1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 57
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|Now, what in the world does the word “conscience” mean? In verse 7, the Greek word is suneidesis. It means to be conscious or inwardly aware of something as to whether or not it was morally right or morally wrong. It comes from the word suneido, which comes from sun, together, and eido, which means see and fully perceive. In other words, there is something inside of all of us, whether lost or saved, that gives us an inner awareness as to what is morally right and what is morally wrong.|
1 Corinthians 8:7-13
Handling the Grey Areas of Life – Part 3
Look at verse 7. I want you to think about what the conscience is. Everyone has one. He said, “However not all men have this knowledge [speaking of the idols and etc.], 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.” Paul says, “Now, some of the folks in the body of Christ are weaker than others and they haven’t come to see their freedom under grace. They haven’t come to realize there’s no condemnation to them who are in Christ. They don’t realize that their standing is in Christ, not in what they eat or don’t eat. They haven’t grasped this yet. These who don’t understand feel like they’re defiling their conscience if they eat this meat.”
Now, what in the world does the word “conscience” mean? In verse 7, the Greek word is suneidesis. It means to be conscious or inwardly aware of something as to whether or not it was morally right or morally wrong. It comes from the word suneido, which comes from sun, together, and eido, which means see and fully perceive. In other words, there is something inside of all of us, whether lost or saved, that gives us an inner awareness as to what is morally right and what is morally wrong.
You know you have a conscience when you are forced to make a decision. You come to a situation and have to make a decision and all of a sudden something inside of you says, “Yes, do it,” or “No, don’t do it.” Where does that come from? Even people who aren’t saved have a conscience. Immediately this conscience bears witness. It’s like an inner process that’s involved in every choice that we make. But sometimes we just don’t understand that it’s even going on. It’s the first thing that comes to our mind when making a decision, that conscience rising up and saying, “This is morally right” or “this is morally wrong.”
The conscience is affected by what a person knows or has been taught by those around him or his culture. That’s why a pagan person may not have a conscience that tells him that this is wrong or this is right like we would have in a more moral society, although that’s sort of an oxymoron living in America. A pagan might not have the sensitivity to something that we might have because of the teaching of the culture he grew up in. So, the conscience is going to react according to what is fed to it. The conscience is affected by what one knows and understands.
The believer has the Holy Spirit of God living in him. The Holy Spirit is there to enlighten the conscience by revealing the Word of God and renewing the mind. So the conscience, then, is directly affected by the power of God’s Word. This is the way as we understand truth. The conscience begins to line up with the Holy Spirit, and that moral witness stands up, the Holy Spirit obviously affecting it, and causes us to do what’s right, morally right or morally wrong.
Now, you take a person who’s in the body of Christ who hasn’t yet come to grasp what grace is. That person is still under the law. That person still is trying to obey certain rules like they were in Jerusalem when Paul came to tell them about the message of grace and how it was affecting the Gentile world. In their mind, you still had to obey the Law. They still hadn’t come to grasp the message of grace yet. Their conscience in that area had not been enlightened. They were, in fact, the weaker brother in that area. Whereas, somebody else might have had a full understanding of what grace was all about. That’s the same way it is today. There’s the weaker and there’s a stronger brother.
I was in a church years ago where I served in church recreation. When I went there they had some rules for the gymnasium when you would go skating. We had roller skating. It had grand, wood floors. They would stand the pressure of those skates. They had a rule there. Now listen to this, ladies. They had a rule that if the ladies came to church gymnasium and they wanted to skate, they could not wear slacks. They had to wear dresses. Now, let me ask you a question. Maybe I’m off the wall here, but if you were a lady at the church skating, would you rather be in a pair of slacks or would you rather be in a skirt? Which one would you rather fall in?
The first question that went through my mind was, “Who came up with this rule?” Then I had to back away, because it was one of the senior staff members. He had been there for a long time. He had made the rule that you had to do that. I’m thinking, “I better step back.” Studying chapter 8 has helped me to realize his conscience had not been enlightened in that area yet. He was still a weaker brother. He still thought that’s the way it ought to be. I wish at that time I had known this Scripture, and maybe I would have treated him a little differently. But we finally did change the rule and nearly lost him in the process. But that’s the way it is in our culture. It’s the same way.
