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					Faith Christian Fellowship                                                                           Pastor Allen Cree
February 18, 2007                                                                                    Preaching

                                 OUR CONCERN: STUMBLING AND EDIFICATION
                                              1 Corinthians 8

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that "all of us possess knowledge." This "knowledge" puffs up, but love
builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves
God, he is known by God. 4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that "an idol has no real
existence," and that "there is no God but one." 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth- as
indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"- 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and
for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 7 However, not
all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and
their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no
better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For
if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to
eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12
Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore,
if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

        Way back in Genesis 4 we read the following account,

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the
LORD." 2 And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. 3 In
the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the
firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his
offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and
why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the
door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it." 8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field,
Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He
said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?"


         You don‟t have to be all that insightful to know what was going on in Cain‟s heart. This was a selfish and
impertinent response by this world‟s first murderer that as echoed throughout all of human history. The words betray a
sentiment that is all too familiar to people with the modern of sensibilities. What Cain was saying could have been taken
right from today‟s headlines. “Am I my brother‟s keeper?” Really was Cain‟s way of saying,
“My concerns are my concerns and Abel‟s concerns belong to Abel. Don‟t ask me about him. What are you troubling me
about him for? If you want to know about my brother, then ask my brother. I have my own life, thank you. Let each one
attend to his own business.”

        As Matthew Henry noted well,

“A charitable concern for our brethren, as their keepers, is a great duty, which is strictly required of us, but is generally
neglected by us. Those who are unconcerned in the affairs of their brethren, and take no care, when they have
opportunity, to prevent their hurt in their bodies, goods, or good name, especially in their souls, do, in effect, speak Cain's
language.”


        I go through all to say that Paul‟s intention in this chapter run counter to the sinful and wicked inclination in every
human by nature. He‟s going to discuss the same subject in chapter 10 about eating meat sacrificed to idols. In that
chapter he is going to end up where all things ought to ultimately end up. In 10:31 he‟s going to say,

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
                                                                                                                           2

        As wrong-headed as we may be to say so, this is no real struggle for us. There‟s no rub here and far as we can see.
The glory of God is such an out-there, pie-in-the-sky, ethereal, theological, philosophical, conceptual thing that we really
don‟t get too bent out of shape to affirm, “Sure, all for the glory of God, sure, whatever.”

        But in this chapter, Paul takes the same subject and drives it into an area that does ruffle us. There is a rub here.
He says to self-centered men and women,

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, don‟t cause anyone to stumble by it and seek to build one another up by
the way you do it.”

         Before we put too much more meat on that skeleton, let‟s see the context and how Paul gets there. This whole
business of food sacrificed to idols is not hard to get our minds around. In the pagan Corinthian culture, there were many
deities and idols and there were many modes of expression of one‟s worship towards them. A huge part of that was
sacrificing animals to these idols.

        As you know, the concept of an animal sacrifice was to slay the animal on an altar to express the worshipers
devotion to the deity partly because they were giving up something of value to the idol but more so to hack, pierce, kill and
cause to bleed this animal in place of either your life or to express your intense blood level of devotion to the idol.

        You are saying to the idol either, “I or we deserve to suffer under your wrath and we express that by replacing us
with the animal” or, “I am so devoted to you that I would die for you, I would shed blood for you and so I shed the blood of
this animal to mark my devotion so that I can remain as your faithful servant.”

        When I was in Togo, West Africa I visited the market in Dapaong. It was alive with activity with the desperately
poor seeking desperately to sell anything people would buy. Somehow they would acquire the most amazingly cheap and
flimsy goods and haggle for every last cent they could. And there were all kinds of foods, most of which you wouldn‟t
touch, much less buy and eat. At two locations of this 20 square block market there were altars consisting of piled up
stones that were covered in blood (some dry and some wet) and matted fur and feathers.

       These poor people sacrifice animals on that altar to their animistic idols and deities to express their devotion. But
what must be noted about what I saw that is closely associated to today‟s chapter is that right next to both altars was a
stand where the meat left behind from the sacrifice was turned around and sold.

        This is what happened in Corinth and I think you can see where Paul needed to lend his apostolic wisdom.
Corinth, as many of you will remember from the earliest sermons in this series, consisted of coverts from a wide range of
economic, cultural and religious backgrounds. 1 and 2 Corinthians is so applicable to American Christianity because we
are every bit and diverse as they were.

         Some Corinthian Christians were converted out of paganism. To some of these people as well as very sensitive
converts from Judaism who were troubled by those things that were ceremonially unclean, buying and eating this meat
was a problem. This situation here was that the church in Corinth wrote Paul and asked, “What‟s the deal with this
cultural situation? Should we eat the meat or not?” In my opinion, Paul‟s answer is amazing.

           Essentially where he is coming from is that he himself, personally had no problem with it. Where he is going here
is this,

“I have no problem with eating the meat. Now you are asking me, „Paul, to eat or not to eat, that is the question.‟ If you
want to know what I believe as a matter of personal conviction – brothers and sisters, I have no problem eating the stuff.
It‟s perfectly good meat. As for me, I‟m o.k. with eating it.”

       Before we go on here, what would most leaders do at this point? Where do most leaders, even Christian leaders,
go from here? To our shame, we take our opinion, our personal conviction on a matter like this and we seek to legislate.
We seek to get everyone else to live our way. More on this later, let‟s keep going:

         Paul begins the chapter letting the Corinthians know where he and others like him are coming from. Look at
verses 1-6,
                                                                                                                            3

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that "all of us possess knowledge." This "knowledge" puffs up, but love
builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves
God, he is known by God. 4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that "an idol has no real
existence," and that "there is no God but one." 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth- as
indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"- 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and
for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.


