Loving God By Loving Others (1 Corinthians 8:7–13)

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A chapter on “meat sacrificed to idols” may not, at first glance, look like the most relevant subject for us modern technophiles, but as is always the case—the eternal Word of God is living and active and never dull in bringing piercing insight to our lives. In 1 Corinthians 8 Paul addresses the strong and weak consciences of the Corinthian believers and challenges those with “knowledge” (a key idea in this chapter) to use that gift to care for and edify their weaker members in the church.

This chapter is one of a few key passages that deal with conscience (the others include Romans 14–15; Galatians 2; and Colossians 2). It also shows how love must be worked out in matters where Scripture does not give a specific command. From the love God has shown us in Christ, we are to love in steadfast and sacrificial ways, to people who are not like us, with the goal of spiritual unity and edification.

In preparation for this message I found great help from a book on the conscience (Conscience by Andy Naselli and J.D. Crowley) and from considering the the nature of idolatry and meals in Corinth. You can find a few reflections on Naselli’s book here and notes on the culture here.  For further reflection, you can listen to the sermon, read the sermon notes, or discuss the questions and resources below. Continue reading

All Together at the Lord’s Table

eat[This article also appeared on our church website as a Lord’s Supper meditation]. 

In marriage a husband pledges to love and serve his wife, while the wife responds by promising to love and submit to her husband. The vows are made individually, but in context, they blend together to create a melodic harmony that binds the couple together.

Something similar can be said of our relationship with the Lord. In response to the gospel, each person must individually respond, but not in their own self-styled way. Repentance from sin and belief in the Lord Jesus Christ are the only way we enter into covenant relationship with God.

For this reason, the new covenant is singular not plural; all who find salvation enter into the same covenant. And since the new covenant has been given to the church made up of Jews and Gentiles, it is in the local church where we enjoy and experience the new covenant together. Continue reading

A Debt of Love: How God’s Grace Makes Us Debtors with an Infinite Bank Account

love1Owe no one anything, except to love each other, . . .
 – Romans 13:8a –

Proverbs repeatedly instructs us to reject financial commitments that make us slave to the lender (Prov 22:7). It is good stewardship to buy what we can pay for and not to spend more than we have. But what would happen if you received an infinite inheritance? What kind of moral obligation would you have “spread the wealth”?

Imagine that the unbeknownst to you an oil baron died and left you all of his fortune. Though never communicated to you, your father had saved this man’s life by sacrificing his own. Indebted to your father, this tycoon had promised to one day repay his kindness. With no children of his own, he decided on his death bed to give his “saviors” children his entire estate.

What would you think? Surely, this windfall would provide you an endless supply—more than you could ever exhaust. If such a boon came your way, how would you employ this vast treasure? Would you live a life of unfettered hedonism? Or would you strive to follow in the footsteps of your father and improve the lives of others? Continue reading

Brotherly Affection Must Endure

hebrews 13Brotherly affection protects one another’s purity and provides for those in need. But for it to make lasting impact, it must also endure.

Endurance

In the same context where Paul speaks of doing good to everyone (Gal 6:10), especially to those in the church, Paul says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9).

To exercise brotherly affection is exhausting, and the authors of Scripture know it. To crucify the flesh and resist the pull towards impurity is hard. To give one self for the spiritual and physical needs of another is even more grueling.

For that reason Scripture commands us to “let brotherly love continue” (Heb 13:1). Continue reading

Brotherly Affection Provides For Others

brotherly love

Love one another with brotherly affection.
— Romans 12:10a —

Provision

Brotherly affection not only relates to purity, but also to provision.

When I moved to seminary, the Lord impressed on me the importance of working harder and longer. Impelled by Ephesians 4:28, I realized that I needed to work more hours so I could eat, pay for school, give to others, and not be a “mooch.”

I would suggest that this attitude of laboring for the sake of others is part of what it means to love one another with brotherly affection. In the context of Romans 12:10, brotherly affection is followed by the command to “Outdo one another in showing honor.” This doesn’t directly apply to money or giving, but certainly we honor one another with our wealth—with the ability to give to others.

With brotherly affection, we are to look out for ways to meet the needs of our family. Continue reading

Brotherly Affection Protects the Purity of One Another

fine artPhiladelphia is well-known as the city of  “brotherly love.” But before early Colonialists planted that city, the apostles Paul, Peter, and the author of Hebrews used the word philadelphia to speak of the way fellow Christians should love one another.

What does brotherly love mean? Romans 12:10 speaks plainly, “Love one another with brotherly affection” (philadelphias).  But how do we do that? By looking at the six uses of the word in the New Testament, we learn that brotherly love protects one anothers purity, provides for one another’s needs, and endures in both of these ennobling graces.

Today we’ll consider the purity of brotherly affection. Tomorrow we’ll turn to protection.  Continue reading

All the One Anothers: Streams of Light from the Prism of Christ’s Love

lightOn Sunday I preached on Psalm 133, emphasizing how the local church is one body in Christ and individually members one of another (cf. Rom 12:5). While not using the words “one another,” Psalm 133 speaks of the family of God dwelling together in Christian unity. This is the foundation of all the one another commands.

We can’t begin to obey the Lord’s commands towards one another until we begin to see ourselves as united in Christ. But neither can we manage to love one another until we see what that love looks like. This Sunday we will consider John 13:34–35 and Jesus’ new commandment to love another.

To help you consider the content of the one anothers, I would suggest that “Love One Another” is the main command and that all others explicate this first and great command. While the New Testament lists three dozen one another commands, these are not 36 disparate injunctions. Rather, they are various but united manifestations of the love God pours out into our heart. They are the colorful streams of light that shine from the one prism of Christ’s love.

While each command deserves its own consideration, it is worth observing that the multitude of commands can be generally classified under five headings. In what follows I have listed each passage under one of these five headings. In the weeks ahead I hope to look at each passage individually.

  1. Love One Another
  2. Be at Peace with One Another
  3. Show Hospitality to One Another
  4. Do Good and Not Evil to One Another
  5. Edify One Another

Continue reading