Saturday, July 12, 2014

Love Builds Up

Scriptural Reading: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Devotional Reading: Romans 14:7-12

I know of a church where a big issue was made in the business meeting as to implementing a praise team, its necessity, what the young girls would wear, etc. The Pastor quoted Scriptural references, but he was largely ignored by his flock. Ironically, they were boisterously against a praise team that would praise the LORD. On Sunday the students in the intermediate and senior class did not come to Sunday school. They had regularly attended in the past. When asked why they failed to come to class, the teacher was advised she had not stood up for them or walked out of the meeting. Her students had counted on her. Her inaction of compassion and love caused those students to stumble and never to return to her class. She had hindered their spiritual progress thus sinning against Christ Himself. It is written by the Apostle Paul at Romans 14:10-13, "But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the LORD. Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” (NKJV) Let us build each other up in love.

Our lesson is found in the quarter of study entitled “The People of God Set Priorities”. We are in Unit II – “Living as a Community of Believers” of the three units of the quarter. This is the third lesson of a five-lesson study. Believers can have a strong influence on each other. Today we shall look at the importance of building up colleagues in the ministry and the positive and negative influences that community members have on others.

The church of Christ was among the heathens who made it their custom to have great feasts at social events and make sacrifices to their idols. Not only would they eat themselves, but they would invite friends and relatives. Should they eat of the food as invited guests? What about the leftovers that would be given to the priests who would sometimes sell it in the open marketplace? This became a challenging question for the Corinthians, especially new converts. Paul began to answer their questions with the correct approach in a comparison of knowledge and love of God in 1 Corinthians 8:1-3, “Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.” (NKJV) The Apostle begins with the basics by explaining that all of the Corinthians know and understand that the mere act of offering a piece of meat to an idol did not change its flavor or nutritional value. They know that they are at liberty to eat or not eat of such meat. But at what cost? Those who have nothing but knowledge are full of pride and puffy attitudes. They believe they are all “that and a bag of chips” while causing much harm to others. Love edifies. If any man loves God and is influenced to love his neighbor through his actions, God will be pleased and know him.

Having stated the principle for the correct approach that true knowledge leads to God and a love for Him which is demonstrated in love for others, Paul addressed the particulars of the problem of eating foods offered to idols. Heathen idols have no divinity, no power, knowledge, or love in them. They are lies built out of images carved out of stones and wood, material made by our Creator. The Apostle declared the truth of the correct assumption in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6, “Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. For even if there are so called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the father, of whom are all things, and we for Him, and one LORD Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live. (NKJV) Paul is not stating the idols do not exist. The images exist, but the gods behind the images do not exist. They do not have the power to change and pollute the meat, creatures of God. The Apostle explained at 1 Tim 4:4-5, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” (NKJV) The believer recognizes only one God, the Almighty Father of our LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ. There are no other Gods. He is the Father who is the source of all things and the One for whom Paul taught the Corinthians and all believers should live. “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3 NKJV)

The Apostle informed the Corinthians in response to their dilemma was that neither eating nor not eating the food was of any spiritual consequence. The correct application of the solution to the problem deals with how the believer exercises his freedom. Paul informed the congregants at 1 Corinthians 8:7-8, “However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.” (NKJV) Paul informs the Corinthian believers they have the freedom to go into the temples of the heathens and eat of their sacrifices. However, he warns them of the harm to fellow believers who are not as strong in their belief system regarding this issue. The gospel is to turn men into believers. Some converted from idolatry. They are not physically or spiritually weak, but they lack a full understanding. They see others partaking of their liberty to eat of what their conscience considers a sin and eat also. This causes them to join in to be one of the crowds and eat, but they defile their body because it is against their conscience, even though the eating of the sacrificial meat matters not to God. If your conscience condemns a certain act and you go ahead and commit it, then you have sinned. “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.”(Romans 14:23 NKJV)

In continuing to explain the correct application Paul expressed deep concern for the weak brothers in 1 Corinthians 8:9-11, “But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?” (NKJV) The actions of those who abuse their liberty to eat in the idolatrous temples because they possessed the proper understanding may become the stumbling block and downfall for these weak brothers from Christianity and reversion to heathenism and the worship of idols. There is absolutely nothing to gain by eating, but there might be much to lose if a weak Christian stumbles. If Christ loved us so much that he died for us, believers must not hinder the spiritual progress of anyone by doing something to cause them to stumble. The issue of whether to eat meat or not is not worth it.

Love builds up. Paul encouraged the believers to deny themselves even what is lawful in order to prevent the weak brethren from stumbling. Further, he declared that an injury done to a Christian is an injury to Christ Himself. The Apostle was so adamant he taught in 1 Corinthians 8:12-13, “But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” (NKJV) Paul was so offended by the resulting injury to the weaker brothers and Christ that he made himself an example of one who no longer ate meat. He waived his valuable liberty for the more important purpose of never in his life wounding the brethren with weaker consciences. His love for them built them up and did not place them in danger of eternal self-destruction of the soul due to sin.

Today’s lesson was about the weaker Christian stumbling due to the eating of meat. However, there are many subjects which become gray areas and the love of Christian believers MUST build. For example, there are some who do not acknowledge female ministers at all. Some can handle them as long as they do not get in their pulpit. For some strange reason they do not understand the pulpit is simply manmade wood, but it becomes a status symbol for some. These weak brethren base their belief upon the written declaration by Apostle Paul when he was attempting to put order in the worship of the Corinthians in the speaking of tongues and prophecy. It is written at 1 Corinthians 14:34-36, “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?” (NKJV) To keep the weak brethren from stumbling it is best to sit in the congregation for a lifetime. A female minister knows her calling truly comes from God and He will give her the purpose for the call. She knows that it is written by the prophet at Joel 2:20, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” (NKJV) Part of her test will be to remain strong in the LORD and not allow others to stumble by building them up in love.

Written by Deborah C Davis

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