Morality In the Grey Areas

Sermon from CCM:City Centre

LISTEN

This sermon was preached by Tom O’Toole at the CCM:City Centre site of Christ Church Manchester on Sunday 6th January 2019.

SERIES

 

This message was part of the ‘SERIES NAME’ series, preached at Christ Church Manchester’s church in Fallowfield in EARLY/MID/LATE YEAR. The full series included the following sermons:

BIBLE VERSES

This sermon was based on 1 Corinthians 8 & 10:23-11:1.

Food Offered to Idols

1Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

4Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

7However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For 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? 11And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

Do All to the Glory of God

23″All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

31So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

1Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

KEY POINTS

THE SITUATION IN CORINTH

  • When the early church leaders discussed the question of Gentiles becoming Christians, they concluded that Gentiles should NOT be asked to submit to the law.  
  • They did ask Gentile believers to abstain from a few things – one of which was anything polluted by idols.
  • Corinth was a city with many temples/statues, regular idol feasts were part of community life. 
  • After the feast days lots of meat would hit the market at cheap prices.
  • Having nothing to do with anything polluted by idols was very difficult in such a place.
  • In this passage Paul helps the Corinthians with some principles to navigate this tricky issue.

THE PRINCIPLE OF FREEDOM

  • Start by asking whether it is a clear black and white issue or a grey area.
  • The Corinthians argued that this is a grey area – since the idols don’t actually exist, and they acknowledge and worship the one God, then what is the harm?
  • Paul does affirm that this an issue of freedom, but that is not the end of the question…

THE PRINCIPLE OF CONSCIENCE

  • For some, getting involved goes against their conscience.
  • We must take care to honour the conscience. If you push someone to do something that they think is sin (even if it is not) then you have caused them to sin by doing something they believe displeases God.
  • It is possible to have a seared conscience – when we train ourselves to ignore it and it stops functioning.

THE PRINCIPLE OF LOVE

  • Think about how it will impact brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • If the Corinthians were getting involved at the idol-feasts (knowing they are not real) then that may cause other believers to think its okay to worship both Jesus and idols and so be very damaging.
  • When a decision we are making is an issue of freedom it is always best to make the choice that will do good to those around us.

THE PRINCIPLE OF MISSION

  • The choices we make are played out before unbelievers and represent Christ to them. 
  • We do this well by both not endorsing something false AND not creating unnecessary barriers in relationships.
  • In Corinth, Paul spelt it out in three points:
    • Feel free to buy and eat anything from the meat market without asking questions where it came from.
    • If you are invited to an unbelievers house, eat what you are served without asking questions.
    • If somebody makes an issue of it being offered to an idol, then abstain from it.

MORE SERMONS

 

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