Making Biblical Decisions: Working to Grow and Help Others Grow in Christ – December 15, 2023

As John finished his first epistle, he challenged the church with an interesting statement: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). Most Christians today would skip over this verse with little thought. After all, we do not visit temples and sacrifice to idols. Yet, idolatry remains rampant in the church today. Already in 1 Corinthians 6, Paul addressed the Corinthian’s claim that all things were lawful because Christ died for sin, and there is no longer condemnation. Yet, just because something is not a sin does not mean the Christian should participate. Just a few chapters later, Paul returns to this claim. The context surrounding this address provides an interesting and essential principle as we seek to make Biblical decisions. I would encourage you to stop and read 1 Corinthians 10.

As Paul continues his address to the church in Corinth, he addresses the issue of ongoing idolatry. He begins by pointing back to the children of Israel in the wilderness. All the children of Israel enjoyed the blessings of God. They followed the cloud of God’s Shekinah glory, which led them through the wilderness. They all walked through the Red Sea on dry land. They watched Pharaoh’s army destroyed behind them as the sea collapsed over the pagan army. As Paul explains these realities, he seems to draw parallels to the Christian life. We also experience God’s blessing. We follow the Word and experience God’s redemption.

Further, the children of Israel all ate of the manna God provided. In the same way, Christians eat the bread, which signifies the body of Christ, the bread of life. The children of Israel all drank from the water miraculously provided by God, which sprang from the rock. So too, all Christians drink from the cup at the Lord’s table, signifying the new covenant in Christ’s blood. God’s people stand in a privileged position because of the redemption and provision provided by God.

However, God was not pleased with the children of Israel. And due to their foolish decisions, God overthrew them in the wilderness. Verse 6 and verse 11 stand as important reminders to us. These things happened and were recorded as a warning so we do not make the same mistakes. We cannot afford to become idolaters as they were. They engaged in the sexual immorality of the surrounding world. They complained and questioned God’s goodness. They stood in a favored position before God. Yet, the one who thinks he stands should be careful lest he fall.

Because we, as Christians, live in a corrupt world, we are easily swayed and enticed by the false thinking and ideologies around us. We face the same challenge that the Corinthian church faced. The sexual immorality that surrounds us seeps into the Christian’s life when we are not actively aware. We do not guard and value our marriages to succeed and be accepted by the world. Over time, we begin to excuse immoral actions and thoughts because the world clouds our judgment.

Christians are often tempted to complain and question God’s goodness because we have concluded that he owes us a carefree life. We have bought into the world’s message that ease, entertainment, and experience should dominate life. So, we fill our lives with comforts, items of enjoyment, and things that entertain us. When life presents the challenges that come with living in a depraved world, we question God’s goodness. We fail to understand that God allows and even directly places the challenges in our lives to demonstrate His power and sufficiency.

As a result, Paul again challenges the believer to flee idolatry. The Christian must be aware of the soft idolatry that takes place in our lives and run from it. These things demand our attention over God and steal our gaze from Him. Although we stand before God without condemnation because of Christ’s blood, we cannot live in the pagan temple by giving something higher priority than God. We celebrate the Lord’s Table together when we gather as Christ’s church. When we do so, we point to the blood and body of Christ. Yet, through our actions, we also participate in idolatry. In verse 20, Paul intimates that valuing something more than God is also to sit at the table of demons. We seek to serve God and Satan simultaneously.

We come then to the solution in our decision-making in verse 23. Again, Paul echoes the Corinthian mantra: “All things are lawful.” And again, Paul reminds them that not all things are best. Not all things are best because not all things build up. As we seek to make Biblical decisions and refrain from idolatry, we need to ask, “Will this help myself and others grow in Christ?” We are to seek the good of our fellow believers and our growth in Christ. Much then of what we are free to do so far as sin is concerned, we are not free to do so as far as growth in Christ and the good of others is concerned.

How can we know if something will help others grow in Christ? How can we seek to ensure our spiritual growth? This text continues with three essential principles to help us consider what will edify. Over the next few weeks as we look at these principles, we should consider how these principles work in our everyday decisions.