Now you might have heard somebody ask you this question before, “What on earth are you doing?” And my recollections of that phrase were occasions maybe when I was instructed to clean my room. This is back when I was younger, and my Mom might come in and say, “What on earth are you doing?” as I’m playing with something or engaged in some other interest of my own. What on earth are you doing? Right? Maybe you’ve had that asked of you of a teacher maybe, while you’re in class, you’re supposed to be, supposed to be taking a test and there you are passing notes or something. What on earth are you doing? Right? But what if God were to ask you that question? How would you respond? “What on earth are you doing down there?” “It’s not what I left you there to do.”
This morning as we look at this text at the end of 1 Corinthians 10, I want you to see clearly that as followers of Jesus we have been put on this earth, we’ve been left here for a single-minded purpose, to bring glory to God in everything we do. Everything we do should be done with this single-minded laser focus.
You know when an army goes to war, not everyone serves exactly the same way as one another. For instance, some serve on the front lines of the battle. Some drive the tankers; some pilot the fighter jets; some pull the trigger. Others however, serve in other ways, maybe in the repair shop keeping the equipment top notch, ready to fight. Others serve in the kitchen to feed the soldiers, to keep them fueled for the single mission that they’re all about. Others serve in the hospitals caring for the wounded. But they’re all at war. That’s the singular focus and mission that all of them collectively serve to accomplish. While they all individually serve in different roles and functions, the collective goal is winning the war. The same may go for instance hockey or soccer, or any kind of sports, any kind of participant sports where you have a goal, namely to win the game. That’s the common goal and all of the players participate towards that goal. Right? All of the participants, all the players, while not all serving in exactly the same position, are seeking the same goal. They all want to win.
Now in the Christian race it’s the same, isn’t it? Our Saviour has left His body here on earth to carry out a singular goal. What is it? It’s the advance of His kingdom. The salvation of souls for the glory of the Lord. This is our singular mission. And how easy it is, isn’t it, to become obsessed with our own agendas; Our own goals. And I wonder what we would say if God were to ask us, “What on earth are you doing?” because as we’re going to see in this text this morning, the Bible calls us to this single-minded, single-focused everything. Doing everything that we do from the most technical, the most important you might say to the very least of the things we do with this singular goal of seeing God glorified in all we do and say. Let me just say from the outset, we’re gonna fail at this. We’re gonna fail miserably. But this is the goal none-the-less.
Now just like us, the Corinthians seemed to have become distracted from their God-given mission. Paul seeks through this passage to draw their attention back to that goal, back to the point of the Christian life.
Now look with me at verse 23. Paul says, “All things are lawful.” All things are lawful. Now if this sounds like a phrase you’ve heard before, that’s because, if you were here when we preached through chapter six, you saw it there. Just for a moment take a look there in chapter six and hold your place in chapter 10. Back in chapter 6 verse 12, here’s what Paul writes, All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything. Now when we were looking at this phrase in chapter 6, one of the things that I pointed out to you was that the translators have put the expression, All things are lawful in what? What’s significant, maybe about how the format of that is in your Bible. Can somebody tell me? It’s in quotation marks. There’s quotation marks around that phrase. Now those aren’t inspired, that’s the translators putting them there. K? but the inference is that it seems that this was an expression that had become common use in Corinth.
Now Paul was a huge, a huge advocate for Christian liberty. But it seems that some of the Corinthians had gotten the wrong idea about what liberty means, and they had made it a generalized statement to include absolutely everything. That they’re essentially antinomian – there are no laws anymore. We noticed back in chapter 5 how they were applying this antinomian kind of spirit, this lawlessness, when for instance they were allowing a man to live in sexual immorality with his stepmother. The Corinthian assembly had a lot of immorality that they were failing to address because it seems that liberty had taken on a different meaning than Paul had advocated, or any of the Apostles. And so quite possibly they were putting things into the liberty category that clearly don’t belong there.
Now true Christian liberty is something that we love to talk about and live within the light of. But true Christian liberty isn’t liberty to sin. It is not liberty to disobey clear Biblical commands. Instead, the Bible teaches that true Christian liberty is liberty from sin to serve the Saviour of sinners.
Now often there are statements like these, all things are lawful. They’re statements like this that enter into our vocabulary too. There are things that we pick up from the culture, or maybe we hear a song on the radio and we begin to adopt that language, unwittingly, unaware really, of the implications of that. We haven’t found it grounded in the Word of God, we’ve adopted it from somewhere. This can easily happen where something that is true in certain category in certain sense where we over-generalize it and apply it to places that it was never intended to apply. And I think this is one of those times that Paul’s addressing here in 1 Corinthians 10 as well as he did in chapter 12. In fact, Paul would agree that there are matters where the Scriptures do not give any specific instructions to New Testament believers. Paul would agree with that. There’s liberty for us in those matters where the Scripture is not explicit. Where the Scripture does not provide us specific commands. All things in that category are lawful, they are lawful. There is no law in the Scripture against these things, they are not against God’s moral law and therefore as Christians we have freedom or discretion to decide whether or not to do those things. But, even in areas where the Bible doesn’t give explicit instruction, that is it neither commands nor forbids it, that is not, and this is what Paul’s going to argue, that is not the final deciding factor on whether or not you should do it. Does that make sense?
Now we’ve been seeing that what is lawful isn’t always the deciding factor when we are determining whether or not to do a thing. Now I’ve argued, and I believe I’m doing this alongside Paul that over the last couple chapters I’ve argued that there’s a greater right than being right, and there’s a greater right than your rights. This is something that Paul has clearly argued for. One of the things that we have been seeing clearly all the way through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian assembly is that the calling that Christians have to live consecrated lives unto the Lord in this Godless culture.
Now in the very beginning of his letter, and just take a look at this. Hold your place here again, take a look back to the very beginning of the letter. How Paul addresses the Corinthian believers, chapter one of first Corinthians. Here’s what he says in verse 2 he’s addressing Paul to who? The church of God that is in Corinth. The church that lives in a culture, a given culture, a corrupt, evil culture, that of Corinth. And he says to you, church who are in that context, in that culture, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus called to be saints. Called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ both their Lord and ours.
Now that word that is translated saints literally means holy ones. Holy ones. Set apart ones. God’s people have been set apart for God. God has set us apart for Himself. He said, “You’re mine.” “You’re to live for My glory.” “You’re to live for My praise with that singular laser focus of life.” And this is why the New Testament writers consistently call believers to bring all of our lives into consistent conformity with who God has made us in Christ. God has made us His own. He has made us His children. He has called us holy ones and He calls us to live as that. Live in light of who we are.
Now that should, Paul will argue and other New Testament writers, that should impact what we do, and how we treat one another in the body of Christ. Now we shouldn’t, as Christians, we shouldn’t be characterized as people who trample over one another trying to reach the top. We as Christians should not be characterized as people who trample over one another. Who have set our own agendas. Instead, as believers and this should be modeled in a way, a decorum of our church family, in the way even you young kids should be being called by your parents to live in this way. To live in such a way that you are not living for your own agenda but for the mutual needs of the body. For the mutual benefit of one another. Not boasting of our individuality. Not boasting in our specific giftings. But each using our gifts properly for the benefit of the whole body. And we’re going to look at lot more at that when we get to chapter 12. We are not to, as Paul has told us earlier in this epistle, we should not be, for instance, engaging in our own agendas in terms of lust and sexual immorality; striving after things that our flesh wants to do; taking what is not ours by right; instead we should bring all things under the auspices of the glory of God including for instance, marriage as he’s talked about in previous passages. So, that we submit to God in every area of our lives, bringing our marriages into conformity with God’s design. Not giving ourselves over to idolatrous cravings as he’s been arguing in the last couple of chapters, but instead, this single-minded focus, giving ourselves wholly to the Lord for the glory of God.
And so in verse 23 Paul interacts with this phrase that seems to become common use in Corinth. A phrase which is true but which they were using in a wrong way. True all matters of conscience, that’s the context here, all matters of conscience are lawful, but let me ask you this, Paul says in verse 3, are all things helpful? Are all things helpful? You know that verse, love your neighbor as yourself. You know that’s still in the Bible, right? Paul wrote, admonishing the Galatian believers in light of that text. In Galatians 5:14 he says for the whole law is fulfilled in one word; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Paul didn’t say no that’s Old Testament stuff. No, Paul’s applying the law to the believer. You should love your neighbor as yourself.
