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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 8

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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The Proper Use of Liberties

The Apostle Paul now addresses the subject of liberties by naming a special problem facing the Corinthians: idol worship. Idol worship was a problem closely related to and equally as serious as the subject of fornication that he dealt with in chapters five, six, and seven. Corinth was a heathenistic city characterized by immorality and idolatry. It appears that whenever one of these sins existed, so did the other. The apostle had the same concern with the church at Corinth as the Lord had with the churches at Pergamos and Thyatira. In Revelation, John is told to write:

But I have a few things against thee (Pergamos), because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication....Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee (Thyatira), because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols (Revelation 2:14; Revelation 2:20).

The common sins in all three churches were "eating things sacrificed unto idols" and "committing fornication." In this chapter Paul deals not only with the right and wrong of eating meat sacrificed to idols but also with attitudes.

While eating meats offered to idols is not a problem in this country, we must not look lightly upon this subject. The principles found here are relevant; and if these principles are faithfully followed, they will solve many problems within the church today.

Verse 1

Things Used in Sacrifice to Idols

Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.

Now as touching things offered unto idols: About heathen customs, Metz says,

...when a man offered an animal as a sacrifice to an idol, a part of the animal was placed on the altar to be consumed by fire, a part was given to the officiating priest, and the remainder was given to the man who offered the sacrifices. The part retained by the worshiper could be eaten at a feast in the temple in honor of the idol, or it could be eaten at home as part of a private festive occasion, or it could be disposed of by sale in the public market. Since the priest received more than he could consume personally, he would dispose of his extra meat at the public market also (Beacon Bible Commentary 388).

It appears, from Paul’s introduction, that the Corinthians had asked questions about whether it was right to eat meats used in sacrifice to idols. When first converted, the Corinthians were instructed not to eat the meat (Acts 15:29) because of their consciences. They had been brought up to believe that it was sinful to eat such things; therefore, they were told to abstain from this meat. However, now that they had been Christians for a period of time and had learned the truth to the point that their consciences did not interfere, the question arises again: Can we eat meat that is sacrificed to idols?

The term "touching" (peri) means "concerning" (Thayer 501-1-4012) when it is used at the beginning of sentences. It is so translated in 1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 8:4; 1 Corinthians 16:1.

The Apostle Paul calls his subject "things offered unto idols" (eidolothuton), denoting all the meat that had been left over from heathen sacrifices. This left-over flesh "was either eaten at feasts, or sold (by the poor and the miserly) in the market" (Thayer 174-2-1494). This particular problem was certainly not limited to the church in Corinth, for we find that it was also a subject of great concern in Antioch (Acts 15:29-30), Jerusalem (Acts 21:17-25), Pergamos (Revelation 2:14), Thyatira (Revelation 2:20), and probably many other places.

we know that we all have knowledge: The confusion that comes with this phrase is what "knowledge" refers to. Some believe that Paul refers to the "knowledge" of God’s word that only he and the more gifted Corinthians had, while others believe that he speaks of every Christian. In context, however, it seems more likely that Paul is speaking of the knowledge of the truth about whether it was acceptable to God to eat meats offered to idols. The Corinthians knew the truth on this subject; however, they were boastful of their "knowledge" (gnosis) or the "intelligence" and "understanding" (Thayer 119-2-1108) that they possessed. Earlier, Paul dealt with their puffed up knowledge on other subjects, as in 1 Corinthians 3 where they were wrong. In the matter in this chapter, however, they were correct in their understanding that it was not sinful to eat this meat; the problem was that their attitude was wrong, even though their understanding was right.

Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth: Paul here contrasts "knowledge" and "charity." The term "charity" (agape) means and is often translated "love." The Corinthians were so proud and puffed up because of their "knowledge" on this subject of eating meats offered to idols that they failed to show "love" toward the weak and unlearned. They needed to learn that while "knowledge" was important it must be used with "love" or it is nothing. Paul speaks of this idea in the thirteenth chapter by saying,

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing (13:2).

By speaking of "knowledge" and "charity" together, Paul shows that knowledge by itself "puffeth up" (phusioo); it makes a person "proud" (Thayer 660-2-5448). On the other hand, if knowledge is linked with "charity," it "edifieth" (oikodomea), which means "to promote growth in Christian wisdom, affection, grace, virtue, holiness, (and) blessedness" (Thayer 440-1-3618). Paul’s message here is to stop having a "puffed up" knowledge and to replace it with a "charity" knowledge because "Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up" (13:4).

Verse 2

And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.

