1 Corinthians 8 – Touching Things Offered Unto Idols
There came a question to Paul that was directed against sanctification and idolatry. The Jewish Christians had raised a good point of conversation that Paul is about to confront. The root of this debate may very well be rooted in such scriptures as these:
“And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”
Exodus 20:1-6, KJV
“And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.”
Exodus 23:13, KJV
“I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Thou shalt have none other gods before me. Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.”
Deuteronomy 5:6-10, KJV
“Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name. Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.”
Deuteronomy 6:13-15, KJV
This means that likely the concerns had been brought up by those who had influenced by Judaizers or Messianic Jews who were familiar with the customs of the Hebrews from antiquity. They were struggling with a real issue of faith. Sometimes when we come from a legalistic background we cling to some of the structures that were involved in our upbringing because they give us a certain amount of security. The danger that these individuals were facing wasn’t one of eating mean and displeasing God and being therefor condemned. What they did not realize is that they were running a chance at putting themselves back into the bondage of legalism in trying to fulfill the law. Paul’s gospel of Grace goes allow deeper than most of us would be willing to publicly debate. I venture that most Christians have not idea how radical the gospel that Paul preached really is. This is just one little glimpse into the liberty that Paul says we have in the Gospel.
Paul makes an argument that is directly related to the dispensation of Grace that is now upon the world. Just as Paul will argue concerning that salvation is by grace through faith, walking in faith is different from walking in the Law. Paul has to open the eyes of the believers to a fact that they may not have considered. The fact is that there are actually, no other gods to worship. Knowledge of the truth of God can sometimes take a little longer to set free some of those who have lived in bondage, than other believers. We are all growing in this knowledge of God and the truth of salvation by grace. None of us, even Paul had a full understanding of the ramifications of the effects that faith in Jesus gives us. Grace has truly set us free. Our understanding of this is made through the process of the sanctification of the Spirit towards us and the development of our knowledge and relationship to God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The best way I know to describe this is through my personal grow. I converted to Christ out of Roman Catholicism. I was raised up from a baby to believe the atonement for my sin was made through.
- Confession to a Priest
- Making a restitution
- Repeating Prayers from the Rosary
- Performing some other work that showed repentance and obedience to the church and to God. (Community Service, etc…)
Now these were so engrained in me that after I converted, I still had the intense urge to go to a confessor. Even though I knew that I was now a priest to God and could confess directly to him. I also carried a rosary years after, not because I prayed the prayers, but because it still gave me a sense of security. As I grew in the knowledge of the grace of God in Jesus Christ, I eventually understood that these things were unnecessary and were just crutches that held no real power to affect my relationship with God. God loved me for who I was. In accepting his love, I was made free of these trinkets and idolatry. But God never rejected me, he allowed me to grow and love him, because at my heart I was seeking him and the truth in him. I know several converts from Catholicism that struggle with these same issues when they are first converted. Grace allows them to grow in full discipleship and love. Spiritual maturity takes time, patience, and some enduring. Most of all it takes love and fellowship.
1 Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.
The apostle Paul now turns his attention to a specific question or questions in relation to foods that were offered to idols and if it was lawful for Christian to eat of these foods. We must understand that when foods were offered to pagan gods in Corinth there would often times be remains that were left. If this offering was a private offering than the offer would be allowed to take them home. These remains would then be used in other meals provided to guess that would attend. If the remains poor from public sacrifices then the remains will be sold to the market. These remains would then be purchased by the local citizens and again they would wind up in the evening meals. The question became can a Christian eat meat that was sacrifice to idols, no matter how they came to the table.
2 And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.
This issue; issue of presumption of knowledge, has often caused problems in the Christian community and in the church. Some of us are just smart enough to be dangerous. (Job 32:13; Ecclesiastes 7:16; Jeremiah 8:9; 1 Corinthians 1:20; 3:18; 2 Corinthians 1:12; Proverbs 3:7:26:12: 28:11) In arrogance some of us set ourselves on a pedestal to tell others how what they do is misunderstood are incorrect.(Romans 12:16) We don’t do this an attitude of love rather we do this in a demonstration of our perceived intelligence. (Psalm 36:3; Jeremiah 8:8)
Paul says if you think you know something about God, you better rethink what you thought. The truth of salvation and a God himself is deeper than any of us could ever comprehend with our carnal mind. There is no greater evidence of ignorance more common than a conceit of knowledge. You see he that knows the most and understands it also understands his own ignorance and the imperfection of human knowledge. So he that imagines himself as a knowledgeable man is being vain and conceited and only tempts his own imagination. So Paul says it’s one thing to know the truth but another thing to understand the truth. We would say it’s one thing to have book knowledge and another to have common sense.
3 But if any man love God, the same is known of him.
Here said Paul says that if a man loves God everyone can see it. It doesn’t matter whether he eats food of idols or not. The testimony of his life reads like an open book. A man of God lives a certain way, treats people a certain way, and has expectation of how he should be treated before God. Anyone who encounters a man that loves God, knows that the man loves God by his countenance. A man or woman of God does not need to put on pretense, or have the need to give false impression, because their heart is what reveals their love for Christ and their actions. These actions include not only a love for God but a love for others. (Luke 10:27) This love is manifest and their day-to-day life. This love of God is not only evidenced to others, but God loves those who love him. (John 14:21-24; Deuteronomy 7:9; 1 John 4:19; Proverbs 8:17; John 10:14,27-30)
4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.
