The Limits of Christian Freedom (1 Corinthians Sermon 27)
May 05, 2019 | Andrew Davis
1 Corinthians 8:1-7
Christian Freedom, Brotherly Love
I. Gray Area Battle Zone
I'd like to ask that you turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 8. As we look this morning, we'll be looking at the first half of the chapter, although I had the whole chapter read. And I am just so thankful for the word of God, I'm thankful for the privilege I have to minister the word of God. I thank you for its unchanging nature. The Bible gives absolutes. It gives unequivocal dos and don'ts, never changes, they're the same in every generation. You can look at the Ten Commandments that forbid certain things with no questions at all. We don't have to wonder about it. Such as worshipping other gods, or worshipping idols. Taking the name of the Lord in vain. Murder, adultery, theft, false testimony, coveting, these things are forever and all times unequivocally forbidden for us as Christians. We don't have to wonder about it. And there are other things not mentioned in the Ten Commandments that are also similarly forbidden for us as Christians. We shouldn't wonder, we don't need to wonder what the Bible teaches about fornication, about drunkenness, about materialism, about laziness or carnal anger, arguing and complaining. The Bible is very clear about these sins.
The Bible also commands certain things clearly. Not just forbidden, but telling us that there are some things we must do. We must love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We must love our neighbor as ourselves. These things are unequivocal. We must read the Bible, feed on the word of God, and pray continually, pray every day. We should care for the poor and needy, we should share the Gospel with those in our lives that are lost. So those things are clear as well. What is clearly forbidden, and what is clearly commanded. There is no doubt whatsoever about these things. We just need to obey them by the Spirit. There's no debate about them.
However, not everything is like that in the Christian life. There are gray areas, or debatable issues in daily life practice. There are things that Christians have struggled over, and debated over, and divided over. And these gray areas can become a battle zone between Christians. Now, I have to support that assertion from Scripture. Is there such a category as debatable issues in the Christian life? One pastor that I know and respect tends to see everything, everything black and white. There's no equivocal issues with him. There are no gray areas. And years ago there was a famous slogan in church history, which came out of the... I think the religious wars in Germany, as Protestants and Catholics were battling, and so this slogan came out, and it was this: "In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty and in all things, charity." That was that slogan. Well it turns out that that saying was painted on the side of the church vans when this pastor I have in mind came and began his ministry. And he had them painted over. "There are no non-essentials" he said.
So I think that's fascinating. I think it's actually important for us to see a kind of a hierarchy of certainty of truth. That there actually are core doctrinal issues we have absolute conviction about. And then it goes out from there. And the Bible itself has an entire chapter devoted to debatable issues. Romans chapter 14. Romans 14:1 says, "Accept him whose faith is weak without passing judgment on disputable matters." Disputable matters. So the whole chapter, Romans 14 is devoted to the proper resolution of these kinds of gray areas that are going to come up in Christian churches, in the Christian life. Disputable matters, doubtful issues, there are different translations. So Romans 14 in particular, I think, addresses issues that would've divided Jewish Christians from Gentile Christians. So the Roman Church was a combination church, Jewish Christians, Gentile Christians coming together to try to do local church life and there would be issues that would arise between them as the Gospel is spreading rapidly throughout the Roman world after the Jewish diaspora, they had been scattered from the Promised Land, and they were all over the Greco-Roman world. They had certain habits and patterns tied to the Old Covenant, and they'd been doing those for years.
And so then the Gospel came along, and won some to Christ from both the Jewish community and from the Gentile community, and they had to come together and do church together, and so there would be issues. And these issues were sharp, and the debates were vigorous. Probably the most significant issue was, do the Gentile converts to Christ need to be circumcised and required to obey the ceremonial law of Moses in order to be saved? We have an entire book of the Bible, the Book of Galatians, devoted to answering that: Absolutely not. That the Gentile Christians do not need to be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses in order to be saved. We have a whole chapter in the Book of Acts, Acts 15, the Jerusalem Council, which sought to resolve these kinds of issues. And so the Jerusalem Council came up with certain kind of dos and don'ts, practical rules of the road, to enable Jews and Gentiles together to get along, and to love one another, and to resolve certain things. And so they came up with a list of certain things that had to be addressed, and they did that.
