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First Corinthians: Giving Up My Rights

January 21, 2008

In chapters 8, 9, and 10 of 1 Corinthians, Paul addressed the next question he had received from the Corinthian church, this one concerning whether they were permitted to eat meat sacrificed to idols. In this article we will take an overview of the answer across all three chapters. Then we will come back in subsequent posts to examine the various elements of Paul’s answer in more detail.

In chapter 8, Paul appealed to them to give up their rights for the benefit of their brothers, rather than to cling to their right to eat meat despite the harm that might be done to a brother’s conscience.

In chapter 9, he used himself as an example of giving up rights for the benefit of others. Paul demonstrated that the Christian life is not about comfort and ease. Instead it requires sacrifice and strict training. Rather than indulging every appetite of our bodies, Christians should deny ourselves, and live our lives according to God’s priorities. Giving up rights for the benefit of others is part of that.

In chapter 10, Paul exhorted the church to heed the warning from the failures of the Israelites who were not permitted to enter the Promised Land. They saw God do some great things, but that did not gain them access to the promises. They practiced idolatry and sexual immorality. They tested the Lord and they grumbled. And the Lord put many of them to death in the desert as a result. The sobering fact for the Corinthian church was that they were doing a lot of the same things. They were still carnal (NIV worldly.)

In the latter half of chapter 10, Paul wrapped up the discussion of idolatry and meat sacrificed to idols. In view of the history of the Israelites, he urged the church to flee from idolatry. Whether they ate meat or not, they needed to be absolutely sure that they did not practice idolatry, nor even create the impression of idolatry. Further, they needed to be sure that, if they exercised their right to eat meat, they did not cause a brother or sister to stumble.

In the next few posts we will examine Paul’s instructions on this subject in more detail.

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