|International Bible Studies|
LESSON FOR JULY 29, 1951
Christian Social Life
THE social life of a Christian, so far as his contact with the world is concerned, is kept to a minimum. This is not because he has no interest in his worldly friends, but because he finds greater joys in his associations with his brethren in Christ, those with whom he enjoys like precious faith. However, to whatever extent consecrated Christians may find it necessary to associate with the unconsecrated, they should always maintain the true dignity of the Christian life so that all who come in contact with them will realize that their lives are being governed by higher principles than are those of the world in general.
The real social life of the Christian is enjoyed within the community of his brethren in Christ, and here, as in all the phases of his life, his first consideration is not to be that of pleasing others, but doing the will of God. This, indeed, is the true basis of fellowship in Christ. In a community in which each one is zealously endeavoring to do God’s will there is bound to be a common tie that binds, for as the apostle says, “Let us mind the same thing.”—Phil. 3:16
Full devotion to God and to the doing of his will is, therefore, a basic requirement for entering the spiritual society of fully consecrated Christians. This thought of full consecration to do God’s will is expressed in the Scriptures in various ways. In our lesson Paul speaks of it as presenting our bodies “a living sacrifice” to God, and this, he explains, is but our reasonable service.
And then the apostle adds, “Be not conformed to this world.” Instead, he explains, we are to be “transformed” by the renewing of our minds that we “may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” It would be a spiritual tragedy for a Christian to allow himself to be conformed to the spirit and ways of the world. Prior to consecration we were all more or less conformed to the world; but upon surrendering ourselves to do the will of God, a gradual transformation should take place—our minds are to be “renewed,” as through the study of his Word and the observance of his providences we “prove” what is his good, and acceptable, and perfect will.
This renewing of our minds is a matter which requires constant effort and vigilance. As we make progress in it, we will find that it affects every practice and viewpoint in life. Some of the details involved are itemized by Paul in the closing chapters of the Book of Romans, beginning from our lesson passage. But even these chapters do not cover the entire field of Christian thought and activity. The sum of it all, however, is that love becomes the motivating power of life, instead of selfishness, and this being true, the Christian life becomes one of sacrifice on behalf of others. This is why Paul urges us to present our bodies a living sacrifice, and tells us that this is our “reasonable service.”
I Corinthians 8
CHRISTIAN sacrifice is not the giving up of sinful things. We have no right to these in any event. Sacrifice is the giving up of that to which we are justly and righteously entitled. Many suppose that they are Christians simply because they have professed faith in Christ and have repented of their sins.
Beyond this, however, is the necessity of presenting oneself for sacrifice. If we take this step it means that we will be willing at any and all times to give up that to which we may be justly entitled, especially if, in so doing, we will be rendering a genuine service to one or more of our brethren in Christ.
Our entire life, as Christians, is to be one of sacrifice. All that we have and are is consecrated to the Lord to be used in whatever way he indicates to be his will. But we should be on the alert to notice how this principle of sacrifice may indicate what course we should take even in the little things of life. We have a good example of this in Paul’s decision not to eat meat which had been offered to idols, if in doing so it might cause his weaker brethren to offend.
We are not confronted with this particular issue today, but it was one of real concern to many in the Early Church. In the worship of certain heathen gods of that day there was a ceremonial of presenting meat as a sacrifice to idols. The idols, of course, could not eat the meat, or otherwise dispose of it, so later it was put on the market for sale, presumably at greatly reduced prices. This was a blessing to many poor people.
Those mature in the Christian faith realized that the offering of this meat to dead idols did not in any way harm or defile it. Paul knew this. But on the other hand, some new in the truth, possibly having once been associated with this heathen form of worship—and others possibly from among the Jews who were still more or less hampered in their freedom by the ceremonial background of the Law—could not conscientiously eat this meat, believing it to be defiled.
Paul’s position in the church was one of considerable influence. His conduct was undoubtedly very closely watched. If a brother who considered it a sin to eat meat which had been offered to idols should see Paul eating such meat, he might be thereby induced to do so himself without really having his mind changed on the subject from the standpoint of reason. Thus he would be acting contrary to his conscience, and the effect of this would be a weakening of his moral strength.
Paul did not want to be the cause of a brother offending in this way. He knew that it was not wrong for him to eat the meat. But if to do so would work injury to a brother in Christ, then the Christian law of love ruled that he should give up this thing, which, in itself, was right—“I will eat no flesh while the world standeth.”
To what extent should a Christian participate in worldly affairs?
In what way, socially, does a Christian experience his highest joys?
Does faith in Christ and repentance of sin make one a Christian?
What does it mean for one to present his body a living sacrifice?
How does a Christian “renew” his mind, and how long does it take?
What principle guided Paul in his decision that under certain circumstances he would not eat meat offered to idols?