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God's Will in Doubtful Situations

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
July 27, 2021 8:00 am

God's Will in Doubtful Situations

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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July 27, 2021 8:00 am

A church struggles to come to terms with what it means to serve the Lord. But it's not easy. All around are greedy and debauched people. Inevitably some of sinfulness has begun to infiltrate the church. Sound familiar? This scenario is not just our own; the early church of Corinth faced many of the same problems! Dr. Boice's study in 1 Corinthians reveals a striking similarity between own battles and the struggles the early church, here on The Bible Study Hour.

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Welcome to the Bible study, radio and Internet ministry of confessing Evangelicals featuring the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce for more information please contact us by calling toll-free one 804 88 18 and now the alliance is pleased to present the Bible study our preparing you to think and act biblically. If at some point in my past I had training as a sociologist store even in statistics are accounting.

I'm sure that there would've been some point in my past where I begun to make a list of the kind of questions I've been asked over the years as I've spoken on a variety of subjects here and in other places and I would've tried to make an analysis of those questions in terms of their frequency to determine what really are the chief problems and the problems behind the problems that concern Christian people.

I have not had any training in statistics. I am not an accountant.

I know very little sociology and so I haven't done that but I have a sense of what kind of things bother people.

I think of anybody would ask me what is the number one question in whatever variety of forms. It may be asked that you have been asked over the years. I think I have to answer it would be question having to do with the will of God. People ask it in terms of marriage.

Although I know which one I should marry about 30% of you are asking that right now. People ask it in terms of their jobs. They say what job should I take for what field should I enter or what college should I attend to in preparation for that and in one form or another.

These are the things that are often in our minds I think I would say also that in that great category of questions that have to do with knowing the will of God. There is a special and also very prominent category that has to do with knowing the will of God in doubtful situation. That's a special category because when you talk about a job.

For example, generally speaking, when Christian people face that that's not doubtful situation.

You might have doubt about what you should do but didn't long run it doesn't make a whole lot of significance. Whether you take a job with company your company be a whole lot is not resting on that in terms of your Christian witness and testimony, but there are areas which have become significant, perhaps intrinsically, and perhaps only culturally in which we do have those questions, as always, I will try doing those areas should I take a stand in this way I do that well. It may well be misunderstood and maybe it's not right, or should I do something else and if I do that well.

These people won't misunderstand me, but another group of people will and perhaps that's not right. So we say what should I do, we wish. I think when we begin to think along those lines of the Bible was more clear this but the Bible treats Christian people as adults, and that means it is not a book of rules is not to say that there are some rules and it are when were talking about this matter. Doubtful things. The Bible does what the Bible should do. God treated us like the adult human beings he's made us doesn't give easy rule so you can get off the hook by simply looking up an index, but rather it lays down principles by which, if we are serious about the Christian life. We should live. This is what Paul gets into at this point of first Corinthians, please don't. I'm sure in a very logical way with the kind of things.

It seemed to him to be problems and perhaps the most important problem certainly does matter of wisdom and the people of Corinth being so proud of their human knowledge.

That was a basic fundamental thing and get that out of the way first is the first thing he plunges into in the letter. In the present matter of immoralities that was a violation of the law of God, and that problem there is that it wasn't disciplined in the church so he tackles that having done those things, he begins to get into areas quite so simple.

One of them is these problems that grow out of marriage and divorce is mixed marriages and those things that's a step closer to the simple principles with which he begins because there are principles clear principles of the word of God which would operate in. Generally speaking, in those areas are difficulties are not with the gray areas but with the principles mill like the principles same either gray areas and he begins to deal with that we get this eighth chapter gets into a manner that really is what we would call the doubtful situation and he discusses it surprisingly, not merely in one chapter, but in one way or another throughout all of chapter 8 portion of chapter 9 and even in the chapter 10 problem.

The Corinthian space is not the kind of problem we face in doubtful areas. We have such areas, but we don't have this what their problem had to do with whether a Christian could lawfully before God eat meat sacrificed one of the heat not heathen idols is helpful to know something about that little system by which the temples and the priests and priestesses were supported.

