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Christian Deference

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
May 30, 2022 2:00 am

Christian Deference

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew

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May 30, 2022 2:00 am

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Community would remain standing in honor of God's word as we read it together tonight were in first brilliance.

Chapter 8 as we consider for a few moments, the topic of Christian deference mutual submission to each other as an expression of Christian love first Corinthian's eighth and will read the chapter in its entirety. All 13 verses tonight.

Now concerning food offered to idols, we know that all of us possess knowledge is knowledge puffs up, but love builds up if anyone imagines that he knows something he does not yet know as he ought to know if anyone loves God, he is known by God. Therefore, 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. For, although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords yet for us there is one God the father from whom are all things and for whom we exist in one Lord, Jesus Christ, through things and through whom we exist. However, not all possess this knowledge but some through former association with idols eat food as really offered to an idol in their conscience. Being weak is defiled food will not command us to God, we are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do but take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. If anyone sees you, who have knowledge eating in an idols temple will be not be encouraged if his conscience is weak to eat food offered to idols and so by your knowledge this week person is destroyed a brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, food makes my brother stumble I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble is the word of the Lord's prayer, Lord you open your eyes now to behold. Wonderful things from your word would you illuminate our minds to understand what you are revealing here in the is this text before us soften our wills to accept what you're requiring of us on a per the end result of our time in your word tonight would be just a sincere and lasting unity Grace Church that can whether even the gray areas of the Christian life. We pray all this for the glory of Christ in his name, a man be seated the topic. Paul addresses in our text tonight is one that comes up surprisingly frequently in the New Testament.

It has to do with the ethical dilemmas that often arise between believers. When Christian liberty and Christian conscience collide as a redeemed followers of Christ. We recognize it, were all one body role of one faith were equally justified by Christ were equally united to Christ were all equally secure in our salvation were all equally headed to a glorious eternity. But along the way to that glorious and we experience disagreements and discrepancies that arise from the fact that we are not all equal in our knowledge of God and of his word were not all equal in the measure or degree of our sanctification or the measure of our faith.

There are varying levels of maturity and knowledge and obedience within the body of Christ, and that variety can often cause some pretty intense pressure points within the church. How do we navigate these points of division. Well, that was a question that the Corinthian Christians needed an answer for. And if you've been in the church for any longer than five minutes. You probably have asked the question as well.

How do I live the Christian faith. When the very ones with whom I've been called to walk the Christian walk are at odds with my understanding or practice of what obedience to Christ. Looks like I mean I want to walk in unity you want to walk in unity with our fellow believers, we want the world to see authentic Christian love in us, but those Christians over there are wearing bikinis and makeup work you're on the other side of the Christian ghetto. Those Christians over there look like they just stepped out of the 1950s. In fact, all sorts of ethical dilemmas. Differences in standards, arise over matters that are not explicitly or absolutely addressed in Scripture and these sorts of dilemmas can can easily threaten the very unity of the church can a good Christian go to a Halloween party for example, can a good Christian send their children to public school. Can a good Christian smoke a cigar or watch an R-rated movie or wear a blue Devils T-shirt have a vested interest in that last one we need to know how to navigate these ethical gray areas, and thankfully the Bible gives us very clear instruction as to how to do just that. Now let me mention that Paul addresses this specifically in at least three different places in his epistles here and for premiums eight.

Later in first against 10 and most extensively in Romans 14 and each of these parallel passages has slightly different points of emphasis in Romans 14 he addresses both the week conscience and the strong conscience and he has admonitions for both enforcement and stand. He primarily addresses the week conscience and here in chapter 8, he primarily addresses the strong conscience OR emphasis tonight is going to be on how Christians who are secure in their freedom in Christ relate to Christians who tend to be over scrupulous in their consciences when we get to chapter 10 will deal with the other side of the coin. All right, that was jump into the text. Paul begins with that recurring phrase that we've Artie seen now in the book of first Corinthians now concerning which indicates he's responding to another question that the Corinthian's have have asked in a in a previous letter he saying about that question you asked regarding food offered to idols. But then, almost as if to change the subject.

He starts talking about knowledge. Verse one we know that all of us possess knowledge. This knowledge puffs up, but love builds up if anyone imagines that he knows something he does not yet know as he ought to know, is not even talking about meat offered to idols in in the beginning of his answer to this question.

