Skip Heitzig - 1 Corinthians 7:25-8:13
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Would you turn, in your Bibles, please, to the book of 1 Corinthians, chapter 7? We didn't quite finish the chapter last week. We want to finish it this week. And you will then notice chapter 8 is short. I promised you last week that we will get through the end of chapter 7 or the second part of chapter 7 and chapter 8 tonight. And I repeat that promise with one caveat, Lord willing.
Father, thank you for the opportunity to gather. Thank you for the Spirit of God who is in this place. Thank you for the word of God. That has always been a part of this ministry. And we pray, Father, that even as the Book of Acts says, "And the word of God grew," we pray, Lord, that not only would we personally grow, not only would your work grow, but an appreciation and an understanding of your word would also grow. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
Early this morning when I was having my devotions, I was reading Psalm 26. And there's a little section in that psalm that spoke to my heart where the psalmist said, I have loved the habitation of your house. And then a few verses later, he goes on to say, my foot stands in an even place in the congregation. I will bless the Lord. And that spoke to me in particular. Because I have loved the habitation of the Lord's house. I have loved where God dwells. He dwells among His people. And I was just thinking back. Over 40 years ago, we moved from California to New Mexico and planted a Bible study that became this church. 40 years. It has been my joy to teach the word of God, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book, Old Testament, New Testament, then do it again and again and again and again.
And I have loved the habitation of the Lord's house. This has been my life. This has been my world. This vantage point has been much of my existence. I have given my life for it. And I would do it again. And I have just loved it so much that I get to be with God's people, seeing so many things the Lord has done through the people of this place, this church, around the world. I have loved the habitation of His house. And I have stood in the congregation with you and blessed the Lord through the years.
So I was thinking about that. My mind went back through the years, and that verse spoke to me. Now, when we started this church, let me rephrase that. When anybody plants a church, they typically don't foresee problems. Or they don't think about those problems. They don't really anticipate what problems they'll have. Some of my staff members have gone out and planted churches. Kevin, you planted a church. You were 11 years in Tennessee. When you started that church, you were so excited. But I remember the phone calls, the issues, the problems that come up. You know they're going to come. But you don't like when they do come, but they come.
And Paul is experiencing a little bit of that. He planted a church in Corinth. It was a great joy for him to travel through the known world, and put down spiritual roots, and share the gospel, and get a group of people, and not only win them to faith in Christ, but mature them in their walk with Christ, and then to have to leave that place and hear about what things are going on and sometimes good, sometimes bad. Sometimes you'd write a letter and say your faith is being spoken of, all over the world. He wrote to the Thessalonian church and said that. And I'm sure there were some positive, great things about the Corinthian church. In fact, we'll notice a few of them as we progress. It was a work of God in a very difficult place, but there were problems that came up. And we have noted several of them so far. And we'll note more of them as we go through.
So Paul is in Ephesus when he gets word that the Corinthians are struggling with a unity issue. He hears that from a church member in Corinth. Then he gets letters from different Corinthian members that ask questions that he didn't address when he planted the church. And so the book follows the outline of Paul addressing the concerns of the household that told him about the disunity, followed by Paul answering questions about issues that came up. And we noted last week in chapter 7, the first issue that he addresses, the first question that the Corinthians had was about marriage and divorce, singleness versus the status of marriage.
Verse 1 of chapter 7, "Now concerning." And that's a tip-off that he is dealing with an issue that they wrote him about. When he says, now concerning, he is addressing a different topic altogether. He is changing topics. And it's a topic about something they asked him of, for he says, "Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me." Happens again in chapter 8, verse 1. "Now concerning things offered to idols." They obviously had a question about that. In chapter 12, verse 1, he begins same wording. "Now concerning spiritual gifts." And that was an issue they struggled with. And he writes chapters 12, 13 as a hiatus and chapter 14 about spiritual gifts and the balance of their exercise within the church.
In the middle of chapter 7, which is where we left off last time, is another "Now concerning." And that takes us to verse 25. "Now concerning virgins," which is a strange way to begin a sentence. I think I mentioned last week, you probably have never begun a conversation with those words "Now concerning virgins." But Paul did, because it was an issue they asked him about. And so as just by way of introduction, a little bit into last week's study, Paul begins by saying that celibacy, singleness is good. It's something that is good in verse 1 of chapter 7. "Concerning the things of which you wrote to me, it is good for a man not to touch a woman."
