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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

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

1 Corinthians 3:1-4; The Milk and Meat of the Gospel

05/12 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 The Milk and Meat of the Gospel;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130512_1cor3_1-4.mp3

1Cor 3 [SBLGNT]

1 Κἀγώ, ἀδελφοί, οὐκ ἠδυνήθην λαλῆσαι ὑμῖν ὡς πνευματικοῖς ἀλλ’ ὡς σαρκίνοις, ὡς νηπίοις ἐν Χριστῷ.2 γάλα ὑμᾶς ἐπότισα, οὐ βρῶμα, οὔπω γὰρ ἐδύνασθε. ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ ἔτι νῦν δύνασθε,3 ἔτι γὰρ σαρκικοί ἐστε. ὅπου γὰρ ἐν ὑμῖν ζῆλος καὶ ἔρις, οὐχὶ σαρκικοί ἐστε καὶ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον περιπατεῖτε;4 ὅταν γὰρ λέγῃ τις· Ἐγὼ μέν εἰμι Παύλου, ἕτερος δέ· Ἐγὼ Ἀπολλῶ, οὐκ ἄνθρωποί ἐστε;

1Cor 3 [ESV2011]

1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,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?4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

Paul has been holding up God’s wisdom, the gospel, the message of Christ crucified, and contrasting it with so-called human wisdom, that which gains the applause of the world; that which promotes status and respectability, those who are considered wise, powerful, and noble. Paul says that God is making fools of all those who think themselves wise because human wisdom can never discover the one thing that matters; how to know God; how to enter into a right relationship with the God of the universe. This God chose to reveal to us by his Spirit, otherwise it would have remained unknowable. This is the message of the cross.

1 Corinthians 2:10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 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. 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.

Paul has re-defined the categories for his readers. They were in constant competition with one another trying to outdo one another in spirituality, in maturity, in wisdom and godliness. Paul demolishes their categories and their competition. He divides all people into only two categories; those who are perishing and us who are being saved. Those who are spiritual, who have received the gift of the Spirit and those who are natural, who do not have the Spirit and do not accept the things of the Spirit. He says that we, we who are spiritual, we who have received the Spirit of God, we have the mind of Christ.

The Corinthians prided themselves on their wisdom, their spirituality, their strength and maturity in Christ. They desperately wanted to be thought well of, to be thought wise. To think that they were all on the same plane with their fellow church-members, that they had not surpassed those in another group, that they were simply all fellow believers at the foot of the cross, would have come as a crushing blow to their inflated egos. But what Paul says next must have really knocked the wind out of them.

1 Corinthians 3:1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 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? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

The church in Corinth had become enamored with human wisdom, with popularity and prestige, and they had allowed divisiveness, quarreling, strife, and an undue passion for their favorite teacher to begin to erode their gospel foundation. So Paul says, although there are only two categories of people; those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and those who are not, based on the attitudes and actions of the Corinthians, he is forced to address them as if they did not have God’s Spirit living within them.

True Believers

It is clear from everything Paul has said so far in this letter that he believes that they are genuine believers and do indeed have God’s Spirit dwelling in them. In the beginning of this letter he addressed them as the church of God, called to be saints, recipients of the grace of God in Christ Jesus, and he is confident that God will sustain them to the end guiltless. He includes them in the ‘us who are being saved’ and the ‘we’ who have the mind of Christ. Here he calls them ‘brothers’ and refers to them as ‘infants in Christ’, which means that they had been born again. In chapter 6 he reminds those involved in sexual immorality:

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Babes and Milk

So Paul clearly assumes those to whom he is writing are indeed genuine believers, indwelt by the Spirit of God, and therefore spiritual by his definition. But, he says ‘I could not address you as spiritual but as fleshly or carnal’. Because their attitudes and actions did not differ substantially from those who were entirely dominated by the flesh and devoid of the Spirit of God, he was forced to speak to them in baby talk. Because the basic truth of the gospel had not produced fruit in their lives, he had to keep them on the bottle. There is no shame in starting out on milk. That is what we expect of babies. But if someone is still breast fed or bottle fed at five, we may begin to wonder if something is wrong, and we know there are some serious developmental issues if at twelve or at twenty-five they are still carrying around their ba-ba. The problem was not that they were not able to eat solid food as infants. The problem was that some five years after God had birthed the church in Corinth through Paul’s ministry, they are still not able to take solid food.

Milk and Meat

Now we need to think carefully about what Paul is saying. Is he saying that there are milk doctrines and there are meat doctrines? Is he saying that we will graduate from the bottle of the gospel and move on to the deeper things of God? I don’t believe this is what Paul is saying at all.

First, if this is what he is teaching, that there are milk doctrines and meat doctrines, we should be able to go through our New Testaments and figure out which are which. If we were to ask, what are the advanced doctrines, the meat doctrines, the deep things of God that baby Christians might choke on, it would be impossible for us to come to any biblically based agreement on what they are. Paul says here in 1 Corinthians that he cannot address them as spiritual but as babes and that they are still not ready for solid food, so anything we find in 1 Corinthians must be milk and not meat. If we think of the triune nature of God as a meaty doctrine, we see this coming right out in chapters 1 and 2, where he repeatedly refers to God, Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of God as three distinct persons who are each fully God. If we suggest the biblical doctrines of election and predestination as solid food, he refers to that in the second verse of this letter to these immature believers, and again in verse 9, and then goes in to more detail in verses 24-30, and in 2:7. If we think of spiritual gifts, we have his instructions in chapters 12-14. If we suggest the second coming of Jesus and the resurrection, he deals with that at length in chapter 15. There does not seem to be any clear biblical way to differentiate between milk doctrines and meat doctrines.

