Violating Consciences and Causing to Stumble

Today’s selected reading continues in the first epistle of the apostle Paul to the Corinthian congregation, and more specifically, is found in the first five verses of the eighth chapter. As the apostle Paul begins the eighth chapter of the epistle (although in the original manuscript there were neither chapters nor verses) he transitions from speaking of marriage, singleness and divorce to those things which were sacrificed unto idols. More specifically, that which the apostle Paul was speaking of within this passage of scripture pertains not so much to that which was sacrificed unto idols as it did the human conscience. If you read and study this particular passage you will quickly conclude that the apostle Paul speaks primarily and exclusively to conscience and that which violates the conscience of men. As you progress and read this chapter you will find very specific instruction given by the apostle Paul concerning meats which were sacrificed and whether or not it was lawful for believers and followers in Christ to eat such meats. There were such among the Corinthian congregation who saw no wrong in eating meats which were sacrificed unto idols, while there were others who could not bring themselves to eating that which had been sacrificed and offered unto idols. It is unclear whether or not there was a disputed that broke out within and among this congregation concerning whether it was lawful to eat those thugs sacrificed unto idols, but it was certainly pressing enough for the apostle Paul to address and deal with it within this letter.

Perhaps what is most notable about the first five verses of this chapter is how the apostle Paul doesn’t immediately go into whether or not it is in fact lawful to eat meat sacrificed unto idols, or even to partake of those things which have been sacrificed unto idols. What the apostle does do, however, is speak to the nature of idols as well as the concept of the gods of this age. Perhaps one of the most powerful thoughts and concepts we can know and understand concerning idols is that it was always more than simply an idol which was fashioned by a mere man. Scripture is replete with examples and accounts of the idolatry of men, but more often than not there were something much darker and more sinister behind every idol. We dare not simply focus solely on that which we see and that which we are aware of in the natural, but that which exists in the invisible and unseen realm of the supernatural and spiritual. More often than not the various idols of the nations which surrounded the people of Israel were the tangible reality of something much darker and more wicked behind the idol. In all reality, I am convinced that when it comes to idols and idolatry and the worship of idols, men and women worship more than an image made of gold, of silver, of bronze, of wood, and the like.

There is not a doubt in my mind that when we read of the various idols and gods of the surrounding nations we are dealing with more than simply that which was fashioned by the hands of men, and that which was named by men. We are aware of such gods as Baal, and Molech, and Malcom, and Ashtoreth, and the various gods which were present in the ancient world, however, what we must understand concerning these pagan gods and deities is that there was a darker influence behind them. I am convinced that behind every idol there is a god, and behind every god there is a principality or Rylee of darkness or demon, and behind every principality and demon there is the devil himself. I am convinced that every form of idolatry—regardless of what is worshipped and how it is worshipped—is ultimately a false worship of the great dragon known as the ancient serpent of old, the devil and Satan. Idolatry is a form of false worship that not only turns the hearts of men from the Lord and worshipping Him, but is also a veiled worship of the devil himself. I am convinced this is what is so dangerous and seductive about the religion of Islam for I once saw a picture that had the image upon it as follows: “Muslims call me Allah, Christians call me Satan.” There is not a doubt in my mind that the religion of Islam is not only the religion of the Antichrist, but it is also a veiled worship of the great dragon who is the devil and Satan. I feel it absolutely necessary to examine a few specific passages within scripture concerning this false worship—passages such as the turning away of Solomon’s heart, the worship of the beast and the image in the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, as well as the various words of the prophet Isiah concerning the forming and fashioning of idols.

If you. Journey to the Old Testament book of First Kings, and more specifically, the eleventh chapter, you will discover an account of Solomon that might surprise you if you weren’t already aware of its presence within Scripture. I would dare say that there are those who would read the words contained within this particular passage of Scripture and find it absolutely difficult to consider Solomon capable of such actions. Solomon—the same Solomon whom the Lord appeared to in a dream as a young king, the same Solomon who oversaw the building and construction of the Temple, the same Solomon who witnessed the glory of the Lord on two separate occasions, and who saw the fire of God come down from heaven—actually allowed his own heart to turn away from the true and living God. Beginning with the first verse of the eleventh chapter of First Kings you will read the following words concerning this third king of Israel—“But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the. Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; of the nations concerning which the Lord said unto the children of Israel, ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went not fully after the Lord, as did David his father. Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for MOlech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods” (1 Kings 11:1-8).