And he is addressing celibacy, a man who decides to stay single and celibate his entire life. He says that's good. And then in verse 8, "But I say to the unmarried and to the widows, it is good for them if they remain even as I am." And then if you go down to verse 26, "I suppose, therefore, this is good, because of the present distress. That is, it is good for a man to remain as he is."
So it's good. Celibacy, singleness is good. And we will see tonight, in many ways, Paul said is preferable to those who are married. Because they can live an undistracted life in serving the Lord. However, having said that singleness with celibacy is good, he quickly says, but it's not the only good. There's other things that are good as well and to be considered.
And I mentioned back in Genesis, chapter 2, where the Lord said it is not good that man should be alone. I will make a helper that is comparable to him. And God instituted a man and a woman coming together in marriage. So back to chapter 7 of 1 Corinthians, verse 6, "But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that."
Some people have a gift to be single. Other people have a gift to be married. Go with your gift, Paul would say. Go with your gift. If you have that gift to serve the Lord as a single person, good. Go with it. If you don't have that gift, but you have the gift to do it with a helper that is comparable to you, like in Genesis, chapter 2, go with it. Go with the gift.
So that takes us to chapter 7, verse 25, which is the second part and really the part I want to address tonight. And we'll finish this off. "Now concerning virgins." Evidently, somebody asked him a question. What about people who have never gotten married? Now, he addresses at the beginning of this chapter the unmarried.
He mentions the unmarried and the virgins, the unmarried agamos in Greek. Here, the virgins in particular, which would be a subset of the unmarried, right? And the Greek word he uses here is parthenoi. So you have agamoi, which is the unmarried people, plural, and the parthenoi, the virgin people in particular. And because of all the times in this chapter when Paul uses the word "virgin," he uses it with the feminine gender. He has in his mind not just young people who have never gotten married, but in particular, girls who have never gotten married.
So either he is addressing daughters of fathers, and the fathers were in control of the future marital status of their daughters. All right. We know that. The fathers had complete control in those days. And fathers would decide who you're going to marry, when you're going to marry, et cetera. That was all part of the deal. So he has in mind either the daughters of fathers who are believers in the Church of Corinth. Or some scholars don't agree with that. And they think he's talking to young girls who are engaged or want to be married, have a relationship, and are moving toward marriage.
So he's either writing to daughters of fathers, and the fathers are struggling with, should I let my daughter get married or not? Or he is talking about young girls who are engaged to be married or want to be married. He's addressing one of those two groups. We're not sure. So I'm not going to be dogmatic about it. But it's interesting that different New Testament translations take different interpretive tacks on that. And they don't all agree. So it's one of those two things.
"Concerning virgins", parthenoi. And he's writing in the feminine. "I have no commandment from the Lord. Yet, I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy". Apparently, there were a group of people. And we know that these were prevalent in the early church. Because this group grew as the church aged, as it went from the first century to the second century, to the third century.
There were a group of people who were ascetics. I don't know if you know what an ascetic is or asceticism. Asceticism is the idea of complete self-denial. So an ascetic will live in a monastery. An ascetic will put clothes on that hurt him or itch him. An ascetic will not eat nice food, but eat bad food, bland food, and spend his or her life in contemplation. It's somebody who lives out, apart from the world, so they might give their attention to the Lord, usually in very meager settings and very painful settings. That's an ascetic.
And asceticism was an ideology of early Christians to cope with the strong pull and temptations of this world. And it seems that there were a group of ascetics in the Church of Corinth already, who were saying, well, if you're really spiritual, you won't get married. If you're really spiritual, fathers, who have virgin daughters, you won't let them get married.
So it seems that was Paul. And that seems to be part of the questioning that they had to Paul. And that's why he's addressing it now, now concerning virgins. He's addressing the pressure that is being put on some to remain single, but notice what he says. "Concerning virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord. Yet, I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy."
Now, again, he's not saying, I don't know, but here's my opinion. That's not what he's saying. He's not like, yeah, I don't have any clear direction from God. So I'm just going to sort of make this up as I go along. He's not saying that. He's saying, I have no previous revelation from the scripture. Jesus didn't in particular teach on this matter.
But now, he is going to teach on this matter. He is going to give direction. He is going to give inspirational direction, for you'll notice, he says, "I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy." You can take what I have to say to the bank. Just like when Jesus taught on marriage and divorce in Matthew 5 and in Matthew 19, I am going to tell you some things. And what I have to say are words that are trustworthy.
Also, go to the very last verse of this chapter and notice that he says, "But she is happier if she remains as she is, according to my judgment. And I think I also have the Spirit of God." So Paul believed he was writing under the inspiration and by the authority of the Holy Spirit and that by God's mercy, he was speaking trustworthy words.