Sacrifices were always part of the worship system in ancient world as well as in Judaism and when I worshiper would, with one of the sacrifices and offer it to the basic formula is at the sacrifice would be divided into three parts. One part twigs go to the priests and one part would be sacrificed and burned on the altar and the other part would be sold in the marketplace. It was a simple system their food itself supported the priesthood and the part that was sold also supported them because that began to produce currency and so forth that they could use for other things and so that's the way the religious establishment was supported. Generally speaking, in the ancient world. What would happen of course, is that the third of the sacrifices that were sold. That is not burned on the altar are not used by the priests part that were sold would be purchased just openly in the marketplace by all kinds of people that would mean that didn't normal situation somebody buying food in the marketplace might easily be buying like we would buy supermarket meat that had been sacrificed dedicated to these pagan idols, and the question would be good.

A Christian by that kind of each part of the Christian have to be scrupulous at this point to the Christian have to say no. I am a Christian I worship the one God. Therefore I can't have anything to do with meat that has been offered to idols or credit Christian say well it's just not ask any questions and biotin. We just treated as a matter of indifference. It became additionally complicated and this is a matter that comes up later in the letter when I meat was purchased by a pagan family and then I pagan family invited to Christian family and for dinner and the Christian family is sitting there at the table and the pagan family said we have a wonderful roast and we know it's a good one because it was sacrificed to Zeus was a Christian to do at that point, choke or swallow dutifully and say this certainly does taste good, to say the problem.

Well, apparently, the Christians in Corinth had written to Paul about it all being faced with the kind of problems he was faced with a Corinth good. I suppose have said. Shame on you writing to me about something as silly as that when actually about immorality in the church. You gotta be worried about. You didn't write to me about the immorality doesn't do that was a good pastor and he operates on the basis of the knee problems people face. He deals with the principles first. The most important things see deals with that forthrightly something that had come up out of the church and so he begins to talk about it and he does it in an offhand way to do anything offhandedly writes in such a polished style that sometimes it seems that way does do it offhandedly in the very analytical measure when we talk. You see about knowing God's will in doubtful situations that involves a number of key ideas and involves the idea of knowledge.

First of all, what is it really did not know, and that it involves the idea situations. What is the situation and then it involves the knowledge of God's will in that situation, that's precisely the way he handles people read this and said well it looks to me like he takes a long time getting into the subject because as he begins the chapter about food sacrificed idols.

He does what seems to most people to be a depression and that's because when he gets to verse 40 seems to pick up verse one all over again. How about food sacrificed idols goes on says something that's in verse 40 says well and so that about food sacrificed idols. Sounds like he's digressed nothing of the sort. When he talks about in verses one through three is Molly Shen in the most profound way, you say, why does he do it well. If you been following this will carefully you know precisely why does this because they were so proud of their knowledge loose Corinthian slot. They had the keen analytical mind. So Paul begins with knowledge and access a number of very significant things about the key thing he says here is that knowledge and love go together seem right to you, really doesn't because we don't think that way doing.

We say love is one thing is the grand we say knowledge. Well, that's something else that's what goes on in college level also goes on in college today, but we think of them as two separate things and process that's not right you say. He says if you have the kind of knowledge that is knowledge divorced from it's really a brindle self righteous, self elevating knowledge which really is not knowledge of the deepest biblical sent. That's not the way God wants us to know because you see one is to really know God and about is to love God really know God and you can't love God without knowing God to go together missing things truth people say we take a situation like that it has the do with our brothers or sisters in the Lord we say what we know what's right. We want do it right, but you don't really know what's right. Until that is coupled with your love for Christian brethren is what he says and he said something else is very profound because you notice he's talking see you directly about two kinds of knowledge and love is knowledge and love of God.

On the one hand, and there's knowledge and love of our fellow Christians on the other I say doesn't say that clearly, but it's obvious what he has in mind because in verse one.

Knowledge puffs up at love builds up is not talking about love of God there because by our love we don't build up.

God is talking about human beings and then later he talks about being known by God and loving God. So you got the two.

What is really saying is that goes together so you can have a vertical relationship not a horizontal relationship and you think you know God you don't know God bless you also know, man.

You think you know man you don't know man let's also know God. The same thing is true love really love others properly unless you love God first and you can't really love God, unless you love your brothers and sisters in the Lord. It's very profound. That is not the sort of thing. The Greeks were teaching in the agora is not the sort of wisdom that was passing around the halls of learning in the city of Rome. This is Christianity and this is the integration of the person of the integration of knowledge and it's the basis of what Paul wants to say about this question concerning food sacrificed idols, so he lays down that groundwork. First of all, when you talk about knowing what you should do in that kind of a situation. Make sure you understand what kind of knowledge you're talking about and secondly he plunges into the question itself. That's why he reintroduces it verse four so then out eating food sacrificed idols.

