Summary: What's permissible for me to do once I believe in Jesus Christ? The answer to that question is actually tied up in how Jesus wants to use you in spreading the gospel. Learn in this lesson how to put His love above your freedom.
As we begin chapter 8, Paul answers a second question the Corinthians posed. And for that I want to mention two things:
1. I want to go back to what I’ve said throughout this study. As believers in Jesus Christ we are first being transformed into the character of God (Rom 12:1 , 2 Corinthians 3:18 ) and secondly, that character is being used by God to shine out the gospel into a dark world (2 Corinthians 5:20 ) as ambassadors.
Everything we do and say ought to have this in mind. As Paul said “you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:20 ).
2. (Rom 8:2 ) “Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (NIV). Though we are free, it doesn’t mean we can just do anything we want whenever we want, given the reality of point 1.
Take a look back at 1 Corinthians 6:12 “Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is helpful.” We can apply this to our lives, not everything we do will help our walk with Christ, though it is technically permissible. But in Chapter 8 we also apply this to our interaction with others in the culture.
(Gal 5:13-14 ) “For you are called to freedom, brothers; only don't use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love.”
This includes the way we treat others who are not as far along as we are in our understanding of the freedoms we have in Christ—and that’s what chapter 8 is all about.
As we read it, think of the freedom of Christ juxtaposed with responsibility to be an ambassador and example to the world and to young Christians.
1 – 6
The culture of Corinth was very pagan. Temples and idols were a dime a dozen there. Part of the worship of those false gods was in animal sacrifice. Once the animals were sacrificed to a pagan god, they were consumed. You didn’t just go down to Safeway and buy a nice rib eye, most of the time the meat you bought in the meat market had been sacrificed to a demon.
The Corinthians were of the opinion that since they didn’t partake in the religious aspects of the meat, they were free to eat it without guilt.
In the Holman, “we all have knowledge” is in quotes, as if it was part of the letter they had written to Paul. Their arguments continued in verse 4 “an idol is nothing in the world” and “there is no God but one.” It was a sound argument. In fact, on its face they are correct and he’ll say that basically in a moment.
What they needed to do was go beyond the legality of eating pagan-sacrificed meat to the expedience of doing so in the sight of others. He is appealing to the Corinthians to go beyond themselves.
There is a great tendency when you know a lot about God to begin to put yourself above others. The truth of the matter is, the more you get to know God and are known by Him, the more you get His heart, which is not a heart that says “I’m pretty special because I know a lot of stuff that you don’t” but “I’m going to use my knowledge to find a way to reach out in love, even if it means personal sacrifice.” When you love God, God knows you and you begin to share His love-giving character.
Verse 6 seems to be quoting perhaps a hymn or poem of the day. It is true, and is among the most incredible things you can learn, that despite all the “gods” in the world, there really is only One God and One Lord. It really is all about Jesus. The world’s gods are really simply puppets for demons.
The problem is, not everyone knows this, and especially as they are considering whether the claims of the Bible are true, or have recently come into faith in the One Lord Jesus.
7 – 11
So let’s run through this:
1) Not everyone is as far along in their understanding and maturity in Christ. In the beginning you can’t handle just wading back into the areas in the world that you worshipped. Their conscience is defiled which means “to soil” like throwing dirt on a clean shirt.
2) Though it is true that as mature Christians we have the freedom to do many things, we need to make sure what are free to do does not cause someone else to “stumble” which means “a stub” like a thing you would trip over. Their conscience can’t yet handle that freedom.
3) If you continue to flaunt your freedom, it might actually cause them to think that worshipping the old gods is okay, and could actually cause them to not put their weight fully down on Jesus. The word “ruin” means to “destroy fully.”