1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 56
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998
|There is no such thing as an idol in this world. Verse 4 says again, “Therefore, concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world.”
1 Corinthians 8:4-13
Dealing with the Grey Areas of Life – Part 2
Turn to 1 Corinthians 8:4. We are talking about dealing with the grey areas of life. There are a lot of things in life that aren’t as clearly stated as we would like for them to be. How do we deal with those things? That is what the apostle Paul has been assigned to answer.
There are two things that I want you to see. Paul rehearses what they all knew. Now what do they know? He tells them in verse 4, “Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one.” Now his topic is still idols, specifically eating meat sacrificed to idols.
There is no such thing as an idol in this world
They knew two basic things. And the apostle Paul makes it very clear. You already know this, even the weaker brother knows this. What are they? Number one, that there is no such thing as an idol in this world. Verse 4 says again, “Therefore, concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world.”
Paul, what are you talking about? They lived in the city of Corinth. They walked up and down the streets. They saw the idolatrous temples. They saw the gods made out of stone and wood. What do you mean there are no idols? I see them every day. That’s not what Paul is saying. Oh, yes, you can see them with the eye, but what he is saying is, there is nothing behind that wood, there is nothing behind that stone. There is no god there, because we know that there is one God. There is no god behind that piece of wood. There is no god behind that piece of stone. An idol is simply a reflection of the imagination of the one who created it. That’s all it is. “We know that,” he says. “All of us know that. That’s why we came to Christ, the one true God.”
So first, they knew that an idol was of no value, of no significance. Why worry about a person bowing to a stone? There is nothing in the stone. We know that, okay.
There is only one God
The second thing they knew was that there is no God but one. There is only one God. I love this. Verse 4 reads, “Therefore, concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one.” There is no God but one. Actually, the word “other” is in the text, the original, “there is no other God but one.” There is only one. The word “other” is heteros. It means another of another kind. In other words, if you step outside of who God is and try to find another and compare that with God, there is none. There is absolutely none. They won’t even show up on the scale. There’s only one God.
The prophet Malachi declared the fact that there is only one God in Malachi 2:10. He says, “Do we not all have one Father? Has not one God created us?” The apostle Paul declared it in Ephesians 4:6. He says, “One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” He wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God and one mediator also between God and man, the man, Jesus Christ.” Jesus declared it in Mark 12:29. He said, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.’”
Now I want to tell you something, even the demons in hell believe that there is only one God. That hits me kind of funny, because the demonic spirits were the only power these pieces of stone and wood could ever have. The demons themselves were smarter than the people who created the idols out of stone and wood. It says in James 2:19, “You believe that God is one, you do well.” That is what they said in the morning and at night. It was a Jewish prayer. They were taught from young children to say this, “God is one. God is one.” He said, “You believe that God is one, you do well. The demons also believe and they shutter.” In other words, the demons have that figured out. There is only one God. They know that.
So Paul says, we all know that idols are nothing. They are of no significance. And we know that there is only one God. Now, in verse 5 he takes into account the pagan people. Yes, they see this differently. He says in verse 5, “For even if there are socalled gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords,” little “g”, little “l”. Now, as far as the world is concerned outside of Christ, they haven’t come to this conclusion. They still see these socalled gods.
Now that’s a powerful phrase, “socalled.” If you looked it up, it is the word lego, which means to speak as with intelligence about something. It’s in the passive voice and present tense. Present tense meaning people going around giving reputation to something, a piece of wood and a stone, and the passive voice refers back to the idol. In other words, the only way anybody would even know about the fact that there are gods anywhere is because of what we say about them. He says the pagans spread the reputation of these pieces of wood and stone and they give them their own exaltation. The word is a powerful word there for “socalled.” In other words, it is only as a result of what people say about them. The only credibility they have is what a person can give to those false gods and false lords. It’s only the reflection of one’s imagination. That’s all an idol is. Wherever you go, no matter whether the Old Testament or whether today in a foreign land, an idol is nothing more than something made with human hands, and it reflects the imagination of the one who made it. That’s all it is.
As a matter of fact, look over in Habakkuk 2:18. Look at what he says. Now, remember, this is the time when God spoke and actually shut Habakkuk up. But look at what he said in 2:18: “What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it [I want to show you now for sure all it is is the imagination of the maker], or an image, a teacher of falsehood? For its maker trusts in his own handiwork when he fashions speechless idols.”
Now that’s all an idol is. It’s the handiwork of an individual who doesn’t know the one true God. He has to come up with something to worship. God put that within every man. You can go into the darkest part of Africa and they will worship a tree. They will come up with something, but they don’t know the true God. Their imagination of what they think a god ought to be comes out in what they make, the reflection in what they make.