Paul is trying to make a point that the educated Christian should understand. There are no idols, because there are no other gods. All other gods are from the imagination of men and their evil desires and possess no power or authority because they are not real. This means there is only one God. Since there’s only one God, the meat could not have been sanctified to another god because the other god does not exist.
5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)
Paul recognizes that there are many cultures that worship many different gods. Some of the gods found in Corinth would be Artemis, Nike, Tyche, Aphrodite, Poseidon, Apollo, Zeus, Helios, Asklepios, Pan, and Dionysus.
6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
Paul’s realized that others believed that these idols actually represented other gods. Paul makes a point to clarify, even though people worship these idols, there is actually only one God. This God we call our father. Our father created all things, and everything belongs to him, and his son our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the one who created all things and sustains, us we belong to him and the father through him.
7 Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.
Now Paul makes a distinction. Paul says I understand that some of you come within upbringing that determines that there are other gods. Paul also understands that even though they have been converted to Christianity they still have tendencies and beliefs that are centered on their old gods. In coming to Christ these individuals have placed Jesus into a category with other gods; false gods. Paul understands this as a weak point and their faith that must be strengthened. So he says, if your conscience bothers you concerning the eating of meat offered to idols even though the are no other idols then you should not eat food offered idols, because your faith is incomplete. You don’t have an understanding yet that those other gods really do not exist. As one grows in faith we learn to put away the child’s things that we once knew.
8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.
Since we are held by Christ and on the grace period meat cannot be what commands us to Christ. Since we love and live in the grace there is no law that condemns us before God. What we eat has nothing to do with our spiritual us. That is eating the meat of idols or refraining from eating the meat of idols has no effect on our standing with God through Jesus Christ. Spiritually it does not make us healthier or weaker in the spirit. Meat is for sustainment of the body.
9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.
We must understand that each of our faiths are at different points of maturity. We also come from different backgrounds which give us different weaknesses and our belief. We must be cautious to ensure that the liberties or freedoms that we take in Christ do not hinder someone else and their walk. Just because we are free to do as we would, it does not mean that we should do as we would. This in itself shows a weakness in our own belief. If we move in selfishness and not in love then we show the incompleteness of our faith in Christ.
10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;
The reason why we must be careful with how we live our liberty is that if someone else a week or faith sees us to do something that they think is wrong, then they would be encouraged to do what they think is wrong. This does not help their faith instead it allows them to live in compromise of their convictions. If they do not adhere to the convictions of the Holy Spirit in their lives, then they will never mature. Being a Christian requires the ability to stand up against the world system, and to resist temptation. (1 Corinthians 10:13; Matthew 4:1-11; Matthew 26:41; James 1:3; James 1:12-16; James 4:7; Hebrews 2:18; Ephesians 6:11)
11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?
Knowledge without understanding can be a dangerous thing. I once saw a young man hurt themselves rather seriously. His car had over heated. He knew that he needed to check his radiator. He opened the hood, and removed the radiator cap. When he did the pressure build up from the overheated liquid cause an eruption that spewed scolding hot water up into the air, and onto the young man. He pulled away as fast as he could but it was too late. He received 2nd and 3rd degree burns on his hand, arm, and parts of his chest and face. His knowledge of what needed to check the radiator was correct. However, his understanding of the functioning of the radiator was insufficient, and it nearly killed him. This is the same thing.
If someone does not know why the eating of something offered to idols is no longer a sin, then making them to eat the meat will only lead to their destruction. It is then that sin can be taken too far. For instance Paul makes a distinction between, sin and being judged by sin, when he says that we can sin no more. However, we all know that there are other consequences to sin. Paul makes a designation between sins of sexual immorality and other sins also. He says that sins of sexual immorality are against your very nature. (1 Corinthians 6:12-20) James and Paul both say that us to willfully live in known sin is an abomination to God, and Christ. They even beg you to consider that if you do these things that you really do not believe in Jesus and the painful sacrifice he performed on your behalf, nor do you believe that he lives and sees your behavior. If you did believe and understand that, you would act differently, out of love and respect. (Hebrews 10:26) Paul’s periphery is that knowledge of Christ must be in juxtaposition with the understanding of its implications on liberty and sanctification with regard to our spiritual maturity and conscience.
12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.
And this we must remember our primary motivation of love and the second commitment to Christ gave. We are commanded to love one another as we love ourselves. So to cause a brother to fall or doubt his faith is an act of selfishness, especially if it is a boast of one’s own spirituality. This selfishness is a sin against our brother because we wound their conscience and we calls them to sin against Christ by violating their own conscience.
13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.
Paul sums up his argument at this point and gives us a guiding principle that regulates our conduct and morally in different matters; a principle of love. We should voluntarily regulate our liberty so that we don’t cause someone to commit offense and stumble. In Galatians chapter 5 verse 13 it reads “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty fornication to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” Our liberties are given to us to be servants of one another, and to allow us the freedom to relate to one another and to the lost in a manner in which we can lead them to Christ, and encourage the fellow believer. These liberties are a benefit for the Kingdom of God and his Christ, not of our own.
Paul addressed this same principle in Romans 13:8-14. In this passage Paul tells us to accept the brother (or sister) who is weak in their faith. He adds to is that we should not accept them in to vain argumentation and pointing out the weakness of their faith with conjecture or cynicism. Instead we should accept them in love. It is in love that the commandments are fulfilled, not in the refraining of the eating of meats, or other traditions of man. “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 8:10)