A Study in Sarcasm

Meat Sacrificed to Idols

Those who are truly "smart" make themselves known to the Almighty not through knowledge about the Almighty , but relationship with the Almighty . The loving relationship developed with the Almighty necessarily extends to other children of the Almighty as well.

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1 Corinthians 8; Jeremiah 6:9-16

INTO THE CONTEXT AND BACKGROUND

(1 Corinthians 8 NRSV) Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that "all of us possess knowledge." Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. {2} Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; {3} but anyone who loves the Almighty is known by him.

A. "Knowledge Puffs Up" Used Out of Context

1. How the phrase is usually used - as referring to education. Fact is, I've got eight years of higher education, but I can catch a moon pie no better that someone with no education at all!

2. Vs. 2: Those who say they are smart are not smart enough to know the Almighty through knowledge

3. Vs. 3: Those who are truly "smart" make themselves known to the Almighty not through knowledge about the Almighty , but relationship with the Almighty . The loving relationship developed with the Almighty necessarily extends to other children of the Almighty as well.

4. In other words, Paul sets the whole teaching up by implying that, though a person might have much knowledge, she doesn't necessarily have any wisdom to use it if she doesn't know the character of her the Almighty .

{4} Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that "no idol in the world really exists," and that "there is no Almighty but one." {5} Indeed, even though there may be so-called the Almighty s in heaven or on earth--as in fact there are many the Almighty s and many lords-- {6} yet for us there is one the Almighty , the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Yahshua Messiah , through whom are all things and through whom we exist. {7} It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge.

B. Knowledge as Gnosis

1. Some Believer s thought they had their doctrine all together. They reasoned, if there was only one the Almighty , and these idols were not the Almighty s, then the sacrifice of the meat to idols had really accounted for nothing, and could be eaten in good conscience.

2. It's to this notion that Paul becomes sarcastic, calling them "The Strong." In other words, they thought they were strong because they believed the right things about the Almighty - that the Almighty is one and thus there are no other powers but the Almighty .

3. Paul contrasts these "strong" Believer s with the so-called "Weak" - those who felt that eating polluted meat was sinful and against the will of the Almighty . They believed this was true not because of their doctrinal knowledge, but because of their close relationship with the Almighty - that the Almighty was jealous for them as he was jealous for the Israelites, and he wouldn't stand for such divided loyalty & affection.

Again, the "strong" believed they could eat polluted food because of what they knew. The "weak" believed they could not eat because of who they knew.

Before we go on, let's consider the original question again.

C. Food Polluted Through Religion?

1. What About Meat Sacrificed to Idols? Listen to what Paul says about it two chapters later:

(1 Cor 10:18-23 NRSV) Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? {19} What do I imply then? That food sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? {20} No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to the Almighty . I do not want you to be partners with demons.

{21} You cannot drink the cup of Yahweh and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of Yahweh and the table of demons. {22} Or are we provoking Yahweh to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

Here Paul definitely condemns eating meat sacrificed to idols. Because idols are not merely non-existent - no - idols are demons - evil, unclean spiritual beings including malevolent, fallen angels masked to resemble gods. Yes, these gods were actually demonic "maskers."

How can a person partake in a pagan, unrighteous practices like the sacrifice to demons and then go to the table of Yahshua for Devoted Communion? Paul says that doing so may provoke Yahweh to action against you! And it's very wise to fear the One who can cast you soul and body into Gey-Hinnom!

2. Consider now the Ancient Religious World - polygamous with a panoply of idols. Such religions were called "Mysteries" (Rev. 17:5) or "Mystical Societies."

a. The Mystery Religions were Secret Societies in which animals were sacrificed in rituals to placate demons that the worshipers thought to be the powerful gods (10:20).

b. Meat-eating, then, became a Tool of Evangelism for these cults. Common folks ate mainly oat meal, barley bread, olives, wine, and a little fish. An invitation to eat a sumptuous banquet in such a poor time was a real treat. What "knowledgeable" person would turn down such an opportunity, especially when meat was in such scarce supply?

c. Ancient Greek texts preserve invitations (sent to righteous people) to eat idol meat in pagan temples for various occasions:

(1) Chaeremon requests your company at dinner at the table of lord Sarapis in the Sarapeum tomorrow, the 15th, at 9 o'clock.

