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Particulars of Christianity:
305 Liberty in Christ


Liberty, 1 Corinthians 10, and Your Neighbor

Liberty in Christ: Extended Introduction
Liberty in Christ: Introduction

Definitions and New Testament Survey
Synonyms for Liberty in Christ
Liberty and Death
Liberty, the Law, and the 10 Commandments
Origin of the Law of Liberty
Liberty and Yet Prohibition
Incorporating Pagan Practices in the Old Testament
"Christianizing" Pagan Practices
What is Observing Times?
Liberty, Bondage, and Righteousness
Liberty and Meat Sacrificed to Idols
Liberty and 1 Corinthians 8
Liberty, 1 Corinthians 10, and Idolatry
Liberty, 1 Corinthians 10, and Your Neighbor
Summary and Practical Applications
Addendum: Romans 14, the Conscience, and Morality



From verse 23 forward in 1 Corinthians 10, Paul switches gears. He has just demonstrated that eating meat sacrificed to idols violates the first commandment of the Law of Liberty, and he will now move on to demonstrate that it violates the second commandment of the Law of Liberty as well.

Thus, Paul begins this second section with this phrase.

1 Corinthians 10:24 Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth.

By making this statement in verse 24, Paul is signifying that he is changing from viewing eating sacrificed meat in terms of idolatry (verse 14) to viewing eating sacrificed meat in terms of loving our brothers.

The key portion of this section is verses 28-31.

1 Corinthians 10:27 If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. 28 But if any man say unto you, this is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof: 29 Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience? 30 For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? 31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

First, notice that in verse 27, Paul is talking about occasions where believers go to eat with unbelievers.

Second, in verses 28-29, Paul says that when we know that meat has been sacrificed to an idol, we should not eat it for the sake of the conscience of others. I'll say it again. Paul is concerned here with what others will think in their conscience if they see us eating the sacrificed meat. In particular, Paul is concerned here with giving people cause to judge and condemn our liberty in Christ.

This is why, in verse 28 Paul says, not to eat for the sake of the others' conscience and then in verse 29 says "why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience?" Some Christians have interpreted verse 29 incorrectly as if Paul were asserting that no man has a right to judge us for things we do in liberty. Thus, these Christians mistakenly assume that Paul is saying we have the liberty to eat sacrificed meat and no one should judge us for it since it is a liberty and cannot be judged in someone else's conscience.

And these mistaken Christians go on to assert that, therefore, whether or not we eat or drink sacrificed meat is a matter of personal liberty that is governed only by our own conscience. Then, taking this false idea a step further, these mistaken Christians assert that, not only is this true for eating meat sacrificed to idols, but it is true for a whole host of other things as well. So, the end result for these mistaken Christians is that they categorize certain activities as liberties governed only by their own consciences. And then say that no one should judge them with regard to these matters of liberty.

But these Christians are mistaken indeed. For by asserting in verse 28 that the Corinthians should not eat the sacrificed meat for the sake of the others' conscience, Paul is NOT declaring that others have no right to judge us in these matters. Rather, Paul is asserting the exact opposite, that others will judge us for these things. And far from rebuking them for judging us over a specific liberty to eat meat, Paul is saying we should abstain from eating the meat so that they will not judge our liberty in Christ in general.

The word for "liberty" in verse 29 is the Greek word eleutheria (Strong's No. 1657.) We have already said that every time this Greek word is used in the New Testament that it refers to our liberty in Christ. However, remember that we have already established that the phrase "liberty in Christ" or its synonyms, including the uses of eleutheria in verse 29, are never used anywhere in the New Testament to refer to a specific liberty to do a specific act. Instead, whenever eleutheria is used to convey "liberty in Christ" it is always, always used to refer to our general freedom FROM the Law of Moses, our freedom FROM the penalty of death, and our freedom TO live righteously. Therefore, Paul's use of eleutheria or liberty here, does NOT refer to the specific liberty to eat meat sacrificed to idols, but rather refers to these 3 general aspects of our liberty in Christ.

It is these three things that Paul does not want other people to have an opportunity to judge and condemn. And so, rather than give others a reason to judge and condemn our general freedom in Christ, Paul instructs that the Corinthians should abstain from eating the sacrificed meat.

This is why in verses 31-33, Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: 33 Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

Here Paul writes saying, when you eat or drink, do it so that God may be glorified. In particular, in verse 32 Paul says that when they eat or drink they should do so in such a way as to cause NO offence to the Jews or the Gentiles. This shows clearly that Paul understood and taught that by eating the meat sacrificed to idols Christians would offend the Jews or the Greeks and in that way cause the Jews and the Greeks to condemn the general liberty Christians have from the Law of Moses.

