Last week a woman accidentally drove her car off a cliff on Highway 1 on the Pacific Ocean coastway in California. She was found seven days later by surfers, broken bones and hungry, but alive.
Many people drive and walk too close to the edge of cliffs. I guess they think it’s adventurous. But it is dangerous.
In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul uses the people of Israel as an example of the danger of living too close to the edge of sin. He cautions the Corinthians, and us, that the free use of liberty could lead into sin and the judgment of God. Don’t get too close. When faced with deciding the gray areas, it’s good to consider four aspects of God. In a previous post, I talked about God’s blessings and God’s This post will talk of two aspects. I will follow up with the last two later this week.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he? (1 Corinthians 10:13-22)
God makes 3 promises in every temptation: (1) Temptation will come. (2) Temptation is not unique. (3) Temptation always has a way of escape. God is faithful. He keeps temptation from being so strong you can’t stand up against it.
Run from temptation and idolatry! Get as far away from sin as you can; not as close as you can. The Corinthians were living dangerously close to the pagan world surrounded by temptations. If they kept in this place, their freedom would end in slavery. If they did not escape, they would follow a certain path (like Israel).
Paul uses the Lord’s Supper as an example of the communion/fellowship that comes from a worship experience. The Corinthians were dangerously close to idolatry. The following progress helped me understand the subtle steps that lead from simply association with idolatry (or any sin) to complete idolatry and the judgment of God.
- Association with idolatry leads to participation in idolatry.
- Participation in idolatry leads to involvement with the devil.
- Involvement with the devil leads to the judgment of God.
You can play around at the border of sin, but if you cross the line God will judge. You might think you are stronger than a weak Christian, but you aren’t stronger than God. Don’t provoke God’s jealousy. He has no rivals. He won’t tolerate split loyalty. He wouldn’t do it in Israel’s day and won’t in ours.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before youwithout raising questions of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:23-33)
All things are may be lawful, but all things don’t move you forward or help you grow. Because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do something.
With regards to eating meat offered to idols:
- Do not eat in the public temple idol worship because this is participation in idolatry, it causes others to follow into sin, and dishonors God by actually worshiping demons. Our personal application: do not participate in anything associated with sin.
- In private, you can eat it if it doesn’t cause a weaker Christian to sin and it glorifies God when it is received with thanksgiving. Personal application: Don’t be overly worried about every action; it all belongs to God. If you can say a prayer over it in good conscience, it is okay. But if your freedom brings someone else into slavery, it’s not really freedom.
- At an unbeliever’s home, it is okay to eat unless it is known it is idol meat. Personal application: A Christian should be willing to set aside their right to exercise Christian freedom for the sake of fellowship with God and with one another.
Paul encourages us to do what brings glory to God. Try not to offend others. Abraham Lincoln said, “you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”
A story may help illustrate the difficulty with trying to please everybody… A man and a son were traveling to another town with their donkey. The two were walking beside the donkey. As they passed some men, the shouted, “You are fools. You have a mule to ride and you’re walking.” So they both got on the mule. Down the road, some other men called toward them, “You poor donkey carrying two people. You’d think a grown man like could walk.” So the man got off and started walking. A few miles further, they heard some more men, “What a lazy son! You’d think he’d let his father ride the donkey.” So they traded places. Just before town, some women complained, “That poor boy. The full grown man is riding the donkey and the little boy is struggling to keep up.” As they entered the town, the people noticed that both of them were carrying the donkey.