Also, just to add a little weight to that, I'm going to remind you of 1 Corinthians, chapter 4, where he says in verse 1, "Let a man so consider us as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards that one be found faithful." Paul is describing himself as a faithful steward of the mysteries of God that he is proclaiming.
So there's no lack of authority. He's not shooting from the hip. He's not saying, here's my own personal opinion. I don't really know what God has to say in this. But how about this? Not at all. It is to be taken as scripture. It is to be taken as authoritative for life and practice, just like the words of Jesus. That's what he means when he says, "I have no commandment from the Lord, no previously given revelation. Yet, I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy. I suppose, therefore, that this is good, because of the present distress, for a man to remain as he is."
Paul is referencing some issue, some problem, some distress in the culture or in the world. We don't know exactly what it is. But he's making reference to it. And he's saying, the reason it's preferable to be as I am, and that is, single and unencumbered and celibate can serve the Lord, is because of the present distress.
Now, what does he mean? Number one, he is speaking about a local issue that was happening only at Corinth. If that's the case, we have no real idea what that is. But it could be that there was some local pressure that was being put on by city government, by council members, by unbelievers in the city, in the region. And it was localized at Corinth.
Number two, the present distress could be the fact that, look, Jesus is going to return. There's going to be some tribulation that is coming. So, look, the Lord is coming too quickly. I don't think he means that. And this is where I tend to lean, either number one or number three, that there is a persecution on the horizon that Paul is sensing.
He sees it coming. He's traveled the world. He's traveled throughout that whole region beyond where, the Corinthians are just in Corinth. He's been in Corinth. He's been in Athens. He's been in Philippi. He's been in Thessalonica. He's been in Antioch of Pisidia and Antioch of Syria. He's now in Ephesus. Wherever he goes, he is noting a mounting persecution against the church. And probably, he is referring to the present distress as this growing hostility among unbelievers that it will eventuate in persecution.
We do know that happened between the second and the fourth centuries, especially under several of the Roman Caesars. There was an unbridled amount of persecution. Christians were being killed, being slaughtered. It was very common practice. And you can read about that. I don't have time. And I have told you about it in the past. But it could be that he is referring to that when he says the present distress.
You and I live in an era where I would say even though we're not Corinth and this is not the first century, in this century we are living in a present distress. There are things happening around us and on the horizon. And I wonder if you spot them. I wonder if you feel them. I wonder if you sense them. I have a hunch you do.
First of all, there is an apostasy. You know what that means. It means a falling away from the faith. There are people that you know, who once named the name of Christ, who once sat next to you in church, who once worshipped with you, who are no longer a part. They have fallen away. John writes about this and said, they went out from us. But they showed, basically, they were never really of us, for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us. Paul the Apostle said, in the last days many will follow away from the faith and give heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines taught by demons
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and said, before the coming of the Lord, there will be a great falling away, an apostasia. That's what apostasy means. That's happening. We're seeing it. I'm seeing it in greater numbers than I have ever seen. It before. But there's something else happening. Though that is happening, it's probably always happened, though I I'm sensing it in a greater degree presently, there's also a growing hostility toward us, an antipathy toward the church, the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, always has been. But I am sensing it being ratcheted up. And I am sensing the present crisis. And I mean, the world crisis, the COVID crisis, and the political crises that are a part of that around the world have magnified that. And so to speak out in truth, before, you could do that.
There's a pastor in Canada. Because he spoke out about same-sex marriage, basically he just taught what the Bible said about a man and a woman. And that's the family that God ordained to be married. And nothing else is, in God's eyes, right. He was arrested, sentenced. Another pastor in London arrested for the same thing, a member of the Finnish Parliament, a medical doctor, a gal who is an evangelical Lutheran, a medical doctor. She's an academic. Because she stands up for biblical marriage and has tweeted that, she is now under indictment for hate speech.
We used to say, watch out. It's coming. It's here. We're in it. It is a present distress. And you couple that with governments who are just loving the control that they get to have because of a pandemic. Just realize, we are in a very unique situation. It's being ratcheted up and I believe ratcheted up toward the last days and toward "the" last days. Not just we're in the last days, like Paul was 2,000 years ago. The last days of the last days before the Lord comes back. "So I suppose, therefore, that it is good. Because of the present distress, it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife?" Aren't you glad I said, we'll finish chapter 8 if the Lord wills?
"Are you bound to a wife?" Now, I'll answer that. Yes, I am, happily. I'm a happily married man. "Are you bound to a wife?" Yep. "Do not seek to be loose." No problem. "Are you loose from a wife? Do not seek a wife." Now, perhaps I'm guessing now. I'm guessing part of the complication they were writing Paul about is, well, Paul, if it is true that to be single is to be unencumbered and undistracted in serving the Lord, maybe it would be better if I dumped my wife, so I could serve the Lord in an unencumbered way
Paul would say don't do that. That is not a spiritual thing, as he's already talked about in previous verses. "Are you loose from a wife? Don't seek a wife." Now, that is not to say don't look. If you're sensing, I don't have the gift to be single, I have the gift to be married, so I want to find the right one. But now, I shouldn't look for one.
The idea is don't take that to mean you shouldn't be on the lookout if the Lord brings her or him to your path. I would just say don't make that the overriding, dominating, controlling factor of your life. "But even if you do marry, you have not sinned. And if Virgin Mary, she has not sinned. Nevertheless, such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you. But this, I say, brethren. The time is short so that from now on, even those who have wives should be as though they had none. Those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as those who did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use this world as not misusing it for the form of this world is passing away."
What does he mean when he says the time is short? Well, he talked about a present distress. So he could mean, A, life is short in and of itself, B, the Lord is returning soon, so don't get your roots down too deep or 3, C, and this is what I believe. That persecution is on the rise. It's coming. Time is short before that full-blown persecution that I'm sensing is going to hit. So if you're married, you may have to make some choices and live as though you are not. I mean, it could get down to it. And I'll explain that as we go down.
Let me give you a scenario that could have happened in the first century. Let's say there's a married couple in Corinth. And both of them are Christians. And the wife gets captured by unbelievers. This did happen. I mean, this was happening as time went on. She is captured, and she is tortured for her faith in Christ. Let's say the husband is not. Now, the husband is at home with the kids. If she was a single woman and didn't have a husband with kids, that would be horrible if she was tortured or killed in that prison under those circumstances. That'd be horrible. But now, it's worse. Because the children that depend on mom will be taken away or will be left abandoned. Excuse me. Because she, the mother, will be taken away. She's going to leave the kids and the husband to fend for themselves.
Or here's another scenario. Let's say the husband is arrested, and the wife and the kids are at home. And let's say they torture him, and they kill him. In those days, a widow with children in that culture was often completely destitute, would go into bankruptcy, and would not be able to, extreme poverty. So Paul will make the case that because of the present distress, if you're single, you may want to think, unless the Lord hasn't gifted you that way, about staying single. Now, if you get married, no problem. You haven't sinned. Don't worry about it. But there's this distress that it's coming soon. So he's weighing one against the other.
Verse 32, "But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world, how he may please his wife. There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy, both in body and in Spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this, I say, for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you. I don't want to regulate that you should or shouldn't get married. I don't want to put a leash on you to that standard extreme. But for what is proper that you may serve the Lord without distraction?"
Now, please understand the emphasis here. It's not to regulate them. It's not to control them. It's not to put a leash on them. He's saying, you can get married or you can stay single. That's going to be up to you before the Lord. I'm saying this to you. And the emphasis is because I care for you. This is the heart of a pastor caring for his flock. "I want you to be", verse 32, "without care."
When I was single, I could do whatever I want, whenever I wanted. I can't do that now. I don't want to do that now, but I can't do that now. When I was a single male living in California, shortly after the death of my brother, I just had this hankering to see the country. And I called a friend of mine. I said, would you be willing to go on an excursion with me? He goes, what do you mean an excursion? I said let's drive through the United States and Canada, wherever the Lord might lead. I'll bring my guitar. We'll preach the gospel, we'll camp.
And we did it for three months. I could just pick up, go where I wanted to go, maybe take an odd job here or there, get money for gas, get money for food, eat very meagerly, just kind of work. And we did it three months through the United States and Canada, had a blast. Slept in the car, slept on the ground, slept on benches.
Now, if I were to try to do that, now, honey, we're going to go across the country. And I'm to have you sleep on this bench. That'll be your bench. This will be my bench. It wouldn't go over really well. When I first married Lenya, we were coming out this way. We did stop partway on the first night. And I said, we'll just sleep here. She goes, sleep where? I said right here. Well, where? Well, we're in the car. We'll just sleep in the car. So I learned really quick the meaning of 1 Corinthians, chapter 7.
It didn't take me long, that he who is married is concerned for the things of his wife in a very different way than when I was single, so learned my lesson. When two people get married, they adjust to each other, normal and natural. Sometimes it's easy. Usually, it's not. I look at marriage as two porcupines trying to get warm on a cold night. They need each other's body heat. But they have to be very careful how they snuggle up, because each has many fine points.
