Day 73…1 Corinthians 8:4-13
I Corinthians 8:4-13: Meat offered to idols
These verses are a continuation in answering a question the Corinthians were concerned about: should we eat meat offered to idols?
v.4-6, Paul sets the stage by stating what the Corinthian believers already knew: “an idol is not really a god” meaning that they have no power, they were just hunks of wood or metal and they had no ability to curse or bless. These idols represented many “so-called gods” or nonexistent gods, that people worshipped and believed to be “both in heaven and earth.” But “we know there is only one God…the Father, who created everything” even the hunks of wood or metal these idols were made of. Those who believe in God, the Father “live for him” which means they live to give him glory and honour with their lives. “And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life” to say that God and Jesus are one and through them the world was created, sustained and given eternal life because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
v.7, Now Paul goes onto to address the question at hand by reminder all believers “not all believers know this” meaning unfortunately not all believers realized or are convinced that other gods don’t exist. Sure they believe in the all-powerful God of the Christian faith, they are still “accustomed to thinking of idols as being real.” So when they eat meat offered to idols as a religious ceremony, they cannot separate the meat itself from the ceremony “they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated.” The “weak consciences” referred to new converts who were not clear if the eating of this meat was wrong or right because of the past religious connotations. Before they were believers, eating meat was part of worship to false gods and when they saw other believers eating meat offered to idols (exercising their freedom to do so), they felt compelled to also eat, so in eating they felt guilting that they were violating their conscience and in turn believed they were sinning against God.
v.8-9, Paul gives the first of three reasons for voluntarily abstaining from idol meat in the presence of those unable to handle the practice. Paul says “it’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t loose anything if we don’t eat, and we don’t gain anything if we do.” He says it is a morally neutral issue, there is no advantage in eating the meat or disadvantage in not, therefore concern for a weaker believer should take precedence. This reflects back to v.1-3 where Paul tells us love, not knowledge, must decide our course of action. Paul says believers should “be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble.” The “stronger” believer is being told to not exercise their “freedom” or right in ways that will cause fellow believers to “fall” or “stumble” into sin.
v.10, Paul gives an example of what might happen if a stronger believer exercises his freedom in front of a weaker believer. Weak believers who think it is wrong to eat meat offered to idols will “be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol” because they see a stronger believers who has “superior knowledge”– knows there is nothing wrong with eating such meat “eating in the temple of an idol.” [Side note: this occurrence was not uncommon because most social and cultural events happened in the temples]. Even though the strong believer was eating lawfully either in temple without religious ritual, the weak could not do so because he or she didn’t know if it was right or wrong, to them that eating was sin. This principle Paul also wrote about in
Romans 14:23 “But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.”
v.11, Paul gives the second reasons for voluntarily abstaining. Flaunting one’s freedom was damaging to the spiritual lives of the weak. “A weak believer…will be destroyed” the word destroyed is better translated “the process of being ruined” because Paul is not saying a Christian can loose their salvation, but he was saying the stronger believers actions as an obstacle to the weaker believers spiritual growth.
v.12, Paul gives the third reasons for voluntarily abstaining: to avoid “sinning against Christ.” If the stronger believer was insensitive to the weaker believer “by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong” then they would being sinning against that believer, to do also would be sinning against Christ himself.
v.13, Paul finishes off the chapter by following his own advice, saying that if “what [he] eats causes another believer to sin, [he] will never eat meat again as long as [he lives]” because he doesn’t want “to cause another believer to stumble.” Strong believers should be willing to restrict their freedoms for the sake of weak believers.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? It is easier to live by the Word of God because it is clear what is wrong but what about things Scripture doesn’t speak of? I believe Paul is telling us to follow our conscience or more importantly the Holy Spirit. To go against a conviction we have will leave me with a guilty feeling or uneasy conscience, that when I should steer clear of that activity because I don’t want another believer to fall into sin because of something that is gray or neutral in my life.
WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? I always think about serving alcohol to an alcoholic example when I think about causing a weaker believer to stumble, but I think God is talking to me about other areas of my life. I need to steer clear of those things that not only cause other to stumble also myself.