PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 13:4b; A Not Jealous Kind of Jealous Love

11/09 1 Corinthians 13:4b A Not Jealous Kind of Jealous Love; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141109_1cor13_4b.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

4 Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζηλοῖ ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται, 5 οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ, οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς, οὐ παροξύνεται, οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν,

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Paul swings the wrecking ball of God’s love toward the Corinthians. Their attitudes and conduct toward one another were incongruent with love, inconsistent with the God who is love, out of step with the Holy Spirit, who produces the fruit of love in the heart of the believer. He intends to hold up a mirror so that we can see how far short we fall of the divine standard, and in broken-hearted humility cry out to God for his transforming work in us.

The love that Paul is talking about is a distinctly Christian sort of love, a response in the heart of the believer to having been perfectly and completely loved by God. We love (says 1 John 4:19) because he first loved us. This love is an overflow of joy in the satisfaction of being perfectly loved by God. Many people do many good things, many charitable deeds, but Paul says in the opening verses, without this distinctly Christian love, those who do these things become nothing, are nothing, and attain nothing. Even someone who in self-sacrificial generosity to the poor gives away literally every possession, even health, even life itself without this love that is rooted in God’s love for us, gains zero.

Paul gives us 15 verbs to describe this love; 2 positive, 8 negative, one contrast; and 4 always, actions that love either does or does not do. Love is patient, or long-tempered like our God who is slow to anger. Thank God he is slow to anger! Love is kind, generously good to the ungrateful and evil. God’s patience delays justice to make room for his kindness to lead us to repentance.

The first negative in the string of 8 is ‘love envieth not, or is not jealous. This is curious, because at the very last verse of chapter 12 was a command that we be jealous, and in the first verse of chapter 14 we are again commanded to be jealous. We have noted that these characteristics of love can be most clearly seen in God, but when we look at jealousy, God repeatedly in the Old Testament claims to be a jealous God, even claiming that his very name is ‘Jealous’, and in the New Testament we see Jesus acting jealously. What do we make of this assertion that love is not jealous, framed by two commands to be jealous on the backdrop of a God whose name is Jealous?

ζηλόω

Let’s begin with a definition. The word is [ζηλόω] zelo-o. It is where we get our English word ‘zeal’. Literally it means to be heated or to boil. It means to desire earnestly, to strive after or pursue something or someone. This word is used in both positive and negative ways. The context determines whether zeal is a good thing or a bad thing.

Evil Jealousy

For instance, 1 Corinthians 3:3 Paul rebukes the Corinthians for not being spiritual but of the flesh, mere infants in Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

In this context the burning zeal is a typically human zeal for this or that favorite leader, pitting one against another and causing contention between the differing groups.

In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul says:

2 Corinthians 12:20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.

Galatians 5 lists zeal or jealousy among the works of the flesh, contrasted with the fruit of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

In Stephen’s sermon in Acts, the patriarchs are accused of jealousy toward Joseph.

Acts 7:9 “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him

Back in Genesis 37, we are told that Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons (v.3). Joseph had a dream that he would rule over his brothers and that his mother and father and all his brothers would bow down to him. His brothers were jealous of him (v.11). They hated him because his father treated him with special favor. They attempted to do away with him in a vain attempt to thwart his God given prophetic dreams. They didn’t want to bow down to their little brother; they wanted to be the one in charge to whom others would bow down. His dreams were a threat to their own self-importance.

In Acts 5, we are told that many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles (v.12), that the people held them in high esteem (v.13), that more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women (v.14), and that people were gathering from the towns around Jerusalem (v.16), and we are told that the high priest and the Sadducees were filled with jealousy and arrested the apostles. They were threatened by their power, their respect, and their popularity. They wanted the power the respect, the popularity for themselves.

In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas are invited by the rulers of the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch to preaching the gospel. They said things like “God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised” (v.23). They accused the rulers of the Jews in Jerusalem of “not understanding the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath” and “not recognizing him” (v.27). They accused the leaders of fulfilling the prophecies by condemning him (v.26-29). They proclaimed that God raised Jesus from the dead (v.30). They proclaimed Jesus as the only begotten Son of God (v.33). They proclaimed the impotency of the law of Moses to free anyone from their sins, and they proclaimed forgiveness of sins to everyone who believes in Jesus (v.38-39). They warned against the danger of unbelief (v.41). They preached all this in the Jewish synagogue, and there was no opposition! They were not kicked out. No one complained. No on argued. Instead people begged them to teach again the next Sabbath. There was no opposition for the whole week.

Acts 13:44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him.

Notice, the leaders of the synagogue did not dispute the doctrine of the apostles. Not until they saw the crowds did they begin to contradict what was spoken by Paul. They were filled with jealousy because they saw the crowds. Imagine, religious leaders upset at a whole city gathering to listen to the word of the Lord! They should be rejoicing! Instead, they are jealous. They want the attention, they want the popularity, they want the crowds for themselves.

The same thing happened in Acts 17, where Paul and Silas came to the Jewish synagogue in Thessalonica,

Acts 17:2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”

For three weeks Paul proclaimed Jesus as the promised Messiah, and proclaimed the cross and the resurrection in a Jewish synagogue, and he was unchallenged! It wasn’t until some of the Jews were persuaded, a great many of the devout Greeks, and many prominent women, that the Jews became jealous. They perceived they were losing something that belonged to them, and so they incited a mob to riot. In their jealousy, they even followed Paul to the next town and stirred up the crowds there.

Jesus told a parable in Matthew 20 about a master who hired laborers early in the morning to work in his vineyard. He agreed with them for a fair day’s wage. He hired more workers at 9am, more at noon, more at 3pm, and more at 5pm, and when evening came he paid all of them a full day’s wages. Those who were hired first grumbled,

Matthew 20:12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’

They were jealous of those who worked only one hour and received a full day’s wage. That’s not fair! The master responded:

Matthew 20:15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’

Do you begrudge my generosity? Literally, is your eye evil because I am good? They grumbled because they were treated differently than others. They looked with an evil eye on the generosity of the master, rather than celebrating his generosity toward others. We see the same in the parable of the prodigal son. The older brother hears the music and dancing from the celebration and “he was angry and refused to go in” (Lk.15:28). He compared himself and his performance with his brother and was envious of the extravagant love and generosity shown by his father toward his repentant brother. These are examples of a passionate response to something good being given to someone else, wanting it for self. This is the evil kind of zeal, and love is not jealous.

God’s Jealousy

There is a jealousy or zeal that is attributed to God. In Exodus 20, God warns:

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me…

God demands first place. God demands that we bow down to and serve him alone. In Exodus 34 he says:

Exodus 34:14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),

God identifies himself with jealousy as a name, demanding that our worship go exclusively to him.

In Ezekiel 16, God describes in graphic terms how he took Israel to be his own when there was nothing desirable in her. He took her in, cared for her, entered into a marriage covenant with her, cleansed her, made her beautiful, and blessed her with everything good. But she was unfaithful to him. He calls her:

Ezekiel 16:32 Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband!

…35 “Therefore, O prostitute, hear the word of the LORD:

He accuses her of slaughtering his own children as offering to false gods. And then he says:

Ezekiel 16:38 And I will judge you as women who commit adultery and shed blood are judged, and bring upon you the blood of wrath and jealousy. …41 And they shall burn your houses and execute judgments upon you in the sight of many women. I will make you stop playing the whore, and you shall also give payment no more. 42 So will I satisfy my wrath on you, and my jealousy shall depart from you. I will be calm and will no more be angry.

God’s jealousy is the jealousy that a husband ought to have for his own wife, demanding the exclusive faithfulness from her that she promised in her covenant vows. Song of Solomon brings together love and jealousy.

Song of Solomon 8:6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD.

Jealousy of Jesus

Jesus who is the image of the invisible God, showed his jealousy.

John 2:13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

The religious leaders had prostituted the purpose of the temple. It was meant to be a house of prayer for all the nations. Instead they used it as an opportunity to oppress the poor and make a profit. Jesus passionately defended the honor of his Father’s house.

Clarifying the Difference

God is jealous, and God is love, but love is not jealous. In what way is God’s jealousy a loving jealousy, where our jealousy would be contrary to love? What is the difference between the good kind of jealousy and the evil kind of jealousy? In the examples we looked at, human jealousy was a heated response to something good that we desire being given to someone else. We could look at God’s jealousy and say that it too is a heated response to something good that he desired being given to someone else. God demands the undivided affection, devotion, worship and love of his people. When we give that to someone else it is considered adultery. But if we jealously desire equal respect, honor, attention, popularity, and praise to be given to us, it is sin. What makes the difference? We could add one phrase that makes the difference. God demands the affection, love and worship that rightfully belongs to him. When we are jealous, we make demands for things that do not rightfully belong to us. We demand of God’s generosity, that he not extend more generosity to others than he has to us. God is not obligated to extend any generosity to anyone. When we are jealous, we are looking sideways at others and asking ‘how come he got treated better than I did?’

This points us to an element in our jealous that distinguishes it from God’s jealousy. Our jealousy comes from our lack and our need. We desperately want to feel loved. We are jealous of others we perceive are being loved more than us, because we feel that takes away love from us. God’s jealousy has no connection to any need he feels. He makes it explicitly clear that he has no need that we could meet. He is complete in himself, lacking nothing.

Psalm 50:9 I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. 10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 ​I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. 12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.

There is another difference. God’s jealousy is loving because it passionately pursues the good of the beloved. When a loving husband goes after his wayward wife to bring her home, and demands that she give her affection exclusively to him, he is doing a very loving thing. He is seeking her happiness, even at great cost to himself. Genuine happiness comes within the covenant relationship, not by violating the covenant relationship. God demands that we ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength’ because that is what will bring us true joy. He seeks our best, and he is our best.

My jealousy is not loving because it passionately pursues my own good, often to the harm of the other. And in my jealousy I am turning my affections away from God and toward other people or things, hoping to find satisfaction in them and outside of God, so my jealousy is adulterous and self destructive.

Commendable Jealousy

When we jealously defend the honor of God and point others toward him as the only source of true satisfaction, we act lovingly. Paul has the good kind of jealousy for the Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 11:2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

He is jealous with the jealousy of God. He is passionately fired up that they not be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. There is no hint of self-seeking in this. He passionately pursues their purity to present them as a pure virgin to Christ.

John the baptizer spoke in the same kind of way.

John 3:26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”

This is an opportunity for human jealousy. John, you are losing popularity. You are losing followers. You are losing attention. The crowds are going to someone else.

John 3:27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

None of the attention, none of the praise, none of the respect, none of the followers belong to me. He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The joy of the friend is to step out of the way and see the bride united with her bridegroom.

This helps us understand how Paul can say that love is not jealous, but then command the Corinthians to be jealous of the higher gifts. He says:

1 Corinthians 12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.

1 Corinthians 14:39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

The Corinthians had been jealous of the more spectacular gifts, because those gifts brought status and attention and praise and applause. Paul rebukes their selfish status seeking and points them to the higher way of love. Out of the more excellent way of love, without an evil jealousy of wanting something for myself that you have been given, in the pursuit of love, we are to be zealous for the higher gifts, gifts that build others up. I am to passionately eagerly pursue being of service to you. I am to zealously desire to be poured out as a blessing to you. I am to find my joy in becoming more useful to you, not because I want the attention, but because my joy is complete as I fade into the background and your sincere and pure devotion to Christ increases.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

November 9, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 12:1-3; Belief and the Spirit

08/24 1 Corinthians 12:1-3 Belief and the Spirit Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140824_1cor12_1-3.mp3

1 Corinthians 12 [SBLGNT]

1 Περὶ δὲ τῶν πνευματικῶν, ἀδελφοί, οὐ θέλω ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν. 2 οἴδατε ὅτι ὅτε ἔθνη ἦτε πρὸς τὰ εἴδωλα τὰ ἄφωνα ὡς ἂν ἤγεσθε ἀπαγόμενοι. 3 διὸ γνωρίζω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐδεὶς ἐν πνεύματι θεοῦ λαλῶν λέγει· Ἀνάθεμα Ἰησοῦς, καὶ οὐδεὶς δύναται εἰπεῖν· Κύριος Ἰησοῦς εἰ μὴ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ.

