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 1 Corinthians Chapter 8

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PostSubject: 1 Corinthians Chapter 8    Wed May 29, 2013 4:07 pm

1 Corinthians 8:1

Counsel concerning Christian liberty

Paul’s reply to the Corinthians’ question concerning the propriety of eating the meat of an animal offered in a pagan sacrifice touched off an extensive response, probably because he sensed that this particular issue was another manifestation of the Corinthians’ self-centeredness, which produced other similar problems in the church.
Two words which seemed to epitomize the Corinthians’ point of view were “freedom” (eleutheros, 1Co_9:1, 1Co_9:19; eleutheria, 1Co_10:29) and “rights” (exousia, 1Co_8:9; 1Co_9:4-6, 1Co_9:12, 1Co_9:18). Paul used and qualified these words in these chapters by stressing the importance of a love for others which sought their “good” (sympherōos, 1Co_10:24, 1Co_10:33; 1Co_12:7; cf. 1Co_6:12) by “strengthening” or “building” them up (oikodomeōia, 1Co_8:1, 1Co_8:10; 1Co_10:23; 1Co_14:3-5, 1Co_14:12, 1Co_14:17, 1Co_14:26). These two themes, “me first” or “you first,” and Paul’s development of them as they affected believers in relation to pagan worship and Christian worship, unified these chapters. Secondarily Paul showed that the former attitude ultimately brought God’s disapproval (adokimos, 1Co_9:27) and His discipline (1Co_10:5-10; 1Co_11:30-32).

Christian Liberty In Relation To Pagan Worship

Ordinarily the Greeks and Romans burned the less desirable portions of an animal in the course of their sacrifices and retained the choicer parts for personal consumption at banquets celebrating the sacrifices. If a sacrifice were made in connection with a state function, the meat which remained was frequently sold in the marketplace. The Corinthians’ questions apparently concerned (a) the acceptability of buying and eating meat from one of these sacrificial animals; (b) the acceptability of eating this meat as an invited guest in a friend’s home; (c) the acceptability of attending one of these pagan sacrifices and enjoying the meal of celebration which followed in the temple precincts. Paul spoke to each of these issues.

The principle of brotherly love

Paul struck right to the heart of the matter in these preliminary verses by stating a basic principle: love is superior to knowledge (cf. 1Co_13:1-13).
Much as he had begun his reply on marital questions, Paul may have quoted a Corinthian sentiment (we all possess knowledge) with which he basically agreed but which required qualification. Knowledge was essential in correctly responding to their questions but those who thought they had it did not, as Paul would show.
It seems that in each one of these chapters in Corinthians that Paul is answering questions they have written and asked him about. We remember that "idols" mean nothings. Paul is possibly saying, I know that you all know not to worship idols. It seems that the person who had written Paul was puffed up with pride, and Paul is about to show him the error in being puffed up with pride about the little knowledge he had. Love, or charity, builds a person up. Pride destroys.
The Greeks and Romans were polytheistic (worshipping many gods) and polydemonistic (believing in many evil spirits). They believed that evil spirits would try to invade human beings by attaching themselves to food before it was eaten, and that the spirits could be removed only by the food’s being sacrificed to a god. The sacrifice was meant not only to gain favor with the god, but also to cleanse the meat from demonic contamination. Such decontaminated meat was offered to the gods as a sacrifice. That which was not burned on the altar was served at wicked pagan feasts. What was left was sold in the market.
After conversion, believers resented eating such food bought out of idol markets, because it reminded sensitive Gentile believers of the previous pagan lives and the demonic worship.
“We all have knowledge”: Paul and mature believers knew better than to be bothered by such food offered once to idols and then sold in the marketplace. They knew the deities did not exist and that evil spirits did not contaminate the food.
“Charity (love) edifies”: Knowledge mingled with love prevents a believer from exercising freedoms that offend weaker believers and, rather, builds the others up in truth and wisdom.

