Christian Liberty - Be Sensitive to Conscience
1 Corinthians 8:1-13

2 Timothy 3:16-17
[16] All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, [17] so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

What is more important to you?
·What you think or the Word of God?
·What you feel or the Word of God?
·What you experience or the Word of God?
·How you were raised or the Word of God?
·What your traditions tell you to do or the Word of God?
·What your culture teaches you or the Word of God?
·What your culture demands of you or the Word of God?

In the Word of GOD, there are many things that we are told to do.  There are other things that we are forbidden from doing.  There are even some areas where we are not told exactly what we should do.

What should we do in cases where the Word of God is not specific about doing it or not doing it?  What Biblical principles should we use to make this decision?

When writing to the Corinthian church, Paul encourages them to be sensitive to their conscience.  Many of the Corinthians behaved in a carnal manner - they were babes in Christ.  Paul deals first with carnalities and later he will deal with spiritualties.  Since it is in the level of carnalities that the church lives, moves and has its being, this section of Scripture is very pertinent for you and me!

1.What has God provided to us to use to make decisions in regard to all of our daily activities?

2.What aspect of our lives is more important for guidance than God’s Word?
The subject of diet is just as controversial as marriage and divorce, methods of worship, dowries or the murder of witches.  Diet is a fad with many people and is an essential part of the ritual of many cults and isms.  Many cults and isms have very stringent rules regarding eating certain foods.

In the Old Testament God gave Israel certain restrictions about eating meat.  For example, an edible animal had a parted hoof and chewed the cud.  This eliminated the pig whose hoof is parted but does not chew the cud.  There were also certain fowl and fish which were designated by name as unfit for food.

Deuteronomy 14:1-3
[1] “You are the sons of the Lord your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead.  [2] For you are a people holy to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.  [3] “You shall not eat any abomination.

1.Why did God give a special diet to Israel?

God said that Israel was a holy people and a chosen people unto the Lord their God.  Since diet is important for health, God gave Israel food that was good for them.  In Paul’s day the best place to eat was not the swankiest restaurant - the best place to get good meat was in the meat shop that was run by the temple.  In Corinth the people brought sacrifices of the best animals they had to offer to the idols at the temple. 

They believed the spirit of the idol ate the spirit of the animal - that was all of the meat meant for the idol.  Then they took the meat to the stalls around the temple, which was the meat market where the meat was sold.  If you wanted to buy a filet or the best steaks or the best prime rib roast in Corinth, you had to go to one of those shops at the temple to get meat which had been offered to idols. 

Some of the Christians in Corinth were offended by this practice and asked Paul about it.  They would be invited out to dinner with another Christian family and would be served a lovely filet mignon.  During the dinner they would ask the host where they got the meat only to find it came from the temple meat market.  This would offend the couple who felt it was wrong to eat anything that had been offered to an idol.  This was a real problem to the people in Corinth because many of them had come out of that background of idolatry and they thought this was a compromise with idolatry.  However, others in the church felt it made no difference at all.

1 Corinthians 8:1-2
[1] Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.  [2] If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.

Knowledge ‘puffs up’ or blows up like a balloon or like a car tire.  Love is different - love doesn’t blow up - it fills up!  Love for God and love for others should determine our conduct.

1.What determines your conduct - your knowledge or love?

Knowledge alone (without love) puffs up and tends to make us harsh in our dealings with others.  This is a danger in the Christian realm as we can think that we know a lot while, in reality, we know very little.  We cannot truly say we know everything about a subject - all of us are in the learning process.

Philippians 3:10
[10] that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.

It is the knowledge of Christ which we need above everything else.  Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 8:2 that we may have certain knowledge and because of that certain knowledge, our behavior can be governed by it.

1 Corinthians 8:3
[3] But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

We should be governed by love rather than knowledge - love is more important than knowledge.  Knowledge can make us look good and feel important, but we can all too easily develop an arrogant, know-it-all attitude - this is not a Christian attitude.

1 John 4:7-8
[7] Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  [8] Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Many people with strong opinions are unwilling to listen to and learn from God and others.  We can obtain God’s love only by loving Him.  We can know and be known by God only when we model Him by showing love.

1 Corinthians 8:4
[4] Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.”

After you know Christ personally, after you have the Word of God, you know that an idol is nothing.  That is the way that Paul spoke of the idols - they are nothing.  They cannot be anything else because there is but one God!  So he says that the meat offered to the idol was not affected - nothing happened to it - it was not contaminated but was still prime meat.  So the Christians Paul spoke to could go to the market to get meat and eat it with no problem. 

