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Glorifying God

Date: Sep. 13, 2020

Author: Michael Mark

1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1

Key Verse: 1 Corinthians 10:31

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Periodically, throughout the year we review our key verse and theme for the year, to keep us on track with the vision we have set for ourselves for the year.  Sh. Bob gave us the direction before the beginning of the year, Dan refreshed our memories back in June, and today, once more, we’ll look at the key verse we had chosen, see how we are tracking with it, and hopefully be encouraged to keep up with it through the end of the year. 

Our theme for this year is “Do Everything for the Glory of God.”  It was a follow up to the 2019 theme of “Thrive,” and our desire was to continue to thrive by making all that we do glorify God.  We did thrive in 2019, and coming into 2020, the year was full of promise to continue thriving.  But the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic started to hit us in March, and to this day we are all still distanced from one another in our homes.  Add to that the many social injustices, murders, protests, riots and lootings, along with blows to the economy and businesses, political battles raging, and natural disasters, 2020 has looked to be a chaotic year.  The year has left many feeling isolated, lonely, and helpless, and many angry.  But there were also some good things that came out of this.  Families got to be together more.  People became more creative in reaching out and keeping in touch and helping one another.  While there is darkness, there is also light, and though the world may not acknowledge it, we confess that all that is good is given to us by God.  And while God is still at work in this world, we still have an opportunity, an obligation rather, to give glory to him.  We give glory to God not only with our mouths, our minds and our hearts, but also through our actions.  Through our actions, not only will God be glorified by us, but those in the world may also come to the knowledge of the one true God, and glorify him also.  So let us now, while there is opportunity, engage, continue and press on in this task of giving glory to God in all that we do.

We can learn in today’s passage how this is done, through the apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth.  Just a bit of background before we dive in: Corinth was a city located in southern Greece, and one of most prosperous trade cities of its time.  The Isthmian Games, perhaps second in importance to the Olympics, were held at Corinth.  At the highest part of the city was a temple to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.  Around 1,000 temple prostitutes worked there, and often went into the city to offer their services.  The city was well known for its immorality, and even by pagan standards it was considered grossly immoral, debaucherous and depraved.  Paul established a church there during his second missionary journey (~50 AD), but sadly the corrupt culture crept into the church, and he wrote this letter to correct many of their wrong ideas.  Among them was this slogan “I have the right to do anything,” which the church used to justify its immoral practices.  This is where we begin today.

Look at v.23,  Paul writes, “ ‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say – but not everything is beneficial.  ‘I have the right to do anything’ – but not everything is constructive.”  This is what the Corinthians say  “I have the right to do anything.”  Maybe you have heard a similar thing in America.  Growing up, I have heard so many people say “It’s a free country, I can do what I want.”  Have you heard this before?  So why would the Corinthians say this?  They said this to defend their right to eat meat that was used in idol sacrifices.  Some of the brothers or sisters would be offended and complain, but they would say, “I have the right to eat this meat.”

Paul acknowledges that, but he also says “but not everything is beneficial.”  While it may be true, there is nothing unlawful about eating meat, sometimes the eating of it is not beneficial to others.  As Christians, there are things in the Bible that are expressly forbidden: drunkenness, fornication, idolatry, witchcraft, etc.  But there are things that the Bible is indifferent on.  For example, the Bible (once the Mosaic Law was nullified) does not forbid drinking alcohol (drunkenness, a different matter, is forbidden), getting a tattoo, smoking, or eating meat.  But are these things beneficial?  It’s arguable for some of these, but even today science has shown that smoking is quite hazardous to your health.  So there are several other things that might be lawful, but not beneficial.

Paul then continues in v.24, “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”  Of course, it is understood, we need food, we need clothes, we can even have good things.  The key is the word “seek.”  It means to strive after, to go all out for themselves.  It might be better understood by the word “selfish.”  We can all agree that selfishness is no virtue.  Oftentimes people are hurt, stepped over, wounded and offended by selfishness of people.  This was what was causing problems in the church, and creating factions and divisions.  But what does Paul advocate instead?  It is to seek the good of others.  To strive after, go all out in the interest of another.  This is a virtue.  From the previous verse, we can see in what ways we can seek the good of others.  We should seek after what is beneficial to someone, what is profitable and useful for them.  We should also seek that which is constructive, something that will edify, build up, promote growth, especially in Christian wisdom, affection, grace, virtue, holiness and blessedness.  To seek the good of others is to do that which is profitable and builds up another.  According to Paul THIS is what we Christians ought to do; THIS is what we Christians ought to be characterized by: not as selfish, but as those who seek the good of others.

