By John E Bujanowski Jr
Integritynovels.com | May 26, 2016
Exercising integrity on a regular basis should always be our objective, whether it is at work or in public, whether it is among family or friends. But what about exercising integrity among our fellow believers at church – our brothers and sisters in Christ? What does the Bible say about it? Does it even need to be discussed? If we are followers of Christ, shouldn’t integrity, righteousness, love, and kindness come naturally for us? Aren’t we the custodians of faith and Christlikeness?
That is what Paul had to address in 1 Corinthians, chapter 8! A lack of integrity among believers. He had to address a growing problem within the church; a problem that can tear a church apart, destroy ministry, and drive a wedge between believers – even the strongest of believers. You and your church are not exempt! In fact, you most likely see this taking place on a regular basis, and for Satan, it is a ticking time bomb ready to explode into chaos. Satan is the master at causing havoc and he uses this tool – offense, to destroy. He wants to destroy God’s work, God’s church, and God’s ministry. His most effective method is to cause division among God’s people.
Satan is the master at causing havoc
and he uses this tool – offense!
I’ll set the scene for you from 1 Corinthians 8. By the way, the church in Corinth had a host of problems and it would benefit you to do a study of the church in Corinth in Paul’s day. You’ll notice, we haven’t become much better – we still have this problem.
Reference 1 Corinthians 8:1-6 for the following:
Paul was visiting the churches in Asia Minor and Macedonia which is now modern day Turkey and Greece. The church in Corinth was one of them. The Gospel message was new to them and many people were saved and began to follow the teachings of Christ. Although there were converts, there was also a great struggle to live the life Christ called them to. That’s also our problem today.
In the church of Corinth, Paul was faced with a dilemma – some believers were eating the meat pagans offered to their idols. It was common for unbelievers to worship their gods by sacrificing to them and eating what was sacrificed. Believers were invited into their homes and celebrations, sat down with them to feast, and ate the meat while fellowshipping with pagans.
I ask you a question, here. What’s wrong with the scenario above? Be careful, though. You might not know scripture enough to come up with the right answer. It’s a good time to ask, “What would Jesus do?” Right? We are going to look at the passage below. I’ve given you the KJV and NET version. But, before we do that, here are a few facts to keep in mind.
- Pagans worship false gods and sacrifice to them; we worship Yahweh, Jehovah God, Creator, Savior, the Three in One and worship Him alone.
- The ‘meat’ described in the scripture text has little to do with the scenario, even though it is offered to an idol. (Paul explains: 1 Cor. 8:4, “an idol is nothing in the world!” They don’t matter because there is only one true God, v6. Therefore, v.8, whether you eat that meat sacrificed to idols or not, has no effect on your soul or your faith).
- Sitting down with pagans, fellowshipping, and eating together is… (Don’t think that is forbidden)! We are ‘commanded’ to go into ‘all the world.’ We can’t stop our interaction with unbelievers. That’s our mission field. A preacher friend of mine put it best when he said, “We are in the world, not of the world.” He referenced Philippians 1:1, “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi…” We are part of this world but the world is not part of us. Go to the unbelievers; that’s what these Corinthian’s were doing.
- Though the pagans were worshipping their gods by eating the meat they offered to idols – while sitting with the believers in Christ at the same time, offered them meat also and were eating. This did not mean the believers were worshipping pagan gods. For some reason, this concept is often disregarded and overlooked in the context. (Once again Paul says, v.6, “To us there is but one God.” Therefore, if you sit and eat with a pagan – who believes falsely in a god, and you believe in the one true Jehovah God, you do not sin).
Now, let’s get back to the problem in 1 Corinthians 8, our dilemma.
Reference 1 Corinthians 8:7-13.
First, read the KJV and see if you can detect the problem these ‘believers’ were having with one another. The text must be read carefully and deliberately. (You will read it again below and each verse will be explained).
The problem believers had in the church of Corinth is the same problem we must root out of our churches, our ministries, our families, and our personal lives today.
7 Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.
8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.
9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak.
10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;
11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?
12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.
13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.
If you haven’t yet figured out what Paul is saying, try this NET version. (I’m not in any way promoting either version, we’re simply trying to grasp an important truth here).
7 But this knowledge is not shared by all. And some, by being accustomed to idols in former times, eat this food as an idol sacrifice, and their conscience, because it is weak, is defiled. 8 Now food will not bring us close to God. We are no worse if we do not eat and no better if we do. 9 But be careful that this liberty of yours does not become a hindrance to the weak. 10 For if someone weak sees you who possess knowledge dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience be “strengthened” to eat food offered to idols? 11 So by your knowledge the weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed. 12 If you sin against your brothers or sisters in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 For this reason, if food causes my brother or sister to sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I may not cause one of them to sin.
But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat,
now walkest thou not charitably.
Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Romans 14:15
7 But this knowledge (the knowledge about 1 Corinthians 8:1-6 we discussed above – Paul: an idol is nothing, to us there is but one God) is not shared by all. (Meaning – not every believer understands this truth). And some, (some weaker believers) by being accustomed to idols in former times, (they, in fact, came out of idolatry) eat this food as an idol sacrifice, (some believers still believed if they eat any meat sacrifice to an idol they were actually worshipping that idol in their heart – this, of course, was not true but they believed it because they were weak and had not yet learned the truth, nor understood their faith) and their conscience, because it is weak, (weak because they have not matured enough to understand Paul’s explanation above) is defiled. (They actually didn’t become defiled but they believed they did).
8 Now food will not bring us close to God. (Here, Paul, again, tries to reason with the weak unbelievers). We are no worse if we do not eat and no better if we do.
9 But be careful that this liberty of yours (believers who understand eating meat sacrificed to idols is nothing and it’s OK to eat it) does not become a hindrance to the weak. (This means – you go ahead and eat it because the pagans offered it to you and KEY POINT: you do not want to offend the pagans – therefore you eat it, and it’s OK spiritually but the weaker believers watching you are offended by it).
10 For if someone weak sees you who possess knowledge dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience be “strengthened” to eat food offered to idols? (This is saying that your ability to understand the true context and eat the meat pagans offer you will hurt the spiritual growth of the weak believer. The weaker believer will not understand, for they once were steeped in pagan and idol worship but have turned from them and turned to the one true God. To eat the meat offered to idols would be turning back on Jehovah God. There is also something else implied here; you also have opportunity to boast in your knowledge as stated in v.1 & v.11 – because you understand the truth, you may puff yourself up in front of others saying, “I understand and I’m a stronger believer than you and you should listen to me – pride. Paul condemns this in v. 12-13).
11 So by your knowledge the weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed. (Meaning, you have offended your brother or sister by eating the meat offered to you by the pagans and have caused them to turn away from the very faith in which you tried to bring them to). This will be summarized below.
12 If you sin against your brothers or sisters in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. (Now, the stronger believer is hindering the cause of Christ and causing babes in Christ to suffer and perhaps even renounce their faith).
13 For this reason, if food causes my brother or sister to sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I may not cause one of them to sin. (Paul is saying, he would rather offend the unbelieving than offend a brother or sister in Christ).
This is integrity exemplified. Integrity is not something to take lightly and as we see here, it is often misunderstood. And when it comes to the church, Paul tells us, I’ll paraphrase: Don’t offend your brother or sister in Christ! Ever! Never do it! Never imply it; always stand with them and keep in mind that you are to nurture them. The text can be understood plainly now, the spiritual growth of your fellow believers is of most importance.
Let’s expound on the text as we don’t know what really happened at the feast or temple dining. I say this because you might say, ‘Aren’t we trying to convert these pagan worshippers? Shouldn’t we focus on them, since our weaker brothers or sisters are already saved? No! That’s the teaching of the text. No!
In fact, imagine this scenario: the pagan sees that the Yahweh God worshipper will not offend his new brother or sister in Christ, even if it means the pagan is offended. Hence, the pagan worshipper will see the lovingly, brotherly bond between those who called themselves Christ followers. It may be something that inspires him to think about his own dead, empty god he vainly worships.
The point of it all is this – do not offend your fellow believers. You, as the stronger believer, have a great responsibility and Christian duty to nurture, strengthen and disciple the weaker believer. This will be an act of great integrity when you apply it to all areas of your life, church, relationships, ministries and much, much more. Paul said it best in v.13 “For this reason if food causes my brother or sister to sin, I will never eat meat again so that I may not cause one of them to sin.”
That’s integrity among your fellow believers.