"LOVE BUILDS UP"
I. PROBLEMS IN THE CHURCH OF CORINTH.
A. Paul had received a letter from some in the church of Corinth in which they shared with Paul many of the problems that had developed in that fellowship.
B. One of the problems dealt with eating meat that had been offered in a sacrifice to idols.
1. In that pagan society much of the meat was offered in a sacrifice to one of their many gods, usually the fat was burned on the altar and then the rest of the meat was sold in the local butcher shop, or served in the local restaurants.
2. There were some in the church who had strong convictions against eating meat that had been offered in a sacrifice to idols.
3. Others in the church had no convictions against it.
4. Their argument was, idols are nothing. There is only one true God, so it does not matter if the meat was offered in a sacrificial ceremony to one of the many idols which were representing the pagan gods.
5. These people were boasting of a superior knowledge of the truth so that they were free to eat such meat.
6. You can almost hear them putting down the brothers with such a tender conscience that they could not eat such meat.
7. It is with a bit of sarcasm that Paul says, "Now we know that we have all knowledge."
C. It is interesting that the first council called by the church was to deal with this very issue.
1. There were those who were saying that Gentiles could not be saved, which was the typical Jewish position. They declared that a Gentile had to become a Jew in order to be saved. He had to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses.
2. These men had created a division in the church in Antioch, so they came to the church council in Jerusalem to determine what relationship the Gentile believers should have to the many ordinances in the law.
a. Peter suggested that they not seek to put on the Gentiles a yoke of bondage that neither they nor their fathers were able to bear.
b. Paul told of the marvelous works of God that were being wrought among the Gentiles.
c. It was finally determined to write to the Gentile believers and tell them to abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood and from things strangled, and from fornication, and if you do this you do well. God bless you.
d. So it was determined that the believer should not eat meat that was offered to idols.
3. It would appear that this rule had the endorsement of Jesus and represented the mind of Christ for when Jesus through John wrote to the churches in Asia in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 He said to the church in Pergamus,
But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
4. Then to the church in Thyatira,
Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
5. The fornication in both cases was probably spiritual fornication. The participation in the worship of pagan gods.
D. Now there was in Corinth those intellectuals who were arguing that Pagan idols were nothing, they were representing gods that did not even exist, thus eating things that were sacrificed to them was no problem.
1. They were putting down those who held to such convictions as intellectually inferior.
2. It seems that there are always those who feel intellectually superior to others.
a. The prophet Isaiah wrote, "Your wisdom and knowledge has perverted you, for you have said in your heart, I am and there is none other beside me."
II. KNOWLEDGE PUFFS UP.
A. How many people have an inflated ego because they believe they are superior in knowledge than others? They are puffed up.
1. Some of the most educated people I know are some the dumbest people I know.
2. If you were stranded in the jungle who would you rather have with you, a college professor with a Phd in social science or a native who had lived off the jungle for years and knew how to survive in a jungle environment?
a. How would you start a fire?
b. How would you know which plants were edible?
c. How would make the twine for a bow string?
B. If you think that you know anything, you know nothing as you ought to know.
1. Shakespeare: "Man poor man, so ignorant in that which he knows best."
2. It is the man that thinks that he knows the most who usually knows the least.
3. I used to have all the answers to raising children, until I had children of my own.
4. I used to think that I knew all about women until I got married.
5. The more that you get to know about any subject, the more you realize how little you know on that subject.
6. He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool, shun him. He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a student, teach him. He who knows and knows not that he knows is a teacher learn from him.
III. WHEREAS KNOWLEDGE PUFFS UP, LOVE BUILDS UP.
A. The true love of God in my heart will cause me to seek to build up the weak brother rather than offend him.
1. I will not try to convince him through argument to do something that will bother his conscience.
2. I will not flaunt my liberty in front of him and thus cause him to stumble.
3. I will not sit in the cafe eating the steak that is on special because it had been offered to Zeus.
B. Eating meats offered to idols is rather far removed from our culture.
1. Let us bring it home.
a. There are some people who feel a liberty to drink alcoholic beverages.
b. They will tell you that Jesus said that it is not what goes into a man's mouth that defiles him, but what comes out.
c. They will point out that Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana.
d. They will boast of their ability of controlled drinking.
e. There are others who have really struggled with a drinking problem, they are not able to control their drinking, they go off on binges. Alcohol has almost destroyed their lives.
2. If they see you in a bar, or dining in a restaurant and drinking a cocktail before your meal, your exercise of your liberty could be a real stumbling block to them.
a. They may feel, "If he can do it, I can do it."
b. Your liberty may embolden him to try it, and you could destroy his life as he becomes again a hopeless alcoholic.
c. As Paul wrote to the Romans, "Why should you destroy a brother for whom Christ died by your liberties?"
d. You may seek to intellectually defend your freedom to drink and defy all correction on the matter. Yet if you truly love your brother you will not puff up yourself, but you will seek to build him up, for love builds up.
e. Paul declares that to sin against a weak brother by causing him to stumble, you are sinning against Christ.
3. Paul concludes that if his eating meat would cause a brother to be offended, he would not eat meat as long as the world existed in order not to offend a weak brother.
4. Now that is walking in love.