They had the same thing in Corinth as we have today. Some people’s minds have been enlightened by the message of grace, and they absolutely have no restraint in what they do. Others have not yet come to that place so, therefore, the inner witness, the conscience standing up says, “This is morally wrong,” when their brother standing right here says, “No, this is morally right.” When you get into an area like that, how do you handle stuff?
It’s interesting how the conscience can be seared. It only speaks of a lost person here. I don’t see how a believer can sear his conscience because of the Holy Spirit of God living in him, but that may be true. In 1 Timothy 4:2 he says, “by means of the hypocrisy of liars [talking about false teachers here], seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron.” The word “seared” there is the word from which we get the word cauterize. The idea is, everybody has a conscience when they’re born. To some degree they know what’s wrong and right. But the more you go against that conscience, the more you begin to harden that area. It’s like the scars of a burn. It becomes so hardened and so calloused that no longer does it become sensitive. Therefore you have hardened or seared your conscience.
The Indians would say that the conscience is like an arrow in someone’s heart. It’s sharp on the end and it continues to be sharp. As if turns, it begins to prick certain areas. It hurts you. And you realize it’s there. But if a person bears up under that and ignores it long enough, finally that will heal over and scar up and the area will not hurt them anymore.
So you can see how a lost person born with a conscience can sear that conscience and come to the place he has no conscience at all. As a matter of fact, it’s become hardened and he can do whatever he does without ever being sensitive to anything morally right or morally wrong. The conscience alone, however, is not enough to guarantee, even the enlightened conscience is not enough to guarantee, the right behavior of a believer. This is the whole point of chapter 8. It’s got to be mixed with something. If the love of the Holy Spirit of God is not mixed with the knowledge this person has, then his conscience, that bears witness of what is morally right or morally wrong, is still not enough to guarantee he’s going to be sensitive to do what is right.
Let me show you this. Look at 1 Timothy 1:5. This is a key verse and it shows you what Paul says is the most important. It’s not the enlightened conscience that is important. The most important thing is the love out of a pure heart. That’s the key: God the Holy Spirit producing love in you and through you that you cannot produce yourself. This comes out of a surrendered relationship to Christ. First Timothy 1:5 says, “But the goal of our instruction [now watch this] is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” The first thing that comes to Paul’s mind is love from a pure heart.
This is what he said in 1 Corinthians 8 He said in verse 1 that knowledge makes a person arrogant. The word for “arrogant” means he’s a big air bag. That’s all he is. He knows something, but he’s no use to anybody because of what he knows. He says also in verse 1 that love edifies. Edifies means builds up. If the love is there, then what you know will build your brother up. But if love is not there, what you know will tear your brother down. That’s the whole picture.
You may understand the message of grace. Be careful. It is to the group that understood it that Paul addresses chapter 8, because they are the most dangerous if their understanding is not mixed with the love of the Holy Spirit of God.
This is the context of chapter 8. Paul refers to what they know in verse 4. He says, “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.” Again, he addresses their problem. You know it, but unless the love is there it’s no good to know it. They had no sensitivity to their weaker brother. That was the key. This is the group that we have to watch.
Look at verse 9. He clarifies this whole thought. It’s the key verse, to me, of understanding the whole chapter. He said, “But take care lest this liberty of yours [that you understand you’re right] somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.”
The damage that knowledge without love causes
He takes you right out of that thought and begins in verse 10 to give you an example of what he’s talking about. This relates in so many areas. The narrow context is the eating of meat sacrificed to idols. As we teach through it, think of all the other areas that fit in the same category of those grey areas. There are three things that I want you to see. First of all, is the damage that knowledge without love can cause. Verse 10, “For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols?”
Let’s look at the scenario that Paul develops for us here. He’s given us the principle. He just draws a picture so we can understand it. He says, “For if someone sees you, who have knowledge.” The little word “if” is the word ean. That’s the word that means this is probably going to happen. This is not something so hypothetical it can’t happen. This is probably going to happen. It probably already has happened. In fact, it probably is going on right now.
The man who is eating here is a believer. How do we know? By the context. He has knowledge, gnosis. Paul says, “For if someone sees you, who have knowledge.” These are the ones who understand grace. These are the ones who know they have liberty and freedom under grace. He says, “For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple.” Now, evidently the situation that Paul is presenting is that the believer has been invited to a celebration or a feast of some kind at the idol’s temple. These temples were made for this kind of thing. It’s kind of like a fellowship hall. They had huge areas where people could come and eat together, that was already made for it. They had a kitchen. Sometimes they had open-air feasts like this. So this was very easily done, for them to be invited to an area of a temple place and to have an area where they could banquet or celebrate with others. This is exactly what the people were dealing with. Paul was just taking them right to where they are.
