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Study No. 4       Christian Liberty

 

BIBLICAL FOCUS:1 Corinthians 8-10  

 

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Cor 13:4-7 NLT)  

 

There are some things that are just not black and white in the Christian life.  Christians are divided in some issues as to what is legitimate and what is not.  What principles might guide us as we seek to live ALL our life for God's glory?  

 

1.  THE DIFFICULTY  

 

The specific issue for the Corinthian Christians had to do with MEAT...offered to idols.  Again we note that Paul's major concern was with the loveless attitudes being expressed among the believers. There were 3 places where such meat might be encountered:-  

1.  The Temples where someone had thrown a party and a Christian might be expected to eat meat as an integral part of idol worship.  

2.  In a private home which served meat that had been offered to an idol in a temple before being served to the guests at home.  

3.  The public markets were full of meat sacrificed to idols.There was no way of knowing about such meat without specifically asking. The difficulty arose because of two extreme positions in which love was conspicuous by its absence.  

(a)  Converted Jews would be passionately against eating meat offered to idols.  Why?  

(b)The other group had rejected idolatry, as such - that certainly was 'black' - but they saw no problem in eating meat whether or not it was offered to idols.  

 

Each group considered itself superior to the other; one because they were so strict and disciplined and the other because they were so free and liberated.  As in every church there were those who were strong Christians and those who were weak.  There was nothing wrong with that; what was wrong was the loveless attitudes.  

 

2.   THE DOCTRINE   The basic doctrine is set out in 8:1-6.  But it's one thing to know your own convictions and another to apply them lovingly towards others.  See 8:9-13.  Paul gives two illustrations concerning our conduct:-  

 

A.  There were a number of things that Paul could rightly claim to do but chose not to because of consideration for the Corinthians  

(a)  to eat meat sacrificed to idols - 9:4

(b)  to be married - 9:5

(c)  to receive a salary for his work - 9:5-14.  

These were rights that he was prepared to forgo for the sake of the Corinthians.  Paul was flexible and adaptable as the occasion demanded, without compromise (9:19-23).  

 

B.  The nation of Israel is given as a warning to the 'stronger' Christians of the dangers inherent in a liberated attitude (10:1-5).Avoid presumption.    

 

3.  THE DECISION  

 

a)  Eating meat right under the shadow of an idol is going too far (10:14-22).This is simply involvement in idol worship.  Paul compares this activity with the communion service in which we are identifying ourselves with the reality behind the symbols (vs. 16,17).  

b)  At the other end of the scale, meat bought in a butcher shop should not be a matter of concern (10:25,26).  It doesn't matter if it was offered to idols.  One can be over-scrupulous to the point of legalism.  

c)  Eating such meat at the home of a friend can be more delicate.  In this case our testimony is at stake and we could mislead a weaker brother.  If no one makes an issue of it, go ahead and eat (10:27).  If someone points out that the meat was offered to an idol, it is better to abstain (10:28,29).  A summary of the situation is to be found in vs. 31-33.  

 

 THINK TANK:  

1.  What is meant by 'strong' and 'weak' Christians?  Can you think of examples that would illustrate your definition? Is being 'weak' or 'strong' any reflection on a Christian's spirituality?  

2.  Make a list of some of the ethical issues today that seem to be grey, rather than black or white. Then separate them into one of the following categories:-  

a. Like meat in the temple - never do it.

b.  Like meat at home - do it.....if the situation allows.

c.  Like meat in the market place.....do it without a fuss.      

 

HOMEWORK FOR NEXT WEEK...READ CHAPTER 11:1-16  

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