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Liberty in Christ
1 Corinthians 10, and Your Neighbor
in Christ: Extended Introduction
Liberty in Christ: Introduction
and New Testament Survey
for Liberty in Christ
the Law, and the 10 Commandments
of the Law of Liberty
and Yet Prohibition
Pagan Practices in the Old Testament
is Observing Times?
Bondage, and Righteousness
and Meat Sacrificed to Idols
and 1 Corinthians 8
1 Corinthians 10, and Idolatry
1 Corinthians 10, and Your Neighbor
and Practical Applications
Romans 14, the Conscience, and Morality
verse 23 forward in 1 Corinthians 10, Paul switches gears.
He has just demonstrated that eating meat sacrificed to idols
violates the first commandment of the Law of Liberty, and
he will now move on to demonstrate that it violates the second
commandment of the Law of Liberty as well.
Thus, Paul begins this second section with this phrase.
1 Corinthians 10:24 Let no man seek his own, but every
man another's wealth.
By making this statement in verse 24, Paul is signifying that
he is changing from viewing eating sacrificed meat in terms
of idolatry (verse 14) to viewing eating sacrificed meat in
terms of loving our brothers.
The key portion of this section is verses 28-31.
1 Corinthians 10:27 If any of them that believe
not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever
is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience
sake. 28 But if any man say unto you, this is offered in sacrifice
unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for
conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord's, and the
fulness thereof: 29 Conscience, I say, not thine own, but
of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's
conscience? 30 For if I by grace be a partaker, why am
I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? 31 Whether
therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to
the glory of God.
First, notice that in verse 27, Paul is talking about occasions
where believers go to eat with unbelievers.
Second, in verses 28-29, Paul says that when we know that
meat has been sacrificed to an idol, we should not eat it
for the sake of the conscience of others. I'll say it again.
Paul is concerned here with what others will think in their
conscience if they see us eating the sacrificed meat. In particular,
Paul is concerned here with giving people cause to judge and
condemn our liberty in Christ.
This is why, in verse 28 Paul says, not to eat for the sake
of the others' conscience and then in verse 29 says "why is
my liberty judged of another man's conscience?" Some Christians
have interpreted verse 29 incorrectly as if Paul were asserting
that no man has a right to judge us for things we do in liberty.
Thus, these Christians mistakenly assume that Paul is saying
we have the liberty to eat sacrificed meat and no one should
judge us for it since it is a liberty and cannot be judged
in someone else's conscience.
And these mistaken Christians go on to assert that, therefore,
whether or not we eat or drink sacrificed meat is a matter
of personal liberty that is governed only by our own conscience.
Then, taking this false idea a step further, these mistaken
Christians assert that, not only is this true for eating meat
sacrificed to idols, but it is true for a whole host of other
things as well. So, the end result for these mistaken Christians
is that they categorize certain activities as liberties governed
only by their own consciences. And then say that no one should
judge them with regard to these matters of liberty.
But these Christians are mistaken indeed. For by asserting
in verse 28 that the Corinthians should not eat the sacrificed
meat for the sake of the others' conscience, Paul is NOT declaring
that others have no right to judge us in these matters. Rather,
Paul is asserting the exact opposite, that others will judge
us for these things. And far from rebuking them for judging
us over a specific liberty to eat meat, Paul is saying we
should abstain from eating the meat so that they will not
judge our liberty in Christ in general.
The word for "liberty" in verse 29 is the Greek word eleutheria
(Strong's No. 1657.) We have already said that every time
this Greek word is used in the New Testament that it refers
to our liberty in Christ. However, remember that we have already
established that the phrase "liberty in Christ" or its synonyms,
including the uses of eleutheria in verse 29, are never used
anywhere in the New Testament to refer to a specific liberty
to do a specific act. Instead, whenever eleutheria is used
to convey "liberty in Christ" it is always, always used to
refer to our general freedom FROM the Law of Moses, our freedom
FROM the penalty of death, and our freedom TO live righteously.
Therefore, Paul's use of eleutheria or liberty here, does
NOT refer to the specific liberty to eat meat sacrificed to
idols, but rather refers to these 3 general aspects of our
liberty in Christ.
It is these three things that Paul does not want other people
to have an opportunity to judge and condemn. And so, rather
than give others a reason to judge and condemn our general
freedom in Christ, Paul instructs that the Corinthians should
abstain from eating the sacrificed meat.
This is why in verses 31-33, Paul writes:
1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or
drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of
God. 32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor
to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: 33 Even
as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own
profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.
