Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
What\'s More Important: You or the Gospel?
In the latter half of chapter 10 Paul comes back to the argument he was making in 8 about food offered to idols. The Corinthians were arguing with Paul that because idols aren?t anything, and certainly aren?t gods, that eating food sacrificed to them was of no consequence. Paul tells them that it is indeed a great consequence if a person?s walk with Christ is ruined by witnessing them eating at an idol temple.
Paul said he would rather never eat meat again than stumble someone in terms of the gospel because the gospel is more important than his freedom.
He then goes on to talk about ways that we can be stumbled in our walk, even by idolatry by showing us examples from the history of the children of Israel.
Now he returns to the subject of eating idol sacrificed meat. Basically it all boils down to this: know your audience. If someone?s salvation depends on it, be very careful what you say and do. But don?t make that a legalistic argument for yourself by yourself because you are indeed free in Christ.
14 ? 15
Notice first how Paul refers to the Corinthians as ?dear friends.? Paul is not a stern task master but a concerned colleague. That?s great advice when we deal with difficult issues with each other too!
One of the ways of escape that Paul says God will provide for temptation is simply fleeing. The Corinthians could have been in danger of falling back into their old ways by going to feasts where the meat had been sacrificed to idols. And even if they were strong enough to withstand the temptation perhaps someone going with them might not be.
?Use common sense,? Paul says. Don?t hang around the edges of stuff that will pull away from Christ.
It is also a mistake to think that there is no power at all in associating with the things that you used to do that were contrary to the character of Christ:
16 ? 22
Divided loyalties are dangerous. As we take communion we participate in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As the Jews ate the sacrifice they participated in it. Both represent a mystical union with God. To go to an idol temple and participate in a religious ceremony would be like having an affair with a demon. It?s counterintuitive and just plain wrong. Clearly something like this would anger the Lord. Our God is a jealous God?like a loving husband over His wife. He does not want us to belong to anyone else.
Is this possible today? You bet. Our idols may not be of wood and stone, but they are just as real. Idolatry is relying on anything other than God. The people of Corinth relied on the idols to bring them fortune, good health, large families, good crops, and the like. There is nothing wrong with any of these things; it is how we get them and who we acknowledge as the source that gets us into trouble.
I think there is also some sound advice here. To claim to be a Christian and then be seen as assenting to or participating in things that are clearly not of Christ is like partnering with Christ and partnering with demons?the source of the anti-Christian culture we see growing around us.
In a moment, Paul will give us the general rule of thumb when it comes to this sort of thing.
23 ? 24
Again, Paul is quoting the Corinthians argument back to them. There is something bigger going on here than whether you are or are not permitted to do something. The bigger question is: how are your actions going to reflect on the Lord, affect your walk with Him, and influence those around you for the gospel?
25 ? 30
There is a bit of ?don?t ask, don?t tell? going on here. Meat in the marketplace may or may not have been left over from the idol sacrifices. If they didn?t know, then go ahead and dive in. But if the person they are eating with says ?Oh, by the way, I got this from the idol temple,? then you would decline, so that the witness for the Lord (loyalty only to Him) would be paramount, not your freedom to eat whatever you want.
Let?s say someone gives you a gift. You receive it gratefully. Then they tell you that they got this as a result of witchcraft. Though the thing itself is morally neutral, the idea that it is partnered with witchcraft carries some hefty spiritual consequences. So you would decline it saying that you will have nothing to do with the worship of Satan.
Paul is pretty specific saying that it is not for himself that it matters, but for the sake of the other who may be watching and listening to how you react.
31 ? 33
So here it is, plain and simple. Whatever you do, decide whether God will be lifted up or denigrated; whether someone will be more or less likely to fall in love with Him through your actions.
Not so cut and dry, is it? It takes maturity, knowledge of the Lord, and experience walking (and stumbling) with Him.
Rather than follow a set of do?s and don?ts, we learn to love Christ and become like Him, then we know how to act in every situation.
So I love this final thought. Paul does not say just ?Be imitators of me,? and end it there, but ?as I also am of Christ.? Our goal should definitely be to look up to those who are mature and able to reflect well the glory and character of God in their lives. But that is not a blanket statement. We imitate those things we see in others that imitate the character of Jesus.
1. A corollary to this might be that we who are maturing in Christ should realize the freedoms we have and that if we ourselves feel something in a gray area isn?t proper we shouldn?t force that opinion on someone else. Paul said he is not to be judged by the conscience of another. Christians often fight over really silly things and yet don?t focus on the most important: sharing the love of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
2. How important is the salvation of others to you? To Paul, it was so important that he was 1) willing to give up freedoms he had in Christ in order not to stumble someone else and 2) watchful of how others perceived him in matters important to salvation.
Paul made it clear that he is indeed free to do whatever he wants, and so are we. The two things to keep in mind are 1) does it bring glory to God and 2) does it make someone less or more likely to accept the gospel.