Now he begins to lay down some principles in the first.

Is this an idol is nothing.

That's what he says we know that an idol is nothing just be somewhat or something carved out of stone or it's a beautiful piece of marble, but it's terms of anything spiritual in terms of real spiritual entities just nothing at all. This is of course what Paul would've drawn from the Old Testament because he knew it very well. I say is one who says that virtually the same words he's quoting God and God is challenging the idols of the heathen, and he says look here's a man who cuts down the trail you need uses half of it to the fire and cook his food and the other half you dries out the carbs out in idol and then he falls down and worship God says you ever hear anything is ridiculous is that all your life is my translation but that's what God is saying just absurd. God says that he falls down and he worships a stick to one thing and approve it's nothing challenging to do something, let it tell the future, God says doesn't happen five years, about 10 years from now, 20 years from now.

Nothing God ridicules him and Paul is saying that's the point at which we begin now Paul, I do not think is saying there is no such thing as demons. Certainly, there are other places he says this really is the battle that's going on in the world. It's not a physical battle with the spiritual battle between those who are serving the Lord Jesus Christ Lowe's knowingly or unknowingly, are serving the demons we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers in heavenly places. He acknowledges that is what is in volunteer was using idol and sacrificing the food of the item is to start here is the recognized idol is nothing at all. And the reason is nothing at all is is only one God and we know that when God is so citizens take that as a first principle, and secondly he says. And again, Paul is not inventing this Paul.

I think in this instance is going back to the teaching of Jesus Christ. Secondly, verse eight food does not bring us near to God. We are not worse if we do not eat, and we are no better.

If we do, I think what he had in mind there was the teaching of Jesus, who was asked the same kind of question in his day about certain ritual forms of eating and keeping kosher and all of that and Jesus said quite openly and is that it's not what goes into the mouth of Amanda defiles a man is what comes out THAT'S right, isn't it because you don't have a corrupt part because of what you teach what you speak you speak because of your corrupt part. So Jesus said what whether you eat or don't eat whether you keep kosher or don't keep kosher all that is a matter of indifference so far as the spiritual life is concerned.

Now, you might want to do certain things, cultural reason, but that's quite another thing. And so Paul lays down that principal use it as a good teacher and is a good scholar and then we ask if those two things are true and they obviously are number one that an idol is nothing in the eating or not eating doesn't have anything to do with your spiritual life. It's a matter of utter indifference. What follows from what quite obviously eating or not eating meat that is been offered to idols is likewise a matter of indifference.

You see, Paul's technical answer to the question they're answering is it just doesn't matter.

It's not important you teach each one a donates but does matter, and I suppose those who were of that party. At that point smiled rather smugly and looked down her long Greek noses at those who had been fastidious and said you see, Paul says we are right, and as a matter fact they were right, technically, but they were wrong in spirit because they hadn't understood what it really is to know in a matter such as this. So Paul says in this is the third part of his outline yes that is true, and I have tried to develop the principles here which are right I want to lay them down because that's the basis I don't want you to forget that what Paul says. You see, there is still this matter the situation and what you should do in the situation you say will having to describe the situation you described in idol and I was nothing, and you describe eating food or not eating food. You say that's a matter of indifference isn't that the situation all when you talk that way. What you're betraying is that you're thinking of knowledge only as intellectual accumulation of data and you forgotten your brothers and sisters are not loving them as the whole situation because I'm sure he wasn't quoting John Dunn at this point but none of us is an island.

