Summary: First Corinthians chapters 8-10 give us 3 road tests to use so we don't misuse our freedoms. Love is better than knowledge. Rewards are more important than our rights. And Obedience is better than over-confidence.
Road Tests for Freedom (1 Corinthians 8-10)
We’re in a series called Road Trip with Paul and today we’re looking at a part of a letter Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. Paul had spent about a year and a half in Corinth, establishing a church in that thriving Port City. The advice he wrote to that young church is valuable advice for us, 2000 years later.
Last week we looked at chapters 5,6, and 7 where Paul emphasized the importance of PURITY in the church. This week we’re going to see what Paul had to say about our Freedom in Christ, in chapters 8, 9, and 10. In this part of the letter, Paul gives us some ROAD TESTS for how we use our Christian Freedom.
Here’s the definition of ROAD TEST for a car: A test of a motor vehicle's operating capability under actual road conditions. Paul is giving advice here for how we can avoid misusing our FREEDOM in Christ under the ACTUAL ROAD CONDITIONS of life. Even though God has given us freedom to make our own choices in life, we need to keep our priorities in mind. The first thing Paul says is that when we make life decisions, LOVE must always win over KNOWLEDGE.
1. Knowledge vs. Love (Chapter 8)
1 Corinthians 8:1 explains it this way: knowledge puffs up while love builds up.
The particular situation Paul is addressing here is something that we don’t deal with today --- but it was a big deal to the Christians in Corinth. When was the last time you were in the awkward social situation of having to decide whether or not to eat meat that has been offered to idols?
It was a common situation in Paul’s day. When a person sacrificed an animal to a pagan god, the animal was divided into 3 parts: 1/3 burned; 1/3 given to the priests; 1/3 given back to the worshiper or sold on the market. The meat offered on the market was usually sold at a discounted price; in other words, it was a bargain.
Some Christians believed it was wrong to participate in ANYTHING that had connection to the pagan idols they used to worship. But many other Christians thought, “We KNOW idols aren’t real, so what’s big deal? We aren’t going to pass up a good bargain!” Wouldn’t all you “bargain hunters” feel the same way?
Paul knew that in Christ we are free from the old LAW and its many dietary restrictions. But Paul also knew that there was a higher LAW for the church – the Law of LOVE. Here’s the ROAD TEST Paul gave to the believers in Corinth: Now, about food sacrificed to idols, we know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God. 1 Corinthians 8:1-3
Paul explained that, as Christians, we KNOW we have FREEDOM to eat whatever we wish. However, if using that freedom will hurt our brothers and sisters in the church, we should let LOVE win out over KNOWLEDGE. In our Christian ROAD TRIP, we run into these kinds of situations all the time.
I ran into this kind of sticky situation when I did my first summer internship at a church in Dodge City, Kansas in 1971. We were at a wedding reception where they had a glass of Champagne poured at every place setting. I actually hadn’t ever tasted “bubbly,” but I nonchalantly took a sip or two without thinking anything of it. Later, one of the middle school boys in my youth group said, “Ed, I didn’t know if I should drink that alcohol or not, but when I saw you drinking it, I figured it must be okay for me, too.” I decided right then and there that I was going to curtail my freedom in favor of setting the best example I could for any kids that might be looking at me to set the standard.
Some of the situations we face have nothing to do with things as simple as eating or drinking but everything to do with KNOWLEDGE that puffs up verses LOVE that builds up. I remember one situation where I got in an argument over DOCTRINE with a relative. We had a heated discussion, and when it was over I realized there was a lot more heat than light! I still believe I was right on my doctrine, but it’s not a matter of being right --- it’s a matter of giving light. In the end result, my puffed up argument didn’t build up anyone! Needless to say, I determined not to waste time in that kind of argument ever again.