1 Corinthians 8:2-3

In the first place, knowledge about God was always partial (1Co_13:12). In the second place, true knowledge led to God and a love for Him which Paul knew must issue in love for others (cf. 1Jn_4:20-21). The minute a person gets to the stage that he thinks he knows everything, he has stopped learning and probably does not know near as much as he thought he did. A little knowledge is a very dangerous thing. I believe a technical knowledge of the Bible, without benefit of the spiritual meaning, is dangerous, as well. When you find a humble person still eager to learn more, you find a knowledgeable person. You can know what a Scripture says, without knowing what it means. To understand what it means must be revealed to you by the Holy Spirit. To know God exists is one thing, but to have Him as your personal Savior is something else entirely. To know of God is one thing, but to love God in your heart is an entirely different thing, as well. Love is the proof of knowing God.
John 10:14 "I am the good shepherd, and know my [sheep], and am known of mine." He knows us and we know Him, if we love Him.
Galatians 4:9 "But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?"

1 Corinthians 8:4

With the principle stated it now remained to be applied to the particular instance in question. The statements which follow the two that’s (an idol is nothing at all and there is no God but One) may well have been Corinthian affirmations with which Paul could wholeheartedly agree. An “idol” indeed was “nothing” (Psa_115:4-Cool, for there is only one God (Deu_4:35, Deu_4:39). Hence eating food sacrificed to idols was, in itself, inconsequential. Christians should believe that idols are nothings. The sin involving idols is to elevate them up and worship them. Christians should believe in God and God alone. Any form of worshipping idols is totally unacceptable. There would be absolutely no way to know what meat had been offered to idols and what was not. To regard the meat clean or unclean would be regarding the idol. They should not try to judge at all. Just ignore all of that, since an idol is a nothing anyway.
Paul states his agreement with the well taught believers who knew idols were nothing, so food offered to idols was not defiled.
We must remember through all of this that Paul is answering questions someone in Corinth had written to him. God had shown over and over that idols are nothings, as He did in Egypt; to make the Pharaoh let the people go.

1 Corinthians 8:5-6

The pantheon of the Greeks and Romans, not to mention the gods and lords of the mystery religions were indeed numerous, but one God alone is real (Deu_10:17). The Father is the source of all (Gen_1:1) and the One for whom the Corinthians should live (1Co_10:31). In Egypt there had been thousands of false gods. Here in Corinth, there had been many false gods, as well. The problem with people who worship false gods is that they want a god they can see with their eyes. They worship things from God's creation instead of worshipping the Creator. God is the Eternal Spirit.
John 4:24 "God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth." The One true God is Spirit, and must be seen in the Spirit and not with physical eyes.
The Lord Jesus Christ was the agent of Creation (Col_1:16) and the One through whom the Corinthians lived (1Co_12:27; Eph_1:23). A powerful and clear affirmation of the essential equality of God the Father and God the Son. (Eph. 4:4-6)
Here is the Scripture which explains it best.
I John 5:7 "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one."
The Lord Jesus Christ is the same as the Word mentioned here in 1 John. Eternal God is the beginning of all. Our Salvation is by believing in Lord Jesus Christ. The Word was Creator God. All things exist by Him. He bought us with His precious blood, and we are now adopted children of the Father. There is no other way to the Father, but by Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 8:7-8

If all Corinthian Christians could have agreed that an idol was nothing and that there was only one God (1Co_8:4), then they might have eaten the idol meat with impunity. However, such was not the case. All, in fact, did not possess knowledge. The conscience of some Christians was not strengthened on this point by the truth. This is just speaking of those who know the meat was offered to an idol, feel that they should not eat it, and eat it anyway. That would be a sin, because they went against their conscience. Those who regard the idol as nothing would not sin, if they ate of the same meat, because they do not regard the idol as anything. They could eat it with a clear conscience.
They were still ignorant and had not come to the point where they could accept eating this kind of meat as a matter of indifference. For them it was wrong, and so to eat it was sin (cf. Rom_14:23). The meat is not what makes the sin. It is our attitude toward the meat. Anything that you cannot do with a clear conscience is sin if you do it.
If you are a Christian, God has placed His laws in your heart. Your conscience alerts you when something is a sin or not. We must never do anything that we feel in our heart is wrong to do. The eating is not the sin. The sin is doing what you know or feel in your heart is wrong for you.
Paul denied the validity of their scruples, but in the advice which followed he suggested that the solution would be found in love, not in knowledge.

