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The Believer’s Freedom August 28, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1.

Summary: Paul begins by noting that while the meat offered to idols is inherently unimportant, eating it does not necessarily benefit others; also, eating it does not necessarily benefit the Corinthians themselves. When considering eating meat that has been offered to idols, then, the Corinthians should seek the benefit of others. Now Paul states that when they go to the market, they can eat any meat that is sold there without having any qualms. This is possible because God has provided all animals as food for mankind – thus, no meat should be regarded as unclean. Also, Paul states that they can go to the homes of unbelievers and eat anything that they are served without having any qualms. Here, an important caveat is that if a fellow guest is a weaker brother, and they state that part of a dish has been sacrificed to an idol, the Corinthians should not eat that dish in order to avoid injuring the weaker brother’s conscience. Indeed, Paul asks: why should the Corinthians use their freedom in Christ in such a way as to injure their weaker brothers’ conscience – causing them to be condemned? Therefore, in all things the Corinthians should strive to glorify God. They should not cause others – including Jews, Gentiles and fellow believers – to sin. In particular, Paul is living in this way, as he constantly seeks the benefit of others; he does not live to please himself, but he desires the benefit of others so that they may be saved. Paul concludes by noting that the Corinthians should emulate him in this regard, as he is actually emulating Christ.

Thoughts: In verse 31, we see that as Christians, we should do all things for God’s glory. This got me thinking about how we “serve God.” More often than not, when we serve in, say, a church ministry, our main goal becomes: “build up those whom we are serving and bring them closer to God,” as opposed to “glorify the Lord.” My thought is that it is easier to focus on serving people as opposed to serving God, as serving people seems to be an inherently concrete endeavor while serving God seems relatively abstract. I mulled this over for a while before concluding that one way for us to focus on “glorifying the Lord” is to pray intensely before starting any ministry work. By communicating with God before we fulfill our ministry responsibilities, 1) we allow Him to re-order our priorities, and 2) we ask Him to work through us. Then, when we build up those whom we serve and bring them closer to God, that will flow naturally from our primary desire to honor God.

In verse 33, we see that Paul did whatever he could – as an apostle – to accommodate the idiosyncrasies of others so that he could save as many of them as possible. Hodge offers some thoughts on this:

The rules that guided the apostles may be easily deduced from Paul’s conduct and letters…3. They conceded when the concession was not demanded as a matter of necessity, but refused when it was so regarded. Paul said circumcision was nothing and uncircumcision was nothing; yet he resisted the circumcision of Titus when it was demanded by the Judaizers.

When I read this passage I devised the following hypothetical situation: at the church that you attend, you typically join others on Sundays after the worship service to play flag football. Now another church member tells you, “personally, I’m not comfortable joining you on Sundays to play flag football, as I feel that playing football on the Sabbath is not God’s will for me. I prefer to spend my Sundays in prayer and in meditation; would you mind supporting me in prayer next Sunday?” In that case, it would be good for you to accommodate this fellow believer’s desires, at least for the following Sunday, as you want them to know that they are not alone in their desire to glorify God on the Sabbath. Now assume that this same church member tells you, “I believe that no Christian should play football on the Sabbath, as that is a sin. Nobody from church should play football after the worship service; everybody at church who would have played football next Sunday must join me in prayer that day and ask God for forgiveness.” In that case, you would be justified in telling that fellow believer that you cannot submit to their mandate, as football does not affect the salvation of any believer. It is evident that accommodating the idiosyncrasies of others is not equivalent to automatically submitting to their will, especially when they directly attempt to limit our freedom in Christ.

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