1 Corinthians 12 [ESV2011]

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Now Concerning

In chapter 12, Paul signals with the words ‘now concerning’, that he is moving on to address another topic that the Corinthians had asked him about in a letter. Back in chapter 7, he said:

7:1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote:

There he addressed abstinence, celibacy, and marriage; in 7:25 he said ‘now concerning virgins’; in 8:1 ‘now concerning things offered to idols’; here in 12:1 ‘now concerning the spirituals’; in16:1 ‘now concerning the collection for the saints’; and in 16:12 ‘now concerning Apollos’. These are issues about which the church had written asking specific questions, to which the Apostle responds. Paul moves back and forth in this letter between issues that they had raised by the Corinthians in their letter to him, and reports which had come to him from others. We do not know exactly what the questions were, but we have the benefit of Apostolic teaching on the issues.

The Spiritual Ones

To understand what the question was, we have to look at what Paul wrote to answer their question. He introduces this section with a somewhat ambiguous phrase ‘now concerning the spirituals’ [τῶν πνευματικῶν]. This adjective built on the noun [πνεῦμα] ‘spirit’ could mean ‘the spiritual things’ or it could mean ‘the spiritual people’. And in the context it is used both ways. In verse 4 he mentions [χαρισμάτων], the usual word for spiritual gifts, literally ‘grace-gifts’, built on the word [χάρις] ‘grace’. In verse 3 he refers twice to what is spoken ‘in the Spirit’. In verse 7 he talks about the various manifestations of the Spirit that are given. In 14:1, he exhorts them to be zealous for the [πνευματικά], especially to prophesy. So ‘the spiritual things’ or manifestations of the Holy Spirit, grace-gifts, fits the context. But in 14:37, where he is concluding this section on [πνευματικῶν], he refers to anyone who thinks he is spiritual, clearly referring to a spiritual person. Back at the end of chapter 2 he contrasts the natural person with the spiritual person, and in 3:1, he laments that he cannot address the Corinthians as spiritual, but as fleshly, mere infants in Christ.

We know that pride and self-seeking were major issues in Corinth, a desire to impress others and be thought well of, to seek to advance one’s own status and standing in the community. There were divisions between rich and poor, wise and foolish, strong and weak, There was a severe vacuum of love, a lack of care and concern for the good of the other that repeatedly surfaces in Paul’s instructions to this church.

In these chapters, Paul addresses the diversity of the gifts given by the one Spirit, the mutual need of the different members for one another, the worthlessness of all the gifts without love, the essential purpose of the gifts to build up the church, and the priority of gifts that build up the church over gifts that build up the individual.

So we could re-create the Corinthian questions something like this: What is the measure of true spirituality? Some thought they were spiritual because they manifested more obviously supernatural gifts like speaking in tongues. They may have looked down on those who did not have such outwardly supernatural gifts as if they had not attained the same height of spirituality. Those without the showy gifts began to feel second rate and useless, unimportant appendages who did not have anything to offer, who simply didn’t belong. Those who didn’t possess these showy gifts may have even questioned the validity of those supposedly supernatural manifestations of the Spirit that were flaunted by some in their congregation. What about those so-called gifts? How are they to be used? Who are the truly spiritual ones?

Outline and Structure

Paul speaks to these issues with skill and pastoral wisdom. He addresses them as brothers, a term of affection, and he lays some theological groundwork before he confronts the abuses and improprieties in the way they treat one another. This is very similar to how he addressed the issue of idolatry back in chapters 8-10. He began in chapter 8 by clarifying the underlying theology that was foundational to the issue. Then in what seems at first glance to be a digression to another topic in chapter 9, he illustrates the principle of foregoing ones own rights out of service to others for their good. Then in chapter 10, he comes back to the issue with some very clear and direct commands that he expects them to understand and obey.

Here in chapters 12-14, Paul’s tactic is similar. In chapter 12, he lays some theological groundwork for the issue. In chapter 13, the love chapter, which many see as an out of place insertion in the middle of a discussion on spiritual gifts, he holds up the fruit of the Spirit as more essential to the Christian life than any particular manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit. Then in chapter 14, he comes back to the issue of spiritual gifts with some very direct commands on how we should conduct ourselves and treat one another relating to spiritual gifts in the church of God.

Let’s look at this introductory section together:

12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Paul appeals to their desire for knowledge. He does not want them to be uninformed. He says ‘I want you to understand’. And he refers to their previous life of ignorance in idolatry. You recall, when you were pagans, before you heard the gospel and believed, you were led astray to unspeaking idols.

Idolatry

Idolatry was a significant part of life before Christ, and continued to be a struggle in first century Corinth, as is evidenced by chapters 8-10. Idolatry is centering one’s life around anything or anyone other than God. Sports or leisure or power or status or wealth or things or recreation or relationships, anything other than God that becomes the focal point of life is an idol. And idols cannot deliver on what they promise. Money cannot buy happiness. Things break. Experiences leave us longing for more. Relationships cannot bear up under the weight of expectations and ultimately disappoint.

The prophets of the Old Testament have much to say about the idiocy of idolatry.

Habakkuk 2:18 “What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! 19 Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise!Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it 20 But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”

The foolishness of idolatry is glaring. Our Creator God invites us to find our satisfaction in him alone, and we turn from him and go searching for pleasure under every rock and tree and hole in the ground. Romans describes the rebellious sinful idolatry of all humankind this way:

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

We all tend toward idolatry in our hearts. Our desires lead us astray. We trade in the glory of knowing the immortal God for fleeting glimpses of his reflection in his creation.

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; …

However we were led, we were all led astray.

Jesus is Lord

12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, in relation to your question of what is spiritual, I do not want you to be uninformed; I want you to understand. No one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed”. Jesus spoke of the Spirit’s coming in John 15 and 16.

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

John 16:14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Spirit of God will always bear witness about Jesus and bring glory to Jesus. No one who is spiritual would ever speak evil about Jesus. This would be unthinkable for any follower of Jesus to say.

3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. Notice that the apostle uses the language of inability. No one is able, no one can.

When Peter made his confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus said:

Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you. The confession of the identity of Jesus as God is not of human origin. The recognition of Jesus for who he is is a supernatural revelation from the Father through his Holy Spirit.

This was clearly Paul’s own experience, as he was ‘still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord’ (Acts 9:1) when Jesus interrupted him on the road to Damascus.

Paul pointed this direction earlier in this letter when he:

1 Corinthians 2:2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. …4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

He goes on to say that the rulers of this age did not understand the gospel,

1 Corinthians 2:8 … for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

The good news of what God has prepared for those who love him, the gospel of the crucifixion of the Lord of glory for us and for our salvation, these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

We have received the Spirit of God so that we might understand the God’s gracious good news. Without God’s Spirit we could not understand the gospel. This is what he goes on to say in the next verses.

1 Corinthians 2:13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

The natural person, the person who has not experienced the work of the Holy Spirit supernaturally revealing that Jesus Christ crucified is good news for us, this person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God. He rejects the gospel because it is foolishness to him. He thinks it stupid. He is not able to understand the gospel, because the good news is spiritually discerned. The spiritual person who understands is only spiritual because the Holy Spirit is at work in him revealing Christ and the beauty of the gospel to him.

In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul points to the blindness of unbelievers.

2 Corinthians 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

They are blind and cannot see the light of the good news of the glory of Christ. Only a sovereign omnipotent God can overcome this spiritual blindness and create light in the midst of darkness.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

God is the one who gives the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. He shines in our hearts and opens our blind eyes so that we can see the truth and beauty of the gospel.

Paul says here in 1 Corinthians 12 that:

12:3 …no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Of course this does not mean that no unbeliever can mouth those words. Mockers can mouth the words. Hypocrites can mouth the words. Pretenders can mouth the words ‘Jesus is Lord’. Jesus himself warned of this.

Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

It is possible to call Jesus Lord out of a heart of unbelief in him, seeking to do things for him to earn his favor, refusing to depend on him alone for what he has done for us. Amazingly, in this passage, those who were not known by Jesus are not only calling Jesus Lord, but they are manifesting some of the same spiritual gifts that the Corinthians thought marked them out as spiritual. Even these apparently spiritual acts could be bad fruit from an unbelieving root.

It is not merely vocalizing the syllables, as if they were some kind of magical incantation, that has any effect. Romans 10:9 says:

Romans 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

This confession that Jesus is Lord is evidence of a Spirit wrought transformation of my hard heart. When I say ‘Jesus is Lord’, I am owning him as the one to whom I pledge my allegiance, the one to whom I owe all my devotion, the one to whom I will ultimately answer. He is the one under whose authority I now gladly bow. He is my Lord, he is my King, my only Master, and I would have it no other way. I have been given new affections, new desires, desires to obey and submit to Jesus, affections for Jesus, longings to please him, hunger to worship him, eagerness to gather with his people, to walk with him, to know him. I cannot genuinely celebrate the Lordship of Jesus without the transforming life creating work of the Spirit. Belief, the basic confession of Jesus as Lord, is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work in my heart.

12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion:

Do you see what Paul has done here? The Corinthians are asking about grace-gifts and wanting to know who are the truly spiritual ones. He has leveled the playing field. There are no more spiritual or less spiritual believers. Every believer is spiritual, because belief is the work of the Holy Spirit. No spiritually blind spiritually dead person can truly say ‘Jesus is Lord’. The Holy Spirit creates life in a dead heart and opens blind eyes so that a sinner can see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and believe in him. This saving faith, believing in Jesus as Lord, is evidence of Holy Spirit transformation, evidence of true spirituality.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

August 24, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 10:30-11:1; Stand Firm or Surrender?

06/29 1 Corinthians 10:30-11:1 Stand Firm or Surrender?Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140629_1cor10_30-11_1.mp3

 

1 Corinthians 10-11 [SBLGNT]

10:30 εἰ ἐγὼ χάριτι μετέχω, τί βλασφημοῦμαι ὑπὲρ οὗ ἐγὼ εὐχαριστῶ; 31 Εἴτε οὖν ἐσθίετε εἴτε πίνετε εἴτε τι ποιεῖτε, πάντα εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ ποιεῖτε. 32 ἀπρόσκοποι καὶ Ἰουδαίοις γίνεσθε καὶ Ἕλλησιν καὶ τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ, 33 καθὼς κἀγὼ πάντα πᾶσιν ἀρέσκω, μὴ ζητῶν τὸ ἐμαυτοῦ σύμφορον ἀλλὰ τὸ τῶν πολλῶν, ἵνα σωθῶσιν.

11:1 μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε, καθὼς κἀγὼ Χριστοῦ.

1 Corinthians 10-11 [ESV2011]

10:23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

 

We are a the end of 1 Corinthians 10, where Paul is concluding three chapters worth of teaching on idolatry. Chapters 8-10 lay out guidelines for the follower of Jesus in deciding what to eat or drink, especially relating to food sacrificed to idols.

Let me summarize his teaching. First his conclusion, the same as in chapter 6 dealing with sexual immorality: flee from idolatry (10:14). Just as the follower of Jesus is to have nothing to do with sexual immorality, so we are to have nothing at all to do with idolatry. Idolatry of any kind is dangerous and destructive, absolutely incompatible with the Christian life. Then his three guidelines: 1. Do not ever eat in a pagan temple (8:7-13, 10:7, 14-22). 2. Eat everything for sale in the market without asking any questions (10:25). 3. Eat everything served to you at an unbeliever’s house without asking any questions (10:27). But woven under and around and through these guidelines, is this basic principle for every follower of Jesus: do not seek your own, but that of the other (9:15-23, 10:24, 33). He gives some exceptions to the general rules, for instance, when someone informs you that the food being served by an unbelieving friend had been part of a pagan ceremony, then, for the sake of their conscience do not eat (10:28).

It can be very difficult to know how to apply biblical principles. When, for the sake of the truth of the gospel and for the freedom that Christ purchased with his own blood, do we stand firm in and insist on our freedoms? When, for the sake of the advance of the gospel and the good of others do we joyfully relinquish our rights? How do we decide when to stand firm and when to surrender? If we were able to watch someone live this out in real life, that would be priceless. Understanding the underlying principles is essential, but seeing those principles lived out and practically applied is extremely helpful. Paul is that for us. He offers himself to us as an example of what the Christian life should look like. He tells us in 11:1 (which should be the last verse of this section), “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”

Negative Example: Unbelieving Israel

He gave us the negative example of Israel in the wilderness in 10:1-11.

1 Corinthians 10:6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

The Israelites desired evil. Their desires led them into sin, sins like idolatry, adultery, testing Christ, and even grumbling. Because that generation went astray in their heart, we are told they provoked God, he loathed them, and he destroyed them. Their corpses were strewn in the wilderness. That is a warning to us.

Our actions have consequences. Our actions flow out of our desires. Do not desire evil as they did. Do not follow the example of unbelieving Israel and their self-focused desires. Instead, allow God’s Spirit to so transform your desires that you become an imitator of Christ.

