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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Greetings and thank you all for participating in our ongoing Bible study.
I took the time to look over some of the earlier lessons in this series and couldn’t help but notice that time was “flying by.” By my calculations, we’ve been studying the book of 1 Corinthians for almost one year. One of the things you should learn from this is we’re not racing to “get er’ done.” In other words, we’re not “whipping” through the pages just to finish this project. We’re taking each chapter verse-by-verse, as is our custom, in order to glean as much knowledge from this book as is humanly possible.
Since there are new folks joining us on the web all the time, I’d like for them to know every single Bible lessons in this series can be found on this Bible blog. The most recent lesson appears first in line with the older lessons following in sequence; that’s in reverse order as they appear in your Bible.
Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 10:24.
1 Corinthians 10
24: Let no one seek his (or her) own good, but that of his (or her) neighbor.
If you’ll please turn to Romans 15:1-2, there you’ll find a Bible passage that’s similar to this one: Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please (or love) his neighbor for his good, to his (or her) edification. This means we need to be seeking their “highest good.” In other words, the same care you have for those near and dear to you is carried over to your neighbor.
Paul’s words bring to mind something Jesus Christ said: “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? (Matthew 7:9 – Berean Study Bible) If your child was hungry, I imagine you’d not only give them a slice of bread, you’d probably fix them a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich and in doing so, “seek their highest good.”
Concerning this topic, our Apostle Paul also wrote: Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he (or she) who loves his (or her) neighbor has fulfilled the law (of Christ) – Romans 13:8.
The question “Who is my neighbor” was asked of Jesus Christ long before Paul had this verse put to paper. A lawyer approached Jesus with this question in Luke 10:29: But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” This was a “leading” question folks. We know this because of the wording in the text – it says the lawyer was seeking to justify himself. He’s asking this question to set Jesus up for his follow-up question, so Luke makes this point clear. He probably thought he had Jesus cornered too, until the Lord threw him a “curve ball,” so to speak, with His parable of the Good Samaritan.
The neighbor in this story would appear to be the man, going down the road from Jerusalem to Jericho who was waylaid by robbers, beaten, and left for dead in a ditch (Luke 10:30). Most folks think the neighbor is the unfortunate man the three other characters in this story encounter. But actually, in the end, Jesus said the Samaritan who helped the ill-fated man proved to be the neighbor (Luke 12:36-37).
So this lawyer is asking the question, “Who are we supposed to love” (See 10:25-28), and Jesus turns his question completely around saying, “Look at the man who responds mercifully without asking for anything in return.” By this Jesus means to say the lawyer is looking at this parable the wrong way. He wants him to think and stop asking, who is my neighbor.
Jesus Christ wants this lawyer (and us) to know there’s something more profound to ponder. While Believers are busying themselves trying to determine “who is my neighbor,” and “what’s expected of me,” the vital truth that will always remain is the issue of love. For of all the commandments in Scripture Jesus Christ said the greatest commandment is this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
Because this is true, this command from God should affect the way we view those folks around us, meaning, who are we to erect barriers based on color, ethnicity, religion, or likeability? Scripture doesn’t say love your neighbor if or once they have changed, but because we have changed (Galatians 6:15-16). Furthermore, God the Father has commissioned a path of good works prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 2:10).
Let’s go to verse 25.
1 Corinthians 10
25: Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience’s sake;
Starting with verse 25, Eat anything that is sold in the meat market - this isn’t a biblical contradiction or “double-speak” even though Paul had previously said: the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons (10:20-21). Paul is merely clarifying his previous statements - the meat itself isn’t infected by demons, so it can be eaten.
Paul’s warnings in 10:15-22 have to do with the impression of fellowship; he’s talking about the perception other people garner, whether their opinion is right or wrong, regarding a Believer’s sharing with demons at the pagan temple. This is plain old “guilt by association.” Paul said this is to be avoided, not the food itself.
Meat offered to a false god lost its connection to any previous pagan ritual, when it ended up in the meat market. Without Asking questions – when you purchased meat at the market in Corinth, it was common knowledge some of it had been sacrificed to idols and some, not so much. To this Paul remarks: “No harm, no foul. When you shop for meat, don’t even ask.” “If you’re not going to partake of the atmosphere of the pagan temple and the goings-on afterwards, what difference does it make? There are no evil spirits in the food”
Paul directed this comment to the Corinthians who were weak in spiritual knowledge; the ones whose conscience objected to eating this meat, in effect saying, “Wait a minute! I know where that meat has been and who it has been with and God wouldn’t approve.” (8:7)
To “build these folks up spiritually” Paul offered them wisdom from Psalm 24:1: FOR THE EARTH IS THE LORD’S, AND ALL IT CONTAINS (v26). (See Acts 10) The cow or bull belonged to the Lord when it was in the pasture, and it belongs to the Lord now that it’s on the sacrificial barbecue; nothing’s changed in that respect! Do you not know food isn’t the issue? The idol worshipping impression or perception you leave behind in your wake this is the issue.
