Idolatry and Things Offered unto Idols: Sanctification of the Spirit to Learn how to Walk with a Pure Conscience - In 1 Corinthians 8:1 to 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul dedicates his longest discussion in this epistle to the topic of idolatry and things offered unto idols, using it as an opportunity to each on being led by the spirit by walking with a good conscience, which is voice of our spirit. The word "conscience" ( συνείδησις) is used 9 times in this passage of Scripture. Paul opens ( 1 Corinthians 8:7; 1 Corinthians 8:10; 1 Corinthians 8:12) and closes ( 1 Corinthians 10:25; 1 Corinthians 10:27-29) this passage with this word. This church was living in the midst of such heathen practices, and like many of us today, they were invited to attend certain functions that involved idolatry and foods offered unto idols. This is why Paul says, "If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go…" Thus, these believers needed some guidelines to go by when confronted with such invitations. The guiding principle that Paul teaches in this passage is for the believer to be led by his conscience so that he does not offence his brother. Therefore, Paul's concluding statement on how to deal with this issue Isaiah, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God," ( 1 Corinthians 10:31).
Outline - Here is a proposed outline:
1. Eating meat offered to idols — 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
2. A Positive Example: Paul's carefulness not to offend — 1 Corinthians 9:1-27
3. Negative Example: The idolatry of Israel in the wilderness — 1 Corinthians 10:1-14
4. A Personal Example: The Lord's Table vs. Pagan Worship — 1 Corinthians 10:15-22
5. Conclusion — 1 Corinthians 10:23 to 1 Corinthians 11:1
The Conscience, the Voice of the Human Spirit - In 1 Corinthians 8:1 to 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul deals with the issue of idolatry. Keep in mind the underlying theme of this epistle, which is practical ways in which the believer is to allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through them. Thus, Paul uses the word "conscience" nine times in this section of the epistle. This is because the voice of our human spirit is our conscience. In contrast, the voice of our mind is human reason, and the voice of our body is our physical senses that we call feelings. Thus, Paul is teaching the Corinthians to be led by the Holy Spirit on this issue by being led by their conscience.
1 Corinthians 8:7, "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."
1 Corinthians 8:10, "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;"
1 Corinthians 8:12, "But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ."
1 Corinthians 10:25, "Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake:"
1 Corinthians 10:27, "If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake."
1 Corinthians 10:28, "But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord"s, and the fulness thereof:"
1 Corinthians 10:29, "Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man"s conscience?"
The First Council of Jerusalem - In 1 Corinthians 8:1 to 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul dedicates his longest discussion in this epistle to the topic of idolatry and things offered unto idols, which was an important part of this Greco-Roman culture with their temple worship. This type of heathen worship consisted of fornication and feasting upon foods that had been offered up to Greek and Roman idols.
However, the issue of meats and their association with heathen idols had long been a problem with the Jews. Wherever they had settled throughout the Empire, they established their own butcheries in order to provide for themselves "clean" meats. This issue of meats and idolatry was a part of the first confrontations of the early Church. In the first Church council in Jerusalem, recorded in Acts 15:1-35, the leaders chose to send instructions to the Gentile churches on four topics. Acts 15:20 reads, "But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood."
Much of the meats offered in the markets were the residue of what had been sacrificed to idols. If these believers ate such meats, were they partaking of such worship? Or, if they were invited into a non-believer's home and offered meats, should they abstain, or eat it so as not to offense the host? But if they ate it, would it not offend the weaker brothers in the church who were just coming out of such an idolatrous lifestyle and could easily fall back into it under similar conditions? All of these issues needed to be addressed. Thus, it was an important topic for Paul to deal with in the church of Corinth as well as in all the churches.
This church was living in the midst of such heathen practices, and like many of us today, they were invited to attend certain functions that involved idolatry and foods offered unto idols. This is why Paul says, "If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go…" ( 1 Corinthians 10:27) Thus, these believers needed some guidelines to go by when attending such invitations. The key point that Paul tries to emphasize in this passage Isaiah, "Do not offend other believers." The key words which are often repeated are "idols" and "offence". Paul's concluding statement on how to deal with this issue Isaiah, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God," ( 1 Corinthians 10:31).
Eating Meat Offered to Idols - Paul begins this lengthy discussion on meats offered unto idols by laying down a ruling principle that a believer should show concern for the conscience of the weaker brother. This is the love walk that Paul undergirds his entire epistle with. In other words, everything that these believers do, whether among themselves and in the world, must be motivated by love. Paul first contrasts knowledge with love ( 1 Corinthians 8:1-3). He then explains their knowledge of idolatry ( 1 Corinthians 8:4-6) before explaining how to walk in love and consideration for the well-being of his brother who is weak in the faith ( 1 Corinthians 8:7-13).