Positive Example: Paul

In contrast to the negative example of unbelieving Israel, Paul invites us to imitate him. Mimic me. Become an imitator of me as I am of Christ. Looking at the example of Paul will help us navigate through the complexities of life as a follower of Jesus.

Stand Fast in Liberty

So, what did Paul’s example look like? There is a time for the follower of Jesus to stand firm in his liberty and fight for his rights. In chapter 9, Paul adamantly defends the right of the one who preaches the gospel to make his living by the gospel. He makes his case from common sense, from logic, and from the Scriptures. But he defends this right in order to say that although it is a legitimate God given right, he is free not to make use of that right for the sake of the advance of the gospel, with the goal of removing obstacles to the gospel.

In chapter 10 he defends the right to eat whatever is sold in the market, to eat whatever is set before you at an unbelievers home, without asking any question on the ground of conscience, because “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (10:26). Everything belongs to God, every good thing comes from God, everything is a gift from God to be received with thanksgiving. He defends his liberty, asking “why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?” (10:29-30). In eating, in drinking, in everything we are to participate with thankfulness, we are to enjoy God’s good gifts and glorify the giver. There is a time to stand on our liberty and eat and drink to the glory of God. Galatians gives a clear example of Paul insisting on his rights for the glory of God.

Galatians 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. …21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

In Antioch, the issue was an issue of eating and drinking. Should Peter eat with non-Jews or not? Eating with Gentiles would be offensive to those of a Jewish background. For the sake of the Jews who did not understand the freedom that the gospel brings, for the sake of their consciences, should he voluntarily limit his liberties and withdraw? It seems Peter could take Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 10 and apply it to this situation.

32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Peter could argue, ‘I am seeking to give no offense to the Jews. I am not seeking my own advantage. I am trying to please everyone in everything I do.’ But these were not new believers with weak consciences. These were Pharisaic false teachers who secretly slipped in to spy out the liberty we have in Christ Jesus so that they could bring us back into slavery (Gal.2:4). The very good news of salvation by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus alone was at stake. Paul was willing to fight so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for everyone (Gal.2:5). Peter’s withdrawal from table fellowship with Gentiles, his choice to limit his liberty and not eat and drink was not in step with the gospel. His actions sent a message that contradicted the message of justification by faith in Jesus Christ and not by works of the law. Peter’s actions served to nullify the grace of God and undermine the work of the cross, pointing instead to the necessity of attaining righteousness through the works of the law. Paul says ‘bring out the bacon!’ We will eat and drink to the glory of Christ, who was crucified to set us free from the law! “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal.5:1). There is a time to stand on our liberty and partake with thankfulness and eat and drink to the glory of God.

Paul said ‘become imitators of me, as I am of Christ. We can look beyond Paul to the example of Jesus our King to see when to eat and drink to the glory of God. Jesus said:

Luke 7:33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

Jesus our King ate and drank with thanksgiving in his heart to the Father. He was a friend to prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners.

Luke 5:30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Jesus came to bring salvation to those who knew they needed it.

Luke 19:7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” …9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Sometimes seeking the advantage of the many that they might be saved means insisting on my rights, eating and drinking with, being a friend to those who have none, so that they might understand that the grace of God is extended to them.

As Paul affirms our freedom in Christ in Galatians, he cautions:

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Do not use your liberty as an occasion for the flesh. Through love serve one another. Use your liberty for the good of your neighbor, that they might be saved.

Surrender Your Rights

There is a time, for the glory of Christ and the salvation of the lost, to stand firm in our freedom. There is a time, for the glory of God and the good of the many to surrender our rights. When is it that we joyfully choose not to eat for the good of our neighbor and the glory of Christ? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:

24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Back in 1 Corinthians 8 he warned:

1 Corinthians 8:9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 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? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

It is never right to insist on my so-called rights and destroy a brother for whom Christ died. Some things we attempt to claim as rights are not rights at all. Participating in idolatry is never a legitimate right for a follower of Jesus.

In chapter 9, Paul addresses legitimate, God given rights. He uses his right to be supported by the churches he serves as an example.

1 Corinthians 9:12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

…15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting.

In Corinth, where there was an abundance of scholars for hire, where the one who received pay was obligated to the one paying, where status was tied up in how much you were able to pay for the best teacher, Paul refused to make use of his right to be supported because it would put an obstacle in the way of the gospel. He preached the gospel free of charge. He says in 2 Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 11:8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.

The advance of the gospel for the glory of God was all important. To see more and more people, poor and rich alike, depend on Jesus alone for rescue and become worshipers of the one true God was the goal.

1 Corinthians 9:19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

To win souls for Christ is the aim. Serve people to win people. Identify with Jews to win Jews. Identify with Gentiles to win Gentiles. Become weak to win weak. Become all things to all people to save some. Never compromise the gospel. Do everything you do for the sake of the gospel.

32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Confront Pharisees. Confront religious hypocrites. Confront false teachers who lead others astray, for the glory of God and for the good of many, that they might not be led astray, that they might believe the true gospel and be saved. Give no offense to the lost, Jew or Greek. Give no offense to your brothers and sisters in Christ. Do not, by insisting on your rights, trip others up. Seek to please everyone in everything. Seek the good, not the temporary fleeting pleasure, but the real lasting eternal pleasure of everyone. Seek their eternal advantage, that they might be saved.

We can follow the example of our Lord Jesus in this.

Romans 15:1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”

Jesus was the ultimate example of not pleasing self, but instead passionately pursuing the eternal good of the other. He willingly became “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn.1:29).

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree…

We are told in Philippians 2:

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus, God from all eternity, stooped down and took on the form of a servant. He was born in the likeness of men. He looked to the interests of others so much that he went to the cross for us.

Eat and drink and do whatever you do for the sake of the gospel, for the good of your neighbor that they might be saved. Eat and drink and do whatever you with thanksgiving in your heart, bringing glory to God. For the sake of the truth of the gospel and for the freedom that Christ purchased with his own blood, stand firm in and insist on your freedom. For the sake of the advance of the gospel and the eternal good of others, joyfully relinquish your rights.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

June 29, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 10:23-30; Let No One Seek His Own

06/15 1 Corinthians 10:23-30 Let No One Seek His Own GoodAudio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140615_1cor10_23-30.mp3

 

1 Corinthians 10 [SBLGNT]

23 Πάντα ἔξεστιν· ἀλλ’ οὐ πάντα συμφέρει. πάντα ἔξεστιν· ἀλλ’ οὐ πάντα οἰκοδομεῖ. 24 μηδεὶς τὸ ἑαυτοῦ ζητείτω ἀλλὰ τὸ τοῦ ἑτέρου. 25 πᾶν τὸ ἐν μακέλλῳ πωλούμενον ἐσθίετε μηδὲν ἀνακρίνοντες διὰ τὴν συνείδησιν, 26 τοῦ κυρίου γὰρ ἡ γῆ καὶ τὸ πλήρωμα αὐτῆς. 27 εἴ τις καλεῖ ὑμᾶς τῶν ἀπίστων καὶ θέλετε πορεύεσθαι, πᾶν τὸ παρατιθέμενον ὑμῖν ἐσθίετε μηδὲν ἀνακρίνοντες διὰ τὴν συνείδησιν· 28 ἐὰν δέ τις ὑμῖν εἴπῃ· Τοῦτο ἱερόθυτόν ἐστιν, μὴ ἐσθίετε δι’ ἐκεῖνον τὸν μηνύσαντα καὶ τὴν συνείδησιν· 29 συνείδησιν δὲ λέγω οὐχὶ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ἀλλὰ τὴν τοῦ ἑτέρου· ἱνατί γὰρ ἡ ἐλευθερία μου κρίνεται ὑπὸ ἄλλης συνειδήσεως; 30 εἰ ἐγὼ χάριτι μετέχω, τί βλασφημοῦμαι ὑπὲρ οὗ ἐγὼ εὐχαριστῶ; 31 Εἴτε οὖν ἐσθίετε εἴτε πίνετε εἴτε τι ποιεῖτε, πάντα εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ ποιεῖτε. 32 ἀπρόσκοποι καὶ Ἰουδαίοις γίνεσθε καὶ Ἕλλησιν καὶ τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ, 33 καθὼς κἀγὼ πάντα πᾶσιν ἀρέσκω, μὴ ζητῶν τὸ ἐμαυτοῦ σύμφορον ἀλλὰ τὸ τῶν πολλῶν, ἵνα σωθῶσιν.

11:1 μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε, καθὼς κἀγὼ Χριστοῦ.

1 Corinthians 10 [ESV2011]

14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

 

Paul is addressing some serious sin issues in the church in Corinth. They had picked up the slogan ‘all things are lawful’ and used it to justify all manner of abominable practices. Paul gently but firmly leads them on a journey to train them how to think. He could have easily come down hard on them with his authority as apostle. Instead, he reasons with them and teaches them how to think through the issues biblically. Back in 6:12, he quotes their slogan ‘all things are lawful for me’ which they used to justify sexual immorality, and responds “but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything.” In 6:18 he commands them ‘flee from sexual immorality’ and he concludes “you are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

In chapters 8-10 he has taken up their propensity to indulge in banquets hosted at pagan temples. The knowledge of the Corinthians that ‘an idol has no real existence’ leads them to the freedom to indulge in idolatrous festivities. Paul points out that this so-called knowledge is more akin to the pride of the devil than the God of love. We are called to live in love, and love builds others up. The arrogant and self-centered knowledge of the Corinthians may prove to destroy a brother for whom Christ died, and so sin against Christ. He affirms the fact that they do indeed have rights and freedoms in Christ. But he holds himself up as an example of how a follower of Jesus can forgo legitimate God given rights for the sake of the gospel. He warns that insisting on my liberties may not only endanger a weaker brother or sister in Christ, it may also have a lethal effect on my own relationship with God. He holds himself up as an example of the danger of disqualification, or the danger of being demonstrated phony or false even after fruitful ministry. In chapter 10 he points to the example of Israel in the wilderness, most of whom played too close to the edge in seeking to gratify their desires, and a whole generation was destroyed in the wilderness. He warns them of the grave danger of self-confidence, he reminds them that we all will face temptation, and he encourages them with the absolute faithfulness of God. Then in 10:14 he gives his clear command on the issue of idolatry: ‘Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.’ He warns that participation in communion, which is participation in the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, is mutually exclusive with eating at the table of demons, who in reality are the ones being worshiped at idolatrous pagan celebrations.

Freedom From Self-Seeking

In 10:23-11:1, he concludes this 3 chapter discussion of idolatry with some clear practical advice on how to apply biblical truth in some real life situations. He returns to their slogan ‘all things are lawful,’ and he qualifies ‘but not all things are helpful.’ Not all things are advantageous. Not all things will contribute to your own personal well-being. Some things will not benefit me. Participation in some things will destroy me. Eating at the table of demons, inciting the wrath of almighty God against me will not contribute to my personal happiness or my eternal good.

‘All things are lawful’ but not all things build up. Not all things edify. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Jesus has set us free, free from the slavery of self-seeking, free to seek the good of others. Paul says:

24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

This is a foundational principle for Christian living. Literally, it says ‘let no one seek his own, but that of the other.’ ‘Good’ ‘benefit’ ‘interest’ ‘well-being’ or ‘advantage’ are implied by the context. Seek that which helps, that which builds up, that which benefits the other. Do not seek your own.

This is a command, and, like all God’s commands, it is for our good. If only we can grasp this, this will be so freeing! Do not seek your own. Don’t go after your own advantage. Stop concerning yourself with your own rights. Stop seeking your own. But if I don’t defend my own rights, who will? If I don’t stand up for myself, who will? If I don’t seek my own advantage, who will? God! God will.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Seek first the kingdom of God. Let no one seek his own, but that of the other. Jesus links this freedom from seeking our own with the danger of idolatry.

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Do not be anxious about your life, about your body, about your own. If you do, it will become your master, and you cannot serve two masters. Seeking your own is idolatry. Do not seek your own, but that of the other. ‘Your heavenly Father feeds’ (6:26); ‘God so clothes’ (6:30); ‘your heavenly Father knows that you need them all’ (6:32); ‘all these things will be added to you’ (6:33). Allow God to liberate you from the bondage of self-seeking. Go after the needs of others with reckless abandon!

Eat Everything in the Market!

