1 Corinthians 10:23-11v:1 – Free to serve God and benefit others

1 Corinthians 10v23-11v1.

Free to serve God and benefit others.




These verses, 10v23-11v1, are the concluding remarks of a long section of Paul’s letter dealing with the matter of food sacrificed to idols and the whole practice of idolatry. It is clear that the problem is not the idol itself. It was simply an inanimate object that had no inherent power. BUT Paul warns that it is what lies behind the idol that is the danger. The idol is nothing. But behind the idol is a power that is anti-God.


It is tempting in our western, 20th century culture to think that idolatry is not a modern problem. After all we don’t have strange statues around our houses to which we offer food or prayer. Behind the statue or idol was a demonic power that was anti-God AND we in our Western society need to learn that the demonic is not as remote as we would wish to believe it is.


ILLUST:  Did you know that there are more practising witches in the UK than there are Clergy!!


We have grow up in a scientific age that is anti-supernaturalistic. There has been a move away from God and from belief in a supernatural Creator God. The miracles of Jesus are explained away and the virgin birth and the resurrection are questioned. This anti – biblical stance has left a spiritual vacuum that Satan is only too willing to fill. The Bible is clear that we are involved in a spiritual battle. And we don’t have to be actively involved in witchcraft and idolatry and black magic or Voodoo to be idolatrous.


When God is sidelined and something or someone else takes his place then we are guilty of idolatry.


ILLUST: Thus your home or your job or a sport can be an idol – these things are not wrong in themselves and God wants us to have them [he gives them to us] – BUT when the become substitutes for God then we have gone to far.


Not only do these things become our idols BUT we become their slaves. We have to have this or that!! We must do this!! We must achieve that!! All of which may be perfectly legitimate things in themselves BUT with the wrong attitude can be enslaving.


So Paul warns the Corinthian Christians that while the idol itself has no power, what lies behind has the power to enslave. Therefore they need to be very careful in their dealings with people so as not to communicate a wrong message.


YES, as a Christian these powers no longer have power over you because have been freed from this bondage by the power of Christ. However DON’T endanger yourself or mislead others.





Most of the Corinthian Christians had come out of a Pagan background where food was offered to the idols and including in the worship of the many Corinthian gods was drunkeness and sexual orgies. Many of the Temples to the gods had cult-prostitutes.


With their new freedom in Christ, some of the Corinthians had misunderstood Christian liberty. And their slogan was “Everything is permissible”


“Hey, I am free! I can go to the temples whenever I like! I am free to eat the food offered to an idol! And if there is drunkeness and orgies going on around me , Well, so what, I am not involved!”


Paul has already forbidden this practice of going to the temples.

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord

and the cup of demons too;

you cannot have a part in both

the Lord’s table and the table

of demons. [10v21]


The Corinthians had tried to make attendance at the temples a non-essential but for Paul it was an absolute because it was idolatry.


For them it was a question of Knowledge and rights. “We know that an idol is a nothing therefore we have the right to exercise our freedom”

BUT for Paul it is not a matter or knowledge and rights but a matter of love and freedom.


There are some things about which the Bible is clear and there is little room for debate. But there are many areas of life and behaviour that are not always clear – the grey areas.


It is the grey-areas that Paul is addressing in these last verses of Chapter 10.


Yes the Christian is free but that does not mean license to do as I please!!


“Everything is permissible” but not everything is beneficial;

“Everything is permissible” but not everything is constructive

1.a. Constructive behaviour and not self-gratification.


Because something is allowed it does not automatically follow that it is right or profitable.


We live in a society in which the rights of the individual are upheld and defended. That is itself is not a bad thing. Everyone is of value. BUT very often people use their individual rights for purely selfish reasons which are destructive to society and impinge on the rights of others.


ILLUST: “Do reporters have the right to invade others lives and destroy them?”


“Do people have the right to make claims far in excess of the wrong suffered?”


“Do we have the right to gossip about another and cut them down because it may make us look more important or satisfy our desire for scandal?”


There are some things that we are free to do but are not necessarily beneficial for others or for us.

It is easy to cut down BUT GOD wants us to put others first.


1.b. Others first!


Nobody should seek his own good,

but the good of others [v24]


This kind of thinking is foreign to our society in which we are told and taught to be aggressive and assertive. In the work place employees are sent on assertiveness training courses. You must fulfill your potential, you must reach your self-actualization. SELF is the preoccupation; MY life, MY job; My target figures; MY potential …. AND if others get in the way and need to be trodden on well that just too bad!!


What is the bottom line for marriage break-down, for corruption, for sexual immorality …… the bottom line is selfishness! What is in it for me!

Did you ever hear a woman say “I am leaving my husband because he is gentle and kind and considerate and he really puts me first and loves me!” NO!! NO!!  It is because he is insensitive, inconsiderate and selfish and I don’t think he really loves me any more!!”


1.c. Liberty before legalism [v25-26]


READ v25-26.