Why would Paul answer ethical question about meat offered to idols by talking about knowledge versus love well because the problem at Corinth was really not about the meat. It was about the relationships between Christians in the church.

Some of the Christians knew the correct answer to the ethical dilemma. Others did not know the correct answer with the bigger problem in the problem that Paul was intent on resolving was that the ones who knew the right answer were not giving adequate space for the others who didn't know the right answer.

In order for them to grow in their understanding these knowledgeable, smart Christians knew the truth. They were correct and accurate in their doctrine, but they possess this accurate understanding of the truth in a very graceless and uncaring sort of way. It was knowledge but without love. I suppose we've all known Christians were like that. Perhaps we've been Christians who are like that. They know the truth, with great precision and they're able to articulate and defend that truth impeccably but they have no concern for bringing others along no tolerance for Christians who are less mature in their knowledge of the faith there like a gardener who knows everything there is to know about gardening, but he keeps trampling over young vulnerable plants and destroying them because his knowledge doesn't exist for the good of the garden. It exists to bolster his own ego knowledge without love doesn't build up doesn't encourage it doesn't help is simply puffs up a person with false confidence and pride.

Now before we move on to limit many point out a potential misunderstanding here Paul is not saying that knowledge is bad. He never says that he saying that knowledge without love is bad. Some folks I'm afraid misapply this and they begin acting as if God doesn't want us to waste our time with intellectual growth. Let could be further from the truth. Jesus himself tells us to love the Lord our God with all of our mind. Peter tells us to add to our faith virtue and to our virtue, knowledge, hold himself in this very same letter begins in chapter 1. By giving thanks to God for blessing the Corinthians, with knowledge, so knowledge is is not a bad thing. Paul is not condemning knowledge he is condemning the use of knowledge that is devoid of of love so.

So don't conclude from these opening verses that knowing what we believe and why we believe it and knowing it well is without value. We need to be thinking, knowledgeable Christians, but knowledge without love makes is nothing more than noisy dogs and clanging symbols. As we'll see later in chapter 13 then Paul applies this principle of knowledge mediated through love applies it to the question at hand.

Verse four. Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know here's the crucial piece of knowledge. We know that an idol has no real existence and that there is no God but one. Although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth, as indeed there many gods, quote unquote, and many lords quote "yet for us Christian since we are regenerate.

We have the Holy Spirit. We know that there is one God the father from whom are all things and for whom we exist in one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

So first century Corinth. The practice of religion was very pagan is very pluralistic. They were there were temples galore. There were temples of the God of war temples to the God of fertility temples to the God of justice and surrounding these cultic temples over all the entrapment's of pagan ritual sacrifice, prostitution, feasting oftentimes in a group of people.

Maybe an extended family would want to celebrate some event together so they would have a gathering of family reunion the party and these parties would often begin with a sacrifice to whatever God they were inclined to sacrifice to will after the sacrifice had been made. A meal was often prepared and the leftover meat from the sacrifice was included as part of the meal.

It would've been common for pagan families to invite their entire extended family to these these gatherings including family members who had perhaps converted to Christianity and they would invite into these post-sacrifice parties. These parties, by the way, were often held inside rooms at the very temple where the sacrifice had taken place. I guess in a fellowship hall of of sorts.

Sometimes if there wasn't a big event planned the leftover meat from the sacrifice was simply sold at market and people would purchase this meat like we would go to grocery store by me and then serve it in our homes, so there were various social occasions in which Christians were faced with the situation of having to eat meat that had been potentially sacrificed in the pagan temple to a false God. And this then is the very kind of scenario that prompted the Corinthians question about meat offered to idols, was it ethically. Okay. Was it was it moral to eat meat that had some sort of association with the worship of idols. Paul begins his answer by explaining the nature of idols and he he states the obvious. He says an idol of false God is not really a God is just a piece of wood or or metal or stone. It's merely the work of hands as a mouth but can't speak it has eyes, but he can't see it, you can't smell the blue has a nose is just objects are created object.