Paul demonstrates how God graciously provides with two practical examples from everyday life. Paul has already forbidden any eating in a pagan temple, but now he addresses two other common occurrences that would face a believer in Corinth, and gives some surprisingly liberating counsel on what to do in these situations. Corinth was full of pagan temples, and it would be difficult, if not impossible to find a butcher shop that was not connected in some way with those temples. The word order of the original builds the suspense more than most of our English translations. Everything which is in the butcher shop for sale, devour it, investigating nothing on account of conscience. This is a radical command coming from the lips of a former Pharisee. Pharisaic Judaism required scrupulous investigation into the background of any food, and if there was any question as to the origin of the meat, the rule was ‘when in doubt, don’t!’ Paul here invites the believer to walk into a butcher shop, carts heaping with fish, various cuts of meat on display, whole skinned animals hanging from hooks, maybe cow, lamb, goat, pig, camel, chicken, and he says ‘eat it all!’ Don’t ask any questions. You are free to eat whatever you want.

Everything Belongs to God

And he gives the reason in verse 26.

26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.”

This is a quote from Psalm 24:1. In the beginning God created …everything! And God said ‘be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth’ and God saw that it was good. God created everything, and everything belongs to God. Deuteronomy 10:14 says:

Deuteronomy 10:14 Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.

God says to Job:

Job 41:11 Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.

God tells his people:

Psalms 50:9 I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. 10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. 12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.

God created everything, so everything belongs to God. God gave animals to man for food, so whatever you find in the butcher shop you can buy and eat. But Paul, what if that meat had been sacrificed to a demon before it showed up in the butcher shop? You said just a few versed back that we are to have no fellowship with demons. Paul says ‘The earth and everything in it belongs to the Lord.’ By participating in a demonic feast at a pagan temple, you are involving yourself in worship of that false god. But once the meat has left the demon’s turf, it is just meat, nothing more. It is God’s meat that God created, and God gave it to provide for his people. Regardless of what pagans have done with it to defile it, God is God, and it still belongs to God. So eat up! Ask no questions because of conscience. Don’t fear that a demon might sneak in to possess your body because someone said a voodoo hex over your quarter pounder before they brought it to your table. God is sovereign over the whole earth.

Eat Everything at an Unbeliever’s House!

Paul mentions another scenario as likely for the Corinthians as it is for us today.

27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience.

Recognize how radical this instruction is coming from the pen of a former Pharisee! The list of dietary regulations and sanitary procedures went on and on and on. In Jerusalem, it’s hard to find a cheeseburger or a pizza with cheese and meat on it because in Deuteronomy 14:21 it say not to boil a young goat in its mother’s milk. To be kosher you have to keep separate sinks, counters, ovens, dishes, utensils and dishwashers for milk products and meat products. Hand washing has to be done in a very specific way. And the rules go on and on and on.

When God called Peter to visit Cornelius’ house, Peter said:

Acts 10:28 …“You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.

This was a big deal in Antioch. Paul tells us in Galatians 2 that Peter was eating with the Gentiles, but then caved to Jewish pressure and withdrew from them. Paul confronts him publicly, because ‘their conduct was not in step with the gospel’ (Gal.2:14). Jesus transformed everything! Jesus ate with unwashed hands. Jesus ate with prostitutes and tax collectors and sinners. Because Jesus has come, if an unbeliever invites you to dinner and you choose to go, devour everything that is put in front of you without investigating anything because of conscience. The second half of this sentence is exactly parallel to verse 25 dealing with the meat market. You don’t need to go check their kitchen. You don’t need to ask where the food came from. You don’t need to ask what it is. It doesn’t matter where it came from. Just eat up! Enjoy, because the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.

Exception

Verse 28 introduces an exception to this principle.

28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his.

There is a lot of discussion over who the someone is that says ‘this has been offered in sacrifice’. It could be a fellow believer also invited to the unbeliever’s home for dinner. More likely it may be another unbelieving guest, or possibly even the host. This verse uses a softer word ‘temple sacrifice’ rather than ‘idol sacrifice’ that Paul has used up to this point in the discussion. This would be the word that a pagan would use to refer to their sacrifice, and it would be a less offensive way for a fellow believer to identify the origin of the meat in the presence of unbelievers. It doesn’t really matter who said it, the text says ‘someone’. For the sake of that person, believer or unbeliever, do not eat.

If it was a fellow believer, they have violated what Paul just said ‘eat everything set before you without investigating’. They have been nosing around the kitchen. They are one of those who Paul mentioned in chapter 8, ‘not all possess this knowledge, those whose conscience, being weak, is defiled’. Do not destroy the brother for whom Christ died simply because you desire to indulge.

If it was another guest or even the host, knowing your exclusive devotion to Christ, they may be offering a friendly warning, or even a test to see what is really most important to you. The question has changed the nature of the meal. The one who mentioned it believes (rightly) that followers of Jesus don’t participate in idolatry. To eat now would be to acknowledge the idol to whom the food was sacrificed. For the sake of the gospel, the unbeliever needs to understand that we do not add Jesus to what we already have. ‘We have Apollo and Aphrodite and Zeus, and you say Jesus is a god? Oh, we can honor him too. No, Jesus is exclusive. Turning to Jesus means turning away from everything else you were trusting in. That is what it means to repent. This dinner invitation is an opportunity for the gospel. The steak looks really good. Seek not your own but that of the other. For the sake of the one who informed you, for his conscience sake, do not eat.

Liberty and Conscience

Paul has instructed us to eat everything sold in the market without investigating because everything ultimately belongs to God and he has told us to eat everything served to you by an unbelieving friend without investigating for the sake of conscience. He now returns to further explain this liberty.

29 …For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

I am bound to follow the guidance of my own conscience. I am not bound to follow yours. My liberty is not judged by your conscience. I am free to partake with thankfulness. 1 Timothy addresses false teachers who:

1 Timothy 4:3 … and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

Everything created by God is good, created to be received with thanksgiving. It is holy or set apart by the word of God and by prayer. I am free, free to eat everything. But to be free to eat does not mean I am bound to eat, for that would not be freedom. I am free to do what I want to do, whether to eat or not eat. What I most want to do no longer has to do with eating or drinking. What I most want to do is advance the gospel. So whether I eat or not depends on what will serve to advance the gospel in the given situation. If for the sake of the gospel it would be advantageous to eat, then I will indulge. If it would benefit others and advance the gospel to decline, then I will not eat. I am not mastered by my appetite. I have been given the freedom to not seek my own, but that of the other.

We have been given amazing freedom in Christ. We are free from Pharisaic regulations and dietary laws. We are free to not worry about where our food came from because “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” We are free to sit down with an unbeliever at a meal and enjoy friendship. And we should. We should seize every opportunity to proclaim the good news that Jesus died for sinners to set them free. Free from sin, free from self seeking, free to recklessly pursue the good of others.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

June 15, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 10:14-22; Fellowship with Christ

06/01 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 Fellowship with Christ;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140601_1cor10_14-22.mp3

 

1 Corinthians 10 [SBLGNT]

14 Διόπερ, ἀγαπητοί μου, φεύγετε ἀπὸ τῆς εἰδωλολατρίας. 15 ὡς φρονίμοις λέγω· κρίνατε ὑμεῖς ὅ φημι. 16 τὸ ποτήριον τῆς εὐλογίας ὃ εὐλογοῦμεν, οὐχὶ κοινωνία ἐστὶν τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ; τὸν ἄρτον ὃν κλῶμεν, οὐχὶ κοινωνία τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐστιν; 17 ὅτι εἷς ἄρτος, ἓν σῶμα οἱ πολλοί ἐσμεν, οἱ γὰρ πάντες ἐκ τοῦ ἑνὸς ἄρτου μετέχομεν. 18 βλέπετε τὸν Ἰσραὴλ κατὰ σάρκα· οὐχ οἱ ἐσθίοντες τὰς θυσίας κοινωνοὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου εἰσίν; 19 τί οὖν φημι; ὅτι εἰδωλόθυτόν τί ἐστιν, ἢ ὅτι εἴδωλόν τί ἐστιν; 20 ἀλλ’ ὅτι ἃ θύουσιν, δαιμονίοις καὶ οὐ θεῷ θύουσιν, οὐ θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς κοινωνοὺς τῶν δαιμονίων γίνεσθαι. 21 οὐ δύνασθε ποτήριον κυρίου πίνειν καὶ ποτήριον δαιμονίων· οὐ δύνασθε τραπέζης κυρίου μετέχειν καὶ τραπέζης δαιμονίων. 22 ἢ παραζηλοῦμεν τὸν κύριον; μὴ ἰσχυρότεροι αὐτοῦ ἐσμεν;

1 Corinthians 10 [ESV2011]

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

 

Chapters 8-10 of 1 Corinthians are a lengthy argument leading the readers to a godly conclusion. The Corinthians faced pressure to conform to their culture and participate in idolatry. Paul started by pointing out that although we all have knowledge, knowledge devoid of love is deadly. Living with the good of the other in mind is essential to following Jesus. Then he affirms the fact that they have rights and freedoms in Christ. But he holds himself up as an example of how a follower of Jesus can forgo legitimate God given rights for the sake of the gospel. At the end of chapter 9 he moves from the danger that my liberty may pose for a brother or sister in Christ, to the lethal effect it may have on my own relationship with God. He holds himself up again as an example of the danger of disqualification, or the danger of being demonstrated phony or false even after fruitful ministry. Then in chapter 10 he points to the example of Israel in the wilderness, most of whom played too close to the edge in seeking to gratify their desires, things like idolatry, sexual immorality, testing Christ by challenging God given leadership, things like grumbling and complaining about God’s good gifts. He warns them of the danger of self-confidence, he reminds them of the normalcy of temptation in the human experience, and he encourages them with the absolute faithfulness of God. He says:

12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

And we might expect him to say, ‘therefore, you can plunge headlong into temptation, trusting in the faithfulness of God, confident that God will always provide a way of escape.’ But that is the opposite of what he says. Instead he says:

14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

Here he gives the clear conclusion his whole argument has been leading up to. How much can a Christian flirt with idolatry before he crosses the line? Paul’s answer is ‘No, that is the wrong question. Idolatry is lethal to your spiritual life. You should be asking ‘How far away from idolatry can I stay?’ He addresses them with a very affectionate term ‘my beloved’, and he says very clearly ‘flee from idolatry’. It doesn’t get much clearer than this. How much idolatry can I participate in before I jeopardize my relationship with God? Flee from idolatry! Run far far away. Run and never look back. Idolatry is not something to be toyed with. 603,548 Israelites fell victim to its treachery. Do not think that you can dabble with it and escape the same condemnation.

Idolatry is looking to anything outside of God to satisfy your desires, treasuring anything or anyone more than you treasure God. Idolatry is so pervasive in our society, maybe even more prevalent than it was in Corinth. There is so much that seeks to lead our hearts astray from God. To reveal the idolatry in your heart, simply look at where you spend your time, where you spend your energy, where you spend your money, what you talk about. These are the things that are most important to you, and God is jealous of your undivided affection.

Flee Immorality / Flee Idolatry

This passage is almost perfectly parallel to how Paul approaches the issue of sexual immorality in chapter 6. In 6:18 he says ‘Flee from sexual immorality’; In 10:14 he says ‘Flee from idolatry’. In 6:12 he says ‘all things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful’, which he repeats verbatim in 10:23. He says in 6:15, 17 ‘Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? …he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him’ and in 10:16 he says ‘the cup …is a participation in the blood of Christ …the bread …is a participation in the body of Christ’. In 6:15 he asks ‘Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!’ In 10:21 he says ‘You cannot drink of the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons’. In 6:20 he concludes ‘So glorify God in your body’ and in 10:31 he concludes ‘So, …whatever you do, do all to the glory of God’.

Think!

Paul is very clear in his conclusions, but he is wary of the dangers of a checklist. He demands that his readers think for themselves. He does not want formal external conformity to a set of regulations. He longs to see glad obedience from hearts and minds transformed by Jesus.

15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.

His readers have the capability to follow his logic. They have the capacity to think through his arguments. They can evaluate his conclusions. He doesn’t simply say ‘I’m the apostle, and you have to do it because I said so’. There are times when that is appropriate. But he invites them to thoughtfully engage with his flow of thought, trace out his line of reasoning and examine his conclusions. Think! Peter said that some of what Paul wrote is hard to understand! So engage your brains when you read this book. Paul uses words like ‘therefore’ and ‘so’ and ‘because’ and ‘in order that’. His words are not open to everyone’s interpretation. Words mean things. He intended to say something very definite, very specific, and if we are careful and thoughtful, we can understand what he says.

The Lord’s Supper

15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

Paul parallels the Lord’s supper, our celebration of communion, with the idolatrous celebrations that the Corinthians were tempted to participate in. He demonstrates the incompatibility of intimacy with Christ and intimacy with demons.

He first refers to the cup. He calls it the cup of blessing. Jesus at the last supper with his disciples, blessed and gave thanks for the bread and the wine. When we celebrate the Lord’s supper to remember him, we bless and give thanks for the bread and the cup. It is the cup of blessing, the cup that Jesus blessed, that we also bless. Paul asks, ‘is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?’ When we take and drink the cup, we participate in the blood of Christ. The word is κοινωνία; communion, fellowship, or participation. When we drink the cup, we participate in the blood of Christ, all that it means for us. Jesus said that the cup was ‘my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’ (Mt.26:28). A covenant is a binding committed relationship, often solemnized with blood. Jesus instituted the new covenant, the new relationship with God through his blood. Jesus offered his blood as a sacrifice for our sins, so that we could be forgiven and enter into a right relationship with God. The wages of our sin is death, and Jesus’ blood was shed, his life was poured out as a payment for our sin. By taking the cup and drinking, we are saying that we are participants in that new covenant, part of the people who were purchased with Christ’s blood, those who have been forgiven by trusting in the finished work of Christ for us.

Next, he mentions the bread that we break. ‘Breaking bread’ was a way of describing eating a meal together, and it was used to describe what believers did when they remembered Jesus with bread and wine. In the culture, to sit down together and share a meal created a bond of relationship and obligation. Tearing off bread from the same loaf, dipping in shared dishes and eating together was an intimate way of extending friendship. You would not sit down at the table and share a dish with someone you considered unclean or unworthy of your company. Jesus welcomes us to his table to share a meal with us. Jesus took the bread, and after blessing it, he broke it and said ‘this is my body which is given for you’ (Lk.22:19). The broken bread points to the human body of Jesus which was broken for us. By eating the bread, we participate in the body of Christ. We are saying that we are spiritually hungry and broken, and we benefit from the death of Jesus. We receive nourishment and sustenance from him. We are connected with him.

This is very different from the refreshments served by the stewardesses mid flight. They roll the carts down the aisles and offer you a choice of beverages to quench your thirst, and maybe a small pack of crackers to munch on. The napkin they give you may have the logo of the airline printed on it, but by drinking, you are not swearing your allegiance to that airline.

The cup of blessing and the bread broken are the meal we share at the table of Christ. He is our host, we are his guests, and we fellowship with him at his table. We enjoy the benefits he provides. We are connected to him. We are obliged to him.

Unity with Community

Verse 17 takes this a step further. The one bread that we all share unites us not only with Christ, but also with one another.

17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

There is a community formed around our communion with Christ. If you are in a binding committed relationship with Jesus through participation in his finished work on the cross, and I also am in that same binding committed relationship with Jesus, then we are bound to one another through our common bond to Christ. Those who participate in the new covenant meal are connected to our Lord Jesus and to one another.

Fellowship with Demons

Paul again points back to Israel as an example.

18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.

The text says ‘consider Israel according to the flesh’. Having just recounted the failure of the exodus generation, most of whom fell in the wilderness because of unbelief, this verse is likely pointing to fleshly or unbelieving Israel. Those who ate of the sacrifices made to the golden calf, those who ‘sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play’ had identified themselves with everything that altar stood for. Whatever altar you eat at, you become a participant with the deity that is being worshiped there, and you become connected with the other worshipers there.

This raises a question. Paul is suggesting that if you worship at a pagan altar, there is a real connection made with the one behind that altar. But Paul said in 8:4 ‘we know that an idol has no real existence and that there is no God but one’. Is Paul now saying that the idol does have a real existence? He clarifies. He is not saying that the block of wood or stone is anything but a block of wood or stone. But he is saying that there is an unseen reality behind the image. Paul is drawing on information from the Old Testament. When the people offered sacrifices to the calf, the calf was nothing but an inanimate statue made to look like an animal. But the calf idol became a focal point for worship directed to someone other than the one true God. It became a means of worshiping demons.

Leviticus 17 requires that all the sacrifices of the people be brought to the one place of sacrifice that God had authorized, so that they would not be worshiping demons.

Leviticus 17:7 So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.

Paul’s language reflects the song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32

Deuteronomy 32:15 … then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. 16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. 17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded.

…21 They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols. …

Moses connects the misplaced worship of the people with demon worship. We were made to worship. If we refuse to worship the one true God, we will worship success or power or possessions or family or pleasure. When we fail to treasure the one true God, and treasure other people or things, we turn our worship away from God and to demons. There is no possibility of being neutral.

Psalm 106 describes faithless Israel later, at the time of the conquest.

Psalm 106:34 They did not destroy the peoples, as the LORD commanded them, 35 but they mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did. 36 They served their idols, which became a snare to them. 37 They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; 38 they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood. 39 Thus they became unclean by their acts, and played the whore in their deeds.

All these passages connect idolatry with demon worship. Lucifer desired to be worshiped as God. He and the angels who followed him seek to divert worship from God to other things. When we listen to their lie and are persuaded to seek pleasure and fulfillment in other things, we are participating with demons.

20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

Jesus said ‘no one can serve two masters’ (Mt.6:24). We cannot sit down at the table of the Lord on Sundays and then seek to find satisfaction at the table of demons the rest of the week. Jesus will not tolerate it. He demands our undivided devotion, our absolute affection. We must choose whose table we will feast at.

14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

June 1, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 10:11-13; You! Take Heed!

05/25 1 Corinthians 10:11-13 You! Take Heed!Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140525_1cor10_11-13.mp3

1 Corinthians 10 [SBLGNT]

11 ταῦτα δὲ τυπικῶς συνέβαινεν ἐκείνοις, ἐγράφη δὲ πρὸς νουθεσίαν ἡμῶν, εἰς οὓς τὰ τέλη τῶν αἰώνων κατήντηκεν.12 ὥστε ὁ δοκῶν ἑστάναι βλεπέτω μὴ πέσῃ,13 πειρασμὸς ὑμᾶς οὐκ εἴληφεν εἰ μὴ ἀνθρώπινος· πιστὸς δὲ ὁ θεός, ὃς οὐκ ἐάσει ὑμᾶς πειρασθῆναι ὑπὲρ ὃ δύνασθε, ἀλλὰ ποιήσει σὺν τῷ πειρασμῷ καὶ τὴν ἔκβασιν τοῦ δύνασθαι ὑπενεγκεῖν.

1 Corinthians 9-10 [ESV2011]

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,3 and all ate the same spiritual food,4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents,10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. Paul holds himself up as an example. If there is a danger of disqualification even for the apostle, that he might be proven a fraud, shown to be false, how much more must we watch ourselves, to be sure that we stay connected to Jesus, remain believing, continue treasuring Jesus above all else?

Paul holds the Israelites up as an example. Every one of the Israelites shared in the blessings of being part of God’s people. They all were under the protection of God, were being led by God, had experienced his rescue from slavery, their enemies were destroyed by God, they were continually being sustained and provided for by God. But in spite of all the blessings God poured out on them, their hearts remained unchanged. They desired things more than God. Food. Sex. Comfort. Relationships. They were discontent with God and with what he provided. With most of them God was not pleased. That whole generation fell in the wilderness. They had heard God’s promises, but they never received those promises. They didn’t believe God, didn’t trust God, didn’t treasure him. Their bodies were strewn in the wilderness. They never entered into the promises of God.

Presumption is Deadly

These things happened to them as an example for us. As a warning. Take heed! Let anyone who thinks he stand take heed lest he fall. Every single one of us is in danger of falling. Especially if you are thinking ‘I’m fine, this doesn’t apply to me’. If you think you stand firm, watch out! The Israelites thought they were safe. They had been rescued by God. They had been protected by God. They were being provided for by God. They were God’s privileged people. They presumed on the grace of God. They assumed that it didn’t matter what they did – they were safe. They felt so safe that they allowed their hearts to go after other things, things other than God. They put Christ to the test, speaking out against their God given leaders and going their own way. They grumbled and complained about God’s good provision, betraying a heart discontent with the good gifts God had provided. They felt there was no need to respond to God’s grace, no need for a transformed heart. They fell in the wilderness as a warning to us.

Presumption is deadly. Every moment we must recognize that we are absolutely completely dependent on the mercy of God. Jesus used the illustration of the vine and the branches (John 15:1-11).

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

Jesus is the source of everything. As long as we remain in him, connected to him, abiding in him, depending on him, drawing our sustenance and energy and resources from him, we can bear much fruit. But on our own, apart from him, we can do nothing.

We tend to think we can stand. We do not like to depend, we are reluctant to trust, we are too proud to admit we have nothing to contribute. Take heed! Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. If we think we are beyond stumbling, if we think we are capable of standing on our own, then God may very well allow us to fall to show us our need for him, to teach us to depend on him.

Only A Remnant Will Be Saved

Many people say ‘I attend church regularly, I’m a good person, I help others out whenever I can’. Paul warns that most of the church in the wilderness fell in the wilderness and never entered the land.

What Paul says in Romans 9-11 may help us to understand this passage. Because of the unfaithfulness of the mass of Israel, it appears that the promises of God have failed. He says:

Romans 9:6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

He says that the promises of God were never directed toward a specific nationality, as if the mere fact that you can trace your bloodline back to Abraham was enough to include anyone in the promises. John said to the religious leaders of his day:

Matthew 3:9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.

Not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel. It is those who have the faith of Abraham who are true descendents of Abraham. Paul says in Galatians:

Galatians 3:6 …Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.

Not all those who trace their ethnicity to Israel belong to God’s true people. It is only those who believe. Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah in Romans 9:27.

Romans 9:27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved,

Only a remnant of Israel will be saved, only those who believe like Abraham. It is not connection with a group that matters. Only those who depend on God, trust in him, treasure him. In Romans 11, Paul uses the olive tree to illustrate.

Romans 11:17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.

This is the same warning he issues to the Corinthians. Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. Do not become proud but fear. Do not be arrogant toward those branches that were broken off because of their unbelief. The whole generation died in the wilderness, as an example to you. You stand fast through faith. Branches were broken off because of their unbelief. God will not spare you if you do not continue depending on and rejoicing in his undeserved kindness. Drink deeply from the nourishing root. Realize your dependence. Stay connected. There is no promise of protection if we turn our hearts away from God and toward other things.

Dangers of Idolatry

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Let’s understand this in the context. The Corinthians are flirting with idolatry. They think they are wise. They think they are strong. They think that they are spiritual. They think they are mature. They think that they can participate in idol feasts without being led astray in their hearts. They think think that an idol has no real existence, no power, and on a level they are right. Idols are empty powerless nothings. They are right to not fear the power of idols, but they ought to fear the wrath of God (BECNT). If we go astray in our hearts, if we turn away from God to pursue our own desires, we are in danger of God’s displeasure. We are in danger of being proven false and experiencing the wrath of God.

Idolatry is seldom blatant and obvious. Idolatry is subtle. It creeps in unawares. Very few people wake up one morning and say ‘I’m going to commit idolatry today.’ Our hearts are designed to worship, and when we do not consciously, intentionally worship the one true God with our whole heart, our hearts naturally worship other things. We begin to value people, value things, value relationships more than we value God. That is the essence of idolatry.

12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

This is a severe warning not to plunge into temptation presuming that God in his grace will rescue us. Some misuse this passage to say that they can dance on the edge of destruction because God is faithful and he will always provide a way out. But this is exactly opposite the purpose of the passage. This passage warns against presumption and over-confidence. There is danger of being shown to be false. Paul himself says that he exercises self discipline, self control and passionately pursues Jesus with every fiber of his being so that in the end he will not be proven false. The Israelites went astray in their hearts and desired other things, and they fell in the wilderness as a warning to us. This is not a promise that we can plunge headlong into sin and God will always rescue us. This is a promise that the adversity that comes in the path of obedience will always be accompanied by sufficient strength to persevere through it.

Typical Testing

Paul reminds us that every believer experiences temptation. The testing we are called to endure is not extraordinary. Every follower of Jesus will be tested.

1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

It is not strange that a follower of Jesus will experience the sufferings of Jesus. That is what we should expect. James tells us

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Faith untried remains unproven. In Jesus’ parable about the soils, it was the heat of the sun that demonstrated which plant had deep roots and which had none (Mt.13:6). In his teaching about wise and foolish builders, it was the storm that revealed which house was built on the rock and which was built on sand (Mt.7:24-27). Testing is normal for the Christian.

