“For The Sake Of Conscience”
1 Corinthians 10:28-29
1. It is clear that Paul understood he was dealing with something very important in these middle chapters of this epistle to the church of God in Corinth.
a. He devotes three chapters to the matter he is discussing.
b. He uses the most personal illustrations of this letter.
2. What’s not so clear to most readers today is how what he writes might apply in our experience now.
a. We wonder what the parallel to “eating food offered to an idol” might be.
b. More than that, we wonder how to strike the balance with regard to conscience that the two statements in our text call for:
i. “Don’t eat for the sake of conscience” (28).
ii. “Don’t let your liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience” (29)
3. A first step toward grasping Paul’s point is recognizing that he is not discussing how to handle your own conscience: other passages do that.
a. Conscience is like an umpire that accuses or excuses what you do (Rom. 2:15).
b. Conscience is not to be walked over (Rom. 14:5, 23).
c. But, in order to be a helpful guide, conscience must be properly educated (Acts 23:1; 22:3-5).
4. The question the apostle is addressing in these chapters involves the conscience of other people: what happens when you are dealing with someone whose conscience is not yet properly educated?
a. Using the principle of respect for conscience that we noted from Romans 14, Paul said, “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean” (14).
b. A person who believes something is wrong, even if it is because he doesn’t know any better yet, but goes ahead an does it, defiles his conscience (1 Cor. 8:7).
c. “So,” he says in 1 Corinthians, “make sure you use your knowledge with loving consideration for the ones who do not have that knowledge” (8:1, 9).
5. But the thought doesn’t stop there: another part of the discussion is what should happen to that other brother’s conscience going forward.
a. How is it to help him navigate the personal choices of everyday life (which is what is being discussed in these passages)?
b. The apostle is not merely dealing with matters with which the person is “comfortable” or not; he is dealing with situations which have had religious significance in that other person’s past.
i. The location of Corinth had something to do with it.
ii. The moral reputation of the city had something to do with it, too.
iii. But perhaps the main factor was the prevalence of idolatry in the city.
(1) Multiple temples dedicated to various idols, who were not gods at all, were present.
(2) Sacrifices would be offered to them, but the meat would be sold in the market or served at banquets in those temples.
(3) It was supposed by the ignorant that in eating that meat they were communing with that idol, even taking in that god.
c. Such a thing, of course, is not what the word of the living God teaches.
i. There is no God but one (1 Cor. 8:4-6).
ii. His word says there is nothing wrong with eating anything he has created, provided it is received with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:4).
d. The “weak” conscience is not the one which is more sensitive; it is the one which is as yet uneducated in the facts of the matter.
i. In eating what had been devoted to an idol, he might think he was actually worshiping that idol (1 Cor. 8:7).
ii. In so doing, his weak conscience would be defiled; he would be communing with that idol again and falling from complete devotion to Christ (1 Cor. 8:9, 10).
iii. By such behavior that person would destroy himself (1 Cor. 8:11).
e. That weak conscience should not be intentionally wounded by the one who knows better. To do so would be to sin against Christ (1 Cor. 8:12).
6. But that’s not the end of the story either. What is to become of the strong conscience, not the insensitive one but the one which is fully trained in God’s way?
a. “That strong conscience,” the apostle says, “is not to have its liberty determined by someone else’s conscience” (10:29).
b. The strong bears the infirmities of the weak, but the weak must not be given the right to rule the church by the lowest common denominator.
c. That must mean going about things in such a manner as to allow the weaker conscience to be respected while that person is being further educated in the word.
7. The question is how to do that – and that’s where Paul’s advice in our text becomes so practical and helpful.
a. Start with an attitude which cares about the welfare of your neighbor (10:24).
b. When you know what you’re doing is right, go about the activities of everyday life without raising any question on the ground of conscience (10:25-27).
c. If someone raises a question which has implications in the uninformed religious past, assume that his conscience is involved and do not proceed in that activity at that time (10:28).
d. At the right time and in the right way, engage in further teaching. Do not merely allow the weak conscience become the law (10:29-30). Do not allow comfort to override conviction.
e. Value most highly what will properly represent God in and out of the church – that is, what will open people’s hearts to him (10:31-33).
8. 1 Corinthians 10:26 – “For ‘the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.’”