William Barclay's Daily Study Bible

The Limits Of Christian Freedom (1 Corinthians 10:23-33; 1 Cori (1 Corinthians 10:23-33)

10:23-33 All things are allowed to me, but all things are not good for me. All things are allowed, but all things do not build up. Let no one think only of his own good, but let him think of the good of the other man too. Eat everything that is sold in the market place, and don't ask fussy questions for conscience sake; for the earth and its fulness belong to god. If one of the pagans invites you to a meal, and you are willing to go, eat anything that is put before you, and don't ask questions for conscience sake. But if anyone says to you, "This is meat that was part of a sacrifice," don't eat it, for the sake of him who told you and for conscience sake. I don't mean your own conscience, but the conscience of the other man, for why has my liberty to be subject to the judgment of any man's conscience? If I partake of something after I have given thanks for it, how can I unjustly be criticized for eating that for which I gave thanks? So then, whether you eat or whether you drink or whatever you do, do all things to God's glory. Live in such a way that you will cause neither Jew nor Greek nor church member to stumble, just as I in all things try to win the approval of all men, for I am not in this job for what I can get out of it, but for what benefits I can bring to the many, that they may be saved. So then show yourselves to be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

Paul brings to an end this long discussion of the question of meat offered to idols with some very practical advice.

(i) His advice is that a Christian can buy anything that is sold in the shops and ask no questions. It was true that the meat sold in the shops might well have formed part of a sacrifice or have been slaughtered in the name of some god lest the demons enter into it; but it is possible to be too fussy and to create difficulties where none need exist. After all, in the last analysis, all things are God's.

(ii) If the Christian accepts an invitation to dinner in the house of a pagan, let him eat what is put before him and ask no questions. But, if he is deliberately informed that the meat is part of a sacrifice, he must not eat it. The assumption is that he is told by one of these brothers who cannot rid his conscience of the feeling that to eat such meat is wrong. Rather than bring worry to such a man the Christian must not eat.

(iii) So once again out of an old and remote situation emerges a great truth. Many a thing that a man may do with perfect safety as far as he himself is concerned, he must not do if it is going to be a stumbling-block to someone else. There is nothing more real than Christian freedom; but Christian freedom must be used to help others and not to shock or hurt them. A man has a duty to himself but a still greater duty to others.

We must note to where that duty extends.

(i) Paul insisted that a Corinthian Christian must be a good example to the Jews. Even to his enemies a man must be an example of the fine things.

(ii) The Corinthian Christian had a duty to the Greeks; that is to say he had to show a good example to those who were quite indifferent to Christianity. It is in fact by that example that many are won. There was a minister who went far out of his way to help a man who had nothing to do with the Church and rescued him from a difficult situation. That man began to come to Church and in the end made an astonishing request. He asked to be made an elder that he might spend his life showing his gratitude for what Christ through his servant had done for him.

(iii) The Corinthian Christian had a duty to his fellow Church member. It is the plain fact of life that somebody takes the cue for his conduct from everyone of us. We may not know it; but a younger or a weaker brother is often looking to us for a lead. It is our duty to give that lead which will strengthen the weak and confirm the waverer and save the tempted from sin.

We can do all things to the glory of God only when we remember the duty we must discharge to our fellow men; and we will do that only when we remember that our Christian freedom is given to us not for our own sake but for the sake of others.

1 Corinthians 11:1-34 ; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31 ; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 ; 1 Corinthians 14:1-40 are amongst the most difficult in the whole epistle for a modem person in the western world to understand; but they are also among the most interesting, for they deal with the problems which had arisen in the Corinthian Church in connection with public worship. In them we see the infant Church struggling with the problem of offering a fitting and a seemly worship to God. It will make the section easier to follow if we set out at the beginning the various parts of which it is composed.

(i) 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 deals with the problem of whether or not women should worship with their heads uncovered.

(ii) 1 Corinthians 11:17-23 deals with problems which have arisen in connection with the Agape ( Greek #26 ) or Love Feast, the weekly common meal which the Christian congregation held.

(iii) 1 Corinthians 11:24-34 deals with the correct observance of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

(iv) 1 Corinthians 12:1-31 discusses the problem of welding into one harmonious whole those who possess all kinds of different gifts. It is here that we have the great picture of the Church as the Body of Christ, and of each member as a limb in that body.

(v) 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 is the great hymn of love which shows men the more excellent way.

(vi) 1 Corinthians 14:1-23 deals with the problem of speaking with tongues.

(vii) 1 Corinthians 14:24-33 insists on the necessity of orderliness in public worship and seeks to bring under necessary discipline the overflowing enthusiasm of a newly born Church.

(viii) 1 Corinthians 14:24-36 discusses the place of women in the public worship of God in the Church of Corinth.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

- William Barclay's Daily Study Bible