Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: 1 Corinthians Studies|
Chs.8 & 9
Chapters 8 & 9
Chapter: 1 Cor 8
Passage: 1 Cor 8:1-7
A. Find Out:
1. What is Paul going on to write about? v.1a,4a
2. Yet what does he first seem to speak about? v.1b
3. How does he apply this to the first subject? v.4b
4. How do we need a right attitude towards knowledge? v.1c,2
5. What understanding should the Christian have? v.5,6
6. What problem did some people have? v.7
Every time Paul starts with “Now”, we see him picking up subjects they had written to him asking questions about. They had obviously written asking was it all right for a Christian to eat meat (when visiting someone else's home) that that person had first put before an idol. Would that “contaminate” them?
Look, says Paul, we all have a certain amount of knowledge. That can make you proud, but what you know and have been taught ought to deepen your love and your relationship with God. Apply what you know to the matter of idols. The ungodly world makes lots of “idols” or little “gods” but we know that in fact there is only one God, the Creator of all things. So (by implication) all these man-made idols are nothing. Your faith in and knowledge of the Almighty God as experienced through His Son, Jesus Christ, ought to leave you so secure that any worries about worthless pieces of carved wood should be as nothing. Having said that, Paul recognises that there are some people who have come into God's kingdom from the world where they did worship idols and the idols had seemed more real to them. Their conscience is weak and we need to consider them. (more tomorrow)
A. Find Out:
1. What doesn't food do? v.8
2. What are we to be careful about? v.9
3. What might happen? v.10
4. With what consequence? v.11
5. What are we actually doing when that happens? v.12
6. So what does Paul conclude? v.13
Yesterday we read Paul saying that eating meat that had previously been offered to idols was of no consequence to the Christian who is strong in faith. Yet now he acknowledges that some people will not be as strong in faith and, in fact, their conscience will worry them about doing such things. Very well, says Paul, so as not to put a stumbling block in their way, we who are stronger in faith would do well not to do that thing for the sake of the weaker brother or sister. If we carry on doing that thing then the weaker brother will perhaps try and imitate us and then, because of his weak conscience, will become guilt ridden and fall prey to the enemy. It is better, says Paul, that we who are strong in faith, simply abstain for the sake of the other.
This is an exception to the rule that, in Christ, we are free to do all things. We've already seen in this letter that not all things are helpful to my walk with Christ and so I simply don't do some things, and now we have seen the same thing but this time it is for the sake of others. It may be that others have a problem with drinking alcohol, even though the Bible only warns against excess. Where we fellowship with such a person, for their sake, we would do well not to drink in their presence or encourage drinking in their presence.
A. Find Out:
1. What 4 questions does Paul first ask? v.1
2. What was he to them and why? v.2
3. What was he putting forward? v.3
4. What rights did he say they had? v.4,5
5. What were he and Barnabus doing? v.6
Having just spoken about freedom in eating, Paul now moves on to freedom in being an apostle. It would appear that some had been criticising him (perhaps part of the same debate over disunity and preferring one leader against another). In this passage he seeks to very simply explain his role and then his rights.
His role first. He is an apostle, a sent one who has been a witness to the Lord Jesus Christ. You are one, not only by name but because you have done what an apostle does: he had established new churches, he had established them, they were the work of his ministry. Their very existence proved his gifting.
Then comes his rights. Perhaps some had been complaining that he didn't work for his living. Previously he had worked as a tentmaker, but when Silas and Timothy had arrived in Corinth , he gave himself completely over to the ministry (see Acts 18:3-5). Hold on, he says, haven't I the same rights as all the other apostles, to have our food and drink provided by the flock (so we can get on with ministry), and shouldn't we be allowed some family life, just like the other apostles and Peter? Why should we be different.
A. Find Out:
1. What 3 illustrations does Paul now give? v.7
2. What does he use to reinforce what he is saying? v.8
3. What did that say? v.9
4. For whose benefit was that written and why? v.10
5. How does he apply it to the present? v.11
6. How again does he reinforce that? v.12
The inference behind all we have been reading yesterday and today is that Paul had received some critical comment about not working. In yesterday's reading he stared to address this, and now he goes right into it.
First, his three examples. You expect a soldier to get paid, you expect a vineyard to produce fruit for the owner, you expect flocks to be able to give you milk. In other words, the worker should expect to get something for his service from his area of service.
Second, the law. The principle was, let an ox eat as it threshes the wheat (it would walk around in the grain while the husks were being knocked off). This principle, says Paul, doesn't only apply to animals, it also applies to people, who ought to be able to share in the harvest that they help to produce. So when you apply this, he continues, to the work of the Gospel, the preacher of the Gospel ought to be able to benefit materially from the spiritual fruit that he brings forth. In other words, ensure you pay and provide for those who minister the gospel among you. It is right that those who have given their lives to minister the Gospel are provided for materially by the flock. In most cases, in so much of our institutional religion today, that isn't so. Shame on us.
A. Find Out:
1. What 2 things did Paul say about the right of support? v.12
2. What 2 examples did he then give? v.13
3. What has the Lord commanded? v.14
4. Yet what is Paul able to say? v.15
5. What does he say about his preaching the Gospel? v.16,17
6. What does he say is his reward? v.18
At this point we particularly need to remember Paul's objective. The Corinthians had claimed that because they were who they were they had the right to do what they liked and therefore eat meat offered to idols. Paul answered this by first of all saying that not all things were helpful for the sake of weaker Christians, and second, that his life is an example of one who gave up his “rights”. Today's passage emphasises Paul's “I don't claim my rights”.
He has been making the point that as an apostle he has the right of support. He continues that now comparing himself to those who serve in the temple or at the altar who were entitled to share in the offerings. The Lord has instructed that Gospel preachers be supported but he, Paul, was not claiming that right. For him, preaching the Gospel was both a privilege and a duty. It was simply part of his life and as such he would rather be able to boast that he did it freely without making claims on his converts.
