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Choosing Love over Liberty

Good morning church, guess what we didn’t get yet?!? Our new chairs. I feel like I owe you guys an explanation for that and it’s basically this , we live in this world where we don’t alway get what we want. That’s a free lesson this morning. 1 Corinthians chapter 8 and we are going to dive right in this morning because we’ve got some ground to cover. For you that peeked in your bulletins and see two chapters there, be anxious for nothing, you’ll make it through by the power of God. Let’s pray!
1 Corinthians 8:1–3 NKJV
1 Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. 2 And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.
The Apostle Paul was an incredible teacher, prior to him recognizing that the Promised Messiah in the Old Testament was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, Paul was being groomed to be a teacher of the nation of Israel, a Rabbi to Rabbi’s; already a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, he was highly respected and full of knowledge. So sometimes when I read the writings of Paul I feel like I’m reading a set of blueprint specifications written by mechanical engineer ...and other times, its seems like it’s doctor Seuss and the original language flows together and repeats. Unfortunately, I tend to struggle with both of those extremes. So I want to lay out what was going on here, and then go through the chapter and talk about how I think it applies to us today. And I think it’s a good starting point to look at why does this matter, because quick poll, how many of you struggled with this issue this week. It’s OK, don’t be embarrassed, how many of you struggled concerning whether or not you should or shouldn’t eat meat sacrificed to an idol in a pagan temple? OK, so on the surface, or at a quick read it might not look relevant to us, but I assure you it very much is. In these two chapters Paul address a couple of different topics, but he’s really talking about the same big picture thing.
Remember, we’ve transitioned to a place in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church where he has begun responding to questions they had written to him. Remember these guys lived in a culture influenced Greece and Athens and in this culture they worshiped several different types of god’s. So much so that in Act’s 17 we see that when Paul is addressing the men of Athens it says that they had an alter to the unknown god, just in case they missed one in the hundreds of hundreds of false pagan gods that they worshiped. In fact, Paul used that as his in, saying it’s that god that I want to talk to you about, the one you don’t know, The God who made heaven and earth.
That was the culture, but these guys and gals in Corinth had become Christians and had learned some stuff. Paul lived among them had did what we’re doing, going through and learning the Scriptures. He had shown them verses like ...
Isaiah 45:5 NKJV
5 I am the Lord, and there is no other; There is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me,
and shared with them the words of Jesus who said...
John 14:6 NKJV
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
They had knowledge, they knew that all these other gods, any idol made by the hands of man, was nothing more than a piece of wood, or make believe contrived in the mind of man. In that culture it was very common for sacrifices to be made to god of the harvest, of good weather, or whatever was your fancy. Typically, when a worshiper would bring a lamb or something to sacrifice it would be offered to the false god with 1/3 of it being burnt on the alter, a 3rd would go to the worshiper to take home and consume with his family and a 3rd would go to the priest offering the sacrifice. Which was great, but what about the days when 3 people would come, or 5 people would come? You can only eat so much leg of lamb. So the excess would be sold to the meat market, it looks like you could actually eat at the temple as well.
So it sounds like these guys got saved, knew there was nothing to these false gods and had no problem getting a discount on meat. It’s 5 bucks a pound at the meat market, but $1.99 at the pagan temple, no brainier. Or they would be out and about running errands and have the choice to stop at Chipotle to grab a $10 burrito or hit the taco truck behind the pagan temple for 2 for a dollar lamb chops....but then there were some who might come over to your house for BBQ, and your serving lamb chops and they want to know where they came from. You say it doesn’t matter eat up and they get all messed up thinking, I’m a Christian now, the Holy Spirit is in me, I used to worship at that other Temple, and I’m not going to put that dirty meat involved in the worship of that evil deity inside my body. I thinks that’s sorta what things looked like, so lets go through this.
So Verse 1 again...
1 Corinthians 8:1–3 NKJV
1 Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. 2 And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.
NLT reads - But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.
1 Corinthians 8:4-6
1 Corinthians 8:4–6 NKJV
4 Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.
1 Corinthians 8:7 NKJV
7 However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.
In verse 7 Paul says the knowledge that you have is not wrong, in fact you’re right, but you need to remember that not everyone has that knowledge. And there is something that should influence our conduct as Christians even more than knowledge, even more than the knowledge of the do’s and the don’ts, and that’s love. Love should guide everything that we say and everything that we do as a Christian. It’s interesting that Paul says the one that won’t eat has the weak conscience. How is it weak?
I mean it seams that their conscience is working just fine, it’s on overdrive if anything, because their sensitive to the whole false idol thing. But Paul says their conscience is weak. Not weak due to a lack of self control or discipline, It’s weak because it’s uninformed or misinformed, their conscience is operating on the basis that there is really something to these false gods, that Zeus really exists, and they don’t want anything to do with worship of a false god. So Paul is saying their conscience may be weak, yours may be strong, but you have an opportunity here to be the stronger Christian by letting love win, don’t offend with the meat.
