Beneficial and Constructive
Beneficial and Constructive
Words of Faith 6-28-17
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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1 Corinthians 10
 "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is constructive.  Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.
 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience,  for, "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it."
 If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.  But if anyone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience' sake--  the other man's conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience?  If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?
 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God--  even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
Paul had already given instruction that the personal freedom of a believer was to be subjugated out of concern for others and caution not to become enslaved. "'Everything is permissible for me'--but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissible for me'--but I will not be mastered by anything" (1 Cor. 6:12).
As believers we are not under law, but there are things that would enslave us or that do not build up the body. Our concern is not only for ourselves and the exercise of our personal freedom but also for the strengthening of others.
Paul used two words here. The first is translated "beneficial" (sumphero) and means to bear together or contribute toward a collective whole. It can be translated "expedient" or "profitable," but this should not be heard in the sense of political or social expedience.
The point is that our actions are never isolated. We affect the larger whole in either building up or tearing down. The second word (oikodomeo) is translated "constructive" and literally means to be a house builder. Figuratively, it can mean to edify or embolden, but it gives us the image of putting together something strong, lasting, and protective.
Paul's point was that some actions and activities, though permissible under grace, do not contribute anything positive to the Body of Christ and do not build up or strengthen fellow believers. Our freedom is not limited just in terms of things that "don't hurt anybody". We are responsible for the building up of the Body of Christ.
With this in mind, Paul continued to discuss the matter of meat sacrificed to idols. While our culture is different the applications are similar. Paul had been clear that eating in the pagan temples was a participation in idolatry and should never happen. But what about meat purchased in the marketplace and meat in the home?
For a believer shopping in the market for meat with the intent of eating it at home, Paul recommended that selections be made without reservation. No one could contaminate what God had made clean since everything belongs to Him (Acts 10:15, Ps. 24:1).
For a believer who accepted an invitation to another's home, Paul recommended eating from all the fare without reservation. But if another Christian guest piped up that the food had been part of a pagan sacrifice, the knowledgeable Christian should defer to the uninformed or "weaker" brother. To exercise his rightful freedom to eat might cause the other brother to follow that example and cause him to sin (Rom. 14:14-23).
A knowledgeable believer should not alter his convictions to appease the conscience of a weaker brother, but he did need to alter his behavior when in the weaker brother's presence. What the knowledgeable believer enjoys privately with thankfulness can become an offense in the presence of a weaker brother. This is not hypocrisy, it is consideration.
All this is summarized as an application of the command to love God and neighbors. Christian behavior should be for the glory of God. Also it should build up the church of God by leading some to new birth and others to maturity in the process of salvation. Christian believers should avoid behavior that would cause others whether Jews, Greeks, or the church of God to stumble.
The One who perfectly exemplified this love for God and others was Christ. Paul urged the Corinthians to follow his example in this matter of food from a pagan sacrifice. They should allow their freedom to be regulated by love.
As modern believers, we walk with many of the same challenges. Everything is permissible, but not everything builds up or strengthens the Body. This text is often applied to the use of alcohol because alcohol carries such a powerful symbolism in our culture and can be a trap for many people. The Bible never condemns consumption of alcohol, only drunkenness, but for many fellow believers this is a point of weakness where they might stumble. Careful consideration should be given to the wisdom of serving alcohol or using alcohol in public settings.
Similar applications could be made regarding the way we dress and the things we buy. Everything is permissible but not everything builds up and strengthens the Body. The world dresses to impress and buys houses and cars as symbols of status. As believers, consideration should be given to the way that our lifestyle builds up or does not build up fellow believers. The temptation of materialistic idolatry is all around us.
Paul is clear that we cannot constantly set our conscience to the weaknesses of all others, but we can ask the questions-- Does this glorify God? Is this causing another person to stumble? Am I seeking the good of others so that they may be saved?
Father God, help me to navigate the traps in the culture that is around me. I know that I am free in Christ and I rejoice in that freedom. Help me to see the ways that I need to temper my behavior or adjust my lifestyle so as to glorify You and help other come to know Jesus. In Jesus' Name.