For Whom Christ Died

For Whom Christ Died

In Romans 15:1 Paul says,

“We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”

Who are the strong and who are the weak?  We might be in danger of misreading this verse by taking it out of context especially since there is a chapter break.  Identifying the “weak” and “strong” comes from the previous chapter (14) in verses 1-3,

"Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. {2} For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. {3} Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him."

From this we learn that the weak are those who had certain scruples about matters of conscience. They had sensitivities about eating meat or celebrating holidays.  They put up barriers in their life that the strong in faith felt as unnecessary.  In our modern day parlance we would label the weak brother as a conservative, would we not?  In contrast the strong in faith had a conscience that allowed them to eat meats or to regard each day as the same.  We would label them as more liberal.

The problem with the weak brother was that they judged the others (v. 3) as not living up to their standards.  Paul takes the “weak” to task in these first 13 verses by starting in verse 4, “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?”

Equally, the strong were at fault for despising the weak (v. 3).  Paul exhorts them starting in 14 and ending in 15:3.  That’s why in 15:1 we have this instruction as is translated in the NKJV,

“We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”

The strong had the harder burden to change their attitude and actions because there was the very real possibility they would destroy their weak brother in Christ as we read in 14:20 (NKJV),

"Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died."

It’s that last phrase which is at the center of our exhortation this morning.  In life we might find ourselves in a strong position or we may find ourselves in a weak frame of mind.  Wherever we are, when it comes to disputable matters of conscience, we need to look out and see our brothers and sisters as “another man’s servant” and “one for whom Christ died.”  That exact phrase, “one for whom Christ died” is also used in 1 Corinthians 8:11.  What we will be doing for the rest of the morning is looking at this same problem of the “weak” and “strong” in 1 Corinthians 8-10.  In the end, I think you may be surprised (as was I) to find that being weak is not always a bad thing.  In fact, although Paul thought like the strong he would often rejoice in associating with the weak as he told them in 2 Corinthians 13:9,  “For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong.”

1 Corinthians 8-10 Overview

When you compare Romans 14 with 1 Corinthians 8 there are a lot of similarities.  There is the same question about “meats”, the two classes of “weak” and “strong” and the phrase “the one for whom Christ died” (8:11).

  • The Strong - Those who intellectually understood that an idol is nothing and therefore the meat offered to an idol was nothing.  Some even took this argument to the point of saying they could eat in the very temple of Aphrodite for it was nothing.  There was no god there so why should it defile?
  • The Weak - Those who couldn't get it out their head that anything associated with idols is defiled and wrong.  We shouldn't have anything to do with these terrible practices.

The main difference I see is that Paul in 1 Corinthians 8 through 10 is only arguing against the strong. The way Paul argues here by first siding with the strong and then by the end turning the argument on its head by making the strong weak and the weak strong is absolutely remarkable.  I recently read something on how to structure a successful essay, that is, how to present your argument best when writing it down.  Here are the rules:

  1. Make sure to have an introduction stating your main thesis.  This Paul does in 8:1-3.  "Knowledge puffs up, but charity edifieth".
  2. Make the necessary concessions to the opposition as soon as possible.  Paul does this in 8:4-6.
  3. Devote at least one full paragraph to every major pro argument in your full thesis.  Paul has four major pro arguments against the strong.
  • You may lead your brother into sin (8:7-13).
  • You don't need to stress your rights (9)
  • You are leaving yourselves open to temptation and sin (10:1-14)
  • Your eating in the temple will give the wrong impression to unbelievers (10:15-22)
  1. Save your best argument for the last.  I think he does this in 10:15-22.

So we see in the end that Paul's whole focus, his main point, is love which edifies, builds up.  He starts in 8:1, "Knowledge puffuth up, but love edifieth" and concludes in 10:33,

"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 principle is to put away all those petty issues among us, to do away with pride and intellectualism, to forego our rights and look after the best interests of our brothers and sisters.  Paul is not talking about compromising essentials but he is talking about the little things in the ecclesia that can get blown out of proportion and ruin true fellowship.  Knowledge is a good and needful thing but if that's the only thing then we are quite anemic in our discipleship.  Knowledge "gnosis" must lead to "epi-gnosis" which involves the highest of Christian virtues, agape love.

