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AM Bible Study Archives
"For Conscience' Sake"
1 Corinthians 10:23 - 11:1
Wednesday AM Bible Study
October 3, 2007
Theme: Paul gives specific instructions for dealing with Christian liberties in debated areas.
Paul had been dealing with the matter of how a more mature and "knowledgeable" believer should deal with the scruples of a more sensitive brother in areas of legitimate Christian liberty. The immediate issue was that of eating meat that had been purchased from a pagan meat market after the meat had been offered to an idol. Paul defends the believer's right to enjoy the meat in and of itself; but warns that the enjoyment of the meat would be wrong if it harmed another brother's conscience.
In chapter eight, he lays out the basic principle that if my enjoying a legitimate liberty would cause my brother to sin, then it would be a sin for me to enjoy it. In chapter nine, Paul sets himself as an example to follow—showing how he himself refrained from exercising his own legitimate rights in order to advance the cause of the gospel (9:1-19). He then calls the believers in Corinth to likewise discipline themselves in order advance the gospel (9:20-27). In chapter ten, he warns the believers that there is a dangerous side to 'liberties'—that the privilege of "knowledge" doesn't exempt someone from danger (10:1-13), and that a believer can easily fall off the edge of liberty into sin if they're not careful (vv. 14-22)
Now; having laid down the broad principles, Paul gives practical instructions regarding how we are to deal with such matters.
I. INSTRUCTIONS WITH RESPECT TO OURSELVES (10:23-27).
A. Be discerning in what you do (10:23). This is the second time that Paul says this (see 6:12). We may have liberty to do many things in grace; but they aren't necessarily wise to do. We must be forward-looking enough to see the consequences of our actions; and to seek to do that which is both helpful and edifying—both to ourselves and to others.
B. Seek first the well-being of others (10:24). As he also stresses in Philippians 2:1-4, our focus needs to be not just on our own needs but also on the needs of others. God would have us seek that which is to the benefit of those who Christ as made members of the same spiritual body with us.
C. Enjoy what is given to you without asking questions (10:25-27). Here's the original "don't ask—don't tell" policy. We are free to eat whatever is given us; because as Psalm 24:1 says, "the earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness". It's legitimate to enjoy all things without concern; because it all ultimately belongs to the Lord. Therefore, if a believer went to an unbeliever's house, and they set meat before the believer; the believer doesn't have to ask about whether or not it came from an idol's temple. He can simply enjoy it. Similarly, since all things belong to God and all things are His gift to us, we don't have to worry about whether or not it is "moral" or "immoral" in and of itself. "For every creature of god is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer" (1 Timothy 4:4-5).
II. INSTRUCTIONS WITH RESPECT TO OUR SENSITIVE BROTHER (10:28-30).
A. When conscientious concern is expressed, refrain from partaking (10:28-29a). It's probably best to understand that a weaker believer is the one who is raising the concern. If that happens, then the mature believer is to refrain from enjoying what would otherwise be his right to enjoy. His greater obligation is to the weaker brother.
B. Do not let a thoughtless use of your liberty become a cause for condemnation (10:29b- 30). We may have liberties; but we are never to allow those liberties to become a sin on our part by allowing them to become a stumbling block to another brother or sister (see 8:9-12).
III. INSTRUCTIONS WITH RESPECT TO ALL (10:31-11:1).
A. Do whatever you do to the glory of God (10:31). This is the "northern star" of Christian conduct. My guiding concern should not be chiefly about my own rights; but rather on what will glorify God and advance His cause. Paul elaborates on this much in 9:19-23.
B. Give no deliberate offense to anyone (10:32). Paul mentions the three main people groups of this world; and urges that we make it our ambition to cause no offense to any of them. Offenses may occur apart from our doing anything; but as much as it is within our power, we are to seek not to offend anyone (Romans 12:18).
C. Follow Jesus' example of seeking the best for others (10:33-11:1). Paul expressed this majestically in Philippians 2:5-11. He could dare to say, "Follow my example", because he followed the example of Christ Himself.
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