1 Corinthians Chapters 8-10: Corinthian Idol

 
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1 Corinthians Series
Corinthian Idol


Introduction: No time
  • We need to hurry today. We are already running out of time. There’s no time for an intro today. No funny story or inspiring quote. This sermon is too important. There’s no time to waste
  • Today we are going to continue our journey through the book of 1 Corinthians by covering chapters 8-10. These were the chapters that have been pressing on my heart the most over the past four months as I prepared for the summer. Here the broken church of Corinth faced the issue of idolatry.
Section 1:
  • The Corinthians had yet another problem. On top of factions, sexual immorality and lawsuits the church was divided on yet another topic. I’ve never seen a church with so many issues! There were some in the church would were eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols.
  • You see, in those times the temples of Poseidon, Aphrodite’s and Demeter would have sacrifices of goats, lambs and other animals. Some of the meat was burned for the gods, some was given to the priests and the rest was divided up. Some temples would have ritual feasts where everyone would eat together to celebrate the Gods. Often these were more social affairs then religious ones. The rest of the meat was sold in the market. With the number of temples and different God’s in Corinth it meant that a lot of the meat sold in the market had been “sacrificed” to one God or another.
  • One one side people thought this was no big deal. After all, they have the author of creation on their side. The LORD of lords. Why should they fear other Gods? To these believers they thought the meat was no big deal.
  • On the other side, people were FREAKING OUT. They were horrified that believers were eating meat sacrifice to idols. They were being idolaters.
  • Idolatry by the way, is a big deal in the Bible. Simply put, idolatry means putting another God before the LORD YAHWEH.
  • For example: “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God..”
  • "Let there be no strange god among you; Nor shall you worship any foreign god.”
  • He who sacrifices to any god, other than to the LORD alone, shall be utterly destroyed.
  • Simply put, worshipping idols instead of YAHWEH, the God of Israel is kind of a big deal.
Section 2: The ritual of Marriage
  • And because it’s such a big deal Paul works hard to set the Corinthians straight.
  • He acknowledges that the first group of believers is correct. The idols have no power. They are just wood, or stone or paper. They have no ability to interfere with the life of believers. Yes, there are demonic spiritual powers but eating meat sacrificed to idols was not going to corrupt believers. They were secure in the power of God.
  • However, not all believers understood this & that was a big problem. Paul describes two types of Christians in this matter. Those who are “strong” and those who are “weak”.
  • Often when we look at this passage in english. We think that strong and weak refer simply to there consciences, what they feel bad about. That there are some who have weak consciences and we need to almost tip toe around them.
  • That’s not what paul is getting at. Deep study into the words “strong” and “weak” show that they had to do with class.
  • The strong were “ those with “social power, influence, political status and wealth” [and a] “a traditional Roman value””
  • Meanwhile the weak were “not only “of low social standing” but… [craved] for identity, recognition and acceptance by “the strong”
  • So what paul is worried about is these “weak” members of the church who crave to be like the strong ones. They had come out of idol worship and were still new to faith. They hadn’t come to fully realize the power of God and were still new to a Christian life.
  • Paul’s problem with the meat sacrificed to idols is that it was MORALLY NEUTRAL. It was a grey area. It wasn’t bad because the idols have no power and it wasn’t good because it wasn’t something god commanded. It just was. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do”
  • However a neutral issue can still be sinful.
  • This is where the idea of conscience comes in.
  • everyone knows what a conscience is, it’s the voice in our minds that tells us if something is right or wrong. It’s not always perfect, but our mind makes judgement calls about whether something is good or bad.
  • Eating meat sacrificed to idols was a sin for some of the church and not for others. Now, here’s the hard part. Listen closely. If we believe something is sinful and we do it we sin. Even if that thing is not a sin.
Section 1: A Shattered View of Sex
  • The reason for this is that sin, in it’s simplest form is rebellion from God. It’s our attempt to say “ I can do things on my own. I don’t need god to tell me what to do!”
  • See, if we do something “without faith” even if it’s something that’s morally neutral then its a sin because we have done what we thought was morally wrong. We think god is telling us we can’t do something and saying “ I don’t care, I’ll do it my way. [refer back to sermon on anger with men]
  • Why does this matter? Well eating meat sacrificed to idols is a form of this. Paul is telling the strong that by eating meat sacrificed to idols they were tempting the weak christians. The new believers who were desperate for approval to do things that would be sinful for them. If these weak believers ate meat sacrificed to idols, they’d risk falling into a temptation to but God second. “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.
  • Paul goes on to explain this principle with a situation from his own life. He says that minsters of the gospels have the right to be physically supported by the church ”This is my defence to those who would examine me. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?
  • Yet Paul in his situation refuses to claim these rights "we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ". As a missionary and in the context he’s in Paul chooses to forgo these rights to better share the gospel. He doesn’t say these rights should always be relinquished. Notice he doesn’t condemn Peter for accepting these rights. instead simply states he’s better off not using them in his context.
  • In our church I am supported by the congregation. And I’m so thankful for that. I get to work for Jesus in a way I wouldn’t be able to if I had to work another job.
  • Yet we do have a pastor who gives up there rights just as Paul does. My wife Beth, as most of you know, is a fully credentialed pastor. She went through the same training I did. She could easily be a full time youth, children’s or even senior pastor. Yet instead of asking for support from the church she works another job. It’s better for the church and the community. Beth is putting aside her rights for the sake of the gospel.
  • Likewise Paul is calling the strong christians in Corinth to put aside there right to go to the temple meals for the sake of the weak. Yes, the strong had the right to eat at the temple but by doing so they would lead others into temptation. They would be free of sin well causing others to violate there conscience, to do what they believe to be against the will of God.
  • Paul goes on to explain that the strong should be careful for themselves as well. That there are real areas of worry when it comes to idolatry. See, idolatry is something people have struggled with since the beginning of time. People have always wanted to put things before YAHWEH. Last year Austin was reading through the old testament and I asked him what he noticed. He said that he was surprised just how many times the Israelites failed. Again and again and again they feel into idolatry.
  • Paul goes on to warn the Corinthians of the danger of idolatry and gives three examples of times when people made idols and were destroyed because of it. The idols he lists may surprise you
  • The idols were sexual immorality, testing God and grumbling. these idols weren’t morally neutral like the issues surrounding meat. But instead back and white issues. Things that were always sinful not matter what someone thought.
  • When I got to these verse I was stumped. Something wasn’t clicking in my head. All three of these things can defiantly be idols, they can be something that you put on a pedestal above good. I’ve seen loves of people put there own sexual and relationship desires above god. I’ve seen people want to put god to the test of their standards and god knows there are people who literally love nothing more then to complain.
  • Eventually it struck me. Yes, idols are anything we put before god but why? Why do we put things before a loving, kind, compassionate god?
  • Idolatry happens because we don’t trust God. an idol is created when people feel like God isn’t powerful enough or loving enough or wise enough to help with what matters for them. People live in sexual immorality because they don’t trust that God can heal broken relationships. People test God because they don’t he cares about them. People grumble about God because they don’t think he’s wise enough to help them, they get scared of his plans.
  • That’s why eating meat sacrificed to idols is a sin for some and not for others. For some it was nothing but meat sacrificed to useless idols. For others it was a test of faith. Could they really break away from everything they used to be?
  • That’s why paul in the end says that the temple meals should be off limits. It was too liking to teach new believers and those outside the church that idolatry was ok. However paul does say that eating meat sacrificed to idols is ok in the privacy on ones own home.
  • This wasn’t about being double minded but because in this context no-one would be led into temptation. The setting mattered.
Conclusion

