1 Corinthians 8:1. Now as touching things, &c.— This chapter is concerning the eating of things offered to idols: wherein one may guess by St. Paul's answer, that they had written to him; that they knew their Christian liberty herein; that they knew that an idol was nothing, and therefore argued that they did well to shew their knowledge of the nullity of the heathen gods, and their disregard of them, by eating promiscuously, and without scruple, things offered to them. Upon which the design of the Apostle here seems to be, to take down their opinion of their knowledge, by shewing them, that notwithstanding all that knowledge on which they presumed, and with which they were puffed up, yet the eating of those sacrifices did not recommend them to God, 1 Corinthians 8:8 and that they sinned through want of charity, by offending their weak brother.
This seems plainly, from 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 and 1 Corinthians 8:11-12 to be the design of the Apostle's answer, and not to resolve the case of eating things offered to idols in its full latitude; for then he would have prosecuted it more at large, and not have deferred the doing so to ch. 10 where, under another head, he treats of it more particularly. See Locke; who observes, that to continue the thread of the Apostle's discourse, the 7th verse must be considered as joined to the 1st, and all the rest looked on as a parenthesis. Elsner, with many other commentators, allow that there is a parenthesishere; but they think it begins in the middle of 1 Corinthians 8:1 and ends after the first clause of the 4th.—We all have knowledge;—we know that an idol is nothing, &c.—We know that we all have knowledge, means, "We know that we all, as Christians, have that general knowledge of the vanity of those fictitious deities, of which some are ready to boast as if it were an extraordinary matter, and which they are at some times in danger of abusing, by making it the foundation of liberties which may be very detrimental. But let it be remembered, that knowledge often puffeth up, and is the occasion of great self-conceit and arrogance; whereas it is considerate love and gentle tenderness which edifies, and has such a happy effect in building up the church of Christ." See Locke, Doddridge, Elsner, and Bos.
1 Corinthians 8:3. The same is known of him— That is approved by him. Such a man has attained the true knowledge of God, and will be sure of his approbation and favour. Mr. Locke would render it, is made to know, or is instructed by him; for the Apostle, says he, though writing in Greek, yet often uses the Greek verbs according to the Hebrew conjugations. So ch. 1 Corinthians 13:12 the word ' Επιγνωσομαι, which properly, in the Greek, signifies I shall be known, is used for I shall be made to know; and thus Galatians 4:9. The word Γνωσθεντες is put to signify being taught. See Pierce's 6th Dissertation, and Acts 10:36.
1 Corinthians 8:4. We know that an idol is nothing— This was a common aphorism among the Jews, to which the word אלילים, alilim, which signifies idols, and things of nothing, alluded. See Job 13:4; Job 14:12. Whitby, Hammond, Elsner, and Parkhurst's Lexicon.
1 Corinthians 8:5. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, &c.— This is an allusion to the famed division of the heathen gods into celestial and terrestrial. The former, whom they called Θεοι, gods, they supposed to reside generally in the heavens. The latter, whom they called Δαιμονες, they supposed to reside for the most part upon the earth, or in the sea, and, performing the office of mediators between the superior gods and men, directed terrestrial affairs.These in the Old Testament are called Baalim; and by St. Paul, Lords; which is the literal translation of Baalim. They had also infernal gods and goddesses, such as Pluto,
Proserpine, Rhadamanthus, &c. who ruled in the invisible world, judged the dead immediately on their death, and appointed them habitations according to their different characters.
1 Corinthians 8:6. But to us there is but one God, &c.— One God is exclusive, not of the one Lord, as though he were an inferior Deity, but only of the idols, to which the one God is opposed: to think otherwise would be to destroy the Apostle's own argument for the unity of God, and make him talk as inconsistently, as if he would prove, that there is none other God but one, because, instead of many, there are only two, one supreme and the other subordinate; and then would give such a reason for this, as overturns the distinction itself, by adding that all those things, which are of the Father, are in their utmost latitude by the Son, as one in operation with him, just as at other times, speaking of the Father, all things are said to be by him. Romans 11:36. Hebrews 2:10. In the first of these places, the Father is stiled the Lord, ( Κυριος, ) without the article, as Christ is here; but by the same way of arguing, which excludes the Lord Jesus Christ from being God, the Father would be excluded from being Lord: or if the Apostle here alludes to the custom of the heathens, who worshipped one or more sovereign deities by inferior demons, called Baalim or Lords, (see the last note,) then what is said of the one Lord Jesus Christ, may be considered as relating, not so directly to what he is in his original nature, as to his office of mediation with God the Father; while he himself is stiled Lord, and the very same works are ascribed to him as to the Father, to shew what a divine Mediator he is. See Mede, Locke, Guyse, Calamy's Sermons on the Trinity, p. 25, and 244. Jones's "Catholic Doctrine of the Trinity," ch. 1 sect. 3 and Waterland's Sermons on the Trinity, p. 48-53.
1 Corinthians 8:7. For some with conscience, &c.— For there are some, who with notions still remaining that the idol may have some efficacy upon the victim, eat of it as a real victim, and their conscience, &c. Heylin. Dr. Doddridge reads it, But some do, even until now, with consciousness of the idol, eat the things as sacrificed to the idol; and so their conscience, &c.
1 Corinthians 8:8. Meat commendeth us not to God— Ου παριστησι, sets us not before God; that is, to be taken notice of by him. It cannot be supposed that St. Paul, in answer to a letter of the Corinthians, should tell them, that if they ate things offered to idols, they were not the better, or if they ate not, were not the worse, unless they had expressed some opinion of good in eating. Locke.
1 Corinthians 8:10. Sit at meat in the idol's temple— Entertainments among the heathens commonlyconsistedofwhathadbeensacrificedtotheirfictitiousdeities;fromwhich, however, the truly pious among Christians religiously abstained, even when most rigorously imposed; and no doubt the Apostle's decision here had great weight with them. These feasts were often celebrated in their temples. See Elsner, Chemnitz, and Faber.
1 Corinthians 8:13. While the world standeth— Εις τον αιωνα ; that is, "as long as I live
Inferences.—From this short, but excellent chapter, we may learn to estimate the true value of knowledge, and to see how worthless and dangerous it is, when, instead of discovering to us our own ignorance and weakness, it serves only to puff up the mind. We should rather labour and pray for that love and charity which edifieth ourselves and others; (1 Corinthians 8:1.) taking heed that we do not demonstrate our ignorance by a high conceit of our attainments in knowledge; for nothing can more evidently shew how small those attainments are, than not to know their limits, when those limits so soon meet us on what side soever we attempt to make an excursion. Give us, O Lord, that love to thee, which is the best proof of our knowledge, and the surest way to its highest improvements!
While we remember, and steadfastly adhere to the grand principle of the unity of God, we must not fail with one God and Father of all, to adore the one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom, we exist: setting him, in our estimation, far above all the powers, dignities, and glories of created nature, 1 Corinthians 8:5-6. Belonging to so divine a Master, we shall certainly have emulation enough to learn and to practise the most generous principles of his benevolent religion. We shall not found our confidence on admitting and contending for, or despising and deriding this or that particular observance, by which, as it may happen to be circumstanced, God is neither honoured nor dishonoured, pleased nor displeased; but we shall ever maintain the tenderest concern for the edification and comfort of our brethren, and guard against whatever might either grieve or ensnare them.
When we remember that Christ died for the weakest, as well as the strongest, (1 Corinthians 8:11.) their relation to him, and his tender and compassionate regard for them, will melt down our hearts, when seized with that cold insensibility, which, alas! is too ready to prevail among Christians. It is Christ that we wound, in wounding our brethren: and in smiting them, we smite Him; 1 Corinthians 8:12.
Stay then, O man, that rash hand, which is so ready in mere wantonness to do mischief; and be willing to deny thyself in thy desire for ever so long a time, rather than by thy indulgence to dishonour God, and injure others. This is the excellent lesson which the candid, the benevolent St. Paul often inculcates, (see 1 Corinthians 8:13.) and of which he himself was a shining example: but O how low are multitudes of Christians, multitudes of ministers fallen, when they cannot deny themselves in what is unnecessary, and even unlawful, where either interest or pleasure solicits the gratification!
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The Apostle proceeds to consider the case of eating the flesh of animals which had been offered in sacrifice to idols. Sometimes the idolaters feasted their friends thereon in the idol temples, sometimes in their own houses; and what they did not make use of, was sold in the shambles.
1. He warns them against leaning upon their own understanding, and proudly abusing their Christian liberty. Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all, in general, have knowledge, and are persuaded of the vanity of idols, as well as you. Nevertheless, knowledge, without grace, puffeth up, but charity edifieth, and will engage us not merely to consider what is lawful, but what is expedient, making us condescending to those whose attainments are less, and who do not see things as clearly as we may. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, self-opinionated, and above attending to the sentiments or weakness of his brethren, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, and from that blessed principle is engaged to make a practical improvement of his knowledge for God's glory, and his neighbour's edification, the same is known of him, and will receive his approbation. Note; (1.) That is the truly valuable knowledge, which enables us to be most useful. (2.) Self-conceit is a sure proof of ignorance. (3.) There may be much knowledge in the head, where there is little Christian love in the heart.
2. He admits, that an idol is nothing, a mere imaginary being; and that, abstractedly considered, the eating of meat offered in sacrifice to idols is no evil, since there is no other God but one, whose creatures are all good in themselves. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) multitudes of celestial and terrestrial deities being worshipped by the deluded heathen: but to us there is but one God, in opposition to the pagan polytheism, one in essence, who is represented in the Gospel revelation as the Father, of whom are all things, the Creator, Governor, and Preserver of all, and we in him, living, moving, and having our being in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, not another God, like the heathen deities, of an inferior nature, but a partaker of the same undivided Godhead and glory, by whom are all things, and we by him; one in operation with the Father, as Creator of all; and as Mediator in his personal character appointed to govern the peculiar kingdom delegated to him, to be our advocate for all blessings, and the dispenser of them to his believing people.
2nd, Admitting the vanity of idols, the Apostle shews, that for the sake of a weak brother they ought, notwithstanding, to abridge themselves of that liberty which they might otherwise take, and not offend him by eating what was offered in sacrifice to these abominable deities. For,
1. Some of the new converts not having entirely lost their veneration for those idols which they used to worship, nor as yet wholly persuaded of their vanity, still when they eat their sacrifices, pay them some sort of honour and regard; and their conscience being thus weak, through their remaining ignorance, is defiled with the guilt of idolatry.
2. We should be cautious, therefore, for others sake, though we ourselves have knowledge, lest we should become a stumbling-block to them that are weak, considering that meat of one kind or another, used or abstained from, is no recommendation to God's favour: for neither if we eat the food, without any respect to the idol, are we the better; neither if we eat not, prudently abstaining for others sake, are we the worse. But though the eating of the idol sacrifices be never so innocent in itself, yet it may prove a great hurt to the consciences of the weak, who, seeing you eating in an idol temple, may be emboldened by your example, though not satisfied of the lawfulness of the action, to do the like; and thus what you, who know the vanity of idols, might otherwise do innocently, may be the means of leading a weaker brother to wound his conscience with guilt, for whom Christ died, and who, having made profession of his faith, is, in the judgment of charity, to be reckoned among his believing people. But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ, whose compassions toward the lambs of his flock are great; and he will resent every slight put upon them, and every offence given to them. Wherefore if meat offered to idols make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, however innocent the thing may be in itself, lest I make my brother to offend. Note; It is not enough that we avoid what is sinful ourselves; Christian love will teach us even to abridge ourselves of our liberty in lawful things for others good.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany