“Do All to the Glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31–11:1)
Listen to the Sermon:
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. 1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1, ESV
This is the word of the Lord.
When we become accustomed to a certain level of independence in life, it can be very difficult to give up that independence for the sake of someone else. You know when we were first born, we don’t have any independence. We rely on our parents and other caregivers for all of our needs in life. As we grow up little by little, we become more and more independent. First to feed ourselves, and then to walk, and then as we’re older maybe we can go out and play at a neighbor’s house or a friend’s house or something like that. As we get older, we’re maybe entrusted to go different places on our own or we get the keys to mom and dad’s car or something like that.
When we go off to college there’s a maybe a new level of independence. I remember for me when I went off to seminary across the country in Birmingham, Alabama it was a very new sense of independence. I was completely separated from everyone I knew.
My whole life up to that point and had a growing series of growing and independence. Then I fell in love and I was happy to trade all of that independence to get married. But when we have become accustomed to a certain level of independence it can sometimes be hard to give up that independence for the sake of someone else.
Not that I didn’t want to, but I remember in the first week of marriage that suddenly it came into my mind that I should go do something and I was headed out the door of our apartment, about to the door about to leave, and I realized oh I’m married now I’m not independent I have to talk to someone else before I make these kinds of decisions.
Then when we had our first child, I remember we suddenly realized we had taken for granted the ability to just get up and leave and go somewhere as two adults who can buckle ourselves into our car. We had to get a diaper bag and make sure it wasn’t during nap time.
Again, when you become accustomed to a certain level of independence it can be difficult to give that up. Now once again all of us are wrestling with this as we’re in the middle of this quarantine shut now. We’ve been accustomed to going where we want and doing what we want. For some of us the shutdown of this has been much more difficult in losing our jobs or difficult situations like that.
There are some major hardships going on as all of us are called the sacrifice to make sure that we can hopefully stop the spread of this virus from reaching people who this will kill. This is a terrible virus, some people are. Even younger people are starting to die without underlying health conditions.
So, for the sake of these people we are giving things up. As hard as this is, the Bible tells us that there is a more difficult independence to give up. You see as much as we might have to sacrifice sort of some external things in our lives right now what the scriptures say is that it is much harder to give up our independence of our own lives, internally spiritually, to give up not just the things around us but actually our own hearts to be transformed to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
This is a very hard thing. We need a new heart that’s transformed from the inside out. So we have to ask the question, how does this happen? How do we become new people who don’t live for ourselves in any respect, but live for the glory of God and for the good of our neighbor?
Well our big idea from our passage today is this be imitators of Christ.
Paul gives us two principles and then a command as we’re going to see.
1. We are to seek the glory of God
2. We are to seek the good of our neighbor
3. Imitate the example of Christ
We are to Seek the Glory of God
Paul writes this again in verse 31 he says, “so whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Now before we get into what exactly he’s telling us to do in whatever situation he has in mind, we probably should start at the very end of this verse to ask the question what does it mean to do anything or to do something or even to do all things to the glory of God? What does that mean?
When we talk about doing something to the glory of God, we are asking whether what we are doing will bring honor, praise, and worship to him. Whether we are doing this thing in a spirit of love and admiration to him and whether the action that we were doing with will bring about in others trust and worship and obedience to God. If that’s happening, that’s what it means to live our lives to the glory of God.
So, Paul says that whether we eat or drink, we should do that to the glory of God. This verse 31 serves as a something of a summary of everything that Paul has been telling us in chapter 10. If we remember our journey through chapter 10, if you’ve been a part of us through that sermon series, in the first twenty-two verses Paul is arguing about why it is important that believers never become part of an idolatrous worship service and eat sacrifices in the midst of those pagan idolatrous worship services.
Paul says that’s not just a matter of eating food but it’s to participate in idolatry. If we did that, if we participated in idolatry, that would not be to the glory of God. So, whether we eat or drink, we’ve got to do it to the glory of God. It’s forbidden an idolatrous worship service.
Then in verses 23 through 30 Paul talks about what to do in the context of the church where there may be these weaker believers whose consciences do not completely understand their liberties. So, if you’re in that, if you’re eating a meal of meats that may have once been sacrificed to an idol but now is sold in the meat markets, well that’s fine. It’s no longer in participation in an idolatrous worship service. If the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, so this meat once it’s just sold commonly is fine for you to eat.
