I Corinthians 8- Making Wise Decisions
One of the areas of concern and controversy was the eating of meat sacrificed to idols. Although this specific issue is not a concern of Christians today, the underlying question pertains to Christian liberty, especially in questionable areas. Paul will in this next section of his letter give us principles to guide us in making wise decisions about questionable areas.
Chapter 8 is a short chapter dealing with this issue and gives us a very important principle. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Knowledge must be balanced by love in order to build up.
You will notice Paul is addressing this issue to the strong Christians in the church, those with spiritual maturity. The mature believer who has spiritual knowledge and experience and understands their authority and freedom in Christ are to help and care for the weak Christian. If they are ‘babes in Christ’ they need supervision and attention.
There were two sources of meat in Corinth in those days: the regular market (where prices would be higher) and the local pagan temples, where meat from the sacrifices were available at lower prices.
The strong Christian realized an idol was nothing, and there was nothing wrong with eating the meat sacrificed to idols. However, the weaker brother who had come out of pagan idolatry could not in good conscience eat this meat. Paul complimented the Christians in Corinth in the opening of his letter, writing: “For in Him you have been enriched in every way- in all you’re speaking and in all your knowledge…” These stronger more knowledgeable Christians knew that an idol was nothing, a representation of a false god in the darkened minds of unbelievers who had been deceived.
What Paul has said it this knowledge can ‘puff up’ one- make them proud of their knowledge, give them the ‘big head’. He clearly states knowledge which ‘puffs up’ cannot build up. Paul is describing a ‘know-it-all’ who exhibits an air of condescension toward those who do not know.
Paul says the person who thinks he knows something, knows nothing as he ought to know. But the man who loves God realizes how limited his knowledge is- how little he really knows.
Knowledge is all about knowing facts.
Understanding is the ability to transfer the facts into meaning.
James has one of the best definitions of the kind of wisdom a Christian is to possess: “But wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; the peace-loving, considerate, submissive (willing to yield), full of mercy; and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
Proverbs 2 tells us: “For the Lord gives wisdom and from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding. “ Proverbs 2 also gives us the ‘if and then’ -we are responsible for the ‘if’ and God is responsible for the ‘then.’ This is cause and effect.
The If’s represent your responsibilities: *If you accept my words and store up my commands.*if you turn your ear to wisdom apply your heart to understanding. And* if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if* you look for it as for silver, and search for it as hidden treasure, THEN(God will do this) you will understand the fear of the Lord.’ The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Seeing things from God’s viewpoint. And regarding wisdom, James said if any of you lack wisdom, ask God and He will give it liberally- but we must ask without doubting.
It is one thing to know doctrine (facts) and entirely something else to know God. It is possible to grow in knowledge of the Bible but yet not grow in grace and fall deeply in love with the God of the Bible. This is the test- love. Paul will give us a great chapter on love in I Corinthians 13.
But the principle here is to be effective, to use knowledge correctly it must be combined with love in order to build up.
Someone has said: “Truth without love is brutal; but love without truth is hypocrisy.”
With knowledge comes power and it must be combined with love. We are to speak the truth in love. Paul states this truth so eloquently and powerfully in this prayer, which you can pray for yourself and those who the Lord brings to mind: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in the knowledge and depth in insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ- the glory and praise of God.” (Phil. 1:9-11)
Paul’s greater concern in this situation was for the strong, knowledgeable saints to help the weaker saints. It is almost contrary to logic, but it is the weaker Christian who wants to live by rules and regulations and get offended when others exercise their freedom in Christ. This is where love enters the picture for knowledge combined with love builds up.
The purpose of a teacher is to cause the learner to learn. Learning is acquiring knowledge of facts plus understanding of the facts and principles and applying those as they are to be applied- which is wisdom. The college professor who enters the classroom on the first day of class and tells the students, the learners, ‘very few, if any will earn an “A” in my class in this course.’ You want to ask him or her- are you that ineffective a teacher? Their knowledge has puffed them up. We have all had in our life as students or employees a teacher or boss who intimidated and made one feel foolish for their lack of knowledge and understanding.
Listen to how Jesus described His teaching method: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” You truly learn by doing. And Jesus says, I will teach you. He is not a condescending, arrogant professor. His whole demeanor and personality is gentleness and humility. The Lord knows you learn by doing, so He provides us with the knowledge, and then allows us to enter into a situation or circumstances where we must put the knowledge into practice. He says He will never allow us to be tested or tempted above that which we can bear. Do you not see He is there with you, our ever present help in time of trouble; we are under the yoke with Him, which enables us to bear it. It is an apprenticeship where you have a loving master who wants you to do what He has been doing and even greater things. You can gain knowledge about a subject, (i.e., a computer) by reading the instructions, but you learn by doing. Everyone who has a learning curve which includes acquiring knowledge, then a time of learning how to put it into practice. We have a Master teacher. In the world today, knowledge is exploding exponentially. Doubling every 18 months which means it would increase 100 % in 18 month; 900% in 5 years, and 10,000 percent in 10 years. Many predict based on this exponential growth – the 21st century will make increases equivalent to 20,000 years of advancements. Paul said in the last days we would be – ‘ever learning but never coming to the truth.’ Which means, knowledge is coming faster than we can possibly absorb it. No sooner do we learn it and it is obsolete.