Consider Your Brother's Conscience

So Paul starts off his argument conceding the case to the strong.  He even associates with the strong by saying,

(1 Cor 8:4)  ". . . we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one."

We know that!  Intellectually and in principle Paul could stand with the strong brethren and say yes there is nothing wrong in eating meat offered to idols.  My conscience would not bother me in such a case.  That idol is just a bit of wood and stone so how could it affect the meat?

However, some people aren't as smart as us.  Shame isn't it?  There are some who are weak and their conscience would be defiled if they ate of such a thing.  They looked down on them with contempt.  So Paul begins his argument against the strong by considering their love and concern for the whole family of God, their brethren. 

First of all the strong brethren had a freedom to back off from their position.  The weak brother had no choice.  The weak brother's position had painted himself into a corner where he could not eat.  The strong brother could eat or he could not eat.  It just didn't matter.

(1 Cor 8:8)  "But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse."

So in effect he says to the strong, "Get off of it.  If it doesn't really matter to you then don't eat for the sake of your brother.  You've got room to move, so move."

Secondly, you must consider your brother's conscience.  These strong brethren only thought of themselves and their liberties, their rights.  I've got a right to eat this meat!  What would they think if they actually, maybe unwittingly, led their brother into sin.  That's a real danger.  For Paul says in Romans that "whatsoever is not of faith is sin."  Not only did they sin but what if it destroyed that brother for whom Christ died.  The Greek word for "wound" has the meaning to pummel and to strike over and over like a boxer against the ropes.  The strong brothers arguments are not single blows but repeated assaults.  Christ, sacrificed his life for this brother and you come along and destroy him for your rights!

Not only is this a sin but it is a sin against Christ.  No matter who the weak brother or sister is they are still important to Christ.  This reminds us of the words of our Lord in Matthew 25:40,

". . . Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

Each one of us is precious in Christ sight.  He died for each and every one of us.  So when we come to dealing with each we must keep this in mind.  There is no one above another.  Our care of the brethren should be the same care that Christ gives.  So Paul says,

(1 Cor 8:13)  "Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend."

Give Up Your Rights

This was a bold statement by Paul but nonetheless it was one which he could back up by personal example.  He now shifts into his second argument that these strong brethren should give up their intellectual rights for the sake of the brother.  That's why chapter nine is here to show that Paul had certain divine rights which he denied and all he was asking these brethren to do was to forego a little meat.  So he starts off asserting his apostleship.  He didn't want to magnify that office for himself but for sake of his argument, to put in contrast the great privileges which he had given up for the gospel of Christ.

(1 Cor 9:1-2)  "Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? {2} If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord."

And so he list some of his rights as an apostle.  The word "power" in the KJV is the Greek word "exousia".  It literally means power or authority and has been translated as "rights" in modern translations.  It is the same word "liberty" in 8:9.

(1 Cor 9:4-6)  "Have we not power to eat and to drink? {5} Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? {6} Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?"

To emphasis his divine right to receive payment for his preaching he reasons about soldiers and farmers and shepherds (v. 7) who receive reward for their labors, he turns to the Law of Moses, to the work of the Levitical priests (v. 13) and final to the greatest authority, our Lord (v. 14).  For Jesus Christ when he had sent out the seventy told them not to take any money but to receive with gladness what was given them for the laborer is worthy of his hire.  Yet for all this proof and his divine prerogative Paul accepted nothing for his work in the Lord.  Why?  It made it impossible for him to abuse that right and it made him chargeable to no man.  He was free to preach the gospel.

(1 Cor 9:18-19)  "What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power (right) in the gospel. {19} For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more."

He gave up certain unalienable rights to win as many to Christ as he could.  That was his whole purpose.  He was not writing this to receive reward or recognition.  He wasn't saying that any body else had to live like this.  He just wanted us to see his example.  We certainly have rights but it is the sin of humanism that justifies our rights over the common good of the body of Christ.

