About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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Chapters 8 and 9

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ch. 8:1-13     ch.9:1-36


Food Sacrificed To Animals  (ch. 8:1-13)


Paul now leaves the subject of marriage and moves on to another question that the Corinthians had.  The topic now is food sacrificed to idols, something that was quite relevant to these people because of all the pagan god worshiping that took place in the city. Pagan's would kill animals to use in the worship of  their gods.  Many of their pagan ceremonies included the eating of these animals as a form of worship in a ritual meal. 


In verse 1 Paul makes the statement that everyone readily accepts, and that is that we all possess knowledge.  Some have more knowledge than others.  In Corinth there would be many that would believe they had a lot of knowledge concerning a lot of things.  But knowledge in and of itself does not mean everything.  Knowledge can “puff up” people, Paul says.  Knowledge alone can make ones head appear to be bigger than what it really is. 


Although knowledge in itself puffs up, “love builds up”, Paul says.  Knowledge alone makes one proud and puts the emphasis on oneself.  Yet love is thinking of the other person before yourself.  Love is selfless.  Love brings knowledge into a proper balance in one's life


In verse 2 Paul says that “the man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know”.  I don’t believe that Paul is reducing the importance of knowing things to nothing.  Paul himself was very knowledgeable about many things.  The difference though was that he did not use his knowledge in a proud and boastful way.  He used it solely in the service of the Lord.  It was a tool to help spread the gospel.  In Christian circles, knowledge is important.  As post-modernism infiltrates the church in the twenty first century, Biblical knowledge and understanding is taking a back seat to experience and so-called practicalities.


Paul is saying here that love along with knowledge is important, “and the man who loves God, is known of God”.  Therefore, to the degree in which we love God will be the degree that we know Him.  This implies a relationship with God.


The Corinthians have made many boastful claims. Paul is merely putting them in their place concerning the issue of knowing lots of things. Knowledge in and of itself can be insignificant if not properly applied. It can even be hurtful. 


In verse 4 Paul says, “we know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one”.  All of the so-called gods that could be seen and worshipped in Corinth and elsewhere were really only pieces of wood and stone.  They were meaningless.  They were only products of man’s wild imagination.  Paul says, “…indeed there are many so-called gods … but for us there is but one God the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live”.  Note here the connection that Paul makes between God the Father and Jesus Christ the Lord.  He says that  the Creator God is our Father, and also the Creator Lord is Jesus Christ.  Paul is saying that both Jesus and God created all things.  He says “all things came” from them both.  This is elevating Jesus to Creator status, where He should be.  This is clear in the Genesis account when the text says that "God said, let there be…"  God used words, so to speak.  Maybe not words as we know it.  In John 1:1 we see the Jesus is the "Word", the "Word of God".  When the Genesis account tells us that God spoke words to create, I believe this to be the place of Jesus, the Word in the creation process.  


Paul is a worshipper of Jesus.  He is saying that Jesus is in fact God, and by making the comparison to the other so-called gods, well there is no comparison.  How could you compare a piece of stone to the one who created the stone in the first place.


In verse 7 Paul still continues with this theme of knowledge when he says, “but not everyone knows this”.  Some in Corinth have claimed great knowledge, but Paul says that they don’t know the difference between the real God and a piece of wood or stone.  He says, “some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as being offered to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled”.  Paul spends all of Romans 14 concerning some having a weak faith and a weak conscience. 


Some Christians had a weak faith according to Paul in Romans 14 because they had a hard time trusting Jesus alone for their salvation.  They felt that they had to do certain things, like keep the Sabbath to maintain their salvation. They felt that if they broke some of these rules, they would lose their salvation.  Yes, they did trust Jesus, but struggled over the idea that that was all they needed to do.  Because of this weakness of faith their conscience was therefore weak as well.  If they broke a rule, they would feel extremely bad, and some of them might even possibly give up the faith because it is too hard to keep all of the rules.  Paul would say that our conscience needs to fall in line with what Jesus and the Scriptures teach.  But this was not the case with many in Corinth.


In verse 8 Paul plainly says that “food does not bring us near to God”.  He says, “we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do”.  So in Paul’s mind it really did not matter if he ate meat offered to an idol or not.  An idol was nothing, therefore eating food offered to an idol meant nothing. 


As Paul says in Romans 14, he is concerned about this “freedom being a stumbling bock to the weak”.  Paul says to these people that we have knowledge of this freedom to eat meat that has been offered to idols, but what if a weak in faith brother sees you eating “in an idol’s temple”. (ch. 8:10)  Note that Paul is taking this discussion one step farther here.  He is not merely talking about eating meat offered to idol’s, but he is talking about eating the meat in the idol’s temple.  That should be twice as bad. 


