I Corinthians 8 #2

Dr. Steve Viars February 4, 1992 1 Corinthians 8:

- We're studying the book of I Cor. and tonight we're going
  to continue studying I Cor. 8

- let's think for a minute about what we studied last week
- obviously not everyone was here, so let's be sure we're all
  starting at the same point

- the Corinthians culture, like many cultures of that day,
   was extremely pagan.
- they were both "polytheistic" and polydemonistic"
   - "polytheistic" - believed in many gods that had to be
          pacified by offerings
   - "polydemonistic" - believed in many evil spirits tat were
          trying to get inside of you
           - often they would do that by attaching themselves
             to a piece of meat.

   - so in Corinth, many pagan worshippers made meat
       offerings which both 1) pacified the gods and 2)
       purified the meat.

- INPUT - The meat went to one of three places. What was one
          of those three places?

    1) burned on the altar to the "gods"
    2) given to the pagan priest (since he and his family
       couldn't possibly use it all, the remainder was sold
       in the marketplace.)
    3) Returned to the worshipper.

- INPUT - because of that, the Christians in the Corinthian
    church were faced with 3 questions. What was one of those

    1) Can I buy meat that has been offered to idols in the
    2) Can I attend a feast where that kind of meat will be
    3) Can I attend a dinner party where I don't know what
       kind of meat will be served?

- Its obvious from chapter 8 that the church was divided over
   this issue.
- there were at least 2 groups:

   1) those who had weak consciences. (consciences that were
      triggered by something other than the Word of God.)
        - they thought it was sinful to eat that meat

   2) those who had knowledge - who said there was nothing
       wrong with eating it.

- now you and I probably won't face the specific issue of
   whether we should eat meat offered to an idol...
      BUT - the general issue here is one we have to wrestle
            with all the time.

- we're talking about Christian liberty
    - how do we make decisions about issues that God in His
      sovereignty chose not to directly address in Scripture
    - there are very few subjects that would be more
      important to talk about than this one
    - I say that for two reasons:
       1) area of potential division in the body. That’s
          happening in the church of Corinth. The body is
          divided over an question of Christian liberty.
            - People in our day and age often argue and fight
              over issues of Christian liberty.
            - Some here tonight could speak to that

       2) area of potential sin in the body.

          - these verses give some very clear principles
            about how to handle issues of Christian liberty.
          - violating these principles could lead to sin in a
            number of different ways.

- we closed last week by saying its critical, in these
   discussions, that we learn to distinguish things that
   genuinely differ

- the person who uses the same principles to answer questions

    1) Should I drink Coke?     2) Should I attend church?

       - has made a critical error because they haven't
         distinguished things that genuinely differ

- here's at least three categories:

    1) Black/white areas in the Bible
    2) Standards that can be readily deduced from biblical
         principles.  (cf. drinking)
    3) Things that are indifferent

- Christian liberty has to do with things that are
    indifferent, however we'll see that these categories
    creep back into the discussion from time to time

- let's read I Cor. 8 and look for three key principles in
    handling Christian liberty

- READ chaper 8

- its interesting to note the way this chapter is organized

- verse 1 is a really a clear example of what we learned in
  English class as a topic sentence
- a good topic sentence introduces the material to follow

- in this case - Paul actually gives us a three-fold outline
    that he follows through the rest of the chapter

- he says
    - we all have knowledge
    - knowledge alone puffs up
    - love edifies

- everything else in the chapter somehow fits into that
  division, and in so doing, answers the question: what
  principles do I use when making a decision about an issue
  that the Bible does not specifically address?

I. Knowledge Is Important

    - Paul says in verse one "we all have knowledge"
    - some writers believe that Paul is actually quoting one
       of the groups who originally wrote the letter asking
       the question about the meat.

    - we'll never know that for sure, but that makes a lot of
    - those who disagreed with those who had weak consciences
      would have said to Paul - "But Paul:

    A. We all have knowledge - v. 1

    - Paul didn't necessarily differ with that point

    - in fact, he develops that point in verse 4
    - INPUT - what does Paul say we "know" for sure if we
        understand the Scripture?

