Achieving Unity When Making Personal Choices

Text: I Corinthians 10:18-33


I.         Difficulties arise in groups of people when people have strong opinions on various matters

            A.        Each individual tends to focus on what he wants and is only satisfied if things go his way.

            B.        People lose track that their purpose and the purpose of the church is to get people to heaven.

            C.        One of the stated reasons for the I Corinthians letter was to get a group of Christians with numerous problems to work together - I Corinthians 1:10

II.        The dispute in the first century over the eating of meats sacrifice to idols makes a good illustration even though this particular issue doesn’t bother the church today.

            A.        The cause of the problem

                        1.         Idolatry was rampant in the early days of the church and along with it came animal sacrifices

                                    a.         Many idol temples butchered a lot of animals each day

                                    b.         To help finance their operations, the leftover meat was sold to shops in the market place.

                        2.         In many places it would be hard to tell where a particular shop was getting its meat.

            B.        The response to the problem

                        1.         Some Christians took the hard line of refusing to support idolatry in any way, even indirectly.

                        2.         Others said meat was meat. They were purchasing meat at a shop, not in some idol’s temple.

                        3.         Romans 14:2

                                    a.         Paul is saying the group who only saw meat for sale was the more accurate in their understanding.

                                    b.         They were stronger in their faith.

            C.        Idolatry was the worship of men’s imagination - I Corinthians 8:4

                        1.         There is no “god” behind the idols.

                        2.         Thus it didn’t matter if a cut of meat in a shop was earlier a part of an offering to an non-existent God.

                        3.         What did matter was the connection or fellowship with idolatry - I Corinthians 10:18-22

III.       Unity is achieved through truth and love

            A.        Raw facts by themselves do not show concern for people - I Corinthians 8:1

                        1.         It is possible to be factually right and lacking love at the same time.

                        2.         As we continue this illustration, consider that such remains true to this day.

            B.        A person with greater knowledge in the Scriptures must take into account the views of someone having less knowledge and less faith - I Corinthians 8:7

                        1.         Why? Because the things we do must come from faith - Romans 14:22-23

                        2.         Faith alone doesn’t make something right (Notice the “if”)

                        3.         But a person with doubts condemns himself if he goes against his conscience, even when dealing with something that God allows.

            C.        The critical point: Can at least one side see that the other side, while not doing as they would choose, are at least not condemned in their choice?

                        1.         I Corinthians 8:8

                                    a.         God doesn’t require that we eat certain foods in order to be saved.

                                    b.         A person is not harmed if he chooses not to eat certain foods.

                                    c.         Therefore both the eater and the non-eater, by God’s teaching, can stand justified before God.

            D.        With understand comes responsibility

                        1.         Usually the more mature Christian and a better understanding about the limits and freedoms under God’s law, but this understanding places a greater burden on their shoulders - I Corinthians 8:9-12

                        2.         The more knowledgeable brother might push the weaker brother into doing actions before he has faith that his actions are right.

                        3.         Thus he will violate his conscience and sin

                        4.         Because the mature Christian caused another to sin, then he too has sinned.

            E.        I wish more would see this

                        1.         When you cause someone to act against their conscience, you are committing a sin

                        2.         The action you are encouraging may be perfectly right, but without consideration for another’s conscience, it can be wrong for that individual

            F.        It is better for the stronger brother to take on unnecessary restrictions to his actions rather than cause another to sin - Romans 14:13

IV.      Who then is in control?

            A.        It would appear that the weaker brother is in control.

                        1.         All a brother would have to do is say, “That offends my conscience,” and the stronger brethren would bow to his will

                        2.         But such an idea is backwards. Since when would the less knowledgeable and weaker in faith dictate what is done?

            B.        Romans 14 was written to show there must be a balance

                        1.         Weaker brethren join us, but not to cause trouble - Romans 14:1

                        2.         The obligations of the strong and the weak - Romans 14:3

            C.        The weaker brother cannot state or view that a stronger brother is sinning just because he advocates or does something that the weaker brother would not do.

                        1.         That is a hard pill to swallow. The weaker brother must realize that his view isn’t necessarily right.

                        2.         I don’t know many who have been able to do this – personal pride too often gets in the way - Romans 14:4

V.        Understanding is needed that each Christian is striving to serve the Lord to the best of his ability

            A.        There are plenty of issues where it is not a matter of personal decision

                        1.         Matters where a person is violating God’s law directly or by omission

                        2.         Deal with those and let God handle the ones where you might not be sure

            B.        Romans 14:6-8 - We need to face that this is God’s world operating under God’s laws. We are not the ultimate Judge.

            C.        Seek each other’s well-being - I Corinthians 10:23-24

                        1.         A brother wrote: “One older man in the congregation made the comment to me today, “if a man helped to build the building and wants to have his memorial service in the building he worshiped in for years it doesn’t seem right to say that he can’t.”

                                    a.         With what we learned, the answer becomes simple.

                                    b.         No, it is not right to say that a brother cannot have his funeral in the building.

                                    c.         But he has brethren who aren’t certain this is proper. They would have a conflict about whether to attend because of their friendship or stay away because of their beliefs.

                                    d.         That brother would not want someone he known and worshiped with all those years to be uncomfortable. He would want them there to give his family comfort. So he would choose to have the funeral elsewhere so they could attend without violating their conscience.

                        2.         I might forego something, knowing perfectly well that I don’t have to, but I want to because I love my brother.