From this verse it is obvious that the Corinthians had written to Paul about their belief that they had "knowledge" in "any thing," meaning everything. In verse 1, Paul warns of the possibility of having knowledge without love and, therefore, being puffed up. He is not saying they do not have knowledge. They did not have as much as they thought they did--but they did have knowledge. Paul’s main purpose here is to warn of the dangers of boasting about their knowledge.

If they have true knowledge, they will not boast; and if they boast, they prove they do not have knowledge as they thought they did. A person who maintains a boastful knowledge is showing he feels he is important because of his knowledge. True knowledge, on the other hand, will make a person humble and show him just how much he does not know. In this verse, Paul says, "If a man thinks he has all knowledge, he proves that he does not know what knowledge is all about." True knowledge will always tell us how much we do not know and not how much we do know. Paul cautions, "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise" (3:18).

Verse 3

But if any man love God, the same is known of him.

The point Paul makes here is that "love" (agapao), a present tense verb, takes priority over "knowledge"; and if a person has love, knowledge will follow. The word "love" "involves the idea of affectionate reverence, prompt obedience, (and) grateful recognition of benefits received" (Thayer 4-1-25).

The word "known" (ginosko) means "to learn to know" or passive "to become known" (Thayer 117-2-1097).

This love is not a one-time show of affection but is a continuous action. Man’s love for God is shown through his obedience to God. The man who shows his "love" for God, by continuously obeying Him, is the man who becomes known of God. Jesus says, "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him" (John 14:21).

Paul speaks of this same idea in writing to the church in Galatia by saying: "But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?" (Galatians 4:9).

It is important to apply this verse to the context of chapter eight. The Corinthians claim they have all knowledge--they know everything. Paul is showing, however, that the most important thing is not that WE KNOW everything of God but that GOD KNOWS us, and God knows us only through our love and obedience to Him. This obedience to God also includes our showing love toward our brethren. John says, "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (1 John 4:20). If the Corinthians truly loved their brethren, they would show this love by being concerned (not "puffed up") for the lack of their brethren’s understanding about eating meats offered to idols. And, likewise, if they had true knowledge, they would not have been puffed up but would have rather patiently studied with the unlearned brethren to teach them the truth about eating meats offered to idols.

Verse 4

The Truth About Idols

As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.

As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols: After introducing the main subject of this chapter in verse 1, Paul is sidetracked by talking about the subject of "knowledge." He now returns to his first thought, restating that he is talking about "eating" those "things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols" (see comment on verse 1 concerning "things").

In verse 1, Paul says "now as touching..."; and here he says "as concerning...." Both words ("touching" and "concerning") come from the Greek term peri (see comments on peri verse 1).

we know that an idol is nothing in the world: Paul clearly states a fact well understood by many (not all--see verse 7) of the Corinthians. From this verse through verse 6, Paul is most likely quoting words that were originally written in a letter by the Corinthians to Paul, "that an idol is nothing in the world." An "idol" (eidolon) is "an image" (Strong #1497) or "a false god" (Thayer 174-2-1497); and since there is only one God, this "idol" is actually nothing because it is really not a god at all. Paul is not saying that there are no images, but he is saying that there are no deities represented by the images. For example, the heavenly bodies (sun, moon and stars) are not objects of worship--they are not gods. Since they are not gods, the things offered to them are not objects of worship. Likewise, since the "idol," spoken of in verse 1, is not representative of the true God, the services or sacrifices rendered to this "idol" are nothing; thus, the meat used in this sacrifice is not condemned within itself.

The problem that developed from these "idols" was in the tradition of the pagans. The pagans claimed their idols were always present when sacrifices were offered to them; therefore, they claimed that those who ate of the sacrificial meats were actually communing with the idols. On the other hand, the Corinthians denied this claim, saying that since the idols did not actually exist there was no communing with them. This was a fact known by many, but not all, of the Corinthians.

and that there is none other God but one: The fact that there is only one true God to be worshiped is upheld in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Moses says, "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). (Compare Matthew 22:37 and Mark 12:29-30.) Jesus says,

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23).

Verse 5

For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)

For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth: Paul says there are no true gods represented by the idols, but he points out that his conclusion would be the same even if there were gods to represent the idols. The words "for though there be" is "a concessive clause,...assumed to be true for argument’s sake" (Robertson, Vol. IV 138). Another rendering would be "For even if indeed there are called gods..." or so-called gods. Paul is contrasting the "so-called gods," which do not exist, to the one "God" who does exist. The word "called" (lego) means "to call by a name" (Thayer 375-1-3004). Paul is saying: For even if indeed there are things that are called by the name gods, they are not the one true God; therefore, the things offered in sacrifices are still not sacred. These so-called gods are referring to all of the different types of idol gods regardless of whether they are the major gods of the "heaven" (sun, moon, stars, etc.) or lesser gods of the "earth" (mountains, trees, rivers, etc.).

