1 Corinthians 8:4-6 ~ 20140223 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
02/23 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 One God and One Lord; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140223_1cor8_4-6.mp3
1 Περὶ δὲ τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων, οἴδαμεν ὅτι πάντες γνῶσιν ἔχομεν. ἡ γνῶσις φυσιοῖ, ἡ δὲ ἀγάπη οἰκοδομεῖ. 2 εἴ τις δοκεῖ ἐγνωκέναι τι, οὔπω ἔγνω καθὼς δεῖ γνῶναι· 3 εἰ δέ τις ἀγαπᾷ τὸν θεόν, οὗτος ἔγνωσται ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ. 4 Περὶ τῆς βρώσεως οὖν τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων οἴδαμεν ὅτι οὐδὲν εἴδωλον ἐν κόσμῳ, καὶ ὅτι οὐδεὶς θεὸς εἰ μὴ εἷς. 5 καὶ γὰρ εἴπερ εἰσὶν λεγόμενοι θεοὶ εἴτε ἐν οὐρανῷ εἴτε ἐπὶ γῆς, ὥσπερ εἰσὶν θεοὶ πολλοὶ καὶ κύριοι πολλοί, 6 ἀλλ’ ἡμῖν εἷς θεὸς ὁ πατήρ, ἐξ οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς εἰς αὐτόν, καὶ εἷς κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, δι’ οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς δι’ αὐτοῦ.
1 Corinthians 8 [ESV2011]
1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
Paul is building his case in chapters 8-10 against any participation in idolatry for the follower of Jesus. The Jerusalem decree was clear; Gentile believers were not obligated to conform to Jewish laws. They wrote:
Paul has already confronted issues of sexual immorality in this church. Now he delicately handles the issue of involvement in pagan idolatry. The Corinthians had built their case for Christian liberty something like this: “all of us possess knowledge” (v.1); and “an idol has no real existence” because “there is no God but one” (v.4), and we know that “food will not commend us to God” (v.8), therefore “all things are lawful” (10:23) so we have the right to eat whatever we want wherever we want.
Paul starts by pointing out the inadequacy of knowledge without love (8:1-3). Those who think they have arrived at complete knowledge have not yet even begun on the path to real knowledge. 'Where pride is, is ignorance of God' [Calvin]. In true knowledge, it is God who takes the first step. He knew us. He loved us and gave himself up for us. We respond in humility to his love by turning from self to love him and to love others.
No God But One
In verses 4-6 he affirms their claim that 'an idol has no real existence' and 'there is no God but one'. In chapter 10 he will come back around to this issue, and point to the fact that although an idol is nothing, there are real demonic powers behind the pagan idols that we must not involve ourselves with. But at this point in his argument, he is willing to assent that an idol is nothing.
When Paul came to Athens,
Paul was clear to communicate that the true God who made everything is not like any image that anyone could ever dream up. He cannot be accurately represented by anything. He does not live in temples and he does not need anything. This is what got Paul in trouble in Ephesus.
Paul's reputation preceded him; that he turned people away from images saying that gods made with hands are no gods. The gods that people worshiped he counted as nothing.
This is in line with what God said repeatedly in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 41, God challenges the idols of the people
God says to the idols 'you are nothing, and your work is less than nothing.' He displays their total inability to do good or to do harm. They are nothing. In chapter 44 he declares:
Besides me there is no god. Idols are profitable for nothing. He goes further to talk about the ones who fashion the idols and says they are nothing, and will be put to shame. In chapter 46, he says an idol is a heavy burden that cannot save itself or the one who carries it.
God is the one who made his people, who is faithful to carry his people, who will save his people. Idols are incapable of helping others or even moving themselves. Jeremiah says the same:
Jeremiah tells us not to fear idols for they cannot do evil, and it is not in them to do good. Only the true God is to be feared. All glory belongs to God alone. Psalm 115 says:
The psalmist paints a picture of total nothingness, total inability. Idols cannot speak, cannot see, cannot hear, cannot smell, cannot feel, cannot walk, they cannot even make a sound. And he insults those who make them and those who trust in them. Those who make them, anyone who trusts in them will become like them, incompetent, impotent, worthless, useless.
