"SPIRITUAL CLIMBERS"

First Corinthians 8.4-8

INTRODUCTION:

1. Please turn to First Corinthians chapter 8. While you are turning there, let us imagine a typical young man in Corinth who decides that he wants to worship the god or gods of his choice.

2. Now you have to remember, in the apostle Paulís day paganism was much more openly wicked than false religion is in the west in our day. And in Corinth, especially, things were seedy and tawdry.

3. But back to the young man who wanted to worship. The common practice would be for him to go to the market district of Corinth and buy a goat or a chicken or a pig. If he didnít want to spend his own money to worship he would simply steal an animal from some unsuspecting farmer in the area.

4. Then, with the animal in his possession he would go to the pagan temple at the top of the hill and exchange the animal sacrifice for a priestess, who was actually a temple prostitute, with which to "worship."

5. And while the "devout" young man and his favorite temple prostitute are drinking, drugging and fornicating in worship to one false god or another, the priest is really quite busy himself.

6. You see, likely as not he is taking the animal back down the hill to the market that it was just bought at to sell again, whether to another "devout" worshiper or someone who is just hungry. Which brings us to the problems.

7. First, there was really no other source of food in Corinth. And other cities had the same situation. If you wanted to eat, unless you were a farmer or unless you knew a farmer, you had to buy your food from the marketplace, or do without.

8. Second, many Christians were of the firm conviction that it was sinful to buy and then eat meat that had been offered to idols. They maintained that by buying meat from the marketplace you were subsidizing paganism by putting money into the priestís pocket. Others maintained that the meat simply should not be eaten once it had been dedicated to a false god.

9. But while some maintained that buying and eating such meat was a wicked compromise that no one who is right with God can do, some Christians say, "Hey, meat is meat. Just buy it and eat it and donít worry where it came from."

10. But that disagreement isnít the worst of it. The worst of it is this: Those who didnít buy and eat the meat thought they were more spiritual than those who did, while those who did buy and eat the meat thought they were more spiritual than those who didnít.

11. But who was right? Is it spiritual compromise to buy food that was offered to false gods, just so you can have a choice cut of beef on the table at night? Are you subsidizing a false religion by buying pork from a priest of a pagan temple?

12. Or on the other hand, can you eat anything you want to eat, buy from anyone you want to buy from, because meat is meat? Are those other guys legalists that you can ignore?

13. Folks, Paulís response to this problem in Corinth gives us great insight into proper Christian behavior within a Church where opinion, and even dogmatic convictions, is divided.

14. Let us stand and read First Corinthians 8.4-8 and then deal with Paulís three comments: "As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse."

1A. FIRST, PAULíS COMMENT ON CREATION

When teaching, or even settling a dispute, as Paul is attempting to do here, the first step one takes is to find common ground for agreement between the two parties involved. And itís in verses 4-6 that Paul establishes common ground for all concerned. Here is what Paul is saying:

1B. First, We Can Agree On Reality (8.4)

"As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one."

1C. If the argument concerns things offered to idols, and the eating of those things offered to idols, just what is an idol . . . spiritually?

2C. Paul says that in the world an idol is nothing. Now, I am of the opinion that the phrase "in the world" indicates that Paul is referring to the material side of things, not the spiritual side.

3C. That is, that piece of stone or wood, that statue, is just what it is made of; no more and no less. And how do we know that this is true?

4C. Because there is none other God but one. What Paul writes here echoes the declaration of Moses in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, "Here O Israel. The Lord our God is one Lord."

5C. This is the reality that all Christians can agree on. Amen?

2B. We Can Also Agree On Reputation (8.5)

"For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many.)"

1C. Though in reality idols are actually nothing and there is only one true and living God, there are those things which are called gods and are so held by people.

2C. You and I know that the statue on the dash board is just a cheap piece of plastic. Right? But there are people who really think that statue is something more than a piece of plastic.

3C. Understand, then, that because of reputation, not reality, these idols seem to be gods. We can agree on this, too. Amen?

3B. Third, We Can Agree On Revelation (8.6)

"But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him."

1C. Folks, the truths that I have just read are truths that can only be known as God reveals them through the Word of God. These facts concerning God and the Lord Jesus Christ are not discoverable by menís searchings.

2C. But what is it that all Christians can agree is revealed by God about Himself and about the Lord Jesus Christ?

3C. Regarding this creation in which we exist, it is created of God. But it is created by the Lord Jesus Christ. That distinction is known only by revelation.

4C. The point being, who cares who owned the chicken before you did? The chicken, if you want to get really picky, was created of the God and by the Lord you serve. Correct?

5C. Now, understanding that we have liberty not granted to or enjoyed by Jewish people in the Old Testament, and also understanding that our Lord created those animals, what spiritual harm is done by buying the meat and eating it?

6C. "Yes, but the meat was used in a pagan ritual." Is meat transformed by pagan ritual? Is the concept of transubstantiation Scripturally legitimate? No. Therefore, there is no inherent sin in eating such food.

7C. I can buy my food from anywhere and from anyone I choose. And I can eat that same food. And no inherent sin has been committed when I do.

8C. That sums up Paulís comments on creation.

2A. NEXT, THERE IS PAULíS COMMENT ON CONSCIENCE (8.7)

"Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled."