(as there be gods many, and lords many,): The "gods many" and "lords many" refer to the idols previously mentioned. The distinction Paul has in mind between "gods" (theoi) and "lords" (kurioi) is not known. Perhaps he mentions both to include any and every god that the heathen believed to exist. Similarly, Grosheide distinguishes the terms by saying that "’gods’ refers to idols (while) ’lords’ refers to heroes" (192). Possibly a combination of both is true. If so, Paul is referring to the "so-called" idols, regardless of whether they are idols of heaven or idols of earth--or if they are called "gods," "lords," or "heroes." The two terms would show conclusively that he is speaking of every idol ever considered to be in existence.

Verse 6

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.

But to us there is but one God, the Father: The pronoun "us" refers to Christians. In the preceding verse, Paul points out that even if there were idols in the world that they were not really gods at all, at least not to the Christians. The reason Christians do not recognize these idol gods is that there "is but one God." God is here called "the Father" as He often is by the inspired writers (Acts 1:4; Acts 1:7; Acts 2:33; Romans 3:14; Romans 6:4; Romans 8:15; Ephesians 2:18; Colossians 1:12; and in many other places).

of whom are all things: This clause refers to God, the Father, as the Creator. He is the source and origin of everything and every person. Paul often speaks of the fact that everything came by God. For example, he says, "For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God" (11:12). In the second letter to the Corinthians, he says again, "And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation" (5:18). These words are spoken not only to the Corinthians but also to the church at Rome to whom Paul says, "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen" (Romans 11:36).

and we in him: This phrase indicates that man exists for God; God created man for his own purpose. The New American Standard Version is easier to understand: "Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him...."

and one Lord Jesus Christ: In addition to expressing that there is but one God, Paul speaks of there being only "one" Lord Jesus Christ. He further emphasizes this fact in Ephesians when he says, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" (4:5). In writing the first letter to Timothy, he speaks of one God and one Christ when he says, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (2:5).

by whom are all things: In reference to God, Paul says, "of whom are all things..."; however, in reference to Jesus, he says, "by whom are all things...." The difference between these two phrases is that while God is the actual creator, Jesus is the agent used by God to create all things. In the Ephesian letter, speaking of God, Paul says, "who created all things by Jesus Christ" (3:9). Again to the Hebrews, he says, " (God) Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds" (1:2). The Apostle John recorded this same truth by saying,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made (John 1:1-3 RSV).

Referring to Jesus, Paul says,

Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him (through him RSV), and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist (Colossians 1:15-17).

and we by him: The phrase "and we by him" does not refer to man’s being created by Christ. The creation of man is included in the previous words "all things." The phrase "and we by him" indicates that we live for Christ and refers to the redemptive plan, indicating that through Jesus, God set the redemptive plan in order. Paul says, "And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven" (Colossians 1:20). It is because Christ willfully died for our sins that we have the opportunity of being a Christian.

In the statement ("we in him") mentioned above, we find that man exists for God, and now we learn that through Christ man continues to exist as a child of God. We were created physically by God through Christ, and we were created spiritually by God through Christ. These truths prove just how absurd idols and the meats offered to them really are. Idols have never created man to serve them--only the one true God has done that; however, the weaker brother who does not understand this truth must be patiently and lovingly taught.

Verse 7

Paul’s Warnings Concerning Liberties

Howbeit there is not in every man that 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.

Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: By "howbeit" (alla) Paul means "nevertheless" (Thayer 27-2-235) or "contrariwise" (Strong #235). In verses 4 and 5, Paul explains that idols are nothing and that in reality they do not even exist; therefore, the meats offered to these idols are not sinful to eat. Now he continues by saying that even though this is true there are some Christians in Corinth who have not attained this knowledge, and they still question the wisdom of eating sacrificial meat.