1 Corinthians 8:9

When knowledge uninformed by love dictated one’s behavior, Paul warned that spiritual harm would result. The exercise of… freedom by the knowledgeable could in certain circumstances become an obstacle, a stumbling block in the weak Christian’s walk with God (cf. 1Co_8:13). We must make a judgment call here. If we do something that we know in our heart is not wrong for us to do, but would cause our brother to sin, it is wrong for us to do. It is wrong, because we would cause our brother who has a weak conscience to sin. All Christians should be aware of their brother's weakness, and not do things in front of him that would cause him to sin. It is even more important that ministers are careful what they say and do. Sometimes the only example of Christian living that a person has is the one we live before them.

1 Corinthians 8:10

As an illustration Paul posed a situation in which a weak Christian saw a knowledgeable brother enjoying a meal in an idol’s temple and was by this example encouraged to join in, even though he could not do so with the clear conscience before God that the knowledgeable Christian enjoyed. This is speaking of someone who has no guilty conscience about eating things offered to idols, because he does not regard the idol as anything. The sad thing is that the person who does have a guilty conscience about eating the sacrifice offered to the idol might eat to show that they can do anything you are doing. Remember, you are their example, and they would sin because of your freedom in the Lord. It is just best to be careful of this for their sakes and not for your own sake.

1 Corinthians 8:11

As a consequence the conscience of this weak believer was seared (cf. 1Ti_4:2), and his capacity to distinguish right from wrong was lost (cf. Tit_1:15) leading to his spiritual ruin and physical death (cf. 1Co_10:9-10; Rom_14:15). Apollytai, rendered is destroyed, often refers to physical death (e.g., Mat_2:13; Act_5:37). We see in the following Scripture, it is not always what we do that is sin, but our attitude about what we do that is sin. Anything you do without having faith in your heart that it is alright to do, is sin. Look with me at that very thing in the following Scripture.
Romans 14:23 "And he that doubteth is damned if he eats, because [he eateth] not of faith: for whatsoever [is] not of faith is sin."
The sad thing is that we have great influence on those who have just received Jesus as their Savior. We must not give even the appearance of evil for their sakes. The new Christian is not aware of the privilege of Christianity and thus you might cause him to sin.
The selflessness of Christ was an example for the knowledgeable. If Christ loved this brother so that he was willing to give up His exalted rights and even His life (Php_2:6, Php_2:Cool, surely the strong could give up his right to eat such meat.

1 Corinthians 8:12

To be arrogantly indifferent to the need of weaker Christians results in sin not only against them (for you… wound their weak conscience; cf. 1Co_8:7) but also against Christ of whose body they are members (1Co_12:26-27; cf. 1Co_1:30; Mat_25:40, Mat_25:45). A strong warning that causing a brother or sister in Christ to stumble is more than simply an offense against that person; it is a serious offense against the Lord Himself. Paul experienced this point acutely on the Damascus Road (Act_9:4-5).

1 Corinthians 8:13

In summary Paul stressed the priority of brotherly love. He did not demand that the knowledgeable relinquish their right, but he illustrated how he would apply the principle to himself. Paul did not want any brother to fall (cf. 1Co_8:9) but to be “built up” (cf. 1Co_8:1), and knowledge governed by love accomplished that.
As a final note to this chapter it should be understood that Paul did not say that a knowledgeable Christian must abandon his freedom to the ignorant prejudice of a “spiritual” bigot. The “weak brother” (1Co_8:11) was one who followed the example of another Christian, not one who carped and coerced that knowledgeable Christian into a particular behavioral pattern. Also it was unlikely that Paul saw this weak brother as permanently shackling the freedom of the knowledgeable Christian. The “weak brother” was no omnipresent phantom but an individual who was to be taught so that he too could enjoy his freedom (Gal_5:1). Paul has said a tremendous thing here. Not only will he not sin, but he will not do anything that might cause someone else to sin. Paul says, even if I can never eat meat again, I would even do that to keep my weaker brother from sinning. Will we do as much?
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