Who Are the "Weak in Faith?" (Part 2)

Relief with sacrifice to Asklepios (c. AD 320)

Sometimes the Weak Brother is Right

In 1 Corinthians 8-10, Paul wrote about idol meat. The one who avoided idol meat had a weak conscience. Romans 14 refers to meat-avoiding weak believers as well. Both passages warn the eaters that their eating could cause stumbling and destruction. Both argue for love over liberty. Both deal with standing and falling. However, though these passages deal with similar issues, the Corinthians were struggling with much closer involvement with idols.

In 1 Corinthians 8:1-7, the strong are said to have knowledge. Paul used two words for knowledge. First, γνῶσις, “knowledge,” is found in 1 Corinthians 8:1,7,10,11. The same word as a verb, γινώσκω, “I know,” is found in 1 Corinthians 8:2,3. Second, εἴδω, “I see” or “I understand,” occurs in four verses in 1 Corinthians 8:1 (know), 2 (know), 4 (know), 10 (see). These two words are somewhat interchangeable1. Romans 14:14a uses εἴδω, “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus.” Romans 14 does not use γινώσκω.

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Who Are the "Weak in Faith?" (Part 1)

The goddess Diana (2nd Century Roman depiction)

How Weak Are the Weak?

Paul addressed some ethical controversies in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8. The “weak in faith” ate no meat. The one whose “conscience is weak” could not eat idol-meat. What does Paul mean by “weak”?

For many, it is a foregone conclusion that the weak brother is a doubting believer who lacks knowledge. In this series we will take a closer look at the weak brother. He is deserving of much more respect than he has been afforded.

A word of caution. The weak brother presented here is very different from what you might have previously learned. Most readers will find it new and unusual. Don’t try to fit it into your previous understanding of the “weak.” It might help to assume that you are being asked to understand that the “weak” brother is the good guy.

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Taste and See

Still Life by Gerard Van Honthorst

Still Life by Gerard Van Honthorst

You’d think after ten years, I’d have figured out a better way. You’d think that I’d have learned how to motivate, how to cajole, or how to simply avoid the conflict altogether. But no. Ten years into this thing called parenting, dinner time can still be a battle.

Not every night, of course. The nights I serve up macaroni and cheese, chicken, or pizza, all is well and all manner of things shall be well. But the nights we’re broadening our palate, the nights my husband and I enjoy a grown-up meal or attempt some exotic recipe, these nights devolve into protestations, stalling, and outright depression. I can never guarantee precisely how it will all go down–which food will be the stumbling block or which child will stumble–but I have noticed a pattern.

It begins with quiet resistance, moving the food around on the plate, sad looks, and barely uttered sighs. Perhaps all the other portions are consumed, leaving behind the one offending pile of vegetables or curry. My husband and I will have finished by this point. We will be ready to clear the table or have dessert, ready to move on. But instead, we stay. We stay for round two. We stay to encourage, to confront, and eventually to demand. We set timers, appeal to their sense of gratitude, and promise no other food until morning. Sometimes this works; sometimes they take us up on the offer.

After ten years, I should know better. Yet, each time, I continue to be surprised.

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Myths of Faith #4: God Will Say "Yes" to My Prayer

Read the series so far.

I groaned when I read the first sentences of a WORLD magazine article that appeared last fall: “My husband lost a week’s pay. It must have fallen out of his pocket at the hardware store.” I’d sure hate to be that guy! I don’t even want to think about what losing a week’s pay would do to my family’s budget.

But how does a Christian respond to this kind of problem? What does responding with biblical faith look like? Hopefully, most of us get quickly to where the article’s author did: “My reaction was to pray immediately.” But how should faith shape the prayer? At least four options are available (or some combination of them):

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Following in the Footsteps of Faith: Waiting on the Lord while walking in Faithfulness

(Read the series so far.)

Abraham has waited thirteen years. He has watched Ishmael grow. But Ishmael is wild, and as he grows, friction in the family grows with him. But maybe, just maybe, Ishmael is the promised child. And for thirteen years the domestic gloom and growing darkness about God’s promise build. God has made a promise, but Abraham’s faith has faltered. In Genesis 17, God breaks back into the scene and confirms His covenant with Abraham while also calling him to a life of faith and holiness.

God guarantees His promises to His people (Gen. 17:1-8).

We mess up. We fail. I sometimes say I am going to do something then forget or don’t follow through. God doesn’t. His success rate is 100%.

Two things to note in light of God’s promises:

1. God calls His people to be faithful (Gen. 17:1-3).

Just as we can’t take the fulfillment of God’s promises into our own hands, we also can’t allow ourselves to grow complacent in awaiting God’s action. In verse 1, Yahweh reveals Himself to Abraham as “El-Shaddai” or “God Almighty.” This is a name of God that emphasizes God’s power and sovereignty. Nothing can stay His hand or thwart His plan.

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Following in the Footsteps of faith: Learning to Actually Trust a Trustworthy God

Abraham, Sarah & Hagar. Unknown artist, 1897

(Read the series.)

Ever hear one of these guys on the radio (usually on ESPN Saturday mornings) giving you the betting lines on games and “guaranteeing” that his picks will make you money? I am not suggesting that anyone should gamble money on football games. But I want to point out the terminology.

It seems like everything today is a guarantee. “I guarantee it” is one of the most overused slogans in our country (I guarantee it!). But the question I always want to ask is, “What if you’re wrong?” Because they are—lots of times. Do they lose their job? Do they get a pay cut? Nope, they just start taping next week’s “guaranteed, locked-in, easy money” choices and the cycle starts all over again.

But God isn’t like that. We saw in Genesis 15 that Yahweh makes promises and He guarantees them with His very life (try that, prognosticators!). The only area of doubt when God makes a promise lies on our end—the end that is fallen, sinful, and prone to wander into bad thinking about just about everything.

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Following in the Footsteps of Faith Part 6: The Life-Long Process of “Faith Refinement”

Meeting of Abraham & Melchizedek, Dieric Bouts the Elder, 1464–67

Read the series so far.

Listen sometime to an NFL or college football coach after they have just won a Super Bowl or national championship. Almost inevitably you will get some excitement about this achievement in their lives and how much it means to the players, etc. But that interview always seems to come back to this theme: “that was great, but it means that the coaches who didn’t make the playoffs have had this much time to get a head start on next season.” It’s a never-ending process.

On a much smaller scale I go through this each week with sermon prep. I study, pray, meditate, study some more, and form a message (hopefully from God) from the text for the week. I stand up Sunday and deliver a word from the Lord, then go home exhausted. Sunday night we do it again. Monday is a day of rest, and the cycle begins again on Tuesday.

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From the Archives: Roller Coaster Faith

There are basically two ways to ride a roller coaster. The first is to resist the ride. You can press your feet against the floorboard and arch your back. You can grip the handle bar so hard your knuckles turn white. You can tense your jaw, tighten your abdominal muscles, and scream bloody murder as you descend the precipitous drops and are flung around the death-defying turns.

Somewhere in my rather limited experience of roller coasters, I discovered a second approach. You can actually relax on a roller coaster. Really! You can loosen your grip on the bar, relax your jaw, legs and abdominal muscles. In fact, you can take a roller coaster ride in the same physical condition and mental state of a couch potato.

Obviously, your physical state will have no influence on the roller coaster. No matter how tense or relaxed you may be, the roller coaster will not alter its route one inch or adjust its speed one iota. Either way, you will be delivered to the platform on time and in one piece. You cannot control the ride, you can only control the rider.

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