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1 Corinthians 10:23-34 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:55 mins 19 secs

Laws of Liberty; Glorifying God; 1 Cor 10:23-34

1 Corinthians 10:23 NASB "All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify." Then he states the principle of the law of love: [24] "Let no one seek his own {good,} but that of his neighbor." 

The idea that everything is lawful goes against the grain of Scripture. There are precise procedures laid out in Scripture for spiritual growth and that is part of grace, and the spiritual life is based on grace just as salvation is based on grace. So what the antinomian carnal Corinthians were doing was taking grace and distorting it and saying everything was okay, that nothing was a sin, all things were lawful. Paul counters that with two statements. First, that not all things are helpful, and second, that not all things edify. So Paul is going to lay out for us some flexible principles for believers to use in dealing with doubtful areas. The first issue has to do with just the raw, basic reality of eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols. His answer to that is that it is not a problem. There are clearly many practices and events in life involving eating and drinking, activities that in and of themselves are not sinful. There is no moral issue involved. The second question, though, that he has to deal with beyond that is the question of what about eating meat that has been dedicated to the idol, the false god, and going down to the butcher's shop at the pagan temple and purchasing it there where other people may see you purchase the meat that has been sacrificed to idols. This is going to be answered in vv. 25 & 26, but the principle that is laid down is that even though there may be legitimacy to some things the principle for decision making is, is it helpful to my spiritual life and is it part of the process of edification? Edification is the Greek word OIKODOMEO [o)ikodomew] and it means to edify, to construct something, to strengthen something. It is the idea of strengthening the soul.

The issue is that we are to follow the precisely correct procedure that the Scriptures lay down for the spiritual life so that God the Holy Spirit can produce spiritual growth and spiritual strength in our soul. So the question we should ask is not, is this okay? is this sin? a moral activity? But the question is, is this beneficial to my spiritual life? is this part of the process of edification? Or is this a distraction? Many activities in life are fun, enjoyable, but in and of themselves they become a distraction to our own spiritual growth and spiritual life. As we advance and begin to grow we begin to realize that there are certain activities in life that we have justified that actually distract us from learning the Word, learning to think biblically, and growing in our spiritual life. The key issue in life is to grow by means of the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).

On the other end of the spectrum are some folk who just obsess and become preoccupied in such a way that every minute they are saying, maybe I should be listening to a tape now, maybe I should be doing this or that, and they go to the other extreme and become completely out of focus because they make listening to doctrine almost a legalistic talisman where they think that if I listen to my tape every day God is going to bless me. It is somewhere in between, recognizing that you have to grow spiritually and that it is fine and good for all of us to participate in the many different activities in life. The issue is, don't let those other activities become a distraction to our spiritual; life and our spiritual growth.

In verse 24 Paul lays down the principle of love. We are to think in terms of how our behaviour may have an impact on the immature, weaker believer around us. This same principle is articulated in Philippians 2:3, 4 NASB "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not {merely} look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." There he hits at the motivation, the mental attitude underlying the activity. In other words, quit putting your focus on your legitimate rights, put the focus and impact on others. This is the principle of the law of love.

1 Corinthians 10:25 NASB "Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience' sake." This is where flexibility comes in. Grace involves flexibility. Most people are rigid: either you eat the meat or you don't eat the meat, just make it simple for me and give me a principle. But Paul is not that way, he says that grace means that under some conditions you can eat the meat, under other conditions you don't eat the meat. It is not a hard and fast rule. Whatever is sold in the market place you can eat, it is not a problem in and of itself. However, circumstances may change. He says first of all, don't ask questions; don't look for a fight; don't make an issue out of something ahead of time. The principle is based on an Old Testament quote from Psalm 24:1 NASB "The earth is the LORD'S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it." It goes back to the basic principle that God created all things and sanctified all things, and therefore eating meat is not a problem, neither is anything else. People always want to make an issue out of drinking alcohol or something else. The psalmist said that God made wine for the joy of man's heart. That doesn't mean grape juice as some people want to force it, it means a good alcoholic beverage known as wine.

Paul goes on to recognize that there may be some people around who do want to make an issue out of something. 1 Corinthians 10:27 NASB "If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience' sake." Don't make an issue out of it. There are some people to whom it is not an issue one way or the other in terms of having a glass of wine or whatever. They have no desire one way or the other. So if you go to a party and someone offers you a glass of wine, don't make an issue out of it. It is fine to say no; it is stupid to say you are not going t drink because I'm a Christian, because now you have identified a certain activity with the essence of Christianity. Another application of this issue is, don't make an issue out of non-issues. The issue with an unbeliever is Jesus Christ and the cross. Don't get distracted from the focus of the gospel. However, there may be some other believer at the party where this is a problem, v. 28.

1 Corinthians 10:28 NASB "But if anyone [the weaker brother] 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' sake." Now a red flag ought to go off. It was okay for me to eat the meat a minute ago, but now I recognize there is some weaker believer here for whom this is an issue. At this point you make the decision not to eat the meat. Now you have to apply the principle of impersonal love. We have to realize that it is more important for their spiritual life than our pallet and so we make a decision not to eat the meat. It is not because it is wrong to eat the meat but because we don't want to cause this other believer to violate his conscience. Notice the importance of not violating the conscience. Even if the conscience has false norms and standards in it Paul emphasizes the importance of not violating the conscience, because once you lay down the principle of rationalization and the practice and habit of rationalizing and justifying, coming up with reasons you can violate the conscience, then when the issues really matter you have created a habit pattern in your thinking to rationalize away doing that which is right, and this is going to be devastating to your spiritual life in the long run.