But they'll feel those points if they don't adjust just right. And so you just want to get those things in sync together and, OK, that's good. You make adjustments. Because you each have your own habits, your own views, your own ways of doing things. Some like the toilet paper going over, some like it going under. Some like everything neat and in its place. Others are slobs, just throw things everywhere. And it's interesting to watch the porcupines adjust, but it is an adjustment.
When you're single, no adjustment needed. It's just and yourself. Hang out, do whatever you want. The Lord calls you to do something? You go. Camp out for three months? Go. Take a mission trip overseas? Go. But when you're married, you care for the things of your spouse. I said last week, it's hard enough for one sinner to be by himself. You get two together, and that's the porcupine effect. That's the adjustment.
That's why Queen Elizabeth I, she was back in what? The 1500s. Queen Elizabeth I said, I am married to England. My husband is England. She was just devoted to that cause as monarch. A believer who is unmarried can be focused on the things of the Lord solely. Again, the caveat, if that is their gift. And he says that in verse 35. "I'm saying this for your own prophet." Verse 36, "But if any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, if she has passed the flower of her youth and thus, it must be, let him do it. Let him do what he wishes. He does not sin. Let them marry. Nevertheless, he who stands fast in his heart having no necessity, but has power over his own will and has so determined in his heart that he will keep his virgin, he does well."
It's my belief that these verses in particular are dealing with that father I told you about, that first century Christian dad in Corinth who had a daughter or daughters who are getting up into meritable age. And he, the dad, thought, man, I don't know if I want them to get married. We're living in tough times, troubled times, a bad age. And dads in those days, especially in the Greco-Roman culture, had complete power over their children. There was a Roman law called, in Latin, patria potestas. Patria potestas means the absolute authority of a father over the life of a child, even to the point of death. Complete control.
So if you have fathers who are saved, they're in the church at Corinth. They have control over their daughters. Some of them might be thinking, I don't want my daughters to get married. And so that seems to be what he has in view. In fact, some believe that some of these fathers made a vow, because of the pressure of the ascetics in the church, saying, if you're really spiritual, you won't let your daughters marry.
So maybe some of the dads made a vow to the Lord. Lord, I'm dedicating my daughter to you, that she'll live in perpetual virginity. You might want to consult your daughter, Paul is saying. He says in verse 37, "Nevertheless, he who stands steadfast in his heart having no necessity", and the word "necessity" means being constrained, and that means being constrained by your daughter. She's saying, hey, what do you mean you made a vow for me to be celibate, the rest of my life a virgin? I want to get married. I've met this cute guy at church. So Paul is saying make sure that you're not constrained or necessity. So verse 38, then, "He who gives her in marriage does well. But he who does not give her in marriage does better."
Both are fine. It depends on what? Go with a gift. Go with the gift. God gives gifts to people to be single and gifts to people to be married. Verse 39, "A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives. But if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord." Death breaks the bond of marriage. I mentioned last week that God's original design was one man, one woman for one lifetime. Now, that is not always maintained in many cases. Jesus spoke about another exception besides death, and that was adultery. If there's somebody who commits adultery, that gives a freedom to divorce one's spouse and thus, if one chooses to remarry, so death, divorce.
And then Paul gives another, and that is departure of an unbeliever. If an unbeliever departs the marriage, then you're also free. But in this case, he is just referring to death. A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives. But if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes only in the Lord. That is, only marry a Christian. Not, well, I met this guy, and he's really cute. And he says he's interested in God. Really? Has he always said he's interested in God or just since he met you? That's a very important thing to find out. Because if, suddenly, he's interested in God, because you're interested in God and you think, I'm going to missionary date him, that is, I'm going to date this unbeliever and as a missionary, I'm going to lead him to Christ, maybe and maybe not.
And, listen, people change, but not that much. If you marry somebody, this is just marriage advice I would say to anybody. When you marry somebody with the idea of, I'm going to change that person, don't. Don't. No. You should go into the marriage, I'm allowing myself to be changed by the Spirit and power of God. And that other person, if they're doing that, great. That's how it should be. But if you're going in thinking that you're going to make adjustments and tweaks and change that person, oh, they'll change. And you'll change the porcupine adjustment factor, but make sure they know the Lord. Make sure that is their priority. They love the Lord.