The Corinthians were facing overwhelming social pressure to conform. In order to separate from all participation in idolatry, they would have to decline dinner invitations, forgo family functions, risk the loss of employment. For the Corinthians, faithfulness to God and a firm stand against idolatry could mean social and financial ruin. This was a difficult test, and the temptation to justify participation in idolatry would be great.

Encouraged with the Gospel

Paul encourages them, reminding them that every believer faces temptation. He does not encourage them with their own ability. Just the opposite, he warns if they begin to think they can stand, they are in great danger of falling. He anchors their hope not in their own character, but in the character of God. God is faithful. That is the gospel. That is the good news. The good news is that it does not ultimately depend on me or my character or my ability. It depends on God and his faithfulness. God is faithful. God will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability. God is ultimately in control of the testing, and with the testing he provides the exit. The way out is the way through. God is faithful. With the temptation, God will enable you to persevere through it.

So abide in Jesus. Stay connected to Jesus. Rely on Jesus. Depend on Jesus. You cannot stand, you cannot bear fruit, you cannot do anything apart from Jesus. Rejoice in Jesus. Draw your sustenance from Jesus. Treasure Jesus above all else. Look away from yourself and look to Jesus. Run the race with perseverance, keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus because God is the one who is faithful. 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

May 25, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 10:5-10; The Danger of Desire

05/04 1 Corinthians 10:5-10 The Deadly Dangers of Desire;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140504_1cor10_5-10.mp3

 

1 Corinthians 10 [SBLGNT]

1 Οὐ θέλω γὰρ ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν πάντες ὑπὸ τὴν νεφέλην ἦσαν καὶ πάντες διὰ τῆς θαλάσσης διῆλθον, 2 καὶ πάντες εἰς τὸν Μωϋσῆν ἐβαπτίσαντο ἐν τῇ νεφέλῃ καὶ ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ, 3 καὶ πάντες τὸ αὐτὸ πνευματικὸν βρῶμα ἔφαγον 4 καὶ πάντες τὸ αὐτὸ πνευματικὸν ἔπιον πόμα, ἔπινον γὰρ ἐκ πνευματικῆς ἀκολουθούσης πέτρας, ἡ πέτρα δὲ ἦν ὁ Χριστός· 5 ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐν τοῖς πλείοσιν αὐτῶν ηὐδόκησεν ὁ θεός, κατεστρώθησαν γὰρ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ. 6 Ταῦτα δὲ τύποι ἡμῶν ἐγενήθησαν, εἰς τὸ μὴ εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἐπιθυμητὰς κακῶν, καθὼς κἀκεῖνοι ἐπεθύμησαν. 7 μηδὲ εἰδωλολάτραι γίνεσθε, καθώς τινες αὐτῶν· ὥσπερ γέγραπται· Ἐκάθισεν ὁ λαὸς φαγεῖν καὶ πεῖν, καὶ ἀνέστησαν παίζειν. 8 μηδὲ πορνεύωμεν, καθώς τινες αὐτῶν ἐπόρνευσαν, καὶ ἔπεσαν μιᾷ ἡμέρᾳ εἴκοσι τρεῖς χιλιάδες. 9 μηδὲ ἐκπειράζωμεν τὸν Χριστόν, καθώς τινες αὐτῶν ἐπείρασαν, καὶ ὑπὸ τῶν ὄφεων ἀπώλλυντο. 10 μηδὲ γογγύζετε, καθάπερ τινὲς αὐτῶν ἐγόγγυσαν, καὶ ἀπώλοντο ὑπὸ τοῦ ὀλοθρευτοῦ. 11 ταῦτα δὲ τυπικῶς συνέβαινεν ἐκείνοις, ἐγράφη δὲ πρὸς νουθεσίαν ἡμῶν, εἰς οὓς τὰ τέλη τῶν αἰώνων κατήντηκεν. 12 ὥστε ὁ δοκῶν ἑστάναι βλεπέτω μὴ πέσῃ, 13 πειρασμὸς ὑμᾶς οὐκ εἴληφεν εἰ μὴ ἀνθρώπινος· πιστὸς δὲ ὁ θεός, ὃς οὐκ ἐάσει ὑμᾶς πειρασθῆναι ὑπὲρ ὃ δύνασθε, ἀλλὰ ποιήσει σὺν τῷ πειρασμῷ καὶ τὴν ἔκβασιν τοῦ δύνασθαι ὑπενεγκεῖν.

1 Corinthians 9-10 [ESV2011]

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

These warnings are serious. Paul mentioned the potential for his own disqualification. He brings up the example of Israel in the wilderness to warn us that flirtation with idolatry can be lethal. All the Israelites shared in the blessings of being part of God’s people. They all were under the protection of God, were being led by God, had experienced rescue from slavery, their enemies were destroyed by God, they were continually being sustained and provided for by God, and yet with most of them, with most of them God was not pleased. Out of 603,550, only 2 entered the promised land. Joshua and Caleb. Two. The rest were overthrown in the wilderness. 23,000 fell in a single day. Some were destroyed by serpents. Some were destroyed by the Destroyer. 603,448 Israelite corpses were strewn across the wilderness over their 40 years of wandering.

Idolatry is serious. Idolatry is deadly. Idolatry can separate you from God forever. Idolatry is not to be taken lightly. We tend to think of idolatry only as bowing to a little statue or attending a pagan temple, and I doubt that many of us do those things. But idolatry is so much deeper and more prevalent than that, as we will see in this passage. Idolatry can take many different forms. At its core, idolatry is loving anything more than God. Jesus told us that the most important commandment is:

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

God is to be loved more than anything else because God is infinitely more deserving of our allegiance and affection. To value something or someone higher than God is to lie and overestimate the value of that person or that thing, and to dishonor and lie about God. For God to allow any idolatry would be unrighteous and unloving, encouraging us in the idea that there is something greater, something better, something more worthy, something more satisfying out there than God himself. God tells us that his name is Jealous (Ex.34:14), that he is a jealous God , not in the petty self-centered ways that we usually think of jealousy, but because he knows there is no true joy, true satisfaction, true fulfillment outside of a relationship with himself. He is jealous of our affection for our eternal good. The danger of idolatry is grave. God will not tolerate idolatry because in idolatry we turn away from the only source of true joy and look elsewhere.

Do Not Desire Evil

Our text says:

1 Corinthians 10:5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.

God was not pleased with most of them. They were overthrown in the wilderness. That happened as an example for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Their corpses strewn in the wilderness are a warning to us. What do you desire? What is it that you want? Human desire is a powerful thing. Advertising seeks to influence our desire. If we can be shown that we lack something, if we can be convinced that we need something, that life will go better if we have something, if we are persuaded that we will be happier and more fulfilled with that something, our desire will be stirred, and we will go after that something, spending our hard earned money, time, and energy to satisfy that desire. Many desires are good and healthy. Hunger, thirst are important desires. Without proper food and drink, we will die. Desire for comfort and safety is normal. Extreme temperatures are lethal for humans. But even good desires can be elevated in unhealthy ways. We need to eat, we need fuel to keep our bodies functioning, but often we don’t stop when we are full. It tastes so good – I want just one more bite. Or we are very particular about what we eat. It has to be prepared just so. These are different forms of gluttony, and the bible calls gluttony sin. In our desire for comfort we can become discontent with our house or our car or our job or our climate or our health. It’s too hot or too cold or too dry or too humid or too much snow or not enough, the seasons are too extreme, there’s no change in seasons, it’s too busy, there’s nothing to do. The desire for satisfying relationships is good and natural, but we often place undue weight on those relationships. I wish I had a husband or a wife, I wish my husband or wife was different than they are, I wish I had a different husband or a different wife, I wish I didn’t have a husband or a wife. I wish I had children, I wish I could spend more time with my children, I wish my children were better behaved, more responsible, more respectful, I wish they would leave. I wish I had friends, I wish my friends would be more thoughtful, I wish they would invite me to more things, I wish they would stop inviting me to things, I wish they would leave me alone.

We have so many competing desires. Desires are a powerful force in our lives. Desire determines so much of what we think about, what we spend our time and energy and resources on, how we feel, what our attitude is, and what we do. This is why God warns us about the dangers of our desires. Secondary desires can become primary, and when a secondary desire is elevated to first importance, it it becomes evil. Our primary desire must be for God and God alone. Other desires, even good desires, become evil when they compete with our desire for God. The Psalmist says:

Psalm 73:25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

God is my portion. I desire nothing besides you. Actions result from desires. Desires flow out of the heart. Only a heart transformed by Jesus treasures God above all else.

1 Corinthians 10:6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.

This word ‘desire’ is taken from Numbers 11.

Numbers 11:4 Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6 But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”

…10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their clans, everyone at the door of his tent. And the anger of the LORD blazed hotly, and Moses was displeased.

Listen. Words like ‘ruthless’ and ‘bitter’ described their slavery in Egypt. They groaned and cried out for rescue. God supernaturally rescued his people from cruel slavery in Egypt. He rained down supernatural bread from heaven to provide for their every need. Now they complain about God’s good provision, their memories are distorted, and they long for the food they ate back in the bad old days of Egyptian slavery. We are appalled at their ingratitude, but how often do we do the very same. We are discontent with what God has given to us, with the lot he has assigned to us. We want something else. Anything else.

It is interesting how God responded to their ungrateful craving.

Psalm 106:14 But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness, and put God to the test in the desert; 15 he gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them.

He gave them what they asked for. Be careful what you ask for.

Numbers 11:18 And say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat, for you have wept in the hearing of the LORD, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was better for us in Egypt.” Therefore the LORD will give you meat, and you shall eat. 19 You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, 20 but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the LORD who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we come out of Egypt?”’”

They wanted meat. God gave them meat to eat. Meat so abundant that it came out their nostrils. God gave them over to their own desires to demonstrate that what they thought would satisfy would only become loathsome to them. They had rejected not just manna, they had rejected the LORD and his salvation.

Numbers 11:33 While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD struck down the people with a very great plague. 34 Therefore the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had the craving.

Idolatry

This root sin of desiring, or craving, led to four other symptomatic sins. In verse 7 idolatry, in verse 8 sexual immorality, in verse 9 putting Christ to the test, and in verse 10 grumbling.

7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”

One of the symptoms of wrong desires is idolatry. Our desire for something we don’t have becomes so strong that we want it more than we want God. That is idolatry.

Exodus 32:1 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”

The people had seen a manifestation of God so real, so awesome, so terrible that they begged Moses to mediate between them and God for fear that if God were to speak to them again directly they would die. Moses is up on the mountain 40 days, receiving instruction from God for them. God is manifest in cloud and consuming fire at the top of the mountain. While this is going on, in their ignorance they become so impatient that they demand a substitute god. Having experienced the reality, they quickly settle for a substitute.

Exodus 32:4 And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” …6 And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

They prefer something ‘real’, something tangible, something material, something they can contribute to, something they can see and touch rather than the unseen supernatural reality of the true God.

Immorality

If you think back to the context of the culture that Paul is addressing, the Corinthians are arguing for the right to eat meat in pagan temples. These idolatrous temples often offered immorality as a part of the worship. Paul makes that connection here. “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” The phrase ‘rose up to play’ has sexual connotations. Idolatry often leads to immorality. Unfaithfulness to God leads to sexual unfaithfulness.

8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.

At the suggestion of Balaam (Num.31:16), who was unable to curse Israel for pay, the Moabites sent their daughters to lead astray the men of Israel so that God would be displeased with them.

Numbers 25:1 While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.

Twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. God takes unfaithfulness, our unfaithfulness to him, seriously.

Putting Christ to the Test

9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents,

This refers back to Numbers 21.

Numbers 21:5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” 6 Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.

This is near the end of the 40 years in the wilderness. God had consistently and repeatedly provided for their needs. Psalm 78 links this testing God with food and their desire for things other than what God had provided.

Psalms 78:18 They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. 19 They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?

They tested God’s patience by rejecting what God gave and demanding what they craved. Here we have yet another clear affirmation that Jesus Christ is God.

Grumbling

Last but not least, grumbling.

10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.

This is a tough one. We don’t know exactly what event Paul is referring to here, because the people seemed always to be grumbling. They grumbled about food, they grumbled about water, it seems grumbling was the sound they made. On hearing the report of the spies who reported giants in the promised land, we are told in Numbers 14:

Numbers 14:1 Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

This grumbling is grumbling against God’s chosen leaders. Grumbling is the sound of discontent. I don’t like what I have been given.

Numbers 14:26 And the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 27 “How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me. 28 Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the LORD, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: 29 your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, 30 not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.

