1 Corinthians 8:1-13
This is a continuation of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Corinth. Paul wrote to address concerns that had been brought to his attention. He speaks of division within the church and their giving credit to their teachers instead of to God in chapter 1. In chapter 2 we hear how we are to teach the Word (the milk or the fundamentals first and then meat or the deeper meanings). Paul also discusses how our faith should be in God alone and not in man. Chapter 3 includes a reminder that our foundation is our Rock, Jesus Christ. We are to be careful how we build upon that foundation. We are to take whatever knowledge God grants us and plant seeds. In chapter 4 Paul warns that truly living by His Word means that we will be ridiculed but God’s wisdom is greater than man’s wisdom. One of the issues distressing Paul is the church’s condoning of sinful behavior rather than addressing it as instructed in God’s Word. He addresses this in chapter 5. It’s a powerful and relevant message for us today living in these times. In chapter 6 Paul teaches how we are to handle disputes between believers and how we should not allow our flesh body to rule over our spirit body. Chapter 7:1-17 covers marriage and 7:18-40 includes a lesson on how we are to allow someone to leave the church if that’s what they choose to do.
I hope you’ll pull out your Bible and join me in a verse-by-verse study of chapter 8.
1 Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.
Using The Companion Bible and The New Exhaustive Strong’s Concordance of the Bible I can see that charity is 26 agape in the Greek, meaning love, i.e. affection or benevolence; spec. (plur.) a love-feast:- (feast of) charity ([-ably]), dear, love.
Edifieth is 3618 oikodomeo from the same as 3619; to be a house-builder, i.e. construct or (fig.) confirm:- (be in) build (-er, -ing, up), edify, embolden.
When you have knowledge it’s easy to get puffed up (full of yourself). Having knowledge of the Word may lead to you thinking too much of yourself. But love humbles us. Love doesn’t put others down. Love builds up. When we have that love we don’t let our knowledge puff us up. We don’t let that knowledge make us think we’re above anyone else.
Can you teach the Word (or anything) if you’re talking above someone’s head? Using big words to make yourself seem and feel important? No. The best teachers are always willing to get down on the other person’s level. Love makes us do just that.
Paul is telling us he’s about to start discussing idols and the things that are offered to them. What do we (as believers who know God’s Word) know about idols? Of course we know that they are nothing but what they’re made from. They’re wood or gold and nothing more.
Idols are traditionally considered to be statues/sculptures/etc that someone worships. But an idol doesn’t have to look like that. Anything could be an idol that we allow to monopolize all our thoughts and time. Anything that takes us from God. A house, car, or money are a few things that could be idols. Not that we shouldn’t have these things. Not that these things are inherently bad. They’re not. They can be used for great good. But if we allow them to consume us or if we allow our pursuit of them (or anything) to keep us from God then there’s a problem. That’s when something becomes an idol – when we elevate it above God.
2 And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.
We will never know everything. We will never have all the answers. There is always more of His Word for us to learn. If you think you know everything then you’re all puffed up and it’s like you really know nothing.
3 But if any man love God, the same is known of him.
When you love God the Holy Spirit is at work in you. He can grant you understanding and you’ll be exhibiting love instead of allowing any knowledge you have to make you puffed up. People will see this. This is how you plant seeds – by sharing the knowledge God provides in a loving way.
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.
An idol is nothing more than what is used to make it. It’s wood. It’s paper. It’s metal. That is all. So sacrificing food to that idol is foolish. What is that idol supposed to do with it? The idol isn’t going to eat that offering. You’re just wasting good food.
The idol certainly isn’t God. There is only one God.
5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)
There are people who will claim there are many gods. It was true then and it’s true today. Whether we’re talking about gods that people have named and worship as a form of religion. Or whether we’re talking about how people worship the things of this world.
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.
We know there is only one God. He created all things including us. It’s in Him and through Jesus Christ that we are made new and clean.
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.
Defiled is 3435 moluno which is to soil (fig.):- defile. So it means to soil or pollute.
If someone makes an offering to an idol we shouldn’t eat that offering. Yes, we know the offering is only made of wood or gold and that the idol can’t do anything with that food. But if we were to eat the offering we could become a stumblingblock to this person. We could do harm to their growing faith rather than good.
Paul also addresses how we are to treat those we are new to the Word of God in Romans chapter 14.
Romans 14:1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
Our approach with someone weak in understanding His Word shouldn’t be arguing and criticizing. Does this mean we should refuse to speak Truth because we’re afraid to offend? That we should ignore sinful behavior or false teaching? Of course not. But we are to teach and speak with love.
Romans 14:2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
Some people may not follow the health laws and they will eat things that you don’t eat. Others may refuse to eat something that you do eat and know to be allowed by God. The health laws are for the flesh body. They were created by God because He loves us and He wants us to know how to keep our flesh bodies healthy. Breaking a health law doesn’t mean someone will not have everlasting life so don’t treat it as such.
Romans 14:3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
Remember the subject of this chapter of Romans is how we are treat those new to the Word of God. These people are babes in Christ. They are learning of Him and growing their relationship with Him.
If God receives this person then how can we refuse to do so?
Romans:14:4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
God is the judge. We do not know the heart or mind of any man or woman. We are unqualified to judge.
We still should discern right from wrong. God is very clear on this. Yet the ultimate judge isn’t you or I. It’s God and God alone.