The point Paul is making in this paragraph is that if a weak in faith brother sees you eating, then he may feel compelled to eat as well, resulting in his weak conscience bothering him, which could result in him falling away from the Lord.  Paul would not want to see this happen.  He would rather have weak in faith brothers than no brothers at all.


In verse 12 Paul actually says that “you sin against your brother” when you eat such meat in front of him.  And even more than that, “you sin against Christ” Himself.  Remember what Paul said earlier, that “all things were lawful for him”.  Eating meat was lawful for Paul.  He also said, that “all things were not beneficial”.  If eating meat offered to idols caused a brother to sin, then eating meat was not beneficial and he would “never eat meat again”. (ch. 8:13)


Paul is talking about people who are truly weak in faith, which results in their conscience being weak.  He is not talking about the Christian who is mature and simply differs on the matter of eating meat.  As you can also see in Romans 14, Paul would promote his freedom as best he could and to anyone he could.  He would also not want anyone to put him down because of his freedom.  He allows for us to think differently on these particular issues.  So if there is a mature Christian in your midst, and he simply gets upset with you because you are eating meat, that is not an offense.  That is not causing your brother to fall into sin.  We cannot be bound by mature Christian’s lack of  freedom and what they think of us.  We should allow them the liberty to think differently and we should go ahead and eat our meat.  Yet this does not apply to a truly weak in faith brother.


The Rights Of An Apostle (ch. 9:1-26)


Paul begins chapter 9 with four questions.  We must note that when I say that he opens chapter 9, he never had chapter divisions in mind as he wrote.  Verse 1 of chapter 9 is really a continuation of thought from chapter 8.


He asks, “Am I not free?  Am I not an apostle?  Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?  Are not you the result of my work in the Lord?”


Just what Paul actually meant when he asked about his freedom is not clear to me.  He would obviously say that he is free in the Lord, meaning free from the guilt of sin.  He is free from the restraints of the Law.  He is also free of marital concerns that would slow him down in the service of the Lord.


Paul asserts the fact that he is an apostle, especially to the Corinthians, even if he wasn’t an apostle to other churches. (ch.9:2)  He says that they “are the seal of his apostleship”.  Paul is saying that you Corinthians are the proof that I am a real apostle.  The fruit of a real apostle are the churches he has founded.  Paul is not merely claiming apostleship.  He is an apostle, and they are the fruit of his labour. The word seal in this instance is like a lawyer’s seal that would stamp a document proving that it is authentic.


The other question that Paul asks is, “have I not seen Jesus…”  You see, there most likely were some that might have ranked Paul as a secondary apostle because he was not one of the original twelve, as was Peter.  But Paul states here and in other places that he did meet Jesus face to face on the road to Damascus.  This meeting was no less significant than the time spent by the original twelve while Jesus was on earth, and in one way of thinking, it might well be more significant.  The resurrected and glorified Jesus actually spoke to Paul on the road to Damascus .  We also know from other writings of Paul that he had visions where Jesus spoke to him as well.    


Verse 3 says this very clearly.  “This is my defense to those who sit in judgment of me”.  Obviously some were judging Paul’s claim to apostleship.  It is true that not everyone who claims to be an apostle is really an apostle.  The same would hold true for a prophet, pastor or teacher. The test for these claims is in the fruit of their ministry.  Paul did have much fruit to his ministry and him being an apostle should not be in doubt.


Paul asks a couple more questions.  He asks if he does not have “the right to food and drink”?  Paul is speaking of receiving support for his ministry at this point.  Paul would often raise his own funds by making tents in order not to be a burden in any way to those he was ministering to.  He also asks if he didn’t have the same right as the other apostles, which included James and Peter to have a wife and bring her along with them on their trips.  This would clearly be a more costly venture for the local church, if they were to help support Peter and his wife and children. 


“Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living”, Paul continues to ask.  It is clear that there is only one answer to these questions.  Yes, Paul and Barnabas do have the right to be supported financially.  They do have the right to bring along their families on their trips.  But they have forgone these rights in order to preach the gospel and not to be a burden on anyone.


Paul, in verses 7 to 11 explains why he, or anyone who works directly in the service of the Lord should receive an income from those he serves.  In a secular sense he speaks of soldiers and farmers who benefit financially from their work.  In verse 8 he says that “this is merely from a human point of view”,  that is, his illustration of the soldier and farmer.  So thinking that might not suffice as a good argument he takes an example from the Old Testament Law.  The Law said that when you are using an ox to plough your grain fields, you should let him eat some grain as he works.  Paul says that this Scripture wasn’t merely meant for an ox, but for people.  Therefore, anyone working directly, and giving his life in the service of the Lord should be duly compensated. 


In verse 12 Paul says, “if others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it even more”?  Paul and his company were instrumental in the formation of this church, therefore if anyone had a right to receive support, they should.  Obviously the Corinthian church supported others in the work of the Lord. Yet Paul did not demand this right for himself.  Not to hinder the gospel in any way, he decided to pay his own way and to work with his own hands and support himself while serving Jesus and the people of God.


Paul goes on to back up his point one more time by saying that those who serve in the temple are supported by the temple’s finances.  In verse 14 he therefore concludes, “those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel”. 


Then once again Paul says that he has not used any of these rights, and it is not his intent to start.  Paul was not giving these people some kind of idea that he now wanted financial support from what he was saying. As a matter of fact he says, “I would rather die than for someone to deny me this boast”.  These are strong words, from a strong willed man. You can see very clearly Paul’s personality coming forth in these words. 


Now you may think that from what Paul says in other places that he should not be boasting of such things.  You are right. After saying that he did not want anyone to deny him of this boast, he says, “yet, when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, I am compelled to preach”.  Paul is saying that preaching the gospel is necessary for him.  He has no other choice.  It is a compulsion from the Lord Himself.  He even says, “woe to me if I do not preach the gospel”. 


Paul’s thinking on this point is interesting.  He feels that if he preached “voluntarily”, he will be rewarded by the Lord.  Yet if he gets paid for it, he is merely “discharging the trust” that he has been given.  God has entrusted Paul with a message to be shared throughout the Gentile world.  Paul’s desire is to make this message as assessable  as possible.  If he doesn’t charge for his service, he feels more people would listen and receive what he has to say.  Yet at the same time he does have the right for financial support.  Paul feels if he receives an income from preaching he is then only doing the job that is expected for him to do.  He wants to go beyond this.  He doesn’t only want to do the job that Jesus asked him to do.  He wants to do it in the best way possible.  He has made himself a bond servant, that is a servant by choice.  For the sake of those who he ministers to, he has given himself, while asking nothing in return.  This is fine with him because he will be rewarded by Jesus Himself some day in the next life. 


One of Paul’s points that he makes in his letter to the Romans is that our salvation comes to us “free of charge”.  There is nothing that we can do to obtain this great gift.  So Paul wants to continue this by offering the gospel to others  “free of charge”. (ch. 9:18)


By not receiving funds from people Paul is “free from all men”, as he says in verse 18.  Yet knowing that he is free from men, he offers himself as a servant to all men so that “he can win as many as possible”.  


In many churches today pastors are not free from men.  They feel the pressure from those who have hired them and from those who pay them.  This often hinders the work of the Lord.


Paul says for example that he becomes like a Jew under the Law, even though he himself is not under the Law.  If necessary he will submit himself to things under the law in order to win some of those under the Law, although Paul would never substitute any law for his salvation that is by grace alone.  Paul will not change his thinking on what constitutes salvation, but he will change his practice, or way of living at times if it makes it easier for the Jews to receive his message.  Then once they have received his message you can be sure that Paul would tell them that they are free from the Law that they are in bondage to.


Then he goes on to say that for those who were never under the Jewish Law that he would become like them, though he has to qualify that by saying that even though he is not under the Law of Moses, he is under the Law of Christ.  He is not free to do as he pleases.  But for the things that really don’t matter in life, he will submit himself to such things if that will help someone come to Jesus.  And to note, the law of Christ is to love God and your neighbor as yourself.


In verse 22 Paul says, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all of this for the sake of the gospel that I might share in its blessings”.  The blessings that Paul is speaking of here is obviously not an income from preaching the gospel.  The blessings he must be talking about is his future reward as earlier stated, or possibly present spiritual blessings.


Paul closes this section by using a sporting illustration.  He says that those in a race run to win, but there is only one winner, and he wants to win.  Therefore he is encouraging his readers “to run to win” as well. (ch. 9:24) 


Paul continues the sports analogy by saying that anyone participating in any sport goes through much training to win the prize.  If this is so in a race or a sport, how much more intensity should we have in preaching the gospel where the prize is not earthly, but eternal.  Paul expects an eternal reward because of his hard work.  He does not expect his entrance  into heaven to be based on what he does, but he does expect a reward after entering into heaven based on what he has done.


Paul closes the chapter by saying, in my words, that he is not living his life aimlessly.  He knows he has a job to do.  He knows what needs to be done.  He puts his physical body into submission in order not to be disqualified after helping others to be qualified.  There is no way that Paul wants to end up at Heaven’s gates without having done his best for Jesus.   


You see Paul's emphasis on serving Jesus here.  He is not simply a Christian.  He is a Christian with a mission.  I believe being a Christian with a mission is for all of us, not simply for church leaders.


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