Commerce Covenants and Meat’s Offered to Idols

Commerce Covenants and Meat’s Offered to Idols
Michael Daniels, Oct, 2014

Must Christians boycott places of business that support by the funds they receive from our business abominable violations of the law of God? R.C Sproul Jr. answered this with a resounding NO! Christians are not morally obligated to boycott places of business that supports abominable violations of the law of God. R.C. Sproul’s article is found @ http://www.ligonier.org/blog/do-christians-have-moral-obligation-boycott-companies-support-unbiblical-causes/

But is this truly the case? What has the Reformed Church believed on this topic? R.C. Sproul Jr. places this issue in the realm of ‘meats offered to idols’, but is it really?

I believe R.C. Sproul Jr. is absolutely wrong here! Historically the Reformed Church has said we are not to do business with those who use the funds they receive from our business to commit abominable violations of the laws of God.

Westminster divine George Gillespie wrote a work titled ‘Another Most Useful Case of Conscience Discussed and Resolved, Concerning Associations and Confederacies with Idolaters, Infidels, Heretics, or Any Other Known Enemies of Truth and Godliness’ 1644, Gillespie said the following,

“As for civil covenants, if they be for commerce or peace, which were called spondai, they are allowed, according to the Scriptures, Gen. 14.13; 31.44; 1 Kings 5.12; Jer. 29.7; Rom. 12.18. … A covenant of peace or commerce with such may happen to be unlawful in respect of some circumstances, as when peace is given to these rebels, murderers, incendiaries in the kingdom, who, by the law of God, ought to be destroyed by the hand of justice; or when commerce with idolaters is so abused, as to furnish them with the things that they are known to make use of in their idolatry.”

There is a moral duty to not furnish anyone with what leads to an abominable violation of Gods law whether it be with money or goods.

So if I know a business is using the profits for something that is a gross violation of the law of God, I can not do business with them. Starbucks and J.C. Penny’s come to mind with their financial support of Sodomy.

And if I am in business and I sell goods that leads to a gross violation of the law of God I can not sell the goods to the person such as a wedding cake or being a photographer otherwise I become an accomplice to their sin. Psalm 50:18, “When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers.”

Such is the example of Nehemiah! That the Sabbath was/is not only to be observed by Gentiles is evident from that passage of divine Scripture of Nehemiah. He not only prevented the Jews to break the Sabbath but also the Gentile vendors. He prevented a gross abominable violation of the law of God and had he not he would have been an accomplice with the Sabbath breakers (Psalm 50:18) since he knew for certain that they had meant to break the Sabbath law. Nehemiah is not only an example of a godly civil magistrate for today but an example to all including Christian business owners to not be accomplice with those we are certain will violate God’s law in a gross and abominable way, by means of our providing goods towards that end or by not speaking up to them.

“By what rule did Nehemiah not only forbid the breach of the Sabbath, but did also threaten bodily punishment upon the men of Tyre? (although they were heathens yet were they at this time within the gates and compass his jurisdiction, Neh. Xiii. 21.) Certainly he though himself bound in conscience to see that the Sabbath should not be profaned by any that were within his gates, according to this fourth commandment.” -Thomas Shepard, Theses Sabbaticae, 1649

This does not mean I can not do business with unbelievers but it does depends on the circumstances and knowledge of the situation.

But what about Paul and the ‘Meats offered to Idols’?

We simply cannot play Paul’s word’s against John’s. In Revelation, twice the eating of food sacrificed to idols was called abominable. Like many other issues in Scripture it is far more nuanced than just one passage by the Apostle Paul. All of Scripture must interpret Scripture, and we cannot isolate one passage apart from all of Scripture and interpret it independently.

“But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, **to eat things sacrificed unto idols**, and to commit fornication.” (Rev. 2:14)

“Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and **to eat things sacrificed unto idols**.” (Rev. 2:20)

Paul also said further in his ‘meat offered to idols’ dialog,

“What say I then? that the idol is anything? or that that which is sacrificed to idols, is anything? Nay, but that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not unto God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with the devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of the devils. Ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of the devils. Do we provoke the Lord to anger? are we stronger than he?” (1 Corinthians 10:19-22)

So in a really real sense offering meats to idols is really a sacrifice to demons and Paul says we must not partake of the Lord’s table if we partake of the table of devils.

