1 Corinthians 8 – On the Mission, know what to do, but do it with love

This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.
1 Corinthians 8:1 (ESV)

Today we will be diving into 1 Corinthians 8 where Paul is going to address the church at Corinth about the eating of food offered to idols. Before he jumps into that issue he first addresses an issue they have with knowledge. Lets go ahead and read the first three verses of 1 Corinthians 8.

1 Corinthians 8:1–3 (ESV)
1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

The issue with knowledge is that without love it can produce pride in people who then walk around with an inflated ego thinking they are better than everyone else because of what they know. In the Scripture Paul addresses this issue with four key statements.

  1. “All of us possess knowledge”
    • Paul agrees with them but he also shows up their pride by saying that all Christians have knowledge.
  2. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”
    • All Christians have knowledge but it’s how we use it that matters.
    • Knowledge can produce pride but love builds people up.
    • If we use our knowledge properly than we can build others up by sharing what we know with them to improve their lives. To build them up, to make them better.
    • In the Greek, love builds up or love edifies, it reflects the metaphor for erecting a building.
      • Paul used it often to talk about the building up of the church or individual Christians.
  3. “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know”
    • If you think you know, you don’t really know it. Need to come to a greater level of knowledge, of God, of His ways, of the love involved.
    • Or, earthly knowledge is passing away, know God more instead of this earth.
  4. “If anyone loves God, he is known by God”
    • What is more important, to know God, or to be known by God?
    • Knowledge of God is one thing, but to love God, to really know God means that God in turn loves you and knows you.
    • God takes a personal interest in us when we turn to Him in love and surrender ourselves to Him.
1 Corinthians 8:4–6 (ESV)
4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Next, in verses 4-6, Paul jumps back to the main issue at hand here, the eating of things that have been offered in sacrifice to idols. Paul says that they know, lets use some of that knowledge now, that idols are nothing in this world. There is no other God but one true God! So in verse 4 what Paul is saying is that there are two things that we know; (1) An idols is nothing in the world, and Paul agrees with them on this.

The gods of the pagan world are not really gods. In the visible world, they are nothing more than the stone, metal, or wood they are made of.

Robert E. Picirilli

There may be many “things” that people make gods and idols of, but those are based on earthly or worldly things. (2) There is but one true God is the truth that they know and we know and how they and we must live by. They love on this earth and know of the worldly things, including all these other gods and idols, but now as a Christian, they know that there is but only one true God.

Lets look now at verses 5 and 6 to see how Paul parallels worldly things with Godly things.

  • If there are so-called gods, as there are many gods and many lords
  • Yet for the Christians, there is ONE God
    • The Father – from whom are all things and for whom we live
    • One Lord Jesus Christ – through whom are all things and through whom we live
    • The first two figures of the Trinity
      • One God who created all things and is the reason we live today
      • One Lord, Jesus Christ, who all created things came through and through His sacrifice is how we can live an eternal life

“As rational creatures and especially as Christians we have a task, namely a vocation to glorify God. Our life must be directed toward Him”

F. W. Grosheide
1 Corinthians 8:7–13 (ESV)
7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

The liberty, or rights/privilege, gained from this knowledge – idols in this world are nothing, instead only one true God – is not shared with everyone who believes so make sure you are behaving in a right manner so as to build each other up through love.
Those who previously worshipped idols are aware that the food sacrifice was just that, food sacrificed as an act of worship to some heathen, earthly, idol. They know this, their conscience then is defiled, they have this knowledge and so they offend their consciences.
Think of it this way, in view of eating this food as a custom. This is a way they grew up, eating sacrificial food for false idols, then they believe in Jesus but continue with their “customs.” In their heart they know what they are doing is wrong but they continue to do it anyways. This will tear up a person inside. By continuing on living in sin while also knowing that Jesus died for our sins is like giving God the middle finger. I’ll do what I want because I’ve always done it that way is not the right response to God’s love for us.
In verse 6 Paul says “food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.” Again, looking at the Greek behind commend us to God the idea is that of presenting, as if to stand before. Some translations even say it as bringing us close to God. But another view is that of presenting us to God for His approval or reception. Eating or not eating will not add or remove from our standing with God. He loves us how we are and welcomes us into His kingdom knowing just how broken we are.
What else is Paul saying here? Be aware of what you are doing so that your sins do not become a stumbling block to others around you. What does this look like for us today? Imagine you had a friend who had just become sober and started a alcohol recovery program. Would you then invite them out to a bar to hangout and see how everything is going? No, that would be wrong, it could trigger them into drinking and ruining their recovery process. Instead you may invite them to your house or some other place that is not all focused on selling alcohol.
Paul really makes this point clear in verse 12 when he writes that if you do this, cause others to stumble because of your sin, that you have sinned against Christ. Like we know sin is doing the things God wants us not to do but think of it also in the simple fact that you are sinning against Christ. Jesus died for our sins and when we continue that path in sin we make little of the sacrifice Jesus made for all of mankind.
If this or that causes another to stumble and sin, then don’t do it. It is better to give something up then to cause others to sin.

So the big question to leave you with is…

How far should you go in giving up your rights when it comes to causing others to stumble and sin?

That’s it for this week, next week I’ll be going over 1 Corinthians 9.

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