1 Corinthians 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.
The Corinthian culture was very idolatrous and pagan, and the church at times found itself having to deal with the situation of buying or eating food that had been sacrificed to idols. The pagans wanted the blessing of the false deities, whereas believers prayed for God’s blessing on food. Did the pagan ritual make the bread uneatable for the Christians? For most believers at Corinth, the food that was sacrificed to idols was not an issue of any real concern. This is because they had knowledge, knowledge that informed them that the pagan deities don’t really exist because they are not God. Thus, there has been no harm done to the food because there are no gods to do the food harm. Yet Paul is going to explain that there are those who don’t have such knowledge and that, for them, eating this food sacrificed to idols could be a defiling thing for their conscience. Even though they would not actually be doing wrong, they would think that they were doing wrong because of their lack of understanding. This is a destructive experience to their walk with Christ, and thus those who possess the knowledge must not let that knowledge make them so arrogant that they influence a brother without proper knowledge to eat and go against his conscience. If it protects a brother from sin, it is worth not eating the food. Love always edifies the brother or sister in Christ, and it is imperative that love guides one’s decision in this matter and in any matter where issues of conscience come into play (Romans 14). None of us know all things, but only God knows all things. None of us are fully advanced or perfected in our knowledge, and so, even those who think they have knowledge need to be careful lest they defile their own consciences because of arrogance and pride. Knowledge is a good thing, and we should keep seeking it, lest we get led astray (Hosea 4:6). Yet, love must guide our pursuit of knowledge, and knowledge should move us to love others and consider their well-being ahead of our own. Our boast is not to be defined by what we know but that God knows us and loves us. And God loves our brothers and sisters as much as He loves us, so we must respect their needs and where they are at in respect to spiritual maturity.
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.
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.
There is only one true God Who has created all things, food included, and we exist for His glory. Our lives are hidden with Christ in God for the purpose of bringing glory to Christ. Christ holds all things together. Since there are no other deities that are true, even though men have many gods and lords that they might worship, the food sacrificed to idols can be eaten by believers. The problem is that some believers who had formerly worshipped idols can’t eat the food which has been sacrificed to idols without feeling guilty as if they are participating in their former sin once again. Of course, if they truly understood things, they should be able to freely eat. Yet this is not where they were at spiritually, so for them, eating would be sin because it would not be from faith (Romans 14:23). What is important to remember here is that eating this food is not something that commends us to God. Eating the food is not a required command of God. If we don’t eat it, we don’t do any harm. If we do eat it, we might do our weaker brother some harm. But there is no glory necessarily in choosing to eat it. So the issue of the most importance in choosing whether or not to eat this food ought to be the state of our brother.
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.
Paul’s conclusion is that if we might stumble our brother into sin by influencing him to eat when his understanding in his conscience tells him that he should not, we do wrong. We are better off not eating for the sake of our brother. To sin in this way would be to sin against our brother and against Christ because of the weakness of his conscience. For him, eating is sin because it goes against what he knows and senses in his conscience as far as what is right and what is wrong. He lacks the knowledge that could set him free, and in the meantime, eating for him is sin because it is not from faith. There is no glory in ruining a brother for the sake of eating some food. He is so much more important, and we should remember that Christ died for him as well. So Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians is not to go into the temple of idols to buy or eat food not because it is inherently sinful but because it could lead a weaker brother astray. The strong need to learn to limit their freedom when others who are weak might be watching and, as a result, be prone to follow in their example and be stumbled into sin.