So we must explain how Paul’s word and John’s words are reconcilable, how that eating meat sacrificed to idols is put into the same category as fornication, and yet when we’re not aware we are allowed to eat.

George Gillespie has an extended section on that topic in his Disputation Against English Popish Ceremonies. Gillespie points out that in Revelation 2:14-20 that the churches of Pergamos and Thyatira are reproved of just such a practice. He explains that we must be careful to not to participate in the fellowship of demons either directly or by not removing the idolatry as Scripture commands, Exodus 23:13, Exodus 23:24; Exodus 34:13; Numbers 33:52; Deuteronomy 7:5; Deuteronomy 7:25; Deuteronomy 7:26.

“And ye shall take heed to all things that I have said unto you: and ye shall make no mention of the name of other gods, neither shall it be heard out of thy mouth.” (Exodus 23:13),

“But thus ye shall deal with them, Ye shall overthrow their altars, and break down their pillars, and ye shall cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire.” (Deuteronomy 7:5),

“The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire, and covet not the silver and gold, that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therewith: for it is an abomination before the Lord thy God. Bring not therefore abomination into thine house, lest thou be accursed like it, but utterly abhor it, and count it most abominable: for it is accursed.” (Deuteronomy 7:25-26),

“Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, neither serve them, nor do after the works of them: but utterly overthrow them, and break in pieces their images.” (Exodus 23:24),

“But ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their images in pieces, and cut down their groves” (Exodus 34:13),

“Ye shall then drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you, and destroy all their pictures, and break asunder all their images of metal, and pluck down all their high places” (Numbers 33:52)

Paul tells us not to ask where it comes from because if we know that it is sacrificed to idols then we become united to them in their idolatry.

Gillespie’s quotation of Zanchius is extremely helpful:

“it is true in and of themselves these things are nothing; but in respect of things offered in sacrifice they are something because it is through these things, we are united to those to whom they are offered in sacrifice. Who are they? Demons”

On page 69 of the same work, Gillespie wrote “Of the second sort of idolothites, the Apostle begans to speak in ver. 23. The Corinthians moved a question, Whether they might lawfully eat things sacrificed to idols? In privatis onviviis, saith Pareus. The Apostle resolves them that domi in privato convictu, they might eat them, except it were in the case of scandal”

Gillespie then goes on to say, regarding the First sorts of Idolothites, “are simply and in themselves unlawful. And if meats sacrificed to idols be so unlawful, then much more such things and rites as have not only been sacrificed and destinated to the honour of idols.”

Gillespie is saying that the first sort of Idolothite, the eating of meat that has been set apart for the purpose of idolatry, whereas the second is that which is presented according to a common use. In the first, the meat is offered as sacrificed and hence “holy” meat, whereas the latter it is offered merely as meat at a private gathering.

When one buys meat at the market they can buy whatever meat is there so long as it is not presented as a meat set apart to an idol. When at a private gathering with unbelievers one should eat any meat put in front of them as common food fit for common consumption. One who eats this meat is the second sort of an Idolothite, and are not partaking in idolatry.

However, when the meat is offered as “holy” meat, then to join in the partaking of it is to join oneself to the idolatrous practices, even if it is in “private”.

Augustine said that it is better to die of hunger than to eat of such idolatry.

So the difference is a matter of circumstance and intent. For it to qualify as the second sort of Idolothite, both the circumstances of receiving it and the intent of the offering and the receiver must be purely of “common use”, holding no religious significance whatsoever.

For example if you knew that some of the meat that was sold in the market had been sacrificed to idols but it was not being put forward as such and you couldn’t know if the particular meat you were buying was that meat then it would be perfectly lawful to buy, even though you know there is a good possibility that it was sacrificed to an idol.

George Gillespie is not alone here. If you read the section of Gillespie’s ‘Disputation Against the English Popish Ceremonies’ you will see that he is merely restating the standard reformed position as he quotes from Zanchius, Beza, Cartwright, Perkins and Augustine.

So when it comes to having a Commerce Covenant with infidels, we are permitted to do business with them, as the Scripture teaches but if we happen to KNOW for certain that they plan on using the business transactions to further a wicked ambition or commit a wicked violation of the laws of God then we are morally obligated to NOT furnish them with such means and ability and to do so would make us an accomplice in their wicked actions. We are free to engage in commerce with idolaters so long as it is not abused, such as to furnish them with the things that they are known to make use of in their idolatry..