From the context, there’s a meal of some kind. Obviously at that meal meat sacrificed to idols is offered. The enlightened believer is just eating away. First Corinthians 8:10 says, “For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple.” Now, the problem is that someone sees him eating this meat sacrificed to idols. Who is that someone? Well, the verse describes him as one weak in the faith, and then the next verse calls him a brother. So he’s a weaker brother. He has to be, by the context. This is not a lost person, although this principle would certainly overlap into the lost people and the testimony we have with them.
Verse 10 again reads, “For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak,” now, stop right there. The word “weak” is the word asthenes. It means, basically, without strength, etc. But here it means weak in his understanding of the message that the one eating already knows, one who doesn’t understand his position in Christ, one whose conscience has not yet been enlightened.
Now, note the phrase, “will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols?” Listen, when Paul uses this phrase, “will not… be strengthened” it sounds like it means something good. “Oh good; if I understand grace, I’ll go out and find a weaker brother and eat in front of him and if he thinks it’s wrong, he’ll see me eating and it will make him strong and everything will be fine.” If you read it that way, it could sound that way. No, sir. This is not something good Paul is saying.
The word for “being strengthened” may surprise you. It’s the little word oikodomeo. It’s the word that means to build a house. You would think it would be the word, something that gives ability to or whatever. But it means to build a house, to build, construct, erect. The verb is always used in a positive sense except here. Here it’s not used in a positive sense. The word there is used in a negative sense. As a matter of fact, Paul is not making a statement and saying, “You who understand grace, go to the temple and eat the meat, because you’ll strengthen your weaker brother.” No, that’s not what he’s saying at all. In fact, he’s asking a question and is really saying, “Is this the way you think you build up your brother, by flaunting your freedom to eat that meat in front of him if he thinks it defiles one’s conscience? Is this the way you seek to make him strong, by putting that in front of him?” In reality what Paul is saying is that this is not constructive at all, this is destructive. This is a demolition rather than a construction. You’re causing them to act against their conscience, which has not yet become enlightened. They may do it because you did it, but they didn’t do it because their conscience bore witness that it was correct; and for that reason they’re sinning against their own conscience. You’re asking them to go against what their conscience has said to them. In no way is this building up a brother in Christ.
Some of you have asked me the question many times, “Is it okay to take a glass of wine?” Quit asking me that question, because this chapter ought to solve it for you. If you’ve got a doubt and something inside of you rises up, you listen to it; because that may be the divine sensitivity of God saying, “Don’t do it. There’s somebody with you that you don’t even know is weak in that area, and you may be flaunting what you know is a freedom under grace. But because of your love for that person, you’re willing to lay that down and not do it.” That’s the whole point. The problem with Corinth was they weren’t laying it down.
So he goes on and explains in verse 11 the damage. He says, “For through your knowledge, he who is weak is ruined.” Let’s think about that. Here’s a person who’s come to understand the message of grace. Here’s a person who’s been enlightened by that, and because of that enlightenment has not yet understood that’s not enough. You’ve got to now be surrendered to Christ so that God in you produces through you that love which encases what you say you understand. If it’s not there, you have ruined those who are weak, the brother for whose sake Christ died.
The word for “ruined” is the word that means to destroy, apollumi. It doesn’t mean to destroy his soul eternally, we know that from 1:2-9. But the idea of ruined is something that’s become unusable. How could you make a weaker brother unusable by flaunting your strength and freedom under grace in front of him? Well, when you cause him to defile his conscience now, you’ve put him under a guilt he does not know how to handle; because until he sees it, until his mind has helped him, until the Holy Spirit has renewed that to him, his conscience is going to be defiled by what you have said was alright for him to do. You see, you’ve almost asked him to commit moral suicide in a way, because in his heart of hearts he’s not yet where, perhaps, you are in your growth under grace.
Paul is saying, “You see, without the love of Christ mixed with what you understand about grace, you have ruined your brother. You’ve taken your liberty and literally ruined him. So what if you’re free? What good is that to him? That freedom now has ruined him.”
Paul goes on to say in verse 11, “For through your knowledge, he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died.” I was just meditating on that verse, and you know, it’s just full of meaning. First of all, you don’t love your brother enough to lay down what you call a freedom and have made a right. You don’t love him enough to lay it down. You don’t love him enough to do that. Secondly, you don’t love Christ enough. Who are you not to love Christ enough? Look what Christ did. Christ died for him. Christ emptied Himself of His divine glory, all of His rights and privileges, and came down to this earth, even chose to use His power never for His own benefit, only for the sake of others. He lived here obedient to His Father, even unto death. Look what He did, and you will not even lay down that right that you think you have for the sake of a weaker brother? This is the damage caused by not having love mixed with knowledge. You become nothing more than an insensitive member of the body of Christ. Instead of building them up, you tear them down.
The danger of giving an offense to the Lord
Secondly, it’s an offense even to the Lord Jesus. He brings this out very clearly now. Here comes the danger in verse 12. “And thus, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.” There are three things he says that you do. Actually, he turns it back to this group that understands. Again, please hear me. This is the group that has knowledge. This is the group that says, “We understand grace. We understand grace.” Paul says, “Yes, and you’re the problem, because understanding it and living under it are two different things.” Until you’re hooked into the embodiment of that grace, which is Christ, then the love which is a production of that grace is not there and therefore what you understand is not helping. It’s ruining.
First of all, he that you’ve sinned against them. That’s pretty serious stuff. “Wait a minute, I’m under grace. What do you mean?” He says that you’re sinned against them in verse 12. “And thus, by sinning against the brethren.” He puts this in the present tense. It’s not so much that this is what you did as an act, it’s an attitude because it’s ongoing. This is your whole attitude. You’re sinning against the brethren. Your whole attitude towards them is wrong. By your belligerent attitude towards them who don’t understand grace, you are, in fact, living in sin against them. You’re sinning against them.
Now the word “sin, hamartano, means to miss the mark. You take an arrow and you shoot it at a target and you miss it. That’s what it means. In other words, whatever you think you’re doing to build them up is missing the mark. It is in effect tearing them down, and you might not even know it. That’s what he’s telling them. You’re missing the mark.
Secondly he says that you’ve wounded your brother’s conscience. This really hit me. The word is tupto, and it means to wound. Now listen. It means to strike. It means to smite with the hand or a stick or another instrument. He says it is as if you had taken a stick, a big club, and beaten this man’s conscience. What you say should set him free. You’ve beaten him up with your flaunting the message of grace. So you’ve sinned against him. You’ve wounded his conscience.
Thirdly, most importantly, you’ve sinned against Christ. Now, I’ll tell you what. You get there and that kind of catches your breath. That kind of gets your attention, because you see, when you beat this man’s conscience, the blows did not just hit him, they struck Christ who lives in him. So the end result is you have sinned against Christ. Now you see the insensitivity of the heart when a person comes and says, “Hey, I’m free. I’m free.”
I think of this when Paul was writing to the Romans and the antinomians who were there. The antinomians were the party people. They were against all law. “We can do what we want to do. We’re under grace. Let’s just do go it.” He had to take that fourteenth chapter and say, “Folks, you don’t seem to understand.” He talked about the weaker brother, and, as a matter of fact, takes what he does in 1 Corinthians 8 and just lengthens and makes it a whole sermon there about what it means to treat the weaker brother. It’s so important to realize how serious it is to sin against the weaker brethren. Because it’s not only sinning against them, it’s sinning against Christ. To what degree do they sin against Christ? To what degree are the consequences? This is interesting to me. Paul is strangely quiet. This is hauntingly quiet.
When I study Scripture, I always like to look at what’s said, but I also like to look at what’s not said. He doesn’t tell you the consequences. He doesn’t tell you how much you’ve sinned against Christ. He just sort of backs off and gets quiet. When the Scriptures get quiet, I get quiet. He doesn’t tell you the consequences of that. He doesn’t tell you the harm that’s going to be done. He doesn’t tell you how far you’ve gone in your Christian walk.
Well, you sin against your brother. You wound their conscience and you sin against God. He’s talking about the Christian brother, but also a person who’s lost, maybe in your family. It works in both arenas. J. Vernon McGee tells a story of a friend of his who was saved out of the Islamic faith. He came over here and became a great speaker, preacher, especially on the message of grace. They were at a conference speaking together, and they had a big celebration for all the speakers. They had a big banquet. There were a lot of people there. They had chicken and beef, pork and everything else.
To an Islamic person and to a Jew, pork is a very filthy animal. Neither one of them eat pork. But he’s saved and he teaches the message of grace. He was walking through the line and when he got up to the table, she said, “We don’t have anything left but pork, but we’ve got some great looking ham here. Let me give you some.” He said, “No. You don’t have any beef?” “No” “No chicken or lamb?” “No.” “Well, I just don’t think I’ll eat any of that. I’ll just eat some vegetables.”
She said, “That surprises me. You’re here teaching on the message of grace. I thought if anybody understood that it was okay to eat it, you would understand.” He said, “Excuse me. I do understand. But you don’t understand something that I understand. My parents are still alive. I go to see them once a year. My parents have never asked me anything about the Christian faith at all, but the one question they ask me when I walk in the door, my father, every time, meets me there and says, ‘Have the infidels in America got you eating the filthy hog?’”
He said, “Up until now I’ve been able to say no. If I were to eat this today, I would go home and my father would ask me that question and if I said, ‘Yes’, he would slam the door in my face, and every bit of witness for all these years that I’ve tried to be to him would absolutely be crushed. So I give up my rights to eat pork for the sake of the salvation of my father.”
That is exactly what Paul’s talking about, learning to know when to die to what you say is your privilege, learning to know when it becomes insensitive to a brother to do it and be willing not to do it.
I want to say this before I finish my last point. That’s this. You can’t wake up every morning and say, “Oh, God, what can I do today that won’t offend somebody?” There’s a balance in every truth. If you’re going to do that, would you write me and let me know how you do it? Because there are some people in the body of Christ who have the gift of being offended. They live to be offended. They’re offended if you go to a movie and they’re offended if you don’t go to the movies. Whatever it is that you’re trying to deal with, they’re going to be offended either side you’re on.
So here’s the key. The key is not to make a list, “This offends; this doesn’t offend.” Hook yourself up to Christ. Attach yourself to Him. Surrender to Him and let God the Holy Spirit give evidence of the fact that you’re surrendered by producing a love within you. Then the love will take your knowledge and make you sensitive. Sometimes you don’t even know why you say no to something. You won’t know until eternity, until one day you see Christ and He’ll say, “By the way, remember that day you didn’t do that and couldn’t understand why? Let Me explain it to you, because he’s right over there, and it made an eternal difference in his life. You never knew it. You were just being obedient and sensitive to the Holy Spirit of God.”
The desire of one whose knowledge is mixed with love
Well, the damage, the danger, and thirdly I want you to see the desire of one whose knowledge now is mixed with love. God puts a desire in your heart. And the apostle Paul is going to put in the first person. He’s going to say, “I’m going to give you my conviction in this matter. I know where you are. I want to give you my conviction.” He says in verse 13, “Therefore [of course, always look to see what the “therefore” is there for], if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble.”
Now, even though Paul uses himself here as an example to them, he also opens up an eternal principle that is just so precious when you put other areas into it. He first gives his own conviction. “Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again.” The word for “food” is broma, that which you have to chew. It’s translated food; it’s also translated meat; it’s also translated solid food. So the idea is meat here, because that’s his context. I would personally feel that he means meat sacrificed to idols—why would the other even be an issue? —but meat sacrificed to idols, yes, that’s an issue. If that’s going to cause my brother to stumble, he says, “I will never eat that kind of meat again.”
The word for “stumble” is skandalizo. When you have a mousetrap, don’t use cheese. They figured that out a long time ago. Put peanut butter on it. It messes them up. You have that little trigger that comes back and hooks on the trap and if you set the trap down wrong it will get your finger. Have you ever had your finger snapped on a mousetrap like that? You know exactly what I’m talking about. That little thing that comes back, that’s the word scandalon. It’s not the trap itself, it’s the trigger that springs the trap.
That’s a key understanding here. The trap is already there. The trap is already set. But if you decide to flaunt what you understand about grace in the face of one who doesn’t understand it, the trap’s already set. It just causes it to come shut. And when it does, that’s a death trap to him. That’s a destructive thing in his life. Paul said, “If I eat that meat that’s been sacrificed to idols and it’s going to cause my brother to be ensnared by his own conscience, I refuse to eat it. I refuse to eat it.”
Well, giving his own person example, he opens up a principle for all of us. Now we get down to, how do you deal with the grey areas of your life. “Well, I think it’s okay to drink.” Fine, but are you willing to say, “If it causes my brother to stumble, I’ll never touch another drop”? Do you understand now why it says of elders to be able to sit right along beside it and never even notice that it’s there? If you don’t have that ability, you can’t be a leader in the church. You see, it’s not that the Bible says you can’t do this or you can’t do that, it puts it in bigger perspective. It says that if you’re going to cause your brother to stumble, some of the things that you can do, you can’t do because of your sensitivity to the one who’s around you.
I’ve always thought a person is pretty well known by what he defends. Have you ever thought about that? How much time he spends defending whatever it is he’s defending will tell you where he’s coming from. If he’s defending Christ and grace, you’re alright. But if he’s going to defend what he can or can’t do, being under grace, you better watch out. He’s in 1 Corinthians 8. That’s the one Paul’s nailing.
James 3 says, speaking of the tongue, that we all offend in many ways. So there are so many ways we offend every day and don’t even know it. But when you’re aware of a weaker brother, immediately you have to step back and become very sensitive; because whatever you do needs to be carefully done so that not to offend him, to tear him down, but to build him up.
Well, you know all this is covered in the book of Romans, as I said earlier. Let me just read two verses out of the book of Romans and it might fill in some blanks for you as to what Paul was talking about when we studied that epistle. It says in Romans 14:2, “One man has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him.” That puts the blame now on both sides. So for the person who’s weaker in the faith, don’t go around trying to be offended. Be careful. Accept the fact you might not understand what he understands. But also the one who understands should be sensitive to that weaker brother. He puts the responsibility on both of them. We who are strong in knowledge must be equally strong in love. That’s the key.
The 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians just nails that one down, doesn’t it? He says you can preach in all the tongues of men and angels. You can do all that stuff. But if you have not love, you’re nothing. You’re like a sounding cymbal. The next time you get before a mirror take out some cymbals and just start making noise as loud as you can and remember that’s what it sounds like when you’re telling somebody what you understand about Scripture but you have no love in you which surrounds what you’re saying. Knowledge alone is nothing. Knowledge mixed with love is everything. We must protect the weak until they too become strong. Negatively we must not offend their conscience. Positively, we must bear with them and instruct them. Lead them on to where they can understand what the message of grace really is. The bottom line is to be attached to Christ as you live daily that His Spirit might be working in you.
Many people you think are strong in this area or that area may be weak in another area. I know one of the biggest weaknesses I have, for instance, is when somebody makes curt remarks in my face. I’ve always smiled and acted like it didn’t bother me. It dug to my heart but I just never told anybody that. You see, in that instance I’m the weaker brother. I love for somebody to walk up beside me and put his arm around me and say, “Brother, I’ve been praying for you.” That just means a lot to me. But when somebody comes on and accuses me, thinking I’m strong and can take it, there’s no sensitivity there because I can’t. That’s one of the weakest areas in my life.
So just because you think somebody’s strong in this area doesn’t mean they’re strong in every area. Therefore, you better be filled with the Spirit. I’d better be filled with the Spirit because we don’t know but the Spirit does, and the Spirit of God gives us a sensitivity to each other that we couldn’t have any other way.
Years ago a fellow came to me and said, “I’m a believer.” He give me his testimony. It was precious. The man had been an alcoholic. He had been delivered from any desire of alcoholism, and for years had lived that way and God was using him. He said, “I’ve gone back to drinking and I’m dying inside.” I had to know why. If God took the desire away from him, why would he go back? He came from another religion and said, “My priest had me over to his house and said, ‘Hey, wouldn’t you like to have a glass of wine?’” And he said, “Sir, you don’t understand. I would rather not, because I’ve come out of that.” The priest said, “Oh, come on! You’re under grace. What’s the matter with you?” He said, “I drank it, and from that point on it was straight downhill. I’m trying to get help now to get back where I ought to be.”
Because somebody who understood grace was insensitive to the weakness of his brother, he ruined him. He not only sinned against him, beat up his conscience, but he sinned against God in doing it. So it’s not just the knowledge. It’s the love mixed with the knowledge. I’m the first one to want to get on my knees and say, “God, make me sensitive to who I don’t even know is there so I don’t offend them and destroy their conscience.” The body of Christ has a lot of people in it and they are not all in the same place. Attach yourself to Jesus is the message of 1 Corinthians. Don’t attach yourself to anything but Him. He will make you sensitive to those He cares for.