But the Word of God lasts forever and the Lord does not change. His laws and principles we learn by doing- will never fail us. His principles will allow us to stand all the storms as the shifting tectonic plates of this earth are wobbling with the warp speed of technology. You can see as we look ahead at the changes technology are bringing through globalization plus the impact of a population headed for 9 billion by 2050, the whole world is looking for a leader to solve the problems. The stage is set for the Anti-Christ to appear on the scene and tell us there is only one way to do solve the world problems- a one world government under one ruler who will be empowered by Satan to say he can make all of this work and bring world peace and order for a short period of 3.5 years.
Do you understand what is occurring? In Genesis 11, we read: “The whole world had one language… they said come let us build a city with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we can make a name for ourselves. But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The Lord said if as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, the nothing they plan will be impossible for them. Come let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other and scatter them all over the earth.” The time was not right for this to occur. But now the 21st century has erected the Tower of Babel once again and the confused, chaotic world is now being prepared for the final showdown and the arrival of the Anti-Christ.
Paul then enlightens us regarding the third factor: conscience. Paul says not everyone has knowledge that idols are nothing. They came out of years of sacrifice to idols and the conscience is weak. To eat this meat would offend their conscience. Herein lies another principle: *The more spiritual knowledge is acted upon, the stronger the conscience will become.
Paul then tells them how to deal with this situation: be careful the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. We defer to the weaker Christian in order to help them mature.
In I Corinthians 10- Paul returns to this situation to make these principles clear. “Everything is permissible” – but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible- but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” (vs. 23, 24)
And then in I Cor. 10: 31-33: “So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God. Do not cause another to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God- even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so they may be saved.”
Freedom must be balanced by responsibility to others. Jesus first, others second and yourself third. He who is last will be first.
THE SECRET OF LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
God created man with great capacity to know God and to rule and reign with Him. God did not create you, and Christ Jesus did not die for you and take the punishment for all our sins, so that you could go through life getting. God created you and the Lord Jesus purchased you that you might go through life giving. Once you realize the secret of the abundant life is fruit bearing you have discovered the secret of living. The fruit you bear is to be shared with people who are starving for truth and meaning. Notice it is bearing fruit not producing. Jesus said the devil came to steal and kill and destroy. Do you know how the enemy does that- through convincing us the real purpose of life is go through life – getting: acquiring money, houses, stuff. Go through life like we were playing the game of Monopoly, buying, trading always moving about, until the game is over and it all goes back in the box.
Jesus said – “I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly. “ By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, so you will be My disciples.” (John 15)
Here are the complete instructions for living the abundant Christian life.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” We are branches, He is the vine, and the Father is the vinedresser. We became branches in the Vine by trusting the Lord Jesus as Savior and Master. Our Vine is in heaven and His branches are on earth. Now the world is under the rule and sway of the devil. The devil convinces the many, the vine of earth is where we will find the abundant life. So when we look at our culture today here is what we see: a society and culture without Christ. Those who have trusted Christ are branches in Vine in heaven. Those who have rejected Him are branches in the vine of earth.
“And another angel, the one who has power over fire, came down from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Put in your sharp sickle, and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe. And the angel swung the sickle to the earth, gathered the clusters of grapes from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the Wrath of God.” (Revelation14: 18.19)
SECRET 1. The reason God saved you was to bear fruit in this world of hungry people starving for truth that works. The vine of earth can produce entertainment and even happiness. But only the Vine of Heaven can produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. What a cluster of grapes!
SECRET 2. The secret of fruit bearing is abiding. The branch abides in the vine; apart from the vine it can do nothing. Paul writes in Phil 2: “, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you, both to will and do His good pleasure.” As we surrender, God works in, as we obey, God works out. Abiding involves spending time in God’s Word, meditation and prayer. It involves confessing our sins, the sooner the better. It involves a desire to do His will.
SECRET 3. The secret of abiding is obeying. Jesus said, ‘if you keep my commandments you will abide in my love. The Law of Obedience is universal. If you obey the laws of good health, you will abide in good health. Obey the laws of nature and you will have an environment of clear air, pure water, and natural supply of good resources. Disobey them and you have a global environment in ecological crisis. Disobedience leads to problems. There is no substitute for obedience. Obedience releases power.
SECRET 4. The secret of obeying is loving. Jesus said, if you love me, keep my commandments. It is no coincidence Jesus quoted often from the book of Deuteronomy for it is there we find the greatest commandment: to Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, mind, will and strength. The more you love Him, the more you will obey Him and the more you obey Him, the more you will abide in Him and bear much fruit. You then realize, the more fruit you bear, the more you live the abundant life, a life of joy.
SECRET 5. The secret of loving is knowing. The more you know the Lord Jesus, the more you will love Him. In John 17:3, Jesus said: This is life eternal that they may know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent.”
Obeying is giving God your will. Loving is giving Him your heart. And knowing is giving Him your mind.
Present your bodies a living sacrifice- for this is your reasonable service and be not conformed to this world ,but transformed by the renewing your mind.
Learning how to make wise decisions is a part of the sanctification process.
Abraham, like us, learned to make wise decisions after making foolish ones, suffering the consequence.
Remember tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance refined character.