Wednesday, July 16, 2014

LOVE BUILDS UP (1 Corinthians Chapter 8)

1 Corinthians 8:1, “Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’  This ‘knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”

1 Corinthians chapters 8 through 10 have to do with the subject of eating food offered to idols.  This was a matter of direct relevance to the believers in Corinth because of the sacrifices made in pagan temples.  Oftentimes meat from the temples was offered for sale in the marketplace.  Some felt that it was okay to eat such meat, knowing that “’an idol has no real existence, and that ‘there is no God but one’” (1 Corinthians 8:4).

Not all possessed that knowledge (Cf. 1 Corinthians 8:7).  The pagan worshippers of that day believed that they could placate the gods and gain their favor through such sacrifices.  Some of the Christians in Corinth likely struggled in their efforts to completely sever themselves from their old ways.  If they were to eat food offered to idols their conscience would be defiled (Cf. 1 Corinthians 8:7).

The realization that an idol isn’t real is a good thing, but is of no value if unaccompanied by love.  This kind of “knowledge puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1).  The believers in Corinth had an issue with prideful arrogance (Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:21; 4:6, 8, 18-19).  The phrase “puffs up” translates a Greek term meaning to blow up or inflate.  The Corinthians had an inflated view of themselves, especially when measured against their inability to express love. 

1 Corinthians 13:2 speaks to the vanity of this kind of knowledge: “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”  It matters not how much one’s ego is inflated by one’s supposed “knowledge,” apart from love it is of no value.

“Love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1).  Knowledge puffs up self, love builds up others.  Love, God’s kind of love, is self-less and sacrificial in nature.  It concerns itself with the spiritual well-being of others.  According to Christ’s own “mind” (i.e. way of thinking), love does “nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count(s) others” to be more significant (Cf. Philippians 2:3-4).  Though all things are lawful, “not all things build up” (1 Corinthians 10:23).  In love, Paul admonished the Corinthians to set aside their own freedom to eat for “the good of his neighbor” (1 Corinthians 10:24).

The knowledgeable but loveless response to one’s fellow believer was of grave consequence.  “For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?  And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died” (1 Corinthians 8:10-11).  The callous disregard for the weak brother would work to destroy his conscience.

The Corinthian problem was that they were not generally relating to one another according to a “the brother for whom Christ died” way of thinking.  They were dividing over particular leaders, suing one another in the court, celebrating gross immorality, leaving some hungry in the Lord’s Supper, inappropriately using their spiritual gifts apart from love, etc. etc.  Their brothers and sisters in Christ were fellow believers for whom Christ had shed His precious blood.  The brother or sister callously disregarded was a brother or sister for whom Christ died.

The instruction, “the brother for whom Christ died” is doubly instructive (Cf. 1 Corinthians 8:11).  Every believer is hereby instructed to love his brothers and sisters inasmuch as they are loved by Christ Himself (Cf. John 13:34-35).  Christ loved by sacrificing Himself, the members of His body are called upon to do the same (Cf. Romans 15:2-3, “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.  For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me’”).  Callous disregard of a brother in Christ—whether under the pretense of superior knowledge or in asserting one’s rights or freedom--is never appropriate for those who claim to belong to Him.

No comments: