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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 8

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

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Verses 1-13

Chapter 8

Now, the second issue:

Now as touching the things offered unto idols, we know that we have all knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up ( 1 Corinthians 8:1 ).

A contrast between knowledge and love. We know we have all knowledge. Now, there was a problem in those days, because idolatry was so prevalent, most of the meat that you would buy in the marketplace had first a portion of it been offered unto the idols, the pagan gods. When they would butcher their meat they would take portions of it and offer it as a burnt offering unto their gods, and then the priests would get their part and the rest would be given back to the person, and oftentimes it would be taken to the market and sold in the market.

Now, many Christians had great difficulty with their own conscience in eating meat that had been offered as a sacrifice to a pagan god. This really troubled them. But there were others in Corinth who boasted of their knowledge, "Well, that is nothing. That is just a stone and not a god, so it doesn't make any difference. I have enough knowledge to realize that that is nothing at all and therefore I can eat the meat without being troubled in my conscience over it."

Now, Paul is sort of addressing himself to these that are taking that liberty, because of their knowledge, and offending the weaker brethren.

So touching those things offered to idols, we know that we all have knowledge ( 1 Corinthians 8:1 ).

We know that the idol is nothing.

Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up ( 1 Corinthians 8:1 ).

One is filled with air, the other has something solid.

And if any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know ( 1 Corinthians 8:2 ).

And this is so true. The man who thinks he knows the most usually knows the least, because the more you know, the more you know you don't know.

Shakespeare said, "Man, poor man, so ignorant in that which he knows best." What do you know best? What area of knowledge are you most proficient in? Sciences, mathematics, linguistics? Say your area of proficiency is the area of science. How much of all that can be known in science do you know? Say your proficiency is in mathematics. Of all that can be known in mathematics, how much do you know? My proficiency is the Bible, but I will tell you what, there is much more about the Bible that I don't know than I do know. I know enough to know that I don't know. I know enough to know that there is so much to be known I will never know it all.

Now, the person who comes along and sort of puffed up and says, "Hey, I'm an expert and I can give you all the answers," he knows the least. If any man thinks he knows anything, he knows nothing as he ought to know, because if you really know, you know you don't know. So, if you think you know, it is a pretty good indication that you don't know very much about it. Man, poor man, so ignorant in that which he knows best.

But if any man loves God ( 1 Corinthians 8:3 ),

Remember, knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.

the same is known of him. As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered and sacrificed unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be many that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him ( 1 Corinthians 8:3-6 ).

So we know that these idols are nothing. We know that there is only one true living God, one Lord.

Howbeit there is not in every man this knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled ( 1 Corinthians 8:7 ).

Now, coming in Corinth, growing up in Corinth, you grew up in a pagan situation. You grew up worshipping this idol. You grew up eating meat in the temple of the idol. They would have restaurants there, and they would offer meat in a ceremony and sacrifice to the idol, and then they would roast it and you would go in and eat the meat in the temple and fellowship, or worship, the idol or the god. Now, you have embraced Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, but having come out of the pagan practice of eating the meat offered in sacrifices to these idols, you have great difficulty continuing that, because for so long you did eat it thinking you were eating in worship to this particular idol, so that as a Christian now it offends your conscience. It bothers you to do it. It gets your conscience. So, Paul said, "Unto this time there are those that are having trouble with this in their conscience, and because their conscience is weak, they are defiled."

But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we any the better; neither, if we eat not, are we any the worse ( 1 Corinthians 8:8 ).

Eating meat or not eating meat has absolutely nothing to do with my spirituality or my relationship with God. And we can carry this further.

