Paul has been discussing the the broader issue of eating meat offered to idols since chapter 8 in 1 Corinthians. On Sunday we summarized a lot of what we have learned by looking at 1 Cor. 10.14-33 as a kind of map to help us navigate these issues. The issue of eating meat offered to idols was something in the early church that clearly had pagan or idolatrous roots. The meat people purchased and ate had often been used in pagan ceremonies. This meant there were certain practices that were off limits to Christians (such as joining in these meals to honor false gods). However, while meat offered to idols clearly had pagan roots, it was also used in other ways in society outside of its original pagan context (buying meat in the market, eating meat served to you by your hosts, etc.). As Christians we too have to think through many similar issues that have pagan roots, but are also at times used in a broader cultural context without any reference to those pagan roots (certain health and dietary practices, holidays, etc.). Here are the four considerations we should keep in mind when thinking through these situations as Christians:
- Beware Sin. In vv. 14-22 Paul makes it abundantly clear that Christians had no business joining in practices that overtly and clearly honored a false deity. Some Christians in Corinth seemed to think this was acceptable to do because false gods don’t really exist. Paul, however, makes it clear that all idolatrous worship is essentially demon worship. Christians should not join themselves to demons and should avoid practices done to overtly honor false gods.
- Avoid Unnecessary Objections. In vv. 25-27 Paul also makes it clear that while meat offered to idols had a pagan origin, the meat was also used in other ways in their culture. Paul tells the Corinthians that they should still buy meat in the market and eat what is put in front of them when invited to an unbeliever’s house, and should do so without raising objections. Paul says that context matters. Meat used in an idolatrous ceremony is vastly different from this same meat being used in the market or in hospitality. Christians do not have to feel like they need to investigate the pagan origins of everything when this context is not immediately obvious. Paul allows for freedom in these areas.
- Consider Others. In vv. 23-24, 28-29, and 32-33 Paul emphasizes the fact that we also need to consider others, not just ourselves. We should consider unbelievers and our witness to them as Christians. Paul says if an unbeliever offers you meat, and emphasizes the fact that it was offered to an idol, you should not eat it. In this case Paul wants to be careful not to reinforce the unchristian thinking the unbeliever may have. We also need to consider fellow-believers who may have consciences that differ from ours. We should be willing to limit our freedoms for the sake of others.
- Check Your Motives. In vv. 30-31 Paul reminds us that when we do exercise our freedoms, we should do so with the right motives. These motives are: gratitude and bringing glory to God. Sometimes we are tempted to exercise our freedoms with selfish or prideful motives, but Paul calls us to do so with worshipful hearts that seek to bring glory to God with our freedoms.
I pray that this text helps to guide us in thinking through these issues as Christians. May God grant you wisdom for His glory!
Here is the order of service from Sunday, and the discussion questions to help you apply this text throughout the week: 1 Cor. 10.14-33 Notes.
-Pastor Nathan Hogan