This is not legalism but Biblical Reformed theology!

George Gillespie, Another Most Useful Case of Conscience Discussed and Resolved, Concerning Associations and Confederacies with Idolaters, Infidels, Heretics, or Any Other Known Enemies of Truth and Godliness, 1644, @ http://www.covenanter.org/GGillespie/miscellaneousquestions/ggilles14.html

Thomas Shepard, Theses Sabbaticae, 1649

George Gillespie, Disputation Against the English Poplish Ceremonies, 1645, http://books.google.com/books?id=Vw1MAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA69&lpg=PA69&source=bl&ots=DHiCzAqFid&sig=kfcQ1qefGNdUSzCAEESTEVFiWpw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=pxguVKz-KMWzogTtnoCgDg&ved=0CCAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

Appendix 1 Extended Portion George Gillespie’s Treatise on ‘Meat’s Offered to Idols’, Disputation Against the English Poplish Ceremonies, 1645,

On Meats Offered to Idols Discourse

Pgs. 68 – 71

“The proposition thus explained is confirmed by these five proofs: 1. God’s own precept, – “Ye shall defile also the covering of they graven images of silver, and the ornaments of thy molten images of gold: thou shalt cast them away as a menstruous cloth, thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence,” Isa. Xxx. 22. The covering of the idol here spoken of, Gasper Sanctus rightly understandth to be that, quo aut induebantur simulaera Gentilico ritu, aut bracteuas quibus lignece imaginea integantur, aut quo homines idolis sacrificaturi amiciebantur; so that the least appurtenances of idols are to be avoided. When the apostle Jude would have us to hate garments spotted with the flesh, his meaning is, detestandam esscvel superficiem ipsaus mali sive peccati, quam tuniece appellatione subiumuere videtur, as our own. Rolloke hath observed, If the very covering of an idol be forbidden, what shall be thought of other things which are not only spotted, but irrecoverably polluted with idols? Many such precepts were given to Israel, as “Ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves,” Exod. Xxxiv. 13, “The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver nor gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein; for it is an abomination to the Lord thy God,” Deut. Vii. 25, 26. Read to the same purpose, Num. Xxxiii. 53; Deut. Vii. 5; xii. 2, 3.

Secondly, God hath not only by his precepts commanded us to abolish all the relics of idolatry, but by his promises also manifested unto us how acceptable service this should be to him. There is a command “That the Israelites should destroy the Canaanites,” Num. Xxxiii. 52, evertantque res omens idololatricas ipsorum eui mandato, saith Junius, subjicitur sua promissio, namely, that the Lord would give them the promised land, and they should dispossess the inhabitants thereof, ver. 53; yeah, there is a promise of remission and reconciliation to this work: “By this shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged and this is all the fruit to take away his sin when he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalk-stones that are beaten asunder, the groves and images shall not stand up.” Isa. Xxvii. 9.

Thirdly, the churches of Pergamos and Thyatira are reproved for suffering the use of idolothies, Rev. ii. 14-20, where the eating of things sacrifices to idols is condemned as idolatry and spiritual adultery, as Perkins noteth. Paybody, therefore, is greatly mistaken when he thinks that meats sacrifices to idols, being the good creatures of God, were allowed by the Lord, out of the case of scandal, notwithstanding of idolatrous pollution; for the eating of things sacrificed to idols is reproved as idolatry, Rev. ii; and the eating of such things is condemned as a fellowship with devils, 1 Cor. x. 20. Now idolatry and fellowship with devils, I suppose, are unlawful, though no scandal should follow upon them. And whereas he thinks meats sacrificed to idols to be lawful enough out of the case of scandal, for this reason, because they are the good creatures of God, he should have considered better the Apostle’s mind conerning such Idolothites; which Zanehius seteth down thus: Verum est, per se haec nihil sunt, sed, respectu eoerum quibus immolantur aliquid sunt; quia per haecillis quibus immolantur, nos consoeiamur. Qui isti? Daemones. For our better understanding of this matter, we must distinguish two sorts of idolothites, both which we find, 1. Cor. x. Of the one, the Apostle speaks from the 14th verse of that chapter to the 23d; of the other, from the 23d verse to the end. This is Beza’s distinction in his Annotations on that chapter. Of the first sort, he delivers the Apostle’s mind thus: That as Christians have their holy banquets, which hare badges of their communion both of Christ and among themselves; and as the Israelites, by their sacrifices, did seal their copulation in the same religion, so also idolaters, cum suisidolis aut potius daemonibus, solemnibusillis epulis copulantur. So that this sort of idolothites were eaten in temples, and public solemn lanquets, which were dedicated to the honour of idols, 1 Cor. Viii. 10. Cartwright showeth that the Apostle is comparing the table of the Lord with the table of idolaters; whereupon it followeth, that as we use the Lord’s table religiously, so that table of idolaters of which the Apostle speaketh, had stat in the idolatrous worship like that feast, Num. Xxv.3; quod in honorem falsorum Deorum celebrabatur, saith Calvin

