I Corinthians 8

 

 

            The Relation of Love to Knowledge with the Respect to the Question of

                                    Eating Idol-Offerings (vs. 1-13)

 

1 Now as touching things offered unto idols” - This was doubtless one of the questions

on which the Corinthians had asked for advice. We judge from the tone of the questions to

which Paul here replies that the majority of the Corinthians, being liberal in their views, held

that it was a matter of perfect indifference to eat idol offerings; and that, in acting upon

this conviction, they contemptuously overrode the convictions of those who could not help

thinking that when they did so they committed a sin. The practical decision of the question

was one of immense importance. If it were unlawful under any circumstances to eat idol

offerings, then the Gentile convert was condemned to a life of Levitism almost as rigorous

as that of the Jew. The distinction between clean and unclean meats formed an insuperable

barrier between Jews and Gentiles. Wherever they lived, Jews required a butcher of their

own, who had been trained in the rules and ceremonies which enabled him to decide and

to ensure that all the meat which they ate should be clean , not unclean. They could touch

no meat which was not certified as free from legal blemish or ceremonial pollution by the

affixed leaden seal on which was engraved the word “lawful” (kashar). But Gentiles had

always been accustomed to buy meat in the markets. Now, much of this meat consisted

of remnants of animals slain as sacrifices, after the priests had had their share.  The market

was therefore stocked with meat which had been connected with idol sacrifices. The

Christian could never be sure about any meat which he bought if he held it wrong to

partake of these offerings.  The question “to eat or not to eat?” was a burning one.

It will be seen that Paul treats it with consummate wisdom and tenderness. His liberality

of thought shows itself in this — that he sides with those who took the strong, the broad,

the common sense view, that sin is not a mechanical matter, and that sin is not committed

where no sin is intended. He neither adopts the ascetic view nor does he taunt the inquirers

with the fact that the whole weight of their personal desires and interests would lead them

to decide the question in their own favor. On the other hand, he has too deep a sympathy

with the weak to permit their scruples to be overruled with a violence which would wound

their consciences. While he accepts the right principle of Christian freedom, he carefully

guards against its abuse – “we know that we all have knowledge.” - It is very probable

that this is a semi-ironical quotation of the somewhat conceited remark which had occurred

in the letter from Corinth.  Knowledge puffeth up” – That is:  knowledge that is merely

intellectual and that usually tends to self-conceit and pride.  The brief energetic clause,

“Knowledge puffeth up; love buildeth up,” shows the strong feeling with which the

apostle enters on the discussion. There is a wide distance between theoretic knowledge

and heavenly wisdom (James 3:13-18). “He who is full is rich; he who is puffed up is

empty” (Stanley). “The first person puffed up was the devil” (Beza) – “but charity edifieth.”

By this Paul means that the heart must be under the influence of grace, and thus inspire the

intellect so that I may be delivered from its selfishness and especially its self-conceit.

There is no reason whatever for the rendering of ajgaph< - agape -  sometimes by “love,”

sometimes by “charity.” The fondness for variation which led King James’s translators to

do so only obscures the identity of thought which prevails among all the apostles respecting

the absolute primacy of love as the chief sphere and test of the Christian life. Edifieth.

Helps to build us up as stones in the spiritual temple (ch. 3:9; Romans 14:19; Ephesians 4:12).

“If because of meat thy brother is grieved, thou walkest no longer in love”

(Romans 14:15).  2 And if any man think that he knoweth any thing” - Humility is the

test of true knowledge, and love the inevitable factor in all Christian knowledge. The conceit

of knowledge is usually the usurped self assertion of an imaginary infallibility. We only know

in part,” and our knowledge, having at the best a purely relative value, is destined to vanish

away (ch. 13:8-9).  As finite beings we cannot measure the arm of God, the Infinite, by

the finger of man – “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” - Not only by creation and

preservation, but much more by redemption and adoption, and as the Father of our Lord

Jesus Christ (Romans 8:15;Galatians 3:26) – “of whom are all things” (Romans 11:36)

All things, “visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or

principalities, or powers; all things were created by Him and for Him,… and by Him

 all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17) - “and we in Him” - rather, into or for him.