So Paul was in a great position.  He could be a Jew to the Jew.  That is, he could do the things of the Law and participate with the utmost regard for the things in Christ.  He knew the Law was complete but his conscience did allow him to practice the Law.  He could be without law (not compromising the truth) to them who are outside the Law.  He could preach to the Gentiles in the most vile of places to win some to Christ.  He realized the greater good.  He could be weak with the weak.  He intellectual was a strong brother but he could at any time sympathize and respect a weak brother.  If he went to that weak brothers house to have a meal it was not a problem to have a plate of veggies.

And in that whole list of people to whom he could be all things unto all men, there's one party missing.  There's one party not on the list. Paul could never be strong with the strong because he would never adopt that attitude.  Now I want you to hear that, they are not in that list, he never said 'to the strong I was strong' because that was never his spirit, and had he been strong with the strong, he could never be a Jew to the Jew, he could never be under the Law with those under the Law, he could never be among those without Law, and he certainly could never be with the weak. And when you paint yourself into a corner, with all the pretensions of righteousness, and look down with scorn upon lesser human beings, you've got yourself painted into a corner where you can do no good for any man and you'll finish up, nothing more or less than a bond slave to your own opinions and righteousness.

Now Paul talks about the discipline of an athlete.  He's asking these brethren to make some sacrifices.  To stop beating up on their brethren for a change and start beating up on themselves.  To put away all their pride, stubbornness and their insistence on their intellectual rights.  The RSV says in 1 Cor 9:27,

"but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."

We can all have knowledge but that's not going to get us to the kingdom.  It's that application of knowledge in love that will bring us the prize.  It's the subduing of ourselves so that others might be edified which counts.

Avoiding Temptation

Paul is not done yet.  He has two more powerful arguments to share with the Corinthians brethren who were so strong in their conscience to allow themselves to actually sit in the idols temple to eat this meat (1 Cor. 8:6).  But as we read we find that the weak become strong, and the strong become weak, simply because the timidity of the weak, not to go near that idolatrous sacrifice, was their defense!  It became their defense, and the flaunting of the strong of their intellectual privilege to partake of it, lead them into great danger.  And now the argument will turn particularly in this 10th chapter and be directed strait between the eyes of the strong!

He does this by way of type drawing lessons from the life of Israel in the wilderness.  They were types or lessons for them and for us but it is amazing how well it fit the Corinthian's situation.  He first off draws on the all encompassing aspects of the Israelites then and the ecclesia now.  He does this by emphasizing "all" five times in verses 1-4.  We all have baptized into Christ.  Christ died for each one of us.  We all partake of the emblems.  Yet it is a sad fact that not all of them, nor all of us, shall make it to the kingdom.  Just like Israel in the wilderness there were "some" who fell here and "some" (5 times, vs. 5-10) who sinned there.  It is the strong in this ecclesia who think they can go certain places, or watch certain things or listen to certain music that should heed Paul's exhortation.  What are those things in the world that will eventually ensnare us and draw us into sin?  For these Corinthians it was the temple with its idols and prostitute priestesses which if they weren't careful would be their downfall.

Each one of these four examples of Israel's sin started in the most subtle of ways.   They became idolaters because they "sat down to eat and drink, and [then] rose up to play."  The Corinthians justified their eating and drinking in the idol's temple.  Paul said they were in just as much danger as the Israelites.  The Israelites committed fornication and 23,000 died.  You go back in their history and see how this tragedy took time to develop as the Israelites gradually mixed themselves with the Midianites.  It says in Numbers 25:2 that "they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods; and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods." It's the same thing---all about eating and idolatry.  It came to the point that a prince of Simeon brought one of these prostitute daughters of Midian into the camp and was slain by Phinehas.  Some of them tempted Christ, that is, they loathed the light bread, the manna.  They wanted something new---something exciting.  They wanted a nice juicy steak.  The idol temple restaurant was a great place with lots of excitement.   For this the Lord sent fiery serpents and much people of Israel died.  Finally, some of the children of Israel murmured against Moses as you could imagine the murmurings of the some of these Corinthians as they realized Paul's argument was against them. Is he saying we could be as stupid as the Israelites were?  Yes.

