Tuesday, 13 January 2009

1 Corinthians Chapter 8

The topic that Paul is writing about in this chapter is "things sacrificed to idols", but the subject matter behind it is the use of liberties.

Key Verse:
But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 1Cor. 8:9

Liberties are those things about which there is no law which we may do if we wish, but are not obliged to. Example:
Things sacrificed to idols – animals that have been sacrificed in pagan worship ceremonies and the meat then used for human consumption. This meat may well have been sold in the market place. 1 Cor 10:25-29

It is clear that the sacrificing of animals to idols was prevalent in Corinth. Many in the church would have left these practices and could still have problems with the. This is probably the reason for the question.

A problem that the church had to deal with in the first century was Gnosticism. Gnosticism is a philosophical and religious movement which started in pre-Christian times. The name is derived from the Greek word "gnosis" which literally means "knowledge." Among other things, Gnostics believe that they have secret knowledge about God, humanity and the rest of the universe of which the general population was unaware. They are also pantheistic, meaning they believe that nature and God are equivalent (the word means “all is god”).

Paul starts out this discussion with a contrast between knowledge and love. Without love knowledge is useless (1 Cor 13:1-3, 1 John 4:7-21) Note: knowledge makes arrogant (buffs up) but love edifies (builds up), an interesting contrast.

Knowledge leading to arrogance was a major problem for the church at Corinth (1 Cor 3:18, 4:6-7, also see 1 Tim 6:20). It is important to know the truth, and follow it. What can be a trap is boasting about the knowledge and feeling proud about it. If we know, as we ought, we should see that we have nothing. All is from God and there is nothing for us to feel proud of. Without the Lord we would just be lost sinners regardless of how much we knew.

“To you it was shown that you might know that the LORD, He is God; there is no other besides Him”. Deut. 4:35

This is a fact that the church in Corinth appeared to be strong on. If there is one God, therefore there are no such things as idols. People might worship what they call gods and idols, but that does not make them exist. Rom 1:21-25

“However not all men have this knowledge” remember there would have been some who had come out of idol worship and would have been confused about some things. While they might not believe in idols, they might not be totally free from their past beliefs.

Rom 14:1-4, 13-23
Paul discusses this same problem with those in Rome. We have to care for the weaker brother. Take special note of Rom 14:22-23. We can see that the conscience plays a very important part in our lives. The word “conscience” comes from 2 Latin words con “with” and science “knowledge” . It is that which tell us what we “think” is right and wrong, but it needs to be educated (see Acts 23:1). Paul was sinning in his early life, but was not going against his conscience. We need to educate our conscience with the word of God. However also if we don’t believe it we oughtn’t to do it. In this case, if a brother feels it is wrong to eat meat sacrificed to idols, to him that is a sin.

All food as are clean (1 Cor 10:25-26, Rom 14:14, 20 Acts 10:15) and none are restricted to us. We therefore have liberty to eat all foods. However, “…take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” 1Cor. 8:9

The situation that Paul is describing is one where a brother or sister believes it is wrong to eat meat sacrificed to idols and they, seeing you eat might be convinced to go against their own conscience and eat. They have not been convinced of the truth, they have just gone against their conscience.

The principle that Paul is teaching us is that love for our brethren takes precedent over knowledge in the area of liberty. It is better, in an area where we have liberty, to be wronged rather than let a brother or sister go against their conscience.

Note: this is only in the area where we have liberty. We cannot go against commandments out of “love” for a brother or sister. We have already seen that in 1 Cor. 5 with the sinning brother.

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