  • So why does this matter? well No-one eats meat sacrificed to idols anymore there are still grey areas. More so then ever.
  • Things like yoga, cell phone use, games, media, drinking all of these things are morally neutal. They aren’t good or bad. For most of us, they won’t cause us to sin. Yet for others, for those younger in their walk, they will be huge problem. For weaker brothers and sisters these grey areas will lead them back into sin, into idolatry. Into putting a thing or a person before Jesus. When this happens we should put our rights aside. “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbour”
  • Let me be clear though, this isn’t a call to legalism. To often this passage is used to bring our faith to the lowest common denominator. “Since brother mark doesn’t like alcohol, dancing, movies or music, we won’t have any of that in the church.” That is not what Paul is getting at here. Paul is saying that we have freedom in morally neutral practices. It’s ok for someone to do yoga. It’s ok for a pastor to ask for their wage. What Paul is saying is that their needs to be restraint for the sake of others. Is our first priority having others come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. If what were doing is stopping people from coming to know Jesus, are we willing to stop. Let’s make serving God our highest priority, not our own desires.
  • Finally It’s important to identify the idols in our life. Where do we run the risk of putting something before God. “Ask yourself this question: In what ways are you dissatisfied with how God is running things? If you can identify your dissatisfaction with how God is running the show, you can identify the place where you are tempted for idols to become your God.”
  • So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
  • Paul is saying: “Do you want to know what it means to live a consistent Christian life, properly balancing freedom and restraint? Then watch me, follow me, and live with me. I may not be perfect, but I try to imitate the selfless life Christ lived, and to the extent that I succeed, you should do the same.

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