Absolute and Relative Rules for Behavior

There are some rules that are true for all cultures at all times.  Even though different periods of history bring different challenges idolatry, sexual immorality, gossip, greed, murder, and slander are never okay.  However, choosing the right things to eat, wear, listen to, or appreciate may change with culture and time.  Rather than a hard and fast set of rules to abide by, a person should look to their relationship with God to see how it is affected by their actions and choices.  A foundational question would be, “Can I do this to the glory of God?”  Another question would be, “Can I give thanks for this?”  I like to picture a couple on their wedding night saying, “For what I am about to receive may the Lord make me truly thankful!”

1 Corinthians 10 (Review)

 1For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3They all ate the same spiritual food 4and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.

 6Now these things occurred as examples[a] to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.”[b] 8We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

 11These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. 12So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

 14Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 15I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.

 18Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? 19Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. 22Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

 23“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. 24Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

 25Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”[c]

 27If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake[d]29the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience? 30If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

 31So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.


  1. Who was God displeased with?
  2. Why was God displeased with people?
  3. How should a Corinthian choose what they are going to eat, drink or partake in?
  4. How do you make decisions on what to eat, drink, or do for kicks?
  5. How would you raise a family that is more concerned with a relationship with God rather than the rules?

Going Deeper


  1. Who were ancient people baptized into?
  2. What rules did those who were scattered in the desert break?
  3. No temptation has seized the Corinthians except what?
  4. What should Corinthians flee?
  5. Whose good should a person seek?


  1. How does Paul’s example dispute the claim that there is no metanarrative?
  2. What culture’s examples does Paul use?  To what culture does he then apply them?
  3. How does the passage prevent a selfish perspective?
  4. What balance is Paul trying to achieve between freedom and actions?
  5. How would the Corinthians have gone shopping after reading this?


The first question is heady, but explains a lot about our postmodern thinking.

  1. How does a Christian mind contradict the mind of Jean Francois Lyotard (http://www.egs.edu/faculty/jean-francois-lyotard/biography/) ?  Note:  Thinkers like Lyotard are the source of thinking that results in kids today saying, “That’s true for you, but not for me, ” when you tell them that there room is a mess.
  2. How has society changed in your life time?  How have attitudes changed?
  3. How should a Christian approach the ‘green’ morality of saving the planet?  Does it reflect a principle that is true for everyone in all ages, or is it true for now?  Is it not true at all?
  4. How do you shop for the glory of God or with thanksgiving?
  5. How do you care for your house and family for the glory of God or with thanksgiving?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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