    B. An idol is nothing

        - in fact, any of the Corinthians familiar with the
          OT knew that the OT writers poked fun at idols and
          those who worshipped them.

        - Jer. 10:3-5 - "For the customs of the peoples are
           vain; for one cutteth a tree out of the forest,
           the work of the hands of the workman with the axe.
           They deck it with silver and with gold, they
           fasten it with nails and hammers, that it move
           not. They are upright like the palm tree, but they
           don't speak, They must needs be carried, because
           they can't go..."

    C. There is only one God - v. 4

        - again, anyone familiar with the OT would have known
        - Deut. 6:4 - the "shema" - Hear Oh Israel, the Lord
            our God, He is one

        - anybody who's a true believer in Jesus Christ has
          that knowledge, Paul says

        - he takes the next couple of verses and reemphasizes
          those same points
        - READ 5-6

    D. Names and reality are different

        - it doesn't matter that these idols are called gods
          or have fancy names
        - most of us used to think there was a "boogie man"
          in our bedrooms at night - that doesn't make him

        - names and reality are different

    E. There is one God - v. 6

    F. There is one Lord - v. 6

- now what's the point of all this?
- the starting point in making decisions about matters of
   Christian liberty is knowledge
- now, that’s not the end of the argument, (we'll see that in
     a minute)
       - but it is a crucial first step

- Now, this particular point is very important for at least
   three reasons

    G. Why this is important

        1) The Lord does not want those with "weak
           consciences" to remain in their weakness

       - there are particular reasons why Paul spent the
         time he did listing the material in these verses
       - surely one of the reasons is that, in as loving a
         way as possible, Paul wanted those who had "weak
         consciences" (ones that were triggered by criteria
         other than the Word of God)
            - to know that that was not an acceptable
            - yes, it's true that Paul is later going to say
              we must love these kinds of folks, and we must
              take care not to cause them to stumble

            - but, we must also look for opportunities to
            - In fact, you could summarize these verses with
              those two words - love and teach/love and teach

- too often in these discussion, this point is passed up

- having a weak conscience is not an acceptable condition
   long term

        2) some today, even in conservative circles, are
           minimizing the importance of knowledge

           - there's a lot of talk today about worship in our
             churches - and that's good
           - but I don't think what's being said is very good

           - here's what we're hearing
           - the reason we don't have effective worship is
             because there's too much doctrine, knowledge,
             instruction, too many of those old hymns
               - you can't "connect with God" in worship with
                 that stuff

          - we need to turn down the lights
          - we need to sing some emotional songs with a few
              words that repeat over and over
          - we don't need so much Bible study
              - in fact, one man leading a meeting like this
                that I was at instructed us to tell someone
                next to us a Bible verse - then he said
                "Don't worry if your Bible's back at your
                 room-your Bible's not in your room -your
                 Bible's in your heart!"

- all that kind of stuff is contrary to a biblical view of
   worship and growth
- "Sanctify them through thy Truth, thy word is truth"

- the "road" to a growing relationship with the Lord and
   effective worship is knowledge and truth

- now its true that a person can have knowledge and truth
   without having a growing relationship with the Lord
     - but you can't have a growing relationship with the
       Lord without having knowledge and truth

- now, you might say - well, what does that have to do with
   Christian liberty?  That’s where the third reason comes in:

        3) If we attempt to take a position on a "potential
           Christian liberty issue" without first gaining all
           the knowledge we possibly can, we're destined to

- here's what I mean - before you or I make a decision like:
    - should I go here/ not go here
    - should I do this/ not do this
    - should I wear this/ not wear this
        - we must be absolutely sure that we've searched
          every avenue of biblical truth before taking a
          position on that

- see, some folks have quickly decided: "The Bible doesn't
   say anything about that" when it fact it does

- knowledge is important

- all of us need to hear that but I'm thinking especially now
   of the young people who are here tonight who are in the
   process of forming opinions, positions, and convictions on
   what you're going to do and not do, where you're going to
   go and not go, what you're going to listen to, etc.