Remember, in all this, Paul is both supporting his teaching that as Christians we don't have to claim all our rights in respect of freedom of behaviour, and defending himself over his own means of support.
A. Find Out:
1. How did Paul regard himself and why? v.19
2. How did he do this with Jews? v.20
3. How did he do it with non-Jews? v.21
4. How did he do it with the weak? v.22a
5. What overall principle did he operate by? v.22b
6. Why was he doing it? v.23
Remember Paul has been talking about respecting the weaknesses of conscience in other Christians (ch.8) and how he was free yet didn't claim his rights (earlier ch.9). You remember that this all runs on from answering their questions about eating food previously linked with idols, yet surely the underlying message that Paul is conveying must also impinge on that whole subject of unity he spoke about earlier in the letter.
His point that he makes now is that he gave up all rights to himself to be a blessing to others for the purpose of sharing the Gospel with them. If various personal characteristics or opinions hindered the person he was before, then he simply put those things aside and sought to become like them. When he was with Jews, he followed their religious practices obeying the law, yet not being under it himself. When he came across those weak in conscience, he conformed to their outlook and would not make them stumble. Did Jesus not become a man to bring God's love to men? This is similarly what Paul is doing. What an example to us. Don't parade anything, is what he is saying really, that becomes a stumbling block to others receiving God's love through you. Identify with them, be received by them, and then share it.
A. Find Out:
1. What should we know and therefore do? v.24
2. What do those who go into games do and why? v.25a,b
3. How do we differ? v.25c
4. How didn't Paul run or fight? v.26
5. How did Paul train? v.27a
6. For what reason? v.27b
Paul has been speaking about how he has given up his various freedoms to win people for Christ. In this passage he declares, even more, his seriousness in doing that. He uses well known illustrations: a runner, someone competing in the games, a boxer. The runner goes all out to win, nothing less is satisfactory, that's why you run. The athlete goes into strict training - to win! Now if natural athletes should do that to win temporary glory, how much more should we to win the glory of heaven. So, he says, I'm not aimless, I don't just strike out in the air hoping I might hit something. No, I really go for it and take control of my body so that there is no chance that after I have encouraged others to go for Christ, I'm found to be drifting myself.
It's a powerful message: go all out for the Christian faith and in your service for Christ. Train hard, serve hard, go for it! What sort of things in our lives work against this teaching: apathy, indifference, wanting just peace, quiet and personal comfort, inability to persevere, willingness to compromise, fear of others.
In all of these recent readings the message is the same: don't claim your own rights as a free person, but give yourself over totally to being a blessing to Christ and to others for the Gospel.
In this final group of 7 studies we have seen :
In these two chapters we have a principle that we seem to hear little of in the twentieth century, that of caring for those with weaker consciences. In a day when freedom is stressed, the church has often moved boldly out into the world saying all things are acceptable. What we have not taken into account is that not everyone has such self control that they can handle the world correctly. We have, in fact, often forgotten Paul's admonitions to ensure that our “freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak” (8 :9). Paul had two concerns: to preach the Gospel (so he identified with those to whom he preached) and the build up the saints (so he would do nothing to maker weaker Christians stumble). He is an example for us to follow in the twentieth century.
1. Idols do not compare with Almighty God.
2. All things can be mine but not all things are helpful to me.
3. I should consider the needs of weaker-conscience Christians
4. We should meet the needs of those in full time ministry
5. We need to identify with those to whom we preach.
6. Service means training and perseverance.
Thank the Lord that in Him, we can be strong to stand in the world. Thank Him for the provision of all good things for our enjoyment. Ask Him to help you be more aware of those in the church whose consciences are not as strong and to be mindful of them. Ask Him to help you understand the needs of the lost round about you. Ask Him to equip you to reach them with His love.
A. The Problems Paul heard about
1. Division in the church - chapters 1-4
2. Immorality - chapters 5 & 6
B. The Questions they wrote about
3. Marriage - chapter 7
4. Food sacrificed to idols, & freedom - chapters 8 & 9
As we come to the end of these Studies in the first nine chapters of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, we should perhaps note the following:
1. A Problem of Disunity
Underlying virtually everything else in this letter seems to be the problem of disunity in the church at Corinth . Paul has been told of this, particularly in the way some people are favouring one apostle against another. Exalting of leaders still goes on today and still is a dividing influence. Paul's answer to this was to remind them that the basis of the kingdom of God is not about wisdom and greatness, either in the flock or in leaders. We are all weak, we are all what we are by the grace of God.
There was also disunity in that disagreements were having to be settled in Law Courts. That's how bad things were! There was also disunity in the way people viewed responding to the world (idol food). Some people weren't bothered by it, others were. In the next Part in this Series of Studies, in the later chapters, we'll see there was also disunity in the way people were conducting themselves at the Lord's Supper and in the way they used their spiritual gifts.
Jesus was obviously very concerned about unity in his Church (see Jn 17) and therefore unity within our church should be something we too should be particularly concerned about.
2. The Problem of Immorality
In a time when sexual morals are rapidly vanishing all around us, Paul's teaching to the church at Corinth should be of particular importance to us today. The first mention in chapter 5 is simply an example of sexual activity outside God's norm. In the day in which we live, ANY sexual activity outside God's norm is sin! God's norm is quite simple: sexual activity is to be restricted to within a marriage relationship, between one man and one woman who are committed to each other for life. In our seeking to be compassionate and “understanding” we should in no way compromise the truth. All other sexual activity is sin. Male with male, female with female, male with female outside marriage, all is sin. God has decreed His order, and the Creator is right! May we be faithful to our Lord in all these things.