Make sure that guy loves the Lord more than he loves you. Make sure that gal loves Jesus more than she loves you That's the pursuit. "So only in the Lord. But she is happier if she remains as she is, according to my judgment. And I think I also have the Spirit of God." Now, chapter 8. These 13 verses deal with an issue of Christian liberty, "Now concerning things, offered idols." And he's going to get into, in the next few chapters, what we would call gray areas. Gray areas. There are issues that we face today that they didn't face 2,000 years ago. There were issues going on in Corinth that Paul had not addressed with them, hence the questioning.
Gray areas. And their gray area was, can I eat meat, sacrifice to an idol? Our gray area would be different. Christians for generations have debated issues like, can women wear pantsuits? I remember when pantsuits were big. When was that? What decade was that? '70s, '80s? And some people In the church say, women can't do that. Because she's wearing something that pertains to a man. That's men's clothing, and that's forbidden. And then there was debates about, can Christians see movies? Can Christians smoke cigarettes? Can Christians dance? And when people ask me, can Christians dance? My answer is some can, some can't. I can't. Never been good at it. That's why I played in the band.
Anyway, another story. So these are gray issues. And one of the issues was food sacrificed to idols, meat sacrificed to idols. "Concerning things offered to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up or edifies." When it comes to gray areas, not black and white areas, we certain things are wrong. Biblically speaking, we have enough working knowledge to know a certain thing. That's wrong, won't do that, stay away from that, that's right, get into that, do that. But then there are things we're not quite sure about.
When it comes to these gray areas or "non-essential" issues, now, it's good, by the way. Let me just back up. It's good for you to know what is essential and what is non-essential. And why is it important? Because we must never raise non-essentials to the level of essentials. And we must never lower essentials to the level of non-essentials. So when it comes to who is God, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the person and work of the Holy Spirit, the Atonement of Christ, the vicarious Atonement, Him dying in our place, salvation by faith through grace or by grace through faith, all of that, those things are essentials. If you don't believe in some certain things, you are not a saved individual. You are not a child of God. They're essential.
There are other things that are not essential. Eating meat sacrificed to idol, non-essential. Going to a movie, a non-essential. Having a cigarette, a non-essential. Some people take and raise non-essentials to the level of a sin. Oh, you smoke. You're going to hell. That's where all the smoke is. You've just taken a non-essential, friend, and raised it to the level of an essential. But then there's people who take essentials and say, yeah, it doesn't matter if you believe in the Trinity, doesn't matter if you believe in the Resurrection, doesn't matter if you believe in the Atonement.
And when they do that, they are stripping the gospel of the gospel. They're taking all the power out of it. There's nothing to believe in. So Paul knew his essentials, but he certainly knew that certain things were non-essentials. The rapture of the church, a non-essential. I believe in a pre-tribulation rapture. Not everybody does. It's OK. I can fellowship with people who don't believe as I do. They're wrong, but I can still fellowship with them. I don't mind fellowshipping with people who are ignorant of the facts and have lost the blessed hope. They're still believers. They're my brothers and sisters in Christ. OK.
"Now concerning things offered to idols, we know we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, love edifies. If anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him." Oh, I love that. It's not what you know. It's who you know. And it's not even who you know. It's who knows you. Well, do you know the Lord? Yes, I do. More than that, He knows me. He knows my name. He knows me intimately. "The Lord knows those who are His," Paul writes. You are known by Him.
Now, let me give you a little bit of the background. In those days, there were two sources of where you would buy your protein base in Corinth. Your meat, either, A, you would buy it at the general market, which was slim pickings or you would buy it from the butcher shop at the temple. You'd either buy it from the marketplace or the temple. Typically, when a sacrifice was given at a temple, even the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, and there was a priest that officiated that, the sacrifice was divvied up into generally three pieces, one piece offered to the Lord, one piece given to the priest, one piece taken home by the offerer. And they could enjoy that as a meal with their family.
Well, because the priests would offer so many sacrifices, he had more meat than he needed. So what would he do? He would make some extra money, and go down to the butcher shop at the temple, and sell it off. And they would sell it on the streets. And so you could go down to the temple butcher shop and see not nice cuts in a glass enclosed case with lights, like you see today. Just if you've ever been to the Middle East, you just see meat hanging up. Right? The animal is hanging up. And you'd buy the meat, and you take it home.
So this was very common to buy your meat from a temple. The animal had been sacrificed to an idol, a pagan god. So just imagine you go to somebody's house or you go to a restaurant and they tell you what's on the menu. They say, well, tonight our special is we have a prime cut that has been offered to Jupiter at 4:00 PM this afternoon. And you're a Christian going, huh! To Jupiter? Oh, my goodness. I can't eat that thing. And it became a problem.
