Meat Sacrificed to Idols:
One of the issues in the first-century church that was addressed in writing by Paul concerned meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Debates over what to eat might seem strange within a church established by a man who said:
“Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?”
However, as formerly pagan/Roman converts began joining congregations of the church of Jesus Christ, an issue arose concerning the eating of meat.
Pleasing the Romans gods thru animal sacrifice resulted in temples having more meat than their priests and priestesses could eat. So, as a source of income, the temples would sell the extra meat to vendors — who would in turn sell that meat in the marketplace for general consumption. Thus, it was common for meat sold in the marketplace to have been previously consecrated as a sacrifice to a Roman god. The Jews stayed away from such meat because they were wary of the chances encountering the “unclean” food-handling practices and they believed that to partake of consecrated meat was to give second-hand approval of idol worship. The Gentiles did not believe that meat could be tainted by a sacrifice they did not participate in. Both parties brought these preconceived cultural views on the subject with them into the church of Jesus Christ — thereby making the matter a point of contention within the church.
The council recorded in Acts 15 urged Gentile converts to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols. In essence, the council sought to assure that at the next church sacramental meal a formerly-Jewish believer could eat meat he was served with confidence — knowing it had never been part of a sacrificial cow, and a formerly-Roman believer could not be accused of participating in idol worship.
Applying the Matter to Ourselves:
Whenever I read Paul’s writings on the subject of members of the church of Jesus Christ eating meat that had was considered “unclean” by some — I can’t help but think of the current LDS views on things like meat, caffeinated drinks, beer, and wine. So last week, I read thru 1 Corinthians 8-10, imagining that Paul was writing to church members today on the subject of the Word of Wisdom.
Paul’s Law of Offense = Seek the good of others instead of being concerned for your own good:
The following was taken from 1 Corinthians 8-10.
Some people might think that all things are lawful for them because of justification by faith or because of all the knowledge they have on the issue. While the freedom in Christ or the knowledge you obtain may make you feel important, it is love that strengthens the church of God. If you claim to know all the answers, then you don’t really know very much. However, the person who loves God – the same is known by Him.
Whether or not everything is lawful for you – not everything is expedient or constructive.
You may be able to consume any food or drink without raising questions of moral conscience within yourself because you understand that everything from the earth comes from the Lord. Why should your freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? If you are capable of enjoying all things that come from God, then why should you be condemned for it? We can’t win God’s approval by what we eat – you won’t lose anything if you abstain, and you won’t gain anything if you partake. So whether you eat or drink – whatever you do – do it all to glorify God.
However, not all believers understand this. Some are accustomed to thinking that words of wisdom concerning diet are commandments – and their weak consciences will be offended.
Should a non-member ask you over to his or her house, by all means go if you want to and eat whatever is offered to you, out of respect for their hospitality. But then should a member there point out that the food or drink served ought to be considered morally objectionable to you because of your religion – don’t consume it out of consideration for the one who told you. For you must be careful that your freedom doesn’t cause another of a weaker conscience to stumble.
If your superior knowledge on a subject were to encourage a believer to do something they believe is wrong, then you would be sinning against Christ because he died for that person too.
If my dietary choices would cause another believer to sin, then may I never break the “commandments” outlined in any words of wisdom concerning diet so long as I live. I do not desire another believer to stumble. Don’t give offense to Jews, Gentiles, or the church of God. Try to please everyone in what you do. Don’t just do what is best for yourself – do what is best for others, so that many may be saved.
When you are with those who are weak, you should share their weakness because you have a desire to bring the weak to Christ. It is best to try and find common ground with people, doing everything you can that you might save some.
Even though you are a free person, with no earthly slave master, you must become a servant to all people to bring them to Christ. When you are with Jews, live like a Jew to bring them to Christ. When you are with members who strictly adhere to Church™ teachings, live under that law – even though you are not subject to that law, do so in order to bring Christ to them. When you are with Gentiles who are without the law, then also live apart from that law for the purpose of bringing them to Christ. But you must not ignore the law of God – always obey the law of Christ.
- Is my characterization of Paul’s teaching on offense accurate?
- What lessons can be drawn from his teaching?
- Is my connection of his teaching on eating pagan meat with the Word of Wisdom™ fair?
- Is this teaching consistent with the rest of the Scriptures?
- How can we balance Paul’s law of offense with spicing up your church experience, rebelling against body modesty, or cheerfully doing all things?
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