Paul addresses a new question: Can we eat meat sacrificed to idols? His answer gives us deep insight into the relationship between knowledge and freedom, truth and love.
Paul founded the church in Corinth during his second missionary journey and stayed with them about 1.5 years. Paul wrote this letter from Ephesus during his third missionary journey. Paul is responding to a letter the Corinthians wrote him and to a verbal report he received about the situation in the church in Corinth.
In 1Corinthians 1-4, Paul responded to that verbal report. Paul has a rather contentious relationship with the church in Corinth. Some of they have decided that Paul does not have wisdom as they define it and have gone so far as to reject his authority as an apostle.
In 1Corinthinas 5-6, Paul rebukes them for not dealing with blatant sin in their church.
In 1Corinthians 7, Paul starts answering specific questions that the Corinthians asked him.
In 1Corinthians 8-10, Paul answers their second question.
The Corinthians asked Paul whether or not they should eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols. Some feel strongly that it is okay to eat such meat. Others feel strongly that it is wrong.
At the time Paul is writing, Corinth had various temples to a variety of pagan gods where people made offerings of meat. Some of the the meat was burned during the offering. The rest was sold in the marketplace or in the temple dining rooms where members of the community could eat together like a restaurant.
Before converting to Christianity, the gentile believers in Corinth participated in these temple meals and bought temple meat at the market. Now they have come to faith, should they stop eating such meat and attending these meals? This issue is dividing the church.
8:1Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. 2If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; 3but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. -1Corinthians 8:1-3
- The argument of those who feel free to participate is that they know the idols aren’t real. This is just meat. The fact that it was offered to an idol before it was placed on their table doesn’t change anything.
- Their accurate understanding of what they are doing gives them the freedom to eat the meat.
- Paul argues that the knowledge that I am free to eat the meat is not enough. I must also ask how my actions effect others.
- Paul agrees that their knowledge is correct: the idols are fake and there is nothing intrinsically wrong with eating the meat.
- 8:1 – Paul is not dismissing knowledge in favor of love. Paul is correcting the attitude that says, I can ignore you because I know the truth. I’m right, you’re wrong, get over it.
- 8:2 – If anyone has that kind of arrogant knowledge, he is not yet using his knowing as God intended knowledge to be used.
- 8:3 – You may know about God but the one who knows God knows more than that God exists, he also strives to follow Him.
Now concerning your question regarding meat sacrificed to idols, I know that some of you are justifying your behavior by saying you know that the idols are fake. While I will grant you the truth of that, such knowledge is not enough. Thinking that you are superior because of your knowledge only inflates your opinion of yourself whereas love (our true calling) is intended to build up others. If someone thinks he knows the truth, and is therefore justified in ignoring those who disagree with him and doing whatever he wants, he is not using his knowledge in the way God intends. But if anyone loves God as opposed to just knowing about God, then not only does he know god, but more importantly God knows him.
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