Our lesson this week is going to continue to focus on the training of believers in our unit of lessons titled “Instructions to a Troubled Church”.  Over the past couple of weeks we have essentially taken a look at how we as believers are to carry ourselves as stewards of the gospel.  Our lesson this week is going to focus more on how the believer should treat and set the example for a weaker brother – all of those who are weak in the faith.  This week’s lesson is being taught from 1 Corinthians 8:1-13.

Love Lifts Up

Our lesson this week opens up with Paul speaking about knowledge.  It is said that knowledge is power.  The idea behind this saying is that obtaining and having knowledge can take you far in life and make a lot of things possible to accomplish.  However, knowledge can and has been misused by mankind throughout our history.  Paul states, “We know that we all have knowledge.  Knowledge puffs up …” (v.1).

Here has been one of the major problems throughout the history of man – puffed up knowledge.  Some have taken knowledge and decided to keep knowledge for themselves.  Others have taken knowledge and chosen to lord their knowledge over others.  Knowledge has been used to oppress people, and to even start wars as well.  So, in the wrong hands, knowledge has not been used for good.

Love is greater than knowledge

However, Paul touches on a greater power than knowledge in the opening verse of our lesson today.  Paul, again, says, “knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.”  This is to say that love is uplifting – it improves.  The love that is being spoken of here is genuine love – the love that is unconditional.  Love that is unconditional is long suffering and kind; it is not puffed up nor does it think evil.  This kind of love rejoices in truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things (1 Cor. 13:4-8).

Where knowledge is capable of tearing down, genuine love can never tear down.  Genuine love moves without thought and without hesitation to always do what is good and right for others.  Love that is true is always uplifting and this is the kind of knowledge we should seek to obtain – the knowledge that uplifts.  In order for us to obtain this knowledge, we must obtain it from the Lord.

In the book of Proverbs, Solomon wrote, “For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2:6).  As we have seen in the recent weeks, man’s knowledge, because it is of the world, just does not stack up against the Lord’s knowledge.  As Paul says, “if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know” (v.2).  So, yes, we must seek the Lord’s wisdom – which is love – if we want to learn true wisdom.

Moving in God’s wisdom

So, we will see Paul begin to speak about living in the confidence of knowing the Lord and His way.  So, concerning idols, Paul states, “we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one” (v.4).  Idols don’t mean anything to the genuine believer who is strong in the faith because we know the truth and the truth is the Lord.

So, this begins to touch on a subject that I recently did a bible study on – Three Levels of Faith. (Go over this study if you have not done so already). Those who are strong in the faith should not be rattled by the beliefs of those who live by their worldly convictions and will even preach those convictions.  To those who are new in the faith, he’s encouraging them to follow the example of those that are strong in the faith.  This is why Paul wrote, “even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of who are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live” (vss.6-7).

There will be many who will try to poke holes at your faith with their beliefs, but know that the Lord is above all. Those that are weak in the faith should seek to follow the example of those that are strong in the faith. By doing this, they can follow in a path of righteousness while also learning and continuing to grow in their faith.

Does not call others to stumble

Now, with our wisdom of the Lord, we cannot do as others do with their worldly knowledge.  As I said at the start of this lesson, people have used their worldly, yes, for some good but there is a great deal of evil that has been with gaining of worldly knowledge.  Bondage, oppression, greed and great death have all come from worldly knowledge being used for wickedness.

Again, the Lord’s wisdom is a wisdom that is made of true love.  True love does not focus inwardly, it looks outwards.  With this in mind, Paul writes, “beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak” (v.9).  The liberty that Paul is speaking of in this verse is the liberty we receive through Jesus Christ.  

As you know, we live under the grace of God – this means that we are living under the love of God.  We should not take living under the Lord’s grace for granted because it truly is special to have been freed from the bondage of sin and now live under God’s grace.  So, how should we use this liberty that we now have in Christ?  Should we not use our liberty to show others the way to liberty?  We certainly should.

One of the biggest issues that come up with living under grace is that some believers believe God’s grace gives them the freedom to live in a sinful manner because God will forgive them.  As we saw in our lesson last week, just because the world deems some things to be OK, does not mean that those things are OK for us as genuine believers to do.  As an example, Paul writes, “if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols (v.10)?”

Something that I discussed in our lesson last week is the fact that genuine believers are stewards of the Lord; we are representatives of the Lord.  Whether you realize this or not, there is always someone watching you and trying to follow the example that you set.  So, as a child of God, we should always do our best to set a good example.

If we are out living as a sinner, and a sinner sees us living as a sinner, they will look at us and figure that there is nothing wrong with the manner in which they are living.  At the same time, if we are out living as a sinner, and one who is weak in the faith sees us living as a sinner, they may follow our lead believing that it must be OK to live that way.  This creates a stumbling block for the one who is weak in the faith and could cause them to sin should they choose to follow in our example.

Avoid being a stumbling block

So, we should certainly avoid setting a bad example to those who look to us who are strong in the faith as an example to follow.  We often think of our sin as our own personal sin against the Lord, but when we sin in a manner where it causes another to sin, our sin is not only against the Lord but it is also a sin against our brother or sister in Christ.  

We will see that Paul said, “when you thus sign against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ” (v.12).  A thought we rarely give thought to is that our sin can be a two-fold or even a three-fold sin.  What I mean by this is that, as we saw last week, we can sin against our body.  When we sin, we sin against ourselves and the Lord.  Yet, it is also possible to sin against ourselves, those around us, and the Lord as well.

Like I was saying in last week’s lesson, we have gotten to the point where many sins are thought of in a manner as being common and acceptable.  Many of us think this way because that is what the world has taught us to believe, yet again, we should not live by the world’s wisdom.  Through the wisdom we have received, we know when we have transgressed against God.

So, we should never take our sins lightly – this is what becomes a stumbling block to us and to all of those around us as well.  Paul closes out our lesson this week on this thought:  “if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (v.13).  We should live our lives in a manner where we are striving to not live in sin; we should do this for ourselves, and also for all of those who are around us as well.


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