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1 Corinthians 8:1-13 – On Eating Meat Offered to Idols

Summary

Paul counsels the Corinthians that their behavior should be guided not only by what they know to be true, namely that "no idol in the world really exists" (1 Corinthians 8:4), but also on the effect their behavior will have on brothers and sisters in Christ.

Analysis

The issue of whether to eat meat that has been associated with idol worship occupies three chapters of this letter. The problem is that most if not all meat available in the Corinthian marketplace and at public social gatherings would have fallen into this category. Should Christians buy such meat? Should they eat it if it is served at someone else's home? Should they participate in meals associated with pagan religious festivals?

Some in the community see nothing wrong with eating this meat because "no idol in the world really exists" (1 Corinthians 8:4). Paul agrees with this assessment of idols. Yet he argues that love is more important than knowledge, just as love is more important than the spiritual gifts of speaking in tongues or prophesying (see 1 Corinthians 13). Paul answers the questions about idol meat not with a new teaching on idolatry but by urging the Corinthians to consider how their actions will affect others and to refrain from any action that will cause others to stumble.

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Food Offered to Idols

8Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; 3but anyone who loves God is known by him.

4 Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘no idol in the world really exists’, and that ‘there is no God but one.’ 5Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— 6yet 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.

7 It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8‘Food will not bring us close to God.’* We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling-block to the weak. 10For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? 11So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed.* 12But when you thus sin against members of your family,* and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling,* I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them* to fall.

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10 February 2011

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