Here is where Paul deals with what he refers to as a weak conscience. To define the phrase, a weak conscience is one which sounds the guilt alarm even when no sin is committed. And it results in you feeling guilty about your actions, even though the Bible may indicate that the actions were not at all wrong or improper.

1B. Notice The Cause Of A Weak Conscience

"Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge."

1C. Paul is pointing out that some Christians do not know those basic things on which we should all agree. And it stems, in the case of the Corinthians, from a failure to realize that idols are nothing.

2C. This means that Christians who are legalistic in their thinking, who are Christians who have weak consciences, are that way because of ignorance. There are things they just donít know.

3C. So, ignorance of certain truths of Godís Word is the cause of a weak conscience.

2B. Now Notice The Conduct Of A Weak Conscience

". . . for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled."

1C. An uninformed believer is, at the very least, an immature Christian. And how do I know that? Because although knowing the facts of Godís Word does not make you spiritually mature, you cannot be spiritually mature without having a firm grasp of the facts presented in the Bible.

2C. That means, if you are ignorant, and thereby immature, you will be intemperate as well. That is, you will not have self control when it comes to doing or not doing things you believe are wrong. Because self control accompanies maturity.

3C. And where does that lead? It leads to a Christian with a weak conscience, being immature and undisciplined, going ahead and eating the meat, even though he thinks itís wrong.

4C. Such is the behavior of a weak conscience; to believe something is sinful, even though it perhaps is not sinful according to the Bible, but doing it anyway while thinking it is wrong to do.

5C. And how many of us have done this very thing? We all have, havenít we?

3B. Finally, The Consequence Of A Weak Conscience

1C. Having eaten meat offered to idols, which he thought was wrong, this Christian with a weak conscience now feels terribly guilty.

2C. Has he sinned? No. But his weak conscience is defiled, nevertheless. And this, my friends, is a great example of how unreliable the human conscience is.

3C. The conscience can remain silent in the presence of sin or, as here, it can sound the alarm when there has been no sin committed.

4C. This is Paulís comment on that useful, but far from infallible, thing called the conscience. So, if you let your conscience be your guide, youíll end up in a terrible fix.

3A. FINALLY, WE HAVE PAULíS COMMENT ON COMMENDATION (8.8)

"But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse."

1B. Notice, If You Will, The Word "commendeth"

1C. The concept of commendation, in this verse, comes from a Greek word meaning to position by or to position alongside.

2C. Have you ever seen how politicians like to stand next to the president when he is signing into law a popular and well-received piece of legislation?

3C. Or perhaps you have observed how unsaved people worship and always want to be near or want to stand alongside these nitwits called movie stars?

4C. Thatís the concept that this word "commedeth" carries. In this verse, however, behavior that is performed in the hopes of getting closer to God is what is in mind.

5C. There are people who will eat or not eat certain foods, do or not do certain things, believe or not believe certain doctrines, because they are of the opinion or persuasion that what they do will get them closer to God or make them more spiritual.

2B. Now Notice, If You Will, The Warning As We Read Verse 8 Again

"But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse."

1C. Though eating this meat is okay, and probably reflects a greater knowledge of the facts of the Bible, it does not get you closer to God.

2C. As a matter of fact, eating or not eating doesnít even make you better or worse than other Christians.

CONCLUSION:

1. Before you make up your mind that this passage dealing with meat offered unto idols doesnít have anything to do with you today, hold on just a second.

2. Picture two sons. One of the sons, a teen-ager, is mature, is knowledgeable, is functioning at almost an adult level.

3. But this teen-ager has an infant brother. His brother is very young, very ignorant, and is unable to function at all, except to process good food into smelly waste and loud noise.

4. A question for you: Does the behavior of either one of the sons affect their relationship with their father? No.

5. Folks, in much the same way, you and I who are saved are Godís children. And most of us are growing in knowledge and we would have no hesitation about eating the meat.

6. But you be careful. Donít think that your eating habits, or anything else you say, do, or believe, thatís a nonessential, positions you closer to God than any other Christian.

7. This does not mean that God isnít pleased with spiritual behavior and displeased with unspiritual behavior, because He is. But it does mean that our individual sonship is not influenced or affected by our behavior.

8. To sum it all up, it means that the favor of your heavenly Father cannot be bought or sold.

9. What implications does this have for those of you who are here and you are not saved? It is this: There is no way you will ever be able to earn Godís favor.

10. And you want to know why not? Two reasons: First, you wouldnít be able to pay the price if Godís favor was for sale. Second, because God freely gives His favor away to people who do not deserve it; people like you and people like me.

11. And even after you have trusted Christ to the saving of your soul, you still canít do anything to alter the relationship. Even for the Christian, our relationship with God is not a matter of performance on our part.

12. In these things that I have just brought to your attention you can be greatly comforted. Why? Because my salvation and yours depends on Him and not me. Thatís good.

13. But as a Christian these realities make me think, as well. If no position is to be gained by what we eat or do not eat, do or do not do, and if no superiority can be earned by these actions, why serve God?

14. Because itís right. Because itís duty. Because itís love. Are those your reasons for serving Him, my brother? And if you donít serve Him, these are good reasons to begin.

15. Since you canít earn your salvation, why not let God give Himself to you, my unsaved friend, by giving to you His Son as your Savior?

16. And Christian, why not reevaluate your reasons for serving God?


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