However, if there is a Christian there whose conscience is weak, who’s bothered by that, maybe that brings up memories of pagan idolatrous worship in his or her own life, well rather than trampling over their consciences you should refrain from eating.
Why? Well because that would not bring glory to God for you to treat your brothers and sisters in Christ in that way. Wo whether we eat or whether we drink Paul is saying all of this should be done to the glory of God. But notice that in verse 31 this isn’t just a matter of eating or drinking, he says whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
If you’ve been reading as 1st Corinthians really from chapter 8 and then chapter 9 and then chapter 10 and are wondering, “Okay so how does this apply to me? I mean I’m not in a context where I’m commonly coming into a fellowship or even friendship or relationships with people who are involved in idolatrous worship services. This doesn’t apply to me does it?”
Well here’s what Paul says ,he says this is sort of a principle. It’s a historic reality, this is the immediate situation, but it goes beyond just this issue of eating food sacrificed to idols. This covers all of our lives. You know everything that we do we should be doing everything to the glory of God.
This is why we confess in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the very first question, that our chief end, the reason for which we were created is, to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. Everything we do, all of our lives, is for the sake of the glory of God. So how does that apply to us? Well, we’ll come back to that when we come back to the applications at the end of the service.
In verse 31 Paul is reminding us of what Jesus called the first of the two greatest commandments. You may remember in Matthew chapter 22 when a teacher of the law came to Jesus and said, “teacher which is the greatest commandment of the law?” Jesus responded by saying this in Matthew 22: 37-38,
37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. Matthew 22: 37-38, ESV
After the first commandment, Jesus didn’t just stop there. I mean theoretically you could say that well everything is to the glory of God and that should cover everything, right? Well Jesus says it’s important to add a second commandment in the law Matthew 22:39-40, Jesus adds this
39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:39-40, ESV
In other words, all of the Bible is essentially a summary, a commentary, on these two commandments; love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Everything in one way or another is saying one of those two messages. Also, by what Jesus was saying and what Paul goes on to in verses 32 to 33, is to say look at what seeking the glory of God, of doing all things to the glory of God, will mean. Think of how it will affect the things in our direct relationship to him.
As Bill said in the liturgy this morning, we come into his presence in the way that he has prescribed to us. Some of these affect the way that we worship but other things affect the relationships that we have with one another. You cannot glorify God if you are not loving and seeking the good of your neighbor. So, our first principle was seek the glory of God.
Seek the Good of Our Neighbor
Now in verses 32 and 33 we come to this in principle seek the good of our neighbor. Paul writes in verse 32 this, “give no offence to Jews or to Greeks or to the Church of God.” I will stop there, kind of in mid-sentence, but at the end of this first verse of this section, now by distinguishing Jews and Gentiles or Jews and Greeks from the Church of God, Paul probably means unbelieving Jews and Greeks versus the believing Church of God.
So unbelieving Jews and Greeks, Paul says don’t do anything that will cause unnecessary offence to them or be devoid of offense to them. Also, for the believing church when you come into the context of the church, don’t offend them either.
Now Paul has said something very similar at the end of the last chapter in in 1st Corinthians chapter 9, there he said to the Jews in verse starting in verse 22,
20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:20-22, ESV
He says, ” To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.” Then he starts talking about Gentiles he says, “ To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.” Then he goes on to talk about the church he says, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.”
Well Paul was saying there is, look if you’re in the context of Jews be devoid of offense to them, you don’t have to insist upon eating ceremonially unclean foods or doing ceremonially unclean things that will just set up unnecessary barriers between your relationship and them. That will inhibit your ability to win them to Christ.
What about to the Greeks? Well don’t insist that everything they do conforms to Jewish ceremonial food laws or any other ceremonial laws. You don’t need to do that because in Christ those ceremonial laws have been abolished. They filled their purpose and it doesn’t matter to us one way or another so you don’t have to give offense, you can simply build relationships with Jews and Greeks on their terms according to whatever works for them in these issues that are of non-essential importance.
Then when it comes to the Church of God, don’t violate the consciences of weaker Christians who may not understand the full extent of their Christian liberty. You don’t have to give offense in these cases. If your goal is to build them up, don’t cause offense in these unnecessary areas.
Why does Paul say this why is this so important? Why is this such an important principle? Well, Paul goes on to explain himself in verse 33 he says here, here’s why I say not to give offense. He says, “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.” Seeking the glory of God is the ultimate end, the ultimate goal of our lives. But what Paul is saying is that seeking the advantage of our neighbor that they may be saved is the primary means to the end.
It’s not that Paul is saying we should be people pleasers who are addicted to the approval of others. It’s not that he’s saying that we should fear other people and worry about whether they like us or not. We are seeking their ultimate advantage, their ultimate good, that they may be saved.
If we remember Paul had said the same thing just a few verses earlier in chapter 10:23-24 he said,
23 “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. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24
Seek the good of your neighbor by being careful to avoid unnecessary offense that will put barriers between us and our neighbors. So that we have the ability to build them up in the gospel, to seek their good by removing those barriers. That’s what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves, to see their true lasting an eternal good.
So, Paul now has given us a summary a paraphrase of different words to summarize what Jesus elsewhere expressed is the two greatest Commandments, to love God and to love our neighbor. In these first three verses of our section, verses 31 through 33, Paul has told us what to do. But now in 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul tells us whom we should imitate, the example that we should have now.
As a note verse 1 of chapter 11 probably belongs better with chapter 10. Paul was not the one who made the divisions of verses and chapters, those came much later. Most of the time the chapter divisions in our Bibles are very reliable in terms of summarizing the organization of the material of the Bible. But every once in a while, and this would be an example of that, we find a verse that’s sort of moved out of its context. Here verse one does not belong with the rest of chapter 11, but 11:1 really belongs as the last verse of chapter 10. So just to say that we’ll then move on to talk about this verse.
Imitate the Example of Christ
As we get to our third point, imitate the example of Christ, Paul says here something that sounds a little bit jarring at first. He says be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Now I don’t know too many of us who would go around saying that. It sounds a little bold to put it mildly. How could any sinner tell another sinner that you should imitate me? Why not tell someone you should imitate Christ directly, that’s something we can all agree with.
Paul has a couple of reasons for saying this. The first reason is that Paul is trying to tell the Corinthians that he’s practicing what he’s preaching. These aren’t just theoretical concepts for him, ideas that are swirling around in his head that he thinks other people should do. No, Paul is saying you can look at my life, I am doing this and imitate me as I am an imitator of Christ.
The second issue is that Paul is not telling the Corinthians to imitate him in every respect. Rather he’s telling them to imitate him to the extent that he is an imitator of Christ. Paul is pointing beyond himself here, he’s not the ultimate example and he knows it. He doesn’t want them to look to him as the final example.
He said I want you to look at my example and to imitate my example not as the ultimate end of what you’re trying to accomplish, but as an example of someone else who is imitating Christ. What I’m hoping to get you to do, Paul is saying, is that we will work together to imitate Christ together. I want to learn from you, you need to learn from me. We should work together and have the humility to together learn from one another as we both seek to imitate Christ.
Now the theme of imitating Christ is something Paul addresses actually at a couple of points in Ephesians chapter 5. Paul writes in verses 1 and 2,
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:1-2, ESV
How do we imitate God well? By walking in love as Christ loved us, love for our neighbor, and offering ourselves as a sacrifice. Not in the way that Christ did, as an atoning sacrifice for sin, but as a sacrifice where we are seeking to obey God and sacrificing ourselves as living offerings to God. Love for God, love for people; that’s what it means to be an imitator of God.
We see the same thing come up in Philippians 2:5 Paul says,
“5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 2:5
What’s that mind, what’s that mindset? Well Jesus emptied himself by taking the form of a servant for the glory of God and for the good of his people. Paul is saying we should have that mindset too; to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Paul says imitate me as I am seeking to follow, as an imitator of Christ, what should we do with this.
Paul is giving us a fairly simple doctrine here. These are the great commandments and the ultimate illustration of the great commandments illustrated in the person of Jesus, for our imitation.
Well there are three applications to consider today.
