2014-07-09 / Religion

Exercise freedom with caution

1 Corinthians 8, 9

The heart of the message that we preach is that one can know salvation from the eternal consequences of personal sin.

This good news to the lost human race has been made possible through the death of Jesus Christ of Nazareth — the only begotten son of God. When he died on the cross, he declared, “It is finished,” meaning that he had taken all of the eternal penalty for the sins of the whole world. Even with this divine provision, it is necessary for each person to accept the benefits of this eternal plan.

As the apostles and other believers began to spread this message of redemption to the thenknown world, the hearers experienced the joy and contentment of personal salvation. However, as with many situations in life, some individuals began to see forgiveness of personal sin as an open invitation to continue their lifestyles of sin.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Since “the wages of sin is death,” this loose kind of activity would cause an outsider to wonder that the person is “saved from what?”

The believers in the church in the city of Corinth had come to know Jesus Christ as personal savior, thus, leaving their lives of paganism. The signs of idolatry were all around them. The temples of idol worship were the same as they had been all of their lives. These believers saw the same rituals being carried out on a daily basis.

The worship in these pagan temples included meat sacrifices that were offered to their idols of wood or stone. Obviously, their gods could not consume these offerings. Some of this meat was consumed by the worshippers.

Anyone was able to eat of these free meals in the temple. This feast could be tempting to those who did not normally have meat as a part of their regular diet. The remainder of this food was made available for purchase through the butcher shop associated with the temple.

Many of the believers would be described as poor. Since this food was available to anyone who would purchase it at a bargain price, the question in the Corinthians church was their acceptance of this meat.

If it was used in pagan ceremonies, were these people practicing idol worship? The Apostle Paul began this portion in a direct way. “Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” The principles that were taught have application in many areas of life. “And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same if known of him.”

The sincere question that was addressed in that church can arise in many different forms. The eternal principles taught to this group can be applied at any point in history. “As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one…But to us there is but one God, the father, of whom are all things, and we in him: and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.”

Not every believer has the same level of personal knowledge of the revealed word of God. Paul wrote, “Howbeit, there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.” He warned, “But meat commendeth us not to God; for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty (freedom; authority; power) of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak.”

Do our personal actions become an obstacle to the life of another believer — young or old; strong or weak?

The apostle gave an example of the principle that he taught. “For if any man see thee which have knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?” He continued with this thought — “But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.” The great apostle made a declaration of his personal conviction on this topic — “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.”

We need a presentday warning. There are individuals who seem to specialize in being offended. One scripture found in the gospel of Matthew is used by these controllers. The words of our lord are taken out of context, and used as a spiritual club over the head of others — “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” These individuals are more interested in the drowning in the depths of the sea principle than having an understanding of the principle being taught in the word of God.

One of the questions that continued to arise concerning the Apostle Paul was his position as a God-appointed apostle. Some of his detractors continually brought up the fact that he was not one of the 12.

The fact that he had been a persecutor of the believers — but had become a minister of the gospel — did not sit well with some. He reminded the Corinthians believers, “If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.” The fact that Paul would accept an offering from these people raised the scene that is played out in many areas, today — the preacher only wants money. He wrote to that church in the past, “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” Our spiritual liberty must be exercised within the bounds of the revealed word of God. May we always be faithful.

Rev. James C. Temples’ Sunday School Lesson has appeared in the Early County News each week since 1967. A native of Early County, Rev. Temples taught in public schools 32 years and 10 years at Southeastern College of Assemblies of God, in Lakeland, Fla. He also served as pastor and evangelist during those years. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 1484, Swainsboro, GA 30401; 478-299-2068. Email: jctjet@aol.com.

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