If you turn and direct your attention to the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ you will find additional language concerning this false worship which exists in measure within the earth right now, yet will increase during the days when the beast and false prophet will arise—the beast from the sea and the false prophet from the earth. If you turn and direct your attention to the thirteenth chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ you will read the following words concerning the beast which comes up out of the sea, as well as the beast which comes up out of the earth. Consider if you will the words and language that is found in this particular chapter beginning with the first verse:

“And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blasphemy his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindred, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. HE that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might bury or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six” (Revelation 13:1-18).

It is quite clear from this particular passage found within the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ that there will in fact be a religious system of worship that will be so pervasive within and upon the earth during the last days, and at the very heart and helm of that system will be the worship of the dragon. It is absolutely unmistakeable when reading this particular passage that we recognize and understand the source of this worship in the earth is the great dragon which we first read of and find in the twelfth chapter—this great dragon who along with his angels made war in heaven with Michael and his angels, this same dragon who sought to destroy the male child which was brought forth by the woman clothed with the sun and the moon at her feet, this same dragon who sought to make war with the offspring of the seed of this woman upon the earth. This same dragon which we read about in the twelfth chapter is the same dragon we find in the thirteenth chapter giving the first peace his seat, his great power and his great authority. It is this dragon who was worshipped in light of the healing of that head of the beast which was wounded. It is absolutely unmistakeable when reading this particular passage that the beast will be worshipped in the last days, and that the false prophet will incite the earth to not only worship the beast, but to also worship the image of the beast which is upon the earth. What’s more, is that the false prophet will cause all men and women, both great and small to receive a mark on their wrists or foreheads as a symbol of their worship and allegiance to the beast. This particular passage does in fact reveal the worship of the beast within the earth, however, it also reveals something much deeper and something much greater—namely, that the worship of the beast has at its heart and foundation the worship of the dragon. It is within this chapter we encounter the tremendous reality of the worship of the dragon and its manifestation in the worship of the beast and the false religion which the false prophet incites within and upon the earth.

If you journey back into the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah you will quickly discover and find tremendous language concerning the forming and fashioning of idols, which I am convinced will help us understand why and how the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthians are so significant. In the fortieth chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah beginning with the eighteenth verse we find and read these words—“To whom then will ye liken God? Or what likeness will ye compare unto Him? The Workman melters a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains. He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved” (Isaiah 40:18-20). If you direct your attention to the forty-fourth chapter of the same prophetic book of Isaiah you will find the following words beginning with the eighth verse—“Is there a God beside me? Yea, there is no God; I know not any. They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed. Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed: and the workmen, they are of men: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together. The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint. The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he maketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he markets it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house. He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheth for himself among the tress’s of the forest: he planted an ash, and the rain doth nourish it. Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. He Burnett part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasters roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire: and the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god. They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand. And none considerate in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? Shall I fall down to the stock of a tree? He feedeth on ashes: a deceived hearth hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand” (Isaiah 44:8-19).

When you come to the eighth chapter of the first epistle of the apostle Paul which was written unto the saints which were at Corinth you will find the following words concerning idols and those things which were offered unto them—“Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffery up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him. As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many)” (1 Corinthians 8:1-5). The words we find in this particular passage of Scripture is actually quite interesting when you consider them in light of that which we read in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles when there arose a dispute among those in the city of Jerusalem when certain men came down from Judaea and taught the brethren, saying, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. Consider if you will the account as it unfolds in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles beginning with the first verse of the chapter:

“And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choose among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt Yohe God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? BVut we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, after this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: but that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and form things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas: namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: and they wrote letters by them after this manner; the apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: forasmuch as have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: it seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well” (Acts 15:1-29).