1. First fix your eyes on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Now as we talk about imitating Christ it’s so important that we avoid a misunderstanding. We are not saying that Jesus was a really good example, that we could probably take a few tips from him. That if we just picked up a couple of pointers from his life, well we’d really be able to start living more like him.
Now we do need to imitate an example, but we can’t start first by trying to imitate him directly. Rather the Scriptures tell us to fix our eyes on Jesus as he is revealed in the Bible, and as we see him there. The better we see him, as the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see him for who he is, we realize not, “oh this will be easy, I’ll just put a few tips into place to change my life”.
No, the more we see Jesus we see how far short we fall from his example. We see that we are sinful while he is righteous. We are selfish while he is self-sacrificing. We are unholy while he is holy. We are defiled and polluted while he is pure. We are rebellious while he is obedient. We are arrogant while he is humble.
The first part of imitating Christ is to recognize our great need of him. We realize that we cannot imitate him direct on our own, in our own strength, apart from him. So, we confess our sins to him, we seek his forgiveness, we cry out to him knowing that we can’t fix ourselves to be imitators of Christ unless he intervenes to give us that power and ability. We need him to cleanse us, by his own blood, from our unrighteousness. We need to ask that he would make us new from the inside out so that we may imitate him by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Do you see how far short you fall from this example as you look at Christ? Do you despair in the knowledge that you cannot reach him by the high, infinitely high, standard that he has set? That’s the first step toward salvation from this despair as you realize the great gap between you and our perfect, holy, spotless, blameless, Savior Jesus Christ.
The first step is to repent from your sin and everything that keeps you and separates you from him, to repent of that and look to Jesus Christ in faith. Trusting that what he has done for you at the cross and at his resurrection is enough for your salvation. Trusting that you could never do enough to imitate him well enough to rise to his level.
Now in this I want to also offer a warning. If you don’t see that you fall infinitely short of the glory of Jesus Christ, you may not be converted. Friend take a closer look if you don’t think there’s that big of a gap. Take a closer look both at Christ as he’s revealed in the Bible and at yourself. Repent of your pride, stop making excuses, stop seeking to justify yourself. Instead turn from your sin and turn to Christ for salvation. He is willing and able to save sinners who know and feel their need of him.
So, number one fix your eyes on the person work of Jesus Christ, that’s where it all starts.
2. Seek the glory of God in whatever you do. Now first off, obviously this means that we must do whatever God explicitly instructs us to do in his word; confessing our sin as he commands us to do, glorify him. Believing the gospel as he commands us to do glorifies him. Obeying God by faith and by the power of the Holy Spirit glorifies him as he commands us to do. Now this part may go without saying, we should do whatever God commands us to do. Which means that Paul probably has more in mind as it applies to our lives.
When Paul says whatever you do, do all to the glory of God he includes not just the explicit commandments that God has given us, but he includes everything and that is things that God has not explicitly commanded one way or another. So, this command has particular importance, and this is the whole context of how what Paul has been talking about has particularly importance for our Christian liberty.
So, this would include partially matters of conscience, which politicians should I vote for, how should I educate my children, what music may I listen to, what television shows or movies may I watch, should I smoke tobacco or drink alcohol in moderation. Well in all of these issues, even if we have liberty, our criterion for evaluation is not whether I want to do these things, whether I would find joy and pleasure and satisfaction in these things; our criterion is does this bring glory to God. That’s what we have to evaluate, that’s what we have to ask ourselves.
Not only matters of conscience, but also matters of stewardship. How do we use the time we’ve been given, especially now that most of us have a tremendous more amount of time since all of our activities have been shut down while we are on quarantine? How should we use that time? How should we use our talents, our abilities, our energies? How should we invest our treasures?
Now God hasn’t given us a page of the scripture that tells us exactly how to budget our time, our talents, our treasures. All of these are a matter of our stewardship. So in evaluating how we should invest the gifts that God has given us we can’t just say, what do I want, what would be satisfying for me? We have to ask what will bring glory to God. This is a matter of reflection and a matter of prayer. Does this line up with God’s Word as a whole, even if there are no specific commandment one way or another? Am I doing this in faith?
