Ramming Your Liberty down Another Mans Throat

Just added to our series on 1 Corinthians; a new message preached from 1 Corinthians chapter 8 verses 1 to 3:

Ramming your Liberty down another Mans Throat – 1 Corinthians chp 8 vs 1 to 3 – J Stewart Gillespie

 

notes available for this message:

 

now as touching” (v1)

Another question answered by the apostle Paul

That this question arises at all highlights the fact that all is not well at Corinth

It is doubtful that the need ought ever to have arisen to ask this question about meat sacrificed to idols.

  • The sensitive conscience wouldn’t have eaten food sacrificed to idols – no problem
  • The spiritually minded wouldn’t have offended them by eating it – no problem
  • But there was a problem!

If the situation was as those ‘in the know’ (8:1-2) concluded; namely a problem between those who are spiritually mature and who know better – namely us, and those who are not spiritually mature and who do not know what we know; namely those of a ‘weak conscience’ then the conflict ought to have been easily and quickly resolved by someone of spiritual maturity and understanding, if indeed that was where they were.

If the spiritually enlightened could really see that there was nothing (v4) in the idol and nothing in the meat and if those spiritually strong were really able to discern ‘weakness’ rather than difference of perspective (v7) in others, they as the spiritually mature ought to have been able to demonstrate how spiritually mature people deal with issues of no eternal consequence –

  • Sensitively – With insight into the immaturity of the brother they are dealing with
  • Sacrificially – With a willingness to sacrifice meat of no consequence for the spiritual prosperity of their brother
  • Spiritually – esteeming the conscience of their brother, way above the food for their belly

Instead it became a:

  • Stumbling block (8:9)

The spiritual elite lacked sensitivity, spirituality and a sacrificial spirit – they were not as spiritual as they thought they were!

The question seems to have been asked of Paul:

‘well Paul, you and I both know that these things offered to idols are nothing. ‘

‘we have been convicted and convinced of the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord; that there is but one God. ‘

We have heard how the true and living God speaks through His Word

‘ So we know, you and I Paul that these idols are fake’

To this seems on the surface to initially agree (v1)

But then he puts a major caveat on it all:

knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. ‘

And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” (8:2)

The approach condemned in verse 2 is not knowledge or wisdom or understanding per se; after all we are exhorted in many places in the Word of God to seek after knowledge and understanding:

Pro_2:2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;

Pro_2:6 For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.

Pro_2:11 Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:

Pro_3:13 Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.

Pro_4:1 Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.

Pro_4:5 Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.

Pro_4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

Pro_5:1 My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding:

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2Pe 1:5-8)

The attitude condemned in 8:2 is not knowledge

It is not the ATTAINMENT of knowledge that is the problem

It is the ATTITUDE of knowing that is the problem

That confidence not in the knowledge but in myself because I know.

It is the effect that knowledge can have on the unspiritual mind – puffing us up (8:1-2)

It is an attitude which so often manifests itself as the arrogant; ‘there is only one handle on this problem and I’ve got it’

There are 2 ways you can see this; my way, the right way or your way; the wrong way.

Or as one liberally minded brother put it:

  • you serve the Lord in your way
  • I’ll serve the Lord in His

It is not the ATTAINMENT of knowledge that is the problem

It is the ATTITUDE of knowing that is the problem

To consider that in what we know there is no gainsaying, no possibility of growth, nor of development, to close our minds to any other aspect of the truth.

This is the distinction between:

  • the blind man of John chapter 9
  • the Jews of John chapter 9

The blind man can’t answer all of their questions (John 9:25); “I know not

here was a baffling problem; Jesus Christ was surely a real live human being,

Was Jesus Christ not made of the same stuff as the rest of humanity is, descended from Adam?

If He was a person then surely He must have had His faults like all men?

Did the Jews not appear to name one; an infarction of the Jewish legal code (Jo 9:16)?

The blind man would hardly have known anything of the virgin birth; the Deity of Christ, the impeccability of Christ, nor of the Lordship of the Creator over the Sabbath rest.

There were answers to the accusations of the Jews but they would not be known to the blind man!

It is not that he is ignorant and foolish either.

The contrast in John 9 is not between; we the Pharisees who know and understand and you the blind man who is illiterate, ignorant and lacking in understanding! This is not a contrast between the:

  • ignorant and the enlightened

But rather it is a contrast between the:

  • humble and the arrogant

The blind man does understand and know what happened to him; “whereas I was blind and now I see” (John 9:25); yet his knowledge is incomplete (9:35-36); but so was the knowledge of the Pharisees – incomplete; in fact how embarrassing; there they were; having spent their life studying for an honours degrees in gnat straining and a PhD in hypocrisy and along comes a blind, illiterate beggar and pops them a question they don’t have a clue about (9:30-34) “and dost thou teach us?” Well actually he does. That didn’t go down well at all, did it?

What really distinguishes these 2 men is not their ATTAINMENT of knowledge but rather their ATTITUDE to knowledge

Or

Their ATTITUDE to what they don’t know:

  • The blind man – marked by humility towards the unknown and certainty towards the known (John 9:25,27)
  • The Pharisees – marked by puffed up self confidence and arrogance (John 9:30,34)

The blind man is willing to acknowledge that whilst he is certain of what he knows (9:24,30) he will not be dogmatic about what he does not know.

He is happy to trust God where he cannot trace God.

The Pharisees on the other hand are not only adamant about what they do know but are equally emphatic about what they don’t know, because they have such confidence in their own opinions.

The Pharisees had deified their own knowledge as absolute!

They had turned their knowledge into an idol.

They ‘knew that they knew’ and that precluded the possibility that there was something which they did not know.

With this came pride, arrogance and intolerance.

They refuse to be taught (Jo 9:34); “dost thou teach us?”

he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know” (8:2)

Not WHAT we know but HOW we know.

Knowledge of God and of the ways and mind of God must be guided by love for God.

But if any man love God, the same is known of him.” (v3)

The love of God is an acknowledgment of trust in the absolute

The love of God is acquiescing my will / knowledge / understanding to His

I am not absolute; He is!

Here is a man who acquiesces to God

Here is a man who does not claim Lordship over his own life

Here is a man who does not deify self

Here is a man who acquiesces to God

This is the distinction between:

  • Job: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.”(Job 13:15)
  • Jobs comforters who it all worked out in their own heads as to who was at fault here; namely Job

Verse 3 is usually taken to mean that:

‘ if a man loves God that man is known by God’

This of course is very true:

  1. Loving God as the evidence of God knowing us; that the evidence that God knows a man, or that God has saved a man should be and will be seen in the fact that that man loves God. The man who God ‘knows’ with that special meaning of ‘knowledge’; that meaning of intimate or saving relationship:
  • O righteous Father, — the world hath not known thee:but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:25)
  • But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?” (Galatians 4:9)

The man who God knows in a saving sense, will have had a work of transformation in his life, he will have been indwelt by the Spirit of God and the very first fruit, if not the only fruit of the Spirit that will be seen in his life will be that of “love” (Galatians 5:22)

1 John 4:7,19

And

  1. Loving God is the consequence of God knowing us. Unless God knows a man, in the sense of saving a man, such a man cannot love God, by nature; ‘there is none that seek after God,’ (Romans 3:11) and it is God who takes the initiative amongst those, ‘who are dead in trespasses and sins’ to quicken us (Ephesians 2:1). “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1Jn 4:10)

The problem with the standard view here is that verses 1 and 2 are not about God knowing us but about us knowing God as we ought.

Verses 1 and 2 are not really about how God knows but rather they are about how I know.

And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” (verse 2)

There is another way to understand this verse however.

The second half of the verse literally reads:

he is known of him‘ (JND Translation)

This could mean as CK Barrett notes that it is not that:

‘God has been known by him’

But rather

‘God is known by this man. ‘ (CK Barrett p190; Blacks NT Commentary)

In other words:

‘The man who loves God, that man knows God. ‘

Not simply that knowledge makes us love God; that loving God is a consequence of knowing God; which is true enough, but something altogether more profound than that.

Verse 3 starts with’ love’ and not with knowledge

It is not the thought that the knowledge of God makes us love God but rather that the love for God allows us to know Him.

Loving God is a condition for knowing Him, for making any spiritual progress.

This is no new truth!

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Luk 9:23-24)

He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (Mat 10:37-39)

That is that the knowledge of God flows from the love of God

True knowledge has its origin in love!

Truth is a product of love!

We understand this truth well, maybe so well we are apt to forget it; that was it not for the love of God there would be no knowledge of God!

John3:16 – It is because God So loved this world that the act of revelation and thus redemption came.

Had God not loved we would know nothing of Him.

His love motivated the giving of His Son

By this giving comes salvation (John 3:16) and the revelation of God

No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.’ (John 1:18)

Illust: At the head of the Afton, there is a great reservoir, from which we all benefit for cooking and drinking and cleaning, but that reservoir is a long way from your kitchen sink, so that watery resource flows through conduits, pipes right to your home.

The knowledge of God, that great reservoir flows likewise through pipes, pipes of Divine Love.

Gods love is Gods means of bringing His knowledge to us.

Of course by implication, any revelation which claims to be of God or from God would need to be consistent with this truth.

If what is claimed as being the teaching of Gods Word is:

  • Harsh
  • Cold
  • Cruel
  • Divisive

Or if that revelation of truth cuts us in half like an icy blast from the North Pole, we can be pretty sure that it does not arise from the warm currents of the love of God.

It is immediately spurious, as was the claimed revelation here in 1 Corinthians chapter 8.

Of course 1 Co 8:3 doesn’t quite say that, what 1 Corinthians 8:3 says is; ‘if any man loves God, that man knows God,’ in other words, a revelation of the knowledge of God, given in love can only be received in love.

In other words to know God, I must first love God.

Or

God will only reveal Himself to those who love Him

  1. God refuses to reveal Himself to anyone who does not love Him!

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” (Matthew 7:6)

  1. Anyone who does not love Him cannot receive the revelation of Him:

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness unto him neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. ” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to himIf a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (Joh 14:21-23)

For God to reveal Himself to a Soul who does not love Him would merely increase their hatred for Him and increase their condemnation, such a revelation would simply be a revelation of Gods Judgment!

  • Consider the revelation of Christ in the Gospels; the more the High Priest knows of Christ The more he hates Christ.
  • Consider the reaction of the Sanhedrin to Stephen testimony (Acts 7:54ff; 7:57ff).
  • Consider Pharaoh in Romans chp 9
  • Consider Nebachudnezzar in Daniel 3:14ff

The solution to the problem of 1 Corinthians chp 8 comes from an unexpected source – CONSCIENCE!

Is conscience not subjective?

Is conscience not inferior to absolute truth?

Is conscience not the consequence of the fall?

Is conscience not the moral immune system – sensitive to the presence of foreign spiritual material?

What do we do when conscience says no but personal knowledge says yes?

When conscience tells us, “God would not approve”, but knowledge says’ “it’s ok!”?

Do we move towards knowledge even when it causes offense to conscience, to a sense that God would not be pleased?

Where do we go?

What is the priority?

  • Our liberty?
  • Our sense of pleasing God?

That pursuit of knowledge even in the face of the sense that this is not what God would be please with, for me (v7) or for others (v11), deifies and idolises what I know:

‘I know that I know”

A knowledge that quashes conscience and brings violence to our trust in and pleasing of God is a knowledge that hinders and that does not help.

Irrespective as to wither conscience is right or wrong in its deduction, what is absolutely true is the reality that I am faced with a choice; to do that which I ‘feel’ is wrong but ‘think’ is ok.

To go where I sense that God will be displeased but where perhaps I personally wish to go!

When faced with the choice which way do I go?

The direction tells me everything I need to know about the true desires and priority of my heart.