The Church in Conflict with Culture

KEY VERSE: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” —I Corinthians 10:31

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: I Corinthians 10:6-14, 31

THE Scriptures tell us that the Holy Spirit is a spirit of liberty; God “seeketh such to worship him as worship him in Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23) Through the enlightening influence of the Spirit of God we have come “into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21), and are left without bondage to any law except that we shall love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and shall love our neighbor as ourselves.

Yes, our hands and hearts, attuned to this high standard of self-discipline, are indeed willing to use its liberties only to the glory of God; but our “flesh is weak.” (Matt. 26:41) Faulty human judgments tend at times to distort our use of this freedom, and work to the injury of ourselves and others, and not to the glory of God. In this text, the apostle’s words were directed at just such an example. In the verses preceding he points out how God had set free the nation of Israel from the bondage of Egypt, but that subsequently, because of their lack of appreciation and loyalty, he permitted them to die for their offenses. His warning, in this analogy, is that we too, having been set free, loosed from the bondage of Satan, should be very careful how we use our new-found liberty, using Israel’s poor example as an object lesson.

Continuing his argument, he writes, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” (I Cor. 10:23) He declares that while nothing is forbidden the new creation under direct divine law, it is nevertheless true that there are many things that would be ill-advised and contrary to its best interest and development. When the apostle tells us not all things edify, he is not necessarily talking about sinful or unrighteous thoughts or deeds, but more particularly those things which would be within our rights, but if pursued would not edify, build up, or profit. And whatever is not to edification spiritually should not be practiced, regardless of any law on the matter.

The apostle goes on to show that while not restrained by law in such matters, we are restrained, however, by our own nature as new creatures in Christ. Our supreme love for God, and our love for our neighbor, should bind us to thoughts and actions which would not only be harmless to ourselves, but also would be helpful to the welfare of others and to the glory of God. In this discussion, the apostle had in mind a situation which was a special trial to the brethren in his day. The custom among many Gentile, pagan worshipers was to offer animals as sacrifices to idols, giving the carcasses to the priests, who, in turn, sold them through butchers in the public markets. Hence, for those who would eat meat, it was very difficult to avoid eating that which had been offered to idols.

This became a serious problem. Some of the brethren considered it wrong to eat such meat, while others realized the idol was nothing, and the meat held no special injury. Apparently, there were two sides to the question, and there being no instruction given by God on the matter, the personal liberty question alone would be in dispute. How beautiful and loving is the essence of the apostle’s advice.

“Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s. Whatsoever is sold in the shambles [market], eat, asking no question for conscience sake. … But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that showed it, and for conscience sake. … Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other.”—I Cor. 10:24-29

Thus the apostle sums up his argument in favor of loving consideration for our brethren, and liberty of conscience for ourselves. He shows that we should be disinclined to do anything that might stumble one of the Lord’s little ones. And he declares, in the last verse of this chapter, that this was his course in life, that in line with his conscience he tried to be pleasing in all things. Disregarding his own advantage, he gave chief consideration to the profit of the many, that he might do all possible for their salvation. This noble spirit is the only one consistent with our law of liberty—love which is always generous, thoughtful of the interests and feelings of others, and desirous of doing all to the glory of God.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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