Text: 1 Corinthians 10:23-33
Date: Sunday March 5, 2023
The great saint of the Church, Augustine, who lived about 300 years after Christ wrote much about our affections, our desires. In his book Confessions he speaks about how God is the ultimate aim of our life. The image he tries to paint is that so long as we are aimed, and all of our life, and all of our affections, and time, is aimed at God—our North Star— then whatever our circumstance we will find joy. He says that there are
“[There are] inferior values that have their delights, but not at all equal to my god, who made them all. For in him do the righteous delight and he is the sweetness of the upright in heart.”Augustine
“Rest in him and you shall be at rest…the good that you love is from him, and insofar as it is also for him, it is both good and pleasant. But it will rightly be turned to bitterness if whatever comes from him is not rightly loved and if he is deserted for the love of the creature. Why then will you wander farther and farther in these difficult and toilsome ways? There is no rest where you seek it. Seek what you seek; but remember that it is not where you seek it. You seek for a blessed life in the land of death. It is not there. For how can there be a blessed life where life itself is not?”
We tend to make the exact mistake Augustine is getting at. As Christians, we claim to love God with our whole heart, but find regular spaces in our life where our love of other things is not submitted to God, is not for God. So long as he is not the ultimate end towards which all the arrows of our life are striving, we have not yet learned this mysterious blessed life of Augustines. Are the things you love in this life from him and for him? Or have we negligently begun to love the things of this world, the pleasures of creation, in a way that simply is not ordered for His glory?
Today we come to this remarkable passage in our study of 1 Corinthians. If you’ve been with us, you know that chapters 8-10 have been a little subsection where Paul is answering questions regarding food offered to idols. We have exhausted this theme already. But today, we are going to wrap it up in a way that I believe should leave an impression that changes us. Recall the context, the Apostle Paul is writing to this Church in Corinth and they asked him whether or not they could eat food sold in the marketplace that had previously been used in an idol-sacrifice. While this sounds foreign to us, it was part of every day life for them, it was as common as watching Netflix is for us. It was an honest question. What can we do. What can’t we do now that we’re Christians living in this land where there is so much idolatry. The overall ethic Paul developed was that when we make these decisions we must make based on a desparate desire to build others up in Christ. Today, he puts his capstone on these three chapters, with one final push. The Big Idea of today’s is simply this.
Big Idea: Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Let us read the text in its entirety
1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1 “23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or…”
Verses 23-30 are a bit of review for us. But let us look at what he says. Paul quotes the excuse they had made to him about why it was okay to eat meat that had been offered to idols in the marketplace. The Corinthian Christians had been arguing, “All things are lawful.” Now what the Corinthians meant by this is not entirely clear. But likely, they were new followers of Christ who had been called out of a life of idolatry. Now that they were free from all the rules and laws that governed their life when they used to worship idols, they believed it made no difference whether or not they ate the meat that had been sacrificed at an idol. Paul reminds them that their life as a Christian is not lived in a vaccuum. All things are lawful but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful but not all things build up. Paul is exhorting them to consider the others around them. Does the action they’re taking help others know Jesus more deeply, or meet him for the first time. In other words, just because it is not necessarily sin for you to do something, does not mean that you should do it. We need to be driven by a deeper ethic.
Then in verses 25-28 he gives two scenarios, and under both scenarios he offers the same instructions. Verse 25, the scenario is you go to the local butcher. Inevitably, some of the meat he is selling is probably leftovers from a local sacrifice the night before. Christian, when you’re buying meat do you need to ask first whether or not it’s idol meat. Or in verse 28, say you’re at a friends house, and they’re serving you a meal. House smells great, they put a plate of Lamb Ragu before you, your mouth is watering. Do you need to say, “Hold up here, where is this lamb from?” Paul says, “No—eat with a clean conscience.”
But, if the butcher tells explicitly, “this meat was offered to an idol,” or if your friend says, “this lamb was from the sacrifice last night,” Paul says in verse 28
1 Corinthians 10:28 “28 … then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience—”
Why? For the sake of the conscience of the person who is offering the food. For Butcher Dan. You can’t eat it. What does that mean? It means there are limitations on our Christian freedom, and those limitations are wrapped up in our desparate desire to love the people who God places in your life, a desparate desire to help them with great clarity know about Jesus. Every action you take represents your King to a watching world. And so, for their conscience, don’t eat the meat, becuase it would confuse them.
The modern day equivalents are all over the place. Is my decision to participate in this place, or this event, or this club that I’m a part of, or this online group, or this meeting, or this movie, am I only concerned with what I’m free to do in Christ, or am I more deeply concerned with how I am impacting other’s around for Christ?
Part 2: Do All To the Glory of God
Now look at verse 31 with me
1 Corinthians 10:31 “31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
What a radical notion. I want to spend the bulk of the remainder of our time, considering what this means. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Whatever you do, have this aim in your life—the glory of God. Wherever you are—be there for the glory of God. Whatever conversation you’re in—converse for the glory of God. Whatever website you’re on—browse for the glory of God. Whatever deal you’re closing—transact for the glory of God. This doesn’t mean that everything has to be baptized in Christian lingo, bit it doesn’t mean that your entire thought process, your heart, your prayers are positioning this moment to make much of Christ to those who are watching. Whatever friend your spending time with—enjoy them for the glory of God. This is what Augustine was saying. Do you remember his quote from earlier,
“…the good that you love is from him, and insofar as it is also for him, it is both good and pleasant.”Augustine
Whatever we do, or enjoy, or wherever we spend our time or our money, only finds its true purpose in our life so long as it is bent for his glory.
Remember that critical verse in Galatians.
Galatians 2:20 “20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
This is what Paul is getting at. The Gospel is a reorientation. It flips your life upside down. This is why Paul could write,
Philippians 3:7-8 “7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord...
To trust in Christ, is to be born again. It is to look into blackness of your own heart, and know that there is sin there, you have broken God’s good and perfect design, and you are guilty before a holy God. And then in that blackness of despair, to look up and to see Jesus hanging on a cross. And to know by faith that his death on the cross pays the debt for your sin. And that Christ offers you a free gift of forgiveness and newness of life. And if you really believe that, as every Christian must, then God empowers you with the Holy Spirit to reorient all of your life towards God. Not one iota of your life is left out of God’s grasp. He wants it all. He wants your heart. Your mind. Your affections. Your bank account. Your children. Your mission. Your career. He wants it all. And until all of it is surrendered to the King, he’s going to keep knocking on your door.
But Church—we get this so wrong. Rather than permitting our faith, and everythign about to us to be about God and His glory, we make it all about us. We pretend like we don’t, but we do. Just like these Corinthians, who were making their food eating decisions all about them—something that seems so trivial—we also take trivial things and make it all about us. Then we come to Church, and we do the same thing in the Church. We’re afraid to stand unapologetically on the very word of God because we’re not really submitted like we like to believe we are. We’ve made Church about what we want, how we like it, just enough Christianity to make us feel good about ourselves, but not enough to make us bloody for the gospel, to make tired for the gospel, to make us persecuted for the gospel.
We want Sunday School. We want a compelling Sunday worship service. We want a neat and tidy Small Groups Ministry that is not going to expect too much from us. But can I ask you? but are we busy with the work Christ has given us. Are we making any disciples, because that seems to be a pretty baseline thing for what the people of God should be about? Really—ask yourself—are you going through the motions of Church but not making any disciples. What are we busy with? Could it be, that we oriented our whole life around a safe, tidy, Sunday version of Christianity that is detached from the Jesus of Scriptures. Are we praying and expecting God to show up?
Remember what this whole passage is about. When Paul says, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,” he has in mind, how they are witnessing to the nonbelievers around them through their every day decisions. That’s the context. They will bring glory to God when they determine in their souls to make every moment count, to make every decision in light of the gospel.
Move 3: Gifts
Now let me shift this, from the negative to the positive. I have painted a picture of how I believe we get this wrong. But let me show you how to get this right. I taught last week in our Spiritual Formation class on the topic the variety of Gifts gives us. I pulled quite heavily from the great preacher Charles Spurgeon who loved to speak on this topic. Every person in this room has been given a unique set of gifts, of spiritual gifts. A unique personality. A unique story. And if you’re a Christian, God has providentially placed you right where you are, there are no accidents, there is only providence. And now as a Christians, everythign that makes you you, is reoriented towards God’s glory. And so the question I have for us today, and where I want to take us next is to evaluate all that God has given you, and to ask the question—are you using it for God’s glory. Is it being poured out to win many to faith in Christ. Is it being poured out in discipleship.
Charles Spurgeon when he was speaking on Gifts that we have, he spoke on the gift of conversation. In one of them he highlighted the Spiritual Gift of Conversation. You’ll have to pardon the longer quotation here, but what he says is very important, and I believe will help drive this conversation deeper.