One of the distinguishing marks of the believer is that he loves his brother, right? In John chapter 13 verse 34 the passage we were looking at in our small groups this past week. Jesus said just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Romans 12:10 love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour. Philippians 2:3 do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself. Wow. This is the calling that we have as Christians. I Thessalonians 4:9 Paul says now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another. This should be normal Christian living.
Do you really live by the principle of all things are lawful, or just when it’s in your own interest? Just when it’s convenient for you? See the question of lawfulness needs to be followed up with another question. Is it helpful? That’s what Paul’s saying. Is it helpful? Will it truly benefit anyone other than me? The all-important me. Jesus taught in Matthew 7:12 so whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the law and the prophets.
Now in the second part of our verse, verse 23, Paul says we also need to ask this question, a second question, will it build others up, or just my ego? All things are lawful but not all things build up. In Romans 14:19 Paul writes so then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Mutual upbuilding. Is it helpful for others? Paul says in verse 24 let no one seek his own good but the good of his neighbor, right here in our text. Seek the good of your neighbor. In Romans 15:2 Paul writes this again, each of us should please his neighbor, for his good, to build him up. Love your neighbor as yourself.
See, when we want to justify something, let’s say we’ve done some maybe a foolish action and we know it, and our natural defenses go up when somebody challenges us for that action or that statement, that unkind word or whatever. Often we tend to run to our defense to the lawfulness side of things. And so we’ll say, what’s wrong with it, huh? What’s wrong with it? Where does the Bible say I can’t do that? Show me the verse. Ok. Ok. I’ll show you the verse. 1 Corinthians 10:23 it may be lawful. You may have found a way to legitimize your actions or words in isolation, but did you filter it through these two principles? I should say three. Is it helpful? Does it build others up? And does it serve the good of neighbor? Now too often the only filter we channel our thoughts and words through, our actions through, is, do I want to do it or not? We don’t think, how will this benefit or injure those around me?
Now true Christian liberty though, Paul is arguing, true Christian liberty is able to discern the benefits or harm of particular actions in light of God’s truth. True Christian liberty isn’t only the liberty to do things that the Bible doesn’t forbid, true Christian liberty is the liberty not to do those very same things, when I know they will harm a fellow Christian, a fellow neighbor. You see that? True Christian liberty isn’t just the liberty to do the thing, it’s the liberty not to. Why do we only ever think of it on one side? It’s called selfishness.
Now, in verses 25 to 30, Paul fills this principle out and he uses three examples to do it based on the questions they have been asking him regarding offerings to idols. See some were arguing that there’s nothing wrong, there’s nothing in the Bible, there’s nothing in the Scripture that would forbid us from doing this. While at the same time others were alarmed by this and they were saying how can a Christian partake of meat that has been used in idolatrous worship? It’s just wrong. And the other guys were saying show me the verse.
Now lets follow through his examples to understand more clearly where Paul is coming from. Here’s the first example. Example number one is verse 25. Paul actually siding with - go ahead and eat. Ok? That sometimes surprises us. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience, this is verse 25. Now verse 26, why? For the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. Now here, Paul presents the first of three real life scenarios through which you can filter your Christian liberty decisions. Paul says in the example of meat offered to idols, eat like it belongs to God, because it does. It is all from Him. It is all through Him. It is all for Him. It is to be used and to be stewarded as His gift to you for His glory. Eat. And thank God for it. We don’t have to worry about the history of the meat that we purchased in the meat market because whatever that history was, the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. And that includes meat that hours before was lain on an altar in front of a pagan god.