Let’s go to verse 27:
27: If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience’s sake.
Paul is instructing these Corinthian Believers to accept a dinner invitation from an unbeliever, if they are invited to dine with them, but don’t get into a detailed debate with them concerning the meat being served at the meal. This may have been the first example of the “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell” rule. If you “don’t ask,” about the meat, your conscience won’t be bothered by your host’s response.
Let’s go to verse 28-29:
28: But if anyone says to you, “This is meat sacrificed to idols,” do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience’s sake;
29: I mean not your own conscience, but the other man’s (or woman’s conscience); for why is my freedom judged by another’s conscience?
Clearly, Paul has in mind the setting where a Believer is advised about the food being served at dinner by his unbelieving host or a Believing host with a sensitive conscience. If this is the case, the host thinks it is wrong for a Believer to partake of meat sacrificed to idols – so don’t go there; for the sake of the one who informed you, and for (their) conscience’s sake (v28).
Verse 29 comes across as being contradictory to Paul’s previous statements to respect other people’s consciences, and in some cases to give up their liberty to their opinion and to their feelings. But once you consider (study) all that Paul has expressed the sense of what he’s saying here is: “I am free;” I have liberty in Christ Jesus to eat that food, if I want to; there is no law against it. But if I choose to do so, after someone has made it clear to me it was sacrificed to idols, my liberty, the right which I exercise, could be misjudged and even condemned by other people who perceive this in a negative way. Under these circumstances, it is far better for me to go without, to say, “No, thank you;” in these cases. For the sake of other’s consciences it is better to deny myself – to give up my liberty.
Let’s go to verse 30:
30: If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks (to God)?
If I partake with thankfulness – Paul is saying if he can dine with a clear conscience, and no one sitting with him at the table is offended, why am I slandered? Since the food being served isn’t a problem in and of itself, no one should judge him or anyone else sitting down for dinner.
Paul conveyed this same message to his protégé Timothy: For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:4-5).
In addition, he had this comment for the church at Galatia: For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1).
Without a doubt, the specific “yoke” or burden Paul’s referring to in verse 30 regarding the Corinthian’s dread of eating of meat, which may or may not have been sacrificed to an idol, is the Mosaic Law. But the principle Paul wanted them to know and understand was this: So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36).
Now let’s wrap-up chapter 10 by studying this last section:
31: Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
32: Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks (Gentiles) or to the church of God;
33: just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.
I was asked an emotional question by someone very close to me. She asked, “What’s the point in living life?” Now this person’s a Believer and she isn’t depressed or untaught; and she’s been around the block, if you catch my drift. The question came my way because of the stress of working hard at juggling her family’s concerns, her current job’s responsibilities, which she is presently unable to perform due to a recent injury, and she just learned this medical problem may require surgical intervention to resolve it. Then there’s the likelihood of a lengthy rehab process along with the possibility that she won’t be able to continue working any longer; forcing her into an early retirement. Of course this brings up the rather heavy issue can she afford to retire now? In addition to all this, two days ago she was approached with a new job offer at another facility, a management position, a promotion, and the possibility of earning a higher salary – to which she replies, “Really!” In all this, she’s asking, “What’s God will for me?”
Wow! That’s a lot of pressure for one individual to assimilate in a two-week period of time. However, my response to her first and second question arrived within seconds… The point in living life and God’s will for us is to bring honor and glory to God. This is why we’re here. God doesn’t need us to do this for The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork (Psalm 19:1), but while we remain here on earth we are Jesus Christ’s ambassadors in this fallen world.
She immediately fired off another question in my direction asking, “How do I do this?” I answered this question quickly too. I said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:36-39)
Believe it or not this brought another question my way. She asked, “How do I show God I love Him?” I answered her by saying, “We show our love for God by showing our love for others.” This is what God the Father did for every sinner through His Son Jesus Christ, and He expects no less from us. This is the Law of Christ, a command, which we as Believers and adopted children of God are to obey (Galatians 6:2).
Our Apostle Paul is saying the same thing here:
Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (v31). Here Paul gives us the solution to the question of our liberty in Christ Jesus vs self-denial for the sake of others; i.e. Believers who aren’t spiritually mature and those functioning blindly in the world around; the unsaved – Love one another as I have loved you… Many social issues would be solved today in the Body of Christ and elsewhere in the world, if each member of the body lived their life by this rule.
