The Chief End of Man – 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Cor 10:31

In this week’s text, Paul concludes and summarizes his long discussion of the appropriate use of meat sacrificed to idols. It is conceivable that in a letter that the Corinthian church wrote to Paul, that they stated that they believed they were free to eat idol-meat without restraint, because an idol is indeed nothing, having no power in and of itself. At the same time they reported that there were some in the church whom they called “weak” because their consciences bound them from freely eating idol-food. We saw in previous verses of this chapter (vss. 14-22) that Paul clearly prohibited the eating of idol meats in idol temples, where the meat offering was clearly being used to celebrate the pagan deities. While affirming that the idol itself is nothing, at the same time, Paul affirms that there are very real demons behind the false gods to which the pagans sacrificed (vss. 19-20); and it is antithetical to one’s Christian faith to both celebrate the Gospel of Christ at the table of the Lord, and also to partake at the table of demons (vs 21). Because God made the prohibition against idolatry in all of its forms so crystal clear in the first two commandments, Paul rightly challenged the Corinthians who believed themselves to be free and “strong” enough to eat in idol temple without violating their conscience, to consider whether they were provoking God to jealousy by their actions, and whether they were “stronger” than he (vs 22).

But consistent with the fact that the idol is in itself nothing, and the “offering” is really nothing more than cooked meat, Paul refused to be legalistic about the use of all meat sacrificed to idols. He advises Christians to purchase food which is offered for sale in the market without raising a question as to whether it had previously been used in the worship of idols. This is far different from the case of eating meat in an idol’s temple, where the meat was most certainly used to celebrate the pagan god. What is purchased in the market is not part of a sacrifice, but is food which God has graciously supplied for the enjoyment of man. “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof,” and therefore all food is God’s gift and ought to be gratefully received. In offering this counsel, Paul does not bend to the legalists who perhaps were denouncing him for not establishing a code generally banning all Christians from eating meat sacrificed to idols in all circumstances.

By restating the maxim of Christian liberty, “all things are lawful,” Paul reiterates what he taught in the sixth chapter where insisted that liberty in areas of Christian freedom must be cherished and guarded. But equally, Paul makes no suggestion that doing what is “permissible” is always best. Liberty is clearly not his highest priority. Here in chapter ten, he insists that Christian freedom must also be limited for the sake of others. He returns here to the point he made earlier in chapter 8, concerning the supremacy of love, and that love be the final arbiter of whether to eat or not to eat. While a Christian might have the abstract right to do whatever is not in itself sinful, nevertheless, he must not allow freedom be the determiner of his actions, but consider the usefulness of the action in general, and the welfare of others who might stumble at his practice. Some things, in themselves permissible, may not be profitable; some things, in themselves harmless, may not be fruitful or edifying to Christ’s church. In deciding upon an action, a loving Christian must consider not merely whether a thing is lawful, but whether it is profitable; he must consider if the action could be hurtful to another or open to misconstruction. A Christian must not regard his own interests and wishes, but also that of others – “let no man seek his own, but each his neighbor’s good.” (v. 24)

This text teaches us the great comprehensive principles that we are to apply on all matters of conscience: Consider what is expedient and edifying, and whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Concerning this text, J.R. Miller writes:

Nothing in life is left out–“whatever you do.” It extends even to eating and drinking. We are to do all things to the glory of God. This means that we must do everything in a way that will please Him. To “eat to the glory of God” is to recognize Him as the Giver of our daily bread, to seek His blessing on it, to eat according to the divine laws, eating to be ready for the best service, and then to use all our strength in doing the work which God gives us to do. One who eats self-indulgently or gluttonously, or who eats food that is injurious to his health, or who does not use the strength he derives from his food in living obediently–is not glorifying God. In all our life, in everything we do, we are to think of what will honor God.

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One thought on “The Chief End of Man – 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1

  1. I’m sorry to send email in this way to all of you. Can you please pray for my niece Renne. She collapsed in her apt and is at Hackensack Med in a coma. She is not saved. I thank you all. In Christ our only hope, Bill

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