First Corinthians: Conclusion on Meat and Idols

January 25, 2008

Flee from idolatry! The Corinthians appeared to be heading down the same path that the Israelites had taken after leaving Egypt. They were immoral and inconsiderate of one another. They quarreled about their leaders. And they toyed with idolatry. Just as God’s wrath was displayed against those Israelites, it would be displayed against the Corinthians if they did not repent.

Sharing a meal together carried deep meaning. Eating food at another person’s table created a bond of closeness between the two. Partaking of the Lord’s Supper likewise creates a bond between Christians and Christ. And eating meat sacrificed to an idol created a bond with the idol. It would be unthinkable to create a bond between Christ and an idol! So a Christian must not partake both with Christ and with an idol. Those who had worshipped idols in their former lives, who were confused about the true nature of idols, must not partake of the meat that had been sacrificed to an idol.

But a Christian who recognized that an idol is nothing creates no bond merely by eating the meat. That Christian was free to eat the meat without any conscience issues. However — and this was Paul’s main point — that Christian still needed to defer to the conscience of others rather than eating the meat in their presence. They should give up their rights rather than injure another Christian.

1Co 10:31-11:1 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 everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

Paul had set a wonderful example in this. He had earned the right to call them to the same kind of compassionate service. How much stronger would our churches be, if we would place the spiritual needs of one another above our own comfort and pleasure!

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