For The Glory of God
1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1
Key Verse 11:1
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
This chapter begins with lessons from history. The Israelites whom God rescued from slavery in Egypt had turned their hearts to evil things rather than to God, and God severely disciplined them for that. So Paul tells the Corinthian Christians in versed 6 and 11: “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.” “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.” In other words, be careful that what happened to them does not happen to you. He was talking about the exercise of freedom. He was talking to those who exercised their Christian freedom to eat food sacrificed to idols, without consideration of how their actions were affecting their brothers and sisters in the Lord. He reminds them that there are weak Christians among them who might stumble and fall on account of their actions. This is not the first time in this letter where Paul finds himself having to rebuke them for their pride and their inconsiderate use of their God given freedom. It must have been a problem among them serious enough to demand a repetition of teaching. The freedom God gives us as we come to Christ is precious— bought with the very blood of the Lord who died on the cross to bring us out of slavery to sin and into the freedom of God. It is our duty before God then to use this freedom not in pleasing ourselves, but to please God. (5)
In the remainder of the chapter, Paul talks about how to exercise Christian freedom wisely, in way that pleases God. He teaches them to live for the glory of God. He tells them in verse 31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” And he seals this teaching with the words of 11:1: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” These are teachings that are imperative to our Christian lives. Freedom is precious. It is purchased with the blood of the Lord. Freedom is precious because it has removed— obliterated the shackles we had around our hearts and souls. Many Christians experience this new found freedom, and without proper instructions in the Lord— through the word of God— they find themselves lost not knowing what to do with this freedom. Others find themselves going astray to places they shouldn’t go, things they shouldn’t do. Without careful guidance in the Lord, still others become intoxicated with this freedom and blind to their own pride and arrogance, living the illusion that what they do with their freedom is no-one’s business, and become like Cain who said: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9) Freedom can be dangerous and destructive both to ourselves and to those around us. And in all things, it must be closely monitored and contained and especially used— as Paul says— for the glory of God. We as Christians, young and old, have a responsibility to know this truth and to engage it in our day to day lives. Paul repeats it often, it must be then urgent, and urgently needed.
Read verses 23-24. “’Everything is permissible’–but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’— but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” What it Paul saying here? He is saying the same thing. We have freedom. But it does mean that they have the freedom to do as they please. According to the Bible, doing that, is the same as seeking one’s own good. Rather they must use it for the glory of God. And in this case, using it for the glory of God urges them to seek the good of others. This teaching is not exclusive to the Corinthian Christians. Paul tells the Philippians the same thing: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4) He tells the Romans the same thing: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself …” (Romans 15:1-3) This teaching is crucial to the Christian who wants to please God with his or he life. Seeking the good of others is at the heart of the Christian teaching. And its not easy because by nature we are prone to seeking our own good. And in seeking our own good, sometimes we are blinded to the needs of others, both Christians and non-Christians alike.
Every decision we make, and action we take, bears some kind of fruit or another. If our actions and decisions are godly, they bear godly fruit. But if our actions and decisions are motivated by our human nature, they wreak havoc in the our surroundings. Sometimes, years later, after having stubbornly taken a stand, or done something in a certain way, or acted upon one’s feelings rather than by faith— years later, one comes to their senses and deeply regrets having done what he or she did in selfishness of heart. Years later he or she sees that what they did in freedom was so self seeking that the damage incurred is irrecoverable. For the love of our Lord Jesus, we must examine our hearts repeatedly. We ought to see if what we are doing— our actions, our decisions, our behavior— are self motivated or self seeking. Sometimes our inaction or indifference to others, or to the work of God going on around us, is the most damaging to others. We represent Christ in all that we do. In our speech, in our actions, in our inactions, and in all things we are deemed the representatives of Christ. It is a serious thing what we do or not do in the name of our Lord. Granted, Paul says, everything is permissible for me. But the painful truth some Christians come to realize sometimes too late— was that my actions, my decision, my inaction, are neither beneficial nor constructive. We must seek the good of others in all that we do. Especially when there are so many young people around us who are observing every move, every word we say, and shaping their own thoughts, their own behavior, their spirituality and spiritual understanding by what they see and hear.
In verses 25-30 Paul again addresses the issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols— exercising their freedom to eat— without consideration to others. His words are very clear. Freedom to do as you please just because you are free in Christ is no excuse. For no amount of personal faith— or logic— or justifying whatever they do can ever justify the damage done to a Christian with a weaker conscience. We are Christians. We stand in the grace of our Lord untouched and unwavering. Nothing can separate us from the Love of God for each of us. And there is no sin or trespass great enough that the Lord in his mercy does not or will not forgive us for. For that reason and more, we must be careful to put aside anything within us that is self-seeking and seek the good of others. Paul is not saying anything to the Corinthians which Jesus our Lord has not already said: “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” (Mk 8:34)
Read verse 31. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” This is the general principle of Christian life as well as our spiritual direction in life and in all things that we do: “Do it all for the glory of God.” It is a journey of life that we must take, a journey towards doing everything for the glory of God. We are not born with this capacity. Nor does God expect the Christian to quickly mature in his or her life direction to “do it all for the glory of God.” As infants in Christ, we take steps — sometimes small sometimes large steps— steps towards learning what it is to do all things for the glory of God. To the Corinthians Paul says, “Begin with the smallest of things and seemingly more insignificant of things such as eating and drinking.” “Later as your lives mature in the Lord, you will be able to discern what things glorify God in your lives and do them— and what things do not glorify God and stop doing them.”