Now, you say, “Why are you telling us that? Do we need to hear that?” Absolutely, because, folks, people are still pulling away from the One true God and making idols out of everything that you can think of: church, denomination, whatever. They make idols out of it and start worshiping that rather than worshiping the God who is the centerpiece of it all. And we still do it. The flesh tends to do that kind of thing. They will make it in its own image, what he thinks it ought to be.
One day I was channel surfing. Do you ever do that? I hit one of these talk shows, and it was Phil Donahue. Bless his heart, he met his match that day. Billy Graham was on the program. He looked at Billy Graham and said, “Now, tell me when a person becomes a sinner?” He said, “He is born a sinner because of Adam. Born into sin and cannot get out of it.” Phil Donahue looked at the crowd and looked at the television camera. He said, “Come on, Billy, you are not going to make a little baby a sinner, are you? Come on, let him be 12 years old before you make him a sinner.” All the people started clapping. Billy Graham never blinked an eye. The camera came back on his stern face and he looked at Phil and said, “Phil, do you know what your problem is?” He said, “What?” He said, “You are trying to create God in your image.”
That is exactly where an idol comes from. When you think God ought to be this way, that’s when idolatry springs forth. It reflects the imagination of the one who creates it. It has nothing to do with the one true God that we know. As a matter of fact, the Antichrist is going to put himself in this whole mix one of these days, and he is going to proclaim himself as the top one.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:4 Paul uses this word “socalled.” It says, speaking of the Antichrist in latter times, “who opposes and exalts himself above every socalled god or object of worship so that he takes his seat in the Temple of God displaying himself as being God.” Now, if you could put those two thoughts together, it reflects the imagination of the one who made it. Secondly, it gets its reputation from what the one who made it says about it. That is where it comes from. If everybody would keep their mouth shut, it wouldn’t have a reputation and it would rust or whatever would happen to it.
You know, if we built a big statue and made it into a god and called 20/20, we would have people coming from all over the world to worship the god. How do they know it’s a god? Well, I heard this and I heard that and I heard this, you see. That’s how it gets its reputation. It is only a reflection of the one who makes it.
The world, in their rejection of the one and only God, has come up with many gods and many lords. First Corinthians 8:5 says, “For even if there are socalled gods [plural] whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed [now look at what he says] there are many gods [little g] and many lords.” Now that’s interesting. He uses both terms here, but he is going to do something with it that has to be the inspiration of the Spirit of God. I don’t think Paul was intelligent enough to figure that one out. That’s God giving him this. You see, they not only created the gods, but they divided up the sphere for what they thought the god controlled.
For instance, in the book of Jonah, they had the god of the sea. Somebody said, “Yes, but there is also the god of the wind.” Oh, yes, and there is also the god of the storm. There is the god of the thunder. Now they had a god for everything. That’s where it comes from. That’s why the captain came to Jonah and said, “Would you call upon your God? Perhaps He will be concerned.” He is the only one who knew the true God who was in charge of it all. They were upstairs on the deck crying out to everything, and Jonah is asleep in the bottom of the boat. What an indictment to the very one who knew the true God! But it gives you a picture, many gods, many lords.
We were in Indonesia, and I was preaching to a seminary over there. I had never been to the island of Java before. I had never been to Asia, that part of the world. When we got over there, they took us out and showed us that animism is all over that island. On every farm they will have an agricultural god. Isn’t that nice? They had these big gods. Now, I am not talking about 10 foot high, I’m talking about 110 feet high and 75 foot wide. The biggest things you have ever seen in your life. They would sit there and watch over the fields. Now, that made me feel better, just knowing that they were there. As a matter of fact, one of them was sitting there with a big gut. He just had a big belly. He had his finger pointing down. We were riding down the road and I saw that. I had them to stop. I mean, that thing was a half mile away and I had to get to where that thing was because that just cracked me up. You know how in basketball when somebody dunks a ball and somebody points down with their finger? That’s what it looked like.
But while we were there, we saw all these gods everywhere, the god of the field, the god of the storm, the god of the crops, I mean, they have got everything. We went out to the big Buddhist temple that is on the island. Now, can you imagine, I actually paid money to go see this thing. That is where they get you. I felt so stupid. We got out there and here is this big gigantic Buddha sitting up there, and you’ve got to walk up these steps. I mean, it’s huge. This is the god of that land.
Have you ever studied Buddhism? Do you understand where it came from? The man named Buddha, who said there wasn’t a God and there wasn’t any salvation, died. So his followers said, “Since he said there wasn’t one, I guess he was it.” That’s where it came from. That’s exciting! Boy, that will bless you! Hang on to that one when you get in trouble!
But when we got there we had to walk up the steps. There were different levels. Every time you would walk up the steps, there would be another level. I asked the guy who was guiding us, “Why do we have to walk up all these steps?” He said, “The higher you climb, the more spiritual you become.” Isn’t that exactly like what man would create? He is going to get up there, isn’t he? But in Christianity, it is not how high you climb, it’s how low you stoop. We must decrease that He might increase. It is exactly the opposite.
The deception continues to abound. All it is is a reflection of the imagination of somebody’s mind. And the only reason people even go there is because of the reputation that others gave it by what they said about it. Socalled gods. We as bornagain believers know that in the midst of all this deception, there is only one God, one true God, and we know Him through Jesus Christ.
Now Paul brings this one God up again in verse 6 and begins to describe Him. The more I got into this, the deeper it got. I apologize. I am not skimming the surface of what’s here. I challenge every one of you to go back and just get your Bibles out and let God teach you in this verse. It is far beyond anything I’ll say. It’s incredible. He says, “yet for us [believers] there is but one God the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” Paul says there is only one God.
He starts off and shows us how we know Him. Do you know how we know Him? We know Him as Father. Isn’t that a beautiful thought? The way He wants Himself revealed to us is as Father. Unlike the socalled gods of the world, we are the products of our God. Whereas the socalled gods of this world are the products of man, we are the products of the God which we know to be the one true God. It was our Lord Jesus who revealed God as Father. Fortyone times in the New Testament Jesus calls God His Father. We would never have known the concept had Jesus not revealed it to us. You see, Jesus is God visible. God wanted to manifest Himself to man, so He made Him visible in Jesus Christ who came and was born of a virgin. The term “My Father,” spoken of by Jesus, is found 14 times in Matthew, 5 times in Luke and 21 times in the gospel of John.
Now let’s go to the gospel of John. Don’t worry. I am not going to do 21, but let’s just do a few of them to show you what this means to us. That piece of wood or that stone that people bow to literally does nothing for its people. The people must do everything for the god. But I want you to see it is the reverse in Christianity. It is not what we can do for our God, it is what our God has done for us, and it’s the goodness of God that even leads us to repentance.
Let’s look at some of these. First of all, it’s the Father who loves His children. And how does He show His love? He demonstrated it by sending His own Son to die for us. I remember being in a class of world religion when I was in college. A guy got up in class one day and said, “Let me ask you a question. Why do we say our God is the only God when we go into other parts of this world and find other gods? I mean after all, aren’t Allah or Buddha or whatever sufficient?”
I had never seen the professor do this. He took his glasses off. I learned after that if he ever takes his glasses off, get real serious because he is mad. Boy, he took his glasses off. He walked up in front of that classroom and said, “Let me tell you why we think our God and know our God is the only true God.” He said, “Name me another one who left His throne in glory and came down and died on a garbage heap for the very people He created who then turned in sin and spit in His face. Name me one!!!”
Boy, he started there and didn’t stop. I tell you what, before he finished, we were shouting, except the boy who had made the statement. He was very quiet. As a matter of fact, I never heard another statement come out of his mouth in that class. He shut him down.
Paul is saying, “Listen, we know God as Father.” He is the Father who loves His children. How do we know? It says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” You say, how you know he was talking about the Father? Because the definite article is before God, and the word “son” is mentioned in the same verse. Any time you find a scripture that has the Son in it and God is used and a definite article is there, it is God the Father. God the Father so loved this world that He gave His only begotten Son. We know that we know our God, the one true God, and we know Him as a Father who loves His children.
But also, He is a Father who cares for His children. Go over to John 6:32. Following the phrase when Jesus said, “My Father,” John 6 says it’s the Father who gives His children the spiritual bread, the essential bread of life, the eternal bread of life which is the Lord Himself. Verse 32 reads, “Jesus therefore said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.’” What is He saying? “I am that bread. He that eateth of Me and drinketh of My blood,” that is what He is talking about.
This is right before the Feast of the Tabernacles. The Feast of the Tabernacles was a Feast of Booths. When they had this feast, they celebrated the wanderings of Israel in the wilderness. During those wanderings they had manna that God provided every day. And not only that, they also had water from the rock. Jesus is saying, “I am the Bread. It is the Father who gives to you the Bread. I am that food. Our Father cares for His children.”
John goes on to say in John 6:40, “For this is the will of My Father that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” Well, it is the Father who loves His children. It is the Father who cares for His children. It’s the Father who protects His children.