Present-Day Examples of Debatable Issues
So, we have our own debatable issues, too. There are certain things in our lives that we're going to struggle over. Maybe some of them are like what they struggled over back then. For example, Sabbath Day regulations, or what you can and can't do on a Sunday. That's been difficult historically for certain Christian communities to resolve. Can we go to a restaurant on Sunday, can we play sports on a Sunday? You remember Chariots of Fire, how Eric Liddell didn't feel that he had the freedom to run on a Sunday. He came out of the Scottish Presbyterian background, and that was a very strong Sabbatarian background. But others have a freer approach to the Lord's day, and so there are debates. Then there's alcohol. Christians have frequently divided over the issue of alcohol. Some Christians completely abstain from drinking any fermented beverage, whereas other Christians feel freedom to partake in moderation. All Christians, Biblical Christians, reject drunkenness and drinking to affect your behavior morally. But the question is, can we partake in smaller, more measured doses? So, that's been an issue.
Generally, a lot of these debatable issues come over the question of worldliness, what is worldly, what isn't. And so, engaging in the world, world's culture, what kind of movies you watch or don't watch, what kind of music you listen to or you refuse to listen to. I remember early in my Christian life, there were discussions in our campus ministry about whether it was right to listen to Christian rock music or not, or even secular rock, there'd be divisions about that. Nowadays, more recently, there's been discussions about the propriety of Christian rap. Christians have struggled with the kind of movies they'll watch and the movies that they would allow their children to watch, and those convictions might be different than another family, and that kind of comes to a head when there's sleepovers. So, there's all kinds of interesting discussions between the families and what kind of movies they will or won't allow their kids to watch. And that can be difficult.
Then, there's social media. As we involve ourselves in Instagram and Snapchat and I don't know what's trendy or... Really, I'm not even going to try. I don't know what's in these days. Facebook. There, I said it. All of those things. I don't partake, I've never been on Facebook, but others... Can we get involved? Twitter, which just tends to defile many that get involved. That's another topic for another day, but just the ongoing debates are incredible. You want to know the kind of things that Christians wrangle over, Twitter is the place where they seem to be doing it. Then, there's clothing, the kind of clothing that we can or can't wear. I think, especially for women, there's a struggle, a desire to be pure, but there's certain prohibitions in the New Testament about braided hair and wearing gold jewels and fine clothes and how do you do that. But then, just parents, as they have kids growing up, want their kids to dress, want their children, their daughters to dress in way that honors and glorifies God.
Then, there's the topic of education for children. Public school or government school education versus homeschooling versus private school. There's all kinds of debates and discussions about giving your children over to education or retaining it, the debates that go on with that. Even politics. This most recent Presidential election was very divisive within the Evangelical world, as the parties were very polarized, and Christians were talking like, "The lesser of two evils" or "Holding your nose and voting," others like, "No, I won't do that. I can only vote for an individual I actually could believe in, even if the person's not electable," all kinds of debates. And I'm sure I'm stirring you up. You want to know what you think about all these things. "I want an answer, I want answers on all of this." Well, I'm just saying, there are these debatable issues.
And so, for me, as a preacher, knowing that Paul is going to devote three full chapters, friends, to meat sacrificed to idols, and you're thinking, "Not a problem for us." You're thinking you're going to get three chapters off, especially given the choppy waters we've been sailing through the last number of chapters. And I will confess that I had similar feelings of ease and comfort, having made it through finally some of the issues that we've been through. But not at all, all Scripture is God-breathed and useful. And these debatable issues keep coming up.
John MacArthur, one preacher that I respect and have listened to, he talked about how, early in... When he first came to Christ, he was out in the Southern California scene, and they did a lot of beach outreaches and did a lot of things like that, and they had bonfires and that. It was part of that Jesus movement that happened out there. But one thing they were adamant about was tobacco, the abuse of tobacco, and that it was just absolutely defiling to the body. But then, he, his first ministry preaching was in a tobacco-growing area in the South, in the Bible Belt. And those people were adamant against mixed bathing, that you would never, ever have young men and women together at a pool party, or something like that. And so, there were these issues, but they had different convictions, it seems, on tobacco use.
