February 12, 2013
Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe
Topic #7: Questions Concerning Christian Freedom, 1 Corinthians 8.1-11.1



Lesson 7.9: Summary of Christian Freedom
 Scripture: 1 Corinthians 10.23-11.1

1 Cor 10.23-11.1 (KJV)

23 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
24 Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth.
25 Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake:
26 For the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.
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.
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.
1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.


23 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

At no time did Paul deny the freedom of the mature Christian to enjoy his privileges in Christ. It is a mark of maturity when we balance our freedom with responsibility; otherwise, it ceases to be freedom, and becomes anarchy and lawlessness. Although Paul’s instruction in this passage can be applied to a broad spectrum of things, he again speaking of eating meat offered in sacrifice to Idols, and specifically to such meat purchased in the marketplace for consumption at home.

“All things are lawful” is an expression Paul has used before: “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Cor 6:12; KJV). His responses in both cases are the same: “all things are not expedient (helpful).” But in 6.12 he expresses a desire not to lose his freedom through slavery to anything. In 10.23, 24 he states a desire to express his freedom in loving service to others. This point of view is similar to his conviction expressed in 8.1 that love builds up. Freedom is not found in expressing an individual right but in helping others grow spiritually. Freedom of faith is expressed in serving the church.

“All things” refers to those things with which a believer has freedom—the honorable, pure, and right; certainly the reference is not to drunkenness, murder, and such things. Paul repeats the statement in order to lead up to the subject he is about to discuss—meats offered to idols. The principle that should guide each believer in his relationship with others should be that he may be used to edify and build them up spiritually—never to hinder or cause another to stumble. The liberty and security that we enjoy at the expense of hindering others is not Christian Liberty (Suggest you study Romans 14).

No man liveth to himself, no man dieth to himself. We are either encouraging others, or we are discouraging them. We are building up weaker saints, or tearing them down. A believer has no right to say, “It is no one’s business what I do so long as it does not hurt my own conscience.” We must always bear in mind that all Christians are members of the same body, and when one member of the body suffers the entire body suffers. Therefore, if eating meat offends weaker brethren, we should abstain from meats—and that goes for everything that we may eat, drink, or do which might cause a weaker brother to stumble or become discouraged. In the spiritual sense, we ARE our brother’s keeper; and our liberty ends where our practices of life hurt or hinder a weak brother. We are to serve our brothers in Christ like we serve the Lord, and whatever we do is to be done for the glory of God.

Paul is NOT teaching here that “ALL things are lawful.” Obviously, believers are NOT free to disobey Christ or God’s moral law. This argument was a misrepresentation of Paul’s view of freedom in Christ. The issue of eating meat offered to idols led Paul to three conclusions in the matter; verse 23 gives two of them and 24 gives the third. These conclusions can be applied to a broad spectrum of Christian liberties:
• While eating such meat is essentially unimportant to one’s faith, and while it is lawful (not against God’s law, see also 6.12), it may not necessarily be beneficial to the believer. The Christian has freedom to eat such meats because he or she knows it doesn’t matter (6.6-8). Just because something is not against the law, however, doesn’t mean it is helpful.
• While believers are free to practice their freedom in Christ in matters that are lawful, some practices of freedom do not necessarily work to build up individual believers, others, or the church.
• And according to verse 24, Christians are to use their freedoms, not to their own advantage, but to that of the other. As Paul had concluded at the end of chapter 8, all Christians, free in Christ, should humbly set aside their freedoms in order to win more people for the kingdom. Nothing should ever impede a believers witness for Christ. It is always more important to avoid unhelpful actions than to assert freedoms.

It is love for the brethren, not the exercise of personal liberty, which builds up the community, and for Paul, that was always the central criteria: “Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification” (Romans 15:2; KJV). We are not to seek to please ourselves, but to please others. Nor are we to seek to please them for our own selfish purpose, as is often the case, but for their good to edification, with a view to their good and upbuilding in Christ.

24 Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth.