Example number 2, verse 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. This is a second example and now Paul gives the illustration where you get invited over to, say your unsaved neighbor’s home for dinner and you don’t need, Paul says, to inquire about the history of the food that you’re being served. You don’t have to ask, where did this meat come from, was this meat offered to Poseidon? Was this meat offered to Aphrodite? Or Apollo? Or Hermes? Or Asklepios? Was this used in one of the temples here in Corinth? Paul says just eat. Just eat. It’s the Lord’s and it’s His gift to you, eat. Your conscience doesn’t need to be bothered by this. I thought about it and I’m not sure if this is a perfect comparison but I was thinking about it this morning, even again, as I was putting on my clothes. I was like, I don’t really know the history of these. I don’t know if the manufacturers abuse their workers. I don’t know the environment in which these were made. I don’t know where the company sends their profits. I don’t know what things they support that I don’t, and I don’t frankly care to enquire either. I buy what’s in the market not asking any questions. And I say it’s the Lords. This fabric came from the earth and sinners of some kind assembled it and here I am wearing it. It was the right price for me, so that’s why I wear it. Right? I just eat. I just wear.
And so Paul argues in the issue of meat, your conscience doesn’t need to be bothered by this at all. This should be a matter of complete indifference you. Don’t ask. It all belongs to God anyway. Ya, some people abuse His gifts and use it for things that are wrong. They hand it over to demons but that’s not demons’ anyway, it doesn’t belong to them, it belongs to God. Even though they have handed it over to demons it’s not rightfully his anyway. You eat because, really, idols are nothing after all. Enjoy your steak and ice cream and praise the Lord. That’s how Paul would say to go about eating your food.
Now in our day of course, we might say well hold on, I heard there’s a warning out that there’s salmonella in this. Ok, well that’s a different situation, right? When we’re talking about, is it, oh there’s maggots in it, just eat. No, well hold on a second, that’s not what Paul’s referring to here. He’s referring to issues of conscience. Genuine issues of conscience.
So, let’s come to example number 3, verse 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. I don not mean your conscience, but his.
Now Paul, as we’ve seen, and we looked at this back in chapter 8 and in chapter 9 and again now in chapter 10, Paul has an argument all the way along that you can eat it. You can eat it. It’s the Lord’s anyway. But now Paul says hold on a second. So the law says fine. In terms of is it lawful, ya, it’s fine, but there’s another principle and now we’re going to apply it.
Paul says suppose that you’re eating away in gratitude, slicing into a nice, steaky, juicy and delicious morsel and someone comes along and says you know that meat came from the temple of Apollo, right? Well what do you do? You put your fork down. You refrain. You stop eating that perfectly delicious, tender meat. Why would you stop? Wouldn’t you say, show me the verse? And let me eat. Right? Why would you stop? There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s not demon possessed. Paul says you could eat that meat happily with a completely happy conscience, but stop. Stop eating not because your conscience forbids it; not because the law says no; but the conscience of the one who informed you. Stop for him. You refrain for him, not your own conscience. Your own conscience knows that the meat is not demon possessed. The meat is God’s gift to be received with thanksgiving. However, Paul says if someone alerts you to the fact that it has been previously used in idol worship you should abstain. Now, why? I think it’s because by eating the meat you may give false impression that you’re approving of idolatry. You might give a false testimony to those at the table. You might give false testimony to your host. You may give them the impression that you think Jesus is just one god among the many pagan gods. And of course you don’t believe that. And this is not the time and the setting to argue about why this meat has not been tainted. This is not that time. That is a very necessary conversation you need to have but that’s not at this moment. They might see your eating as some kind of a statement that you think Jesus is just another god and of course, that would present conflicting witness for your unbelieving host, or even a new Christian who hasn’t yet come to understand the joy of the truth that everything belongs to God and that nothing can actually be tainted in terms of its moral freedom for you in that respect.
Now what Paul says next, however, will seem to, at first at least, contradict what he just said. Because look what he writes, for, why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience. Hold on a second Paul, I thought you just said stop eating for his conscience’ sake. Doesn’t this seem somewhat contradictory? And hey, I can’t tell you I have come to conclusion on this with complete satisfaction. This is one of those issues if you come up to me later and say, hey, you missed it on this one. I’ll listen with open ears cause I might be wrong, but to me, of the answers, the explanations that I’ve considered and seen by commentators and other pastors it boils down to me to these two plausible options that I’m aware of.
