Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 10.
This chapter concluded Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians on the matter of eating meat offered to idols. The chapter began by pointing to Israel’s history (vv. 1-5), showing that God did so much for the entire nation (vv. 1-4) yet many in that nation fell under the judgment of God due to their unbelief (v. 5). This survey of Israel’s exodus was addressed to the Corinthian believers who believed they were strong in Christ and could exercise much Christian liberty. Yes, God has done much in your life and in your church but his powerful acts in Israel did not prevent people from worshipping idols (vv. 6-7), committing sexual sins (v. 8), testing Christ (v. 9), and being complainers (v. 10). We too have received much from Christ but that should never lead us to believe that we are immune from sin (vv. 11-12).
Although idols aren’t real and there is no spiritual or moral damage done by eating meat offered to idols, there is temptation associated with idol meat. That temptation is idolatry (v. 14). True, the idols are not real gods or representatives of real gods, nevertheless idolatry is demonic (v. 20). If the Corinthian Christians participate in Christ through communion (vv. 16-17) then go to the idol’s temple and are involved there (vv. 18-22), they are participating in the demonic and will face the Lord’s discipline (vv. 21-22).
It is important, then, whenever a Christian exercises Christian liberty not to focus on themselves but on others around them (vv. 23-30). The guiding questions for a Christian’s life are (a) am I playing with temptation to sin but calling it Christian liberty (vv. 12-13) and (b) is God glorified by this (v. 31)--meaning does it help or create obstacles to the spread of the gospel in the lives of others (vv. 32-33)?
Christians may answer these questions differently on the same subject. Here’s an example: One issue that Christians debate is whether it is acceptable to drink alcohol. The Bible condemns and warns against drunkenness but not against all consumption of alcohol. Christ himself drank wine and most Christians have throughout the century until very recently. But alcoholism is a serious problem in our world and many Christians were saved from a sinful life where alcohol was part of their sinful lifestyle. Many of these stopped drinking completely in order to live an orderly, obedient life to Christ. Personally, I don’t drink at all for several reasons, but if I did, I would be exposing myself to temptation--the temptation to drink too much and the possible reckless things I might do while drunk. So, if I were to choose to exercise my Christian liberty by having a beer, my faith in Christ and desire to please him should lead me to be careful about having more than one or two, lest I give into temptation (vv. 12-13).
Also, it may not be wrong for me to drink a glass of wine, but if I knowingly drink when I’m with another believer who doesn’t drink because he has less self-control, then I am sinning by putting him into a position where he may be tempted. So the limits of Christian liberty are about avoiding temptation myself and not leading another believer or unbeliever to sin (v. 32).
Is there an area of your life where you’re living in Christian liberty but you’re tempted to go further into something that is sinful? Are you considerate of the affect of your life on others--either leading them closer to Christ or misleading them from following Christ? Let these chapters from 1 Corinthians help you to guide your thinking as you make choices in everyday life.