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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 8

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

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Verses 1-3

A Question of Christian Liberty

The questions sent by the Corinthians to Paul did not end with those on marriage. McGarvey sees the next question as, "Have not Christians perfect liberty to eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols?" Apparently they argued, in connection with this question, that all had knowledge with regard to this matter. Paul pointed out that their puffing up instead of building up was not helpful in teaching others the truth. Knowledge with love builds up ( 1Co_8:1 ).

One who is conceited because of his knowledge shows his ignorance. The more one really knows, the more he knows he does not know. The one who acts out of a proper sense of love for the brethren will be known and loved by God ( 1Co_8:2-3 ).

Verses 4-6

Real Deity

When an animal was sacrificed, only a small portion was burned. The rest was either eaten by the sacrificer or sold. The heathen looked on this meat as specially blessed. It seems some of the Corinthians correctly argued that the idol did not represent real deity ( Isa_44:14-18 ). The heathen worshiped innumerable gods ( 1Co_8:4-5 ; compare Exo_20:3 ).

There is only one true God, who created all things ( Gen_1:1 ). He even created those things worshiped by the heathen. Mankind and all he knows exists by his power ( Act_17:28 ). It is man's purpose to serve him ( Ecc_12:13 ). There is but one Lord, who created us ( Joh_1:3 ; Heb_1:2 ) and causes us to be reconciled to God in the church ( 1Co_8:6 ; Act_20:28 ).

Verses 7-13

A Demonstration of Brotherly Love

Despite the fact that there is only one true God, Paul indicated some converts still held a feeling of reverence for the idols they had long worshiped. They would have sinned in eating meat offered to such idols. This was probably the reasoning behind the apostles' injunction of Act_15:2-9 . In contrast, the eating or not eating meats had no effect on the strong brother's relationship with God. The apostle argued that since it does not make one any better in God's sight, his concern should have been for its effect upon others ( 1Co_8:7-9 ).

One Christian might have been able to eat without sin, yet his actions could have given another boldness to eat and thereby have caused him to sin. The second sinned because in eating he felt he was paying reverence to the idol. Paul was saying it is possible to participate in an act which is not sinful in itself and have it become sinful because of its effect on others. Leading the weak into a situation which would tempt them to sin would have caused Christ's death to be in vain for that one ( 1Co_8:10-11 ).

It is a sin against Christ to so lead a weak one to sin. Jesus told his disciples, "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea" ( Mat_18:6 ). In describing the judgment, the Lord pictured himself speaking to those who would not enter heaven. The King said, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me" ( Mat_25:40-45 ). Paul's conclusion was that Christians should not take advantage of their liberty because of its effect on others. Exercising their freedom without consideration for their brethren would be placing a snare or trap in the path of a weak brother ( 1Co_8:12-13 ).

Paul's thinking on these matters was likely solidified by his experience on the Damascus road ( Act_9:1-9 ). Jesus asked him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" Yet, he had never had direct contact with the Lord until that time, so far as we know. His only crime was in persecuting the body of Christ, or church, which Jesus equated with persecuting him!

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/1-corinthians-8.html. 2014.
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