This first sort of idolothities Pareus calls the sacrifices of idols; and from such, he saith, the Apostle dissuadeth by this argument, Partcipare epulis idolorum, est idololatria. Of the second sort of Idolothites, the Apostle begins to speak in ver. 23. The Corinthians moved a question, Whether they might lawfully eat things sacrificed to idols? In privatis conviviis, saith Pareus. The Apostle resolves them that domi in primvato convictu, they might eat them, except it were in the case of scandal; thus Beza. The first sort of idolothites are meant of Rev. ii., as Beza there noteth; and of this sort must we understand Augustine to mean whilst he saith, that it were better mori fame, quam idolothites vesci. These sorts are simply and in themselves unlawful, then much more such things and rites as have not only been sacrificed and destinated to the honour of idols (for this is but one kind of idolatrous abuse), but also of a long time publicly and solemnly employed in the worshipping of idols, and deeply defiled with idolatry, much more, I say, are they unlawful to be applied to God’s most pure and holy worship, and therein used by us publicly and solemnly, so that the world may see us conforming and joining ourselves unto idolaters.

Fourthly, I fortify my proposition by approved examples; and, first, we find that Jacob, Gen. Xxxv. 4, did not only abolish out of his house the idols, but their ear-rings also, because they were superstitionis insignia, as Calvin; res ad idolatriam pertinentes, as Junius; monilia idolis consecrata, as Pareus calleth them; all writing upon that place. We have also the example of Elijah, 1 Kings xviii. 30: he would by no means offer upon Baal’s altar, but would needs repair the Lord’s altar, though this should hold the people longer in expectation. This he did, in P. Martyr’s judgment, because he thought it a great indignity to offer sacrifice to the Lord upon the altar of Baal; whereupon Martyr reprehendeth those who, in administering the true supper of the Lord, uti velint Papisticis vestibus et instrumentis. Further, we have the example of Jehu, who is commended for the destroying of Baal out of Israel, with his image, his house, and his very vestments, 2 Kings x. 22-28. And what example more considerable than that of Hezekiah, who not only abolished such monuments of idolatry as at their first institution were but men’s invention, but break down also the brazen serpent (though originally set up at God’s own command), when once he saw it abused to idolatry? 2 Kings xvii. 4. This deed of Hezekiah Pope Steven doth greatly praise, and professeth that it is set before us for our imitation, that when our predecessors have wrought some things which might have been without fault in their time, and afterward they are converted into error and superstition, they may be quickly destroyed by us who come after them. Farellus saith, that princes and magistrates should learn by this example of Hezekiah what they should do with those significant rites of men’s devising which have turned to superstition. Yea, the Bishop of Winchester acknowledgeth, that whatsoever is taken up at the injunction of men, when it is drawn to superstition, cometh under the compass of the brazen serpent, and is to be abolished; and he excepteth nothing from this example but only things of God’s own prescribing. Moreover, we have example of good Josiah, 2 Kings xxiii., for he did not only destroy the houses, and the high places of Baal, but his vessels also, and his grove, and his altars; yeaj, the horses and chariots which had been given o the sun. The example also of penitent Manasseh, who not only overthrew the strange gods, but their altars too, 2 Chron. Xxxiii. 15. And of Moses, the man of God, who was not content to execute vengeance on the idolatrous Israelites, except he should also utterly destroy the monuments of their idolatry, Exod. Xxxii. 17-20. Lastly, we have the example of Daniel, who would not defile himself with a portion of the king’s meat, Dan. I. 8; because saith Junius, it was converted in usum idololatricum; for at the banquets of the Babylonians and other Gentiles, erant proaemessa sive praemissa, quae diis praemittebantur, they used to consecreate their meat and drink to idols upon the same, so that their meat and drink fell under the prohibition of idolothites. This is the reason which is given by the most of the interpreters for Daniel’s fearing to pollute himself with the king’s meat and wine; and it is hath also approbation of a Papist.

