Soli Deo Gloria
Growing up we would occasionally go out to eat. At some point we started going to one of my favorite places, Quincey’s. Home of the big fat yeast roll. I m not sure if they are still around but they were one of my favorite places. We would go to other restaurants and you might get a burger and fries, or you might get a fried shrimp dinner, but Quincy's was a buffet. I remember going there the first time, and you would get a tray and a couple plates, which felt weird and made me think was getting lunch from the school cafeteria. Each moment in that confusing line lowered my expectations for dinner. But then we got through the line and I turned and saw what seemed like miles of different food options. Excitement overflowed.They had pizza, bbq chicken, chicken wings, french fries, mash potatoes, burgers it seemed like everything God created was on that buffet line. Everyone in the family could find something for them. Even the salads had so much stuff to put on them, pineapple, eggs, cheese, bacon, and all the thousand island a man could want. That day my horizons were expanded.
Today I want to talk about something else that will hopefully expand your horizons, that will show you just how much gets opened up to you. I want to talk about the glory of God. At time in life our horizons get narrowed. Also in history the church has reduced what a person could and could not do. In the middle ages the church taught that if you really want to honor God then you need to be a priest or monk. This belittled all occupations outside of church employment. IT left many people feeling like what they did didn’t matter.
Before I was a Christian I didn’t think much of life really connected to serving and honoring God. I thought to do that you had to be a missionary or monk. When I became a Christian I was blown away hearing people talk about how to be a better salesman, or a better doctor, or how being Christian drove them to find new technologies for their customers. I thought that for so long the people who really honor God are priests, pastors, missionaries. Hearing this expanded my horizon. I want to look at a text that helps us see all of life gets purpose and direction by looking to the glory of God, and this can open your horizon on how you can honor God.
"All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For "the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience-- 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 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. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:23-1 ESV)
I want to look at two things that help us see all of life as significant and a means to serving God.
- Glorify God
Before this passage of Scripture Paul told the Corinthians to flee idolatry (10:14). Flee it like you would flee a city being invaded by an army. Flee it like a city about to be hit like a hurricane. Flee like you do in the backyard when you come across a yellow jacket nest. He talks about God’s displeasure with idolatry. Points out how in the OT God destroyed 23,000 people because they worshipped idols (v9). So what do you do when you go to the market to buy food and it has been sacrificed to an idol. What do you do when someone invites you to their house and the food they give you has been sacrificed to an idol? You are not actively worshipping the idol but are you too close to it.
Your initial thoughts, and what would have been the Jewish thought, is don’t go near it. The meat is unclean because it’s not according to Levitical law and its been sacrificed. How do you live in a culture like this? Do you feel the tension that might have been created here?
This is a bit of a foreign question to Americans. The Corinthian church lived in a place that idol worship was everywhere. It was difficult to buy meat that wasn’t offered to an idol. It would be hard to go to someone’s house and eat without it being sacrificed to an idol. What is one to do?
Paul quotes Psalm 24:1 that was frequently used in prayers, It says, “The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof…” (Psalm 24:1 ESV). He says those idols are nothing. Those gods are nothing. Don’t worship them, but also don’t be bound by them. Those people are worshipping something that doesn’t exist.
He says if you are invited to dinner, and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions.” v27. Will this demon overpower me? Will God hate me? Will he discipline me? Will he strike me down?
He takes a liberal view of the law. But this liberal view is very pro gospel and pro Christ. His liberality is caused by the gospel.
He does say that if they tell you it was sacrificed to idols then do not eat it. Not that your conscience be bound by another. He says it’s not good to condone their worship of false gods. If it is no big deal to them then it’s no big deal to you. Go and eat. I think this reflects Paul’s heart and probably Jesus example to go and dine with sinners. To be friends with them but not to indulge in false worship. He shows there is freedom in what they choose to do.
V31 is the main point of this passage. It shows what drives his eating or his not eating is the glory of God. Paul wanted to do what most glorified God. He could eat. Or he could not eat. It was permissible to go to the unbelievers house. It was permissible to not go. It was permissible to eat or not eat. Paul advises the Corinthians to do what glorifies God. The word “whatever” is so key. It shows the realm of Christian liberty. It’s not just when you go to church glorify God. Not just when you pray. Its whatever you do. It could be “everything” you do. We are to seek the glory of God in everything we do. When you eat. Who you eat with.
Everything Paul did was for the glory of God. When you get what Paul is talking about here you see a range of possibilities open up; it goes well beyond just eating food from the market place. You see a buffet of options to glorify God.
At any point in life there are probably an array of choices you could make. you could be a fireman or you could be a pastor. Pepperoni or anchovies on your pizza?? A doctor or used car salesman? A missionary or janitor? Nothing wrong with any of those. You could buy a house here or here. You could marry this girl or that girl. All are permissible. Paul says, whatever you do, do it to the glory of God.” do the thing you think will most honor him. There is not much difference of lifestyle between Paul the apostle and preacher and Paul the tentmaker.
Big things and Small things. We are talking about food and eating here. All of life. Follows pattern of food restricted by levitical law. Jesus makes all things clean. All things can be eaten. All people can be saved. There is a new way. Paul expounds on that here. All of life is to be done to the glory of God.
William Tyndale. “There is no work better than to please God; to pour water, to wash dishes, to be a cobbler, or an apostle, all is one, to wash dishes and to preach is all one, … While the washing of dishes and preaching the word of God represent different human activities, as touching to please God, there is no difference.
Martin Luther said changing a baby’s diaper is a holier work than that of all the monks in all the monasteries. A holy work! Why? Because the mother and father (yes, Luther specifically talked about fathers changing baby diapers) are loving and serving their child. In God’s eyes, this is holy. And so are the other works of the family life…
Abraham Kuper, the 19th century theologian and statesman from the Netherlands said, “No single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’1
Don’t hermetically seal off your life from your faith! Air tight. Great for your fritos but not your faith.
It anchors us. “The man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder-- a waif, a nothing, a no man.” philosopher Thomas Carlyle.
What drives what you do? Motivates. Priority! What steers you from certain things and towards others. God first. Others second. Calendar? Bank account? Some things are incompatible with life with Christ and must be shunned. Dont worship idols. That is clear. But other things are of no consequence.
The 16th century reformers who brought the church back to its true purpose had a saying called soli deo gloria. To God alone be the glory. They wanted everything to be done for God and his glory. Not for other people, popes, priests, saints, friends, but for God and God alone. That is what they sought to have people do. And when people got this it showed how all of life mattered.
God’s glory was most important to Paul. First things first. What is most important to you?
Johann Sebastian Bach, arguably the greatest composer in the history of Western music and a man whose staunch Lutheran faith informed his life, his career, and his view of music. He believed that music was a "refreshment of spirit," as some of the title pages of his works stated. He believed that music was a powerful tool for the proclamation of the gospel, as his cantatas, Passions, organ chorales, and other compositions clearly show. And ultimately, he believed that music brought glory to God, as the initials SDG (Soli Deo Gloria, "To God alone be glory") at the end of most of his scores bear witness.
The lines of our freedom.
The glory of God opens up an array of options and things for us to do. For Paul our freedom in Christ is not absolute. It is conditioned and constrained by the will of God and also the good of neighbor. Scripture repeatedly put the good of neighbor above our own good.
First everything must be to the glory of God,
These options are within the context of the law, just like within the Quincy’s restaurant was an array of options. I couldn’t go outside, and frankly didn’t want to bc i was fully satisfied within. We begin to see that everything is an opportunity to glorify God. Big things like taking a mission trip to Malta or Thessalonica.
second it must give no offense to anyone, jew, pagan, fellow believer, etc. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. (1Co 10:24 ESV). Gone with the Wind.
If there was another with Paul who would struggle seeing him eat, even though the idol was nothing, Paul chose not to eat. He did what most helped his brother. What matters most is that you be sold out to God.
Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. We are to seek the good of others. What would build them up and strengthen them. Not our own good but the good of others.
We see our freedom, and where there is freedom let’s be slow to judge others. Don’t Lord it over others what they can and cannot do. One person may be able to wear drive a sports car and another’s conscience may not let him. We don’t force people to do things or to conform to what we are like. We want them to conform to god in their own unique way.
- Redeem the World.
Paul has a focus on the ultimate good of his neighbor, not just that they feel welcomed and included in a meal, but he wants to see them know Christ. He let nothing deter him from that. Paul didn’t let the sacrifice of idols keep him from reaching others. “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.” (1Co 10:33 ESV). He followed Christ’s example and called us to follow him.
We need to be wise in the situations we put ourselves, but we want to go after things in order to see people and the world redeemed. They sacrificed to an idol. You are not bound by their evil. You are not bound by the way others twist things. When I was studying physical therapy in undergrad I had to take a number of science class, which I loved, but I had friends who didn’t want to take them for fear that the influence of atheist teachers would influence them. You have to do what your conscience allows, but I didn’t see the problem was with science but with their presuppositions and prejudices. The solution wasn’t to avoid science but to do it right, to God’s glory. The same is the case with philosophy. It can challenge your faith, but we want to redeem it and think rightly about a number of topics. Sales. There is always something to run from or fear.
Do you ever see something done wrong and want nothing to do with it? Aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t look at the world and say man that is messed up. Those dudes didn’t worship me. I m done. He loved the world and he came to redeem the world.
Paul didn’t eat just to enjoy his favorite meal, he ate to proclaim Christ. Paul did good to people in his work not merely that they might enjoy better tents but that they might be saved. He wanted to see those people saved. So too here he wants to see those eating food sacrificed to idols worshipping God with their hearts. He wants their lives redeemed. “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.” (1Co 10:33 ESV)
When you have that disposition you enter into situations to see people changed. Let Christ define what you do. Jesus gives a mission far greater than a paycheck or job promotion to live for.
When soldiers and tax collectors came to John the baptist, he didn’t tell them to abandon their jobs, he told them to go to it the right way way. Science is not the problem, it’s that people use science to justify their rejection of God. Marriage isn’t the problem today it’s that it is done wrong by so many people today. Sex isn’t wrong but it gets abused by people. Money. We want to be people who honor God in everything, and by doing that we seek to redeem things that are done wrong, and in doing that we hope others come to know Christ and how his glory opens up a right way to live in the world.
Theologian Alister McGrath said, “To be Christian thus does not— indeed cannot— mean renouncing the world; for to renounce the world is to renounce the God who so wondrously created it; …. The world, though fallen, is not evil. The Christian is called to work in the world, in order to redeem the world. Commitment to the world is a vital aspect of the working out of the Christian doctrine of redemption. A failure to commit oneself to and work in the world is (equal) to declaring that it cannot, and should not, be redeemed.
Seek to redeem things. Be different. Redeem meals by praying for them or asking good questions. Redeem your time by taking an interest in others. Share verses that matter to you and shape why and how you do things. Be willing to slow down and maybe get less done in order to help others. Paul adjusted his life to help others. If you are one committed to genuinely helping others, you are on the purpose God has for his people, I believe that rather than your faith being a hindrance to your performance in the workplace, it is going to help you.
The glory of God is what we were created to live for. Paul shows it is our purpose, he shows how it makes sense of confusing situations, it keeps us from wrong, it give us liberty and freedom, he leads us to receive from others and yet escape their unfair criticism, it leads us to do great things and leads us to go into areas some people may be scared to go. It leads us in how to best serve our neighbors and see their highest good, which is their salvation.
- How did the glory of God motivate and direct Paul? How did Paul want the glory of God to shape the Corinthians?
- What parts of life are you confused about how to do to the glory of God?
- How can you be more intentional about doing things to build up others and help them know Christ?