This will help. One of the reasons it became such an issue, because most of the meat, you didn't buy at the marketplace. Most of the meat, you bought at the temples and here's why. Greek theology, they were polytheistic. You know what that is? They believe in many gods. They were also polydemonic. They believed in demons everywhere, surrounding everyone, everything, all the time. They were in the air. And they were looking for a way to get inside people. And one of the ways they got inside people, usually, according to this superstition is they attach themselves to food. And you would eat that. And you would go crazy. You'd go nuts. And the reason a person would go crazy is because they ate food that had demons. This was an ideology back then.
The way to get rid of the demons is to sacrifice it to one of the gods. When you sacrifice to one of the gods, like Jupiter or whoever, that god would be so tickled that you gave them homage, that he or she would offer you protection from the demons in the food. I know that sounds crazy, but that was an issue. I'll give you something even crazier. Ready for this? Even among the Jews, they had this idea of demons attaching themselves to food. So some of the rabbis believe that there was a particular demon by the name of Shibta. Shibta was a demon that attached itself to food. And when you touch the meat on your hands, that demon would cling to you.
So the only way to get rid of the demons was elaborate washing of the hands. And Jesus makes reference to, you wash your hands elaborately. The Jews would wash it two different ways, three different ways, sometimes, and dry it off, and be very particular about how they handle things, because of this crazy idea among rabbis of demons entering people through their hands, once they touch the food.
So it's not an issue to us if you buy hamburger from a guy who's a Muslim, or a Buddhist, or a Christian. Well, you just buy food and get it, whatever. Who cares? You have knowledge. You have knowledge. You know better. You know that a demon is nothing. A false god is not a god. An idol is just fake news. There's no such thing. There's only one true God. You know that. But not everybody knows that. Not everybody has that conscience. They're informed not by logic, but by their conscience. And their conscience is tender toward that. And for you to eat something that had been offered to an idol is just, it's going to freak them out.
So what do you do? Well, you could say, well, I know better. And I have liberty in Christ. I have freedom in Christ. "Well, therefore, concerning the eating of things offered to idols", verse 4, "we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there are no other gods but one." We know that. We know there's only one God. We know these are fake gods and goddesses.
"For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on Earth, as there are many gods and many lords. Yet for us, there's only one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him, and one Lord Jesus Christ through whom are all things and through whom we live. However, there is not in everyone that knowledge for some with consciousness of the idol. Until now, eat it as a thing offered to an idol. And their conscience being weak is defiled."
There are some things you don't solve by logic. Even though you know the truth, and you know better, and you know that an idol is nothing, there's no god there, there's no power, that's just a statue, people bow to a statue and talk to a statue. They look up at it and talk to it. You know better. It's a piece of wood, nothing more. But not everybody thinks that way. Not everybody thought that way. So for you to make decisions based on logic, it's not smart. And I would say that as a parent, you don't. Example, your child. You have a child, a young child who's scared of the dark. The dark? You know better than that. There's nothing in the dark.
That child's older brother knows better. But what if you and the older brother sit down with that little child and say, now, let me tell you the logic behind things in the dark? Will they go, oh, OK, thanks. Now, I think better. Now, I know better. No, they still have a feeling. They still have a tender conscience. So you accommodate that, right? You get people past that. But you are sensitive toward their conscience, same in the church.
There are weak brothers and weak sisters. And Paul is addressing the strong brother and the strong sister very similar to Romans, chapter 14 when he says receive those who are weak in the faith, but not to dispute over doubtful things. For one says they can eat meat. The other who is weak says, I can only eat vegetables. Same idea. So he's appealing to the stronger, in faith, brother or sister.
Verse 8, "But food does not commend us to God, for neither if we eat, are we the better? Nor if we do not eat, are we the worse? But beware, lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat the things that are offered to idols?" Worldliness is an interesting topic. I have discovered that worldliness is geographical in many ways. What we consider worldly, other Christians in other places would not consider worldly. What they consider worldly, we would not consider worldly.
Not uncommon in Europe, in Germany after Sunday service, all the pastors go down to the pub and have a beer or have beer parties at church. I know churches that have bars on their campuses. Not a big deal to them. But you get an American Baptist, tell them that? They'll be apoplectic over that. It's just wrong. Yet, for that American Baptist being overweight or being obese, that's not a problem. But that would be a sin to many European Christians. That's why I say it can be geographic.
