Sacrificing out of Love
The old law of Moses, was mainly a physical law, with requirements that governed the daily lives of the people. Even the worship of God, under the old law, was full of physical ceremonial requirements.
But when Jeremiah prophesied about the new law of Christ, he said, in Jeremiah 31:33; “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord; I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
And even though the law of Christ is a spiritual law, written on our hearts, there are still many physical things that are required of us. For instance; We are commanded in Hebrews 10, verses 23 thru 25; “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope, without wavering, for He who promised, is faithful.” Holding fast our confession, doesn’t only take place in our spirits, but rather, it takes place in our actions, and in our words.
But let’s go on with the scripture verses.. “And let us consider how to stimulate one another , to love and good deeds.” Again, stimulating others, isn’t done in our spirits, it’s done in word and deed.
One more verse, verse 26; “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more, as you see the day approaching.” “Assembling ourselves together”, and “encouraging one another”.. Those things aren’t accomplished just in spirit, are they? They need to be accomplished in the PROPER spirit, but not in our spirit alone. They’re accomplished through our actions, performed in the spirit of love.
Do you remember in last week’s lesson, we talked about how some Jewish Christians were teaching that the Gentile Christians had to keep the law of Moses, and be circumcised? And do you might remember how we talked about the special meeting, that the apostles held in Jerusalem to decide about that issue. When they came to their decision about the matter, they wrote a letter to the Gentile congregations concerning the decision, and they wrote these words; “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you, no greater burden, than these essentials.” Acts 15, verse 28.
So then these requirements were approved of, by the Holy Spirit of God.
And I emphasized the fact that these commands that they laid upon the Gentiles, were “essentials”. In other words, they were mandatory, they were laws that had to be kept. And those laws were; “..that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled (because those things still had the blood in them), and from fornication..” Verse 29.
Now, those laws would apply to all Christians wouldn’t they? They apply to Jewish Christians, as well as to Gentile Christians. And they applied back then, and they still apply today don’t they? We clearly understand that we’re to abstain from fornication. And don’t we also understand that we’re forbidden to eat blood? And that when you kill an animal for food, the blood needs to be drained from it. Otherwise it would be just like eating the blood.
And what about eating meat that’s been sacrificed to idols? Do we need to abstain from that? Evidently we do, because that was one of the “essentials”. But that’s not something that we would typically encounter, because no one in this country makes sacrifices to idols. At least not that I know of. But what about other countries? People of other countries might still sacrifice animals to idols. And if they did, a Christian wouldn’t be allowed to eat that meat.
But going back to the first century, it would seem obvious, that no Christian was allowed to eat meat that had been sacrificed to an idol. So then, with that in mind, I want to go to 1 Corinthians, chapter 8.
And I’ll read verses 1 thru 6; “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols; We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up (or makes you arrogant) but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known, as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.”
The idea of having knowledge here, is contrasted with humility. That’s why Paul says; “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” Love is the opposite of arrogance isn’t it? Remember what Paul said about love, in 1 Corinthians 13, verse 4; “Love does not brag, and is not puffed up.”
And remember what he said in chapter 2, verse 2; “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” Paul didn’t want to claim knowledge about anything, except what God had revealed to him. Because when you claim to know anything else, it just tends to make you arrogant. You start to think that your “special” because of your knowledge.
But let’s go back to chapter 8, beginning with verse 4; “Therefore, concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols; We know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one.” And the reason that we know that, isn’t because we’re smart and we’ve figured it out, but it’s because God has told us so.
Now verses 5 & 6; “For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords; (there are in some people’s minds) Yet for us, there is but one God the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him. And one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.”
In these two verses, Paul is comparing the wisdom of the world, or in other words, the wisdom of MEN, with the truth that God has given us. So he says; Even though the world thinks there are all sorts of gods and lords, WE know, from God’s word, that there is only ONE God, and one Lord, Jesus Christ. And the point that Paul is going to make here, is that even though men think, that certain meats have been sacrificed to idols, in reality, they haven’t been, because there’s no such thing as an idol! So then, in reality, how can you sacrifice something, to an idol that doesn’t even exist?
Now, that’s the knowledge that we have from God, that there’s no such thing as an idol. But verse 7 says; “However, not all men have this knowledge. But some, being accustomed to the idol until now..” In other words; They are accustomed to BELIEVING, up until this very moment, that idols do exist.
Does anyone have a version that says; “And some with conscience of the idol until now..” ? The King James uses that word “conscience” here, but it’s a bad translation. The real meaning is that some have “the custom” of believing in idols.
And so since they believe that idols exist, verse 7 goes on to say; “..they eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol, and their conscience being weak, is defiled.” In other words, they go against their conscience. So even though there’s nothing inherently sinful about eating this meat, some people think it’s sinful, so then if they are encouraged to eat it, and do eat it, they violate their conscience, and end up sinning.
