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Oct 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 3, 2021



“All things are lawful,” but not all thigs are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 1 Corinthians 10:23-26

Intro: Paul has been circling the same issue since chapter 8

Is it okay for Christians to eat food that has been devoted to an idol?
– Paul has two answers, one rational and other relational
rational: idols have no meaning for us, so food is food
relational: some Christians are convinced that food presented to an idol is contaminated
◦ take their concerns seriously and don’t “offend” them
◦ at times love requires us to act contrary to reason or our rights
– why did Paul give so much space to this issue?
• I suspect that he anticipated a negative reaction from the Corinthians
◦ he knew they were intelligent and enjoyed a good argument
(they had written him regarding a number of controversies among themselves)
◦ and he knew how difficult it would be for them to put others first
• some of them would think, “It doesn’t make sense for those overly scrupulous believers to worry about idols and non-existent deities. Maybe they just need to grow up!”
◦ so he labored to help them get a new perspective

In this last stage of his argument, he shows them that the threat is real

He begins with a history lesson – Israel in wilderness (vv. 1-5)
– there are specific features to the story that he highlights
• the cohesiveness of their experience – they “all” (five times!)
• they experienced a symbolic baptism
• they were provided food and drink
• God was displeased with most of them, so they never reached goal

Next, Paul explains that they are examples for us (vv. 6-11)
• he makes this clear by stating it at beginning and end of this unit of thought
Now these things took place as examples for us . . . (v. 6)
Now these things happened to them as an example . . . (v. 11)
◦ he tells the Corinthians to avoid the mistakes Israel made
◦ then he provides a list that includes, Do not be idolaters

Then Paul makes two specific applications: a warning and an encouragement (vv. 12-13)

After that, Paul demonstrates a real problem with food devoted to idols
– it has to do with how people in those days understood sharing a ritual meal
• the purpose of the ritual meal was to create bonds
◦ first, create a bond with the deity to whom meal was offered
◦ second, create a bond among those who shared the meal
• he compares this with what happens in Lord’s Supper
◦ Christians are bonded with Jesus and each other
◦ but the gods in pagan temples are actually demons
• now we see why he mentioned Israel’s food and drink
What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 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 (vv. 19-21)

At this point, Paul returns to a statement he made earlier (vv. 23-30)
– the familiar slogan, “All things are lawful”
• how that applies in this context,
Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor (v. 24)
• he suggests a way to can handle this problem when it comes up

Paul ends this argument with a synopsis of our way of life
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved (vv. 31-33; cf. 1 Cor. 9:19-23)

Now let’s get back to our purpose for being in 1 Corinthians

Paul was graced with extraordinary spiritual insight
– he described himself as an administrator of the mysteries of God (1 Cor. 4:1)
• so we’ve been using him as a guide to developing spiritual insight
• what do we learn from Paul in this chapter?

When reading scripture, Paul’s focused attention was flexible

At times, Paul’s focus was sharp, analytical, and detail oriented
– his letter to Romans reveals his logical skills of interpretation
• other times Paul was able to focus attention behind the words
• his interpretation is more mystical than logical
◦ at the beginning of chapter, Paul said Israel was baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea
◦ that event is not even hinted at in the original story
• he also says the people of Israel ate spiritual food and drank spiritual drink
◦ (this connects their experience with the Christian experience of the Lord’s Supper in v. 16)
– this is a spiritual reading of the Scriptures
• it is not just concentrating on the meaning of a text
• it is listening for God’s Spirit to speak through the words
– the church fathers attempted to read the Bible this way too
• but instead of relying on the Spirit, they tried to find meaning with their rational minds
◦ and rather than find what was actually hidden there,
◦ they came up with allegories that revealed the creativity of the interpreter more than the spiritual insight behind the text
– it wasn’t so much theologians who rediscovered the New Testament spiritual reading of scripture, but Christian mystics
Guigo II, a 12th Century monk wrote, “When I was hard at work one day, thinking on the spiritual work needful for God’s servants, four such spiritual works came to my mind, these being: reading; meditation; prayer; contemplation. This is the ladder for those in [monasteries], and for others in the world who are God’s Lovers, by means of which they can climb from earth to heaven. It is a marvelously tall ladder, but with just four rungs, the one end standing on the ground, the other thrilling into the clouds and showing the climber heavenly secrets.”
• this is our Wednesday Zoom meetings – Lectio Divina
◦ we do not look intensely for the meaning of every word
◦ instead, we want our reading to be relaxed, reverent, and receptive
• what is the Spirit of God saying to us in this moment?
◦ like Paul, we want what is spiritual in text to stand out

Think of it like this: the Christian has two modes of experiencing life
– one is the psychological-self – all the programming of past experience
• the other is our spiritual-self – the new self we become in Jesus Christ
◦ the psychological-self is caught up in thoughts and emotions
◦ the spiritual-self observes thoughts and emotions,
without judgment and without getting trapped in them
• the spiritual-self is not defined by its thoughts or feelings
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace (Ro. 8:5-6)
– in Lectio Divina, we want to read in the spiritual-self mode,
• observing whatever is brought to our attention

I want to make brief comments on several other verses
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (v. 13)

Temptation can refer to any sort of hardship–pain, struggles, disappointments, and so on test our faith
– the escape is not out of the hardship, but within it that enables us to endure it
J.R.R. Tolkien responded to critics who referred to fairy-stories as “’escapist’ literature”
“Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories” and what critics describe as “Real Life” is something we should want to escape from once in awhile.
Tolkien asks, “Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing . . . the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter.”
– our goal is to find the way to escape, but not desert

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread (vv. 16-17)
Participation translates the Greek word koinonia, which means to share (in common), partnership, community, communion, communication
kononia is an intimate connection with Jesus and each other
– with that in mind we come to the familiar slogan in verse 23 with its catchy rhythm
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful.
“All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.
• in 6:12, Paul added “for me” to each line of the slogan
◦ there the concern was for his (and our) personal self-discipline
◦ here it has to do with the community and how we can either be unhelpful or build up others
• the sacrifices we make for others, the service we provide,
even the friction we sometimes experience,
are all necessary for our spiritual development
◦ we learn through what we discover together in the dynamics of our interactions

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (v. 31)
An author I am currently reading said that Peter’s exhortation to be holy in all manner of conduct “applies to recreational activities and relaxation as well. It applies to purchases, and even to our eating habits: ‘Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.’ Do my eating habits (and the resultant weight gain or loss) glorify God? Does my every activity adorn the gospel, and present an appealing advertisement for the Kingdom of God?”
(how appealing an advertisement is crucifixion?)
– when the Scriptures are given this type of application it produces Christian Pharisees
• that was not not what Paul meant
◦ he is saying that regardless of what you eat and drink, and whatever you do, plowing or preaching,
◦ be there for God
For the kingdom of God is not food or drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Ro. 14:17)
Thus [Jesus] declared all foods clean (Mk. 7:19)
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink (Co. 2:16)
For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:3-5)
– if we turn everything into “do’s and don’ts,” we lose sense of gift

Conclusion: We have inherited a flawed way of reading Bible

We go away
• pious and judgmental rather than gracious and merciful
• with rules to keep us moral rather than invitations to be relational
• burdened with guilt rather than blessed with forgiveness

We need to learn how to read all over again
so that we hear scripture from the lips of Jesus
and see it through new eyes, enlightened by God’s Spirit
Then we will experience the joy of it
and the power of it
that sustains our faith
and transforms us into better persons

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