Paul says it has no real existence because there's only one God, the triune God of the Bible all the other little G gods are imposters there are fake their mother made up figments of men's imaginations will. The implication of that with regard to meat offered to idols is that if meat is sacrifice to a piece of wood that really has no significance. Nope, no power, no divinity, then the meat is in no way affected by its having been offered to an idol of the T-bone steak prior to the idolatrous sacrifices this very same T-bone steak. After the idolatrous sacrifice and we know this because the biblical doctrine of God tells us, so there is only one God in a pagan idol is not it.

It doesn't change the meat. If that's the case then there is absolutely no spiritual harm in eating meat that has been offered to an idol.

It's just me. Verse eight Paul makes this explicit. He says food will not recommend this to God were no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do so, all things being equal, the meat is just meat. The words there is there is really no ethical dilemma here. The meat is morally neutral because idols are God's only God is God.

Now before we we see where Paul is going with this. And resolve the problem that that perhaps some of you might be thinking about.

Why is Paul implying that meat offered to idols is morally neutral. If the Jerusalem Council back in acts 15 which by the way, had already taken place and we we suppose when when Paul wrote this letter.

If that counsel for bid. Specifically, the eating of meat offered to idols. Also, why does Paul here in chapter 8 seem to allow what he will forbid in chapter 10 we could spend a lot of time on this and will probably spend some more time when we get to chapter 10, but we we need to get the rest of our text only just sheer up a few quick thoughts briefly. First of all, notice that the letter that the Jerusalem Council sent out annex 15 was sent to Gentiles, who were living in specific places but a KI where Corinth is was not one of those places. The places that were explicitly forbidden to eat meat offered to idols by the Jerusalem Council were places where the church was predominantly Jewish. Corinth was predominantly Gentile, so I think this suggests that the prohibition annex 15 was not some sort of moral absolutes but rather was intended as an aid, perhaps in evangelizing Jews and Corinth, where Jewish evangelism wasn't really a thing, the practice of eating meat offered to idols, had much less cultural baggage associated with it. As for the discrepancy between first printing date and and first convinced 10 I think was going on is that Paul is addressing association with evildoers here in chapter 8, but in chapter 10. He's addressing actual participation with evil doers. It's one thing to be in the proximity of people who were sinning and something else entirely to be joining in the sin with other people to chapter 8 is about eating meat in a in a social context. Chapter 10 is about eating meat in a religious context as an active cultic practice. Idols are not really gods and therefore have no power to change the essence of food into something that would defile. That's the emphasis of chapter 8 but idol worship.

On the other hand is very much demonic, which means to participate in the cultic acts themselves is certainly defiling.

And that's the emphasis of chapter 10 will consider that some more as we get into chapter 10. Let's continue on with our text is laid out how the doctrine of God assures us that idols cannot change the quality of meat in any way so as to make it morally defiling. Then he acknowledges in verse seven that not all Christians possess this knowledge but some through former association with idols in other words, they were saved out of a pagan background. Some eat food as if it is really offered to an idol is if the idol really does have power to do something to the food or to the person eating the food so there there truly saved, but they don't yet understand the impotence the powerlessness of false religion, and so Paul says their conscience, being weak because it lacks a good understanding of basic Christian doctrine, conscience is defiled. Notice it's not the meat that defiles this week Christian it's good going against conscience that defiles him. So even though his conscience is misinformed at this point for him to do something that he believes is itself sinful is sinful for him to do something he believes is wrong is itself sinful. The issue is a Christian's interaction with his conscience, not a Christian's interaction with meat. The meat is neutral in this in this scenario, will the solution to this week conscience is to strengthen the conscience by learning the truth.

The truth about God, the truth about idols the truth about food, but what Paul wants to get across is that those with strong informed consciences don't help those with weak ignorant consciences by merely browbeating them with the knowledge that they have no the strong conscience people are to persuade the week through persistent loving deference and so the stronger exhorted in verses nine through 13 not to use their Christian liberty in such a way as to violate the consciences of the week. Verse nine but take care that this right of yours. Is this right to eat meat offered to idols does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak roof anyone sees you who have knowledge eating and idols Temple. Will he not be encouraged if his conscience is weak to eat food offered to idols and so by your knowledge is the. The knowledge that an idol really can't do anything morally to slab of meat by your knowledge this week person is destroyed the brother for whom Christ died. So yes the the week. Christian misunderstood basic Christian doctrine.