So I've always loved the story about Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a pastor in London. And he knew many pastors in London. He was, in particular, friends with one other pastor at another church. They spoke highly of each other. They shared pulpits together, until Spurgeon found out that pastor went to the theater. And when Spurgeon found out, he didn't take a liking to that worldly entertainment and spoke out against worldly entertainment. It's funny, because Spurgeon was a cigar smoker and saw no problem with having a stogie after a good sermon or even before a good sermon. Not a big deal.
And then Spurgeon, on one occasion, was visited by an American evangelist named DL Moody, one of my favorite, also. DL Moody heard about Spurgeon, wanted to visit him, flew all the way to England, visited Spurgeon, knocked on the door. Spurgeon opened the door, this is what I read, with a stogie. Just imagine, you open the door and there's the preacher you always wanted to see. Stinky preacher.
And Moody looked at that. Moody was a heavyset fella, let's just say very rotund and looked up at Spurgeon on the stoop of that house, and looked up at him, and pointed to the cigar, and said, how can you, as a man of God, do that? And Spurgeon smiled and pointed to his belly, Moody's belly, and said, the same way that you, as a man of God, can do that.
You see, you're seeing what I've got wrong, not even noticing what you're doing to your temple. So I say geographic world in us. Now, when it comes to this or gray areas in our lives, they see you eating food to an idol. And they're going to be emboldened to do the same. Let's say I decide to go down to a local bar and have a cocktail, a margarita. Well, somebody sees Pastor Skip slugging a couple margaritas down, goes home, and says, hey, at the Connect Group, I saw, Skip at the local bar, man. He was slamming margaritas down. Wow, really? Well, if he can do it, I can do it. And especially if there's somebody in that group who has struggled with alcoholism, it's going to be detrimental.
So Paul wraps that all up and says, "Because of your knowledge", verse 11, "shall the weak brother perish for whom Christ died? But when you thus sinned against the brethren and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat." Well, that's quite a statement. I have the freedom to eat anything I want. But if it's going to stumble my brother, I'll never again eat it, lest I make my brother stumble. Here's the difference between Greek ideology and Christian ideology. Greek view of liberty was, I can do anything I can think up. I am the arbiter of my own existence. I can do anything I dream of. That was Greek liberty.
Protagoras, a fifth century BC philosopher, was quoted by saying, "Man is the measure of all things," meaning I am my own judge of anything I do, self-determination. That's the Greek view of liberty. That's modern man's view of liberty, by the way, modern American man and women's liberty. Paul says the Christian view of liberty isn't I can do anything. But I consider weaker brothers and sisters in the choices that I make. I have liberty. I'm not under the law. Of course, Christ set me free. But there are other things that filter out my choices. So if you remember from, I don't know if it was last week. But I think it was maybe a couple weeks ago. I gave you three tests. Do you remember those three tests for gray areas? I'll just remind you of them. Test number 1, principle number 1, the principle of utility.
Utility, is it good? Is it beneficial? Is it helpful? Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6, "I can do all things. All things are lawful for me, but not all things are beneficial, or expedient, or helpful to me." So number 1, test of utility. Number 2, the test of authority. Will it begin to control me? Paul said, 1 Corinthians, chapter 6 and 10, All things are lawful for me. But I will not be brought under the power of any. I'm not going to let some activity I engage in, I'm not going to engage in it if, eventually, it takes over my life. So it's like, yeah. Yeah, I just have a drink when I come home. Pretty soon, you have to have a drink to settle down. Now, it's controlled you.
Number 3 is the test of charity. Charity, love. 1 Corinthians, chapter 10, All things are lawful for me, but not all things build up or edify. And that's Paul's point here. Not all things built up or edify. So I'm only going to do those things that build up the body of Christ. And if they don't, then I'm not going to be sharing my Blake's idol burger in front of you, even though it's a great deal. And with a green chili, man, that Blake's idol burger is awesome. I'm just not going to do it, because it's going to stumble that brother. So I'll go to Blake's when I'm on my own, when they're not around or whatever. I don't know, but whatever the liberty you have to go to Blake's idol burger. And I'm not picking on Blake's. I just made that up as I was teaching. We're three minutes over. Let's pray.
Father, thank you for the opportunity to go through, fairly in depth, these verses in chapter 7 and 8. Thank you, Lord, by your Spirit giving us an understanding of some of the local issues making application to these gray areas in our life. I pray, Lord, that we would be gracious toward one another, loving toward one another, not insisting on our rights and our liberties all the time, but thinking about, is this something I really need to do, beneficial to me? Is this something that could eventually control my life? And is this something that would stumble another brother or sister?