by Steven Chan
06 March 2011
We are faced with many decisions to make in our lives. How do we decide what is the right thing to do? What is the determining factor in our decisions? What criteria should we use to make those decisions? How we decide and what we do have significant impacts in our lives on earth and in many instances have eternal consequences. Some have asked: is it okay for a Christian to dance? Is it okay for a Christian to drink? Is it okay for a Christian to marry a non-Christian? What kind of attire may a Christian lady wear that complies with 1 Tim 2:9: “to adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing”? How do we decide?
In 1 Cor 10:31-33, after a discussion on whether a Christian should eat food that has been offered to idols, the apostle Paul concluded with this very important and enlightening statement:
“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the
Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”
In the above-stated verse, there are two very important requirements which should serve as a guide to our daily decision-making process.
(A) Firstly, the Bible says, in ALL matters (whether eat or drink or whatever you do), do ALL to the Glory of God. In other words, we should always ask the question: will this glorify God?
In Lev 10:1-3, when “Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them, fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.’ ”
It is evident that God was not pleased nor glorified when the sons of Aaron, Nadab & Abihu “offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them” – and Moses took the opportunity to remind Aaron (who must have been quite upset with the death of his two sons) that those who seek to “come near Me” must regard God as holy and that He must be glorified. When the two men offered up to God something “which God had not commanded them” (i.e. they took liberty with what they offer to God), they failed to regard God as holy and failed to glorify Him before all the people.
Hence, we learn that God will be glorified when we do all things in His name: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Col 3:17). Doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus implies that we do all by His authority – and we would only be able to ascertain His authority if we abide by His teachings: “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 9)
In John 15:8, Jesus said: “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” He went on to say: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. (John 15:16) That appointment to “go and bear fruit” was clearly stated in Matt 28:18-20: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” In 1 Cor 3:5-15, the apostle Paul discussed the work of planting and watering the seed (which is the Word of God – Luke 8:11) and how God is the one who gives the increase – and then he went on to exhort brethren to be careful how we build the church which is built on the foundation of Christ (Matt 16:18): “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
It is clear that God desires for Christians to glorify Him by “going and bearing much fruit” and that those fruit should remain (endure) so that Go will be glorified and we will have our reward. Brethren, it is evident that we need to build a church that will last through the fiery test (and not temporal).
In John 17:4, Jesus prayed to the Father: “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” and He said in Luke 19:10: “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
For that reason Christians ought to regard ourselves as good stewards of the manifold grace of God and we ought to do everything in such a way that God is glorified: “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11). Use what we have been blessed with to serve one another –in accordance with the ability and to the extent of our ability – and God will be glorified through Jesus Christ. The ministering unto one another is to keep the saved, safe by building up one another (Eph 4:11-16)
(B) Hence, the second question we should ask ourselves is this: “Will this decision contributes towards the salvation of many?” – as was stated in I Cor 10:32,33 when the apostle Paul said: “Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” There are two aspects to be considered: Firstly, will this action or decision stumble or offend anyone (Rom 14:13-21) as regards their salvation? Secondly, will it contribute positively or profitably towards the salvation of many?
Rom 14:15: “Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love.” The Bible requires us to walk in love as is also reflected in the two great commandments (Matt 2:36-40) – to love God (for my salvation) and to love our neighbour (for the latter’s salvation). Therefore, when one’s action or decision offends a brother (in permitted optional matters; and not required matters or forbidden matters as evident in the passage under discussion in Rom 14), one is not walking in love.
It is important to note that the glorification of God is closely-linked to the work of saving the souls of man and that our decision-making process needs to take into account whether God is glorified and more specifically, whether it offends or stumbles one from becoming or remaining a Christian, and whether it contributes profitably towards the salvation of many.
If we use the two criteria:-
does it glorify God (is it in accordance with His will and by His authority) and
does it offend/stumble one from becoming or remaining as a Christian, or does it contribute towards the salvation of many);
then Christians are well-equipped to make the appropriate decisions in this life.
Will dancing or drinking alcoholic beverages or taking drugs or wearing worldly attires, or whatever activities that one may engage in, glorify God and positively influence many towards their salvation? If they do not, then one should refrain from them. Similarly, should one attend all the services of the church? Should one volunteer to serve in some capacities in the church? If these activities will help many to be strengthened and to be saved, then we ought to do it. This decision-making process takes one away from entering into a debate of whether an activity is specifically required or forbidden in the Bible. Lest any misunderstands the afore-stated, this does not mean that we should not search the Scriptures to ascertain what the Bible requires or forbids. It simply means that if we walk in love and by the principles discussed above, we would be able to serve and glorify Him without even having to enter into that discussion. “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”(Rom 13:10)