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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010
To the Glory of God.
I was having a religious discussion with a Muslim friend, who in describing Muslim forms of worship gave the example of moving a salt shaker on the table from point A to point B. He said that if he moved the salt shaker mindlessly, according to his own capricious whim, or even according to some pragmatic function, that the gesture, spiritually speaking, was inert or neutral. If however, he determined in his mind to worship Allah in moving the salt shaker from point A to point B, then by virtue of his mind set, it was indeed an act of worship.

I do not hold my friend up as a spokesperson for all of Islam, but I will say this much, he is not a wishy-washy liberal Muslim, but devout and sincere, more so that many Christians I know.

Having set the stage, let me say that I presume that there must be some Christians who would see the distinction given by my Muslim friend, as parallel to what the Holy Spirit commands through Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:31 ("Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."). That is, these Christians would interpret the command to "do all (i.e. whatever you do) to the glory of God" as meaning that when you engage in some pragmatic activity, you can turn it into an act of worship by focusing on how thankful you are, or again, by focusing on how much you love or appreciate God while you are doing whatever it is you are doing.

Thus, the act itself is "sanctified" because as you performed the action you were simultaneously engaged in "worshipping" God.

The question is, is that what it means to do all things to the glory of God? Does the run-of-the-mill Muslim worship his Allah according to a co-opted Christian formula, or does the run-of-the-mill Christian attempt to worship God according to a counterfeit practice?

To begin to answer this question and develop a right practice from scripture, we need to ask ourselves what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 10:31.

In chapter eight Paul addresses the practice of eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols. Two thousand years ago, people didn't rightly understand the nature of food borne diseases found in meats. Such things as botulism and salmonella were attributed to spirits in the meat. It was believed that these same "spirits" which could be driven out of the meat if you sacrificed the meat to an idol, and the idol accepted your offering.

More than a few new converts to Christianity (in Corinth at least) continued (presumably in their ignorance) to buy meat that had been sacrificed to (i.e. cleansed by) idols, even after they had become believers. Of course, as Paul explained, idols were nothing, and the food that was offered on them was no better for you than food that hadn't been offered on them.

Paul's teaching then was that meat that had been sacrificed to idols was no different (functionally) from meat that had not been sacrificed to idols. Thus a knowledgeable Christian was at his liberty to eat any meat set before him, free from the fear that the meat had been "spiritually tainted" by having been sacrificed to an idol, since there was, in fact, idols were less than dead, having no life in them, and no power to affect the meat that is naively offered on them. This was the "liberty" of a knowledgeable believer.

Yet this liberty, Paul argued, ought to be set aside by the mature believer, for the benefit of the immature believer, if the latter should (in their immaturity) conclude that the former was eating sacrificed meat because there was some spiritual benefit to doing so. Better, argues Paul, to set aside our liberty if exercising it causes someone else (in their immaturity) to progress in their error.

Paul argues that in the same way a mature believer sets aside his liberty for the sake of the immature, when it comes to such things, so Paul, as an example of maturity, has set aside his right to reap material things from the congregation in Corinth. This failure to reap material things from the congregation at Corinth was being painted (by some) as proof that Paul lacked a legitimate claim to Apostolic authority. Paul demonstrates that it is not a lack of authority that causes him to set aside what is within his liberty to take, but rather a concern for the congregation at Corinth that rises out of both knowledge and especially maturity, that he acts in the way he acts for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of God's glory, that he becomes all things to all men in order that through doing so, God would be most glorified.

Stop and summarize that thought to yourself. Paul is saying that he set aside his liberty for God's glory. That for the sake of God's glory, Paul was not only willing, but compelled to set aside his own glory.

We must bring this context to bear on the passage that shortly follows this understanding, for Paul's habit is to write in a spiral that winds its way outward from the small, but easily understood examples, to the greater wider application where that understanding exists, but is less clear to those who, by virtue of ignorance or immaturity, are less inclined to see it on the surface.

Paul then begins in Chapter ten, to speak of those who had only their own glory in mind - those who were speaking out against Paul, comparing their practice to the practice of those who grumbled against Moses in the wilderness, and (likewise) perished on that account. Paul shows that the temptation presented to the Corinthians - the temptation to grumble against Paul, was not some new temptation, but a common one (as illustrated by the mention of the exact same thing having been done to Moses by the grumblers of his day).

As the spiral winds its way back round, Paul concludes, therefore, flee idolatry! He gives practical examples of how that would look - if some person invites you to go eat, do so! But if doing so would injure the conscience of an immature believer, then do not exercise your liberty at their expense. Paul was being slandered (c.f. 10:30) for eating food that had been offered up to an idol, hence the full explanation, and it is directly in the context of Paul's explanation that we read, "whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.".

Note that this command does not say or imply that you sanctify some action by simultaneously worshipping God as you do it. What it is saying is that if something you do does not glorify God, don't do it. Let it be a rule for yourself that whatever you do, should be done for God's glory.

That was Paul's argument. He wasn't eating food that had been sacrificed to idols because he thought these foods were cleansed thereby. He was engaged in "being all things to all men" at the time, for the sake of the gospel. That is the inference, and this Paul was doing, for the glory of God.

It may seem that I am going out on a limb here because there are enough Christians out there who honestly believe that the command in 1 Corinthians 10:31 is a command to "spiritualize" or "worshipalize" every trivial, pragmatic moment of the Christian life. These, having painted an impossible picture of Christian duty, thereafter live under a persistent, fellowship hindering guilt of failing to inject an extra-biblical notion of worship into every trivial thing they do.

Now listen: You ought to worship God all the time, but there is no way that having a "worshipful frame of mind" turns moving a salt shaker from point A to point B into an act that gives God glory. God may be glorified in your worship, but He has carefully explained how you are to worship him, and moving around salt shakers is -not- on that menu. It may sound all nice and spiritual, to "spiritualize" the trivial and mundane, but ultimately you end up with holy bowel movements, and, when allowed to run its full course, you get sanctified sin.

Other world religions buy into this junk, but what else do they have? As the keepers of truth, we cannot allow ourselves to lace a right understanding of scripture with extra-biblical gunk such as this.

Worship God in the beauty of His holiness. Do not be as Nadab and Abihu, bringing in strange fire, inventing your own bizarre forms of worship, but instead worship God according to scripture; and make sure you understand scripture, do not linger long in a superficial faith.


posted by Daniel @ 10:50 AM  
  • At 9:49 PM, May 26, 2010, Blogger JIBBS said…

    Excellent article, Daniel.

    I think there is a similar concept that is very prevalent in the church today, especially among the seeker/purpose driven churches. Perhaps it also would be something you could pour some thought into and write about.

    The teaching I'm referring to is the idea that to be a Christian, a "real" Christian, you must "Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind" and "love your neighbor as yourself". These, of course, are taken from Matthew 22:37-40. Almost all "preaching" now days hinges upon the Christian applying these commandments to every aspect of his or her life.

    The problem of course, is that this is Law. It is not Gospel. Jesus used these verses (quoting from Deuteronomy 10) to show us our sinfulness, and our consequent need for a Savior. He was not prescribing the a remedy to sin. Those 2 commandments were a SUMMARY of the entire Law. So, if we cannot keep the Law, why do modern day preachers go to a summary of the Law and tell those under their care to keep it??? It's astounding to me!!!! How many people are NOT coming to Christ because they think they are fulfilling these two commandments? I know many who do and I find it TRAGIC.

    I hope you can dig deep into this issue. It really weighs heavy on my heart.

    Thanks, brother.

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