Paul introduces social drinking in verse 31, so I’m going to “park” on this subject for just a bit. Many alcoholics see themselves as social drinkers; my father certainly did. Booze played a prominent role in his life, and in his home-life, whether he realized it or not; he certainly never admitted it. The term social drinker sounds much friendlier and is more socially acceptable than the term alcoholic but more often than not they are one and the same. Granted, there’s a difference between an occasional drink and excessive drinking, but too often that line gets blurred. I’ve witnessed it first-hand many times. Every slave to beer or booze began with a single drink and the effect on the individual’s health and life was devastating.
Overwhelming evidence exists which supports what the use of intoxicating drink has done and is doing to America in general and to individuals specifically from every walk of life. By the 8th grade, 50% of children have started drinking in this nation, noted University of South Florida psychologist Mark Goldman, PhD, noted at a November 15, 2008 congressional meeting. Each year approximately 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die from alcohol-related injuries, including about 1,600 homicides and 300 suicides. Other problems include possible adverse effects on the developing brain and a higher risk of physical and sexual assault, unintended sexual activity and poor academic performance. The professor went on to say statistically, children who begin drinking before the age of 13 have a 38% higher risk of developing alcohol dependence later in life; the risk is even higher is there is a family history of alcoholism.
When Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians the Greek, Roman, and Mediterranean pagan religions involved celebrations, nymphs, musical instruments, and orgies all induced by drunkenness, the wine flowed freely, liberating people from their inhibitions and normal restraints causing them to behave in an uncontrolled way. This was the kind of paganism that many of the Believers in the early church were familiar with and were saved out of. In fact, this behavior was so strongly entrenched in their culture it was very hard to remove it from the church, which is why Paul addresses it in this chapter saying, “ the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; - Some of these Corinthians were partaking of the cup at the communion service to the point of getting drunk; the practice was habitual and socially acceptable. Paul’s saying you’re a new creation; you can’t return to the old ways.
What saith the Scriptures? In Ephesians 4:1-3 our Apostle Paul urges (pleads) with Believers to walk in a manner worthy of their calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the (what) unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (for this is God’s will for us).
At the heart of the worthy walk with the Lord, that honors God, is this reality called “being filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18-20). I’ve heard several sermons on this verse and the individual usually used a glass, either half full or half empty, as an illustration – that doesn’t work for me. Instead, picture yourselves on a sailing craft, at sea, and the Holy Spirit of God fills your sails, moving you along in the direction God intends for you to go (Colossians 3:16). This means each one of us is to have a Word-centered life and a Holy Spirit controlled life. We are to yield to the wondrous work of the Holy Spirit daily as He conforms us to the image of God’s Son (Romans 12:1-2).
How is this to be done? Each Believer should get up in the morning and ask (pray) for the Holy Spirit to fill them; i.e. empower them and lead them throughout their day. People love these energy drinks they sell just about everywhere nowadays and they down more than one in a single day to keep them alert and moving. Praying several times a time is a spiritual energy habit. This keeps our mind set on the things above and not on the things of this sin-filled world (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Colossians 3:2). You may not be able to take Bible breaks regularly throughout the day, but you can memorize a few passages of Scripture and recall these from memory, when you feel your sails beginning to sag, when you feel the world beginning to invade your space. When you hide the Word of God in your heart you always have it ready when there’s a need; this is a good spiritual habit, and it will help keep your sails filled with the Holy Spirit.
I doubt that anyone who indulges in social drinking could rightfully say they are doing so to the glory of God, or do so without giving offence to some sincere Believer’s conscience or to the unsaved that are nearby observing your activities. To those who “pooh-pooh” this commentary, if there was nothing wrong with social drinking, why did Paul instruct Timothy to keep himself pure – to drink only a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments (1Timothy 5:22b-23).
But the social drinker keeps right on drinking simply because they feel they have the right to do so, regardless of the impression this is having on those around him or her. I doubt they ever stop to consider the damaging effect it is having on them and others nearby and this include their children. These innocents watch helplessly as mom and dad toss back one drink after another after arriving home from work, uttering such phrases as, “I sure need this,” or “I’ve been looking forward to a drink since noon.”
Paul’s counter testimony to this mindset was: For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them (1 Corinthians 9:19).
Let’s go to verse 32.
32: Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks (Gentiles) or to the church of God; meaning – the grace-way is much better than the arrogant way.
An offense is an occasion to stumble, leading someone else to sin, whether this is another Believer, an unsaved individual in close proximity, or someone who hears of your actions by way of the “grape-vine,” i.e. social media. Paul said nothing we do should encourage another to sin. Paul is not talking about offending the legalism of others for this is something he was not shy about doing: But if I, brothers still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! (Galatians 5:11-12)
Paul’s mission regarding men was that they may be saved. To this end he sought to please all men in all things, (without disturbing his conscience) not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many – so that they might gain salvation through faith. The thing that stood in the way of this, more often than not, was a person’s conduct and/or their behavior, showing little regard for the lost and those of weaker faith.
(To be continued)
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