Yes, their conscience was unnecessarily fettered by a false perception of sin, and yet Paul insists that the right response. The loving response is for the strong to accommodate the scruples of the week in matters that are morally neutral.

Paul makes the point even stronger by saying that to neglect this principle of loving deference is to not only sin against a fellow Christian it's it's tantamount to sinning against Christ.

Verse 12. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, the food makes my brother stumble I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble, we who are knowledgeable of the of the morally neutral liberties that are ours in Christ ought to be more willing to sacrifice those liberties and to offend the consciences of less mature, less knowledgeable Christians and that's the essence of Paul's admonition here is only take a few moments, then to to think about how these things apply to us in our modern context it would be easy to think through this if today's scruples were identical to the scruples of first century Corinth or Rome, but they aren't are in fact I've never heard of anyone struggling with whether or not to eat meat offered to idols. I don't even know where you could find meat offered to idols. This means that we have the added step in our study of Scripture of understanding in principle what Paul is saying, and then wisely applying that principle to do actual points of disagreement that we face today. So in an effort to to sort of define what Paul in principle is saying and to apply those principles to our current context.

We offer several thoughts that I think will be helpful. First of all we need to recognize that when it comes to Christian ethics.

Everything doesn't fit neatly into the two boxes of right and wrong becomes a Christian ethics. Not everything is a black or white, a right or wrong. There is 1/3 box it we might label inconsequential, we might label gray or neutral.

Now don't misunderstand me, don't think that I'm suggesting moral relativism at moral relativism, which is so popular today would put everything into that inconsequential box into the into the gray box not saying that I'm not denying their absolute rights and wrongs.

I'm just saying some things are are morally neutral, suggesting that as we we think through moral dilemmas, ethical conundrums, some things are simply inconsequential. To quote Paul verse eight food will not commend us to God.

It's in the middle boxes in the third box we are no worse off if we do not eat no better off if we do it inconsequential. It's morally neutral it's it's it's a thing in different and I suspect that a lot of our irreconcilable differences with other Christians probably comes down to an inability or maybe an unwillingness to acknowledge that certain preferences we hold really aren't grounded in some biblical absolute there just that preferences we don't need to make everything black-and-white. If Scripture doesn't make everything black-and-white in Scripture doesn't make everything black-and-white the very least we know that food is inherently neutral in terms of its spiritual benefit and in moral weight.

If Scripture is absolute on a moral value, then die on that hill. Every time not to do so would be sinful and it doesn't matter whose conscience objects. If Scripture is absolute.

You need to be absolute. But if Scripture is not absolute about some attitudes and actions on value and be ready and willing to forgo your liberty and defer now is Paul demanding that we always defer to Christians who object to our liberty.

No, I don't think he is, in fact, I suggest three criteria by which we can determine if any given issue qualifies as a meat offered to idols sort of issue.

I think these are helpful criteria to keep in mind what we read first remains a first and instead Romans 14 three criteria. First of all, a behavior in question must be in itself morally inconsequential other words, it must be something that Scripture doesn't require or prohibit all things being equal it's it's something that's morally neutral and that criteria. I hope is obvious that the principal is obvious the application of the implementation of the principle maybe is not always so clear-cut, but it needs to be something that is is not clearly an absolute in Scripture. The second criteria that must be present in order for a behavior in question. To be considered a liberty that ought to be deferred.

Is that another Christian views the behavior is morally wrong. We understand it is morally neutral. Some other professing believer understands it as morally not neutral.

It's an absolute in their mind. It's an issue that Scripture is ambiguous or neutral lawn, but other Christians aren't ambiguous or neutral on they see the behavior as morally suspect just on a side note. Notice that Paul here does not make the ethical opinions of non-Christians.

The standard we are being called to defer to other believers so as not to violate their consciences not to defer to unbelievers for the sake of Christian witness and sometimes we unhelpfully expand the conversation and make it about our our witness to the lost world that he's talking here about our relationship with other Christians. Having said that, there are other passages that that address our interaction with with lost people becoming all things to all people. But that's not what Paul is dealing with here. So first, the behavior in question must be one that is not explicitly prohibited or commanded in Scripture. Secondly, it must be a behavior that a fellow Christian believes is wrong or morally harmful.

