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Protect your conscience, protect your brother – 1 Corinthians 8

May 4th, 2010

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The church in Corinth were facing the moral dilemma of whether it was right to eat food that had been sacrificed to idols. We may not have the same problem in our time and culture, but we will struggle with many issues of conscience, many grey areas as Christians. This passage gives us good principles to help guide us through the issues we face.

There tends to be two different types of attitudes:
1. Relativistic – where there is no real right or wrong or absolute truth – very prevalent view in our culture
2. Making universal rules on every single issue – forcing your own convictions onto everyone else

Paul says that the second view is weak. Christianity and the Bible is not about following rules. Jesus in fact had the most trouble on earth with the religious leaders, the legalists.

1. Gnosis and love

  • Paul draws a distinction between knowledge that “puffs up” – the Greek word ‘gnosis’ – and love.
  • He addresses the attitude of the heart – wanting to be right and win all the arguments – the attitude of lifting up knowledge rather than love
  • Don’t be more passionate about debating doctrines rather than the doctrines themselves
  • We often build our life on what group we are “in” with – our hope is in what we know, which is pride
  • If anyone loves God it proves that they are known by God. This is humbling because we only love God because He foreknew us and loved us first
  • We should pursue knowledge for the purpose of worshipping better

2. Knowledge and freedom

  • Paul does address the issue directly that the Corinthians were disputing – that there is only one God, and the idols aren’t real – AND that there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. Paul inserts Jesus’ name here into what the Jews would usually recite (Deut. 6) because Jesus is the revelation of God, the only way to know God
  • You look at Jesus and you see how God deals with people and how He uses His freedom

3. Freedom to love

  • What is our freedom for? The answer is found in Jesus – it is for the sake of love
  • All of us as Christians are at different stages – some do not possess the same knowledge as others and struggle with things that others don’t. We need to be patient and loving towards those with weak consciences
  • Don’t ignore your conscience! Even if other people are doing what your conscience tells you is wrong. Don’t live with a bad conscience – protect it and educate it
  • Loving others sacrificially is far greater than personal freedom – and do it with gladness and joy, so that your joy is made complete in serving others and putting their needs first
  • Don’t flaunt your freedom but serve others
  • Jesus is neither indifferent nor rigid – He is patient with the weak, even though He is always in the right
  • What do you base your hope and identity on? Whose opinion do you care about the most? God should be the answer to these questions
  • Jesus not only gives us an example – He gives us the power and strength to be able to love others in this way. Otherwise it is impossible for us!
  • Jesus also gives us a new, clean conscience