In the Gospels, Jesus says the “Great Commandment” is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself (e.g., Mark 12:29–30). Indeed, it is impossible to love God and hate others (1 John 4:20–21). Just the same, it is ultimately unloving to do good to others without reference to the God of love; true love labors and suffers to increase another’s joy in the love of God.
This week our sermon considered this intersection, how knowing God means loving God and then loving others. In the context of 1 Corinthians 8, love for God looks like rejecting culturally-acceptable idols and sacrificing our own rights to serve the needs of others, especially our church family. You can listen to the sermon here or read the outline here.
Below you can find discussion questions and further resources on the love of God and fighting idolatry in our day.
1 Corinthians 8:1–13
This week we focused on 1 Corinthians 8:1–6, but to understand the larger context of Paul’s instructions about knowledge, it is imperative to see how loving God (vv. 1–6) feeds into loving others (vv. 7–13).
1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
These questions are keyed to Sunday’s sermon and are written to help facilitate discussion on 1 Corinthians 8:1–6.
- How did idolatry challenge the Corinthians? How does idolatry confront us today?
- Knowledge is good when it leads to love? What pollutes knowledge? Why does learning often lead to pride? How can we let knowledge strengthen faith and increase love, instead of pride? (Hint: Read 2 Peter 1:3–11)
- The Corinthians had a right theology and wrong practice. How does that happen? How can we grow in applying the biblical truth we know? (Hint: What community is Paul writing to? Who celebrates the Lord’s Supper? Where are gifts to be exercised?)
- Read verse 6. How does Paul apply Deuteronomy 6:4 to Jesus Christ? Or in the other direction, how does Christ ‘fit’ into the doctrine of God as one?
- What is different between (the religion of) false gods/idols and the true God? What kind of love do idols promise? What love does God promise?
- What is the effect of meditating on God as triune? as the only true God? as a personal God of love?
- What would you say to the person who says: “I don’t feel God’s love, so how can I know his love?” (Hint: Where does God first and best demonstrate his love? See John 3:16; Romans 5:8–11)
- The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D. A. Carson — a stimulating and short book on the various ways God loves.
- The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer — no better book to begin a study of loving God with all your mind.
- Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters by Timothy Keller
- What is Love? by John Piper
- The Love of God by D. A. Carson
- Twenty Idol Crushing Questions by Tim Keller (via J. A. Medders)
Soli Deo Gloria, ds