Day 72…I Corinthians 8:1-3
I Corinthians 8:1-3: Love for a weaker believer
Paul takes a whole section of chapters to focus on one very important question the Corinthian believers asked: should we eat meat offered to idols? He deals with this question right through to chapter 11. In this chapter he deals with meat served in pagan temples. But I want to discuss the underlying issue in this post which is love for a weaker believer.
v.1, The Corinthian believers were asking about meat offered to idols as it pertains to idolatry. The offering of meat to idols was common in the culture in which the Corinthians lived. It would seem to be obvious that believers should have no contact with idolatry of any form, right? But for the believers in Corinth it was nearly impossible for 2 reasons which became concerns:
- it was an accepted social practice to eat meals in temples or places associated with idols. To cut them off from gatherings with such social practices would mean they couldn’t attend weddings and other social celebrations. At such gatherings, a sacrifice was made to an idol. When the meat was sacrificed, the priest would divide it into 3–one would be burned up, one would be given to the offerer, and one would be given to the priest. However if the priest did not use his portion he would give it to the marketplace to sell.
- The meat that was sacrificed to the idol would be sold in the marketplace, would then be bought and served in private homes. So the Corinthian believers wondered if the meat had been contaminated by its having been offered on a pagan altar to an idol. And if they ate it, would they be participating in idol worship.
Paul answers their first concern in chapter 8 and their second concern in chapters 10 & 11.
“We all have knowledge” is probably a direct quote from one of the Corinthian letters to Paul. This knowledge refers to knowledge that there is one true God and idols are worthless and have no power. And the conclusion then is that believers can eat anything because God created it, so meat offered to idols could do nothing to contaminate them so they could freely eat with their friends without any problems. Some believers understood this fact but others felt very strongly that to eat meat offered to idols was wrong–it bothered their consciences. So they wanted some wise council from Paul.
Paul shared with the believers that “knowledge makes us feel important” or other translations say “puffs us up,” BUT “love strengthens the church” or “builds it up.” If those who had knowledge took pride in it, they could end up dividing the church. However those who took that knowledge and used it lovingly among the believers were strengthening the church. In this situation, acting on knowledge alone–even accurate–without love for other believers, would harm the church. Paul warned the Corinthians that even though they had knowledge that there is one God and idols have no power, this did not mean they could eat the meat offered to idols. Why? Because by eating this meat they could cause another believer to do the same, and they would not being doing so because of their knowledge but because someone else was eating the meat. And they would be doing so against their conscience which leads this person to stumble.
v.2-3, Because “knowledge makes us feel important” people who have knowledge might even “claim to know all the answers.” However we know that no one can claim to know everything so they “really don’t know very much.” But “the person who loves God” has found the truth and also has discovered that they cannot be God and know all the answers. To love God is to submit to him. Love for God, then, naturally leads to love for other believers. Which in turn leads to not eating the meat offered to idols because we might cause another believer to stumble–that’s love!
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? Knowledge of God leads me as a believer to willingly support and help weaker believers so as not to cause them to stumble. Obviously we don’t have to worry about eating meat offered to idols today but this can apply also with many other situations we face today–drinking alcohol or watching certain movies.
WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? To always think of a weaker believer when I choose to do activties that could be questionable to them, because I need to act in love and support for them not just because I can do whatever the activity I want to do.