We might tend to think that grumbling is not really that bad. Murmuring. Complaining. Everyone does it. God takes it personally. He is the giver of all good gifts. When we grumble, we express our discontent with what he has given. It was the grumbling of the congregation that caused the Lord to sentence a whole generation to fall in the wilderness. Paul says this is a warning for us. Grumbling is the opposite of worship. Grumbling is the opposite of wonder. Grumbling is the opposite of gratitude. Saved from slavery. Through the midst of the sea on dry ground. Manna falls from heaven. Water gushes from the rock. Wonder, worship, gratitude. God promises to give the land, including the giants, into your hand. Be amazed, give thanks, worship. Receive the good gift from his gracious hand.

The cure for idolatry, the cure for lust, the cure for grumbling is to be so satisfied in God that there is honestly nothing else you desire.

Psalm 73:25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Gorge yourself on the riches of Christ. Sit at the Lord’s table and feast on the gospel. Let him be your portion. Be so satisfied with who he is that you begin to see the pleasures of this world as the cheap imitations that they really are. 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

May 4, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 8:7-13; Obligation to Love

03/02 1 Corinthians 8:7-13 – Obligation to Love; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140302_1cor8_7-13.mp3

1 Corinthians 8 [SBLGNT]

7 Ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐν πᾶσιν ἡ γνῶσις· τινὲς δὲ τῇ συνηθείᾳ ἕως ἄρτι τοῦ εἰδώλου ὡς εἰδωλόθυτον ἐσθίουσιν, καὶ ἡ συνείδησις αὐτῶν ἀσθενὴς οὖσα μολύνεται. 8 βρῶμα δὲ ἡμᾶς οὐ παραστήσει τῷ θεῷ· οὔτε γὰρ ἐὰν φάγωμεν, περισσεύομεν, οὔτε ἐὰν μὴ φάγωμεν, ὑστερούμεθα. 9 βλέπετε δὲ μή πως ἡ ἐξουσία ὑμῶν αὕτη πρόσκομμα γένηται τοῖς ἀσθενέσιν. 10 ἐὰν γάρ τις ἴδῃ σὲ τὸν ἔχοντα γνῶσιν ἐν εἰδωλείῳ κατακείμενον, οὐχὶ ἡ συνείδησις αὐτοῦ ἀσθενοῦς ὄντος οἰκοδομηθήσεται εἰς τὸ τὰ εἰδωλόθυτα ἐσθίειν; 11 ἀπόλλυται γὰρ ὁ ἀσθενῶν ἐν τῇ σῇ γνώσει, ὁ ἀδελφὸς δι’ ὃν Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν. 12 οὕτως δὲ ἁμαρτάνοντες εἰς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς καὶ τύπτοντες αὐτῶν τὴν συνείδησιν ἀσθενοῦσαν εἰς Χριστὸν ἁμαρτάνετε. 13 διόπερ εἰ βρῶμα σκανδαλίζει τὸν ἀδελφόν μου, οὐ μὴ φάγω κρέα εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, ἵνα μὴ τὸν ἀδελφόν μου σκανδαλίσω.

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.

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. 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. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 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? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

In chapters 8-11, Paul is addressing the issue of a Christian’s interaction with pagan society. In the pagan culture of Corinth, idolatry permeated every area of life; politics, sports, employment, family, even eating. Almost all meat would have some connection with pagan idolatry. Meat at a friend’s house may be the leftovers from a pagan sacrifice. Meat sold in the market often came from the priest’s portion of the pagan sacrifice. Pagan temples had dining rooms that were rented to celebrate special occasions. Some of the believers in Corinth were claiming the right to eat food that came from the temple, even the right to attend banquets held at the temple, arguing that because there is only one true God, and since food cannot earn for us favor with God, then we have freedom to eat whatever we want wherever we want.

We may think we can safely tune out this whole section as irrelevant because I can’t remember the last time I was invited to a temple for a banquet, or when my neighbor invited me to a barbeque that was dedicated to Asclepius or Aphrodite or Zeus. But if you find yourself in another country or another culture, you may quickly realize how important it is to think carefully through these issues. And when we put these instructions in the context of the broader issues of idolatry as being anything we love or honor or elevate alongside the one true God, then this becomes massively relevant and intensely practical.

The Principles behind the Decree

And we are greatly helped by the way the apostle deals with this issue. This was a settled issue. Paul could have simply laid down the law, cited the Jerusalem decree, and moved on. And that may be what he had done in earlier correspondence or in person with this church. Paul was there at the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15. Paul was one of those entrusted with the responsibility to deliver the decision to the Gentile churches. For a non-Jew to become a follower of Jesus, they did not have to become Jewish or come under the burden of Jewish law. But they must turn away from their false gods to the one true God. They cannot add Jesus to the list of gods they worship and serve. In turning to Jesus they must turn away from the worship of false gods, from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, from sexual immorality. Paul could have laid down the law. But instead he lays out the reasons behind the decision to help them (and us) to think more carefully through the issue and lead them to the proper conclusion.

Paul brings them back to first principles. There is only one God, and that one God requires that we love him with all heart and soul and mind and strength, and that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Love seeks the genuine good of the other, even if it is costly to us. The Corinthians boasted in a kind of knowledge that set them apart from everyone else; Paul points out that this knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.

He points them back to first principles of monotheism; there is no God but one. By saying there is one Lord and God we confess that we owe our undivided allegiance and obedience to this one God. God reveals himself as a jealous God, and demands that we have no other gods besides him. Paul clarifies that this one God is God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, distinct persons with different roles, but God, one eternal being.

The double command of love must govern all of life. Love for God must come first. And this humbles us, because we only love because he first loved us. In verses 7-13, he spells out what love for our brother should look like. Paul does not confront their idolatrous behavior head on, but rather seeks to persuade them. In chapter 10, he will lay out clear conclusions, like 10:14 “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” and that eating idol food is eating at the table of demons (10:16-22). In this chapter Paul assumes for the sake of argument that what they are saying is true, and that their knowledge is accurate. Even if it were true that Christians have legitimate liberty to join in pagan feasts, love would require a different path.

This Knowledge is Not In All

The Corinthians were claiming to have knowledge. They said ‘we know that all of us possess knowledge’. Paul here clarifies ‘but not all possess this knowledge’. This ‘knowledge’ that it is acceptable to participate in pagan feasts because the gods honored are false empty nothings, this is not in everyone.

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.

Before they heard the gospel and believed in Jesus as God, many Corinthians would have regularly participated in these celebrations in honor of the various gods, and upon entering their former place of worship would feel soiled, dirty, defiled. Their conscience is weak, not because they are too easily offended and over-sensitive, but because they cave to the example of those who claim to be wise and eat, even though they don’t themselves have this so-called wisdom that would free them to participate. The weak conscience is a conscience that isn’t sure of itself, that doesn’t have the strength to stand on its own two feet, the moral consciousness that questions if it is permissible but does it anyway. This is a moral consciousness that is swayed by the opinion and example of others. Notice that Paul doesn’t say that they merely feel defiled. He says that their conscience, their moral consciousness is defiled. He says in Romans 14:23

Romans 14:23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Subjective Sin

These verses tell us that there is a subjective reality to sin. Something may not be forbidden by God, let’s stay (to be culturally relevant) drinking a particular beverage. If you have been raised to believe that it is sin to partake, even though you can’t produce the verse that says it is wrong, you are convinced that it is a sin against God. Objectively it is not wrong. No specific command, no general principle in the bible says it is wrong. Your conscience has been misinformed. But if you fill up your cup and drink, believing it is wrong, you are saying in your heart ‘I believe this to be a sin against God, but I am going to do it anyway’. God looks on the heart, and in your heart you have sinned against God. The act is not objectively sinful. It is not sinful in and of itself. But it becomes sin for you when, thinking it is sin, you do it anyway.

There is also an objective reality to sin. If you were not raised to believe that any sexual intimacy outside of a marriage relationship is sin, you may feel no guilt in fornicating with your girlfriend. It may feel so right. But it is still really, objectively, according to God’s absolute standard, wrong. Idolatry is on that list, putting any thing, any tradition, any relationship equal in importance with God is sin, whether it feels sinful or not. Much that we don’t feel guilty about is objectively sin against God. One reason the Holy Spirit is given to believers is to convict us of sin that we are not aware is sin.

Food Does Not Bring Us Before God

The Corinthians argument is that ‘Food does not bring us near to God’. We are presented blameless before God through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross. Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial law. In a vision God offered to Peter all kinds of ceremonially unclean things to eat, and God said ‘what God has made clean, do not call common’ (Acts10:15). Jesus declared all foods clean (Mk.7:19). He said that it is not the stuff that goes in, but what comes out that defiles a person. Stuff like evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness that come out of a person’s heart. That is what defiles, not food. Food does not bring us near to God. Keeping various rules like:

Colossians 2:21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 ( referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Food does not bring us near to God. No list of do’s and dont’s will earn favor with God. Only Jesus can bring us near to the all-holy God. Food has no importance. Notice how Paul frames this: ‘We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do’. I find it interesting that he doesn’t say the opposite. He could have said ‘We are no better off if we do not eat, and no worse off if we do’, but he didn’t because that may not be true. Based on his conclusions in chapter 10, we may be better off not to eat food sacrificed to idols, and we may be worse of if we do. He says forfeiting your liberty to eat the steak does not separate you from God, neither does eating the steak bring you closer to God. Since food does not bring us nearer to God by eating or alienate us by not eating, we can safely forgo our right to eat for the sake of a brother.

Stumbling Block

This is what he says in verse 9

9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.

Paul’s language borders on condescending. Paul distances himself from ‘this right of yours’. They are demanding their rights. They have this knowledge. Paul says ‘look out!’ When you start demanding and defending your own rights, you are already on dangerous territory. The problem when I begin to demand my rights, I often end up trampling on the rights of others. Paul alerts them to the existence of others for whom they must be concerned. Watch out that this right you claim does not become a stumbling block to the weak. You who claim to have ‘wisdom’ have an obligation to the weak.

This word ‘stumbling block’ has a clear Old Testament connection to idolatry. God warned in Exodus 34:

Exodus 34:12 Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods. 17 “You shall not make for yourself any gods of cast metal.

This is exactly what happened to Israel in the wilderness.

Numbers 25:1 While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.

Jesus references this when he rebukes the New Testament church in Pergamum and calls them to repentance:

Revelation 2:14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.

To draw someone into worship of anything besides the one true God is a stumbling block.

Build Up to Destruction

To put a stumbling block before the weak is a serious issue.

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?

Paul is somewhat sarcastic here. The word translated ‘encouraged’ is the word usually translated ‘edified’ or ‘built up’. To ‘build up’ a weaker brother so that he participates in idolatry – some kind of building up that is! The conscience is a valuable tool. It is not infallible. The conscience is a delicate instrument, like a compass. Compasses sometimes need to be calibrated. But you do not calibrate the compass of conscience with the sledgehammer of my knowledge and rights, sending it spinning in every direction and rendering it useless to guide. You calibrate the compass of conscience with the precision screwdriver of love.

Listen to how Paul confronts the puffed-up Corinthians.

11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.

Destroyed. Perished. Lost. Who would want that on their hands? Not anyone, but a weak person. You would trip up and destroy someone who can’t even stand on their own? A brother! Not an enemy, not an outsider, a brother, a sibling, part of the family! There ought to be some tender affection in you toward your own brother. And if not for my brother, then surely for Christ. This one who through my supposed knowledge I am leading back into bondage to sin, and into destruction, is one for whom Christ died. To think that I would attempt to nullify the effect of the cross of Jesus! I am a sinner saved only by God’s undeserved grace through the cross. To lead another for whom Christ died back into the sin out of which he was snatched and from which he is set free is unthinkable. Jesus loved that person and gave himself up for them. He made the ultimate sacrifice out of love. But I am so puffed up in my knowledge and concerned about my rights that I cannot sacrifice something so insignificant to love them.

12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.

Paul applies this principle of love to his readers. To wound a weak conscience, to lead a weak brother into sin, is to sin against them, and to sin against someone for whom Christ died is to sin against Christ Jesus himself. This lesson would be vivid for Paul, formerly Saul, persecutor of the church. When Jesus confronted him on the road, he asked “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts9:4). To persecute the church is to persecute Jesus. Jesus said ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’ (Mt.25:40). Jesus taught

Matthew 18:6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Jesus takes great offense if we do not love those whom he so loved that he gave up his own life as a substitute for.

Paul concludes with his own personal application.

