Series: Stuff You've Got To Know
Give Me Liberty And Give Me Love
August 19, 2018 | Randy Smith
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Give Me Liberty And Give Me Love
1 Corinthians 8:1–13
Sunday, August 19, 2018
Pastor Randy Smith
We’ve made a few family trips up to “Washington’s Crossing.” Washington’s Crossing is located about 10 miles north of Trenton on the Delaware River. It is allegedly the spot where George Washington crossed with 2,400 troops on December 25, 1776 to begin his victory over the British and Hessian in the Battle of Trenton. Most of us are familiar with this piece of American history.
Yet another story comes from this period involving George Washington that will not make many of the history books. In The Grace of Giving, Stephen Olford tells of a Baptist pastor during the American Revolution, Peter Miller, who lived in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, and enjoyed the friendship of George Washington. In Ephrata also lived Michael Wittman, an evil-minded sort who did all he could to oppose and humiliate the pastor. One day Michael Wittman was arrested for treason and sentenced to die. Peter Miller traveled seventy miles on foot to Philadelphia to plead for the life of the traitor.
“No, Peter,” General Washington said. “I cannot grant you the life of your friend.” “My friend!” exclaimed the old preacher. “He’s the bitterest enemy I have.” “What?” cried Washington. “You’ve walked seventy miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in different light. I’ll grant your pardon.” And he did. Peter Miller took Michael Wittman back home to Ephrata – no longer an enemy but a friend.
That kind of love toward another can only come from Christ.
The past week at the camp in Montana I spoke about the primary distinguishing mark of a Christian. It is not our attendance at church or our knowledge of the Scriptures. Neither is it our ability live morally or avoid the social taboos. Jesus said we will show the world that we are His disciples if we have love for one another (Jn. 13:35).
Love is a predominate attribute of God. One author said, “God was love long before He made any creatures to be objects of His love” (Bethune, The Fruit of the Spirit, p. 38). The Bible uses love to define the character of God, “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:16). Therefore love for God and love for others (Mt. 22:37-39) mark the two greatest expectations God has for the people He created.
Though we often think of love as a feeling, the Bible speaks to the contrary. According to Scripture, love is more than a feeling. It is an action and attitude that seeks the best interests of another even when our feelings speak to the contrary.
In seeking to define love in this Corinthian letter Paul provided the famous definition. “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:4-7).
These verses speak of selflessness. These verses speak of others’ needs being more important than our own. These verses speak of giving and forbearing and serving when it is for another’s benefit at our own sacrifice. These verses also point to the greatest manifestation of this love ever demonstrated in the work of Christ.
From the foundation of the world, God devised a plan to save a human race of guilty sinners. He would demonstrate His mercy while preserving His holiness by sending Jesus Christ to die for sinners on the cross. At Calvary 2,000 years ago, Jesus was our substitute. He became sin for us and received the wrath of God we deserve. Through faith and repentance we can receive this wonderful gift of God for the salvation of our souls.
But think about it for a moment. Could Jesus have given us a greater example of love? God almighty taking on human flesh, living amongst people who doubted, denied, betrayed and eventually killed Him. Then to be crucified in agony and humility as an innocent man paying for the sins of humanity, the same people who brought Him so much pain.
Peter says, “While being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet. 2:23). While humanity mocked Him He said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34). What a tremendous demonstration of love!
The love of Jesus was definitely a gift, but it was also an example. In John 15:12 Jesus said, “Love one another, just as I have loved you.” 1 John 3:16 says, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
The summer series is entitles, “Stuff You Got to Know,” and here is the main point this morning. As we work through all of chapter 8 of 1 Corinthians, we will see how we are to put this kind of sacrificial love in action, primarily to those within the church.
The specific issue at Corinth was meat sacrificed to idols. Even though the people of the church turned from the practice of idolatry, they were still indirectly affected by a world still immersed in this practice.
Back then it was common that banquets were held using this meat previously sacrificed to idols. We also learned how this meat was sold in the local butcher shops. The big question causing the controversy: Is it permissible for a Christian to consume this meat? And the answer Paul provides as we will shortly see is “yes.”
However, what if consuming this meat due to whatever reason (lack of knowledge, recent deliverance from the practice, concern for one’s witness to the world) causes a fellow believer to sin against his conscience? Does the “weaker” believer against eating the meat need to “toughen up” or does the other believer need to abstain from his Christian freedom in the name of love? Though we no longer deal with meat sacrificed to idols, chapter 8 of 1 Corinthians deals with this principle which is still very much applicable to many situations in the church today. We’ve got to know this and practice this if we wish to act in the love that Christ commands.
1. We All Have Knowledge (1–3)
Let’s begin with the first point from verses 1-3. “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him” (1 Cor. 8:1-3).
It is important for the Christian to have knowledge. Without knowledge of God’s character and His expectations we would be unable to live for His glory. And, knowledge is also linked to love. When used properly, an increase of biblical knowledge should lead to an increase of biblical love. For the church in Philippi, Paul prayed that their “love may abound still more and more in real knowledge” (Phil. 1:9). But when used improperly, knowledge regarding our Christian freedom (resisting legalism) causes one to run roughshod over others and their convictions, we are no longer acting in love. That will be Paul’s point as we continue.
