FREEDOM + RESPONSIBILITY
Often Lord, I grow complacent and reticent. Keep me alert to your Word and ready to live for you today.
Read 1 Corinthians 8
Concerning Food Sacrificed to Idols
8 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God.[a]
4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
7 But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.
- 1 Corinthians 8:3 An early manuscript and another ancient witness think they have knowledge do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves truly knows.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘The dearest idol I have known, / whate’er that idol be, / help me to tear it from thy throne, / and worship only thee.’1
In the Mosaic Law, idolatry was evil, punishable with the death penalty.2 This caused a dilemma for Jewish believers in Corinth. Touching anything that had been in contact with idols had previously rendered them unclean. Idols presented a different problem to Greek Corinthians who had become Christians: the danger that anything connected with idolatry could draw them back to idol worship. When Paul first laid these issues before the Jerusalem Council, they determined that it was not necessary to fulfill Jewish Law before becoming a Christian. The Council, however, asked that Christians abstain from three things: sexual immorality, food offered to idols and meat that had not been bled.3
Paul had learned much in the intervening years about social life. Christians must live in their communities,4 rejecting its values but dealing amicably with neighbors, including socializing, working together, and going to market. Paul came to see that an idol is an inanimate ‘nothing’ (v 4). Meat offered to an idol has not changed in any way and Christians are free to eat it5 – but Paul made one extremely important proviso. There are ‘weaker’ sisters and brothers, that is, Christians to whom the attraction of the pagan temple activities are a constant temptation to reengage with their past lives. We may feel we have the Christian maturity to act more freely in our communities but we are not free to lead astray our less mature Christian brothers and sisters. We are the redeemed people of God. We are not free to live only for ourselves. We have been ‘bought at a price’.6 We are to live for others, especially nurturing new or struggling Christians ‘for whom Christ died’ (v 11).
Give me the grace and love, O God, to walk beside those who struggle with their faith and commitment and to gently lead them back to you, in Jesus’ name.
Gracious Lord, I need wisdom and direction from you, as I live my daily life. Grant me sensitivity toward other others as I make decisions on difficult matters.
1 William Cowper, 1731–1800, ‘O for a closer walk with God’ 2 Deut 4:15–31; 7:5; 17:2–7 3 Acts 15:20 4 1 Cor 5:10 5 1 Cor 10:25 6 1 Cor 7:23
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