“Wealth”—today a better word is “welfare.” The Christian has tremendous liberty in Christ. However, we are to seek the welfare of the other man. So a Christian’s life should not be directed and dictated by liberty. Liberty is limited by love. A Christian is not pinned down by legality; he is not circumscribed by strict rules. He is limited by love. He should be concerned about his influence and effect on others. The freedom of the Christian finds expression as he strives in a positive manner to improve the welfare of his weak neighbor who may be immature in his understanding of meat sacrificed to idols. When the Christian does this, he is not curtailing his freedom, but expressing it. Love is the basis of freedom, and freedom is the expression of love. It is love that builds up the church. This verse is similar to a command of Jesus: “…Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt 22:39; KJV). That is the thought which Paul has here.

Self-interest should never be our primary goal in life. When a believer seeks his own advantage, he is not always acting sinfully—but neither are his actions always righteous. Only a sanctified life can be used by the Lord to bless and strengthen others. Day by day, believers should yield soul, body, and spirit entirely to Jesus Christ, and pray for Him to lead them into the path that will glorify Him the most and be the most beneficial to fellow believers: “So then let us follow after things which make for peace, and things whereby we may edify one another” (Romans 14:19; ASV). We have a responsibility to our fellow believers in the church, therefore, let us endeavor to the utmost of our power to promote peace and unity, so that we may be instrumental in edifying each other, in promoting religious knowledge and piety instead of being stumbling-blocks in each other's way.

25 Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake:

The Greek word translated “shambles” (makellon) is a Hellenized form of the Latin word macellum, and it stands for meat market. Since Corinth had already been made a Roman colony when Paul was there, many of the inscriptions were written in the Latin language. Archeologists have found the word macellum on a stone most likely referring to the kind of marketplace Paul mentions. Macella (marketplaces) in Pompeii were shops open on three sides where meat, fish, fruit, and bread were sold. Very likely, the marketplace at Corinth was of the same kind of open-air market. Adjoining it very likely was a temple devoted to one of the Greek gods.

Since most meat sold in the marketplace was what was left from the sacrifices to the gods, it would be very difficult for Christians to learn whether meat had been sacrificed to idols and to find any that had not been. Christians are free to buy meat at the macellum, according to Paul, and not worry about whether it had been sacrificed to an idol. It is important to note that this verse has no reference to the feast in the idol temple, as does verse 27.

When Paul says “asking no question for conscience sake” he means that the believer was not to ask questions about the meat, such as “Where did you buy this meat?” Asking questions about the meat could easily start a religious argument which would not bring glory to God or be of any benefit to the individual. Paul’s concern was—if by asking you should hear it had been offered to idols, you would have a pang of conscience, which was needless, and never would have arisen if you didn’t ask the question. And in the case of the market, and the restaurants IN the market, they were to ask no questions; but we will see later that they were not to go to heathen feasts where they knew the meat had been offered to idols in worship.

26 For the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.

Here Paul quotes from Psalm 24.1: “The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psalms 24:1; KJV). All things were created by Jesus Christ. The emphasis here is on the word “Lord.” The fullness of the earth (the earth and all its contents) belongs to Him. It is true that the devil has corrupted many things, but that does not change the Lord’s ownership; and the fact that unbelievers may offer meat to idols does not harm the meat or make it evil. The born again believer can eat it for the nourishment of his body, because the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof: but we must not eat it if our eating will hinder weak believers, causing them to stumble or become discouraged. This verse is the apostles justification for saying what came before, and it agrees with our Lord’s pronouncement in Mark 7.14-19: “And he called to him the multitude again, and said unto them, Hear me all of you, and understand: there is nothing from without the man, that going into him can defile him; but the things which proceed out of the man are those that defile the man. If any man hath ears to hear, let him hear. And when he was entered into the house from the multitude, his disciples asked of him the parable. And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Perceive ye not, that whatsoever from without goeth into the man, it cannot defile him; because it goeth not into his heart, but into his belly, and goeth out into the draught? This he said, making all meats clean.” People are not corrupted by what they eat, but by the words they speak; therefore, the believer is permitted to eat any food. The mature believer can enjoy eating in his own home even meat that has been sacrificed to an idol. Even if meat purchased at the regular market originally came from the temple (which it often did), he would not be harmed.

To use this verse of Scripture to argue that the believer can do whatsoever he wants to, and eat whatsoever he likes is a perversion of the Word of God. The purpose every believer should have in his heart is to use everything for God’s glory, and not for self-indulgence. The believer must conform himself to the will of God, he must follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit, and he must not do anything that could bring reproach on the name of Jesus Christ. Because, if we fear (respect) the Lord as we should, the fear of the Lord will prevent us from doing anything that would bring reproach and shame upon His name.

This verse is proof that Paul regarded the creation as good. Christians are not to renounce it but to use it to glorify God and serve their neighbors. Meat that has been blessed is to be eaten without pangs of conscience over concern about where it came from.

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.

This advice is given on the ground of conscience. Remember in verse 25 Paul said that no questions were to be asked concerning meat eaten in the restaurant in the market or sold in the market. It was perfectly alright for a believer to buy meat from the market or eat it in the restaurant there; but a believer, on his own and without an invitation should never go to the heathen temple or to one of the feasts held there. In this verse, however, we have a different picture: Paul is instructing believers concerning an invitation given them by an unbeliever who is a friend, neighbor, or possibly a relative. It is not a religious feast or a feast in the temple, but one in the home, therefore, it is ok to accept the invitation and eat whatever is served. After all, most of the people in Corinth were not Christians and declining such expressions of kindness may cut the Christians off from many social relationships and opportunities to witness to their faith.

Paul said, “If an unbeliever invites you to a feast, IF YE BE DISPOSED TO GO (Paul did not make this a matter of great importance), then go; and you can EAT whatever is set before you. Do not ask if the meat had any connection with idol sacrifices of idol worship. In fact, it would probably be a breach of hospitality to ask about the food and then to refuse to eat it. It would be much better to just enjoy the host’s hospitality and be a witness to his family than to raise questions of conscience, and lose the opportunity. The Lord Jesus said, “And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you” (Luke 10:8; ASV).

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:

Now Paul introduces another principle, and it is an entirely new matter. Paul has advised the Christian to eat everything and ask no questions. But suppose there is someone else at the table (the host, but more probably a fellow guest—a weaker brother) who sees you eat the meat and says, “This meat has been offered to idols.” In that case you should not eat the meat—not because eating it is wrong, but because it is obvious it may hurt the person who pointed it out to you. It is not because of your conscience, but because of his conscience that you should not eat the meat. But out of your love, and out of your desire to help that brother whose conscience is bothered, you should not eat the meat. Instead, you should graciously decline to eat the meat to avoid harming your weak brother whose conscience will accuse him of sin if he should follow your lead and eat the meat also. Use your maturity to serve your immature brother. It is better to not eat for the sake of the weaker Christian who would be offended if you eat, since love for other Christians is the strongest witness Christians have: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35; KJV). The love and self sacrifice of Christians has done more to glorify the name of Christ than any line of reasoning. In the early ages, heathen were known to say: “See how these Christians love one another.”

The question may arise, “Why should we be limited by another person’s conscience?” My answer is, “Simply because we are to do all things to God’s glory, even our eating and drinking.” We should not do anything that could cause another believer to stumble. We do what is best for others, so that they might be saved. We should also be sensitive to how new believers who are sorting out how to renounce sinful ways from the past and live for Christ view our actions. A man has a duty to himself, but a still greater duty to others.

However, Christians should not make a career out of being the offended people with oversensitive consciences. Believers should not project their standards onto others. Many believers who have been Christians for years are still oversensitive and judgmental (and that goes for ministers too) of others. Instead of being the offended weaker brothers and sisters, they are no more than offended “Pharisees.”

Christian leaders and teachers should carefully teach about the freedom Christians have in matters not expressly forbidden by Scripture. New or weak Christians should not remain in a weak or sensitive state but grow into discernment and maturity so that they do not become an unnecessary burden on the freedom of others.

29 Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience?

Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other:
One believer may eat meat offered to idols without it bothering his conscience. He may enjoy perfect liberty in the matter and can do it without feeling a twinge of conscience. But it may bother the conscience of a weaker brother, and if the stronger brother eats in the presence of the weaker, it may lead him to follow suit—and that may cause his conscience to condemn him and he may become discouraged, which could bring about a tremendous spiritual setback and loss of reward. This principle is true for all matters that would cause weak brethren to stumble.

for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience?
Here Paul switches to the first person and puts himself in the place of a strong Christian in order to show believers the difficulty he would bring about by bringing upon himself judgment and condemnation from the one who informed him that the meat had been offered to idols. This brother, with a tender conscience, would look upon the stronger brother as if he had done something wrong. And what would Paul gain by wounding this weaker one and coming under the condemning judgment of the weak brother’s conscience. Paul would probably answer his own question like this: “You do not give up your freedom when you decide not to eat the meat. You are using it in a mature Christian way. Your conscience is not a problem for you; it is the other man’s problem; it is the other man’s conscience that should be concerning you. Your freedom is expressed, not lost, when you forgo what is permissible in order not to harm an immature Christian. I can see nothing wrong with eating what you want to eat.”