He is the End and Goal as well as the Author of our existence – “and one  Lord Jesus

Christ, by whom are all things” - “All things were made by Him; and without

Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3).  He is the Agent of both

creation and redemption (John 1:3,10; Hebrews 1:2-3) – “and we by Him.” - as the

Mediator and the Giver of life.  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.”  rather, this power or right of yours. To

lead any one to do that which he thinks to be wrong is to place a stone of stumbling in

his way, even if we do not think the act to be wrong. For we make men worse if by our

example we teach them to act in contradiction of their conscience. “Let your motto be

forbearance, not privilege, and your watchword charity, not knowledge.  Never flaunt

your knowledge, seldom use your privilege.” 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” - rather, be edified. The expression is a very bold

paronomasia. This “edification of ruin” would be all the more likely to ensue because

self interest would plead powerfully in the same direction. A little compromise and

complicity, a little suppression of opinion and avoidance of antagonism to things evil, a little

immoral acquiescence, would have gone very far in those days to save Christians from

incessant persecution. Yet no Christian could be “edified” into a more dangerous course

than that of defying and defiling his own tender conscience – “to eat those things which

are offered to idols.  11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish,

for whom Christ died?” - The fact that he was “weak” constituted a fresh appeal to pity.

It made him more emphatically one of “Christ’s little ones,” and Christ had pronounced a

heavy malediction on all who caused such to offend. (Matthew 18:6) But if there is this

ruinous edification” upon the trembling and sandy foundation of a weak conscience, what

could possibly follow but a gradual destruction? The tense is the present  and he who is

weak, in thy knowledge, is perishing” — “the brother for whose sake Christ died.” The

order of the original often gives a force to the words, which it is difficult to reproduce,

as here. The word “is perishing” becomes very emphatic by being placed first in the

sentence. “Destroy not him with thy meat for whom Christ died(Romans 14:16).

“Perish” - Paul could use no word which would more effectually point his warning.

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.”

 

 

                                                  ADDITIONAL NOTES

 

                                                Knowledge and Love (v. 1)

 

In the Divine Being Himself both knowledge and love are perfect; He is light; He is love.

Man, made in God’s image, is capable of both; but his knowledge is and must be very limited

and partial, whilst he has vast capacities for love. Not only so; as the apostle here teaches,

love is better than knowledge, for whilst this puffs up, that edifies. We recognize this

superiority in several particulars.

 

  • IN ITS INFLUENCE UPON THE INDIVIDUAL’S OWN CHARACTER.

      Paul’s observation convinced him that this was the case. There were at Corinth

      those who boasted of their knowledge, of their intellectual powers of discrimination,

      of their superiority to the ignorant and vulgar. But these very persons, although

      Christians in name, were very far from displaying the character of Christ Himself,

      evincing little of consideration and forbearance towards their fellow believers. In fact,

      they were “puffed up,” their knowledge inflating them, but imparting to them no

            real stability or vigor of character. On the other hand, such as were animated by the

            purifying and elevating principle of love were, by the action of that principle, delivered

            from selfishness and self seeking. They were “edified,” i.e. built up, as a temple in

            stately proportions, upon a secure and ample foundation. This is a generalization, the

            justice of which is borne out by the experience of the Church of Christ. A show of

            knowledge is often unlovely when compared with the reality of love, which imparts

            a beauty and a radiance to the character beyond what human effort and culture can

            possibly bestow.

 

  • IN ITS INFLUENCE UPON HUMAN SOCIETY. It has been maintained that

      moral beliefs have no influence in the development of society, which is due to the

      advance of scientific knowledge. But facts are in contradiction to this theory. 

      Learning, science, art, are all good in themselves; but they give no guarantee that

      they shall be wisely and beneficially used, and they may be far from a blessing to

      society. But where compassion and benevolence are prevalent and ruling principles,

      there society feels the benefit of their operation. The Church is maintained in peace

      and harmony; the world around is profited by the self denying efforts made for the

            amelioration of its condition.

 

  • IN ITS ACCEPTABLENESS TO GOD. We are not to understand that our

      Divine Ruler is indifferent to the progress of knowledge. “That the soul be without

      knowledge is not good.” And there is a kind of knowledge which is near akin to love:

      to know God is life eternal. But mere intellectual activity, mere speculative

      acquaintance with truth, are vain and worthless in His sight to whom all things are

      known from the beginning.  But love, as it is the highest expression of the Divine nature

      and character, is peculiarly congenial and acceptable to God. With the loveless soul

      God has no sympathy; but the soul that is on fire with love to God and man is

            preparing to dwell in the everlasting radiance which makes and. blesses heaven.

 

 

                                    Intimacy between God and Man (v. 3)

 

As the passage treats of man’s knowledge professed, supposed, and real, we should expect

in this verse to find a statement regarding man’s knowledge of God. And by some the second

clause of this verse has been interpreted in this sense. If this somewhat strains the language,

and if it is necessary to understand that we have here an assertion that the lover of God is

known by God, all the same the apostle must be acknowledged here to affirm a

spiritual intimacy between the human spirit and the Father of spirits..

 

  • THE CONDITION OF THIS INTIMACY.

 

ü      It is a condition which could scarcely occur to man apart from revelation.

      Men fear God, reverence God, worship God, seek to avert the wrath of

      God; but to love God is not an exercise of mind which seems congruous

      to the relation between the Creator and His creatures.

 

ü      It is a condition which Christianity renders possible and natural. By

                        revealing God as love, by bringing that love home to the heart in the

                        incarnation and the sacrifice of the Son of God, Christianity makes a claim

                        upon human love. The manifestation of affectionate interest and

                        benevolence in a way so remarkable, so unique, is sufficient to account for

                        a new relationship, and for new emotions corresponding therewith.

 

ü      It is a condition capable of universal fulfillment. “If any man love God.”

                        There are many whose natural powers of body and of mind are very

                        limited. But there is none who has not the capacity for love. There may be

                        a moral unpreparedness, but this may be overcome. The Gentile as well as

                        the Jew, the illiterate as well as the learned, are capable of loving the

                        Author of salvation.

 

  • THE CHARACTER OF THIS INTIMACY. Love is represented as leading to,

      as involving, knowledge.

 

ü      On the side of God Himself. This is the explicit statement of the text:

                        “The same,” i.e. the man who loves, “is known by Him,” i.e. by God.

                        Knowledge is, in Scripture, according to a Hebrew idiom, often used as

                        equivalent to favor; even as we say we know a person intimately, meaning

                        in the knowledge of friendship. Of course, the Omniscient knows all His

                        creatures; but He has a friendly, fatherly, affectionate, intimate knowledge

                        of those who love Him. He reads the language of their hearts. “The Lord

                        knoweth them that are His.” He knows them to watch over and keep, to

                        guide and govern, to strengthen and to save them.

 

ü      On the side of man. This is the implicit statement of the text; for he who

                        in the sense affirmed is known by God also knows God. How true it is that

                        he who loves God knows Him too! There are many respects in which we

                        cannot know our earthly, human associates, unless we are drawn to them

                        by the cords of love. Love opens the doors of knowledge. It creates that

                        sympathy which gives intensity to the intuitive gaze of the soul. Thus it is

                        that, whilst many learned and philosophic minds are ignorant of the Deity,

                        there are to be found, among the lowly, the ignorant, and the feeble, those

                        who, with hearts quickened and softened with grateful love, live in a

                        hallowed intimacy with Him who is the Father of their spirits and the God

                        of their salvation.

 

 

                                                One God and One Lord (v. 6)

 

  • THE ONE GOD. The oneness of Deity is here emphasized. It is insisted upon

      throughout the Scriptures. The true Israel, ancient and modern, has been monotheistic.

      The conflict, contradiction, confusion, and absurdity, conspicuous enough in the

      polytheistic systems, find no place in Judaism or Christianity. The oneness of Deity is

      confirmed by:

 

ü      Nature,

ü      Providence,

ü      the Moral Sense. The one God is:

 

Ø      The Source of all things. “Of whom are all things. He is the

      great Originator; all things sprang from His creative touch. We know

      not how the manner is not revealed to us, the fact is. God may

      have left much to man’s scientific instinct to discover; He may have

      intended not a little to remain enshrouded in mystery. We may travel

      reverently along the lines of true knowledge until they cease for us;

      then the great truth remains still for our enlightenment and comfort.

      The march backward of science is towards unity; revelation began

       with it!

 

Ø      The End of all things. “We unto [not ‘in’] Him.” What is here

      asserted of some of God’s works (“we”) applies to all (see

      Colossians 1:16). All things were created “unto” God; the object

      of their existence terminates in God, they show forth His glory, they

      subserve His purposes. The whole universe looks God wards.