1 Corinthians 8:5-6
[5] For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth-as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”- [6] yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

These idols are merely called gods.  Apollo meant nothing - it was a worthless idol!  Athena meant nothing - it was a worthless idol!  Aphrodite meant nothing - it was a worthless idol!  The meat was brought in to the idol, left there for a while, and then taken to the meat shop.  It made no difference in the meat - the idol was nothing! 

The instructed Christian knew that.  He knew there is but one God, the Father.  He knew there is but one Lord Jesus Christ!  It is He alone who we should worship!  He made all things and all things belong to Him!

1.Why could the instructed Christian eat meat that had been offered to idols without being concerned?

2.When the instructed Christian knew others were offended by this, how should he respond to them?

1 Corinthians 8:7
[7] However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

The weak ones, the babes in Christ, the carnal Christians - these were the ones offended by the meat offered to idols.  They did not have the knowledge so their consciences bothered them and in turn, they criticized the others who felt at liberty to eat the meat. 

We still have the same issue today - we have people who call themselves separated Christians who think they are being very spiritual when they are actually revealing that they do not have the knowledge.  They are the ones who say you cannot do this or that.  They are the ones who are offended at Christians who use their Christian liberty.  They are like the Christians at Corinth who were offended when they were served meat offered to idols.  This kind of separation is not due to spirituality - it is due to ignorance!

1 Corinthians 8:8
[8] Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.

Now Paul lays down a great principle - meat has nothing to do with our relationship to God.  Remember Simon Peter’s trouble with the sheet that was lowered three times (Acts 10:11-15)?  The Lord told him, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.”  In other words, God is no longer making the distinction between the clean and unclean animals - that time has passed and now we can eat any animal that we wish to eat.

Paul has stated a great principle here:  Meat does not commend you to God - you may do as you please in such matters.  That is the liberty a believer has!

1 Corinthians 8:9
[9] But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.

It is not a question of being right or wrong.  It is concern that we should have for others.  You have the liberty to eat the meat if you want to, but what about your concern for others?  You have the knowledge, but what about your love?  Do you have love for your weak brother?  Are you concerned how this will affect him?

1 Corinthians 8:10
[10] For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?

The reason that many of us who are in Christian service refrain from doing certain things is so that we will not offend others.  This may include things like dancing or even certain methods of worship.  It’s not a matter of right or wrong.  There are many things that I am at liberty to do that I do not do!  My decision is on the basis of love because I do not want to hurt my weak brother.  I do not want to be responsible for drawing him away from the Lord if he is a weak brother.

1 Corinthians 8:11
[11] And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.

We operate on a different principle.  It is not a question of an activity being right or wrong, rather it is a question of its effects on that weak brother or upon your neighbor. 

1 Corinthians 8:12
[12] Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.

When we are responsible for a believer falling away from Christ, we are affecting Christ Himself!

1 Corinthians 8:13
[13] Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

Here is the motivation for action on these things:

1 Corinthians 10:23
[23] “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

There is no point in arguing about whether something is right or wrong.  It is not a matter of being right or wrong. Rather it is a question of the effect on the weak brother.  It is not a question of knowledge since all things are lawful for me.  The liberty of the Christian is not pinned down by legality.  The Christian is not encircled by rules of conduct.  Instead, his liberty is limited by love!  His motivation should be not to offend the brother, but to be a blessing to him.  That is how to determine Christian conduct and is the motivation for Christian conduct.

My knowledge can tell me that it is perfectly all right for me to do something, but my love for the weak brother will keep me from doing it.  Christian freedom does not mean that anything goes.  It means that our salvation is not determined by good works or legalistic rules, but by the gift of God. 

Christian freedom is inseparably tied to Christian responsibility.  New believers are often sensitive to what is right or wrong, or what they should or should not do.  Some actions may be perfectly all right for us to do but may harm a Christian brother or sister who is still young in the faith and learning what the Christian life is all about.

We must be careful not to offend a sensitive or younger Christian or cause him or her to sin.  When we love others, our freedom should be less important to us than strengthening the faith of a brother or sister in Christ!  Is your Christian freedom more important to you than your testimony (witness)?

1.Even though we have freedom and liberty as a Christian, who should we consider when exercising that freedom?

2.When we think of our weaker brother or sister in Christ and put them first in our actions, are we acting on our knowledge or acting on our love for them?

3.Who do we ultimately sin against when we harm a weaker Christian’s conscience?

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