Paul in these verses is asserting that a Christian is free from legalistic rules and regulations. He uses the example of the food sacrificed to idols which has been the subject of the Corinthians inquiry.


The Temple Priests in Corinth received many sacrifices from the people and much of the meat brought for sacrifice went out the back door of the temple and was sold in the meat market. Some of the Christians thought it was wrong to eat such meat because it had been offered to an idol.


Paul reject eating in the temple, not because of the food but because of the location. Here he says that all food comes from the Lord.  God is the creator of all things; He made the food so “BUY AND EAT”


In others words, don’t create problems were their aren’t any. Eating meat or not eating meat is a non-issue. The implication is that God doesn’t care about this so then neither should you. It is not an issue for conscience so don’t worry about it.

This was a radical position for Paul to take. Remember that he is a Jew – the Jews would only eat “kosher” food. Paul says “Don’t ask all kinds of conscience questions – just eat it”


1.d. Act graciously and don’t take the moral high ground.


READ V27-29 – an example of the issue!


When you go to another house don’t ask questions about the food, just eat it! If they tell you it comes from the meat market and you know it will cause them problems if you do eat it then don’t eat it. The issue is not the food it is rather the person in whose presence you will eat THEREFORE the principle of putting others first takes precedence.


Our personal freedom is not absolute it is always conditioned by the rule of putting others first and seeking their good.


ILLUST: In the Christian community in which I grew up in RSA it was not the done thing for Christians to drink wine etc. So I did not! When we lived in Portugal and we went to Portugese homes it was acceptable to drink wine, it was expected! For them it was a non-issue! I drank the wine the gave me!


You see in the Bible the issue is not whether one drinks wine or not! The issue is not to get drunk!!


ILLUST: If you attend another Church, or even if we have things in this church that you don’t like – certain types of music – The outward form is not the issue – God is concerned with the attitude of our hearts.


We have no right to condemn another for something which is a non-essential and is God given.

So Paul is telling us that we are free – but we are so free we are free not to exercise our freedom. We are free to given up our freedom if it for the good of others!!




READ v31-33


Paul now opens it up to include all aspects of life and not just food and drink – Whatever we do The goal is GOD’S GLORY. That is what we live for – to bring praise to him and to honour Him!


What brings glory to God? What pleases Him? When we put the good of others first! What is the best thing that we can ever do for another person? It is to point them to Jesus Christ!!


For I am not seeking my own good

but the good of many,

SO THAT they may be saved


When we live the kind of lives that are turned away from ourselves out towards others putting their good before our own in the hope that God in his grace will bring them to himself THEN God is please with us.


He does not want us to be a hindrance to others – a stumbling block. To either the believer or the unbeliever! Doesn’t this curtail our freedom! How can we live without offending someone? It is not possible.


Paul’s point is related to intentional behaviour! He says that we must not purposely pursue a path that is to the detriment of another. So we are not simply talking about hurting the feelings of an over-sensitive person who is difficult and who is never pleased with anything. NO!! We are talking about behaving in such a way so as to prevent a person from hearing the gospel.


We are talking about alienating a fellow Christian by insensitive behaviour!

This does not mean that we water-down what we believe because others don’t agree and may be offend by the message of the gospel NO! The gospel is an offence to other who reject it. We saw that in the opening chapter of this letter.


But we need to be sure that people are not put off or hurt because of our stupidity of insensitivity.


ILLUST: “Are we willing to open our homes to people” To invite them in knowing that they will infringe on our privacy – they might spill coffee on the carpet – the children might put dirty hand on your chair or damage your china.


May be your home is a bit shabby and you don’t have nice furniture and you don’t want people to know that – Are you willing to swallow your pride for the sake of others.


We can learn a lot from other cultures – Asian in RSA – always welcome in spite of poverty.

wooden boxes and no carpets. Dirt floors. BUT a smile and a glass of water.




READ 11v1


There are some things that are altogether incompatible with life in Christ and they must be shunned. BUT there are other things that are of no consequence. We are free in regard to those things – free to give up our rights for the good of others.


Jesus set the example for us, Romans 15v3:

For even Christ did not please himself;

but, as it is written “The insults of

those who insult you have fallen on me”


Jesus Christ had the rights to the glories of Heaven but he was willing to give that up for our sakes. He did not die for himself – he died for us to make it possible for us to be reconciled to God and have our sins forgiven.


He is the example – giving up his right for the good of others! That is what he is asking us to do! We can’t do it until we have come to Christ for salvation and come into a living relationship with him.


Then he calls us to follow him – to live for him – putting others first and thus bringing glory to God.


We can’t do it in our own strength BUT whenever God asks us to do something he ALWAYS supplies the resources to accomplish it.

Though we are weak his grace is everything we need , –

we’re made of clay, but this treasure is within:

he turns our weaknesses into his opportunities,

so that the glory goes to HIM {Graham Kendrick}


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