Now Paul does go on to stress our Christian freedoms and liberty, and you will see just how free you can be.  But that freedom should be regulated, and controlled by love for one another.  Look at v.25: “Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience.”  Remember now, Paul is writing to the Corinthian church, located deep within Greece, which was 3025 km (or 1900 miles) driving distance from Jerusalem.  This was deep within Gentile territory, so it’s likely the meat in these markets also had meat that may have been used in idol sacrifices.  God hates idolatry and idol worship, and some of this meat was used in that.  God had strict laws declaring certain meats to be clean or unclean in Lev 11 and Deut 14.  Jews may have avoided this market all together.  To this day, Jews follow Kosher laws that determine what food is clean or unclean, lawful or unlawful to eat.  To say something is “kosher” means that it meets the requirements even in preparation of the food according to Jewish law.  This idol meat would not be considered kosher.  Jewish Christians, and maybe even some Greek Christians, might be hesitant going into such a market.  How would they know if this meat was sacrificed to idols or not?  I doubt the Greeks would have two separate containers for them.  But here is Paul’s advice: “Buy the meat, eat it, don’t worry about it.  Don’t even ask, don’t even think about it.  Don’t trouble your conscience or disturb yourself.  It’s good, go ahead, take and eat.”

How could Paul say this?  Because he believed this, in v.26, “for, ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.’”  He saying, guess what, the Lord made the meat.  In Acts 10:15, God had declared all meat clean for eating.  God created the meat, sanctified the meat, and offered it to us to eat.  To this day, millions of Christians enjoy bacon for breakfast, on donuts, or any other time of day.  But what about the idols?  Well, idols actually don’t exist.  Other than the one true God, the God of Israel, there is no other god.  So actually those fake gods have no power to contaminate the meat, and in God’s eyes and in every mature Christian believer, the meat is as pure as God made it.  This is representative of the freedom we have as Christians, that which is lawful, we may feel free to partake.  This is also something we glorify God for.  We give thanks to God for every good and perfect gift.  The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it: God owns the whole earth, and gives as he pleases, and Jesus even promises it one day as our inheritance.  He said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matt 5:5).”  The wicked and selfish might possess it for now, but there is a day coming where it will be taken away from them, and given to the righteous, so don’t be afraid, dear Christian: the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.

Paul continues to elaborate on this freedom, before showing the one restriction.  Look at v.27, “If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.”  Notice who the host is.  An unbeliever!  He says if an unbeliever invites you to a meal.  He doesn’t even prohibit going to eat with the unbeliever.  He says, and you want to go.  This is Corinth, and the Christian convert, especially the Greek, would still have many friends and family who will still worship idols.  Paul says, “Go ahead, eat with them, and no, don’t even bother to ask if they sacrificed the meat to idols.  Just eat what is put before you.  No scruples (don’t trouble yourself over it).”  You’d think this was a “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation (if you don’t ask, I won’t tell, wink wink), but it does not matter, the food is fine.

But now, here is the restriction, in v.28, “But if someone says to you, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice,’ then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience.”  It isn’t really clear who this “someone” is.  You could make the case that it’s the host, or it could be another guest, who is a believer.  But for simplicity, let’s take the view that this “someone” is another believer, and hopefully it will make sense later.  This believer is your Christian brother (younger or older does not matter), who was also invited to the meal.  It is your Christian brother who raises this issue.  He doesn’t like the atmosphere.  In fact, perhaps he once was a devout idol worshipper, and eating this food triggers those past memories and temptations.  He knows which foods are the standard idol sacrifice foods.  So he nudges you on the elbow, looking uneasy, and says, “This has been offered in sacrifice.”  Then, although you are free to, you don’t eat it.  It is better to offend the unbeliever, than it is to offend your believing brother.  That’s how it works.  You restrict your freedom out of love for the brother.

And Paul wants to make it clear, that you are fine, your conscience is still free and clear, but you are abstaining because of your brother’s conscience.  See verse 29-30, “I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours.  For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience?  If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?”  So this is what will happen if you eat that meal in the sight of your younger Christian brother who had reservations about it.  He will judge you, because he still thinks that food is nasty and unclean.  He will denounce you, even though you were free, because you ate those god-awful pork ribs.  Even though you would have thanked God for those delicious ribs, you would be denounced by your brother who really had issues with the meal.  -Or- your brother might eat with you, and stumble, and fall back into loving his idol, and you would be denounced by your other brothers.  So – to avoid this from happening, offend the host instead, and refuse the meal, out of respect for your brother.  Even though you have developed quite a taste for ribs, and you were hungry that day, you instead were seeking his good and not your own, and in so doing, God was glorified by you both.  Your brother thanked God you did not eat the meal, and you thanked God you avoided causing a fellow brother to stumble.