Charles Spurgeon, speaking of tobacco use, was fond of a cigar from time to time. And he actually preached a sermon at Metropolitan Tabernacle on the danger of little sins as little foxes that ruin the vineyard. Well, there was a well-known American preacher that was there, kind of a guest of honor, Dr. George Pentecost, that was his name, and he was invited to speak a few words to the congregation. And he got up and launched in vigorously on the dangers of tobacco smoking, which Spurgeon hadn't brought up at all in his sermon on little sins that ruin the vineyard. So he goes on and he was thankful, Dr. Pentecost was thankful that God had delivered him from such a wretched and vile habit. Well, it was Spurgeon's home church and he got the final word, as he will do. And he got up and he said, "I just need to say that I just don't believe that smoking tobacco is a sin, and frankly, before I go to bed this very night, I'm going to enjoy a cigar to the glory of God."
And that became a slogan tied to him, "Enjoying a cigar to the glory of God." Someone once asked him, "How much do you know if you're smoking too much?" He said, "If you ever see me ever smoking more than one cigar at exactly the same time, you'll know that I've crossed the line."
Now, of course, in Spurgeon's day, the doctors, the physicians, didn't have the same sense of understanding of what tobacco does to the body that we do today, so things have become a little bit clearer. But there are still debatable issues, and we need some rules of the road in a local church. We need to know how we navigate so we don't drive each other crazy, and so we can come to holiness and unity on these things.
II. Corinthian Context: Meat Sacrificed to Idols
So, the context here, as I've mentioned, is meat sacrificed to idols. Look at chapter 8 verse 1, "Now about food sacrificed to idols." So, Paul is in a section of the Epistle in which he is bringing up issues that they have raised with him in their letters to him. So, he's addressing their issues, they'd asked him. And as I said, for three chapters, 1 Corinthians 8, 9 and 10, all three of those are under the auspices of answering this question, this issue of meat sacrificed to idols.
And let me give you the principle I'm going to give you again and again over the next number of times that we look at 1 Corinthians, God willing, and that is, you have freedoms, you have privileges, you have rights, fine. But love limits liberty. Love limits liberty, the exercise of your freedom. So we're going to see this theme again and again, but just let's lodge it in our minds. Love limits your freedoms, the exercise of your freedoms.
Meat and the Pagan Religions
Alright, so let's look at the Corinthian context, and try to understand what they were going through. The context there was pagan religion, the background of paganism, of pagan religion there in Corinth. The Greeks, like the Romans, were polytheistic. They believed in many gods and goddesses, and these gods and goddesses had different areas of jurisdiction, kind of like a massive government agency, where you have the Bureau of this, and Bureau of that, etcetera. So these gods and goddesses would run different parts of everyday life. And so there would be a god of love, a god of war, a god of the harvest, a god of family life, of relationships, of everything, all kinds of things.
Cities even had patron gods and goddesses. Like Athens, the city of Athens, had Athena, the goddess of wisdom as their patron deity. She would protect the city, so they believed. They worshiped these gods and goddesses at different shrines and temples. And when they did that, they frequently used animal sacrifice, just like the Jews did, animal sacrifice. And the meat from the sacrifice would be divided into three portions. One portion would be burned up as an offering to the deity. A second portion would be taken by the priest pretty much as his fee. Now, he wouldn't need all the meats that he would receive in a day, so he had a cottage industry of bringing the meat sacrificed to idols to the marketplace where it would be sold after it had been an offer to a god or goddess. And he would receive some of his income from that meat. And the third portion would be taken home by the worshiper himself to eat with his family. Keep in mind, there was no refrigeration back then.
And so this is how the people would eat meat. And so this would set up the issue. All of this meat had been offered to a god or goddess by the time that it was going to be eaten. Now beyond their polytheism, the Greeks also believed in many demons, evil spirits, who could light on meat like flies, spiritually. And the only way the meat could be cleansed was if it was offered, properly offered, to a god or goddess. Now their paganism, as I've said, extended to every area of life. So there would be continual requirements for offerings. And people lived in perpetual fear of offending one god or goddess or another. So it was just a regular part of life with these offerings to the gods.
The Gospel Came to Corinth
Now, the Gospel came to Corinth through the ministry of the apostle Paul, and a number of individuals were rescued out of satanic darkness into the beautiful light of the Gospel. So the Corinthian Christians had been recently rescued from this pagan lifestyle, this wicked pagan lifestyle, and they had fresh memories of their habits at the temple. And this included as I've mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6, temple prostitution. So not only would they be eating meat, but there would also be sexual immorality connected with their worship of the gods and goddesses. And so this wicked, this dark corrupt lifestyle was a thing of their recent past. They had just been converted out of all of that.