- this is also especially important for those who are young
   in the Lord who are wrestling with what to do with these

- its important for those of us who have been saved a long
   time because you may be thinking about switching a
   position on a particular issue
      - you may be drifting
      - you may hold a position on a certain issue that you
          really shouldn't
- knowledge is important

- we need to recognize a tendency in all of us to do it the
   way we want to do it
- we all have a rebellious stream
    - for some, it's a raging river
- that will probably show itself most in these kinds of
- cf. Hockey illus.

- before we move on - there's a very important question we
  need to ask
    - there are two clear "ditches" emerging here and we need
      to think about which one do you tend to lean toward?

- let's call the two ditches the "Legalistic Larrys" and the
   "Libertine Lonnys"

- Legalistic Larry's often have weak consciences
    - they often have constructed a whole list of do's and
      don't that aren't found in Scripture
    - those kind of folks desperately need knowledge

    - now we need to say this
        - there's nothing wrong with having some rules of the
           house - in fact, any organization of people has
           to have them
        - a business, family, a church - has to have some
          rules of the house
        - there was a day when IBM required all their
          management people to wear a white shirt
        - that was a rule of the house - if you want to work
          here - here's the way you dress

- every organization has to have them

- but Legalistic Larry's elevate those to the same position
   as Scripture

- several things happen as a result

    1) person becomes self-righteous
        - a vibrant and growing relationship with the Lord
          that results in standards and positions is replaced
          by standards and positions for the sake of
        - once that happens - they person goes from glorying
          in the righteousness of Christ to being self-

    2) blood of Jesus is minimized
         - Paul told the Galatians "I do not frustrate the
           grace of God, for if righteousness comes by the
           law, then Christ is dead in vain."

         - there's a lot of arguing going on today about the
           blood of Jesus Christ, but I think we need to say
             - some fundamentalists, because of their
               legalistic tendencies, were minimizing the
               blood of Christ long before John MacArthur
               ever brought up the issue.

         - some here tonight may have to say - "that's me"
             - My legalistic tendencies

- some here tonight might have to say - "I lean toward the
    "Libertine Lonny" ditch
    - Libertine Lonnys also need knowledge as well, but for
       a different set of reasons
    - Libertine Lonnys can be naive, thinking that a
        practice isn't that bad, or that dangerous, when
        really it is
    - Libertine Lonnys can be proud - boldly going where
         angels fear to tread
             - they lack the caution that ought to
                characterize a humble believer who is all too
                familiar with the power of his/her flesh
    - Libertine Lonnys can be insensitive - not thinking
        about how the position they take on a particular
        issue could have terrible impact on their kids, or
        others around
    - Libertine Lonnys can be uniformed - thinking the Bible
        doesn't have anything to say about that area when in
        fact careful study shows that it does

- Libertine Lonnys need knowledge, they need to immerse
    themselves in Scripture
- "thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin
     against thee"
- "Wherewithall shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking
     heed thereto according to thy word"

- one question tonight is - which ditch do you lean toward?
    - if you're going to go astray on an issue of Christian
      liberty - will it most likely be as a "Legalistic
      Larry" or a "Libertine Lonny"

- Paul says - "Knowledge is Important" - he moves on to say:

II. Knowledge Alone In Insufficient

    - as important as everything is that we've said so far,
      this is not the end of the argument
    - knowledge alone is insufficient, for 2 reasons

    A. Alone, it puffs up

        - one writer said - "some Christians grow, others
          just swell."
        - Paul's going after the "Libertine Larry's" here
        - he says - OK - I agreed with you - we all do have
            knowledge, but if that’s all you have - you're
            proud, puffed up

         - I mentioned a couple weeks ago about the seminary
           professor who was studying in Europe with his
              - and the city where he lived only had nude
              - he had to decide if he was going to take his
              - (develop)

    B. It's never complete

        - verse 2

        - a know-it-all attitude is an evidence of ignorance

        - someone has said - "knowledge is the process of
           passing from the unconscious state of ignorance to
           the conscious state of ignorance."