Fifthly, Our proposition is backed with a twofold reason, for things which have been notoriously abused to idolatry should be abolished: 1. Quia Monent. Quia movent. First then, they are monitory, and preserve the memory of idols; monumentum in good things is both moniumentum and munimentum; but monumentum in evil things (such as idolatry) is only moniumentum, which monet mentem, to remember upon such things as ought not to be once named among saints, but should lie buried in the eternal darkness of silent oblivion. Those relics therefore of idolatry, quibus quasi monumentis posteritas admoneatur (as Wolphius rightly saith), are to be quite defaced and destroyed, because they serve to honour the memory of cursed idols. God would not have so much as the name of an idol to be remembered among his people, but commanded to destroy their names as well as themselves, Exod. Xxiii. 13; Deut. Xii. 3; Josh. Xxiii. 7; whereby we are admonished, as Calvin saith, how destestable idolatry is before God, cujus memoriam vult penitus deleri, he posthac ullum ejus vestigium appareat: yeah, he requreth, corum omnium memoriam deleri, quae semeldieata sunt idolis. If Morecai would not give his countenance, Esth.. iii. 2, nor do any reverence to a living monument of that nation whose name God had ordained to be blotted out from under the heaven, much less should we give connivance, and far less countenance, but least of all reverence, Deut. Xxv. 19, to the head and dumb monuments of those idols which God hath devoted to utter destruction, with all their naughty appurtenances, so that he will not have their names to be once mentioned or remembered again. But, secondly, movent too; such idolothous remainders move us to turn back to idolatry. For usu compertum habemus, superstitiones etiam postquam explosae essent, si qua relicta fuissent earum monumenta, cum memoriam sui ipsarum apud homines, tum id tandem ut revocerantur obtinuisse, saith Wolphius, who hereupon thinkgs it behoveful to destroy funditus such vestiges of superstition for this cause, if there were no more: ut et aspirantibus ad revocandam idololatriam spes frangatur, et res novas molientibus ansa pariter ac materia praeripiatur. God would have Israel to overthrow all idolatrous monuments, lest thereby they should be snared, Deut. Vii. 25; xii. 30. And if the law command to cover a pit, lest an ox or an ass should fall therein, Exod. Xxi. 23, shall we suffer a pit to be open wherein the precious souls of men and women, which all the world cannot ransom, are likely to fall? Did God command to make a battlement for the roof of a house, and that for the safety of men’s bodies, Deut. Xxii. 8, and shall we not only not put up a battlement, or object some bar for the safety of men’s souls, but also leave the way slippery and full of snares? Read we not that the Lord, who knew what was in man, and saw how propense he was to idolatry, did not only remove out of his people’s way all such things as might any allure or entice them to idolatry (even to the cutting off the names of the idols out of the land, Zech. Xiii. 2), but also hedge up their way with thorns that they might not find their paths, nor overtake their idol gods when they should seek after them? Hos. Ii, 6, 7. And shall we by the very contrary course not only hedge up the way of idolatry with thorns, which may stop and stay such as have an inclination aiming forward, but also lay before them inciting and enticing occasions which add to their own propension, such delectation as spurreth forward with a swift facility?

Thus, having both explained and confirmed the proposition of our present argument, …”

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One Response to “Commerce Covenants and Meat’s Offered to Idols”

  1. reformedtheonomy Says:

    Reblogged this on Reformed Theonomy and commented:
    “As for civil covenants, if they be for commerce or peace, which were called spondai, they are allowed, according to the Scriptures, Gen. 14.13; 31.44; 1 Kings 5.12; Jer. 29.7; Rom. 12.18. … A covenant of peace or commerce with such may happen to be unlawful in respect of some circumstances, as when peace is given to these rebels, murderers, incendiaries in the kingdom, who, by the law of God, ought to be destroyed by the hand of justice; or when commerce with idolaters is so abused, as to furnish them with the things that they are known to make use of in their idolatry.” – George Gillespie, “Another Most Useful Case of Conscience Discussed and Resolved, Concerning Associations and Confederacies with Idolaters, Infidels, Heretics, or Any Other Known Enemies of Truth and Godliness” 1644.

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