Remember Romans 14:23, “for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” When we ask these questions, study the scripture, compare our lives to the picture, we get in the Bible a picture of what it looks like to love God and to love people, especially in the image of Jesus Christ; in his person, in his work. Then we need to ask God to give us eyes to see, and ears to hear, and hearts to understand by the power of his spirit how we should apply these things in our lives.
So, number two, seek the glory of God in whatever you do.
3. The third and final application is this we need to seek the good of our neighbor in whatever we do. Now I want to look at this point from a couple of different vantage points. The first is by means of an illustration. On the news right now, if you’ve been paying attention to that, there’s a debate going on about what counts as an essential service and what counts as a non-essential service.
People are trying to argue that their particular services are essential or not. There was actually a video game company in malls and things like that, that sold video games. They tried to argue for a long time that they didn’t need to be shut down, because in a time like this video games are essential. Well eventually they got shut down.
So, there’s this constant discussion about what’s essential and what’s non-essential. We recognize there are some things that are essential. If we shut down grocery stores, well that would mean that people may not be able to find a way to eat. Those were essential to life. But there are other services that wouldn’t necessarily cause serious harm to shut down, but nevertheless hurt. Not harm but hurt; that’s sort of the dividing line we’re trying to work out.
Well I use that illustration to tell you to think about the non-essential aspects of your life. Think about how you spend those time, talents, and treasures. Think about your personal convictions, as deeply as you feel them, about the debatable aspects of Christianity. Here’s my question are you willing to sacrifice the non-essential liberties in your life for the good of your neighbor? So that you might not put up barriers between you and getting the gospel to your neighbor. So that your neighbor might be saved, or your neighbor might not be torn down, but rather built up in the gospel.
Are you considering certain liberties in your life as essential services when the Bible does not put them in that category? Are we talking about giving something up for the good of a neighbor that would harm you, or if you’re really honest with yourself would it only hurt? Would it be a sacrifice? What we’re called to do is all things the good of our neighbor. That’s the first way of looking at it.
The second way is in asking this question. Consider your discipleship in following Christ as a whole, would you be willing to tell someone else be an imitator of me as I am of Christ? I’m not asking if you would be willing to hold yourself up as the ultimate example, like follow me in every respect.
I’m asking would you be willing to tell someone else to imitate Christ alongside of you? Which would mean that you’re acknowledging that as someone who’s still imitating Christ and hasn’t matched imitation of Christ, then I have to have the humility to learn from you even as you learn from me. Are you willing to tell someone to be an imitator of me as I am of Christ?
If you’re not willing to tell someone that, to encourage someone in their discipleship by asking them look at your discipleship, then I want to ask what needs to change about your life so that you can. Are you, if you’re unwilling to make that change in your life, really seeking the glory of God in whatever you do? If you’re unwilling to make that change in your life, are you really seeking the good of your neighbor in whatever you do?
Well if you realize you fall short of this, come back to the gospel. The good news is that Jesus Christ died and rose again to conform us to his image. Take your eyes off of yourself, whether looking at yourself fills you with pride, it shouldn’t but if it does, or whether looking at yourself leads you to despair so that you think you’re hopeless, you’re not. Take your eyes off of yourself and look to Christ.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a 19th century Scottish Presbyterian pastor, once said for every look you take it yourself, take 10 looks to Christ. Gazing at Jesus Christ, the one whom we are called to imitate, not only shows us how far we are from him, but it’s the act of gazing at Jesus Christ the scriptures tell us is what transforms us.
Paul explains this in 2nd Corinthians 3:18, he’s talking about gazing upon Jesus in the word, by the power of the Spirit. He says,
18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18, ESV
Fix your eyes upon Jesus, contemplate, get your mind around, study his goodness, and his glory and, his grace. Pray that God would cultivate the desire for Jesus in your heart and continue taking him by faith. Turn to him again and again and again and then, by the grace of God, seek to lead others to do the same. This is how we glorify God, this is how we seek the good of our neighbor, and this is how we imitate Christ; by fixing our eyes on him.
Brothers and sisters let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, we ask during this time that you would help us to use our lives well to steward our lives wisely and to do all things for the glory of God and for the good of our neighbor that we might be conformed to the image of Christ from the inside out. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.