Paul wrote this in his Roman letter: “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died” (Romans 14:13-15; KJV). These verses may be explained as follows: “Since God is going to judge us all, believers should not condemn each other for differences of opinion over some untaught or misunderstood principle. Instead, condemn severely throwing a stumbling-block in a brother's way. A stumbling-block is anything which might cause a brother to fall. The convictions we hold must come from our communion with Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit. No kind of food is unclean of itself. The legal distinction between clean and unclean animals is abolished. But if anyone considers anything unclean, to his conscience it is unclean; then it is wrong for him to eat it. If a brother’s feelings are hurt because you eat food that he thinks is sinful to eat, it would be considerate and loving for you to abstain from it for his sake. His grief, and the effect upon him of seeing you do what he regards as sinful, may destroy him. It would be kinder of you to give up the meat than to risk his destruction. If Christ died for him, you surely can do that much.”

Note: In those cases where you are not bound by any scruples of your own, you are not in God’s judgment bound by any other conscience than your own; but what you do, ought to always be limited by what brings the greatest glory to God.

30 For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?

This is the second question Paul asked, where he puts himself in the place of the strong brother who must recognize the futility of insisting on his liberty and giving thanks, when his actions can only result in offending and denunciation by the weaker brother. The first question was in the preceding verse:  “What good can come from my eating under these circumstances, and exposing my freedom to the condemnation of a weaker brother’s conscience?”

The apostle asks, “Why shouldn’t I enjoy food for which I give thanks? Why should my liberty be curtailed because of another person’s weak conscience.” Paul believed in giving thanks: but if while he was doing it he was wounding a weaker brother and making him stumble or become discouraged, was he then, in reality, giving thanks to God? Giving thanks for what we are doing does not necessarily make that an innocent act on our part. We must keep others in mind at all times, regardless of how innocent we may be, because if we are wounding others, it is still wrong. Furthermore, We are responsible to glorify God in all things (1 Cor 10.31). We cannot glorify God by causing other Christians to stumble. Our conscience may be strong enough for us to participate in some activity privately, and not be harmed; but we must not use our freedom in Christ in any way that will injure a fellow Christian. It is better, said Paul, to set aside one’s freedom in that case.

31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

The glory of God is a manifestation of His character and acts. To do all to the glory of God means to reveal Him in both respects. We as born again Christians represent Christ here on earth. In a way true believers are imitators of God. We have the mind of Christ and we reflect His character and His ways in what we do, in the places we go, the things we say, and the company we keep. If we are to be true imitators of God, we must walk in love, humility, and self-sacrifice. We must walk in His steps: “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Eph 5:1-2; KJV). Here Paul is saying: “Make every effort to pattern your life after that of your Lord; imitate Him in all your actions, words, character, and tendencies; imitate Him like children do their parents, and remember that you stand in the relation of beloved children to Him. It is natural for children to imitate their parents; it is their constant aim to learn from them, and to copy them in everything; whatever they see the parent do, whatever they hear him speak, they try to copy and imitate; and, they go even farther, they copy the very disposition of their parents. If you are a child of God, show this same love for your heavenly Father, and imitate all His moral perfections, and acquire the mind that was in Jesus. Then let every act of your life be dictated by love for God and man, even to the end of laying down your life for your brethren if necessary; considering nothing too difficult for you to do so long as it promotes their eternal salvation.” Zeal for the glory of God is the first principle by which one should govern his actions both in reference to self and others: “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's” (1 Cor 6:20; KJV). Christ paid the price of his blood to purchase our salvation. For this reason, both our body and our spirit are God’s; both should be used to glorify him.