Romans 14:5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
One church may worship exclusively on Sundays while another worships on Saturdays. We know from 1 Corinthians 5:6-7 that these are just days and Christ became our Sabbath. We also know from a thorough study of the Word that while Christmas is commonly considered the birth of Christ it is in fact the completely wrong month and season for that to be true. However, most Christians will still consider Sunday the Sabbath and Christmas the day of our Lord’s birth. We shouldn’t argue with them about this and let it be cause for division when God has received them.
Does it mean we should deny or ignore His Word? Absolutely not. Then we’d be partaking in false teaching. You can live and speak His Word without being argumentative.
Romans 14:6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
Romans 14:7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
Romans 14:8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
The day and the food don’t mean as much as whether you’re serving the Lord.
Romans 14:9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living.
When Christ died He visited those who were alive prior to His coming to earth in a flesh body. In doing so He gave everyone (both living and dead) the opportunity to choose Him (1 Peter 4:6). Of course those who weren’t yet born (like us) also have this opportunity through the Word and the Holy Spirit.
Romans 14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
It is not for us to judge. It is for us to plant seeds. We will all have our time to be judged and it’s not man or woman doing the judging.
Romans 14:11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
This is written in Isaiah 45:23. When will every knee bow and every tongue confess? This will occur on the first day of Millenium when Jesus returns.
Romans 14:12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
We will answer for our actions and not the actions of anyone else. Rather than judging our brothers and sisters it is better for us to work on our relationship with God and grow in our understanding of His Word. (In doing so we will plant seeds in others and influence their own relationships with the Father in a positive way. But ultimately we cannot make those seeds flourish. We cannot make someone’s decisions for them. We can’t force them to want to know the Lord.)
Romans 14:13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.
God is the judge. Does this mean we don’t speak up when something is wrong? Does this mean we ignore when the church embraces sin or teaches something that is counter to His Word? No. Paul certainly isn’t doing that in our current study of 1 Corinthians. He is correcting. He is teaching. We are not to sit on the understanding we gain from His Word. We are to share it. This can be done in a loving way.
What we can do is ensure that we don’t become a stumblingblock for a fellow Christian. How do we avoid doing that? We live and speak His Word. We teach with love (to edify). Because teaching His Word and demonstrating His Word in our lives IS LOVING. It would be unloving to lead someone down a dangerous path.
Romans 14:14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
Romans 14:15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
Let’s look at this two ways because both are applicable here. This first way is going back to the illustration of not eating a meat offering someone has left for an idol. If we eat it then the person who is new to understanding the Word may be offended and may turn away from the Lord. We don’t want to do that. It’s not worth eating the meat.
The second way we can view this is referring to the milk versus the meat. In the study of 1 Corinthians 2 we covered how we must first understand the milk (the fundamentals of the Word) before we can move on to the meat (the deeper meanings of the Word). A babe in Christ needs that milk first. Someone new to the Word cannot yet grasp the meat. Milk first then meat.
Romans 14:16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of:
Don’t let your good be blasphemed by those who are not ready to understand. If someone doesn’t yet grasp some of the deeper concepts of the Word don’t argue with them about it. Arguing with someone who isn’t ready won’t do any good at all and it may do harm.
Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
The kingdom of God is much bigger than what someone eats or drinks. Yes, there are health laws to guide us in those decisions but don’t give that food and drink more credit than it deserves. No one will be denied eternal life because they didn’t follow a health law.
Romans 14:18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.
If someone new to knowing the Lord and His Word has a conviction regarding the little things like food and drink let them. Don’t do them harm by arguing it. If they’re not ready to understand they’re not ready to understand. Lead by example.
Do things God’s way and you’ll be acceptable to God.
Romans 14:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
We should focus on the things that can build up our brothers and sisters. We shouldn’t wallow in the little things that may tear them down or discourage their faith.
Romans 14:20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.
Romans 14:21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
Everything God created is pure for its purpose. Not all animals were created to be eaten but there is no animal you could eat that would keep you from obtaining salvation.
However, if you ate something in front of a new Christian that causes them to stumble then you’ve done harm. Your action caused someone to turn from Christ and salvation.
That was an awfully long detour but the topic is clearly in line with our current study. Now let’s finish chapter 8 of 1 Corinthians.
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.
We can do with or without this meat offering made to an idol. Do we need to eat it? No. And if we did would that full belly be worth the harm we may do to the babe in Christ who will be offended?
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, for whom Christ died?
We don’t want our actions to be a stumblingblock to someone. Our eating of this meat offering may result in this babe in Christ being confused and offended. They may turn against Jesus. Christ died for this person. They are precious to our Lord. Let us not do anything to discourage their new faith.
12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.
Eating meat isn’t wrong. Eating the meat that causes someone to stumble is wrong.
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 is saying it’s better to not eat that meat than eat it and cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble.
When someone is a new Christian and new to His Word we are to take special care of them. We are to demonstrate God’s Word and love in all we do. This new Christian may have a conviction that’s different from yours. Give them time to learn and grow.
When you first came to know Christ you started with the fundamentals too, right? With the idea of a Father who sent His son to give His life for our salvation. Through time, prayer, and study of His Word you learned more. You started to see the bigger picture, His plan, and your purpose. You learned right from wrong and that sometimes it differs from what this world sees as right or wrong. You developed discernment and uncovered what your God-given gift and contribution to His kingdom is. We should give all new Christians the opportunity to progress in their faith and understanding just as we did.
So what are we to do?
We are called to live our lives according to His Word. We are called to speak Truth. Not the truth of man, which is fallible and changing, but the ultimate Truth of our great God. We are called to love. Even when that love is tough love. It’s through all of this that we serve as seed planters.