Love, Liberty, and Limitations

Studies in First Corinthians – XIII

In the eighth chapter,Paul deals with a controversial question from the Corinthians, “Can a Christian eat meat that has been offered to idols?” The cheapest meat in town would have been the leftover parts from the pagan temple sacrifices. Some of the Christians, with the understanding that there is only one God and idols could not contaminate food, saved money by buying these cheaper meats. However there were other Christians who were offended by this and could not understand why a child of God would have anything to do with something offered to pagan idols.

We don’t deal with this particular issue today but we do need to have an understanding of the principle. What are the limitations of Christian liberty? Paul gives us an answer which should guide us in making personal decisions in areas that may be questionable.

According to Paul, we don’t answer these questions based on knowledge alone. We answer these questions based on knowledge governed by love. As a Christian we do not live our lives unto ourselves, we live them unto the LORD. We must always remember that others will be impacted by our decisions.

If we make our decisions about what we can or cannot do (perhaps I should say “will” rather than “can”), based only upon what we know, we err because there is someone else involved. We must ask, “What example am I setting for my fellow believer? For the new convert? For the unbeliever?”

“But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak” (8:9).

Paul says that knowledge puffs a man up, making him spiritually conceited and proud. However, love (charity) builds up (edifies) (8:1). If we have knowledge only, we are incapable of judging right. But if knowledge is mastered by love for our fellow believer and a concern for those who do not know the LORD, then that love leads us to think first of others.

We must recognize that our example can be a stumbling block to others. The love of God, put in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, must be the deciding factor. Ask yourself: “If I watch this, how would it effect the young people in the youth group?” “If I go there, could it impact the witness I have with my unsaved coworker?” What example are you setting for those who are watching you? And trust me, they are watching you.

If you could make even one step to the cross easier for one person by denying yourself something which knowledge says you have a right to, wouldn’t it be worth it?

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

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