Tuesday, 26 August 2014
And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 1 Corinthians 8:11
This is speaking of those with a weak conscience who may be motivated to act in a manner contrary to their conscience by eating “those things offered to idols.” If this happens, Paul says that “because of your knowledge” it will inevitably cause an offense to occur. This is written as a question – “…shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?” However, some scholars argue that it is emphatic even if a question. Many translations actually cite is as an affirmative statement, such as the ESV – “And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.”
In other words, it is an predictable occurrence where one action follows another. In the weaker brother our actions will cause inevitable harm. However, what should be considered is what it means when he writes “perish.” There is no doubt that he is speaking of someone who is already a believer. The term “brother” is used and this indicates someone already in the faith. Further, the fact that Paul is referring to a weak conscience implies a believer as well. There is a conscience concerning Christ, but it is not a developed one.
So does the word “perish” imply a loss of salvation? The answer is, “No.” There are several thoughts to support this notion. The first is that though he speaks as if something is leaning toward an occurrence, it doesn’t mean the thing will actually occur (meaning a loss of salvation).
Secondly, though it says (as the ESV translates it “this weak person is destroyed”), is this referring to the whole individual or to the faith of the individual? Is the person’s faith being used as representative of the person? This is the case because elsewhere a believer is noted as having “forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:9). It is also confirmed by Paul’s coming words on the issue.
Thirdly, just because one thing typically will follow another, it is in no way conclusive that such a thing will inevitably follow, but that it is the normal, natural, and likely result of such a thing. Considering that a person is sealed with the Holy Spirit, that which is natural can (and will) be negated by the greater spiritual act which previously occurred.
It is sure that nowhere else does Paul ever indicate that a believer could lose their salvation. And the contrary is true. The sealing of the Holy Spirit upon belief (Ephesians 1:13, 14) is a “guarantee.” The one who has placed their faith in Christ, weak though it may be, is saved by His work. He truly is a brother “for whom Christ died.” If Christ died for this person, then Christ also lives for that person. He will ensure a good end results. The next verse will absolutely confirm this.
An excellent connecting verse to this one is found in Romans. Our actions, especially towards our fellow brothers, should be seen in a positive and edifying light. Here is how he states this –
“Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:16, 17
Life application: Jesus died for all. Those who receive this gracious offer become children of God and are sealed with the Holy Spirit. Is it worth destroying the faith of such a person over our actions, particularly what foods we are willing to eat? We generally eat three times a day and the meal is forgotten as soon as it is done. Let us not consider such a temporary thing as worth harming the faith of another believer!
Precious Lord Jesus, You fulfilled the law on my behalf. You paid the penalty for my sins, and You went to the cross in order to do that. But You also did that for all people. Those who have received this gracious offer are now God’s children and fellow believers. Would it be right for my actions to destroy the faith of one of them? If You died for them, then I should be working to edify them, not tear them down. And so help me with this Lord. Help me to rightly instruct them and to be a good example of mixing knowledge with love. I know that with this, You will be pleased. Amen.