Archives for 12.7.06

on attendance at the idol’s temple (sermon summary 12.6.06)

In light of recent articles and comments at SI [and see here], Wednesday’s message seemed singularly appropriate. That is not to say that our church folks spend any time at SI, I doubt they are even aware of it. But many of you who read my comments online are aware, so it is interesting that we should approach this topic at this time.

Our passages for this message were 1 Corinthians 8-10. I entitled the message, “When Can I go to the Idol’s Temple?” My proposition: The principles taught in 1 Corinthians mean that Chrisitans should almost never enter idol’s temples (or their modern equivalents).

The first point of the sermon dealt with defining the subject of the argument. The Corinthians had written Paul a letter that contained assertions and questions. Some of them were apparently in response to a previous letter (now lost) that Paul had written them. One of the subjects of the Corinthians letter was ‘meat offered to idols’. There are three specific ways in which this meat was consumed: at feasts in the idol temple, at home by ‘idol-meat’ bought in the marketplace, or at a friends home with similar meat. Tom Constable in his Expository Notes on the Bible argues that the issue in 1 Cor 8-10 is primarily eating the meat in the idol temple. He cites Fee in support of his argument, although I don’t have Fee to check. The issue of marketplace meat is relegated to the end of 1 Cor 10, after Paul has concluded his argument on what to do about eating meat offered to idols. These two possibilities are dealt with as ancillary issues, issues that need to be considered as objections to the main thesis. In 1 Cor 8.10, Paul specifically mentions sitting at meat in an idol’s temple. This seems to be the point that Paul is dealing with throughout 1 Cor 8-10.

The second point of the sermon had to do with the arguments against eating meat offered to idols, i.e., in the idol temples (virtually the restaurants of Paul’s day). Chapter 8 brings up the argument of love [for the brother] or the consideration of the weakness of the brother. Chapter 9 brings up the argument of priority as Paul speaks about his willingness to give up his rights and indifferent things that don’t matter for the sake of the gospel, i.e., the consideration of the worth of the gospel. Chapter 10 brings up the argument of reality, as Paul illustrates the danger of idol meat with the example of what befell Israel. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. Paul finishes by pointing out that while an idol is just a rock, behind the idol is a demon, and real spiritual transactions occur in idol sacrifices. So Paul teaches: don’t do it, you don’t know the danger you are in, I would not have you connected to the Lord and to demons. This consideration is on the basis of the wickedness of the heart.

I touched briefly on the ancillary issues: what about idol meat bought in the marketplace? Paul says no problem, it’s just meat. Eat it and don’t ask questions. What about idol meat at a friends house? No problem eating it, as long as no one calls attention to the fact that it is idol meat. If they do, they have a conscience that it is different from ordinary meat and you must abstain for the sake of their conscience.

In the conclusion, Paul says that whether you choose to eat or not to eat, whatever your choice is, do that to the glory of God. I wrote on that extensively earlier, so you can check my post on 1 Cor 10.31 if you want to read a much more full discussion of this point.

In closing the message, I made several modern day applications. I am going to just paste that portion of my notes here. These are not exact parallels, but I think there is sufficient parallel that we ought to seriously consider drawing some lines in our lives:

· Can a Christian in good conscience go eat at the restaurant of a casino?
· Can a Christian in good conscience go to a pub?
· Can a Christian in good conscience attend a movie theatre?
Are there issues that a Christian might have with eating in a Chinese restaurant for example?
· Especially when a Buddha sits out front with offerings of food in front of it? [Now a restaurant is NOT an idol temple, but still… we must think this through.]
· If you are at a Chinese restaurant and someone mentions to you that the fortune cookies are part of demonic trust in luck and signs, what should you do? DON’T EAT THE COOKIE

We must in the things we do, consider:

1. The argument of love (or, ‘the weakness of the brother’)
2. The argument of priorities (or, ‘the worth of the gospel’)
3. he argument of reality (or, ‘the wickedness of the heart’)

If we keep these arguments in mind, and die to self, we will do well.

These issues are difficult issues in our day. A great deal of pressure is exerted by modern day Corinthians on those who want to preach the Bible as the absolute authority for life. It is a great shame that so many rebels are present in the graduates of Christian universities and colleges that have a reputation for standing for orthodoxy.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3