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Sun, Feb 02, 2003

44 - Handling Doubtful Things

1 Corinthians 8:8 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:1 hr 0 mins 58 secs

Handling Doubtful Things; 1Corinthians 8:8

 

1 Corinthians 8:8 NASB "But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat."

This really has to do with decision making, how to make the kinds of decisions that we should make about participating in different things in life that are not specifically addressed by the Scripture. In the minds of many people in Corinthian culture the meat, eating at the restaurant, and then all of the mystical ritual activities, including the ritual prostitution, were all considered to be part and parcel of the same package. In the minds of many people they couldn't separate the meat, or even eating in the restaurant on the temple precincts, from what else went on on the temple precincts. So there were, on the one hand, those who felt that if you ate meat that had been sacrificed to idols that somehow you were validating the entire idolatrous system and participating in it. And then there were those who had been saved out of this background and had because of their sin nature and lust of the flesh and their particular weaknesses in the sin nature the tendency to see someone who went down to the temple and ate at the restaurant, perhaps a more mature believer who went on home and never engaged in any of the ritual prostitution or drunkenness or any of the other things that went on, and just couldn't look at it from the standpoint of just going down and enjoying a good steak. If he went down and had a good steak he would be so tempted by what was going on in the next room he just couldn't eat his steak and go home, he would have to go on and participate in everything else. So there were some problems there and the problem being addressed was how the believer could address those who had this area of weakness, as well as a problem that isn't so evident in the text of 1 Corinthians chapter eight itself, and that is, what do you do with the believer who thinks that participation of any part somehow validates the whole?

Four laws that are at the core of any kinds of decision making in the area of doubtful things

1)  The law of liberty. This law is really directed toward one's own self. It has to do with one's own position in Christ. Galatians 5:1 NASB "It was for freedom that Christ set us free…" This law is a spiritual ordinance directed towards one's self that emphasizes the believer's freedom to glorify the Lord. This law confers on every believer the right to enter into or participate in any activity that is not stated to be sinful in the Scriptures and will not cause personal failure in the spiritual life. In 1 Corinthians 9:4-6 NASB "Do we not have a right to eat and drink? … Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife…? … Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working?" It is a right. Furthermore, it is lawful. [10:23] "All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify." It is lawful, i.e. it does not violate any of the mandates of God. [29] "I mean not your own conscience, but the other {man's;} for why is my freedom judged by another's conscience?" Paul clearly states the principle that every believer has liberty, freedom, certain rights, and it is lawful. But that doesn't mean that just because it is our liberty and it is lawful that believers should always do certain things in every situation. The question is that in that in many areas of life the issue of participation or non-participation in an activity is not related to morality, not to spirituality per se, it is not a behaviour, a practice or custom that is prohibited in Scripture, but it has to do with something that is simply a cultural norm.

2)  The law of love. The law of love is directed toward other believers. This is a spiritual law based on consideration for immature believers. 1 Corinthians 8:13 NASB "Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble." This is considering how our behaviour might impact or affect an immature believer. This law places love for the weaker Christian ahead of the law of liberty. This is going to emphasize the fact that even though I have a right to do something it might have an impact on someone in my presence, therefore I am going to choose not to do what I have a right to do in order to help someone else. As an application of impersonal love the believer refrains from participating in a legitimate activity, not because it is wrong but in order to spare susceptible believers from temptation in their area of weakness. A problem with the law of love is that if you take that and push it to its logical extension then you end up saying, well maybe there's not much I can do because there is always the possibility that somebody out there is going to take anything that I do out of context and use it to justify some sort of sin. So we have to address that because Paul is certainly not saying that. So we have the balance between the law of liberty, what we have a right to, and the law of love which is recognizing its negative impact on some other believer.

3)  The law of expediency. This is directed toward unbelievers. In the law of expediency this is a spiritual ordinance that is based on consideration for the unbeliever, that the believer is going to refrain from certain activities, not because they are sinful but because they may mislead or offend an unbeliever and prevent him from recognizing the true issue of the gospel.

4)  The law of personal sacrifice. This is a spiritual principle directed toward God that involves the abandonment of a completely legitimate function in life in order to more intensely serve the Lord in a specialized capacity. This is the idea that for the time being I am going to give up something that I may have a legitimate right to in order to serve the Lord in a more specialized capacity. It may involve someone who has the gift of celibacy, who could get married but chooses not to get married in order to serve the Lord in a more specialized capacity. The motive underlying this sacrifice is always evangelism and spiritual growth of the individual believer.