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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 8

McGarvey's Commentaries on Selected BooksMcGarvey'S Commentaries

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Verse 1

[The question which Paul here answers may be stated thus: "Have not Christians perfect liberty to eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols?" To this question the Corinthians seem to have added a line or two of argument, that they might obtain an affirmative answer, as appears by the apostle’s reply.] Now concerning things sacrificed to idols: We know [ye say] that we all have knowledge. Knowledge [I reply] puffeth up, but love edifieth. [literally, buildeth up.]

Verse 2

If any man thinketh that he knoweth anything, he knoweth not yet as he ought to know [for humility precedes true knowledge];

Verse 3

but if any man loveth God, the same [i. e., God] is known by him. [i. e., the lover of God (1 John 4:7). Before replying to the question, Paul deals with the argument which accompanied it, pointing out the fact that their boasted knowledge was confessedly without love, and being such it was puffing instead of building them up. But the man who loves God, knows God; and in the richness and fullness of that knowledge is able to deal with such questions as that which they ask. He now resumes answering their question.]

Verse 4

Concerning therefore the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that no idol is anything in the world [Isaiah 44:9-20], and that there is no God but one.

Verse 5

For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven [as celestial bodies, or as myths] or on earth [as idols]; as there are gods many [the Greek cities had pantheons and temples filled with them], and lords many [the Roman emperors, and even lesser dignitaries, demanded that divine honors be paid them];

Verse 6

yet to us there is one God, the Father [contradicting the many], of whom are all things [whose creatorship undeifies all other beings, reducing them to mere creatures], and we unto him [created as his peculiar treasure and possession, and hence exalted far above the idols which we once worshiped]; and one Lord [also contradicting the many], Jesus Christ, through whom are all things [as the Father’s creative executive-- John 1:3; Hebrews 1:2], and we through him. [regenerated and reconciled to the Father.]

Verse 7

Howbeit there is not in all men that knowledge [the apostle limits and corrects their statement found in 1 Corinthians 8:1]: but some, being used until now [being but recently converted from paganism] to the idol, eat as of a thing sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.

Verse 8

But food will not commend us to God: neither, if we eat not, are we the worse; nor, if we eat, are we the better. [There is no inherent virtue either in eating or fasting.]

Verse 9

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

Verse 10

For if a man see thee who hast knowledge sitting at meat in an idol’s temple [Literally, idoleum, or idol-house; a term coined by the Jews to avoid desecrating the word "temple" by applying it to seats of idolatry. The idol temples were frequently used as banqueting- houses; but for a Christian to feast in such a place was a reckless abuse of liberty], will not his conscience, if he is weak, be emboldened [literally, built up, as at verse 1--built up in evil, not in Christ] to eat things sacrificed to idols? [will he not eat as a worshiper, and not sinless as you do?]

Verse 11

For through thy knowledge he that is weak perisheth, the brother for whose sake Christ died. [Paul here presents a new appeal, of unapproachable pathos and power. The world had never before heard any such reason why mercy should be shown to the weak.]

Verse 12

And thus, sinning against the brethren, and wounding their conscience when it is weak, ye sin against Christ. [who suffers with the very least of his servants (Matthew 18:6; Matthew 25:40; Matthew 25:45). Corinth was full of temples, and sacrifices were daily and abundant. Part of the meat of these sacrifices went to the priests, part was burnt on the altar, and part was returned to the worshiper. The priests’ and the worshiper’s parts were frequently sold to the butchers, who in turn vended the same in the public markets. Such sacrificial meat was so plentiful, and was so indistinguishably mingled with other meats, that a Christian could hardly avoid using it unless he refrained from meat altogether. He could not attend any of the public banquets, nor dine with his pagan friends or relatives, without being almost sure to eat such meat. The Jews illustrated the difficulty, for wherever they lived they required a butcher of their own who certified the meat which he sold by affixing to it a leaden seal, on which was engraved the word kashar--"lawful." Under such circumstances the strong-minded made bold to eat such sacrificial meat, contending that the idol, being a nonentity, could in no way contaminate it. But there were others having less knowledge, and weaker consciences, who could not shake off the power of old habits, thoughts and associations, and who therefore could not free themselves from their former reverence for the idol, but looked upon it as really representing something--a false something, but still a reality. To such the sacrificial meat was part of a real sacrifice, and was contaminating. In answering, therefore, Paul states the correctness of the position that the idol, being nothing, does not contaminate meat sacrificed to it, and urges that the Christian’s knowledge of God and relationship to him preclude all thought of reality in idols. But, nevertheless, because it is a cruel sin against Christ to wound those already weak in conscience, he pleads that the strong use forbearance, not privilege; love, not knowledge, lest they make the death of Christ of none effect as to such weaklings. The principle may be applied to many modern amusements and indulgences which the strong regard as harmless, but which they should rejoice to sacrifice rather than endanger weaker lives.]

Verse 13

Wherefore, if meat causeth my brother to stumble, I will eat no flesh for evermore, that I cause not my brother to stumble. [To the Corinthians Paul says "take heed" (1 Corinthians 8:9); but for himself he proposes a sublime consecration and perpetual self-sacrifice. The apostle would not make the weak brother a tyrant, as he is often disposed to become. He clearly defines him as being wrong, but pleads that his errors may be humored for mercy’s sake.]

Bibliographical Information
McGarvey, J. W. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8". "J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on Acts". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/oca/1-corinthians-8.html. Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co. Lexington, KY. 1872.
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