           Let‟s break this down a verse at a time:


Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that "all of us possess knowledge." This "knowledge" puffs up, but love
builds up.


         What he is suggesting here is that there is knowledge we all ought to have on this matter regardless of our position
on this – but especially those who are o.k. with eating the meat. We know for reasons he‟s about to state that idols are
really nothing and that there‟s no spell or jinx on it, it‟s just meat. But knowing this kind of this can puff you up. You can
become conceited and proud because you “know.” Instead, we ought to be guided and driven by something higher than
mere academic knowledge. We should be guided by love.

Verse 2,

If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.

        In other words, there‟s away to know and a way not to know. You can be right and wrong about the same thing.
In family and marital arguments sometimes it‟s not how right you are about what you‟re saying. It‟s not what you say but
how you say it.

Verse 3,

But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

       As we saw in chapter one, the Christian‟s in Corinth knew that if they loved God and were called by Him they were
known in an intimate way that is more like a choosing. God‟s knowledge is knowing as knowing ought to be.

Verses 4-6 which are next week‟s text tell us what it is Paul and others like him know:

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that "an idol has no real existence," and that "there is no God
but one." 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth- as indeed there are many "gods" and many
"lords"- 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus
Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

       We know this is true and therefore, this is no problem for us. But there were those in Corinth who may have
known all this but were still uneasy about eating this food. Look at verses 7-10,

However, not all possess this knowledge.



The key is the word, this…


But some, through former association with idols,


We mentioned this earlier…
                                                                                                                            4


eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We
are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow
become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he
not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?

         Something very important to note here is who the weak are. Who are the weak, those who eat or those who
abstain? Or a more contemporary question: Who are the weak in reference to drinking alcohol: Those who exercise their
knowledge that alcohol is created by God and can be received with thanksgiving because it is made holy by the Word of
God and prayer …. OR those who abstain. It is the abstainers who are the weak. And for their sake the “strong” may wish
to re-think their participation in certain foods or drinks.

           Look at verse 9 again to see Paul‟s concern,

But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.


         We are a rights oriented society. Paul saw this in Corinth and warned not to care so much about what they had
the right to do. Their concern should be two-fold:

1A.        (Negatively) Not causing anyone to stumble.
1B.        (Positively) Building up their brothers and sisters

And

      2.       The glory of God.     (We will see this more in a few weeks)

      Paul sums the matter up in 11-13,

And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against
your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my
brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

           Now let‟s step back here and apply this to ourselves (as though we needed to).

        My concern as a pastor and even as just a Christian is how stunningly overlooked the principles of this passage are
in the church today. While it has been true in every age that men and women are bent on asserting and retaining their
rights and living as though their rights were to be considered first and foremost, it seems to be especially true today in
western Christianity. I‟m sure it has a lot to do with living in a democracy where independence and freedom are among
the highest values.

         I have a friend with whom we have spirited debates about political and philosophical issues. We had a talk about
abortion and I really felt like I was gaining ground. I had taken him to that critical place where he had to admit that
abortion was the taking of a human life – he couldn‟t escape it. He said, “I agree, it‟s murder but….” I was taken aback.
What could trump that statement? I asked, “Is there a higher value than the preservation of life?” He said yes there is.
For me and liberals like me, freedom is more important. The preservation of personal liberty is more valuable than the
preservation of life. If government takes even the right of a women to terminate her pregnancy through the murder of her
child, then a critical battle has been lost that will be the first in the tumbling of many dominoes.

         If we think that this mindset has not infected the church we are fooling ourselves. Specifically I have witnessed
this in recent years in the area of social drinking. The all important area I have seen professing Christians defending and
upholding is their right to drink and no one is going to stand in the way of that:
“After all, the Bible does not prohibit drinking and so I don‟t care what other overly-sensitive people think, I‟ll drink if I
want to.”

           This is poisonous logic. It‟s a line of thinking that says,
                                                                                                                            5


“I don‟t care what others think. If it‟s not in the Thou-shalt-not category then I don‟t care what others think. If it makes
someone struggle, that‟s their problem. After all, AM I MY BROTHER‟S KEEPER?”


        The answer that God would have given to Cain if He were so inclined would have been yes.

        The positive application I would give to FCF today is this: Consider yourself a family member in the family of God
and as a vital member of the FCF family. And in consideration of that family, CARE. And as one who cares, ask better
questions of yourself when making lifestyle choices.

        In closing, I want us to think about Paul as an example to us. Notice again what our beloved apostle could easily
have done and didn‟t do. The Corinthians were asking. They were asking what to do about this controversial issue
regarding meat sacrificed to idols. Paul was on the side of eating it. He could have easily laid down a rule: Go ahead and
eat. Rules are easy. It‟s easy to have a list – a long list of what and what not to do. But list keeping Christianity would be
all about the flesh – all about laws – all about legalism.

         Instead, the law he and God the Holy Spirit laid down was the law of love. We‟ve seen this before but why is the
Bible so unclear about specifics like this so often. We asked several months ago, why is eschatology so unclear? Why
doesn‟t the Bible come down clearer on issues like drinking and gambling and other issues?

[I had a student ask this week, does the Bible really speak against drunkenness? My response is, “Does it have to?”]

        I believe the reason for this lack of specificity is to put the burden upon us to love one another in the face of
disagreements. The genius of the Word of the Living God is that on issues like baptism where good, godly, Christ-
honoring, Spirit-led children of God disagree, can Christian love endure the difference of opinion? Can Baptists and
Presbyterians get along in love? Can meat-eaters and refrainers get along in love?

        What about us at FCF? What will be our rule? Rules or love? Are we our brother‟s keepers? Is our concern not to
cause stumbling but rather to build up? Think about it.

				
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