Wednesday, 27 August 2014
But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 1 Corinthians 8:12
This verse begins with “but” which is set in contrast to what he just said. The preceding verse asked, “And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?” The answer is actually stated by Paul in an interesting way. No, they won’t “perish” in the sense of a loss of salvation as follows below:
“When you sin against the brethren” implies that we have caused an offense to occur. This person is weaker in their knowledge and thus more prone to falling or failing than another may be. Their lack of knowledge may cause them to act against their conscience in a matter that they are unsure of. Paul shows in Romans that any action which isn’t in faith is sin –
“But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.” Romans 14:23
Therefore, to act in a manner contrary to conscience (which means that faith is lacking in action) is to act in sin. The conscience is wounded because there is a lack of proper understanding and this has led to an action which was taken which was not in faith. What is immensely important in this is that “when you sin against the brethren” in this way “you sin against Christ.” The person is “in” Christ, having been saved by Him and having been brought into the family of God.
John Chrysostom asks, “What can be more ruthless than a man who strikes one who is sick?” What is needed is the healing power of right doctrine, not an arrogant display of knowledge about freedoms in Christ which are not clearly understood by the weaker brother. To sin against another believer (in this or any way) is to actually sin against Christ. In this case, it was because of an exercise of knowledge instead of a demonstration of love. What is needed is to instruct in right knowledge (which is certainly loving) and then to act together as faithful believers in Christ and in adherence to His words.
Understanding this verse confirms that the previous verse was not speaking of a loss of salvation. Paul had asked “shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?” His answer is implicitly “No.” The reason is because if we sin against Christ when we sin against the brother, it implies that the brother is “in Christ.” If he is “in Christ” then he is safely in that position. The offense affects both the weaker brother and Christ. In essence, it would be no less possible for that weaker brother to lose their salvation than it would for it to happen to Christ.
Life application: When we are saved, we move from Adam to Christ. We are once and forever united to Him and are positionally “in Christ.” Therefore, when we sin against another believer, the offense is also against Christ. This is a sobering thought for us to consider and to remember. Let us act charitably towards those who are the redeemed of the Lord as we conduct our affairs.
Heavenly Father, to be “in Christ” is the sweetest place to be. We are covered by the most precious Sacrifice. We are granted and given the most beautiful Garment. We are seated in the most sacred place. We have the greatest Defender and the most marvelous Mediator. We are secure in the mightiest hand and uplifted by the Giver of all grace. There is no end to the glory of what Jesus has done for us. To be in Christ is the sweetest place of all. Thank You for this honor. Hallelujah and Amen!