Friday, July 11, 2014

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday July 13, 2014

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LOVE BUILDS UP
(Being concerned about others)
(1 Corinthians 8)

To sin against love is a far greater harm, than being wrong about a point of doctrine. In 1 Corinthians 8, the Apostle Paul moves to address the Corinthians heated dispute over an issue of doctrine, concerning the eating of meat from animals that had been offered up to pagan gods, and also, to address the question of whether it was acceptable to GOD for Christians to dine with people who were dedicating their meals to pagan gods.
Today, man has archeological evidence that, in the first century, pagan worship temples contained banquet rooms that were used to hold periodic feasts, where they served the surplus meat that remained from temple sacrifices. Some of this surplus meat was also sold in the marketplaces. Meat, in those days, was hard to come by and very expensive. In fact, the only place where most people could obtain affordable meat, in those times, would be by purchasing it at the pagan temples.
While feasts in the temple were mostly held and attended by the wealthy, sometimes they extended their invitations to all the citizens of a town. In Corinth, archeologists have found two banquet rooms beneath the former pagan temple, “Asclepion”, which was the temple that was used to worship “Asclepios”, the Greek god of healing. As a result of this discovery, we today, have better insight and understanding of the issues addressed by Paul, here in this chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians.
The doctrinal disputes that cropped up over the years, as a result of these aforementioned practices, came mostly in the form of questions as to, whether or not, this meat became “spiritually defiled” merely by the pagans handling of it. Some Christians insisted that it was not defiled, simply because the pagan gods were not real gods anyway. However, some were still very uncomfortable about the food’s obvious connection with idolatry and pagan religious practices. These kinds of disputes featured reasoning based on an individual’s scriptural knowledge, and of course, therein lies the problem.  
More often than not, with human beings, knowledge begets arrogance, and arrogance begets division, much more frequently than it helps us to resolve differences. In verses 1-3, Paul’s position is that, “love is the best way for us to approach our differences”, and, while knowledge may make us feel good and look important, only love can sustain us, and help us grow to our full potential in spiritual stature.
Here in this passage, the Apostle Paul is advocating that, the person who is able to open himself up to GOD, through love, is the person who will experience tremendous spiritual growth, and understanding of the issues of life. Therefore, in a strange, but good sort of way, love actually limits one’s “earthly freedom”, and, at one and the same time, greatly increases the “spiritual freedom” that one can only find in knowing CHRIST JESUS.
And so we see Paul moves straight to the heart of matters in his opening lines of chapter 8, as he spells out the basic principal of “love” being superior to “knowledge”. Starting in verse 4, with the principal already stated, it now has to be applied to the situation at hand in Corinth.
Whenever knowledge dictates human behavior, without the presence of love, spiritual damage will always occur in the form of a “stumbling block” for the less knowledgeable, or “weak” Christian’s (as Paul put it), walk with GOD. Weak Christians, who believe something is sin, though it may not be, will be stumbled by seeing a stronger, more knowledgeable Christian partake in that something.
Paul addressed this very matter with the Roman Christians in a later letter (Paul’s letter to the Romans). In the book of Romans, this very issue of the dangers of criticism is addressed in chapter 14, verses 10-23. There, in a nutshell, Paul ultimately sums it up by stating “Whatsoever is not of Faith is sin” (KJV).
In other words, anyone who does anything, having doubts, about whether, or not, they should do it, condemns themselves, by not acting in faith. If you do anything that you believe is not right, you are sinning. However, we must always remember that CHRIST died for all Christians, weak or strong, and when Christians sin against each other, by causing one another to stumble, they are also sinning against CHRIST.
Encouraging other Christians to do something that they believe is wrong, whether it is or not, is the wrong thing to do. And if one Christian has to limit his or her freedom to do certain things here on earth, in order to keep another Christian from stumbling, then, they should do it. And the good news is that, by doing so, they will increase their own eternal freedom in CHRIST, and strengthen their own position for greater rewards in the coming Kingdom. Love always builds up, whereas, sometimes, knowledge can tear down, and so we have to always be careful to remember that, in any given situation, “Love always trumps knowledge”.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
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