In the expression "there is not in every man that knowledge," Paul is qualifying the statement, "we all have knowledge," mentioned in verse 1, and refers to those who have doubts. These Christians are not doubting that there is only one true God. Their doubts are about whether or not it is acceptable to eat of the meats that are offered to these non-existent gods.

for some with conscience of the idol: The "conscience" (suneidesis) refers to what is "morally good and bad" (Thayer 602-2-4893). Some translations (RSV, NAS) translate the word as "accustomed," in reference to a habit, instead of "conscience." The New American Standard version says, "However not all men have this knowledge: but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled."

unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol: The words "unto this hour" go with the word "conscience" (see the NAS rendering above); therefore, Paul is saying that there are some who even now are accustomed to the idols; and when the sacrificial meat is eaten, they look upon it as communing with that idol.

and their conscience being weak is defiled: In this last phrase, Paul speaks of the conscience as being "weak" (asthenes), meaning doubtful about things being lawful or unlawful. Paul is saying that some of the Christians in Corinth were questioning whether or not the meats offered to these idols should be eaten because of their pre-Christian association with idols. They fear that those who eat that meat will be communing with the idols. Now, those who conscientiously believe that it is sinful, or even have doubts about it, will, in fact, "defile" (moluno) or "pollute" and "contaminate" (Thayer 417-2-3435) their conscience if they do eat it. This practice is a sin, for Paul says, "He that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23).

These Christians are said to be "weak" in the sense that they have not matured enough in their Christian faith to understand that eating the meat does not constitute worshiping the idol. Parry translates the phrase, "their conscience being weak," as "weak, as you call it" (Cambridge Greek Testament 132).

Verse 8

But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.

The word "commendeth" (paristemi) means "to bring to" or to "bring near" (Thayer 489-2-3936). This verse alludes to the idea that "meat" does not bring one into fellowship with God. Paul further explains what he means by saying "if we eat" the sacrificial meat, we are not "better" (perisseuo) Christians; we do not "excel" (Thayer 505-2-4152) others. On the other hand, however, "if we eat not," we are not "worse" (hustereo) nor do we "lack" (Thayer 646-1-5302) something.

The fact presented is that eating sacrificial meat does not defile a man. The thing that will defile is what comes out of the mouth of man and not what goes in. Jesus teaches this point when He says,

Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man....But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man (Matthew 15:11; Matthew 15:18-20).

The defilement, therefore, is not what the "weak" Corinthians thought. It is not what goes into man (for example, the sacrificial meat) that corrupts him. Instead it is what comes out of man (for example, non-tolerant words) that indicates defilement.

Verse 9

But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.

In verse 8, Paul admits that there is no sin in eating or in not eating sacrificial meat; however, he begins dealing with the question about how the "weak" (those believing it is sinful) are to be treated by those having certain liberties. The "weak" refer to Christians who do not understand that liberties are involved. What should be the response of other Christians toward them? Should the liberties be forced upon them? Should they maintain an "I have my right" attitude? No! For Paul warns to "take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock...."

Paul removes all doubt about whether eating sacrificial meat is a "liberty." A "liberty" (exousia) is "a power of choice, (it is) a liberty of doing as one pleases" (Thayer 225-1-1849). In other words, within itself the act is not sinful; however, Paul warns to "take heed lest by any means" (be watchful, be cautious of) this "liberty" (power of choice) becomes a "stumblingblock" to others.

The word exousia, translated "liberty" here, is sometimes translated "power" but conveys the same meaning. For example, later in this letter, Paul speaks of this liberty again by using the word "power" when he says,

Have we not power (liberty) to eat and to drink? If others be partakers of this power (liberty) over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power (liberty); but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ (9:4,12).

Not hindering the gospel of Christ should be our first priority. If a certain liberty hinders the gospel of Christ, such liberty must never be tolerated. This hindering of the gospel of Christ is exactly what Paul refers to when he speaks of a "stumblingblock" (proskomma), which is any obstacle that would cause another Christian to sin. The obstacle may not be an actual sin itself, but it may lead weaker Christians to commit sin. Whenever a "liberty" is involved, it should never be pressed upon others to the point of causing them to sin. Liberties should be used with love for brethren--Christians should be willing to give up their liberties for the sake of the souls of others.

Verse 10

For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;

For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple: This man "which hast knowledge" is the same as the one mentioned in verse 1 and is contrasted with "him which is weak." The reference to sitting "at meat in the idol’s temple" is not implying that such an action is lawful. Certainly such a close association with idol worship would be sinful. He deals with this subject in 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 and shows that such actions are sinful.

Here, however, Paul is using the words "sitting at meat in the idol’s temple" as a way of saying that these brethren are flaunting their liberties in the faces of the weak instead of showing love. It seems that Paul is speaking of an intentional act in which the knowledgeable are showing total disregard for the weak.

shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols: The term "emboldened" (oikodomeo) means "to give one strength and courage" (Thayer 440-1-3618). Instead of "emboldened," the New American Standard Version translates the word as "strengthened" while the Revised Standard Version uses "encouraged."

