Chapter 7: Amongst the many problems in this young church, were some very ordinary, natural dilemmas concerning general morality. In giving his advice regarding sexual relationships, between a married couple and an unmarried couple, we find a rather peculiar stance being taken by Paul. In some things he feels he has the backing of scripture and therefore declares his advice to be “of the Lord”, but in other things he admits he is offering his own personal advice. In his own life he had sorted his own sexual relationships, (and wished everyone else had done so) but realized that people and circumstances are different in many cases. This aspect of Christian living has long since been much debated and discussed. Everyone has an opinion. Many a Christian marriage has broken on the basis of these diverse arguments and opinions. The bottom line is surely that we are called to live holy lives. Any abuse or over indulgence of our natural bodily appetites must hurt the conscience of anyone who has the Holy Spirit dwelling within them. To abstain from all appearance of evil, would be good advice in the “questionable amusements” dilemma. Paul makes it very clear that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and should always be married to other temples of the Holy Spirit. If we join it with a prostitute it becomes one with that prostitute and light should not have any fellowship with darkness. However what happens when the saint is wed to a sinner, or the married partner does not accept Christ. Should they leave off joining their temple with an ungodly temple? This is a very good question and Paul makes some equally remarkable statements about the affect of the believer on an unbeliever. He says that the sanctified one sanctifies the other. Some people might argue that it doesn’t sound like a watertight argument, but if such was not the case then either, joining with a prostitute would not soil the believer or every married person would break up from their partner as soon as they were converted. But Paul states clearly, who knows your partner may get converted. History has proved that such has been the case a million times over. However, the truth could be that marriage, even between two “unholy temples “(unconverted) is sanctified in God’s eyes. For Jesus said “whoever God has joined together, let no man put asunder”. That is why we speak of the “sanctity of marriage”, because God sanctifies the union. Finally, though much more could be written, it seems that Paul definitely regards marriage as something to be delayed as long as possible, if not avoided especially if one desires to concentrate solely upon serving God and doing his will.
More questionable things. It is not until one has grasped the full message of this chapter that the rather peculiar introduction is understood. The problem is that of eating meat which had been sacrificed to idols The custom amongst the pagans of the time was to bring meat to the gods of the temple. Unfortunately the gods were not able to eat the meat and the priests of such temples were not such great eaters of meat, so that much of the meat which was taken as offerings to the pagan temples finished up being sold on the local market to swell the coffers of the temple priests. Some christians thought it a bad thing to buy and eat the meat, because it must have been unclean in some way, having been offered unto idols. Some christians thought otherwise and ate the meat quite happily. What was Paul’s reply to this dilemma? Once again Paul hits the bulls eye with his first shot. The real problem is not the eating of meat, nor the refusal to eat such meat, but the division which it brought in the church. Division usually has it’s root in pride and nothing cultivated pride like knowledge. So apparently some folk had knowledge which the others didn’t have. What was it? Paul says that everyone has some kind of knowledge, but we do not build up the church by knowledge, but by love. We often hear the cynical remark “it’s not what you know but who you know”. This is sometimes said by those whose pride is hurt because in spite of their knowledge or ability, they have been refused a job, and folk with lesser qualities have got them. However Paul says something slightly different. It is not who you know but who knows you that counts. God does not take knowledge of the clever one but of the one who loves. Surely all that we do in our christian lives should be measured by what God thinks about it. Verse 4. There were some who ate meat quite easily, because they reasoned that the gods were not real. They were just lumps of wood, so putting a piece of meat in front of a lump of wood, could not possible change it in any way. Indeed to think that it had changed would be to give to the false gods some kind of authenticity. These were the people with the “knowledge”, for such reasoning is perfectly truthful. As christians they had been set free from all their past superstitions, and now had come to believe that there was only one true God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and that there was only one Lord to acknowledge even Jesus Christ. They would not acknowledge in the slightest way the existence of any other god. Now you would think that Paul would be on the side of this argument. After all he preached freedom from the law, and the law forbad the eating of certain meats, so he should no doubt have been pleased that his new converts were walking in liberty. However such is not the case, for he takes the side of the “weaker” brethren. NOTE CAREFULLY who the weaker brethren were. They were the ones refusing to eat the meat. Once again one would have thought differently, in that keeping rules and regulations and abstinence surely shows a measure of discipline, the trade mark of the true disciple. But Paul explains why certain folk might refuse to eat meat once offered in the pagan temple. He suggests that because they once firmly believed in the false gods, they still have a “weak conscience”, in that any sign of allegiance to them would, to them, be a step backwards. If we were to bring this up to date, we might discuss many areas of what we as christians call “ questionable amusements” A lady who spent most of her unconverted days in the cinema, may after her conversion never go into another cinema, because for her it is a step backwards into the dark days when she looked up to the film stars as idols of worship. Now she sees all their hypocrisy, falseness and unrighteousness that she will have nothing to do with any part of the cinema organisation. Yet another christian will differentiate between the good film and the bad film, and going to the cinema would seem a justifiable relaxation, even a place to take the kids on a wet afternoon. Yet another illustration of the same kind. Supposing a man gripped by the chains of alcohol who drank 10- 15 pints per night was converted. If he lost the desire to drink he would certainly never need to go to a pub again. Indeed it is highly likely that his conscience would convict him if he took a small glass of wine, because he might recall that such was his first step to alcoholism twenty or so years before. But supposing the same young christian hears that the pastor or a church leader enjoys a glass or two of wine with his Sunday lunch or even a larger or two before going to bed, what will the young christian think. More especially what will the devil tell the young christian? Can we not all hear him whispering “ there you see, there’s nothing wrong in a pint or two in moderation.” If the young christian were to heed such words and take the moderate drink like his older christian brethren then we all know he would feel very guilty and soon be on the slippery slopes again. Of course some say we know that the fruit of the vine is a perfectly legitimate enjoyment for which we can thank God, and there is nothing intrinsically evil in the wine, only in the indulgence of it, as surely as there is evil in the indulgence of buying nice clothes, expensive jewelry or even food. Such are the people with “knowledge” The people who have thought that such things are evil in themselves lack such knowledge, believing almost in superstitions. BUT WHAT DOES PAUL SAY is the answer? He is not concerned about eating or drinking, but in unity and love, so he instructs the stronger, with knowledge to go with those who don’t have such knowledge. If your liberty causes another weaker brother to fall, then do not take that liberty. For in so doing we sin, not in eating the meat, but in offending our brethren. The apostle Paul ends with his own testimony, that although he walked in perfect liberty and would eat anything set before him, if someone saw him eating such meats, who thought it was wrong, then he would not do it. I might feel perfectly at liberty to wash my car or cut my grass on a Sunday, but supposing my next door neighbour was brought up to believe it was wrong. Then what would be the wise thing for me to do? A young man, brought up in a christian home, many years ago, went off to his first dance, believing that he could witness to the girls he danced with. While dancing round with a girl he mustered up the courage to tell her that he was a christian. Her immediate response shocked him. She asked “what are you doing here then.?” She probably knew that the reason she went dancing would not fit with a Christian conscience. She knew if that if she was a Christian, she wouldn’t go to such places. So be careful with the freedom you have received,- how you express it. Some weaker one might be watching.