“There is another gift which is a very admirable one. It is the gift of conversation, not a readiness for chit chat and gossip— (he who has that wretched propensity may bury it in the earth and never dig it up again)— but the gift of leading conversation, of being what George Herbert called the “master-gunner;” when we have that, we should most conscientiously use it for God… I wish I could with discreet adroitness break in upon a conversation in a railway carriage and turn it round to the Saviour — turn it round to something worth speaking of. I often envy those of my brethren who can go up to individuals and talk to them with freedom. I do not always find myself able to do so, though when I have been divinely aided I have had a large reward… How many a soul has been brought to Christ by the loving personal exhortations of Christian people who know how to do it?”… Oh, some of you can do this better, perhaps, than those who are called to speak to hundreds and thousandsCharles Spurgeon
We cannot be lazy or half hearted in the utilization of every gift God has apportioned us to bring about the knowledge of God. What is that gift of yours being used for? Are you using it simply to make friends and expand your network and leisure, or is that providential gift of yours being put to service in God’s Kingdom.
How about the gift of knowledge. Some of you have minds that are extraordinary. And when you study you see things that others don’t see. When you study the Scriptures, you can piece it together, and explain it with great clarity. Speak into people’s lives with humility. Give yourself to the study of Scriptures, and don’t keep your findings to yourself.
Some of you may not be gifted at speaking, but God has granted you incredible power with words on paper. When you write, lives are changed, hearts tremble. Write to the glory of God. Write hand written letters daily. If God so opens the door make a blog if you need to. But craft words to build up the knowledge of Jesus. Surprise people by putting your gift to good use.
Some have the gift of influence. You are a connector of people. Your networks are broader than most. Do not minimize this or make this gift something that it is not. This gift is not intended to build your kingdom. The gifts are given to build Christ’s Kingdom. Do you have influence—then build that influence. You have neighbors, co workers, employees, clients. It is no accident that you are in those places. Lead others to Christ. Use your influence to influence for Christ.
Some, particularly the elderly, but not always, have the gift of experience. You know a thing or two because you’ve seen a thing or two. And you’re watching others around you make the same mistakes you yourself have made in the past, or that others have made in the past. And you have clarity. Don’t keep it to yourself. Use your experience for the glory of God. Christ is returning soon. We will give an account for how stewarded our Experience.
Some, have the gift of prayer. When you pray, the world shakes. Pray powerfully. Make sure you have the Members list from your Church. Pray over each person on that list. If you don’t know them, get to know them and what you can be praying for for them. Pray for your Pastors especially as the targets on our back are heavy burdens to carry.
Some have the gift of singleness. You have more free time than someone who is married and certainly more than someone who is married with kids. My evenings after five, are with my children, reading to them and playing with them and investing in them. You don’t have that responsibility. Steward that gift. Invest your time into people. Don’t keep that gift gathering dust.
Some have the gift of wealth. God has gifted you with the ability to make tons of money. Many in the room are saying, “I want that gift.” No you don’t. That one is a heavy gift to hold… The love and temptation of money has been the downfall of many. Pray that you will receive not one penny more than you will be a wise godly steward of. But if you have this gift, pour your resources into the Kingdom of God. Help your Church buy a building. Fund missions and projects. Don’t keep that gift gathering dust.
Some have incredible patience and love to care for those who are sick, who are hurting, who are in pain emotionally. You have the gift of listening and when you listen, others feel heard, and change happens. Ask your pastor where you’re needed. Don’t keep that gift gathering dust.
Some are incredible with children. You love to play with kids, and kids love to play with. Invest in our children. Teach them about the Bible. Make it fun. Make it relevant. Pray for our children fervently, in agony, until Christ wins every one of them to Christ. Don’t keep that gift gathering dust.
Before I close us and lead us into our application for the evening, I want to end our conversation on Spiritual Gifts by reminding us of two things that are interconnected. The first, is the awesome responsiblity that we have as stewards of these various gifts. God has entrusted us with much. He has not treated us like babes, even though on our own we should be treated as less than that. Rather he has placed the tools of the Kingdom in our hands. The gifts you hold are battle axes, broadswords, and mighty shields of iron for destroying strongholds, and establishing God’s Kingdom. This is the most remarkable aspect to me. For we are like prodigals who had run away, spoiled our masters wealth, unworthy of anything. But not only has he forgiven us our debt, but he has commissioned for a high position in his Kingdom. Let us never forsake the gifts.
Secondly, each one of us will give an accounting. An honest assessment of how we stewarded God’s variety of gifts in this life. When we stand before his throne, and give an account of how we stewarded all that was assigned to us, what will he find? On that great judgment day, our souls will be saved not by what we do, but what Christ has done for us. Our salvation will be secure if we have placed our faith in Jesus. And then we will face the judgment that Jesus spoke about.
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 “11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
What will be found of how you used that which God assigned to you? No square inch of the estate assigned to you will be left outside of his judgment. No relationship will be unchecked. May we get our house in order, for the Lord is returning very soon.
Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.