I can see this playing out today with an argument that truth matters, I’m right and it’s my job to teach them that their weak conscience is stupid, there are no real idols, so they should just eat the meat, the problem is that Paul says, if they do, in defiance of their conscience then they are defiled, so be careful in trying to be the Holy Spirit for other people, that’s not your job. A quote from Pastor Bill Derocher at the men’s conference yesterday. “There is danger in growing in the knowledge of God when it is not piercing your own heart.” Love needs to govern it all. Lets keep going....
1 Corinthians 8:8 NKJV
8 But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.
Now that’s interesting. Paul says their conscience is weak, but then goes on to say that food does not commend us to God. Meaning that the one who knows there’s nothing to these false idols and who eats at the taco truck behind the pagan temple is not more spiritual than the one who doesn’t eat the meat.
See this is where Christians get weird. I wanted to take this topic and make it more relevant and apply it to smoking, drinking, dancing, movies, holidays, a whole bunck of things are applicable, but the problem is whatever topic I chose that is going to be somebody’s baby and tip them right over the edge, and although there is a huge part of me that would love to do that, I don’t want to step on the Holy Spirit’s toes either.
But there is something inside of us when it comes to Christian liberties, whether it be movies, drinking, tattoos, piercings, dancing, whatever, whatever, we want to think that one side of the issue is more spiritual than the other. And Paul says, yeah, nope you’re wrong on that, so stop it. Let keep going...
1 Corinthians 8:9–12 NKJV
9 But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? 11 And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.
Vs. 12 is heavy, we’ve gone from offending a brother for eating cheap tacos, to causing them to stumble, sinning against a brother and sinning against Christ. How am I sinning against Christ? I’m the one that’s right here! Paul says no with the idea we see in Matthew 25, you should read the whole thing, but I’m just going to pull up two verses....
Matthew 25:40 NKJV
40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
Matthew 25:45 NKJV
45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’
Again, in regard to the brother with the weaker conscience Paul says...
1 Corinthians 8:13 NKJV
13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
Love wins…let me just say a couple of things about this. Paul does make it clear in this verse that there is no such thing as what is right or wrong for me is between just God and me. I need to consider what the Word says, is it a clear issue of sin, if it is..then it’s not OK for any of us. If it’s an area of liberty or what Paul calls in Romans a doubtful thing, then I can’t just consider myself, but also have to look at what is right for me to do in consideration of my brothers and sisters.....but, but, I want you to see that the criteria is causing my weaker brother to stumble. And this is legit.
Say Pastor Brian and Nicole and couple of friends go out shooting after church, bad example, that will offend some, actually we’ll keep it, it’s perfect. We go out shooting and fire off so many lead free bullets that we work up an appetite and decide to go out and grab a bite to eat. I know a good deal when I see one, so we go to the Pagan taco truck, as we are sitting there eating a brother comes along and sees me there. A brother 10 years ago was so caught up in that pagan worship that he served in that very Temple. He sees me there and he thinks, I always thought that was wrong to eat there, to partake in meat that was used in a religious ceremony to a god other than the God of Israel. Maybe I could do that too, it’s been awhile. If Brian can do, it I can probably handle it…you see where that road can lead, and you can substitute your own liberty for the taco truck OK. If that guy went shooting with us, no way would I go, I’d spring for the $10 dollar burritos and be the stronger Christian because I chose love over my own liberty.
Here’s what I do have a problem with the whiner that isn’t really stumbled by it. I’m at my favorite pagan taco truck, no I’m mowing my lawn in June in Maine and I can’t even see because the black flies are thicker than snowflakes in February. And I light up a cigar because the black flies at my house treat deet like it’s mouth wash. And you happen to be stalking me, out at the end of my road because your crazy, and you see me smoking a cigar and you are so offended. Offended, but not stumbled, you’re not tempted to go out and buy a box of cigars because you caught me smoking, I’m not stumbling you, I’m offending your legalism, and I’m really ok with that. I think probably Jesus was too when He healed on the sabbath. For the record, one of you gave me a it’s a girl or it’s a boy cigar 11 years ago, before we started the church that I still have.
We should have the heart of Paul here and chose love over liberty every time, when it come to truly stumbling a brother or sister. I have friends and family that have certain liberties that I don’t have and I expect them to exercise them in front of me, they are free to, they are not going to stumble me into sin on those issues. We have freedom in Christ and honestly, I think we make ourselves much more miserable and uptight than we need to be by not walking in that freedom! Whether it is fear that we are going to stumble some unidentified somebody that might see you walking in liberty, or some self righteous restriction you put on yourself, not by the Holy Spirit.
Paul make a transition to a different topic here in chapter 9, but is remains an issue of liberty.
1 Corinthians 9:1–2 NKJV
1 Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? 2 If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 9:3–6 NKJV
3 My defense to those who examine me is this: 4 Do we have no right to eat and drink? 5 Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working?
1 Corinthians 9:7–14 NKJV
7 Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock? 8 Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? 9 For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? 10 Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? 12 If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? 14 Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.
1 Corinthians 9:15–18 NKJV
15 But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void. 16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.
1 Corinthians 9:19–23 NKJV
19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.
1 Corinthians 9:24–27 NKJV
24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
I’ve gone longer than I wanted to but let me leave you with this as a benediction this morning from the book of Galatians, this is a good one to write down or memorize.
Galatians 5:13–14 NKJV
13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”


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