Bible Study – 1 Corinthians 8

  1. What is the danger of an expansive intellect without love (8.1-3)?
  2. What is established concerning idols (8.4)?
  3. What is established concerning God (8.4-6)?
  4. What knowledge is not in everyone (8.7)?
  5. When eating meat offered to idols, of what are some conscious (8.7)?
  6. What happens to the weakened conscience of such a person (8.7)?
  7. What cannot commend us to God (8.8)?
  8. If you actually eat meat offered to idols, you are not the ___________.  If you don’t eat meat offered to idols, you are not the ____________.
  9. If you have liberty to eat this meat, should you?  Why or why not? (8.9-13)
  10. What should we do if food offered to idols makes a brother stumble (offend his conscience; 8.13)?

How would you apply your understanding of this chapter of Scripture (consider the audience of this letter and the reason Paul was writing them)?

Spiritual Leadership

“One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren” (Matthew 23.9).

It is interesting that the Pharisees seemed to be quite accurate in their teaching.  Jesus told His disciples that they should observe and do what the Pharisees told them (23.3).  It’s just that the works of the Pharisees did not line up with the teaching of the Pharisees.  

First, they had great expectations for others but not for themselves (23.4).  Second, they did what they did in order to be seen by men not God – to be fawned over by these men (23.5-7).  Third, they liked positions and titles along with places of preeminence and power.  

So the problem was not so much the message or content of the Pharisees as much as it was the way they delivered and lived that message.  Only One is the Teacher.  Only One is the Christ.  The rest of us are on a level playing field as brethren.  The Lord Jesus communicates through the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures.  He is our authority.  

I may expect obedience from my boys because I have authority as their Father.  My wife respects my authority in the home and lovingly submits to God’s plan.  As a pastor, it’s my task to watch out for the souls of people in our local church as one who will be held accountable.  But all of these roles must be carried out with great compassion, mercy, and love.  What is demanded or expected of others must be demanded or expected in my own life first.  The final sum of it is that all of us are brethren bought by the sacrificial blood of the Lamb.

Two Important Prohibitions for Spiritual Leadership 

  1. Do not demand the respect the Lord Jesus deserves.  To be called ‘Rabbi’ was to convey a very high form of respect.  The Scribes and Pharisees relished the title and the attention that came along with it.  The Rabbi was wise.  He felt very free about vaunting himself up over others and telling them what to do.  But from where does wisdom come?  Who gives authority to the spiritual leader?  Everyone must look to the Lord Jesus for that which relates to the doctrine we believe and the faith we practice.  
  2. Do not usurp the authority the Lord Jesus has.  He is the only One who will sit upon the throne of David forever.  He is the only One who will rule with an iron scepter.  We are simply fellow-servants and brethren.  It is clear that the Lord Jesus taught that those with the most authority are those who serve and condescend to the needs of others.  “The greatest among you shall be your servant” (23.11).  Jesus illustrated this truth by washing the feet of His disciples on the evening of His arrest.

 “One Is Your Teacher, the Christ”

We have many people pushing us in many directions during any given day.  It’s amazing how we so freely accept the authority of others who hold temporal sway over our lives and neglect the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He has given you a task, namely to go into the world and preach the Gospel …also to love God supremely and then love others as you love yourself. 

If we would all do the will of our Master each day, we would sleep much better each evening.  How important it is to reach the end of a day and say, “Heavenly Father, I’ve done what you’ve demanded of me today.  Help me now to rest in order to build on what has been done today when and if I reach tomorrow.”  

“You Are All Brethren”

All fellow-believers in the body are brethren.  Some might be referred to as Pastor or Father or Mother or even Sir.  Jesus is not forbidding such titles in this passage.  But He does forbid that titles become marks of high distinction and great authority.  The Lord prefers the broken and contrite heart.  This is the mark of truly great leaders.  Good fathers make great sacrifices.  As do good pastors and spiritual leaders within a church congregation.  You are all brothers and sisters.  

Therefore, outward conduct cannot be so readily dispatched.  But it must be governed by humility and love within.  Our world must see a church filled with people who love and respect one another …who pay deference to one another …who are kind and tenderhearted toward one another.  This happened in the early church to be sure:

Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:44–47)

Our salt has lost its savor. Our light has been greatly diminished in the world at large.  Now is the time to lead by serving not expecting anything in return.