Calvin pointed out that there is no part of our life or conduct that should not be for the glory of God and that we should be concerned with eating and drinking to promote it. And he quotes an ancient proverb: “We must not live to eat, but we must eat to live.” A man glorifies God when he is sensitive to his neighbor. How can one glorify God if he damages the conscience of a weaker Christian?

Jesus said to His disciples: “and all things that are mine are thine, and thine are mine: and I am glorified in them” (John 17:10; ASV). Christ's glory here upon the earth is manifested by his disciples. Therefore, we should have a single motive first and foremost in our minds in whatsoever we do—and whatsoever includes both words and deeds: “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col 3:17; KJV). The apostle’s teaching is: “Whatever you say or do—whether it relates to worldly affairs or to religion (The command here extends to all that we do.), do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. Do it all because He requires and commands it, and with a desire to honor Him. His authority should be the guarantee; his glory the aim of all our actions and words. The general sentiment expressed here is fully illustrated in the next verse.

Today, we can seek to do all to the glory of God when we attempt life’s ordinary tasks with an extraordinary spirit. Sickness is one of those commonplace things, but many sickrooms have been a safe haven, and many pastors have been inspired by the courage they witnessed there. The workplace can be transformed by the spirit of those who work there. Every workplace can be a sanctuary if it is permeated by the genuine Christian spirit. The bottom line is that all believers do should be done for the glory of God. If those strong believers at Corinth had to set aside their liberties in order to win others for Christ, they should do so because this would bring glory to God.

32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:

Here Paul is presenting negatively what he presented positively in the previous verse. If a believer glorifies God in all that he does, he will not cause another to stumble. Here Paul divides the whole world into three groups: Jews, Gentiles, and the church of God. Each of these groups has different beliefs. An example would be the Jewish avoidance of pork. It would certainly offend a Jewish friend if you invited him to dinner, and served him ham. A believer should love people enough that he would not offend anyone by his actions. There are a lot of Gentiles who have peculiar notions also. It would be impossible to please all of them, but we should do all we can not to offend any of them. Neither should we offend the brethren who are members of the church of God.

This verse tells us that we are not to offend the Jews, the Gentiles, or the church of God. These are the three divisions of the human family today; but the church is made up of Jews and Gentiles who have been born of the spirit and washed in the blood—those who have been saved through the Gospel and who form the local assembly.  But one of these days, the church of God is going to leave this earth. Then there will only be the Jews and Gentiles in the world, and God has a tremendous program that will take place at that time.

No person can understand and rightly divide the Word of God until he understands that God deals with Jews, Gentiles, and with the Church. It is spiritual robbery to take the promises God made to the Church and give them to the Jews. It is equally wrong to take the promises God made to the Jews and apply these promises to the Church. God has an eternal blueprint and He will conduct His affairs according to His plan.

“The church of God” points to the local assembly in Corinth. It is a term used many times in Paul’s writings. In this instance, it does not refer to the invisible church, the body of Christ, made up of all believers the world over. Paul wanted these believers in Corinth to understand that the liberty God gave them was not to be used to make someone stumble and turn away from their faith; rather, as Paul described in 8.13, his life focused of winning others to Christ. If need be, he would never eat meat again, if it would keep others from stumbling. In things that did not really matter, Paul tried to please everybody in every way—whether they were Jews, Greeks, or the church of God. However, in essential things affecting Christian doctrine and practice, even in the smallest detail, we must not swerve from principle, regardless of whatever offense may result: “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness” (1 Cor 1:23; KJV). We call on men, both Jews and Gentiles, to believe that Christ purchased their salvation by shedding his blood for them. Giving offense is unnecessary if our own spirit causes it, but it is entirely necessary if it is caused by the truth.

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.

The truth presented in this verse does not mean that Paul was a compromiser or ma-pleaser, or that he wanted to be popular and get his name in “Who’s Who” of Corinth—not at all; the last part of the verse makes this very clear. First of all, Paul did not seek his own profit or gain. He was not self-willed. He desired, instead, the spiritual gain of all who he came into contact, and certainly that would not make him popular, which is illustrated by this report from Paul’s ministry in Athens. “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed…” (Acts 17:32-34; KJV). When they heard of the resurrection, the Epicureans who were materialists like the Sadducees mocked Paul. The Stoics probably wished to hear him speak again of this matter. There was a division of sentiment, so Paul departed. He regarded the field less fruitful than others.

