Paul addresses questions and grumblings he is hearing from and about the church in Corinth. The first is in relationship to eating food sacrificed to idols. The second is in relationship to Paul and Barnabas and provisions for them. The second is pitting behavior of some apostles against others, clearly not a healthy place to be.
3. a. Knowledge puffs up, love builds up – Our goal should be to become big hearted, not big headed.
If what I do causes my brother to fall into sin, then I should not do it – even though it is not wrong or a sin – eating food to idols
b. Drinking in public, gambling, wearing certain clothing
4. a. v12 rather than hinder the gospel of Christ – Paul’s focus in only on eternal reward in heaven, any earthly recognition or reward that he would receive would only slow him down in the long race he is running. Better to forgo it than to take eye off of fulfilling all God has for him to do.
b. Effective Mission work is never a “drive-by”. Like Paul, we must become neighbors to those we seek to save. That does not mean we take on their sinful practices, but that we come along side them in service and friendship and recognize them as full brothers and sisters in Christ (none better or worse).
There are some interesting links to what we have been studying that are only lightly presented in the questions.
First, we need to remember Acts 15:20. This is the conclusion of the discussion on whether circumcision was required to become a Christian. The answer from the counsel was that it was not, however, there were still a few rules they needed to follow:
Don’t eat food dedicated to idols
Abstain from sexual immorality
Don’t eat strangled animals and blood.
From the letters to the Corinthians it sounds like this was an ongoing challenge. In Acts 19 we saw the mob initiated by the craft guild of metal workers who created statues.
From a business standpoint, the craft guilds were important organizations. They met for training, for trade. They shared work and vendors and probably financial support as well. However, many of the meetings had religious overtones. The food prepared was dedicated to an idol and there were other activities and events in the community.
The people were having a difficult time being accepted but being different. This is not so different than a Christian living in an area populated by others of a different religion (sometimes our block in the United States seems that way). What if you were visiting a neighbor and, right before serving the food, the neighbor offered to the food as a blessing to some false God. Do you still eat the food? Do you abstain?
This is a big question and one we still grapple with today.
Paul cut to the chase, but was clear in his direction. He said, there isn’t anything that changed in the food because somebody said some words to a made up idol while waving their hands over the food. It is not any better or worse for you, physically, than it was before. Nor will eating it constitute a major sin before God. But (you knew there had to be a but), he says that isn’t the point. The point is, if you truly believe in Jesus Christ as the savior and you accept what that means, that you are obligated to live a life that witnesses of the spirit than now indwells you, then you cannot do anything that would cause another to be confused. If you eat food offered to a false god, then others see you as endorsing of seeking the blessing of that false god when you do it.
I’m not sure, but some of the Corinthians might have preferred circumcision – at least you can cover it up and blend in. But we weren’t meant to cover up our faith. Being in an uncomfortable position is nothing new to the Apostle Paul – they probably were not going to get much sympathy!