The first is this, possibly verse 28 and 29a is sort of a parenthesis. You’ll notice back in verse 28 he says, but, that phrase but may begin a parenthesis in the argument. There’s sort of one exception, in normal cases you go ahead and eat, but here’s the issue, it’s lawful, it’s completely lawful, but, here’s a case where you would refrain. You would pause your liberty. Ok? So that may be the simple answer.
There’s a second possibility that I considered and it’s that Paul might be speaking here when he says why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? Well, this is not a matter of by deferring to another brother or somebody else whose conscience is weak, that is not determining my conscience. His decision, and my decision to refrain from my liberty has not changed my conscience at all. Right? So, it may be in the sense of another person’s conscience controlling you. His conscience is not controlling mine. That, Paul would argue, must not be. I must not be controlled by somebody else’s conscience. However, for the sake of another, you instead choose to lay down these rights. K? Your decision not to eat should be based on the truth of the gospel, and if you believe that partaking in this might blur the truth, then to refrain is the honourable choice.
So, you may have some other thoughts on that part and I’d love to hear them later. But here’s the thing as Christians, we want to give clear testimony to the exclusivity of Christ. And that there is no other god. We want other people around us to come to understand the gospel by our words, lives and actions, right down to how we eat our meat. We want to convey that truth with precision, with accuracy. We want to do whatever we can to avoid blurring that reality. So here’s the question for us in terms of application; are we, are you, am I willing to inconvenience ourselves? Are we willing to inconvenience in order to help others see the beauty of the gospel; the exclusivity of Christ and seek to bring all things, channel everything down to this laser focus of everything for the glory of God? You have rights to certain things, but do you insist on your freedom to eat this, or to drink that, or to listen to this, or to wear that with no care for how those actions are being interpreted. How those actions and that participation in that music, in that dress, in that food, in that drink is being understood by the people around you, people that you have influence over. Young people, whose lives they are observing in you. Right? So believer or unbeliever alike this is true. Notice what he says in verse 32 he’s giving instruction to the Corinthians, he says, give no offense to Jews or to Gentiles or to the church of God. Unbelievers or believers alike, this is an issue where we need to have sensitivity toward how this action is being interpreted from their vantage point. And the last part of verse 33, what’s the point of all of this? That they may be saved. And what’s the point of that? Well, everything boils down to this, for the glory of God. So we could summarize it this way, the goal of all of this doing the stuff, the goal of being conscience of how others are interpreting this. The goal of giving no offense is that they may be saved for the glory of God.
Now at the same time I need to add this, as believers I think we need to be clear here and this is a great opportunity for our consciences to be adjusted in light of the Scripture, as believers it needs to be said that food laws, which are common in many religions are not part of Christianity. If you are a believer in Christ for any length of time your conscience needs to mature to understand this. The gospel of Jesus Christ transcends all cultures. Gospel culture transcends Christian culture in every place, at every time period through history. And we need to teach that in Christ there is liberty in these matters. We need to take great care not, let me say this again, we need to take great care not to forbid what the Scriptures allow. Your conscience may forbid it, but if the Scripture does not, you have no business demanding of another Christian that they abstain other than over brief conversation saying hey I wonder how so and so is going to interpret this, right? Loving guidance and seeking to guide one another but according to the Scripture, not according to your conscience. His conscience is not bound to yours. His conscience must be bound, as Scripture says, as Luther says, to the Scriptures.
So instead we need to receive the gifts that God has given and we need to use them joyfully in a way that communicates our thanks to God and thus shows Him our worship and praise for the singular goal of glory to God.
Now hold your place here for a moment and I want you to look over in Colossians chapter 2. Because Paul warns Christians against what I just was telling you. Not to bind others’ consciences to your conscience. Colossians 2 and verse 20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why as if you were still alive in the world do you submit to regulations – Do not handle. Do not taste. Do not touch. (referring to things that all perish as they are used) – according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance in wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
So often we think that we can control, for instance our children’s moral behavior, their heart, by controlling their access to certain things. And so we tend to want to control them by setting sort of arbitrary standards that we can’t definitively find in the Scripture, but our conscience is bothered by them. Now the Bible has plenty of rules. The Bible has plenty of laws for us to teach our children. And so the concern here is not to add to the Scripture even in this respect.