Now watch this. Do you think you can lose your salvation? You are going to have to erase this verse out of your vocabulary. John 10:29. He speaks of those the Father has given to Jesus, His children, His people, His church. He says, “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” Oh, how are you going to get snatched out of the Father’s hand? As a matter of fact, if you’ll study a little further, Jesus said he is not only in My Father’s hand but you are in My hand. Do you realize that if the devil tried to get me out of Jesus’ hand, he would have to wade through the blood and if he waded through the blood, he would be a saved devil? He can’t get to me. I’m in Jesus and I’m in the hands of the Father.
He went beyond that to protect me. He went beyond that. He made Himself one with me. Go over to John 14:20. Man, if this doesn’t light a fire, just get saved or something. I mean, this is where it is! Look at what He did. We don’t even look at it half the time. John 14:20 says, “In that day you shall know that I am in My Father [now listen] and you in Me [now watch] and I in you.” He made Himself one with us to protect us. I mean, you talk about secure today! He is a Father who loves His children. He is a Father who cares for His children. He is Father who protects His children.
He is a Father who disciplines His children. Go to John 15. All we have to do is read one verse and it tells the whole story. John 15:1 says He is a Father who disciplines His children. Verse 1 tells the whole story. He says, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” Do you know what a vinedresser is? The husbandman, the one who comes in and takes care of the vineyard. If you will go on, He says, “You are the branches, connected to Me, the Vine. The Father is the vinedresser.” What does He do? Have you ever studied John 15? One of the verses says He does what to the branch? He prunes it. He is a Father who disciplines the children. Do you think He can’t take care of His family? There is much integrity in what He has done.
Well, we can go on and on and on. I told you, 21 times in John, 14 in Matthew, 5 in Luke. I tell you what, folks, we know our God, the one true God as Father, revealed by His Son, Jesus Christ. So in the midst of manmade deception we have this truth. We know who the true God is. We can go to Indonesia and see all that stuff, but we know who the true God is. We go to India and see all of that, and we know who the true God is. Wherever you go, or when you come back to America and see the gods that people have made out of wood and stone or whatever you can see, touch and feel, we know who the true God is and we know Him as Father.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:6, “yet for us there is but one God, the Father.” I have a dear friend. He and I have been friends for so many years. He is a precious friend. Every time I call him, do you know what he says to me? The first phrase out of his mouth, “Let me tell you what the Father has been doing in my life.” He just uses that phrase over and over and over again. That has so caught my attention, to remind me of the Father. That’s the one God and we know who He is.
Maybe that doesn’t really light your fire because you have had an earthly father that if God is like him, you won’t have anything to do with God. Let me help you understand that God is nothing like an earthly father. God is the holy, heavenly Father. He is the ideal of everything a father could be. That’s who he is. He doesn’t have to be, He is; that is who He is. So the next time you think about the Father being God, don’t put Him in the same category as your father if it has been a very difficult thing for you to live that way.
Charles Stanley, I believe it was, for years lived under the thinking that God, the heavenly Father, was like his daddy. Until one day God overwhelmed him and showed him the difference. We know God and we know Him as our Father.
Well, anyway, for what that is worth, “yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him.” Now watch what he does here, I love this: “and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” Paul just previously said, “In the world there are many gods [little g] and in the world there are many lords [little l].” He turns right around and says, “But to us there is one God, the Father and there is one Lord, His Son, Jesus Christ.” He covers the base right there. They don’t in any way contradict, they complement. He shows how the Father and the Son are equal. He says everything comes from the Father, and all of us exist for the Father
The first part of the verse: “yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him.” Then he turns right around and shows you how the Father and the Son are exactly equal. He says, “and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things [He created everything; John 1:3-4 tell us that] and we exist through Him.” Isn’t it amazing? He says the same thing about Jesus he says about the Father and shows you that the two are equated.
You see, we are living in a generation trying to make three gods out of one. “Well, I received Jesus, and I am really trying to get the Spirit.” Wait a minute now, how many Gods are there? If you get Jesus, you have the Father and you have the Spirit. You see, it is one God in three persons. You say, “But I don’t understand that.” I don’t either. I just believe it by faith. If I understood it, God would be no bigger than my brain. I haven’t got anywhere close to it. But that is what His word teaches. Don’t make three Gods out of them. He is one God. The Son is equal to the Father.
Paul didn’t deal with it, but you can also go and see that the Spirit is equal to Jesus. He says, “I will send another comforter. The word “another” there is allos, another of the exact kind, another one just like Me. My Spirit will come to live in you.” So there is only one God, our Father, who is revealed through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul says, “Hey, we all know this. We know the idols don’t exist as far as the deity goes. There is only one God, and we know that one God is our Father. We know Him through Jesus Christ.” Now that is what they all know.
