This psychological process of accommodation is the basis of the long strategy to make sin acceptable. The first time a Christian encounters sexual sin he is repulsed. It is dismissed without consideration because of the biblical prejudice against it.
Make no mistake that the Bible is prejudiced against all forms of sin, as it should be. Prejudice is not a bad thing. I am prejudiced against getting run over by a truck, and against drinking poison, against theft and against extortion, and a host of other things. I don’t have to experience such things to know about them.
The Bible is not a balanced and objective philosophical treatise, it is simply true. Truth is not balanced and objective, where balanced means taking into consideration many perspectives and objective means not having a particular point of view. God does not have many perspectives, though we must not neglect the diversity of the Trinity. God has a particular point of view, and what is more, He wants us to share that particular point of view because it provides the only means of having a sustainable relationship with Him. God is not interested in examining the various points of view about a thing. He already knows what is right and what is wrong. God does not want us considering or thinking about things are are wrong (evil) in order to make some objective evaluation of them. God has already evaluated everything, and we are to follow God’s determinations provided in Scripture.
Paul raises two questions that must be kept together. “For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?” (1 Corinthians 10:29-30). They are actually the same question phrased differently in order to make a particular point. Again, Paul is not just asking questions as if he expects an answer. He is raising questions to make a point.
The point is that the relationship that Christians have with one another is more important than the exercise of our right to do whatever we want. If I give thanks to God for some food that has been dedicated to idols, knowing that I am free in Christ to eat it without fear of the contamination of idolatry, then why does that freedom lead to my condemnation by others who are equally free in Christ, but who are still fearful of being contaminated by sin. Clearly, these weaker Christians are at fault for not believing or trusting in the power and authority of Jesus Christ to protect them from the false power of false gods.
And yet, while all of this is true, Paul makes the point that we must forgo our personal freedom in order to maintain a relationship of trust and unity with those whose faith is not as strong as ours. Paul’s point is that the bond of fellowship in the church is more important than our individual freedoms in Christ. The freedom to eat a particular food or to exercise a momentary pleasure pales in comparison with our responsibility to maintain the bond of fellowship with others who are not as far along as we are. Our greater responsibility is to help teach them the fullness of God’s truth. But we cannot do that if people do not trust us. Our freedom in Christ cannot be used to disrupt the solidarity or unity of the church.
The point is that Christian freedom is not simply the freedom to do whatever you want, but is the freedom to do what Christ wants you to do. The point is not that Christians are free from God to follow their own hearts or the cultural expectations of their society, but (arsy varsy) that Christians are free from the cultural expectations of their society to follow the dictates of God.
Why would Christians want to be free from God or free from doing what pleases God? Why would you not want to do what pleases God? We love God. We honor the Lord. We are followers of Jesus Christ, obedient to the will of Jesus Christ, whose ministry enabled and enforced the will of God in Scripture without changing a jot or tittle of God’s law (Matthew 5:18). In Christ Christians want to live in obedience to Scripture. If you don’t want to live in such obedience, you need to reevaluate your love for Jesus Christ and your understanding of the gospel. If you are not willing to forsake a meal for the sake of your brothers and sisters in Christ, how could you possibly be willing to take up your cross and follow Jesus into persecution?
“These things I command you, so that you will love one another. If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me (John 15:17-21).”
Paul was saying that Christians who are hell-bent on exercising their own freedom in Christ without regard for its effect upon others — even if they are ultimately theologically correct, even if those effected are wrong in their understanding of Christian freedom, should not be viewed as leaders because their leadership is self-centered rather than other-centered. Christian leadership is not self-centered. Freedom without regard for others is divisive and is not in harmony with God’s call for Christian unity and service. Again, service trumps freedom.
In summary of this section on Christian freedom that began in chapter eight, Paul says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:31-33).
We are to give God glory in everything that we say and do. God is the first priority of a Christian. Pleasing God and serving God are our first priorities. Jesus said, “do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-34). Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Keep this in mind because the next thing that Paul said can come into conflict with the idea of pleasing and serving God. What did he say? “Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God” (1 Corinthians 10:32). But the Jews were terribly offended by Jesus and by Paul. Paul offended the Greeks on Mars Hill, and just about everywhere he went. And now Paul was in the midst of offending the church at Corinth as he called them from apostasy to faithfulness. So how are we to understand this? How can we put God first without offending the world? We can’t.