Now children and young people, this doesn’t mean that you must not respect your parents in this regard. Sometimes a parent has the absolute right to say in our home, this will not be happening. In our home, this kind of music will not be happening. Right? Or in our home this type of behaviour or this clothing or this whatever will not be happening. And they can usually give a definitive, clear reason for that and you need to listen carefully to their reasoning because they have thought through these things. Don’t think for a moment that this is something that is unique to your time period in history. Every one of us have had to think through how we’re going to, what lines we’re going to draw in certain areas that we don’t have a specific one text that says this, and we just know don’t steal, for instance. Well, ok, I can get that and don’t steal so how do I apply that? But there are some other areas that are less clear for us even as parents and don’t think that we haven’t given those things some thought. Take the time to speak with your parents and I’m talking to young people now. Take some time to talk to them and say how have you come to the choices that you have made in respect to music, in respect to clothing, in respect to what you eat or drink and so on, right?
And so in once sense in an isolated sense we can ask whether for instance eating meat offered to idols is sin or drinking alcohol or listening to rock music. In isolation we can say all things are lawful and those types of things that I just listed can fit in that category, but when we take the isolated examples as I’ve just given to you and then we place it in a real live world context, like we live in every day, there are some other factors that we need to consider as Paul’s just said. Will it benefit others? Will it help my neighbor? Will it build up the body?
Here’s two more questions that Paul brings onto the stage here. When we’re determining whether or not we should do something, here’s two more questions. What is your motive for doing it? If your motive is rebellion, you need to stop now. If your motive is disobedience, I don’t care what they say, I’m doing this. If your motive is selfish, me-first thinking? It’s a wrong motive and you should stop.
Number 2, how will that action impact those around me? Now where do I get this from this text? Paul says in verse 30 that I may partake in that activity if I can do it with this motive – genuine thanksgiving to God. So let’s say my parent has said, you know I really don’t like you listening to that music. Have you listened to the lyrics? Have you listened to what that artist is actually saying? It’s horrible. It’s horrendous. And some of you don’t even think about that, you don’t even listen or you’re maybe not even old enough to understand what the subtle meanings are behind some things they’re saying. And your parents may have good reason to say, we don’t want that in our home. That’s sending a very, very bad message. That’s a conflicting message with the Bible and they may have good reason to say don’t do that. Now you might say show me the verse that says I can’t listen to that song. Then your parents are going to be having a little more difficulty and then you’re going to say see, I can do it. How come you only want to look up the verses that don’t exist? How about read your Bible instead of that activity that you want to do, right? And find out what God really does want you to know. So Paul says I can partake of this activity if I can do it with genuine thanksgiving. So if my parent has said please don’t listen to that music, can I walk off and say thanks be to God for this music? And with genuine emotive of gratitude and joy or am I just pretending? Am I pretending to be joyful in God? No. Paul says if I can do it out of genuine gratitude to the Lord and say thank you Lord, this nourishes my soul; this encourages my heart; this makes me want to do all things to your glory; this causes me to worship you, then go ahead. And I promise you that that will not conflict with what your parents just told you to do because you won’t do it. I can promise you that you can’t do it with gratitude to the Lord. Ok? But if you can, whatever you can do while truly giving thanks to God, do it. Eat it. Drink it. Listen to it. Wear it.
Paul brings this to conclusion with the word beginning in verse 31. There he says, so, here’s the conclusion of the matter. Whether you eat or drink, or listen to music or wear whatever you’re wearing or drive wherever you’re going or go to work here or there. Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. This is why I titled the sermon Single Focused Everything. You see how everything’s channeling down into one common, laser-focused purpose. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God.
How will it impact others? That was the second question, right? Just, Paul says, as I, Paul says I’m not just telling you to do this, this is what I do too. He says I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage but that of many that they may be saved. What’s Paul’s goal in all of this? It’s the salvation of more and more people. It’s the salvation of many people for the what? For the glory of God. And in order to see that goal accomplished, Paul is willing, and Paul asks of us Christian to be willing to lay down our own selfish interests and ambitions. He’s willing to deny himself and he’s willing to bend all of his efforts towards this singular end of seeing the maximum number of people saved for the glory of God. Paul instructs the Corinthians to do the very same thing. Corinthians this applies to you too and Redeeming Grace Bible Church, this applies to you too by inference. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God. In other words, don’t do anything that will cause people to misunderstand the gospel. An offense is a stumbling block. Remember we talked about, or a bridge blown up, don’t blow up the bridge for people’s access to the gospel. Make sure that you are not blurring, that you’re not obstructing their way.
