Liberty - A stumbling block
1 Corinthians 8 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. 2 If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; 3 but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.
4 Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.
7 However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8 But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. 9 But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? 11 For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. 12 And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.
In today’s text Paul is speaking about something that was prevalent in his day. There were many traditions and religious practices that centered around food being sacrificed to idols. While this may not be prevalent in our culture, the principle behind Paul’s teaching is certainly still applicable today. Paul says: But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For example, there are some Christians, who believe that it is sin to drink any alcohol. Others believe it is okay to have it in moderation. I have been part of churches on both sides of the debate. It is difficult to make a scriptural argument to support the idea that alcohol equals sin. At the same time with the number of people who struggle with addictions in our society and in our churches it is easy to understand why some would want to eliminate and abstain from it entirely. This is an area where the principle of not allowing one’s own liberty to cause a brother to stumble can certainly be applied. The one who partakes should not try to convince others that they should also and if the liberty to partake is a temptation or a stumbling block to a fellow believer it is better not to partake in their presence.
The same type of principle could be applied to things like music, entertainment etc. Some believe that anything that is not “Christian” should be avoided, others believe that it is okay to listen to and watch secular music, movies and programs. A little later in his letter to the Corinthian church, 1 Corinthians 10:21-23, Paul again speaking about food sacrificed to demons says: You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we? All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Again this principle can be applied to the things we choose to do. Will we go to Hell for listening to secular music, watching an R-rated movie or programs on TV? No, thankfully our salvation is not based on our own actions, our eternal security is based on our faith and belief in Jesus Christ and the finished work of the cross. by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Still the question remains are these things profitable to us, do they edify? If in fact we have faith in Christ and if our eternal security is based on the finished work of the cross, should we be entertained by the things which caused Him to die? As our society and culture continues to move the lines of what is morally acceptable, it becomes increasingly difficult for believers to know where their own lines should be.
I personally know from my own experience, about myself that it is easier to stop at 0 than one. Abstinence is easier than moderation. Each individual needs to know that about themselves. The problem is we cannot trust our own hearts or our own judgment to lead us properly. Jeremiah 17:9 says: “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? James 1:14-15 says: Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. When we participate with things which entice our own lusts we open the door to the birth of sin in our lives. No believer plans to fall into great sin. The fall can always be traced back to a place where lust was entertained.
So in truth, not only should we not let our liberty become a stumbling block to others, we should guard against allowing our liberty, the freedom we have in Christ, to cause ourselves to stumble. Galatians 5:1,13 says: It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Through the finished work of the cross, we have been set free from sin, not set free to sin. Paul concludes Galatians 5 saying: But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.
The psalmist, although he lived before the cross, understood what it meant to live and walk by the Spirit. May his words be our declaration and prayer:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me
lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen. Thank You for the liberty I have through the cross. Amen.