1 Corinthians 10:29 NASB "I mean not your own conscience, but the other {man's;} [the weaker brother] for why is my freedom judged by another's conscience?" Here is the principle. We always want to question why we should give up something just because this other believer isn't smart enough, doesn't know what the principles are. Why can't I just re-educate him? Re-educating someone doesn't happen over night. You don't change the norms and standards in your conscience necessarily in a quick manner. It takes time, they have to come to it under the teaching ministry of God the Holy Spirit and not because you turn around and tell them to get things straightened out, that they have to understand some of these principles.

1 Corinthians 10:30 NASB "If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks?" In other words, there is the rationalisation here that I think that I realize that all this food comes from God (Psalm 24:1; 1 Timothy 4:4), that I have given thanks for this food, so why is it that I have to give it up? His point is that you have to recognize that there is another principle that overrides everything else. It is not just whether it is helpful or edifying but whether it glorifies God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 NASB "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." This establishes the main point in the conclusion, that the overriding factor in decision making is whether it glorifies God. The problem with asking that question is that there are too many people who introduce a tremendous level of subjectivity at that particular point. How do you know if it glorifies God? Is it your opinion whether it glorifies God? Is it my opinion that it glorifies God? The Scriptures are clear what glorifies God and what doesn't, and we have to make that decision based on an understanding of Scripture. It is this verse that gives us the overriding control on decision making: does something glorify God? The word "glory" means something that is worthy of praise or exultation. The Hebrew word, kabod, means something that is heavy, weighty, important, overwhelming. Looking at the glory of God we are overwhelmed with all that He is and all that His grace has provided for us. In understanding God's glory we have to realize that it has two aspects. The first is His inherent or intrinsic glory. God has glory, it can neither be added to nor taken away from. God is eternal, God is always the same, and that glory never diminishes or increases. The second aspect is that which ascribes glory. God's inherent glory never changes but we are to ascribe glory to Him, we are to praise Him and emphasize all that He has done, and that is part of worshipping.

The Bible gives us various different ways that we can glorify God, that we can ascribe honour and glory to Him.

1)  This would include confession of sin, because we have to be in fellowship with God for the Holy Spirit to be working in us in His sanctifying ministry. Confession is also a recognition that Jesus Christ has paid the penalty for all of those sins.

2)  Secondly, we glorify God by making learning and applying doctrine our number one priority in our life. When we do this we are saying that this is more important and God is more important and the knowledge of God is more important than anything else in life.

3)  Third, we glorify God by walking by means of the Holy Spirit. This is related to the filling of the Spirit but it is the ongoing process of walking by means of the Spirit.

4)  By exercising the faith-rest drill. We understand His promises and we claim His promises and trust Him to fulfil His promises.

5)  We bear fruit in our spiritual life. We don't actually bear the fruit, it is God the Holy Spirit who produces the fruit, but He only produces the fruit if we are abiding in Christ and walking by means of the Spirit (John 15:8; Galatians 5:16)

6)  We glorify God when we have an attitude of gratitude and we are thankful to Him for every circumstances and situation in our life, good or bad (Psalm 50:23).

7)  We glorify God when we handle rejection, adversity, or any problem or prosperity in our life by using the ten problem-solving devices to handle that situation. E.g. 1 Peter 4:14 NASB "If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you." This is not standard adversity, this is being rejected because you are a believer, because you are trying to emphasize your own spiritual life under the principles of Scripture. When we take our stand for the truth, no matter happens, when people react to that God is glorified because it is a witness and testimony before all of the angels in the heavenlies. [16} "but if {anyone suffers} as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name."

1 Corinthians 10:32 NASB "Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God." This brings in another concluding principle. We have had three main principles: a) Is this helpful or edifying to my spiritual life?; b) Does this glorify God?; c) Is this going to give offense to Jews, Gentiles or to believers? "Give no offense": there is a difference between intentionally doing something that would offend a positive individual and going something for which they take offense. There are many people who, when you take a stand for whatever biblically, will take offense. This is the legalist. Jesus faced the same situation during the incarnation. The Pharisees were constantly taking offense at Him. He drank wine and ate of all the food that was put before Him. The Pharisees took offense at that, but Jesus didn't say He wasn't going to offend the Pharisees. If we take the position that we are not going to offend anybody we are not going to do anything, ever. The issue here is if somebody is positive don't do something that becomes a problem for them. But whenever we exercise our freedom somebody somewhere, some legalist, is always going to take offense. What Paul is saying here is not in a general sense, it is in a personal situation where people are there. If you know that it is going to create a major problem don't do it, don't rub somebody's nose in something.

1 Corinthians 10:33 NASB "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." The ultimate issue is making the gospel clear and not creating secondary issues, situations that distract from the principle of the gospel.