2. An Idol Is Nothing (4–7)
In verse 4 (as we move to the second point) Paul begins to address the first specific aspect of knowledge that these Corinthians held. He says, “Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one.”
Regarding this truth, Paul agrees with the Corinthian church that they are correct. “You are right,” says the Apostle, “There is no such thing as an idol in the world.” Apollo, Aphrodite and the countless other gods that people worship do not exist.” We too know that idols, figures crafted from stone or wood or metal are lifeless objects only reflective of the person who created them. They cannot save. They cannot deliver. They are dead.
In Psalm 115 our Lord said, “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of man’s hands. They have mouths, but they cannot speak; They have eyes, but they cannot see; They have ears, but they cannot hear; They have noses, but they cannot smell; They have hands, but they cannot feel; They have feet, but they cannot walk; They cannot make a sound with their throat. Those who make them will become like them, everyone who trusts in them” (Psm. 115:4-8; cf. 135:15-18; Isa. 44:12-20).
This knowledge the Corinthians had concerning idols was true. An idol is nothing. “However,” as Paul says in verse 7, “Not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.”
Listen, the issue that Paul pursues is that just because we have freedom in a specific area of Christian living, we must not exercise that freedom if it causes another brother or sister in Christ to join us in the action and thereby violate his or her conscience.
God has given each of us a conscience to serve as a warning system to keep us away from sin. And the more we violate our conscience, the more we sear its ability to perform its invaluable function. Like a callous on the palm of a hand that prevents pain from being detected. Our conscience become less effective and we are left with confusion, guilt and a lack of peace. So the Bible calls it sin to act in any way against our conscience (Jas. 4:17) because we are violating this God-given warning system and not proceeding in faith. Speaking to the same situation of meat sacrificed to idols in Romans 14, Paul said, “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).
Therefore if we conduct ourselves in love we will consider what is best for another person. Specifically, we will always consider how our actions will affect another’s conscience. We will not lead them to violate their conscience and incur sin. So do we act in our own interest potentially causing others to follow us to the violation of their conscience or are we willing to forsake our rights (put aside our Christian liberty) for the edification (verse 1) of a fellow believer? That is Paul’s point.
Back then they dealt with the issue of meat sacrificed to idols. Today we deal with many other gray issues that may be spiritually fine for us but wrong according to another’s conscience.
What comes to your mind? What do you have freedom to do in Christ, but should consider avoiding when in the presence of another believer? It is not about offending them or directly causing them to sin, but violating their conscience and thus causing them to sin. Some examples surround the issues of alcohol, swimwear, music, movies, video games and the infamous church “Casino Nights” and “Octoberfest.” And by the way, if you think my examples are severe, let’s remember that both eating meat doesn’t lead to sin (save gluttony) and Paul was willing to refuse eating meat the rest of his life!
I do not have all the answers. I just want you to think about it.
3. Food Is Not An Issue With God (8–13)
As we move to the third point, the second aspect of the Corinthians knowledge is found in verses 8-13. The Corinthians rightly knew that food was not an issue with God.
This point is clearly stated in verse 8. “But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat.”
Although eating habits could lead to sins such as gluttony, food in and of itself has no spiritual significance. We are not better in the Lord’s eyes if we eat or avoid eating certain foods. Once again, Paul in this same context told the Romans, “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).
So after agreeing with their knowledge in verse 8, Paul once again shows how their application of that knowledge was done without a spirit of love. His concern for the weaker brother is once again reiterated. My earlier explanation applies for these verses as well:
Verse 9, “But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.”
Verse 10, “For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol's temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols?”
Verses 11-12, “For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.”
Paul packs his biggest punch in these final two verses. If his comments here fail to drive the point home nothing else will. You see, when we act in selfishness we are placing our needs over the needs of another Christian.
Being a Christian is more than a title. Being a Christian is what the title implies. It means each of us is the recipient of Christ’s special love, a love as I explained in the introduction that compelled Jesus to spill His “precious blood” (1 Pet. 1:19) on our behalf. In the same way that God loves you, He loves others in the church to the degree that He paid the ultimate sacrifice on their behalf as well. Therefore when we are inconsiderate of God’s children, we are inconsiderate of God. And as Paul said in verse 12, we not only “[sin] against the brethren” but we also “sin against Christ.”
We of all people should understand the sacrificial love that Jesus demonstrated on our behalf. We have gladly received the benefits. Shame on us is we fail to extend that same sacrificial love to others. God will not stand for that hypocrisy, and God will not stand for damage willingly imposed on His spiritual children by causing them to spiritually stumble. In Mark 9:42 Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.”
Understanding the serious consequences of causing a brother or sister in Christ to sin, Paul concluded in verse 13. “Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble” (cf. 1 Cor. 10:31).
Paul was not concerned about exercising his liberty as we are so often in today’s church. Paul’s concern was to limit his liberty (publicly speaking), to go to any expense to avoid affecting the conscience of another for whom Christ died, even if meant the extreme of avoiding meat altogether. Jesus made a greater sacrifice for us. Is He asking too much to make this kind of sacrifice for one of His children?
In Galatians 5:13 the Apostle said, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” In Romans 13 Paul called love the debt that is never paid (Rom. 13:8).
May we make it our goal to live by the principle of love following the example of Christ. Imagine the impact we would make on those in the church and those watching in the world! Think of Christ’s sacrifice and copy His selfless attitude.