Paul said to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20

Acts 20:26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

I don’t think that this was unique to Ephesus. I don’t think Paul would have to say to the leaders in Corinth ‘I am guilty of your blood, because I withheld the deep things of God from you’.

Milk and Meat in Hebrews 5

This is not the only place in scripture that this idea of milk and solid food is put forward. The author of Hebrews in chapter 5 says:

Hebrews 5:11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

The author here is saying something very similar to what we see Paul saying in 1 Corinthians. They ought to have become teachers by now, but instead they need someone to teach them the basic principles. They need milk, not solid food. They are children, not mature.

He contrasts for us what it means to be a child and what it means to be mature. Children are ‘unskilled in the word of righteousness.’ The mature are ‘those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.’ So the issue of maturity seems to be the ability to apply the word of righteousness to specific situations and the discernment to distinguish good from evil. This is something that comes with time, training and constant practice. So the mature are those who can take the basic principles of the oracles of God, the milk, and skillfully use the word of righteousness to distinguish good from evil.

The ‘this’ in 5:11 that he has much to say about, that is hard to explain because of their dullness of hearing and spiritual immaturity, would be the solid food. What does the ‘this’ refer back to? The immediate context in chapter 5 is the teaching that Jesus is our great High Priest, who is ‘the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him’ (5:9). If we look back through the first 4 chapters, we see this hard to explain solid food as Jesus who is greater than the prophets, Jesus who is greater than the angels, Jesus who is greater than Moses, Jesus who is the greater Joshua who brings his people into a greater rest. In chapter 5 the author tells us we need to be taught again the basic principles, milk not solid food, but then he says in the very next verses in the beginning of chapter 6:

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits.

Here he says that he is going to take them on to maturity. The elementary milk doctrine is the doctrine of Christ. Although they do need milk and not solid food, he is not going all the way back to re-lay the Old Testament Jewish foundational truths of turning away from their own works and believing in God, washings and laying on of hands, resurrection and eternal judgment. That is not the milk of Christ, that is Old Testament foundation that points forward to the milk of Christ. He is now going to move on with them into maturity. So where does he take them? What is going on to maturity? He takes them to Jesus the greater High Priest who administers a greater covenant in a greater temple through a greater sacrifice, his own blood. We receive the gifts that God promised through faith,and he warns us throughout not to turn back to the law but to press in to God’s grace by faith. And he points us to the fruit of this blood-bought relationship, laying aside sin and fixing our eyes on Jesus, loving our brothers, extending hospitality to strangers, standing with prisoners, honoring marriage, being content with our relationship with Jesus, imitating the faith of your leaders, strengthening your hearts by grace, following Jesus wherever he leads, and continually offering up praise to God. This sounds to me like the simple good news of Jesus Christ and him crucified, skillfully applied to our situation. This is the maturity the author of Hebrews points us to.

Pure Milk in 1 Peter

Peter also talks about milk and growth. He says

1 Peter 2:2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—

So Peter is encouraging us that milk is good and to imitate infants and long for milk, but the goal is to grow up into salvation. So what, according to Peter does it look like to grow up into salvation? If we back up in this passage, I think it becomes clear both what the milk is and what maturity looks like. He points us to our having been ransomed by the precious blood of Christ, and believing in God and having faith and hope in God.

1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

1 Peter 2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—

So the pure spiritual milk is the truth, the imperishable living and abiding word of God that gave us new birth, the word of the Lord that remains forever, the good news that was preached to you. The growing up into salvation, he says, is loving one another earnestly from the heart and putting away all malice and deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. This seems to fit with what Hebrews says that maturity is skillfully applying the gospel to each situation and discerning good from evil.

Jude

Jude writes something similar when he says

Jude 1:3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

This sounds like he too, as in Hebrews and 1 Corinthians was eager to go deeper into the solid food of our common salvation, but found it necessary to go back to the basics of the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. In this short letter he warns against false teachers who are:

Jude 1:16 These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage… 18 …following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.

The fruit of the worldly false teachers who did not have God’s Spirit was boasting, favoritism, divisions. This sounds a lot like what was going on in Corinth that caused Paul to say that he could not speak to them as spiritual but as worldly.

James

James also deals with worldly wisdom in contrast to God’s wisdom. He says:

James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

James draws the contrast between worldly wisdom which is characterized by jealousy, selfish ambition, boasting, disorder, and results in every vile practice. This again reminds us of Corinth. God’s wisdom, in contrast, is characterized by meekness, and is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, sincere.

Applying the Cross

So putting this all together, I don’t think Paul or Peter or Hebrews or James or Jude is saying that we need to put aside the bottle of the gospel and move on to the deeper things of God. Paul points to their jealousy and strife as evidence that they are failing to skillfully apply the simple truth of the gospel that they already know to their relationships with other believers in the church. Therefore he cannot consider them spiritual or mature, but rather fleshly; although they have the Holy Spirit, they are allowing their flesh to dominate their desires. Throughout this letter, Paul is training them to skillfully apply the good news of the cross to various situations and circumstances.

The Corinthians thought they were spiritual, ready for advanced meat doctrines, the deep things of God. They thought Paul was insulting their intelligence to only sound one note over and over again. He had resolved to know nothing among them but Jesus Christ and him crucified. What they failed to realize was that this simple truth, the truth of the cross, is the power and hidden wisdom of God, the deep things of God, strong meat and nourishing milk. The gospel is the full meal deal – everything we need. We will never outgrow or move beyond the message of Christ crucified. The cross is wisdom, God’s wisdom, the pure milk that brings us to salvation, and the cross is power, the solid food that strengthens us to crucify our pride and love one another with self-sacrificial cross shaped love. The gospel, the message of the cross, of Christ crucified for sinners, is both the hidden wisdom of God to pardon sinners, and the power of God to transform sinners into saints.

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

May 12, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , | Leave a comment