In verse 9, Paul warns to "take heed" lest eating this sacrificial meat should become a "stumblingblock," and here he explains that something that is not sinful within itself (eating this sacrificial meat) could cause another to sin. He says if the "weak" brother sees the knowledgeable brother "sit at meat in the idol’s temple," this action may encourage the weak brother to violate his own conscience by doing what he thinks is wrong. The knowledgeable brother’s actions would be causing the weaker brother to sin because he is persuaded that by eating he does sin. In speaking of another liberty (but yet the same principle applies), Paul says,

One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind....And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:5; Romans 14:23).

This verse teaches us how our conduct influences others. In thinking about our own conduct, we must consider more than what is sinful and what is not. We must also consider whether acting upon our liberties would cause others who do not agree with us to sin.

Verse 11

And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?

And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish: This clause is not actually a question as is indicated by the King James Version. Vincent says,

The participle ’he that is being weak’ indicates a continuance of the weakness, and the present tense, is perishing, implies that the process of moral undermining is in progress through the habitual indulgence of the better-informed Christian (Vol. III 227-228).

The New American Standard Version says, "For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died." In this verse we see a contrast between the heartlessness of the knowledgeable and the love of Christ. By taking advantage of their liberties, those claiming to have so much knowledge were spiritually destroying their so-called weaker brother for whom Christ died. Paul says through the knowledge of the wise the weak brother would "perish" (apollumi), which means "to incur the loss of true or eternal life; to be delivered up to eternal misery" (Thayer 64-2-622).

for whom Christ died: "For whom Christ died" is an argument within itself for why the more knowledgeable Christians should be willing to give up their liberties, if necessary, to keep the weaker brother from sinning. Christ gave His life to save souls, but these souls are once again perishing because of the liberties of the wise.

Verse 12

But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.

Sinning against a brother is more serious than it may at first appear because when sin is committed against a brother, sin is also committed against Christ. This is a fact that the Corinthians were continually overlooking. Paul refers to this same fact before his conversion as he says, "Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest..." (Acts 9:5). The implication of Jesus’ statement is that as Paul was persecuting Christians, he was also persecuting Christ.

The sin referred to in verse 12 is the one mentioned in verses 10 and 11 concerning a weak brother being encouraged by the knowledgeable brother to sin and, therefore, "wound(ing)" (tupto) or "disquieting" (Thayer 632-2-5180) his weak conscience. In other words, their "weak conscience" is injured by the lack of love shown by the stronger Christians. It is also important to understand that this is not a one-time sin being committed by the knowledgeable brother; but instead, an intentional continuous sin. A clearer rendering of this verse comes from the Revised Standard Version: "Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ." "Sinning against your brethren" and "wounding their conscience" are in the "continuous tense" (Vine 116), indicating the more knowledgeable Corinthians were continually encouraging the "weak" Corinthians to sin by their actions. Paul, in this verse, is teaching the same thoughts as Jesus when He says, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:40).

Verse 13

Paul’s Conclusion Concerning Liberties

Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

Since "meat" does not make a person better or worse (verse 8), the apostle teaches the loving Christian to abstain from eating it if it "become a stumblingblock to them that are weak" (verse 9). He says he will "eat no flesh while the world standeth" (verse 13). "Meat" (broma) refers to sacrificial meat, which has been discussed in this chapter. The word "flesh" (kreas) is not limited to sacrificial meat.

Paul often speaks the same message. For example he says, "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves" (Romans 15:1).

This passage is often abused by brethren attempting to keep others under their control. It was not meant to provide controlling brethren a tool to use every time someone desires to do something the controlling brother does not like. This is not the teaching of the apostle! The key is the word "offend" (skandalizo), which should never be taken to mean "to hurt the feelings of" or "to displease"; instead, it is defined as "to entice to sin" (Thayer 576-2-4624). If the conduct of one brother encourages another brother to violate his conscience and do the same thing, this brother would be offended. On the other hand, this brother is not "offended" (in light of this passage) if he becomes unhappy with the actions of another brother (in eating sacrificial meat) and commits another sin (for example: ceasing to worship on the first day of the week). In short, the offended brother is the one who sins when he violates his own conscience by doing what the stronger brother knows is not sin.

Furthermore, Paul is not teaching he must be a life-long vegetarian. He is, however, teaching that he would please his weaker brother by refraining from eating meat around this particular brother. Paul, in speaking to the church at Rome, teaches: "Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification" (Romans 15:2).

The point to be understood is that an entire congregation does not have to bow down to the pressures of one brother who desires to be difficult and attempts to have his own way by claiming to "be offended."

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/1-corinthians-8.html. 1993-2022.
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