Not only that, the paganism was woven into every aspect of their social life horizontally with people that lived in their city. So if they were going to befriend other people, Christians, I mean, befriending non-Christians and they would... The non-Christians, the pagans, would have them over for dinner almost certainly they would serve them meat that had been sacrificed to idols. And so the question the Corinthians are asking is, "What do we do about all this? How can we understand that?" At social times like that you could well imagine if the Christians were to abstain entirely or bring their own dinner to someone else's house, how offensive that would be. And so, it was just difficult to know how to live.
Now beyond this and very relevant to the text we're looking at today, some more mature, more advanced Corinthian Christians, more doctrinally advanced, had come to a solid orthodox understanding of idolatry and all of this whole system, and had just kind of graduated beyond being concerned about this. And they were flaunting their freedoms. They like meat, they eat meat, which didn't bother them, and they did not understand what effect they as the more advanced or the more mature, the mentors, the leaders in the church were having on the younger Christians. So Paul has to write this section and address this.
III. “We All Possess Knowledge”
Now he begins in verse 1, look at it with me. He says: "Now about food sacrificed to idols, we know that we all possess knowledge." So he's speaking to the knowledgeable Christians, the more doctrinally mature Christians. I'm not just going to call them mature because there's a deficiency in their sanctification, but he's addressing the more knowledgeable Christians. He said, "We know that we all possess knowledge." They have the right theology, but they're living it out in the wrong way.
Well, what knowledge did they have? Look at verses 4-6: "So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live." So what knowledge did they have? Well, first of all, we know that idols don't really exist spiritually. There's no actual spiritual reality connected with the idol itself. Verse 4, "We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one." So these Corinthian Christians have fully accepted Paul's doctrine that there is one and only one God, and that the idols that have been made by craftsmen are just physical things, there's nothing there. The gods and goddesses aren't in the idol, there's nothing to them, they're just chunks of matter. The Jews have known this, or should have known it at least for centuries.
In Psalm 115:4-8, it says, "Their idols are silver and gold made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see, they have ears, but cannot hear. Noses, but they cannot smell, they have hands but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk. Nor can they utter sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them and so will all who trust in them."
Idols Don’t Really Exist Spiritually
So this is the first point we could say that Paul says, "We know, we know this about idols." And the more mature Christians have their theology right, so they're knowledgeable about this. And these more mature, so to speak, Christians can walk through the marketplace or walk through the temple grounds even and look around and say, "This whole thing is emptiness. There's nothing here, the idols are nothing." They knew that. And they could just walk through as though they had a bubble of protection around them, because they knew there's nothing to it.
There is One God and Only One God
Secondly, we know that there is one God and there is only one God. So not only are the idols nothing, we know this, there is one God and there is only one God, that's more important than the physical idols. Far more important. There is a God who exists, who made heaven and earth, this one God wants to have a relationship with us. He loves us, He created us and wants to have a relationship with us. He yearns after us and He is a Holy God, this God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all, this one God that exists. And this one God, the Scripture reveals, is a jealous God, He will not allow us to worship other gods, and goddesses. He's forbidden all idolatry. He is spirit. You cannot make any representation of this one God. So all material representations of this one true God are false and misleading.
It says in Deuteronomy 5:8-9, "The Lord God said to His people 'You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything, in heaven above, or the earth beneath, or the waters below, you shall not bow down to them or worship them. For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God.'"
The Many Gods of the Gentiles are So-Called Gods... Not Real At All
Thirdly, we know, what do we know Paul? Well, we know therefore that the many gods and goddesses of the Gentiles are just so-called gods, they're just gods and so-called lords in the heavenly realms. They're in name only, they don't really exist. Look at verse 5 and 6, "For even if there are so-called gods," right there in the Greek text, they're named gods. You could put like quotation marks around it, "whether in Heaven or on Earth, as indeed there are many so-called gods and many so-called lords, yet for us there is but one God."