13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

Food, something so insignificant in the context of the substitutionary death of Christ for sinners; my right becomes so trivial in light of Christ Jesus, being in the form of God, who made himself nothing, and died on a cross for sinners like me (Phil.2:5-8). Paul says if food leads a brother for whom Christ died back into idolatry and away from Jesus, I will give up my right to eat meat altogether. I have no right to be rescued from my own sin. That is pure undeserved grace. It is a gift, not a right. I surely have no right to interfere or tamper with the undeserved grace God chooses to extend to another sinner. Rather, I have an obligation to love those whom Christ loved.

March 2, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140223_1cor8_4-6.mp3

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 ~ www.ephraimbible.org

February 23, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 8:1-3; Love and Knowledge

02/16 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 Love and Knowledge; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140216_1cor8_1-3.mp3

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.

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.

In chapters 8-10, Paul tackles another issue brought to him by the church in Corinth. In chapter 7, he says ‘now concerning the matters about which you wrote’, and he addresses issues of relationships, marriage, celibacy, the divorced and widowed, remarriage and betrothal. Here in chapter 8, he begins ‘now concerning food offered to idols’, and he engages this topic at length through the next three chapters. In our effort to understand the details of the passage before us, it will be helpful to look at the background of this issue culturally, theologically, and historically, and to look at some of the conclusions Paul draws in chapter 10, so we can understand where he is going with his logic.

Cultural Background

First of all, the cultural background. Corinth, like much of the Graeco-Roman world, was a culture immersed in idolatry. Some of the deities that were revered in Corinth would include Chronos, Poseidon, the Sun, the Calm, the Sea, Aphrodite, Artemis, Isis, Dionysus, a tree, Fortune, Apollo, Hermes, Zeus, Asclepius, Bunaea, and others (R.Collins, 1999: 314, cited in BECNT, p.373).

Three distinct issues would face a resident in Corinth, and Paul addresses each of these: eating in the temple of an idol (8:7-13; 10:1-22); eating food bought in the market (10:23-27); and eating food in private homes of unbelievers (10:28-31).

The problem of idolatry was pervasive, because pagan religion was inextricably linked to every area of life. Civic and political life included emperor worship and idolatry. Each trade guild would typically be associated with a pagan deity, company parties would be held in the idol’s temple, and everyone employed in this trade would be expected to participate. Excavations at the Asclepion revealed multiple dining rooms and a large courtyard that could be used to host large banquets. Temple dining rooms could be rented out to commemorate weddings, birthdays, the birth of a child, coming of age parties, election victories, funerals, and the like (Kim, 1975, cited in BECNT p.348). Idolatry was even linked to sports; the Isthmian games hosted by Corinth included pagan sacrifices. If you went to the market to buy meat, it was likely to have been sacrificed to or dedicated to some pagan god. There was a fear that bad spirits would enter the body through food, so food was dedicated to a deity in hopes that that deity would protect the consumer from harmful spirits. Animals that were offered in these temples would end up in three places. Some of the meat was burned to the god. Some was given to the priests as their portion. If they had more than they could consume, they would sell it in the market. A portion was given to the person who offered the sacrifice, either to be eaten in one of the temple dining rooms for a celebration, or to be taken home and consumed with family and friends. This was a major issue for someone who believed in Christ, because a refusal to participate in a work party could cost you your job. A refusal to eat food served at an unbelieving friend’s home could end the relationship. A refusal to attend family celebrations would alienate you from your unbelieving family. This is the kind of dilemma facing the church in Corinth.

Theological Background

Now let’s look at the theological and historical background of this issue. The whole bible is clear that there is only one true God. The bible opens with the declaration that in the beginning God created all that exists.

Psalm 96:4 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.

When God gave his commandments to his people he said:

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Throughout the history of Israel, idolatry was a problem. We might not realize how relevant this issue is to us today. I would guess that not many of us have an image that we worship or a temple that we visit. But idolatry extends beyond images to anything that takes priority over God’s absolute right to first place, whether family or pleasure or work or power or pride. God described his people as “They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways” (Heb.3:10).

Historical Background

When we come to the historical background of this issue in the church in Corinth, we find that it had already been settled. When the good news of Jesus was believed by non-Jewish people, the question arose as to what parts of the Jewish law must be followed for a Gentile to become a genuine follower of Jesus, particularly, must they be circumcised. The early church discussed this issue and affirmed that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. They wrote a letter to the Gentile churches stating:

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.”

This decision was delivered to the churches in Gentile regions by Paul and Barnabas. That was Acts 15. In Acts 18, Paul arrives in Corinth and spends a year and a half preaching the gospel and establishing the church there. Certainly the issue of idolatry would have come up in a city like Corinth, and the Apostle certainly would not have withheld this decision from the Jerusalem church about this important issue. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians while he was in Corinth, and he wrote this:

1 Thessalonians 1:7 …you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,

Corinth is in the region of Achaia. Paul, writing from Corinth, commends the believers in Thessalonica that they turned to God from idols. There is no such thing as turning to the one living and true God and continuing to worship idols. This is not a gray area, this is black and white. They had the decision of the Jerusalem church on it. It appears that the believers in Corinth were feeling the pressure of their culture and questioning this decision. They wrote to Paul giving their reasons why they felt that they could as Christians partake of food sacrificed to idols and attend social functions in the pagan temples. Paul could have simply hammered them with the Jerusalem edict and demanded that they comply. Instead he lays out careful reasoning to to lead them to the proper conclusion. We can see some of his conclusions if we jump ahead to chapter 10. He says in 10:7 “Do not be idolaters as some of them were…” and in verse 14 “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” He equates idolatry with making sacrifices to demons and says in verse 20 “..I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” Addressing the question of meat of unknown origin, he says in verse 28 “But if someone says to you, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice,’ then do not eat it…”

Flow of Argument

Seeing the conclusions Paul draws, let’s back up and follow his argumentation through these chapters. Apparently the Corinthian logic ran something like this: “all of us possess knowledge” (v.1) that “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). He reminds them that because there is truly only one God, we exist for him and must obey him (8:4-6). He warns that their behavior may destroy a brother for whom Christ died (8:7-13). In chapter 9, he uses himself as an example of what it looks like to lay down your own rights for the sake of the gospel and the good of others. In chapter 10, he illustrates the danger of idolatry from the Old Testament example of Israel in the wilderness (10:1-13). He shows the incompatibility of idolatry and the Lord’s supper (10:14-22), and he concludes with some practical instructions on how to handle different situations in pagan society (10:23-11:1).

Knowledge

Now that we seeing where he is going with his flow of thought, let’s back up and examine his first point about knowledge and love. He introduces the topic ‘now concerning food offered to idols’ and then he quotes the Corinthians, possibly a line from their letter: ‘we know that all of us possess knowledge’, and then he begins to interact with their assertion. The kind of ‘knowledge’ they claim to have may cause more harm than good. He says ‘this knowledge puffs up’. He has talked quite a bit about knowledge already in this letter. At the opening of the letter, he:

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—

He reminds them that any knowledge they do have is an undeserved gift from God. In chapters 1-3 he contrasts the foolish wisdom of this world with the powerful foolishness of the message of the cross. He points out that this is supernatural wisdom, revealed by God to the foolish, weak, low, despised nothings. God’s true wisdom is meant to humble us, not to puff us up. This word ‘puffed up’ is found in the New Testament 7 times, 6 of them in this letter (4:6, 18, 19; 5:2; 8:1; 13:4). The Corinthians had a problem with pride. Their egos were over-inflated.

Paul says here that ‘knowledge puffs up, but love builds up’. Is Paul pitting love against knowledge? Is he promoting anti-intellectual ignorance? Love without knowledge? Heavens NO! You have to pay attention and think clearly and carefully to follow Paul’s logic in these chapters. In writing this letter he assumes that they will have to use knowledge. When Paul thanked God for their being enriched in knowledge, he was not joking. Knowledge is a gift from God. In verse 2, he says:

8:2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.

There is a way that we ought to know. He does not say ‘you should just turn off your brains and start loving people.’ No, the Corinthians ought to know, but in a different way than they did. Ten times in this letter, Paul asks the question ‘do you not know?’ and each time he is rebuking them for their ignorance of a basic truth of Christianity that they ought to know. In Ephesians 1:8, Paul says that God lavishes the riches of his grace on us ‘in all wisdom and insight’. When Paul prays for the Colossians, he says:

Colossians 1:9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

Fruitfulness comes in connection with an increase in the knowledge of God, not a decrease in knowledge. Paul’s concern for his unbelieving Jewish brothers is that:

Romans 10:2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.

Their danger was that they had a passionate love for God, but it was not according to knowledge. They were ignorant of the righteousness of God that comes through faith in Christ. Love without knowledge does not save. Paul tells Timothy that God

1 Timothy 2:4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Coming to the knowledge of the truth is equated with being saved. In Romans 1, the wrath of God comes on those who ‘exchange the truth about God for a lie’ (1:25). In the Old Testament, God says ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge’ (Hosea 4:6; Is.5:13) and they have ‘rejected knowledge’.

Jesus was clear on this. He said:

John 8:31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

In knowing the truth, there is freedom. Knowing the truth comes from abiding in the word of Jesus.

Inflating Self or Building Others

Paul is not arguing for less knowledge and more love. It is not that they know too much, but they don’t know in the right way. Paul rebukes this knowledge that is characterized by pride. This kind of knowledge shows itself by an inflated ego, by a feeling of superiority, looking down on others. The goal of true knowledge is not inflating self but building others up. Paul will have more to say in chapters 12 and 14 about using our gifts, even gifts like knowledge, to build up others, to build up the body of Christ. He will have more to say about the essential nature of love, real selfless love that the Corinthians lacked, in chapter 13. In the issue of idolatry, Paul is bringing the Corinthian church back to first principles. The first and greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is to love God and love neighbor. Any participation in idolatry is a blatant failure to love God above all else, and as he will show in the rest of this chapter, participation in idolatry is a failure to love our neighbor for whom Christ died.

Know that You Don’t Know

The Corinthians asserted ‘all of us possess knowledge’; Paul warns

8:1 … 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.

The one who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. There is a self-confident knowing that Paul says is not yet knowing, and there is the way we ought to know, which is characterized by a humble awareness of our own weakness and limitations. Socrates said “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Paul warned in chapter 3:

1 Corinthians 3:18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.

In Romans 11, he pushes us beyond the human limits of knowledge:

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”

True knowledge is beginning to comprehend that God is incomprehensible, unsearchable, inscrutable. God is infinitely beyond what a finite human being could ever know.

Ephesians 3:17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

When we begin to know that the love of Christ goes beyond measurable dimensions, goes far beyond our knowledge, we begin to know as we ought to know.

8:2 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.

Here again we see true knowledge defined by love. Loving God is set in contrast to thinking you know something. Paul is bringing them back to first principles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with heart and soul and mind and strength. Wisdom would be to start with the greatest command, the command to love God. To love God is to put him first in everything. So if the ‘knowledge’ of the Corinthians is allowing them to participate in idolatry, then that knowledge is really foolishness.

Known By God

The one who thinks he knows is contrasted with the one who loves God. This one is said, not to know God, but to be known by God. Why does he turn this around? Paul could have said ‘the one who loves God is the one who truly knows him’; but instead he says ‘the one who loves God is the one who is known by him.’ To be known by God is to belong to God, to experience his unmerited grace, to be chosen by him. In Amos 3, God says of Israel “You only have I known of all the families of the earth”.

Exodus 33:17 And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”

All the people in a kingdom know their king. Some may love him and some may hate him, but they all know him. But to say that the king knows me is to say much more. In most kingdoms, very few could claim that they are known by the king.

Galatians 4:9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, …

The greatest thing is not that we know God. The greatest think is that he knows us.

2 Timothy 2:19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” …

For God to know us is sheer undeserved mercy.

Ephesians 2:3 … were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

God loves us not because of, but in spite of what we are. It is undeserved favor. If anyone loves God, it is because he is first known and loved by God.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

This is a powerful antidote for idolatry. To know that the incomprehensible love of Christ has been lavished on me, to know that Christ loved me and gave himself for me, to know that I am known, intimately known and loved by the King of kings, stirs in my heart an affection for God, a deep love for God, a desire to put him first over everything else. This is not ‘I am under the authority of the Jerusalem decree, I am prohibited from eating food sacrificed to idols’; this is ‘I am known by God, loved by God! Wonder of wonders! How could I possibly give any hint that my allegiance or my affections are toward anything else besides God? Come what may, I will worship the Lord my God and him only will I serve.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

February 16, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment