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1 Corinthians
Chapter 8

Theme: Christian liberty concerning eating meat.

We now come to the section of the Letter dealing with Christian liberty, which we find in chapter 8 on to the first verse of chapter 11. It tells of several features of Christian liberty. Chapter 8 deals with the problem of whether we should eat meat or not, and the liberty that a TRUE child of God should have in this particular area.

We need to remember that Paul is writing to the Corinthians and that he has called them carnal, babes in Christ. He deals with carnal aspect first, and later he will deal with spiritual aspect. And, since it is in the level of carnal aspects that the contemporary church lives and moves today, this section is extremely important for you and me.

The subject of diet is just as controversial as marriage and divorce. Diet is a fad, a craze with many people. Diet usually is a required part of the ritual of many of the cults. Many of them have strict rules about diet. It is interesting that God in the Old Testament gave Israel certain restrictions about eating meat. An allowed edible animal had a parted hoof and chewed the cud. That eliminated the pig whose hoof is parted but does not chew the cud. There were also certain fowl and fish which were designated by name as unfit for food. You can find these listed in the Book of Leviticus and also in Deuteronomy, chapter 14. It is amazing that the cults that place such importance on the Old Testament dietary regulations are so ignorant of the actual details.

So, WHY did God give a special diet to Israel? He makes it very clear: Deut. 14:1-3  Ye are the children of the LORD your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead. 2  For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth. 3  Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing. (KJV)

The Bible puts up a red light and is very specific on many things which are wrong for God’s TRUE children to do. Drunkenness is condemned. There can be no argument, no question about that. But there is a gray area, questionable practices, about which the Bible is silent. These are things which are neither black nor white, and the Bible does not give us specific instructions. For instance: Should a Christian smoke? Should a Christian dance? There are different rules that have been put down by different groups of Christians. Paul is laying down a great principle here.

There is something that we must consider, and that is understanding Corinth in Paul's day. If you do not understand the background, you will miss the whole point of the chapter. The Corinthian people brought sacrifices of animals to offer to their idols. They would bring the best animals they had. The meat was offered to the idol, but it did not stay there long because they believed that the spirit of the idol ate the spirit of the animal . . . and that ended the meal for the idol. They then took the meat to the shambles or stalls around the temple, which was the meat market where the meat was sold. If you wanted to buy the best steaks or the best prime rib roast in Corinth, you had to go to one of those shops at the idol temple to get meat which had been offered to idols. The word shambles is found only once in the Bible (1 Cor.10:25).

Some of the Christians in Corinth were offended by this practice and asked Paul about it. They would be invited out to dinner with another Christian family and would be served a tasty filet mignon. If someone would ask where they got the meat, the answer was that she got it at the temple meat market. This would offend the couple who felt that it was wrong to eat anything that had been offered to idols. This is the question that Paul discusses in this chapter. Should a Christian eat meat that had been offered to idols? This was a real problem to the people in Corinth because many of them had come out of that background of idolatry, and they thought it was a compromise with idolatry. Others in the church felt that it made no difference. Paul had another problem on his hands.

Christian Liberty Concerning Meat (1 Cor. 8:1-13)


1 Cor. 8:1  Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. (KJV)
Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth . . . Paul now proceeds to a new argument, one which the Corinthians had written to him about . . . eating of meat offered to idols. Feasts upon these sacrifices were very common among the heathens. They first offered oxen, sheep, or other cattle to the idol; then the priest offered a part, burning it upon the idol's altar; another part they restored to the offerer, or kept it themselves. The priests made a feast in the idol's temple of their parts, and invited friends to it. The ones who offered the sacrifice either feasted with the part restored to them in the idol's temple, or took it home, or carried it into the market, and sold it (as other meat) in the shambles.
The question was: Was it was lawful for Christians, being invited by those among whom they lived, to go to these feasts, and to eat such meat, whether it was in the idol's temple, or at the pagans' houses . . . or if any such meat was bought in the shambles, should they eat it or not? Some among the Christians at Corinth thought any of these was lawful, because they knew an idol was nothing but a block, or piece of wood or stone, so it could NOT defile anything.
Paul tells them, that he knew that many of them had great knowledge, and everyone understood that an idol was nothing; but yet he warned them not to puffed up  (1 Cor. 4:6,18-19; Col.2:18). Many of them had a high opinion of themselves, and thought they could not be mistaken or be betrayed.

1 Cor. 8:2  And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. (KJV)

And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know . . . if any man be proud of his knowledge, and was arrogant that he knows enough, and needs no one to instruct him . . . he may indeed have an idea of things, but it will do him no good. A man should use his knowledge for the glory of God, and the education and enlightenment of others. A proud man knows nothing as he ought to know it. Knowledge is a NOT a talent to be laid up in a napkin (Lk.19:20). A humble man never has a big-headed attitude of himself, he uses his knowledge to honor God and the help others.

1 Cor. 8:3  But if any man love God, the same is known of him. (KJV)

But if any man love God, the same is known of him . . . this is beautiful! It is a tremendous value to a soul to be known of God! When we love God, He owns, acknowledges and approves of us because of Jesus! A person may KNOW much about God, but if he does not love God, he may one day hear: Matthew 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (KJV)

1 Cor. 8:4  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. (KJV)

As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols . . . meat which is part of that sacrifice which had been offered to an idol, whether it was eaten in the idol's temple, or in a private house. So, what about eating meat that has been offered to idols, the people wanted to know?
We know that an idol is nothing in the world . . . we all know that an idol is not really a god and that there is only one God. An idol is nothing of what the blind heathen thinks it is (Zec.11:17). An idol (a nothing) CANNOT sanctify or pollute any meat that is set before it.
After a person comes to Christ, and they have and trust the Word of God, they know that an idol is nothing! That is the way Paul speaks of the idols . . . they are nothing. There is only one TRUE God in the entire Universe! So Paul tells them that the meat that was offered to the idol was NOT affected in any way. Nothing happened to it. It was NOT contaminated, but was instead prime meat. So the Christian could go there to get his meat and eat it with no worry.

1 Cor. 8:5  For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) (KJV)

For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,). . . the words "are called gods" appear one other place in the New Testament (2 Thes.2:4), where Paul speaks of "the man of lawlessness" who "will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped," prior to the Coming of the Lord. In both cases, Paul knows that the pagan world is involved in the belief in, and worship of gods (idols). Temples to the many Roman and Greek gods in Corinth were sufficient testimony to this fact. In neighboring Athens, (Acts 17), Paul called the Athenians "very religious," for he found there many "objects of worship," including an altar "to an unknown god."

While knowing the certain reality in the pagan world, Paul forcefully stresses that these supposed “gods” are only "called" gods. In other words, whatever degree of reality that is assigned to these "nothing idols," when Christians speak of "God" they speak of the God of Israel and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and THIS cannot be claimed by any of these pagan idols.

1 Cor. 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. (KJV)

But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him . . . no matter what the idolatrous heathens think or believe, to us who are Christians, there is but one God, who is truly and essentially God. And even though there is indeed more than one Person in the Triune Deity, the Father, is the Fountain of the Deity, communicating His Divine nature to the other two Persons, Jesus the Son and the Holy Ghost . . . and of whom are all things. This is a term which means that He is the primary Cause and Author of all things: we exist because of Him, according to the apostle Paul (Acts 17:28): In him we live, and move, and have our being. For we are for Him, created for His honor and glory.
And one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things . . . Jesus is the Second Person in the Holy Trinity. Something to consider: That although the Name of God is often given to Christ Jesus, yet in NO place does Paul mention God the Father as Lord. This seems to conclude, that the term of Lord given to Christ, means HE has pre-eminence above all things, (except the Father), according to what the apostle Paul says (1 Cor.15:27). SO . . . it is by Christ Jesus, that are all things: All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made (Jn.1:3).
So, the Passage in verse 6 shows us, the order of working in the Holy Trinity. All things are of the Father by the Son.
And we by him . . . and we, says Paul, are by the Son of God created, redeemed and saved!

1 Cor. 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. (KJV)

Howbeit . . . in the previous verses Paul had stated the argument of the Corinthians . . . that they all knew that an idol was nothing; that they worshipped but one God; and that there could be no danger of their falling into idolatry if they ate the meat offered in sacrifice to idols. But, here he says, that although this is generally true, there were some who were ignorant of this, and the thought that an idol had a real existence, and that IF they ate that meat sacrificed to those idols, would be to confirm them in their superstition. Paul’s suggestion to these weak ones was that they should refrain from eating the meat (verses 11-13).
There is not . . . there are some who are weak and ignorant; who still have remains of heathen opinions and superstitious feelings.
That knowledge. . . that there is just one God; and that an idol is nothing.
For some, with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol . . .
the weak believers, the babes in Christ, the carnal Christians, these were the ones who were offended by the meat offered to idols. They did not have enough knowledge or faith. Their consciences bothered them. So they criticized the others who felt at liberty to eat the meat. We see the same thing today. There are people who call themselves separated Christians. They think they are being very spiritual when in fact, they reveal that they do not have knowledge. They are the ones who tell us we cannot do this, or that, and are offended at believers who use their Christian liberty. They are like the Christians at Corinth who were offended when they were served meat offered to idols and said, "We won't touch that meat." That kind of separation is not due to spirituality; it is due to ignorance, lack of knowledge and faith.
And their conscience being weak . . . sacrifices were offered to an idol who they thought was entitled to adoration, and had a right to their worship. They thought that some invisible spirit was present with the idol; and that his favor should be sought, and/or his wrath averted by their sacrifice. These people had been enlightened, but they were just too weak to withstand the temptation. They did not have a conscience clear and strong enough to enable them to resist the temptation; to overcome all their former prejudices and superstitious feelings; and to act in an independent manner, and to know that an idol was nothing.
Is defiled . . . their conscience was abnormally sensitive to this subject, that they might be disposed to do right, and yet they did not have sufficient knowledge to convince them that an idol was nothing, and that they ought not to regard it. Defiled is polluted, contaminated.

1 Cor. 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. (KJV)

But meat commendeth us not to God . . . this is to be viewed as what was presented to the Corinthian Christians, or by the supporters for partaking of the meat offered in sacrifice to idols. The Christian faith is much deeper and more spiritual than a mere regard to situations like these. God looks at the heart. He regards the motives, the thoughts and the moral actions of man. The mere incident of eating meat, or not eating it, CANNOT make a man better or worse in the sight of the Holy God. The acceptable worship of God is NOT placed in such things.
For neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse . . . if we eat the meat offered to idols, we are no better or have no more in moral worth or excellence of character (Rom.14:17). Are we the worse . . . no, we have no less, nor do we lack or want in moral worth or excellence.
Consider that Simon Peter had trouble with this. He had been brought up as a very strict Jew, to consider certain things unclean according to the Mosaic Law. When that sheet came down from Heaven in his vision and the Lord told Peter to arise and eat, Peter refused. Acts 10:14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. (KJV)
Peter here calls Jesus “Lord” but at the same time, he does not obey Him. Then the Lord said: Acts 10:15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. (KJV) . . . In other words, God no longer makes a distinction between the clean and the unclean animals. When Jesus came as Man, we were/are under the dispensation of grace, NOT the Law (Rom.6:15). That dispensation is passed. Now we can eat any animal that we wish to eat. For more on dispensations, see: http://www.worldlychaos.org/w_c_what_is_dispensationalism.htm
Paul has stated a great principle here. Meat does not commend you to God. You may do as you please in such matters. This is the liberty that a believer has.

1 Cor. 8:9   But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. (KJV)

But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak . . . this is the reply of Paul to the argument of the Corinthians in verse 8. Although all that you say is true, and although a man is neither morally better nor worse for eating the meat or refusing to eat it; yet the main principle to be observed is . . . how should Christians act so as not to hurt your brethren? Although you may be no better or worse for eating or not eating; IF your conduct would harm others, and lead them into sin, that is an adequate guide to determine what you should do in the case. You should abstain entirely. It is of far more importance that your brother should not be led into sin, than it is that you should partake of meat which you acknowledge is in itself of no importance. Become a stumblingblock . . . an occasion of sin (Mat.5:29; Rom.14:13; Gal.5:13). To them that are weak . . . to those professing Christians who are not fully informed or instructed in regard to the truth of idolatry, and who still may have a superstitious regard for the gods whom their fathers worshipped.

1 Cor. 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; (KJV)

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 . . . meat (food) has nothing at all to do with our relationship to God . . . BUT . . . IF it offends someone, we should not do it. The reason many of us who are TRUE Christians do not do certain things is so that we may not hurt or offend others. There are many things we are at liberty to do which we do not do. Why? Because a TRUE Christian’s decision is based of love. We do not want to hurt our weak brothers in Christ.

1 Cor. 8:11  And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? (KJV)

And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? . . . for whom Christ died . . . there is great power and sadness in these words. Shall we, for the sake of eating one kind of food instead of another, endanger the salvation of those for whom the eternal Son of God laid down his life? The answer has to be NO!

1 Cor. 8:12  But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. (KJV)

But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ . . . when you sin in this manner against the brethren (Christians), who are called by the Gospel to loathe and detest all such abominations, you sin against Christ. Through your bad example, a soul for whom Christ Jesus shed His precious Blood, may fall away from Christ. This would defeat the gracious purposes of Jesus’ sacrificial death. This is yet a farther warning, that a person for whom Christ died may perish; and this is the drift of the apostle's argument. Any time that we are responsible for a believer falling away from Christ, we affect Christ Himself. BEWARE!!!

1 Cor. 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. (KJV)

Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend . . . Christian freedom does NOT mean that anything goes for us. It means that our salvation is NOT obtained by good deeds or legal rules . . . it is a FREE GIFT of God (Eph.2:8-9; Rom.6:23). SO . . . Christian freedom is tied ever so tightly to Christian responsibility. New believers (baby Christians, 1 Jn.2:1,12-13; 3:7,18. 5:21), are often very sensitive to what is right or wrong, and what they should or should not do.
Some things may be perfectly okay for us to do, but they may harm a weak Christian brother or sister who is still young in the faith and learning what the Christian life is all about. We must be ever so careful not to offend a sensitive, weak or younger Christian by our example, or cause him or her to sin in any way. When we truly love others, our freedom should be far less important to us than to strengthen the faith of a brother or sister in Christ.

Special Comments for Chapter 8

Fourteen Arguments of Paul: 
1. Knowledge is important (1 Cor.8:1-3).
2. Idols are NOT real gods (1 Cor.8:4-5).
3. There is only one TRUE God (1 Cor.8:4-6).
4. People, not idols, are of God (1 Cor.8:6).
5. All people do not have knowledge (1 Cor.8:7).
6. Problems arise from ignorance and a weak conscience (1 Cor.8:7).
7. Meats being offered to idols does NOT defile the meats themselves (1 Cor.8:8).
8. Meats (food) make NO difference in our relationship to God (1 Cor.8:8).
9. Knowledge and liberty can become stumblingblocks to the weak (1 Cor.8:9).
10. Examples of the strong could cause the weak to commit sin (1 Cor.8:10).
11. Persons continuing in sin will perish regardless of Christ's death for them (1 Cor.8:11).
12. Sin against the brethren, wound their weak conscience (1 Cor.9:12).
13. Sin against the weak brethren, is sin against Christ (1 Cor.9:12).
!4. The strong must be an example for the weak (1 Cor.8:13).

Other “Gods”???

Paul states several ideas in 1 Cor.8:5-6, which seem to create some inner tension or discord. Although Paul clearly states that "there is but one God" (verse 4), what he says in verse 5 confuses the mind: For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, as there be gods many, and lords many.

Is Paul admitting the existence of other divine beings? These difficulties can be solved once we understand the problem which Paul addresses, the situation in Corinth and Paul's general Jewish-Christian worldview.
In verses 8-10, Paul seems to be addressing a second problem the church had laid before him in their letter; the first one was addressed in verse 7. The question was: Is it allowed for Christians to eat food that has been offered to idols (1 Cor.8:1,7,10; 10:14-30). In light of practices in the pagan world, that question arose in at least three settings. Animals which were sacrificed to pagan divinities at the various temples and shrines were not completely consumed in the sacrificial flames; often only certain organs were actually offered. The meat not consumed was sold by the priests to merchants, who resold it to the populace in the meat markets (1 Cor.10:25). The heathen called such meat "sacrificed for sacred purposes" (1 Cor.10:28), while Jews and Christians, recognizing idols as the work of human hands (Isa.40:18-20), called it "idol meat" (1 Cor.8:1,4; 10:18-19).

In addition to public sacrifices in the idol temples, there were also sacrificial rituals performed in private homes. Food remaining from such events was then consumed at regular meals. Would Christians invited by their pagan friends or neighbors be contaminated by such food (1 Cor.10:27-28)?  Sometimes banquets were held by individuals or associations in temple courts, and Christians could be invited (1 Cor.8:10). Since such meals were associated with the god or gods worshiped in these temples, the question of pagan defilement was very serious, not only for Jewish Christians, but for Gentile Christians who were still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol (1 Cor.8:7).

1 Cor. 8:5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) (KJV)  . . . The words "are called gods" appear one other place in the New Testament (2 Thes.2:4), where Paul speaks of "the man of lawlessness" who "will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped," prior to the Coming of the Lord. In both cases, Paul knows that the pagan world is involved in the belief in, and worship of gods (idols). Temples to the many Roman and Greek gods in Corinth were sufficient testimony to this fact. In neighboring Athens, (Acts 17), Paul called the Athenians as "very religious," for he found there many "objects of worship," including an altar "to an unknown god."

Yet, while knowing this inescapable reality in the pagan world, Paul emphatically qualifies it by claiming that these are only "called" gods. In other words, whatever the degree of reality or unreality assigned to these "nothing idols," when Christians speak of "God" they speak of the God of Israel and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and THIS cannot be claimed by any of these pagan idols.

1 Cor. 8:5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) (KJV) . . . I think that Paul speaks of the head of this host of spiritual powers (Satan) as "the god of this world who has blinded the minds of unbelievers" (2 Cor.4:4). In Eph.6:10-11, Christians are seen as those who are engaged in spiritual struggle with powers that are clearly super terrestrial. It is also clear that Paul did acknowledge the existence of angelic beings (1 Cor.4:9; 6:3), but just as clearly, he denounced the worship of such beings (Col.2:18).

There are many whom the heathens call god. The angels that are in Heaven are called God's host (Gen.32:2); the heavenly host (Lk.2:13); the sons of God (Job1:6; 2:1). Magistrates are also called gods (Ps.82:6), because God has committed a great part of His power to them. So, there are many gods and many lords in this world as we now know it.

For Paul, and for all TRUE Christians, there is just ONE God, the Father, and ONE Lord, Jesus Christ (1 Cor.8:6). The titles "gods" and "lords" for the objects of pagan worship are false and inappropriate. What Christians are to be concerned about (or should be), are forces and powers of evil against which they must stand "strong in the Lord and in his mighty power" (Eph.6:10).

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