So it's not a syncretism thing where we're taking the God of the Jews, and adding Him to the pantheon of the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. None of them exist actually, none of them. So the various names of the gods and goddesses that these Greeks were very familiar with such as Zeus, Hera and Hermes, Aphrodite, Apollo, Athena, Aries and all the rest, they don't exist, and all of the stories attached to their doings are just myths, they're just made up, they're fiction. So these gods and goddesses don't really exist.
Now, it's important to hold in mind, we're not going to develop it today, but I want you to hold this in mind. Paul does assert that there is a demonic presence behind all of this. We need to keep that in mind. There actually is a real spiritual presence behind the false religions of the world. In chapter 10, verse 20, he said, "The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons." So demons are god and goddess impersonators and have, from time to time, been permitted by the true God to do supernatural things to mislead people into false religions. I think that's true, and it's going to be even worse at the end of the world with the antichrist. We'll get to that in another time, we've already talked about it in the past.
The Physical World in Which We Live Was Created by God... Including the Food We Eat
Fourthly, we know that the physical world that we live in was created by God, including the food that we eat, was created good by God. Look at Verse 6, "For us there is but one God, the Father from whom all things came and for whom we live, and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live." So this is the theology, Paul's taking the opportunity to teach true theology. There is one God, the Father, the Creator of the ends of the earth, the maker of all things visible and invisible, and from Him we derive our existence. As he said to the Athenians, "In Him, we live and move and have our being." And for Him, all things exist, we exist for His pleasure and for His glory. And He made all physical things, in Genesis 1 He made everything physical and called it good, very good. And for us, there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made all things, and through whom we live.
So in a marvelous, mysterious inter-trinitarian partnership, God the Creator created all things for Himself, and He did that through Jesus, that Jesus is the Word through whom all things were made. And without Him, nothing was made that has been made. And it is in Jesus, who is God's final Word to the human race, it says that God the Father has spoken to us by His Son through whom He made the universe. So, Jesus is the Word of God by which God the Creator made all things
Meat is Also Created by God
Now, this includes the meat, so the meat is just meat, that's all it is, it's just meat. And what that means is the meat cannot catch a spiritual virus. Now, it can catch other types of things, it's a different matter. But in terms of the actual meat you're not going to have any spiritual problem eating meat, meat is just meat, it's all it is. Now, we all know this, Jesus declared all foods clean, while He was still alive. So what that meant is for the Jews, all of those dietary regulations have been fulfilled in Christ. They've been obsolete. So Jewish Christians can eat pork, they can eat anything that they want, anything that they desire. And so all foods have been declared clean.
You remember how Peter was getting ready to go preach the Gospel to the gentile Cornelius, and God sent him a vision of a sheet, let down from heaven, with all kinds of four-footed animals and reptiles, and birds of the air, all kinds, and a voice came from heaven saying, "Get up Peter, kill and eat." And Peter as he always tended to do said, "Surely not, Lord." Bad idea, don't say, "Never Lord" Alright? . When the Lord tells you to do something, just do it. But that was Peter, he did it four times, Never Lord, Never Lord, that's just him. Even after Pentecost, he's still doing that, "Surely not Lord, I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." And the voice spoke from heaven a second time. "Do not call anything unclean that God has made clean." So, all foods are clean, so meat's just meat and all foods are clean.
IV. Loveless Knowledge Puffs Up
Alright, so that's the knowledge that Paul says we all have. That's the orthodox doctrine. But now he's going to talk about knowledge. Look again at verse 1. "Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies or love builds up." It's not enough to just know orthodox doctrine, you have to go beyond that, you have to unite your doctrine with love, you have to unite your doctrine with obedience. Jesus said, "You know these things, you'll be blessed if you do them." You can't like the Book of James be somebody who hears the word and doesn't obey. So he's talking about knowledge.
Now, you need to understand, Paul's not against knowledge at all. Everywhere he went, home base for his ministry was pouring out biblical knowledge, scriptural knowledge. He taught everyone the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness, that's what he did, he wrote the Book of Romans, think about that. He was not against doctrine or knowledge, he was all in favor. All he would say is that knowledge is necessary but not sufficient. It's not enough, you have to go beyond it. Knowledge must be supplemented by love. If all you have is knowledge, you don't move out into loving your neighbor as yourself, then it's a dead end and you just acquired all of that knowledge to puff yourself up, to make yourself arrogant, to feel superior to other people, and knowledge can do that.
