1Corinthians 8 - Outline of 1Corinthians (MENU page)
Paul continues to address questions which the Corinthian church had asked in a previous letter (1Cor 7:1). Although their letter was not preserved, Paul's answers are before us. Having spoken to their questions about marriage, he now moves to their question about whether it is acceptable to eat meats offered to idols. His answer spans chapters 8-10.
     [Several years earlier, the council at Jerusalem had written to Gentile believers "that they abstain from pollutions {ie., defilement} of idols," which would preclude the eating of meats offered to idols. The reason given was to avoid unnecessary offense to the Jewish people, so that they might remain open to hearing the Gospel (Acts 15:19-21). Apparently, some local church leaders were teaching otherwise, based on their knowledge that they were under grace, not law.]
1. Now as touching things offered unto idols,
we know that we all have knowledge.
Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth
{GK=oikodomeo, lit., builds a house}.
2 And if any man think that he knoweth any thing,
he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.
3 But if any man love God, the same is known of him.
Paul prefaces his answer by highlighting the tension between 'knowledge' and 'love.' The person who has knowledge can easily become inflated with pride, over what he knows. Yet, he knows nearly nothing, in comparison to what God knows (1Cor 13:11,12). Godly knowledge must be balanced with godly love {GK=agape, sometimes translated 'charity' in the KJV}. Such love is concerned, not for itself, but for the well-being of others. The person who 'edifies' God's children is more concerned with God's house, than his personal property rights. See Rom 14:14,15; 1Cor 13:4-8.
     Paul's answer to their question (in ch.8) balances their knowledge of truth, against their obligation to love others. Then, he provides two illustrations, one positive (ch.9) and one negative (10:1-10), before restating and applying his answer (in 10:16- 11:1). See the outline of 1Corinthians.
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.
{cp. Isa 44:8-10; Hab 2:19,20}
5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth,
(as there be gods many, and lords many,)
{eg., Acts 17:16,22-23; Gal 4:8}
6 But to us [there is but] one God, the Father,
of whom [are] all things, and we in him;
{Mal 2:10; Eph 4:6}
and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom [are] all things,
{Joh 1:3; Heb 1:1,2}
and we by him.
{Heb 1:3; Rom 5:8-11; Rev 5:9,10}
...concerning... eating... things... offered in sacrifice unto idols...
Corinth, like other cities of the Greek and Roman world, was wholly given unto idolatry. In its numerous temples, animals were sacrificially offered to idols. Of course, the idols could not consume this food. Therefore, the meat was sold in the local markets, at a good price. When meat from other sources was available, it was more expensive. Therefore, the new believers asked whether it was acceptable to eat the readily available and economic food. No doubt, controversy concerning this question was contributing to the contentions within the church (1Cor 1:10,11).
...we know that an idol is nothing... But to us [there is but] one God...
Scripture frequently refers to idols as 'vanities' {ie., emptiness}, for despite their richly ornamented and imposing figures, they are powerless and of no benefit to their worshippers.
     Paul's Gentile readers had worshipped and served these false 'so-called' gods, prior to believing the Gospel and turning to the living and true God (cp. 1The 1:8-10).
7. Howbeit [there is] not in every man that knowledge:
for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour
{until now}
eat [it] as a thing offered unto an idol;
and their conscience being weak is defiled.
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.
Howbeit [there is] not in every man that knowledge...
Doctrinal knowledge differs from personal moral perception. A person's conscience {GK=suneidesis, lit., 'with-seeing', co-perception) perceives 'right' from 'wrong' with respect to an external standard (eg., as set by a religion or society).
     Although they had turned from idols to the living and true God, some of the new believers were not yet able to dismiss the idols as 'nothing.' Having lived in bondage to the false gods, until very recently, these 'weaker' believers were convinced of the necessity of total separation from these entities. If these brothers were to eat meat offered to idols, they would sin, by defiling {soiling} their conviction concerning what was right in the sight of the true God.
But meat commendeth us not to God... neither if we eat... or if we eat not...
Contrary to believers with weak consciences, 'we know' that we are saved and made holy by the grace of God through faith in Christ. We are no longer bound by the Law. Therefore, there is no merit in observing legalistic restrictions. See Rom 14:17; 1Cor 6:13; Col 2:20-23; Heb 13:9; Mat 15:17-20.
9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours
become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.
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;
11 And through thy knowledge
shall the weak brother perish
{GK=apollumi, be destroyed},
for whom Christ died?
12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience,
ye sin against Christ.
13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend
{GK=skandalizo, to trip, to stumble},
I will eat no flesh while the world standeth,
lest I make my brother to offend.
{cp. Rom 14:1-4,13-15,20-23}
...through thy knowledge, shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?
Because I know that an idol is nothing, and that what I eat does not affect my salvation, I have liberty {GK=exousia, lit., authority} to eat, even in the idol's temple. However, a brother who sees me doing so, may defile his conscience to follow my example. Thinking that I put no difference between Christ and the false gods, he might also fall away from Christ and return to idolatry.
     For those who truly love Christ, the Christian life is more than personal freedom. The law of love restricts my liberty, for the sake of my brother. Joh 13:34; Rom 15:1-3; 1Cor 10:23,24

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