(2) Apollonius requests you to dine at the table of Yahweh Sarapis on the occasion of the coming of age of his brothers in the temple of Thoeris.

d. After the meal there would be a drinking party. After dinner the women normally present were those who entertained or acted as 'companions.' The dinner and partying would decay into a drunken orgy. Ahh... here's the problem with eating meat in the temple of an idol - not so much the meat itself, but the circumstances in which the meat was eaten - in the demonic, immoral atmosphere of revelry, debauchery, and mayhem. Sex, drug and booze parties may be fun, but your attendance is not pleasing to the Almighty and may get you killed.

3. Quintilian, a teacher who lived in the time of Paul, expresses concern about the attendance of young people at these orgies of gluttony in one of his surviving books. Quintilian writes:

[The young (or perhaps the weak in knowledge)] see our mistresses and lackeys; every dinner party is loud with dirty songs, and things are presented to their eyes of which we should blush to speak. The poor children learn these things before they know them to be wrong. They become luxurious and effeminate.

4. So The Real Concern of Paul Was:

What were Believers doing in such places, among such company - among the immoral, the drunkard, the pervert, the idolater? For "bad company ruins good morals" - not only the morals of Believers who reveled in such unsavory events, but also the younger, weaker believers who were looking to these "strong" ones for an example.

6. Yes, these libertarian "Believers" who believed themselves so full of knowledge, so "strong," they thought it would be all right in the eyes of our Sovereign to go into such profligate places without incurring his disfavor, since they had all the right head-knowledge, thinking that the Almighty 's grace was sufficient not only to cleanse their sin, but also to continually overlook it.

7. Indeed, Paul cautions such to:

{9} take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. ... {11} For by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Messiah died are destroyed. {12} But when you thus sin against members of your family ... you sin against Messiah.

And this warning takes us into an understanding of what this scripture about eating meat sacrificed to idols might mean for us in the here and now.

THE APPLICATION TODAY

A. Spiritual or Theological Elitism Condemned:

Do you think you've got more of the Almighty than your neighbor because you know more? Or because you've been a Methodist longer? Or a member of the church since 19 six? Or because you've got the Holy Ghost and nobody else has? Then consider Messiah, who came not for the strong among us, but for the weak. To act as a spiritual elite is to set a stumbling block against your family in Messiah and thus to sin against Messiah personally.

Karl Barth's Confession - "Yahshua loves me; this I know for the Bible tells me so."

B. Life Ought To Reflect Righteous Values

1. Quintilian - "things are presented to their eyes of which we should blush to speak."

Jer 6:{15} [The Israelites] acted shamefully, they committed abomination; yet they were not ashamed, they did not know how to blush. ...

Let us who sin, sin again, repent, and go on.

2. But go on to what?

{16} Thus says Yahweh: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.

STAND AT THE CROSSROADS AND LOOK -

I met 'Jesus' at the crossroads,
where the two ways meet.
Satan, he was standing there,
he said now come this way -
Lots and lots of goodies
I will give to you today!
But I said, "No! There's Yahshua here -
See what he offers me:
A home down here to live in
And one up there in Heaven;
Praise Yah, that's the place for me!"

Are you comfortable in the stench of the pig sty?

Succinctly, Peter tells us we must take the devoted road:

He who called you is devoted, be devoted yourselves in all your conduct" (1 Pet 1:15)

3. This is not only for our sakes and good conscience before the Almighty , but also for the sakes of the young and weak and new among us.  We are in the business of witness evangelism through our witness to Messiah. As one of our Korean Bishops has rightly observed:

"If we don't transform the world, we will be transformed by the world. Evangelism means transformation."

In what direction are you being transformed? In the direction of the world and its evil and unseemliness? Or in the direction of the perfection of our blessed Savior? Stand; seek the old ways, the good ways; walk in them; be an example of the faith of the Almighty to others; find rest.

C. Finally, we learn that The Table of Yahweh Is Sacred...

{21} You cannot drink the cup of Yahweh and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of Yahweh and the table of demons.

My friend, you will never get away with it.  Come to the table with clean hands and a clean heart.  {Conclude with communion}

Jackson Snyder, February 2, 1997

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