Here Paul writes saying, when you eat or drink, do it so that
God may be glorified. In particular, in verse 32 Paul says
that when they eat or drink they should do so in such a way
as to cause NO offence to the Jews or the Gentiles. This shows
clearly that Paul understood and taught that by eating the
meat sacrificed to idols Christians would offend the Jews
or the Greeks and in that way cause the Jews and the Greeks
to condemn the general liberty Christians have from the Law
Perhaps thinking themselves pious, the Jews would condemn
Christianity for participation in idolatry. Or perhaps thinking
themselves wise, the Greeks would likely condemn Christianity
for contradicting itself by proclaiming Christ Jesus to be
the only true God while at the same time eating at table of
other gods. But whatever the reason for the offense, the concept
Paul is teaching here is clear. By eating meat sacrificed
to idols we would offend the Jews or the Greeks and cause
them to judge our liberty in Christ. This is consistent with
where in 1 Corinthians 8:9 Paul instructs the Corinthians
not to put up a stumbling block to others being saved by eating
meat sacrificed to idols.
Since causing someone else to reject the Gospel meant violating
the second command of the Law of Christ, the Law of Liberty,
eating meat sacrificed to idols violated both commands of
the Law of Liberty. And so, rather than being an expression
of our liberty in Christ Jesus, eating meat sacrificed to
idols was a violation of that Law of Liberty.
Lastly, there is verse 30.
1 Corinthians 10:29 Conscience, I say, not thine own,
but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another
man's conscience? 30 For if I by grace be a partaker, why
am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?
Again, some Christians mistakenly view this question in verse
30 as a declaration from Paul that if we thank God for the
sacrificed meat before we eat it, then by grace we can partake.
However, that is not what Paul means here at all.
In verse 29 and verse 30, Paul is not condemning people for
judging the liberty of others, nor is Paul condemning people
for speaking evil of those who partake. Rather, Paul is offering
these two hypothetical questions side-by-side as themselves
proof that eating meat sacrificed to idols is wrong.
In verses 28-29 Paul writes, don't eat the sacrificed meat
for the sake of other people's consciences. Then he immediately
asks, "for why is my liberty judged in someone else's conscience?"
Followed immediately by the second question "if it is true
that I can partake by grace, why then is evil spoken of me?"
The fact that others were judging our Christian liberty and
that others were speaking evil of us as Christians was proof
that eating meat sacrificed to idols should not be done, because
it was causing an offense that prompted the other people to
both judge our liberty in Christ and speak evil of Christianity.
For now it is important to realize that the implied rhetorical
answer to both of these questions is "Because I'm eating meat
sacrificed to idols, which is wrong." The entire conversation
should be read this way.
"Don't eat for the sake of the other person's conscience.
After all, why is our Christian liberty being judged by the
other person in this case? Because we are eating the meat
sacrificed to an idol. And if it is true that by grace we
can partake of meat sacrificed to idols as long as we thank
God for it, then why are other people speaking evil of us?
Because we are eating the meat sacrificed to an idol."
Paul is not offering these two questions as reasons why others
should not judge or speak evil of us. Paul is offering these
two questions as support for his statement that we should
not eat the sacrificed meat for the sake of other people who
will judge us and speak evil of us for eating it and so reject
the Gospel of Christ. (For a more detailed analysis proving what Paul means in 1 Corinthians 10:29-30, please see our outline entitled, “Liberty Addendum.”)
So, in conclusion, in verses 14-23 Paul explains how eating
meat sacrificed to idols violates the first command of the
Law of Liberty, because the very nature of a sacrifice causes
us to fellowship those who make the sacrifice and the being
to whom that sacrifice is offered. Since, as Paul teaches,
"the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to
devils," by eating or drinking those sacrifices we provoke
the Lord to jealousy, by "fellowshipping with devils" just
as the Israelites in the Old Testament provoked the Lord to
anger by participating in idolatry.
Paul's inclusion of the word "jealousy" refers back to the
second commandment of Exodus 20:1-6. The fact that Paul is
referring back to the second commandment of Exodus 20 demonstrates
that not only did Paul consider the second commandment of
Exodus 20 to still be binding on Christians, but also that
Paul considered eating meat sacrificed to idols to violate
that command. So, Paul concludes, "Ye cannot drink the cup
of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers
of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils." With regard
to eating meat sacrificed to idols, Paul clearly considered
that practice to be idolatry and so he writes regarding that
matter that we should "flee from idolatry."
And then, having established that eating meat sacrificed to
idols violated the first command of the Law of Liberty, Paul
goes on to establish that it also violated the second command
of the Law of Liberty, because not only did eating meat sacrificed
to idols provoke God to jealousy, but also it caused other
people to judge and reject our liberty in Christ.
And thus, we can finally conclude that Paul's use of the Greek
word eleutheria (Strong's No. 1657) with regard to the issue
of eating meat sacrificed to idols was in no way intended
to convey that Christians have "liberty in Christ" to eat
meat sacrificed to idols. In fact, the opposite was true.
According to Paul, eating meat sacrificed to idols violated
both commands of the Law of Christ, the Law of Liberty.