Paul later in this same epistle will somewhat rebuke the Corinthians concerning this matter of love, of knowledge without love. 1 Corinthians 13:2, "If I have the gift of prophecy, and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, but if I have not love, I am nothing." He's very clear about that. So these Corinthians were flaunting their freedoms based on their accurate doctrinal knowledge and they were forgetting the effect that it was having on others, weaker Christians who are not ready to handle those freedoms.
The Corinthian’s Knowledge Was Woefully Inadequate
Now, look at verse two, their knowledge actually was woefully inadequate. "The man who thinks he knows something, does not yet know as he ought to know." That's quite a statement, isn't it? If you think you know something, you don't know anything. So that's amazing. Honestly, at one sense it really should be true. The more you know, the more you know that you don't know. Does that make sense? Maybe I should say it again slower. No, don't do that, that will be worse. The more you know, the more you know that you don't know, what do I mean by that? I'm saying it's an ignorant person who thinks that he or she has a subject mastered.
I remember years ago, we homeschooled our kids, and years ago, one of our kids, won't say his name... But anyway, one of our kids years and years ago, finished his first unit of Math and said to me, as I came home from work, "Daddy, I know everything there is to know about Math." Well, having gone to MIT, an engineer and all that, I knew that he didn't. And I knew that he had a long journey, and that Math is pretty much, as far as I know, an infinite railroad track that everybody gets off at some point. But I didn't want to crush him, I said, "Oh, that's wonderful, good for you." And that's what you do as a dad. I remember when I was a student at MIT, one of my jobs was inspecting fire extinguishers and I was brought down into the basement of the Humanities library, just one of eight major libraries there at MIT. I think between Harvard and MIT they might have 90% of the Library of Congress there in terms of volumes. But they didn't have the space for everything, so they had a discard stack down there in the basement. And there were more books discarded from the Humanities library than I even knew possibly could exist.
And I'm walking through there, and I saw some book and just being a curious sort, I pulled it off the shelf, and it was in the Humanities library, so it was some kind of humanities study of a subject I knew, I didn't even know existed. And it was 500 pages long and someone therefore was an expert at something I knew nothing about. And not only that, this expert was now obsolete, there was a better expert upstairs, and I realized that as far as my eyes could see down in that subterranean basement, there are books just like that. So, education is basically, you're moving from unknowing ignorance, to knowing ignorance. The more you go on, the more you find out what you don't know.
But actually, let's get more specific than about just general knowledge. Let's talk about knowledge of God. If you're impressed with your own knowledge of theology, you don't really know God very well. You don't know God very well. And as a matter of fact, God can, if He were gracious to you, move out and humble you. You remember the end of the book of Job? Do you remember when God begins speaking to Job after all of that wisdom, that Job's been pouring out? Job's a very wise man. Remember how God begins, starts in with Job, speaking to him out of the whirlwind? "Who is this that darkens wisdom by speaking words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man, strengthen yourself and I will speak to you. Where were you when I laid the Earth’s foundation?" And He goes on like that for chapters. So God, with His infinite knowledge, His omniscience, has the ability to humble us. The better we know God, we understand the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And knowledge of the Holy, the Holy One, is understanding. So our knowledge of God really ought to humble us.
Remember how Job answered Him? He said to God at the end, he said, "You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel by speaking words without knowledge?' Surely, I spoke of things I did not understand, things that were too wonderful for me. You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak, I will question you, and you shall answer me'. My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you, and therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." That's what really knowing God will lead you to, to being humble. But apart from that, your education in Theology, your education in any subject will make you arrogant, it will puff you up. What's really more important than how much, whether you know God or how much you know God, is the question, will God know you on Judgment Day? That's the real question, isn't it?
You know, in Matthew 7, Jesus said, "Many will say to Me on Judgment Day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.'" Now He knew them very well, He knew all about them, but He didn't know them. And so Paul says, "The man who loves God is known by God." So let me just stop and say, is that true of you as you listen to my sermon, do you know that Christ knows you? Have you trusted in Christ as your Lord and Savior? Have you come to Christ as Andrew did, and as Darian did? Have you come to Christ and repented of your sins, and asked Him to be your Savior? Have you found forgiveness of sins? That's the knowledge, that Christ will own you as His own because you have come to Him through faith, and trusted in Him. That's what's more important.
