Give Me Liberty Or … Part 2 – 1 Corinthians 8:7-9:2

In chapters 8-14 of 1 Corinthians, Paul addresses matters of worship; dealing first negatively in chapter 8-10 condemning the practice of eating food offered to idols; and then positively in chapters 11-14 instructing the church in the proper order for the public worship of the one true God. We saw how, in the first 6 verses of chapter 8, he introduced the dispute over food sacrificed to idols by establishing common ground in which he and those writing him would agree – that there is one God (Monotheism), and that idols have no real existence. Monotheism is an essential Christian truth that Paul would have died for; however, at least for the moment, rather than taking a rigid theological stance against those in the church who were eating food sacrificed to idols, Paul instead (in 8:7-13) considers the potential detrimental effect that this practice might have been having on fellow believers. He reiterates that the act of Christ’s love, which brings every Christian into God’s family, requires that all in the family respond to each other in love, and put others’ interests ahead of their own. Paul concludes the chapter with a hyperbole expressing just how far he would go to love his brother: “If food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat.

Many commentators believe chapter 9 of 1 Corinthians to be a sudden digression from the matter at hand, wherein Paul defends his apostleship before going on in chapter 10 to address a different question about idol-food. Being that the matter of idol-food is raised again in chapter 10, some have theorized that chapter 9 is an insertion from a different letter. But there is no need to think of chapter 9 as either an interpolation or a digression. At the end of chapter 8 Paul instructed some in the church to subjugate their own personal rights for the sake of their fellow believers; then in chapter 9:1-14, he first firmly establishes his right as an apostle to be married and receive financial support for his gospel labors. He does this not in order to receive money, or to defend his apostleship, but to spotlight the rights that he relinquished at great cost to himself, rather than impeding the faith of weaker Christians. He does this, so that the Corinthians would imitate his example by surrendering their presumed right to eat idol-food (see 11:1). In verses 19-23, Paul again uses himself as an example in order to motivate the church to an all-consuming concern and effort to preach the Gospel and see others saved! While the Christian life is one of enjoying freedom, it also involves limiting and even surrendering freedom for the greater good of love and the spreading of the Gospel.

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