What we do affects others and so part of the situation involves how your brothers and sisters in the Lord are going to take your activity now does not mean you're safe that therefore nobody can ever eat any meat that is ever been offered any idol apologist. He doesn't mean that and I'm sure it also does not mean that these weaker brethren who are not always weak, but are sometimes just difficult can use their weakness as a club over those who regard this as a matter of freedom and the Lord see if that were the case, it would be a backdoor way of bringing in legalism you say well I'm free yes. But here's a brother who thinks I ought not to be free and therefore since he's my brother since that's my sister in the Lord. I got to give up my freedom and we have to begin to live under a whole lot of rules that say mustn't go to our movies and you mustn't eat food sacrificed to idols and you must never drink any alcohol in any form and all sorts of other things and you must never, never, ever do we. Paul is not saying that and he says in verse nine. Be careful that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the wiki is not saying that you could never exercise your freedom as a matter fact is Paul what he would rather happen. That's what Paul would say I would like to see everyone free of these things I like you to forget in a certain sense about these matters that are basically matters of indifference and get on the floor more important things are serving the Lord. I'm sure he would say that but at the same time you sees a pastor. He knows people and he knows that there are genuinely weak brothers people for whom this is a real problem.

Maybe someday it won't be a problem for the them another six months for another five years. Maybe they'll grow.

Maybe the fine things are going to create problems for you because you're going to be weak in their area, but at the moment there we can this really is a problem. So Paul says if you really love them and you find yourself in that situation, then you'd better act. Lots is an island which says what I do matters to me in matters that nobody else at all because it is true and begin to conduct yourself in such a way that you have not your freedom and hearts, but there spiritual well-being access to interesting things at that point when he talks about that. I think what he has in mind is example of Christ. Paul could well have written the second chapter of Philippians here pointing out how the Lord Jesus, though he had all the prerogatives of Godhead didn't count that something that was his right to be maintained at all costs, but he willingly yielded those things laid them aside in order to take on the form of a human being and died on the cross in order to save us. Let's our example. I'm sure Paul would say look of the Lord Jesus Christ did that for you is not really too big a deal as it you have to give up doing something for the sake of your brother or your sister in the Lord things you do that all the time. Hopefully you're in a situation with us, not even necessary, but if it doesn't involve somebody else. It's really not too big a sacrifice. Is it because if you really know God, and know yourself and know them you love them.

That's a far more important thing for you than exercising that liberty and then at the very end. Paul spells it out in the category that I almost wish he hadn't said verse 13 he says. So, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin. I will never eat meat again so that I will not cause them to fall. I wish he had said. I'll put it on hold for six months or I'll I'll take a vow that will last a year to see Paul want you to see how this really works. Also, as you see if it's necessary. Was really hurting somebody else. I got to be willing to give up that thing which I think is my rights in this area of indifference because if it really is a matter of indifference.

It is a matter of indifference and I must be willing to give that up.

Not just for six months but forever if that's what's necessary that somebody else might grow.

This is the kind of thing. I'm sure you recognize it requires balance, because in the church again and again down through all the history one thing or another comes along is a test case in the minds of some people by which spirituality is measured and whatever that becomes dominant. You get a false kind of spirituality.

We don't want that. But at the same time, you often have in the church of Jesus Christ.

The swing to the other pole that which on one occasion was legalism now becomes license and people say well we're free in the Lord to do anything at all and so they do it and they don't care about their brothers or their sisters all number chapters later in here when Paul is talking about spiritual gifts.

He has a little device. He uses where having answered the question.

He says now I'll show you a better way goes on to talk about love. I think you could've done that in this matter of doubtful things and he could've referred to his own writings he could've said at this point we've talked about this week discuss what it means to know when we discussed the situation and how that involves other people and how love has to be wrapped up into it, but not all show you a better way which, if you follow, I suppose, in the final analysis, you don't generally have to worry about this kind of thing all, there's the texts I have in mind is in Philippians the fourth chapter and verse eight what Paul says there is this finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such thing and what you've learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me put into practice in the God of peace will be with you always saying is Christians really should have their minds set on the best things they should be pursuing the very best thing you fill your mind, heart, lives in time with the best things then these other things fall into the place where they belong. But perhaps matters of utter indifference because often they do concern of the people those things that just don't have that much importance to you because you're going on the Lord in a way that is benefiting his body, the church of Jesus Christ say well it's easy to say it's hard to do. Yes, that is exactly right because it requires maturity and that's what we have to become what he wants us to become is why the Bible doesn't give us a list of 39 rules of the spring, our father, we find ourselves often reacting as children do. The parents want them to make a mature decision. We say will just tell me Tommy, and you don't do that we would pray that you would help us to realize how seriously you take our development trends. Indeed, our individuality, and so allow that very fact to move us in the direction of what is the very best for the sake of others and ourselves to and above all for the sake of Jesus Christ in his name you're listening to Bible study hour with the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals.

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