This is Paul’s conclusion in v.31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  This example of eating was but a sample, a small example of something you should do for the glory of God.  Paul extends this out to drinking, or whatever, anything that you do, do it all for the glory of God.  The glory of God is his praise.  Your purpose, your aim, your ultimate goal in life is this: it’s to promote the praise and honor of God, from your lips, and from the lips of others.  If this is your reason for living, you will receive much joy, for there is rejoicing in the glory of God.  When God is praised, and when God is honored, it will satisfy you.  God said this in 1 Sam 2:30 “Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.”  Now how is this so?  It’s because of the goodness and grace of God.  He has given us so much: the earth, food to eat, clothes to wear, talents and abilities, life itself.  To despise God is to despise the one who made you and clothed you and fed you, and this is wickedness.  To give glory to God is to give him honor, and thanksgiving, and all I can say, for many reasons, is that this is the right thing to do.

Honor, thanksgiving, praise and worship – these are ways to give glory to God, but there is another in this passage, and we will see how else we can glorify God in the remaining verses.  Look at v.32: “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God.”  To stumble has this picture of someone hitting against a rock on the road, stubbing his toe, and falling down.  It’s like putting a stumbling block in someone’s path.  Don’t cause anyone to stumble, means, don’t put a stumbling block in their way of finding Christ.  For example, some Jewish Christians had required circumcision to be saved, this was a stumbling block for Jews, but Paul adamantly rebuked them to remove this.  Greeks represent anyone who is not Jewish or Christian.  The stumbling block here might be those idol-sacrificed meats, or alcoholic beverages.  Don’t eat or drink those if it would cause a Greek to stumble back into idolatry.  And for the church of God, Christians, the same things could apply – legalism, or liberalism are both extremes that could put a stumbling block in a Christian’s path.

There are many ways that might cause someone to stumble, but here’s the solution, in v.33 “even as I try to please everyone in every way.  For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.”  To the Greeks, Paul became a Greek.  To the Jews, Paul became a Jew.  Even though he saw the Mosaic Law as obsolete, he still honored them when trying to win the Jew.  He had Timothy, a half-Jew, circumcised when required because he was half Jewish.  But when the Jews demanded circumcision for salvation, Paul drew the line, and would not allow that.  Paul accommodated some of the Jewish laws, if it helped him win Jews.  Paul used an unknown god on Mars Hill, to help him win the Greeks.  Hudson Taylor, a missionary to China in the 1800s, studied Mandarin, wore Chinese clothes, and grew a pigtail as Chinese men wore in those times, to preach the gospel to the Chinese.  So as it is lawful, Paul tried to please everyone in every way, because he was seeking not his own good, but the good of many.  This is the solution: it is not to seek (there’s that word seek again, meaning to strive and aim for) his own good, but he sought after the good of others.  He was looking out for their interests over his own.

And this is his great purpose:  so that they may be saved.  This is our ultimate purpose in doing good, and the ultimate result, and the highest praise of God.  People will praise God because of your good works, but when someone repents, puts their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, that is of the highest praise of God.

So how is this done?  How can we seek after the good of others, which will result in their salvation?  Paul wraps up this passage in Ch11, v1 – “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”  This was Paul’s example: he sought not after his own good, but the good of others.  He worked and earned his own money so he could provide the gospel free of charge.  He endured beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, wild beasts, hunger, cold, imprisonment so that he could witness to the truth of Jesus Christ, and even share his own testimony of how Jesus called him out of the darkness and into his wonderful light.  Such a great man, but he merely followed the example of an even greater one – the example of Christ.  And he urged us to have the same attitude as Christ, being like-minded, in Philippians 2.  To be humble, and value others above ourselves, looking not to our own interests, but to the interests of others.  Christ, though being in very nature God, made himself nothing, took the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  He humbled himself becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.  Jesus, who is in very nature God, came to die, to become the ransom payment for all our sins.  Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place, and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This here is the attitude of Jesus Christ, as he said himself, in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

So in the Spirit of Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit he gives to us, let us seek not our own good, but the good of others.  This includes what is beneficial for others, and what can build them up, especially spiritually, in Christian wisdom, grace, virtue, holiness and blessedness.  When we humble ourselves, and set aside our rights when appropriate, so that we may serve God by serving others, it is in hope that the world can then see God, know him, come to him and receive eternal life.  Jesus said this in Matt 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Your good deeds produce praise from the lips of others.  Our love for one another reveals God, as John writes in 1 John 4:12 “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”  While we cannot yet see God, he is revealed in our love for one another.  And when the world can see and know God, and his Son Jesus Christ, then the way to salvation will become clear, as Jesus looked up to heaven and prayed to His Heavenly Father only moments before his arrest and crucifixion, in John 17:3-5: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.  I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.  And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”  Glorify God by seeking the good of one another.  Whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

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