And the third criteria is that my engaging in the behavior in question will tempt others to violate their conscience by joining in and doing something that they consider to be wrong. My participation in this in this neutral behavior will tempt a Christian who doesn't see the behavior as being neutral to violate their conscience by participating with me this third criteria. It is very clarifying and very freeing and very important.

I think because it highlights the boundary of the principle of deference. It shows us that first Corinthians 8 is not at all about justifying the scruples of some legalistic Christian it's not about accommodating people who have a pharisaical spirit is not requiring of us that we coddle critical Christians know it's about deferring to people who are genuinely tempted to violate their conscience by some liberty that I have me give you an example. I'm a teetotaler when it comes to alcohol, not out of conviction so much is just because this was the sort of culture I was raised in, and because as a pastor.

It just seems like the wisest course of action the sake of not putting a stumbling block in people's way. I don't drink alcohol.

I have a pastor friend good friend who doesn't see it this way, we we disagree on this matter and when we go out for lunch together. He will sometimes order an alcoholic beverage. It does not bother me a bit. It doesn't change my view of him. It doesn't change my view of alcohol it in no way instigate some sort of internal battle of conscience in my soul. It's not a temptation for me. But what if I had been saved out of an alcoholic background. What if I had at one time been enslaved to drunkenness and on occasion face the temptation of falling back into that bondage. And what if my pastor friend knew about this struggle. Well then his drinking alcohol in my presence would most certainly be a meat offered to idols. Kind of a situation. Why, because even though the act itself is not inherently sinful. He would be potentially tempting me to stumble back into sin. That's the crucial matter of of deference. When Paul refers to making my brother stumble in verse 13 he is not referring to crossing him he's not referring to disagreeing with him are annoying and he's referring to sinning against him by hindering his obedience in an area where his conscience is specifically week. This is not a call for us to be enslaved to one of the people think of us. It's a call to limit our freedom of the sake of a fellow Christians holiness. The church don't turn this principle into some sort of perverted justification of the fear of man. That's not what Paul's requiring of us. What then might be some modern-day examples of meat offered to idols kinds of behavior and I think if you asked that question a generation or two ago. The answer might be something like drinking alcohol and using tobacco, dancing, going to movie theaters. I remember a time back in the 80s when Cabbage Patch dolls were taboo in certain Christian circles, so my kids that a couple days ago.

They just kinda stared at me like what it it's interesting how how these things change depending on what era you're living in or what culture from the gray areas in Kenya, for example, are not the same gray areas that we deal with here in America. Perhaps a more current list of meat offered to idols. Modern-day version might include things like getting a tattoo getting vaccinations boycotting certain corporations based on their political and cultural stance to things that Scripture doesn't explicitly and absolutely defined from an ethical vantage point and yet these are areas that polarize a lot of Christians and and can bind consciences, and a lot of a lot of situations.

These are the kinds of things that we ought to approach like Paul approached meat offered to idols in the first century. First, we need to ask if these things really do fall into the category of things in different if they do, then we need to ask if my involvement in them is offensive to other Christians if it is we need to ask if that offense is one that might tempt my fellow brother or sister in Christ to compromise to disobey or to disregard their conscience and if so, I ought to willingly and joyfully limit my freedom not only out of love for my brother, sister, but out of love for Christ died for them and then lastly I'll just say that although we ought to forgo our freedom for the sake of another's conscience.

We also want to do all we can to help those with weak consciences to help them to know and believe the liberty that there is in Christ is not a violation of Paul's principle here to talk to a brother or sister, with whom I disagree about some morally inconsequential behavior.

If my brother or sister is misinformed and and and living in bondage over it.

I can talk to them I should talk to them clarify Scripture's position help them find the freedom that Christ brings. You can have those discussions and love and that love is largely demonstrated by your willingness to forgo your freedom to limit your liberty out of deference to the one for whom Christ died will in there for tonight will pick this theme up again will make up the first Corinthians chapter 10, Tennessee. The flip side of the coin was praying other help us to love as we have been loved. You have shown infinite long-suffering with us, you enable us to mimic you in our suffering, along with others.

Guard us from or from permissiveness on the one hand, but legalism on the other that we be knowledgeable of your word and of your ways, but in our living out that knowledge may be full of love, especially to the saints, whom you have redeemed with the precious blood of your son teach us to love. I pray in Jesus name, amen

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