Now all these things were ensamples.  They were written for our admonition.  We are living in the last days and we have to pay particular attention to this exhortation.

(1 Cor 10:12)  "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."

That was written to the strong, brothers and sisters.  So often we don't think about what we do.  We think we can do anything and that it won't affect us.  Paul doesn't think so.  You see he continues on in verse 13,  "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man:"  Do you know, that as strong as you think you are, you are susceptible to temptation as the weakest brother in the meeting.  Temptation is common to man, not to certain types of men, but to all men!

(1 Cor 10:13)  ". . . but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."

Don't misunderstand this verse.  It is not saying that God will somehow give you the will power to endure through temptation.  As if you could sit there and struggle and say I won't, I won't do it, I know God will keep me strong.  It's not about that at all because it says God will "make a way to escape... Wherefore my dearly beloved, FLEE from idolatry."  Get out right now.  If you are in a dangerous situation get out of it right now.  If you have a temptation in your house, in your life, throw it out.  The best way to deal with sin is to not let the temptation start.  Don't let it get any foot hold in your life.

So you can see these Corinthian brethren sitting in the idol's temple, having a great meal.  All these sumptuous women walking around begging them to join in the service.  Come on says, Paul, you think you'll survive through that.  Yet brethren and sisters of our day can sit and watch movies or what ever it is with the worldliest of contents and say it wasn't that bad or it was funny.  I cannot help but think that Paul would have similar words for our ecclesias.

Concern for the Unbeliever's Conscience

The final argument, the best for last.  The breaking of bread and wine is a very significant act for us.  We all do it together.  "We bless" the cup and "we break" the bread.  We all realize that this is special and each one of us realizes that when we do this together, eating together with Christ, that this act makes us one.

Now what are the Gentiles to think when you partake of their idolatrous meat.  Sure an idol is nothing and you don't have a problem with it but what about that Gentile who worships demons?  Won't they think that you're in fellowship with them?  And the unbeliever thinks, "I thought that Christadelphians were different?  I thought they had different standards then we do? I never thought they'd come into the church like this and not worry about what we believe, they must have an open fellowship!"  That's what they're thinking.  It's as real to them that they're in fellowship with the idol as it is with you when you went to the memorial supper.  And you cannot erase that from their mind and therefore, when you're going up there, you may not feel in fellowship, but you are!  Now that is a powerful argument!

The same things can happen in our life, brothers and sisters.  What message are we sending to those out in the world?  Do they notice a difference?  Could they tell just by your actions and your talk that you are religious?  That were not immersed in the same culture as they are?  Yes, we have every freedom in Christ, all things are lawful, but all things do not edify.  Think about what signals you are sending.  Be aware about what others might be thinking.  Do not seek things for your own benefit but for the edification of others.


The conclusion of the whole matter is given by Paul in chapter 10:31-33,

"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."

Now, if everybody took that advice, when we walk through the doors of the ecclesial hall at a business meeting in particular, and other meetings; if we thought to ourselves about our strong opinions, we'd say to ourselves, will it help, and will it build up?  And if we governed what we said and stayed by those two principles, we would have a positive outcome to that meeting.  Will it help? is it expedient? and will it edify and build up? And that's what Paul is saying to you.  Total abstinence is not always necessary but you've got to question yourself as to what is going to be the impact of what you say and do.

Now we come before the memorials to examine ourselves.  Paul says in the next chapter 11:29, "For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body."  Discerning the Lord's body is not some intellectual exercise on the atonement.  It is distinguishing the needs of your brothers and sisters, the body of Christ.  It is examining yourself to see how you fit into the one body.  Are you a strong brother or a weak brother?  Do your actions destroy, or are they stagnant, or do they edify, positively building up the body of Christ?  Now is the time to ask yourself that question.