THE CONTROLLING FACTOR IN OUR DECISION MAKING REGARDING DEBATABLE AREAS OF CHRISTIAN CONDUCT MUST BE LOVE
These matters are sometimes called doubtful areas. They are specific issues of Christian conduct where believers debate whether it is appropriate or not to participate. The issues will vary by culture and by generation; but the principles regarding how to address them remain the same. In this chapter we must look beyond the particular area of controversy (“Is it OK for Christians to eat meat offered to idols?”) to glean the controlling principles that we must apply to our issues today. Paul is not talking about areas of doctrinal or theological controversy here – issues over which denominations have taken various stands. These are practical areas of Christian living. In our context of liberty-dominated thinking there don’t seem to be as many of these questionable issues as in past generations.
– Can Christians go trick-or-treating on Halloween?
– Is it OK for Christian teenagers to go to a school dance function?
– Can believers drink alcohol? What types? In what contexts?
But these issues, instead of staying small, can rise up to be very divisive in a church.
I. (:1-3) LOVE MUST BE THE GOAL OF OUR KNOWLEDGE
A. (:1A) Specific Doubtful Issue Introduced – Eating meat possibly offered to idols
“Now concerning things sacrificed to idols”
For us today it would be range of different issues; same principles will apply
Cf. Acts 15:28-29 This was a major issue in the early church.
1 Timothy 1:5 “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
Boyer: Some considered such food defiled. They not only refused to eat themselves, but were offended by those who did eat. Others considered meat in the category of “morally indifferent things” and claimed Christian liberty. They considered it right to do so and went ahead.
B. (:1B-2) Knowledge Alone Just Promotes Pride
1. Sarcastic Retort – Everybody is a know-it-all in their natural pride
“we know that we all have knowledge”
Boyer: Paul is making reference to some of their own claims, even quoting their very words, when he says, “We know that we all have knowledge.” He does so a bit sarcastically, for in verse 7 he says that they did not all have this knowledge.
2. Ultimate Goal is Love, not Knowledge for its own sake
a. “Knowledge makes arrogant” — puffs up
b. “but love edifies” — builds up
Stedman: knowledge creates pride; it makes you feel superior. You only have to listen to some of the arguments waged in this regard today to see how true that is. It does not make any difference which side you are on, on the liberty side or the restricted side, knowledge tends to create a sense of pride.
3. Self Deception in This Area is Prevalent –
True Knowledge vs False Knowledge
“If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know.”
At best, our knowledge is incomplete and limited to our finite view.
C. (:3) Test of Whether Love has been the Goal of Your Knowledge —
Do you love God? (with accompanying Word of Assurance)
“but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him”
Stedman: If you love God you are responding to the love of God for you. That is the appeal of the apostle everywhere. Do not try to force yourself to think of somebody else. Give yourself to reviewing what God has already done for you. Think of the thousand times a day he has manifested love and concern and faithfulness for you. It will begin to make you feel humbly grateful. When you do this you will then be able to recognize that other people need to be treated with patience as God treats you. You will begin to be more understanding of their point of view. Therefore, the key to the carrying out of this kind of exhortation is that you learn to love God because he has loved you.
II. (:4-6) KNOWLEDGE LAYS THE FOUNDATION FOR THE APPLICATION OF BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES IN LOVE
A. (:4A) Specific Issue Repeated
“Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols,”
Paul gets back to the issue he had raised in 8:1
B. (:4b) Two Things Believers Know with Certainty
1. Idols Don’t Exist
“we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world”
No reality behind the physical image that man has created
2. Other Gods Don’t Exist
“and that there is no God but one.”
Epistemology: How do believers know what they know?
Why doesn’t everyone have this knowledge?
C. (:5-6) Uniqueness of the One True God
1. (:5) Not Negated by the Existence of Lesser Demonic Powers
“For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords”
2. (:6) Known Personally by All Believers
a. One God the Father
“yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him;”
b. One Lord Jesus Christ
“and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.”
III. (:7-13) SENSITIVITY TO OUR FELLOW BELIEVERS MUST GUIDE THE APPLICATION OF BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES IN LOVE
A. (:7) Believers Vary in Their Level of Knowledge and Background –
Making some more vulnerable in the area under consideration
“However 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.”
B. (:8) Spirituality is Not the Issue
“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.”
C. (:9-13) Sensitivity to Our Fellow Believers is the Issue
1. (:9) Liberty Requires Caution – Understand the Impact on Fellow Believers
“But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.”
2. (:10-12) The Non-Moral Issue for You Can Become a Sin Issue for Your Fellow Believer – and Therefore a Sin Issue for You
“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? 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.”
3. (:13) Liberty Must be Restrained to Protect Fellow Believers
“Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.”
Chestnut: We create Christian community when we restrict our freedom for the sake of others