From what I know, the question arose among the Corinthians about eating meat that had been offered to idols. It was a thriving business because after sacrifices had been made, the meat being cooked, would be eaten by those in the idol’s temple and sold in the market place. There was a lot of meat available to those who wanted it. It was an easy source of food.
“1 Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.”
It amazes me that anything, including “knowledge” can lead us into pride. Wisdom, skill, appearance, ability, talents, and anything else can lead us along the path to where we become haughty and think too highly of ourselves. The truth is we are nothing but dirt. If we have anything, it is from the hand of God and belongs to Him. Paul shows the contrast between the end result of those who have knowledge and love. Knowledge brings pride, but love instructs, improves, and builds up.
“2 And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. “
This is the simple truth of the matter. If we think we know, we really know nothing as we should know it. I think about all the evolutionists out there who think they “know” how things came to be as they are today. We know they are in error. Their knowledge puffs them up and they look down on those of us who believe in Intelligent Design. I think this is similiar to what Paul is referring to. Those with “knowledge” about things offered to idols (I believe these were some in the church) who were eating the meat in their Christian liberty were causing problems for their brethren. They may have even been proudly looking down on those who didn’t eat because of their “knowledge.” And they didn’t bother to build up their brothers as love would have done. Paul points out how they should edify the brethren as he proceeds.
“3 But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.”
This scripture makes me wonder if the Corinthians were accusing each other of not being real Christians because of this issue. There are some denominations in error today who believe their group are the only ones who will be going to heaven. The rest of us Christians are going to go to hell since we don’t belong to their particular church and believe their particular doctrine. Paul simply points out logically that if someone really loves God, then they are known by Him. I think “known” here is referring to a deep, intimate relationship. God completely knows us, better than anyone on this planet or even ourselves. God knows the hidden things of the mind and heart. No one else knows us like God. And we can’t forget that we love Him only because He first loved us and changed our hearts.
“4 Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. “
I like how Paul puts this. The simple, logical truth about idols is that they are nothing. They are not a god. An idol is a lifeless rock, a lifless piece of wood, or a lifeless piece of metal. Its dumbfounding how anyone could ever bow down and worship a lifeless, piece of man made sculpture as being a god. Though, you can go over to India today and observe the Hindu worship, which has idols. Even in some Catholic Churches, statues of Mary and Christ are revered. It is very disturbing, especially down in Latin America.
See Isaiah 41:7; 46:6-7
“5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.”
Paul is simply saying that even if there are “gods” somewhere in heaven or here (which there isn’t) that for us Christians we are known by the true and only living God in the entire universe. God created us for Himself, and we have life through Christ. God is one and Paul reveals to us a little of the roles the Father and Christ fulfilled in creation. The Father, being the leader within the Godhead directed all things to be created as they are, and the universe was created through Christ (1 Corinthians 11:3; Colossians 1:16). The Father is the architect and Jesus is the builder. Not an easy concept to relay.
“7 However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. “
There are some in the church at this time that did not have the understanding that Paul is sharing here. When they ate meat offered to an idol, they saw it as meat offered to a real “god.” Some Christians may have really thought Zeus, Diana, or other “gods” really existed. We know they didn’t, but back then when idol worship and false religions dominated the Gentile world, it would be hard for them. Its just like today with false religion in our time. The followers of that religion really believe their “god” is real. The Muslims believe Allah is real. We know, Allah, was the moon “god” of the Arabian pantheon. They believe he is real to the point that “Allah” is the Arabic word that means God with a big “G” in our day instead of a little “g.” Allah and the God of the Bible are not the same.
“8 But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. “
There is only one thing that matters between us and God. That is the precious sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf. In Him, our sinfulness was placed on Him at the cross. In Him, His righteousness is given to us and we are justified before God. We are commended before God because of Jesus, nothing else. Food has no relevance in light of the truth of our salvation. We are saved by grace alone, not by works. So what we eat does not matter either way.
“9 But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. “
We have Christian liberty. We have been freed from the law in Christ. It was simply a teacher that led us to Christ because on our own we were law breakers. The penalty for breaking the Law of God is death. We have passed from that which brought death to that which brings life. Christ is the fulfillment of the law, and we were set free in Him. Jesus perfectly kept the law and was pure and righteous. We have been given that righteousness in Him. The law is good because as Paul says it shows us the difference between right and wrong, but the law was not 100% exhaustive in regard to every matter we might face. For those things that the moral law clearly does not condemn as wrong, Christian liberty comes into play. Though we should be wary because our liberty can make our brethren stumble as Paul goes on to explain.
“10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? 11 And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.”
Here is the crux of the matter. If a brother sees us doing something they consider sin even though it isn’t and they do it, they are sinning. Violating conscience is sin. Shall our brethren sin because of our “knowledge?” Anything that violates the law of love for us is sin. So if our actions and liberty lead our brethren to do something they consider sin, we sin against Christ for the sake of their wounded and weak conscience. They are held accountable to Christ for their conscience. This point Paul makes would deflate any of the Corinthians who were puffed up in pride in regard to their liberty.
“13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
This is Paul’s simple conclusion. If eating food causes my brother to sin, I will never again eat meat. If we love each other like Christ loves us, how much more shall we abstain from those things that our brethren consider sin. That way they don’t go off and eat that meat they shouldn’t because they consider it wrong. There are plenty of examples of this in our day. We don’t have heathen temples where sacrifices are made and meat is sold, but there are other areas where this could apply to us.
Some Christians believe it is okay to drink a little wine here and there as long as they don’t get drunk. Some Christians believe any form of alcohol at any level is sin. If I am at a restaraunt and I have a drink, then my brother sees me who considers drinking sin and orders one for himself and drinks it, his conscience is violated and I sin against my brother and Christ. This could be applied to anything that isn’t clearly given to us in black and white in the scriptures. I’m not saying I drink. I’m just using it as an example to illustrate Paul’s example.
Love the brethren, and don’t lead others into sin.