But let us take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to those that are weak. For if any man sees thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idols temple, shall not the conscience of him that is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols ( 1 Corinthians 8:9-10 );

Now, let us say that I felt that there was absolutely nothing wrong with my having an occasional martini. Now, that is a hypothesis, because I do feel that there is something wrong, even with an occasional. For me, very wrong. My conscience would wipe me out. I have a weak conscience in that regard. But, let us say that I had one, for it is not what goes in that defiles a man, but what comes out. And so I felt that I could drink. And unfortunately, there are many prominent ministers that do feel this, they have the liberty to drink if they so desire. But, let us say that I was one of those fellows and I felt a great liberty to drink, if I so desired. And here is a fellow who has been an alcoholic, has accepted Christ, has been delivered from his alcoholism, and he goes into a restaurant. And there sitting at the bar is Chuck drinking. "Hey, he's my pastor. And if he can drink, then I guess it is all right for me to drink." But yet, he knows it is wrong, because he knows the problem he has with it, but he is emboldened to go ahead and do it, because he sees my liberty. And yet, when he does it, he has this conscience that is just tormenting him. And I say, "Well, I have superior spiritual knowledge. I understand the scriptures. And I understand this," and I go on and say, "Hey, look, I have the freedom to do it," and so on. I could actually be an instrument to destroy this weaker brother because of my exercising of my knowledge or liberty that I have.

And through thy knowledge [Paul said] shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you are actually sinning against Christ. Wherefore, if meat makes my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world stands, lest I would be an offense to my brother ( 1 Corinthians 8:11-13 ).

Now, that is love, and that is walking in love. And love seeks to build up. Knowledge puffs up. And here were these Corinthians, and it was that kind of a situation. They said, "Hey, the idols are nothing." And they were going into the idols' temples and there they had good prices and good barbecues. And so they were saying, "The idol is nothing. So what! It is nothing. We can go in there and eat." They were going in and eating. But the weak brothers who were really troubled over this issue would see them sitting there in the idols eating the meat, and it would bother them. But they thought, "He's the deacon in the church, or he's an elder in the church, and if he can do it then I guess I can do it," but they couldn't.

This thing called conscience, you really can't violate it. I don't care what a person may tell you. To him that esteems the thing to be wrong, to him it is wrong. And you better obey that conscience that you have, because if you don't, it can get you into serious trouble.

The psychologists are mistaken when they think that they can talk a person out of a particular conviction. I do not seek to talk people out of their honest convictions. I'll sometimes seek to determine whether or not it is an honest conviction of their own, or something someone else has put on them. If it is an honest conviction of their own, though it be weird, I will not try and talk them out of it. I won't say, "Hey, that is stupid. That is weird. Nothing wrong with that!"

If a person has a true conscience against doing something, then they better not do it, because you can't violate your conscience without paying the consequences. And thus, I should not flaunt my liberties, emboldening other people to do the same things because they saw him do it. And yet, as they do it, they do it and it bothers their conscience and drives them away from the Lord. Then I am really destroying this weaker brother, because of my insistence of exercising my great freedom and liberty in Jesus. That is not walking in love. And as Paul said the loving thing is not to even eat meat as long as the world stands, if it causes a weaker brother to be offended.

So, in walking in love, I seek not to offend.

Now, there are limitations to this. Some people are offended with the fact that there is mixed bathing at the beach. And they feel that it is a sin to go down to the beach, because of the mixed bathing there. They have a strong conscience against it. Now, does that mean then that I should never go surfing because there are people who get offended? No, it means that they shouldn't go there if it bothers them, and then they will never see me there. But the thing is that open flaunting of your liberty, that is not walking in love. The deliberate flaunting of that freedom.

Paul said, "Do you have freedom? Have it to yourself. Don't use it as a stumblingblock to a weak brother, but walk in love." Knowledge is good to have, it is good to know, it is good to be freed, but knowledge can puff up, and we should seek to build up. Love builds up. Seek to build up one another in the love of Jesus Christ.

So next week we'll continue into chapters 9 and 10 as we continue through this first epistle of Corinthians.

Father, we ask Your help that we might walk in love, in consideration for those who are weaker in the faith. That we would seek, Lord, to help one another, to build up one another. And so, Lord, help us to put into practice the injunctions given to us in Your Word. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen!

May the Lord be with you, bless and keep you in His love, fill you with His Spirit, guide you with His counsels, strengthen you in your walk and in your fellowship with Him. May you go in the love and the power of the Spirit to do His work this week, knowing that we are all servants of Jesus Christ. May we render unto Him pleasing service. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/1-corinthians-8.html. 2014.
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