1 Corinthians 8:1 — Comments - The discourse on things offered unto idols continues until 1 Corinthians 11:34. It ends with the Lord's Supper referred to in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. Paul compares eating in the presence of demons with eating the Lord's Supper.
Note that Paul, a well-educated man and full of knowledge, preaching only the Lord Jesus Christ:
1 Corinthians 2:2, "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified."
1 Corinthians 8:4 — "there is none other God but one" - Scripture Reference- Note a similar verse:
James 2:19, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble."
1 Corinthians 8:4 — Comments- Paul makes a similar reference to these idols later in his epistle to the Corinthians and in his letter to the Galatians:
1 Corinthians 12:2, "Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led."
Galatians 4:8, "Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods."
1 Corinthians 8:5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)
1 Corinthians 8:5 — Comments- Paul's comment in 1 Corinthians 8:5 about many gods is placed within the city of Corinth. The religious expressions of Corinth were as diverse as its people. Gordon Fee tells us that Pausanias describes at least twenty-six sacred places that were devoted to their many gods. 122] Corinth was a city of many temples and shrines, the temple of Aphrodite (its Roman name was Venus), located on the Acrocorinth being chief. The temple of Apollo was another important one besides that of Aphrodite. Anyone visiting the site of Corinth today will marvel at the seven columns of the temple of Apollo, dated from the sixth century B.C, that still stand today. 123] This is the only thing that remains of the Old Corinth. This ancient city also built a temple to Asclepius, the popular god of healing. 124] Among the ruins have been found terra-cotta replicas body parts which served as offerings of those who were showing gratitude for their healing by him. 125] There stood also at the foot of this citadel the temple of Melicertes, the patron of seafarers. The name of this god was a Hellenized form of Melkart, once the chief deity of Tyre. 126] Finally, the sea-god Poseidon was celebrated every two years at the Isthmian Games. 127]
122] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, in The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987), 3.
123] R. F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison, and Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nelson"s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, rev. ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004), "Corinth."
124] W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians, in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol 10, eds. Frank E. Gaebelien, J. D. Douglas, and Dick Polcyn (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1976-1992), in Zondervan Reference Software, v 28 [CD-ROM] (Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan Corp, 1989-2001), "Introduction."
125] Carlos Parada and Maicar Frlag, "Asclepius," (1997) [on-line]; accessed 1July 2010; available from http://homepage.mac.com/cparada/GML/Asclepius.html; Internet.
126] W. Harold Mare, 1 Corinthians, in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol 10, eds. Frank E. Gaebelien, J. D. Douglas, and Dick Polcyn (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1976-1992), in Zondervan Reference Software, v 28 [CD-ROM] (Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan Corp, 1989-2001), comments on Acts 18:1.
127] F. F. Bruce, Paul Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, c 1977, 2000), 249.
1 Corinthians 8:6 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.
1 Corinthians 8:7 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.
1 Corinthians 8:7 — Comments- Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 8:7 that some Gentile converts were thinking that eating meats was unacceptable because they associated all meats with their former customs of offerings meats unto idols during festivals. Thus, when they ate meat with others, their conscience convicted them. We must keep in mind that meat was not a part of their daily diet, as is in western culture today. Rather, meat was eaten on festive occasions. Thus, the idea of eating meat for these new converts was an occasional event, and in their mind, they associated meat with idolatrous feasting.
1 Corinthians 8:8 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.
1 Corinthians 8:9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.
1 Corinthians 8:10 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;
1 Corinthians 8:10 — Word Study on "emboldened" - Strong says the Greek word "emboldened" ( οἰκοδομέω) (G 3618) literally means, "to be a house builder, construct," and figuratively, "confirm." Webster says the word "embolden" means (1) "to give courage," or (2) "to cause to be bold or bolder."
1 Corinthians 8:10 — Comment- When we see someone we respect and admire doing something that is against our conscience, such as like dressing a particular way. It gives us the courage to try it also, even though it is against our better conscience.
We find courage to do things in groups, which we would not normally do individually.
We can build up one another by love (verse 1) or we can cause another to stumble (verse 13). So Paul gives an illustration in his life in chapter 9 in order to be an example that encourages the Corinthians.
Illustration- Women used to only wear dresses to my home church, but it was said that when the pastor"s wife wore slacks one day, the other ladies in the church began to do also.
1 Corinthians 8:11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?
1 Corinthians 8:12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.
1 Corinthians 8:13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.
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Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany