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The Apostle in this Chapter, is treating on the Subject of Meats offered unto Idols. He very blessedly states the Privileges of the Lord's People, in their Christian Liberty; but shews, with what Caution a Child of God ought to walk, so as not to wound a weak Brother.
(1) Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. (2) And if any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. (3) But if any man love God, the same is known of him. (4) 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. (5) For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) (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.
It should seem, from the opening of this Chapter, that the Apostle had been written to by the Corinthians on the subject, how far it became sinful to eat of the flesh which was offered unto idols. It should be remembered, that the Corinthians, by nature, and by practice, were idolaters : and as many of the Lord's people, now formed into a Church at Corinth, had been before their conversion addicted to idolatry, and many with whom they were connected, were still under this delusion; their minds, no doubt, were solemnly exercised upon the subject, and they therefore had written to the Apostle, to have his opinion upon it.
I beg the Reader to notice, and it is well worthy his attention, what occasion the Apostle took, from the question, and enquiry of the Corinthians, to settle this grand and fundamental point, of the glory of God in a threefold character of Person. He first shews that there is, there can be, no such thing in reality as an idol. Men may, and men do, frame to themselves a fiction of their brain, and call it an idol, or a god. But it only shews the darkened and depraved state of the human heart, in its present fallen state, which can take up with an idea, so ignorant, and stupid. The Apostle then proceeds to speak with all possible reverence, of the Lord God, in his revealed character, and offices, as existing in a threefold character of Persons. Beautifully he describes them, according to the revelation of Scripture: and particularly with an eye to their several distinct offices in the Covenant of grace. I need not dwell upon the subject, neither swell the pages of the Poor Man's Commentary in going over in this place, What more or less, is the sum and substance of the whole Bible. I rather refer to some of the more striking passages, which are in proof. See Matthew 3:17 and Commentary; Matthew 28:20 ; 1 John 5:7 .
(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. (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. (9) But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. (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; (11) And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? (12) But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. (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.
There is somewhat very humbling to the soul, in what is said in the first verse of this paragraph : there is not in every man that knowledge. The Reader will recollect to whom the Apostle is writing, and of whom he speaks, namely, the Church; that is, truly regenerated Christians. They were called with an holy calling: 2 Timothy 1:9 , had been made partakers of the divine nature, by a work of grace upon their souls : 1 Peter 1:3-4 , and yet so small and inconsiderable was their knowledge in divine things, that they had not as yet attained to the clear conviction of what the Apostle had said before, to know that an idol is nothing in the world. From living amidst the society of heathens, who worshipped idols, and offered sacrifice to them, and from long prejudice in having themselves been educated in that way, they could not divest their minds from still retaining a somewhat of veneration for them; and instead of eating of the part of the same meat which the ignorant heathens offered to their idols, as common food, uninjured by their superstition and folly; and eating of it to shew, that they contemned the idol, and considered the meat perfectly pure from any pollution arising from their weakness who had offered it to the idol; they eat of it with a kind of religious fear, and awe, and thereby wounded their consciences, Romans 14:14 .
As this first verse in the paragraph is humbling to the contemplation, in beholding the weakness of some timid souls in the divine life: so the next verse describes the strength of others, who like the Apostle could, and did, see the folly and sin of idols, and idolaters; and as such, looked upon the meat which was offered by those heathens as common food as pure after their folly had been acted upon, as it was before; and considered it with such perfect indifference, that whether they partook of the meat or not, it neither made them better, or worse.
But the Apostle very wisely and graciously took occasion, from the strength of understanding in the one, and the weakness in the other, to raise a subject of instruction, which not only became suited to the circumstances of those Corinthians upon this matter, but to the Church of God upon all other points, where a strength of knowledge in divine things, in some believers might be made beneficial, rather than injurious, to others, with respect to greater freedom, than timid minds might suppose proper upon numberless occasions. And the Apostle sets the subject in a striking point of view, by several arguments. It is as if he had said, let none of those who are strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus think, that from the contempt they justly entertain for idols and idolatrous sacrifices, they may with impunity sit at meat among idolaters and even in their idol temple. This would be wrong, whatever private contempt they entertained in their heart against it. For a weak brother a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, who saw it, and did not know what passed in the heart of his stronger brother, might form wrong conclusions therefrom, and have his conscience wounded. Never, adds the Apostle, would I eat meat upon such conditions, lest I should make my brother to offend. For wounding one of Christ's little ones, is wounding, Christ himself, as the Lord hath said, Zechariah 2:8 . I beg the Reader to notice the expression of the Apostle in that verse, where he said : And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish for whom Christ died? Not perish everlastingly, or even perish in time. For it is not possible, that any for whom Christ died can come into condemnation. So Christ himself long before had said. My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish: neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand, John 10:27-28 . Neither can the sin of others affect the persons of Christ's people. It may distress them, wound their minds, hurt their consciences; but not injure their interest in Jesus. But the sense is, shall a child of God be made unhappy, and his comforts destroyed, through the inattention of his brethren? And will you, said the Apostle, who are strong in grace, hurt a brother who is weak? Shall your very knowledge, being more than his, be so misapplied, as to become the very means of doing this? This were a breach of charity indeed, and a breach which cannot even plead ignorance in excuse; for it is induced from a perversion of better knowledge!
I shall have labored in my comments on this Chapter, to very little purpose, if the Reader, under divine teaching, is not led to look beyond the pale of the Corinthian Church as it then was, to what the Christian Church in every age hath been, and now is; as liable to errors creeping in, from the weakness and perversity of out poor fallen nature, in that corrupt part of it which grace doth not renew in the present life. Though there may be no open idols, nor meats offered in sacrifice to idols, in the day in which we live and the land where we dwell; yet the stumbling blocks of iniquity which men put up before their face, the errors in doctrines, the customs and pleasurable pursuits of the world, and the profanation of things sacred, in the neglect of the Lord's day, and numberless nameless offences, which distinguish the present Christ-despising, God dishonoring generation; call for great watchfulness among truly awakened, regenerated believers. If it was so, distressing to a weak mind, in the Corinthian Church, when he saw a brother whom he considered better taught than himself, in the temple of an idol; must it not now be offensive, to behold those who profess a love for our Lord Jesus Christ, mingling in society with those who deny his Godhead? Can that man be sincere in attachment to his Lord, who cordially takes by the hand those who are endeavoring by all the stratagems they can devise, to lessen Christ's glory, and make the blood of the Covenant an unholy thing? Reader! the day is awful. Attempts are making in religion, to bring the iron and the clay together, and to fritter away the grand, and momentous truths of our most holy faith, in accommodation to what is called rational Christianity. It is considered marks of a narrow spirit, to contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints. In such a day, may the Lord make all his redeemed ones faithful. May every truly regenerated child of God be led by grace, to enter his protest against a timeserving spirit; but like the beloved Apostle John, bear testimony to the word of God's grace, that the Son of God is come, and in proof of it hath given him an understanding to know him that is true, and that he is in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. Little children keep yourselves from idols, Amen. 1 John 5:20-21 .
Who that beholdeth Christ offering his precious soul an offering for sin, and by faith considers the vast and infinite importance of that offering, as it concerns his own soul, would ever after sit down in the idol's temple. And yet my brother, wherein doth the sin differ, when indifferency and coldness to Christ's Person and interest in the Church distinguisheth the conduct of any of his professing followers? Surely the offence of the cross is not ceased. And a man must be singular indeed, in the present day of the Church, if like Paul, he glories in that cross, and offences do not come. Blessedly the Apostle hath marked it in this chapter. But if any man love God, the same is known of him. It is blessed to be known, blessed to be noticed, blessed to be reproached for his Name's sake. Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word. Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my Name's sake, said, let the Lord be glorified; but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.
Reader! let us seek grace to be faithful to God and to souls. And while the Lost) is making manifest his faithfulness in covenant-love, in the person, royalties, perfections, and finished salvation of his dear Son; see that we offend not one of his little ones which trust in him, nor for a moment wound those for whom Christ died.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17