Hey, man’s hearts are dark and hardened and dead as it is, don’t add obstacles. It’s hard enough. Of course, God by His grace is the One who has to do it, but you must not be standing in the way of God’s purposes. In other words, don’t do anything that’s going to cause misunderstanding of the gospel.
Now earlier in chapter 9 Paul said in verses 20-21 to the Jews I became as a Jew in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law though not being myself under the law that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law, not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ that I might win those outside the law. Now if you want to look at that text further I’d invite you to listen to the sermons that we’ve already done on that, you can go on our website and find them there. Paul wants us to follow his model. He says in verse 33 just as I tried to do to please everyone in everything I do that they may be saved, do like I do. When Paul says he tries to please everyone, notice that he’s not referring to everyone without exception but without distinction. This is the common way that we see New Testament writers use the word world, all, everyone. It’s in this sense, it’s in a class sense, and you see Paul use this to refer to all kinds of people. Look how he refers to Jews, Gentiles, the church. He’s saying all classes of people without discrimination that is, irrespective of language; irrespective of culture; irrespective of ethnicity or gender. Paul specifically mentions Jews, Greeks and the church of God. And so when we are on their turf, we’re to behave in a way that’s respectful. You don’t take your ham sandwich into the synagogue, right? Paul says elsewhere that we should be at peace with all men so far as it depends upon us.
Now this requirement to not give offense to Jews, Gentiles or Christians isn’t an absolute however. This must be guarded by the fact that the Truth is still the Truth. And where something is clear and explicit in Scripture we cannot go against it in order to accommodate some cultural preference. This doesn’t mean, and Paul means it in no way like this, you just have to read Paul to know this. We’re not to be pushovers in the face of the enemy, Paul was not. Paul was no pushover, neither should we be. Obedience is not an option, but the point here is, where God has not given an explicit command, and where I am dealing with matters of preference, my own preferences must give way to the urgency of winning all kinds of men to Christ for the glory of God. Look at the way Paul ends his exhortation which shows up in the first verse of chapter 11 which I really believe should be part of chapter 10. Here it is, be imitators of me as I am of Christ.
Ok Christian, congregation, individual here this morning, Christian this morning, you don’t think you have a responsibility of seeking this common Christian goal of seeing people saved for the glory of God? think again. Paul says, I mimic Christ and you should mimic me. Well doing what, Paul? Seeking the salvation of others, seeking to see others saved as we said in the beginning this singular mission isn’t going to look the same for every single one of us, we’re all employed in different aspects of this ministry but this should be the collective goal of a church as it is in a war. As it is on the soccer field. The goal is the same, winning goals. Accomplishing God’s purpose in seeing many saved for the glory of the Lord. That’s our collective goal. Some of you serve primarily maybe in a focus of prayer, praying for those who are in the frontlines of battle. Some of you serve, you work in an environment where you have the opportunity to share the light of Christ and His Truth and exclusivity of Jesus with your co-workers. Some of us have the privilege of doing it from in front of a microphone. Right? But we’re all in the battle together while not necessarily all having the same giftings and functions within that battle. We’ll look a lot more at that when we get to chapter 12. But this is your mission too. This is your mission too, Paul is clear about that. Paul is clear. So he says the goal in doing this is that they may be saved, verse 33, and Paul wants us to imitate that. And who is Paul imitating? He says I imitate Christ. Paul says I mimic Christ and you should mimic me. The Lord Jesus Christ, what did He do? He sacrificed His Heavenly rights, the rights of His divinity. He sacrificed them, He laid aside His Heavenly glory and He condescended to earth. Why? To win salvation for His people for the glory of God. For the glory of God. That was what Jesus was all about. And Paul says that’s what I do. I give up rights intrinsic to who I am. I’m a Hebrew of the Hebrews, I should be a statesman by rights. I have all these rights intrinsic to who I am. My nationality, my skills, my learning. I lay aside these rights for the common goal of salvation of souls for the glory of God. And Paul says, now church, you imitate that. Mimic this. Mimic me as I mimic Christ in this.