Perhaps thinking themselves pious, the Jews would condemn Christianity for participation in idolatry. Or perhaps thinking themselves wise, the Greeks would likely condemn Christianity for contradicting itself by proclaiming Christ Jesus to be the only true God while at the same time eating at table of other gods. But whatever the reason for the offense, the concept Paul is teaching here is clear. By eating meat sacrificed to idols we would offend the Jews or the Greeks and cause them to judge our liberty in Christ. This is consistent with where in 1 Corinthians 8:9 Paul instructs the Corinthians not to put up a stumbling block to others being saved by eating meat sacrificed to idols.

Since causing someone else to reject the Gospel meant violating the second command of the Law of Christ, the Law of Liberty, eating meat sacrificed to idols violated both commands of the Law of Liberty. And so, rather than being an expression of our liberty in Christ Jesus, eating meat sacrificed to idols was a violation of that Law of Liberty.

Lastly, there is verse 30.

1 Corinthians 10:29 Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience? 30 For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?

Again, some Christians mistakenly view this question in verse 30 as a declaration from Paul that if we thank God for the sacrificed meat before we eat it, then by grace we can partake. However, that is not what Paul means here at all.

In verse 29 and verse 30, Paul is not condemning people for judging the liberty of others, nor is Paul condemning people for speaking evil of those who partake. Rather, Paul is offering these two hypothetical questions side-by-side as themselves proof that eating meat sacrificed to idols is wrong.

In verses 28-29 Paul writes, don't eat the sacrificed meat for the sake of other people's consciences. Then he immediately asks, "for why is my liberty judged in someone else's conscience?" Followed immediately by the second question "if it is true that I can partake by grace, why then is evil spoken of me?"

The fact that others were judging our Christian liberty and that others were speaking evil of us as Christians was proof that eating meat sacrificed to idols should not be done, because it was causing an offense that prompted the other people to both judge our liberty in Christ and speak evil of Christianity.

For now it is important to realize that the implied rhetorical answer to both of these questions is "Because I'm eating meat sacrificed to idols, which is wrong." The entire conversation should be read this way.

"Don't eat for the sake of the other person's conscience. After all, why is our Christian liberty being judged by the other person in this case? Because we are eating the meat sacrificed to an idol. And if it is true that by grace we can partake of meat sacrificed to idols as long as we thank God for it, then why are other people speaking evil of us? Because we are eating the meat sacrificed to an idol."

Paul is not offering these two questions as reasons why others should not judge or speak evil of us. Paul is offering these two questions as support for his statement that we should not eat the sacrificed meat for the sake of other people who will judge us and speak evil of us for eating it and so reject the Gospel of Christ. (For a more detailed analysis proving what Paul means in 1 Corinthians 10:29-30, please see our outline entitled, Liberty Addendum.)

So, in conclusion, in verses 14-23 Paul explains how eating meat sacrificed to idols violates the first command of the Law of Liberty, because the very nature of a sacrifice causes us to fellowship those who make the sacrifice and the being to whom that sacrifice is offered. Since, as Paul teaches, "the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils," by eating or drinking those sacrifices we provoke the Lord to jealousy, by "fellowshipping with devils" just as the Israelites in the Old Testament provoked the Lord to anger by participating in idolatry.

Paul's inclusion of the word "jealousy" refers back to the second commandment of Exodus 20:1-6. The fact that Paul is referring back to the second commandment of Exodus 20 demonstrates that not only did Paul consider the second commandment of Exodus 20 to still be binding on Christians, but also that Paul considered eating meat sacrificed to idols to violate that command. So, Paul concludes, "Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils." With regard to eating meat sacrificed to idols, Paul clearly considered that practice to be idolatry and so he writes regarding that matter that we should "flee from idolatry."

And then, having established that eating meat sacrificed to idols violated the first command of the Law of Liberty, Paul goes on to establish that it also violated the second command of the Law of Liberty, because not only did eating meat sacrificed to idols provoke God to jealousy, but also it caused other people to judge and reject our liberty in Christ.

And thus, we can finally conclude that Paul's use of the Greek word eleutheria (Strong's No. 1657) with regard to the issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols was in no way intended to convey that Christians have "liberty in Christ" to eat meat sacrificed to idols. In fact, the opposite was true. According to Paul, eating meat sacrificed to idols violated both commands of the Law of Christ, the Law of Liberty.