Now for us who have made that commitment, we have to go beyond just mere doctrinal knowledge. Our church, I think, is a very knowledgeable church doctrinally, and I fear that there might be some of you that need to hear, "Knowledge puffs up but love builds up." I think you need to hear it, I know I need to hear it. It's not enough to just be sharp doctrinally, have all the right answers. The question is, are we loving horizontally to people around us in our lives? Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies or builds up.
Now, these Christians had been flaunting their freedoms. And they were forgetting the effect that it was having on other people. The new converts had overpowering memories of their recent lives as pagans. They remembered all the times worshipping the gods and goddesses, feeding on the meat, even indulging in sexual immorality, these were fresh bitter memories for them. And only recently had their consciences been cleansed through faith in Christ. They thought they could never feel like this, clean, pure, but now as they're getting involved in church life, there's some people further along than them, that are leaders in the church that are just doing whatever they want with this meat issue. And they're going, they're walking right into the marketplace and eating whatever, going even into the temple, it didn't matter to them. And they were flaunting their freedoms.
And so Paul says, in verse 7, "Not everyone possesses this knowledge," not everyone really understands it like they need to know. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food, they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol. And since their conscience is weak, it is defiled, they cannot eat that food with a clear conscience. And yet they eat anyway. And Paul says, your brother, for whom Christ died, is devastated by your knowledge. So in the upcoming weeks, beginning next week, we're going to develop more of this concept. But the basic idea here is, do not flaunt your freedoms, be mindful of who's watching, who's around when it comes to the exercise of your Christian freedoms.
Let's talk about some applications. I mentioned just a moment ago how grateful I am that our church is so characterized by strong biblical knowledge, for the most part. I think it would be good for us to be humbled about that, for us to realize that if we think we know anything, we don't really know as we ought to know. Our knowledge should make us humble. I'm not saying don't pursue knowledge. The answer isn't read less Bible, read less theology, that's not the answer. The question is, are we combining our right doctrinal knowledge with obedience? Are we doing the things He's told us to do, and are we combining it with love for others? Are we building up the edifice of the body of Christ?
Some Basic Rules of the Road: Questions to Ask Yourself About Any Habit (from John MacArthur)
Now, in terms of these debatable issues, I was listening to a sermon by John MacArthur, and he does a phenomenal job on all of these questions. And I want to just borrow from him, some practical advice that I found helpful and I'll just get out of the way and let him teach us. On basic rules of the road, questions to ask yourself about any habit in which you're indulging.
First of all, the question of excess, all of these begin with the letter E. Excess, is this habit hurting my walk with Christ? Am I addicted, am I doing it to excess, or is it baggage that God wants me to cut out of my life? Is it a weight that the author to Hebrews would call on me to lay aside, so I can run the race with endurance? Is this an excess in my life, this freedom?
Secondly, Expedience. Is this thing that I'm doing actually helpful for building up the body of Christ? Is it useful, is it beneficial, is it helpful? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:23, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are expedient," or beneficial... Expedient.
Thirdly, emulation. In doing this, am I imitating what I see in Christ? It's somewhat like the question, "What would Jesus do?" Can I see Jesus doing this habit pattern that I'm indulging in? 1 John 2:6, it says, "Whoever claims to live in Him [Christ] must walk as Jesus did." So, emulation, in doing this, that I'm doing, am I emulating Jesus?
Fourthly, evangelism. Will this habit, this practice in my life, enhance my witness to onlooking non-Christians? Will this habit actually help my testimony or will it hinder it? Will this help me lead people to Christ or will it actually hinder me? Colossians 4:5 says, "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders, making the most of every opportunity." Outsiders are watching, would you feel comfortable, outsiders watching you, as you do this action or this habit?
Fifth, Edification. Will this action or habit build up other Christians who might see me do it? Will they be made stronger by imitating me, watching me? 1 Corinthians 10:23, "All things are lawful, but not all things edify."
Six, exaltation. Does this action glorify God? Can I actually offer this activity up in thankfulness to God, with a clear conscience? 1 Corinthians 10:31, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God."
And then finally, example. Would I feel comfortable if my children or a new disciple, a convert that I'm having the privilege to disciple, emulated or imitated me? Am I setting a good example here? Or would I want to say to some degree, "Do as I say, not as I do"? So I think those are seven very helpful principles. Let's close in prayer.