So friends, why do you think Christ gave Himself for us? For the glory of God. Right? We might say naturally, well to save us. That’s absolutely true, but you must see that the salvation of souls is just the journey to the ultimate destination which is the glory of God. Right? So, why did Christ save us? Why did Christ give Himself for us? To save us. Right? And yes, but why did He save us? You say, well because He loved us. Yes. But even His love for us is ultimately for the glory of God. You see how everything is channeling, focusing like a laser towards this common, singular goal of single-focused everything, the souls of men for the glory of God.
So brothers and sisters, meditate on what God has done in Christ. You might say how am I gonna get there? I’m a long way from that, I pursue my own interests if I’m quite honest. I do what I wanna do. I’m focused on me. How am I gonna get here? You know how you need to get here? You have to get here by meditating on what God has done in Christ. You have to meditate on the gospel because maybe for some of you you’re not even saved at all and you’re trying to do this, you can’t. You can’t. If you’re not a Christian you cannot accomplish this goal. You can’t be about this goal. This is not going to be your mission. This isn’t what you’re about. This isn’t your aim and focus. But if you’re a Christian you should be desiring to see all of life, from your eating and drinking right up to the very most important thing you do whatever that is, whatever you think that is, should be aligning in this respect. You should be seeking to see Christ, submit to Christ’s Lordship in every area of your life. You say, well I have this one thing that we do. I have this one thing we do in our life. You know everything else I’ve given over but I have this one thing, we kinda do this, my wife and I have decided that’s our thing. Or you say individually I’ve given everything over but there’s this one area, you know, I feel like I’ve given Him 90%, I’ll keep the 10.
Meditate on what Christ has done, what God has done in Christ. Did Jesus keep anything apart for Himself, and say, I’m keeping this one thing not for that ultimate purpose? No. Immerse yourself in the truths of His self-giving love. Put yourself in the company of Christians who reflect His sacrifice in their lives. People who give themselves for the sake of the gospel and the edification of God’s people. People whose eyes are fixed or are seeking to have their eyes fixed or are desiring to have their eyes fixed or are asking you to pray with them to have their eyes fixed on seeing all glory brought to God through their lives in the biggest and smallest ways; through their eating and drinking and in greater ways like seeking to see souls saved no matter the personal sacrifice.
On the 80th birthday of the famous musician and conductor Arturo Toscanini, someone asked his son what his father had considered to be the greatest achievement he had ever done. And his son replied, for my father there can be no such thing. Whatever he happens to be doing at any moment is the biggest undertaking in his life. Whether it be conducting a symphony or peeling an orange.
Well, may it be said of us that by grace, not by our own strength, but by continuing reliance and dependence upon the Lord Jesus, by grace we are seeking to live all of our life from the most complex thing we do down to the most mundane like brushing your teeth, like eating, to sleeping, that we are seeking to see all of life, all things brought under this one single banner. All things done for the praise and glory of our Saviour.
So, may He give us grace to flee the idol of selfish ambition. To lay it all down for the sake of the salvation of souls and for the glory of God. The glory of the One true, God and Saviour. Let’s just pray together. Heavenly Father, we come to You now, in the gracious Name of the One Who gave all, left the splendors of Heaven, left the rights of His divinity, He laid them aside, condescended to earth, took on the form of a man, came as a baby born in a manger, lived among men, lived among the roughians of the day, not in a palace but in a carpenter’s home. As He came and lived among us and further gave up the rights and splendors of His deity as He condescended to servanthood, stooping to wash His disciple’s feet and stooping yet further as He trudged on forward with the definitive goal of going to the cross and giving up His life there, hanging like a criminal before men who were criminals. Giving Himself up as a sacrifice for sinners for the salvation of men and ultimately for the glory of God. Lord, by Your grace, make us people that are about this same mission, about this same ambition that all of life, all things would come under this one single-focused vision that the glory of God may triumph in our lives. We pray this now a we conclude this morning, in Jesus Name, Amen.