The Discipline of Self-Loathing

Broken and Contrite Christianity

The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

David begins Psalm 34 by testifying to LORD’s work in his life:  The LORD saved David from fear and foe alike (4-6).  He surrounded David with His presence (7).  Then David takes what he has learned and teaches other believers that the LORD can do the same for them.  The LORD can meet your needs (8-10) and grant you a long and prosperous life (11-15).  He can keep you safe and secure from your enemies (17, 20-22).  But the unrighteous must realize that God is against them; His anger and condemnation hover over them (16, 21).

I think verse 18 is the key to this Psalm.  Broken and contrite Christianity always wins the favor of God.  Arrogance and an aggressive overbearing spirit meets only with the fury of God.

Basic to this Psalm (and many others) are two groups of people mentioned in it:  the righteous and the wicked.  The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous.  Our afflictions are numerous, but those who cause them and hate us will be held guilty by God (21).

We struggle because we are so aware of how weak we truly are.  Most of us are well aware of the fact that we have problems.  So much so that we really cannot grasp the benefits and promises God has provided for us here.  And yet we shouldn’t think that God does not allows us to be broken and contrite in order to receive these daily benefits.  So, we need to first understand what it means to have a broken and contrite heart or spirit.  

Contrition

Generally speaking, we should be cheerful and joy-filled when it comes to life.  “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken” (Pv 15.13).  I surely don’t want a broken and dejected spirit like the one described in this Proverb!

Perhaps the word contrite clarifies things for us.  This broken and contrite spirit is aware of his or her sin.  He or she is coming face-to-face with the fact that they deserve the fury of God and wonder how they could ever have the favor of God.

David will say in Psalm 34.8:  “For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.”  Again, in Psalm 40.12 David says, “My iniquites have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up.”  The sense here is the self-loathing we feel because we remember our iniquities, even our abominations before God (Ezek 36.31).  We will never forget what God has forgiven us even though His fury has been absorbed by the Lord Jesus Christ.  That seems to be contrition to me …it certainly isn’t presumption.

You don’t have to commit great abomination before God in order to know deep brokenness and contrition.  But those forgiven by God for great iniquity will certainly have an increased hatred for it.  And yet none of us can really stand before God with our heads unbowed and souls unbloodied.  We look at our lives and see how far from God we were …how utterly selfish we were, and we can’t help but recoil in the face of God’s great deliverance.

I’m reading through Job right now.  I don’t think I know anyone who approaches Job’s integrity.  Not many people would ever think to refer to us as perfect and upright.  Yet that’s how he is described.  But how did Job describe himself:  “Behold, I am vile …I abhor myself!”  (cf. Job 40.4; 42.6)  You don’t hear that in our self-esteem saturated society.

If we would know God’s near presence and daily deliverance, we must abhor ourselves for our sins.  It is quite humbling to remember just how often we are disobedient and rebellious toward God.  We acknowledge that God is absolutely right when His justice demanded such a sacrifice as the death of His Son for my sin …your sin.

Arrogant sinners don’t believe in a God of Justice.  Their god is never displeased and always gives them what they want.  He won’t send them to an eternal Hell.  Such a thing could never exist if God is truly loving and merciful.  David acknowledges after a year of torment over his murder and adultery cover-up:  “Against You, You only have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight – that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge” (Psalm 51.4).

Arrogance kills the Gospel message; contrition prepares the heart for its entrance.  Contrite people say, “What must I do to be saved?”  Arrogant people say, “What need have I to be saved?”  If you wonder at the people who without batting an eye reject your witness, then just remember arrogance is the main reason why they are steely hard.

The Benefit of Brokenness

“The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart” (34.18a).  God resists the proud and arrogant, but He gives grace to the broken and contrite …He is near them.  This is objective fact whether one feels it is true or not.  Sometimes we should pray, “Lord I believe this; help my unbelief.”

“And saves such as have a contrite spirit” (34.18b).  The LORD delivers those who say, “I have sinned, and perverted what was right, and it did not profit me” (Job 33.27).  His life shall see the light (Job 33.28).  God’s deliverance is everlasting …there will be no more shame or disgrace.

Our contrition is a sign that God’s love is upon us.  The LORD is near us.  God has taken away the arrogance and pride and given us humility in its truest form.  I think because people are taught in many evangelical churches that God basically winks at sin, when they do have a heavy dose of contrition, they question their salvation; they cannot rest.  But without contrition, we would never ask God the right questions in prayer.

The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)