Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Concerning Food Offered to Idols

1 Corinthians 8

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 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.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 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. 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. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 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? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

I love how applicable this passage is to our generation. What?! No way! We don't walk into the grocery store and wonder if it's ok to buy the chicken thighs because the breast may or may not have been sacrificed to Zeus. That's true, but raise your hand if you can tell me who this is: 

This is Charles Spurgeon. He was a very famous preacher in Britian in the late 1800's and he is still very popular today. In fact, as the Reformed Movement gains popularity among millennials  so does Spurgeon. We love his theology, his poetic word smithing and the example he set preaching to hundreds from a young age. We also love that is no secret that he enjoyed, more than a little, his cigars and his whiskey. He was known to smoke in the lobby before his sermons. "For shame!" some cry. But many exclaim, "Here! Here! Why not?!" Some things that were considered taboo (smoking, drinking, dancing, tattoos) are more commonly being embraced by our generation. That's fantastic! I love a good glass of wine with dinner. But it would seem that food sacrificed and my husband's pipe have more in common than just some smoke. 

In 1 Corinthians 8 Paul begins to address a few questions the church has written to him about. One of which, is food sacrificed to idols. They want him to tell them whether or not it is ok to eat it. I picture someone in the congregation, confident in their saintly freedoms, wanting Paul to back up their claim that they can eat whatever they want. Instead, Paul calls us all to walk humbly with each other and seek unity above personal preference. 

Paul begins the discussion with another shot at the pride of the Corinthian church. "All of us possess knowledge" seems to be a slogan of the life in Corinth. Yet Paul warns,"This 'knowledge' puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know." We pride ourselves on our knowledge. But it's not what we know or even who we know but WHO knows us. "If anyone loves God, he is known by God". Our standing before God is what makes us something. It is a position that is wrapped up in the person and work of Christ alone. Not anything we did or anything we know. It is because He has known us. Because He, knowing who we are and what we have done, chose to peruse us. Become like us. Live the life we could not live. Die the death we deserved to die and become our substitution. Then God raised Him from the dead and called us to believe in Him. And when we could not do even that on our own, He took our heart of stone and gave us the faith we need to love Him so we can be known by Him. "'knowledge' puffs up, but love builds up." 

In John 7 Jesus states, "There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him" Likewise, Paul lays out an argument, "Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat it, and no better off if we do." The whole point is not about food but instead about who God is. It is not about the pipe or the dancing or the drinking about about our standing before the God of the universe. There are direct commandments given in the Bible. On these topics we do not stand on personal conviction rather, we know what obedience looks like. However, what about the things we are no worse off by not doing and better off by doing. What about the things that do not defile us? Paul goes on to explain the God honoring way to handle such things. 

"Take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak." Some people have very strong convictions on issues that I might not see as sin. For example a woman I love and respect once told me she was concerned about the fact that I drank wine. Knowing her beliefs (however unfounded i might have believed them to be) it would have been wrong for me to bring a bottle of wine into her home and ask her to drink it with me. Why? "wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ" It no longer becomes about my freedom but rather about their conscience. In Romans 14 Paul address this issue again. He speaks of how each person either eats or does not eat "in honor of the Lord" and he concludes with "each of us will give an account of himself to God".  May it never be said of me that I asked another to defile their own conscience before Him. 

This passage is not about whether or not we have freedoms. It is not about food. Again, it is about the unity of the body. It is about putting others before yourself. Seeing their soul as more important than your luxuries. "'knowledge' puffs up, but love builds up" May we love one another enough to put our pride aside and lift the needs of other about ourselves. May we come together and seek each others well-being for our good and His glory.