Here it is evident that one motive uppermost in Paul’s mind was the salvation of unbelievers. He lived with the desire in his heart to lead unbelievers to know the Lord Jesus Christ whom he met on the road to Damascus. He cried out that he was willing to be accursed from Christ if it would save his brethren: “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:1-3; KJV). When Paul says, “I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart,” he is verbalizing the unceasing pain and sorrow which he endures for his kinsmen, the Jews. And next he declares, “I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren.” This statement about being anathema from Christ is reminiscent of Moses’ statement made upon returning from Mount Sinai. As the great leader viewed the children of Israel involved in the wicked worship of the golden calf, he desired to have his name blotted out of God’s book in return for the salvation of Israel (Ex 32:30–33). The understanding of Paul, however, in relation to justification by faith, does not allow him to actually wish himself accursed from Christ (i.e., separate from Christ for everlasting destruction). Paul knows that his life is not his own. Therefore he is not the master of his own life and does not have the power to cast away the eternal life that was purchased for him by the blood of Christ. The verb is in the imperfect tense (“I could wish”); meaning that Paul would accept everlasting destruction in return for the salvation of Israel, but God will not allow him to do so. And in Romans 10.1 he said: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.”

Paul was not satisfied with “a few.” His scope was “the many.” He wanted to reach the greatest possible number of sinners. He did not believe or preach that some must be lost. Paul believed that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” He believed that no man can call upon the Lord until he hears the Gospel, and that no man can hear without a preacher, and that the preacher must be sent.

Now primarily what we do we are to do for the glory of God—“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God.” A Christian woman can wash clothes, do the dishes, and sweep the floor for the glory of God. Or like my mother did, they can iron other people’s clothes for the glory of God. Friend, I have worked at many jobs in my life, and I have always tried to do my work like I would if Jesus signed my paychecks. I want to please Him, and honor Him, because I may be the only Bible some people will ever read. Their entire concept of Christianity may be based on how I live my life before them, so I will do all I can for the glory of God. Regardless of what you are doing, if you can’t do it for the glory of God, you should not be doing it. As we live like this we are a testimony to the world—that those who are lost might be saved.
1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
This verse has been traditionally placed at the beginning of chapter 11, but I find that most commentators have placed it at the end of chapter 1o, as I have. Paul had just told the Corinthians that his goal was to work for the good of others, not himself. In this matter, Paul called on others to follow his example, and imitate him. Here are some of the other places where Paul had encouraged believers to imitate him or to imitate Christ.
• For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. (1 Cor 4:15-16; KJV).
• Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; (Eph 5:1; KJV).
• And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: (1 Thess 1:6; KJV).
• Brothers and sisters, imitate me, and pay attention to those who live by the example we have given you. (Phil 3:17; GW).
• That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Heb 6:12; KJV).

But why did Paul say, “Imitate me?” Paul was not being arrogant—he did not think of himself as sinless. He had already introduced them to the messiah; now he wanted them to follow his example or some kind of super-saint.

The Corinthian believers did not know much about the life and ministry of Christ. Paul could not tell them to imitate Jesus, because the gospels had not yet been written, so they knew little of what Jesus was like. The best way to point these new believers to Christ was to point them to a Christian to whom they trusted. Paul told the Galatians, “Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am…” (Gal 4:12; KJV). He was thoroughly addicted to the Christian faith and worship, and he wanted them to be just as addicted as he was. Paul had lived in Corinth for almost two years and had built a relationship of trust with many of these believers.  He wanted them to be like him; to be so focused on bring others to Christ that nothing could stand in the way of that goal. Paul followed his own advice; “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Cor 8:13; KJV), and he encouraged the believers to follow his example. The reason they could do so, was because he followed Christ’s example—I doubt that any person ever lived on the face of this earth who walked quite as closely in the footsteps of Jesus as the Apostle Paul; therefore he could invite his children in the Lord to follow him as he followed his Lord; “even as I also am of Christ.”

Very few of us can say what Paul says here. Well I should not include you, but it is something I do not dare to say. I want you to be a follower of Christ and a follower of Paul—but do not follow me in everything. What a wonderful testimony Paul gives in that statement.


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