That’s why Paul wrote, in Romans 14, verse 23; “But he who doubts, is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith. And whatever is not from faith, is sin.”
So then again, it’s not the eating of meat that has been sacrificed to idols, that’s sinful, but it’s violating your conscience, that could make it a sin.
1 Corinthians 8, verse 8 says; “But food will not commend us to God.. in other words, it won’t present us to God, or make us acceptable to God, ..We are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better is we do eat.”
1 Timothy 4, verse 4 tells us; “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with thanksgiving.”
So then, since Christians are authorized to accept all foods, except blood, and since meat sacrificed to idols isn’t any different from any other meat, because idols don’t really exist, then why did the Holy Spirit, along with the apostles, make it “an essential”, that Christians abstain from meat sacrificed to idols?
We should notice that in everything Paul said, in 1 Corinthians chapter 8, about how there’s only one God and one Lord, and how idols don’t really exist, and how we have this knowledge because God has revealed to us, He never tells the Corinthians to “go ahead and eat” the meat that has been sacrificed to so-called idols.
Here’s what Paul wrote concerning eating, in chapter 10, verses 25 thru 31; “Eat anything that is sold in the meat market, without asking questions for conscience sake; (In other words; without worrying about where the meat came from) For the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains. If one of the unbelievers invites you, and you wish to go, eat anything that is set before you, without asking questions for conscience sake. But if anyone should say to you; This meat is sacrificed to idols, do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience sake. I don’t mean for your own conscience, but the other man’s; For why should it be, that my freedom be judged by another’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why should I be slandered concerning that for which I give thanks? Whether then you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
If we were going to put that in our own words, we might say; “Eat whatever you would like to eat, without any worry, because as Paul wrote to Timothy; “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if we receive it with thanksgiving”. And so, if a non-Christian invites you to dinner, and you want to go, don’t question anything about the food, just be thankful for it. But if someone should inform you that this meat was sacrificed to an idol, then don’t eat it, because you don’t want to harm that person’s conscience. Why would you want your knowledge, and understanding of God’s will, cause a problem for another person’s conscience? And if you did partake of the meat, even though you do so with thankfulness, why be slandered by another person, because of it?
And it says in verses 32 & 33; “Give no offense, either to Jews or to Greeks, or to the church of God; Just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.”
So then, that’s the reason for not eating any meat, that you know has been sacrificed to idols. It is much better for you to be inconvenienced, than to become a hindrance to anyone else’s faith, even if it is, because of the weakness of their faith.
Paul said basically the same thing in chapter 8; He just used slightly different words to say it. Here’s how he put it, in chapter 8, verses 9 10; “But take care, lest this freedom of yours somehow becomes a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, reclining in ‘an idol-temple’, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be encouraged to eat things sacrificed to idols?”
Again, Paul is explaining why we shouldn’t eat meat that has been sacrificed to an idol. And here’s the example he gives; If someone were to see you, who has a good understanding of God’s word, reclining and eating in a place that is known to serve meat that has been sacrificed to idols (that’s what ‘an idol-temple’ is) will not the conscience, of the one who thinks it’s wrong to eat that kind of meat, be encouraged to go against his conscience, and eat that meat anyway?
And if that person were to violate his conscience, he’d be sinning. Remember Romans 14, verse 23; “But he who doubts, is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; And whatever is not from faith, is sin.”
And if you are the one encouraging that person to go against his conscience, then you are sinning also. You can go ahead and try to teach someone, more perfectly, the will of God, but if you just go ahead and do something that encourages someone to go against his conscience, you are sinning!
Now here’s the rest of that passage from 1 Corinthians chapter 8, verses 11 thru 13;
“For through your knowledge, he who is weak, is ruined; The brother for whose sake, Christ died. And thus, by sinning against the brethren, and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again. That I might not cause my brother to stumble.”
As I said before, the specific subject of eating meat sacrificed to idols, doesn’t really apply to us, because that doesn’t go on where we live. But, the lesson in all this, isn’t the eating of meats. The lesson is our responsibility toward others. God is placing a responsibility on us. We need to look out, not only for ourselves, but primarily, for the welfare of others, and especially for their faith. The “weakness” of another person’s faith, does NOT give us the freedom to do a we please.
It’s easy to say; “Well, that’s their problem not mine.” But in reality, it IS your problem. That’s why Paul began all this by saying; “..we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant! But love, edifies.” Chapter 8, verse 1.
Like it or not, we all have a responsibility toward others. Philippians 2, verse 4, gives us this command; “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but for the interests of others.” And verse 5 says; “Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus.”
And that’s the scripture that goes on to say how Christ “emptied Himself”. We usually not very thrilled at the prospect of “emptying ourselves”. But that’s exactly what God want us to do. “Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus.” “If anyone wishes to come after Me.. Jesus says ..let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23.
So there you go, there’s a lot to think about there. Give it some thought.