For the most part, people eat and drink for the sake of sustenance or health, for the sake of self enjoyment and for the sake companionship and such. Ordinary activities that most people don’t think too much about. But Paul tells us that even in such things, seemingly most mundane of activities, Christians must be different. They must consider and think and act and behave differently from all the other people of the world. And they must do even this for the glory of God. The truth is greater than this yet. If we can learn how to do these small things for the glory of God, in time we can be blessed to learn how to do everything for the glory of God. A famous shepherd in our ministry, during lunch, used to eat his meals without lifting his head from the table the whole time. Some thought that he was shy. Others thought he was respectful. But many years later he said he did that because he wanted no disturbance from anyone while he enjoyed every bite he ate. It was the most selfish act of a young Christian. When he was challenged to say a few words at dinner time for the sake of acknowledging others and for the same of fellowship, he was bitter about it, but decided nonetheless to speak a few words for the glory of god. My point is that it took time, but regardless of how long it took to mature into a great servant of God is irrelevant. The thing is that through this small act to glorify God in this small thing, his spirit soared until he learned how to glorify God in all things.
We all start our Christian lives wanting to but not fully understanding how we can live our lives to the glory of God. So we must learn in small things how to glorify God in all things. Even when we are older and wiser, there is the danger of depending on our own understanding in how to do things to the glory of God. But we shouldn’t depend on our own understanding. Rather we must make room for the Holy Spirit to guide us from day to day to live our full life for the glory of God. There is nothing wrong with learning even in old age what glorifies God and what does not. This is why God gave us repentance. In repentance we put aside our ways of doing things, our own ideas, our understanding, our thoughts and embrace what the word of God teaches us, and learn to listen to the guiding light the Holy Spirit overshadows us with, so that indeed we may glorify God in all things. Even to the seemingly mature Roman Christians, Paul urged them to give their bodies in glorifying God. It starts with eating and drinking and later grows to offering every part of our body, even our emotions, our thought world, and every part of our heart to God and to his glory.: “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness…offer the parts of your body to God as instruments of righteousness.” Romans 6:13
This summer we want to offer the parts of our bodies to recover this one to one ministry and be restored as campus shepherds and Bible teachers. The young men decided to offer themselves to an outreach— to fish and to feed the students with the word of God. This is a most blessed way to offer this summer as well as the parts of our bodies to do something worthwhile for the glory of God. They need your prayer support. They also need you to assist them and to encourage them and to stand beside them as fellow workers in the harvest field of Triton and the western suburbs. It would be a wonderful way for them to learn how to do all things for the glory of God. Otherwise, the summer will evaporate and when we look back we would see a wasted opportunity to the glory and honor of God.
We always need a purpose in doing anything and everything. Without a purpose, we cannot be different from those who are not in Christ. So Paul offers us the best purpose in doing all things. “Do it all for the glory of God. When we have a clear purpose to live for the glory of God— to do something for the glory of God— we also grow in spiritual discernment and mature in our understanding of what pleases God and what does not. Sometimes we don’t know if something is right or not— or if it pleases God or not— if it is done with a selfish motive or done for the glory of God. Many Christians are sincere in their desire to glorify God— and to do something and anything for the glory of God. How can they tell what is good and what is not, when there are so many different and conflicting opinions about everything in this world as well as in Christian life at times. Mostly to the sincere man or woman of God, God gives spiritual insight to know what we should do and what we should not. But Paul offers the best counsel in 11:1: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” And this needs wisdom as well. The wisdom that comes from taking root in the Gospels and in the word of God. This wisdom is not cheap either. It must come from the inner desires of our hearts to find out what pleases the Lord. To find out what is pleasing and what is displeasing to God, To find out what glorifies God and what doesn’t. In order to find out what Jesus did, and how Paul imitated him in every way, we must study the word of God and pray. It would be good this summer to devote ourselves to the study of God’s word again. To study with a passion and to pray fervently that through our personal study we may learn Jesus’ life and strive to imitate Jesus.
These days young people everywhere want to imitate each other, and those who are famous and popular and glamorous. But to do so is destructive to their nature. It debases them and makes them animal like rather than Christ-like. It would be good if they would rather imitate Jesus and his life of faith and sacrifice and mission. It would be good if they read books on Christian martyrs who lived their lives for God and for his glory. We must pray for ourselves and for all young people to learn how to live for the glory of God, and how to desire to imitate Jesus above all else.