Within this particular chapter found within the first epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Corinth we find the apostle Paul writing that we all have knowledge concerning those things which are and have have been offered unto idols. IT’s actually quite interesting that in addition to the apostle Paul speaking of us all having knowledge, he goes on to declare that knowledge puffery up, yet charity edifieth. The apostle Paul goes on to write that if any man think he knows any thing, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. What’s more, the apostle Paul would go on to write that if any man love God, the same is known of him. It’s actually quite remarkable to read the words of the apostle Paul within this passage of Scripture, for he essentially compares and contrasts knowledge versus love and emphatically states that love comes out on top. Later on in this epistle the apostle Paul would emphatically declare that love is the greatest of these three—faith, hope and love. What’s more, is the apostle Paul also declares that love is even greater than the gifts themselves which were previously mentioned in the twelfth chapter. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul writes unto the same Corinthian congregation found in the thirteenth chapter of this epistle—“Thou I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinkers no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I Put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).

In the eighth chapter of the first epistle of the apostle Paul written unto the Corinthian congregation we find the apostle Paul speaking to and addressing a matter which we first find recorded in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts. It is within this passage of Scripture that we find the church and the elders of the church speaking of abstaining from eating meat offered unto idols—perhaps because it was a matter of violating the conscience of those who are weak in the faith, or perhaps because it was a rule and regulation that was seeking to be imposed upon Gentiles. It’s actually quite interesting that the apostle Paul acknowledged the fact that they were aware of and had knowledge concerning things offered unto idols, yet he would go on to state that knowledge puffs up, but charity edifieth. It’s quite interesting that within this passage the apostle Paul clearly contrasts knowledge and love, and describes how knowledge puffs up, how knowledge makes arrogant, and how knowledge makes boastful, yet love edifies. Essentially, one of the greatest questions we must ask ourselves is what matters more to us—knowledge or love. In all reality, this concept of knowledge goes as far back as the garden of Eden in the third chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis, for there was one tree within the garden which Adam was prohibited from eating its fruit—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The serpent was more cunning and subtil than all the beasts of the field and came unto Eve at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and beguiled her with his smooth speech. It’s worth noting that in this passage of Scripture we find Eve looking upon the fruit of the tree and one of the things she was drawn to was that it was desirable to make one wise. I am convinced Eve wasn’t drawn to the evil side of the tree, but was drawn to the good side of the tree. Eve partook of the fruit of the tree because she desired to be made wise, and in all reality, we have been seeking to accomplish the very same thing ever since. What’s more, is that we might very well be attempting to make ourselves wise according to that which the Lord has strictly prohibited us from partaking of. Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because she saw that it could make one wise, and was undoubtedly drawn to the concept of knowledge.

This passage which we find in the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian congregation is quite astounding and remarkable when you consider it, for within this passage we find the apostle Paul speaking of things offered unto idols, and yet declaring that the saints of God had knowledge concerning such things. The apostle Paul would go on to write how knowledge puffs up, but charity, however, edifies. IT’s actually quite interesting to read and consider how the apostle Paul—when speaking of idols—goes on to declare of idols that they are nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. It is within these five verses the apostle Paul sets the stage for that which would come in the rest of the chapter concerning that which violates one’s conscience—and not only that which violates one’s conscience, but also that which causes others to stumble. While I won’t get into it in this particular writing, it’s worth noting that that which might not violate the conscience of one might actually offend another and cause that individual to stumble. I would dare say that there is a fine line between the violation of one’s conscience and causing another to stumble, for it isn’t enough that we simply focus on our conscience alone, but also focus on that which might offend those around us and cause them to stumble. The apostle Paul was very specific within this chapter concerning being cognizant and mindful of that which might cause those around us to be offended, and might cause them to stumble. When we read the words of the apostle in this particular passage of Scripture it’s absolutely necessary and imperative that we not only focus on knowledge which puffs up, but also focus on love which edifies. I can’t help but wonder how many men and women among us within our churches pride themselves on knowledge—perhaps even knowledge which causes men and women to become arrogant and prideful and boastful, while those same men and women not only neglect love, but also fail to engage themselves in a. Love which edifies. Oh that we would read this passage and would understand the words which the apostle Paul is actually speaking and saying unto this congregation.

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