PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 8:4-6; One God and One Lord

02/23 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 One God and One Lord; Audio available at:

1 Corinthians 8 [SBLGNT]

1 Περὶ δὲ τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων, οἴδαμεν ὅτι πάντες γνῶσιν ἔχομεν. ἡ γνῶσις φυσιοῖ, ἡ δὲ ἀγάπη οἰκοδομεῖ. 2 εἴ τις δοκεῖ ἐγνωκέναι τι, οὔπω ἔγνω καθὼς δεῖ γνῶναι· 3 εἰ δέ τις ἀγαπᾷ τὸν θεόν, οὗτος ἔγνωσται ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ. 4 Περὶ τῆς βρώσεως οὖν τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων οἴδαμεν ὅτι οὐδὲν εἴδωλον ἐν κόσμῳ, καὶ ὅτι οὐδεὶς θεὸς εἰ μὴ εἷς. 5 καὶ γὰρ εἴπερ εἰσὶν λεγόμενοι θεοὶ εἴτε ἐν οὐρανῷ εἴτε ἐπὶ γῆς, ὥσπερ εἰσὶν θεοὶ πολλοὶ καὶ κύριοι πολλοί, 6 ἀλλ’ ἡμῖν εἷς θεὸς ὁ πατήρ, ἐξ οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς εἰς αὐτόν, καὶ εἷς κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, δι’ οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς δι’ αὐτοῦ.

1 Corinthians 8 [ESV2011]

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. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 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.” 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.

Paul is building his case in chapters 8-10 against any participation in idolatry for the follower of Jesus. The Jerusalem decree was clear; Gentile believers were not obligated to conform to Jewish laws. They wrote:

Acts 15:28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

Paul has already confronted issues of sexual immorality in this church. Now he delicately handles the issue of involvement in pagan idolatry. The Corinthians had built their case for Christian liberty something like this: “all of us possess knowledge” (v.1); and “an idol has no real existence” because “there is no God but one” (v.4), and we know that “food will not commend us to God” (v.8), therefore “all things are lawful” (10:23) so we have the right to eat whatever we want wherever we want.

Paul starts by pointing out the inadequacy of knowledge without love (8:1-3). Those who think they have arrived at complete knowledge have not yet even begun on the path to real knowledge. ‘Where pride is, is ignorance of God’ [Calvin]. In true knowledge, it is God who takes the first step. He knew us. He loved us and gave himself up for us. We respond in humility to his love by turning from self to love him and to love others.

No God But One

In verses 4-6 he affirms their claim that ‘an idol has no real existence’ and ‘there is no God but one’. In chapter 10 he will come back around to this issue, and point to the fact that although an idol is nothing, there are real demonic powers behind the pagan idols that we must not involve ourselves with. But at this point in his argument, he is willing to assent that an idol is nothing.

When Paul came to Athens,

Acts 17:16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.

…22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

…29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Paul was clear to communicate that the true God who made everything is not like any image that anyone could ever dream up. He cannot be accurately represented by anything. He does not live in temples and he does not need anything. This is what got Paul in trouble in Ephesus.

Acts 19:24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25 These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”

Paul’s reputation preceded him; that he turned people away from images saying that gods made with hands are no gods. The gods that people worshiped he counted as nothing.

This is in line with what God said repeatedly in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 41, God challenges the idols of the people

Isaiah 41:23 Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; do good, or do harm, that we may be dismayed and terrified. 24 Behold, you are nothing, and your work is less than nothing; an abomination is he who chooses you.

God says to the idols ‘you are nothing, and your work is less than nothing.’ He displays their total inability to do good or to do harm. They are nothing. In chapter 44 he declares:

Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. 8 Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” 9 All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. 10 Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? 11 Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.

Besides me there is no god. Idols are profitable for nothing. He goes further to talk about the ones who fashion the idols and says they are nothing, and will be put to shame. In chapter 46, he says an idol is a heavy burden that cannot save itself or the one who carries it.

Isaiah 46:1 Bel bows down; Nebo stoops; their idols are on beasts and livestock; these things you carry are borne as burdens on weary beasts. 2 They stoop; they bow down together; they cannot save the burden, but themselves go into captivity. 3 “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; 4 even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save. 5 “To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike? 6 Those who lavish gold from the purse, and weigh out silver in the scales, hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god; then they fall down and worship! 7 They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it, they set it in its place, and it stands there; it cannot move from its place. If one cries to it, it does not answer or save him from his trouble.

God is the one who made his people, who is faithful to carry his people, who will save his people. Idols are incapable of helping others or even moving themselves. Jeremiah says the same:

Jeremiah 10:3 for the customs of the peoples are vanity. A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. 4 They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move. 5 Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.” 6 There is none like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is great in might. 7 Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For this is your due; for among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you.

Jeremiah tells us not to fear idols for they cannot do evil, and it is not in them to do good. Only the true God is to be feared. All glory belongs to God alone. Psalm 115 says:

Psalm 115:1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! 2 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” 3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. 4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 5 They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. 6 They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. 7 They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. 8 Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.

The psalmist paints a picture of total nothingness, total inability. Idols cannot speak, cannot see, cannot hear, cannot smell, cannot feel, cannot walk, they cannot even make a sound. And he insults those who make them and those who trust in them. Those who make them, anyone who trusts in them will become like them, incompetent, impotent, worthless, useless.

Mocking The False Gods and their Prophets

Did you notice the tone of these passages? We have this mistaken notion that we owe it to everyone to be nice to them and to not offend anyone. What God says in these passages is downright offensive. God calls all who fashion idols ‘nothing’, and he calls anyone who chooses to worship a false god an ‘abomination’. That’s not very nice. Demetrius didn’t think it was nice when Paul said that the idols he made his living by were no gods. He was offended, his business was hurt, and he started a riot. I don’t know of anywhere in the bible that we are told to be nice to everybody and not to offend anyone. We are told to love. We are told to do to others what we would have them do to us. And if my house is on fire, I would have you yell and scream and throw rocks through my window and break down my door and wake me up and get me out of there. I don’t think it is loving to see someone who is following a false god that will lead them to hell and not try to wake them up and tell them that their house is on fire. Elijah was not very gentle with the people who were following false gods in his day.

1 Kings 18:21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

Elijah challenged the false prophets to prove their claims.

26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

Elijah mocked the false gods and the false prophets of that false god. He asked them if their god was sleeping and they should shout louder to wake him, maybe he was busy thinking, maybe he took a vacation, maybe he was on the toilet. That’s not very respectful, but a false god who is no god but leads people astray from the true God does not deserve any respect. Paul refers to the things people follow and calls them ‘so called’ gods, things people give devotion to that are not worthy of it, things people trust in and serve and pursue that are impotent to give anything back.

Christian Monotheism

There are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’ so called, yet for us there is only one God. Deuteronomy 6 says:

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

…13 It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God— lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.

Deuteronomy 6:4; the ‘Shema’ was what every good Jewish girl and boy was brought up on. Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad. Hear, Israel, YHWH is our God, YHWH is One. Saul was passionately monotheistic. Saul was persecuting followers of Jesus because they claimed that Jesus was God and there is only one God. That is until Saul was knocked to the ground by a blazing light from heaven.

Acts 9:5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

Saul, now Paul, still unwaveringly monotheistic, learns that Jesus is YHWH, the Lord. Here, writing to the Corinthians, Paul interprets the Shema with a Christian lens. ‘The Lord our God, the Lord is one’; he says ‘for us there is one God, the Father and one Lord, Jesus Christ’. There is no question that in Paul’s understanding, there is no other God but one. There is only one supreme being in the universe. The Father is that supreme being, and Jesus Christ is that supreme being. Two distinct persons, not confusing the Father with the Son, yet not two gods but one Supreme self-existent God. ‘For us there is one God, the Father and one Lord, Jesus Christ’. This reminds us of Isaiah 44:6

Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.

YHWH the King and YHWH his Redeemer. The King and his Redeemer together say ‘besides me there is no god’.

Jesus himself pushed the Jews to examine their conception of God, challenging them from their own scriptures.

Matthew 22:41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, 44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’ [Ps.110:1]? 45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Jesus asks, ‘if the promised Messiah is merely a human son of David, then why does King David call him ‘my Lord’? This promised Messiah is to be more than a man; he is the Son of God. Notice Jesus brings in the Spirit. David, in the Spirit calls him Lord. The Psalmist, inspired by God the Holy Spirit, writes YHWH [the Father] said to Adon [the Son] ‘sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet’.

Ephesians 4 says:

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

One Spirit, one Lord, one God and Father of all.

1 Corinthians 12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

Out Of, Into, Through

The Father, the Son, and the Spirit, eternally distinct personalities within the one being of God. One God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ. Paul describes unique and distinct roles to the Father and the Son. Literally it reads ‘one God, the Father, out of whom all things and we into him, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things and we through him.’

The Father is the origin and destiny of all things. He is the source and goal. All things, all things, everything that exists finds its cause, finds its design in God the Father, and we find our purpose in him. We are to him. We exist for him. We belong in him. All things flow out of him, and our purpose is in him.

The Son is the means through whom all creation and redemption come. All things are through our Lord Jesus Christ. Colossians 1 says of the beloved Son

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

All things seen and unseen, physical and spiritual, were brought into being through him and to him. He is the agent through whom all things were made. Jesus is the means of all creation, and Jesus is the means of our redemption. We through him. Colossians again puts it this way:

Colossians 1:14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. …19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

Jesus, the Son, is the one who made all things, and who rescues his sheep. It is distinctly the work of the Son to be the substitute for sinners. It is through the blood of his cross that Jesus brings us stray sheep back into a right relationship with his Father.

Of the triune God, Paul says in Romans

Romans 11:36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

There is only one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ. Everything finds its origin and destiny in this one God. All creation and our redemption come through our one Lord Jesus. It is to this one God that we owe all our allegiance. This one God is a jealous God who will not share his glory with another. For our authentic happiness, for our eternal good, for our unquenchable joy, he demands that we not go after idols which are empty and worthless nothings, burdens that cannot save, false gods that will take and take and give nothing back. Our God is the one who needs nothing and offers us everything freely to enjoy. Outside of him is nothing. Everything, everything we need originates in him, comes through him, and resounds back to him in glorious praise. 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

February 23, 2014 - Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , ,

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