        - in addition, it's one thing to know facts--it's
          something else to know God
        - a person can be growing in their knowledge, even
          biblical knowledge, and not be growing in the grace
          and knowledge of Jesus Christ

- so knowledge is important, but alone it's insufficient

III. Knowledge Must Be Balanced By Love

    - Paul says - knowledge alone puffs up, but love edifies

    - let's think about how that's true

    A. Takes into account the goal for every believer

        - verse 1 says - "love edifies" (builds up)

        - Warren Wiersbe - "Knowledge can be a weapon to
           fight with or a tool to build with, depending on
           how it's used."

        - any decision we make concerning an area of
           Christian liberty has to be tempered by
           love...love for the Lord and love for His children

    B. Love cause us to be sensitive to the existence of
        weaker brothers

       - verse 7

        - the person who's knowledge is balanced by love is
          always going to be asking - How will this affect
    - How sensitive am I being to others around who haven't
      been saved as long, or haven't been taught as well

    C. Love causes us to remember that there's nothing
       especially spiritual about exercising liberty

        - verse 8

        - one of the things that concerns me about the way
          many folks discuss this issue of Christian liberty
          is:  The most mature folks are the ones who take
          the most liberal position on Christian liberty

        - they have the attitude - we know there's nothing
          wrong with drinking that, or wearing that, or going
             - therefore we're going to exercise our liberty
               because that’s the most spiritual thing to do

        - we need to say strongly - that attitude is patently
            - that’s contrary to what this verse is saying

        - there's nothing especially spiritual about
            exercising liberty

    - verse 9 is very similar to 7

    D. Love focuses on the question: "Could this cause a
       brother to stumble?"

       - not "am I free to do this?", but "How might this
         affect someone else?"

       - could my exercising my freedom negatively affect the
         spiritual growth of someone else?

    E. Love focuses on all that Jesus has already done

       - Paul reminds us of a very important truth in verse
       - we're talking about people "for whom Christ died"

       - the spiritual growth and development of God's
         children is very important to Him
           - woe to the man or woman who hinders the growth
              of a child of God

       - Jesus said the same thing in Matt. 18 - "But
           whosoever shall offend one of these little ones
           who believe in me, it were better for him that a
           millstone were hanged around his neck, and that he
           were drowned in the depth of the sea. ....Woe unto
           the man by whom the offense cometh."

- see, knowledge is important, but alone it's insufficient
    - a critical question to think about tonight is:
       - How loving are you?
       - when it comes to decisions to make in areas of
           Christian liberty - how loving are you?

       - does love cause you to (repeat five points)

    - I'd like to take the time we have left and ask you to
      look at the handout

    - Joe Aldrich - Lifestyle Evangelism

    - in the chart you have in front of you, he's categorized
      responses to Christian liberty questions

    - I think what he's saying about Christian liberty
      explains much about where many believers are today

    - the bottom line of the chart - the really spiritual are
      most generally going to end up in category four

- (On board)

   let's balance this off by adding some categories

   - naive participating believer

   - proud participating believer

   - uniformed participating believer

- point - its wrong to suppose that the really spiritual
     folks are those who are always pushing the limit on
     liberty issues

- the bottom line of all this is - I Cor 8 would have us
    strive for a "robust category 3 and a squished category

    1) robust category 3 - many times, the safest and most
        loving thing to do is to not participate

        - freedom isn't simply a matter of "I have the
          freedom to do certain things", freedom also has to
          do with "I have the freedom in Christ to not do
          this or that
        - denying self isn't limiting Christian liberty, it's
          Christian liberty at it's best

    2) Squished category 4

        - we all live in category 4 (develop)

        - but we've got to be sure we've thought those things
          through carefully and biblically (i.e. mentally
          squishing them)

        - as we do that, several things will happen

            - we'll discover some aren't Christian liberty
              items at all, because the Bible has something
              to say about them

            - some will slide down to category 5, 6, or 7 and
              we'll decide - "we shouldn't do that"

            - whatever is left is OK, but it's been squished

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video