      So far as intelligent creatures do not find the end of their existence

      in God, so far as they do not seek the Divine glory, so far they fall

      out of harmony with the rest of creation and bring failure into their lives.

      We are not created for ourselves, but for God; we should

                                    therefore “glorify God in our bodies, and in our spirits, which are

                                    His” and for Him.

 

  • THE ONE LORD. This is Jesus Christ — the “Son of man” and the “Son of God.”

      We are here taught that the Head of the Christian Church was the active Power in

      creation. Of the Deity, as such, were all things; through the one Lord, the second

      person in the Deity, were all things.  Some have been led by this verse to question

      the divinity of Christ: it appears to teach it in a very impressive and convincing manner.

      The administrative, mediating position occupied by Christ is indeed recognized,

            but the assertion that through Him all things were seems scarcely susceptible

            of a fair interpretation if His divinity be excluded. Moreover, this very expression,

            through Him,” is applied elsewhere to God as such (see John 1:3; Romans 11:36;

                        Hebrews 2:10). And the expression which we have here applied to God, “unto Him,”

            is in Colossians 1:16 applied toChrist. The apostle is speaking to the Corinthians

            about idols as “gods and lords.” These were all regarded as deities. In carrying

            over the same terms to the realm of Christianity, there is nothing in the statements

            made which should lead us to regard “Lord” as less Divine than “God.”

 

  • THE SPECIAL RELATIONS SUBSISTING BETWEEN BELIEVERS AND

      THE ONE LORD AND ONE GOD.

 

ü      Believers are “through” Jesus Christ. As creatures, they are amongst

                        the “all things” which are said to be “through” Him. But the additional

                        statement, “we through him,” indicates a very special relationship.

                        Believers are such through Christ; they believe on Him. Through Christ

                        they are separated from the “all things” and made a “peculiar people.”

                        All that distinguishes them from others in condition and prospect is

                        throughHim. He is their “Alpha and Omega.” He created all things,

                        and they are His new creation — a creation of a higher order and with

                        sublimer ends. Apart from Christ believers are nothing; through Him they

                        become “heirs of God.” As through Christ in the realm of nature the

                        chaos became order and beauty, so through Christ men pass from the

                        disorders of a lost state into the excellences and glories of a redeemed

                        and consecrated existence.

 

ü      Believers are “unto” God. All things are, but believers are in a very

                        special sense. This is “through” Jesus Christ. As all the creation under the

                        administration of Jesus Christ is “unto God,” so in a peculiar and lofty

                        sense are believers. They show forth the Divine glories as none other of the

                        human race can. They reflect the Divine love manifested in the

                        transcendent work of redemption. They are presented to God as the fruits

                        of the Divine grace. Their “life is hid with Christ in God.” They are “not

                        their own.” Their lives are devoted to the Divine service. They are

                        servants of God.” Once rebellious, they are now obedient; once defiled,

                        now purified; once lost, now saved “unto God.” Here is pre-eminently the

                        believer’s condition; he is emphatically “unto God.” Is this so with us? If

                        we are saved by Christ, for what, to what, are we saved? Some seem to be

                        saved for nothing in particular! Many are satisfied with being “saved,”

                        and never ask,” Saved for what?”

 

ü      God is the Father to believers. In a certain restricted sense He is the

                        Father of all. We are all His offspring. But in a spiritual sense God is not the

                        Father of all.   Of certain unbelievers Christ said, “Ye are of your father the

                        devil.” God cannot be our Father unless we are His children. There must

                        be the double relationship or none. Some are willing enough for God to be

                        their Father, but not willing at all to be His children! But the true believer

                        has received the adoption and cries, “Abba, Father.” High privilege indeed!

                        How it speaks of care, and support, and protection, and guidance, and

                        teaching, and love! How near to God we are brought when He becomes

                        our Father! Our origination is in the mysterious Deity; we are fashioned by

                        the hands of Christ; amid the infinities of creation receiving existence for

                        the Divine glory, we seek our own, and become blots on the universe

                        otherwise so fair; “through” Jesus Christ we become changed, redeemed;

                        by Him we are led back to God, and see as life’s supreme object the glory

                        of God, now brought so much nearer to our grasp; and as we reach the

                        dread presence of the Eternal, whence all things come, we lift up our eyes

                        and behold “our Father.” This also is “through Christ.” God is the Father

                        of Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ has become our Brother. If Christ be our

                        Brother, His Father is our Father.

 

 

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