Updated 4 Oct 2019
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1 Corinthians 8
This chapter looks at the issue of eating food sacrificed to idols. This, like other problems mentioned in the letter, seems to have arisen from questions which were put to Paul.
In the world that the Corinthians were living in, much of the meat that could be purchased in the market, would have been sacrificed upon an altar dedicated to idols. For some Christians, this was a highly sensitive matter; so much so, that they would feel contaminated and compromised by eating this meat. Other believers did not see it as an issue at all, so Paul was asked for his advice.
It seems that some of the Corinthians were boastful about their knowledge and insight. But Paul challenges whether knowledge is the only basis for making a good decision. He argues that our decisions should be based upon love and that when we truly love people, we will want to respond to their problems with compassion and sensitivity. Some people do have insights about issues but they will not necessarily be universally agreed. The Bible teaches that there is only one God, who has made Himself known through the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, idols and other so-called 'gods' are false and of no consequence. However, although that is true, people’s minds and consciousness can be affected, even by things that are totally false and we need to understand this.
The Bible reminds us that we have a conscience and that, before we were saved, there were a number of things that developed our conscience. Parents, culture, experience and knowledge, all affect how our conscience works. When we become a Christian, our conscience needs to go through a process of learning to understand right and wrong as defined by the Word of God. For some this might take a long time, because old habits and ways of thinking can be very deeply established, especially for those who find Christ in their later years.
It is obviously important, to build our own personal walk and relationship with God. We want to learn what pleases God and what offends Him. We will discover what draws us close to God and what forms a barrier between us and the Lord. All of this will affect our behaviour as Christians. But the Bible also teaches that our behaviour will influence others in the body of Christ. We learn from each other and we must be sensitive to and aware of each other. We are responsible for our own decisions but our choices must not cause others to stumble and fall. Therefore, for the sake of others, we should abstain from actions which are not a problem to us but which we know to be a very big problem to someone else.
We do need wisdom to discern issues that are a matter of conscience from issues where Bible teaching is perfectly clear about what is right or wrong. Paul talks about those who have a weak conscience who, even though their understanding may be incorrect, will still fall into sin if they do something believing it to be wrong. We must avoid a superior attitude about this and understand that causing our brother or sister to fall into sin is a far more serious concern than our opinion about a certain matter. Paul concludes that, even though he would have no problem with eating meat that has been offered to idols, he would rather abstain than cause a brother or sister to fall.
Points to Consider:
- How much are we motivated by love, when seeking to address an issue in the life of the church or in the life of a particular brother or sister in Christ?
- Consider your conscience. How much is it affected by your upbringing and how much more is it now guided by the word of God?
- How sensitive are we to the weaknesses of others in the body of Christ?
- For the sake of others, are we prepared to abstain from things that do not offend us but which we know will offend them?
- When facing conscience issues, how much do we pray and seek God to avoid the danger of speaking unhelpfully?
God bless you!
Bible Study: 1 Corinthians 8
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