In 1Corinthians 8, Paul argues that knowing the truth is not enough; we must use our knowledge in the context of loving our neighbors as ourselves and consider the implications of our actions.
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. 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 1Corinthians 7, Paul starts answering specific questions that the Corinthians asked him.
In 1Corinthians 8-10, Paul answers their second question: Is it okay to eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols?
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.
8:4Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. 5For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, 6yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. – 1Corinthians 8:4-6
- The Corinthians who want to eat the meat their accurate understanding of what they are doing makes eating the meat okay.
- Paul agrees that their knowledge is correct, but it is not enough. They must also consider the effect of their actions on others.
- Paul agrees while there are many things people worship as god, there is only one God and the idols are fake.
- In 8:6 Paul highlights the different roles of God, the Father and Jesus Christ. Lord refers to Christ’s role as master and king.
- To understand “Lord”, compare with Psalm 110:1; Luke 20:41-44; and Acts 2:34-36
- God, the Father, is the source of all life and blessings. Jesus Christ is the means by which we receive that life and blessing.
The pagans obey many lords and masters so that they can find help and blessing. But we Christians know there is only one God, the father, and that everything comes from Him, and we Christians belong to Him alone. And we know that there is only one Lord and master, Jesus the Messiah, and that everything that God has for us, He is giving us through Jesus because of what Jesus did for us.
7However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. 9But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? 11For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. 12And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble. – 1Corinthians 8:7-13
- By conscience, Paul means the set of ideas that I use to inform my choices is misinformed in some way. To have a “weak conscience” in this context is to have an inaccurate or incomplete understanding.
- Paul agrees they are correct that it is okay to eat the meat, but it is more important how their actions affect others.
- A stumbling block is that thing that I trip over and causes me to fall. In this context, it is that which causes me to leave the faith. It is not anything which might offend me.
- The principle is that we should act out of love, seeking our brother’s best welfare — which may mean we need to offend or upset him at times.
- We should not encourage others to participate in what they believe to be sin — even if they are wrong.
Every generation struggles with the temptation to dabble in practices that seem over the edge to their parents (playing cards, watching movies, dancing, listening to certain music, reading certain books, wearing jeans to church, drinking, swearing, etc). Paul would warn us to be very careful that our actions do not cause another to sin.
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