What some did not know
The second thing that I want to try to show you is what some of them did not know. And remember, he still has in his focus that arrogant group that says, “Oh, come on, eat the meat. It’s good stuff. Man, grill it, it is even better.” They don’t have any sensitivity to the people around them who don’t understand that. So he says in verse 7, “However, not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.”
Obviously Paul is still talking about the believers. He says, “However not all men have this knowledge.” The word “knowledge” is gnosis. You say, “Well, wait a minute. I thought he just said all men know.” Yes, but he is talking about something else here. Even though they know what Paul has just said they knew, some of them don’t have a grasp on the fact that eating food sacrificed to idols will not defile them in anyway.
The verse explains itself. He says, “but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.” Here is the problem very clearly put. Some still think that the food sacrificed to an idol would defile their conscience in some way. Even though they knew better, they couldn’t grasp it. They just could not grasp it. In fact, it says that they actually think they are defiled.
You know, put this in another scenario just for a second. Do you realize how many people don’t like contemporary Christian music? Do you know why many of them don’t like it? They understand we are under grace, but they came out of a background that the beat of that music reminds them of every polluted thing they ever did. And when they hear that music, they can’t get it. Whereas another person didn’t, and he is under grace and he can appreciate it. Now you have two people. Which one is right?
That’s the whole problem here in Corinth. What do you do? Even though you know these things, there are some who have not grasped that and they think if they do it, they will somehow defile themselves.
The question that I always get everywhere I go is, “Is it wrong to drink?” Well, let me just put the scenario into what chapter 8 is talking about. Maybe you are so under grace that if you were in somebody’s home in Greece or someplace else, and they offered you a cup of wine, you would pick it up and sip it, just not to offend the person because you know you are under grace and that’s not going to affect your eternal standing with God. But you might be at the same table with somebody who came out of alcoholism and anything that smacks of that reminds him of his past and therefore, he may know he is under grace, but he cannot grasp it like you grasp it. That’s the scenario. That is exactly what he is talking about.
Now, what happens is, you have some people who say, “Preacher, I’ll quit drinking if you show me where it tells me not to drink.” See, they defend it and they defend it at the expense of the weaker brother. That’s the whole teaching of Paul over in Romans. When he gets to the end of the book he talks about the very same thing. There are so many people who just don’t have the grasp of something that you have. That’s why he is saying it is so important to have God’s love mixed in there. He gives you a divine sensitivity to know what’s right in a given situation that’s gray and is not as clear as you want it to be. You’ve got to consider the one who can’t quite grasp it.
There were those, if they went to a wedding and they served them this meat, who would stand up and say, “I can’t,” and walk out. They offended everybody because they didn’t grasp grace. There were others who would point their finger and say, “Look at that person, legalistic.” See, be careful. It’s by grace that you even know what you know. Don’t think you have come to know fully. What did Paul say? You are not really where you think you are because you haven’t learned even how to apply that to your weaker brother when it is a sensitive situation.
Well, Paul is still speaking to that arrogant crowd. “Oh, there is nothing wrong with it! It is good stuff.” In verse 8, look at what he says. This to me is an encouragement to the weak, but buddy, is it ever a warning to the strong! He says in verse 8, “But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat.” In other words, to that group that can’t stand it and just can’t seem to grasp it, hey, it doesn’t defile you not to eat it; it is not going to affect your standing with God. But to the group over here who says, “I am going to eat it,” it doesn’t affect your standing with God. Either way you go. To the weak, that’s a strength, but to the strong, he says, “Look out. Don’t boast of yourself being spiritual because you understand grace just because you ate. That hasn’t got a thing to do with your standing with God, see. Your standing with God is in Christ, not in what you eat.”
Look at verse 9. Here is his whole point. It is the whole point of the chapter. “But take care,” he says, “lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” That is what he is saying all the way through. Look out, look out, look out. When you understand, you could be the most dangerous person around if you are not walking with God and His love manifest in your life, what you understand can be used to break people. But if you are living surrendered to Christ, what you understand will be used to build people up because love edifies.
Well, you know, God has used some great people in my life. You know what I have so appreciated about people who know more than I know? They have forgotten more than I’ll ever know. I have appreciated the fact that they haven’t taken what they know and crammed it down my throat and squashed me. That’s the key. If love is mixed with the knowledge, it will cause someone to grow and build. But if it’s not, it will leave them in their tracks, hurting way back yonder because you didn’t have the sensitivity of God in how to use what you understand. That’s the key.