Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Bound By Love (1 Corinthians 8:11-13)

"And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?" (1 Cor. 8:11).

The word “perish” in verse 11 means “guilt, condemnation, and perdition.” One might ask how a person “for whom Christ died” could perish. Does this verse contradict other passages that teach the perseverance of the saints? As in so many places in Scripture where a Christian is warned against falling into sin, warned against the consequences of being condemned, such verses are put in the context of the grand scheme of God’s design for redemption. Those He has chosen, those for whom Christ has died, will be saved. If there is a warning given, the means for salvation will be supplied. “God’s purposes embrace the means as well as the end,” Hodge wrote. “If the means fail, the end will fail. He secures the end by securing the means. It is just as certain that those for whom Christ died shall be saved, as that the elect shall be saved. Yet in both cases the event is spoken of as conditional. There is not only a possibility, but an absolute certainty of their perishing if they fall away. But this is precisely what God has promised to prevent.”

Paul’s terminology here has a twofold purpose. It emphasizes the seriousness of causing others to stumble (it can be compared with Jesus’ teaching that anyone who causes little ones to sin will perish), and it is designed to pierce the conscience of the knowledgeable believer. If Christ was willing to give up His life for those He loved, are you not willing to give up eating food sacrificed to idols? You must also consider that if you sin against a weaker brother by causing him to stumble, you sin against Christ Himself: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matt. 25:40).

Paul concludes by saying “if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat.…” He did not want to cause another to sin or even to take offense: “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak” (Rom. 14:21). Paul was not in bondage to a weaker conscience (which would be legalistic), but was bound by the law of love. He was therefore free to be conformed to the image of Christ who gave up His life for the church.

Paul’s decision not to eat meat does not imply that you can never exercise your liberties just because there might be someone who would be offended. It does mean, however, that love for another always comes first (Gal. 5:6). Is there someone in your sphere today to whom you should act in love rather than to use your liberties?