Mocking The False Gods and their Prophets
Did you notice the tone of these passages? We have this mistaken notion that we owe it to everyone to be nice to them and to not offend anyone. What God says in these passages is downright offensive. God calls all who fashion idols 'nothing', and he calls anyone who chooses to worship a false god an 'abomination'. That's not very nice. Demetrius didn't think it was nice when Paul said that the idols he made his living by were no gods. He was offended, his business was hurt, and he started a riot. I don't know of anywhere in the bible that we are told to be nice to everybody and not to offend anyone. We are told to love. We are told to do to others what we would have them do to us. And if my house is on fire, I would have you yell and scream and throw rocks through my window and break down my door and wake me up and get me out of there. I don't think it is loving to see someone who is following a false god that will lead them to hell and not try to wake them up and tell them that their house is on fire. Elijah was not very gentle with the people who were following false gods in his day.
Elijah challenged the false prophets to prove their claims.
Elijah mocked the false gods and the false prophets of that false god. He asked them if their god was sleeping and they should shout louder to wake him, maybe he was busy thinking, maybe he took a vacation, maybe he was on the toilet. That's not very respectful, but a false god who is no god but leads people astray from the true God does not deserve any respect. Paul refers to the things people follow and calls them 'so called' gods, things people give devotion to that are not worthy of it, things people trust in and serve and pursue that are impotent to give anything back.
There are many 'gods' and many 'lords' so called, yet for us there is only one God. Deuteronomy 6 says:
Deuteronomy 6:4; the 'Shema' was what every good Jewish girl and boy was brought up on. Sh'ma Yis'ra'eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad. Hear, Israel, YHWH is our God, YHWH is One. Saul was passionately monotheistic. Saul was persecuting followers of Jesus because they claimed that Jesus was God and there is only one God. That is until Saul was knocked to the ground by a blazing light from heaven.
Saul, now Paul, still unwaveringly monotheistic, learns that Jesus is YHWH, the Lord. Here, writing to the Corinthians, Paul interprets the Shema with a Christian lens. 'The Lord our God, the Lord is one'; he says 'for us there is one God, the Father and one Lord, Jesus Christ'. There is no question that in Paul's understanding, there is no other God but one. There is only one supreme being in the universe. The Father is that supreme being, and Jesus Christ is that supreme being. Two distinct persons, not confusing the Father with the Son, yet not two gods but one Supreme self-existent God. 'For us there is one God, the Father and one Lord, Jesus Christ'. This reminds us of Isaiah 44:6
YHWH the King and YHWH his Redeemer. The King and his Redeemer together say 'besides me there is no god'.
Jesus himself pushed the Jews to examine their conception of God, challenging them from their own scriptures.
Jesus asks, 'if the promised Messiah is merely a human son of David, then why does King David call him 'my Lord'? This promised Messiah is to be more than a man; he is the Son of God. Notice Jesus brings in the Spirit. David, in the Spirit calls him Lord. The Psalmist, inspired by God the Holy Spirit, writes YHWH [the Father] said to Adon [the Son] 'sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet'.
Ephesians 4 says:
One Spirit, one Lord, one God and Father of all.
Out Of, Into, Through
The Father, the Son, and the Spirit, eternally distinct personalities within the one being of God. One God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ. Paul describes unique and distinct roles to the Father and the Son. Literally it reads 'one God, the Father, out of whom all things and we into him, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things and we through him.'
The Father is the origin and destiny of all things. He is the source and goal. All things, all things, everything that exists finds its cause, finds its design in God the Father, and we find our purpose in him. We are to him. We exist for him. We belong in him. All things flow out of him, and our purpose is in him.
The Son is the means through whom all creation and redemption come. All things are through our Lord Jesus Christ. Colossians 1 says of the beloved Son
All things seen and unseen, physical and spiritual, were brought into being through him and to him. He is the agent through whom all things were made. Jesus is the means of all creation, and Jesus is the means of our redemption. We through him. Colossians again puts it this way:
Jesus, the Son, is the one who made all things, and who rescues his sheep. It is distinctly the work of the Son to be the substitute for sinners. It is through the blood of his cross that Jesus brings us stray sheep back into a right relationship with his Father.
Of the triune God, Paul says in Romans
There is only one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ. Everything finds its origin and destiny in this one God. All creation and our redemption come through our one Lord Jesus. It is to this one God that we owe all our allegiance. This one God is a jealous God who will not share his glory with another. For our authentic happiness, for our eternal good, for our unquenchable joy, he demands that we not go after idols which are empty and worthless nothings, burdens that cannot save, false gods that will take and take and give nothing back. Our God is the one who needs nothing and offers us everything freely to enjoy. Outside of him is nothing. Everything, everything we need originates in him, comes through him, and resounds back to him in glorious praise.