 ? 11
So let?s run through this:
1) Not everyone is as far along in their understanding and maturity in Christ. In the beginning you can?t handle just wading back into the areas in the world that you worshipped. Their conscience is defiled which means ?to soil? like throwing dirt on a clean shirt.
2) Though it is true that as mature Christians we have the freedom to do many things, we need to make sure what are free to do does not cause someone else to ?stumble? which means ?a stub? like a thing you would trip over. Their conscience can?t yet handle that freedom.
3) If you continue to flaunt your freedom, it might actually cause them to think that worshipping the old gods is okay, and could actually cause them to not put their weight fully down on Jesus. The word ?ruin? means to ?destroy fully.?
12 ? 13
See Paul?s attitude? The gospel comes before his personal freedoms. I?m sure Paul did not become a vegetarian, but when immature brothers and sisters were in his presence, he would abstain from eating meat for the sake of the gospel.
See how serious this is? The only time Paul uses the word ?sin? here is towards the person who flaunts their freedom when someone?s salvation is at stake.
How can we apply this today? The value we need to employ here is our freedom juxtaposed with the effectiveness of the gospel in the lives of others.
For the people of Corinth, they had obvious pagan gods, or idols, they worshiped instead of the One True Living God. So for them, anything that led them to think that still worshipping an idol was okay, would stand in the way of the gospel, even though permissible for the Christian who knows that meat is meat.
So what are gods that people today worship? Money, power, beauty, physical prowess, knowledge, food, possessions?the list goes on. What we need to look at is 1) the person we are influencing and 2) the activities we are engaged in that might jeopardize their walk with Jesus.
If I am sharing with a pre-Christian or a young believer, who worshipped money in the form of gambling?I?m not going to invite them out to the casino to play blackjack. I could as a Christian have that freedom, but I am putting the needs of the gospel in my friend?s life as more important than my freedom. I don?t want this person to think that worshipping Mammon (the god of money) is okay because it isn?t. He or she just won?t be mature enough to realize that we are free in Christ. Now that having been said, all things are permissible but not all things are beneficial (we need to be careful that our freedoms don?t lead us to violate God?s character either). Perhaps in the life of another it?s alcohol, or dancing, or exercise.
Paul might say ?I will never work out again in front of my brother if it means my brother will stumble over the god of physical prowess.?
A second important point is that we are not talking about differences in style, nor are we talking about universal prohibitions for things that are not sin. If you are in the presence of someone who is deciding whether to really put their trust in Jesus and you flaunt a freedom that makes them decide not to follow Christ?that?s on you, so don?t! But between Christians who are mature, we have differences of opinions and interpretations about what is okay and what is not, and that?s okay. Just because one denomination won?t dance, for instance, doesn?t mean that no Christians can dance.
So just to be clear:
- We?re talking about salvation, not style
- We?re talking about freedoms within the character of Christ
- We?re talking about putting someone else?s salvation above our freedoms