“Now concerning things offered to idols…” (1 Corinthians 8:1).
1 Corinthians 8:1 represents the beginning of a brief chapter that encompasses a longer discussion, one that continues through chapter nine and proceeds on into chapter ten. This portion of Scripture will address what appears to be another question posed by the members of the Corinthian church: “Is it appropriate to eat food that had been associated with an idolatrous offering?”
Now this question may seem unusual to anyone who enjoys eating foods from different cultures without much concern for the religious beliefs of those who were involved in preparing them. In light of this, a little background information might be useful in helping us understand why the question of what to eat and what not to eat troubled many within the early church.
We should first stop to remember that idolatry was a cultural fixture within the Greek and Roman societies of the first century. For example, there were a multitude of “gods” who supposedly held dominion over the realms of love, war, travel, and other areas of life during that time. As mentioned earlier, this reality was illustrated by the humorous observation that so many idols existed within the ancient city of Athens that it was easier to find a “god” than a man there. Since many members of the Corinthian church had surely engaged in various forms of idol worship prior to their acceptance of Christ, the question of whether it was appropriate to have any further association with such practices represented a very real concern.
However, these chapters are important for another reason, for they will also provide us with a number of principles that extend far beyond the ancient city of Corinth right into our present day. You see, this portion of Scripture will also address the larger issue of Christian liberty. Because of this, the precepts that we will go on to read over the next few chapters are ones that are applicable within every culture and every generation- and as we’ll see, they can be expanded to cover a wide variety of activities where God-honoring people may reach different conclusions concerning what is appropriate and what is inappropriate.
Finally, one source provides us with a helpful outline that will help prepare us for our look at this section: “Paul’s approach is to state the principle of liberty (8:1–13), then to cite himself as a picture of Christian liberty (9:1–27), and finally, to demonstrate to the Corinthians how they should put into practice their Christian liberty (10:1–11:1).” (1)
(1) Hindson, E. E., & Kroll, W. M. (Eds.). (1994). KJV Bible Commentary (p. 2302). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
“Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1 Corinthians 8:1).
When a member of the first-century church at Corinth sat down to enjoy a meal, he or she was faced with some cultural realities that went beyond the meal itself…
“The Greeks and Romans were polytheistic (worshiping many gods) and polydemonistic (believing in many evil spirits). They believed that evil spirits would try to invade human beings by attaching themselves to food before it was eaten, and that the spirits could be removed only by the food’s being sacrificed to a god. The sacrifice was meant not only to gain favor with the god, but also to cleanse the meat from demonic contamination. Such decontaminated meat was offered to the gods as a sacrifice.” (1)
Because of this, it was virtually impossible for a Christian within the city of Corinth to live, work, or attend a social function without encountering those who expressed such beliefs in the form of these sacrificial offerings. Another source discusses the prominence of these offerings within the culture of that period…
“Some of the pagan temples appear to have provided auxiliary ‘clubrooms’ which offered social dining as well as the more religious cultic meals. The cultic meals, according to William Baird, were held in recognition of a host of public occasions—marriage, victory in battle, honor to a hero. The prominence of such dining customs made it difficult for the Corinthian citizen to avoid sacrificial meat.” (2)
These food offerings (generally consisting of the meat of a slaughtered animal) were usually divided into three separate potions. One portion was burned as a sacrifice to the “god” being honored. Another portion was kept by the priest who officiated the sacrifice and the remaining portion was eaten by the person who brought the offering.
If an officiating priest had more of his portion than he could eat, he could elect to sell his surplus to the market where it would then be offered for public sale. Because of this, a Christian who ate within the dining area of a pagan temple would certainly know the origin of his or her meal, but those who made their purchases at the first-century equivalent of a butcher shop were never entirely certain.
Nevertheless, we’ll soon see that Paul the Apostle was far less concerned with the external origin of these meals than he was with the internal effect that they might have upon the other members of the Christian community.
(1) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Co 8:1). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
(2) Studies In First Corinthians By Paul T. Butler [pg. 147] College Press Publishing Company, Joplin, Missouri Copyright © 1985 College Press Publishing Company
“Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that ‘We all possess knowledge.’ But knowledge puffs up while love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1 NIV).
In addressing the question of food sacrificed to idols, the Apostle Paul will first identify two important principles and their relationship to one another: knowledge and love. A few inferences from this portion of Scripture can help provide us with a better understanding of these principles and how we might apply them today.
If we can “read between the lines” of this passage, we might say that there was a contingent within the church at Corinth who had come to the conclusion that an idol was nothing; therefore, what should it matter if someone eats something that had been dedicated to nothing? On the other hand, there may have been others who felt that any involvement with idolatry served to dishonor the God of the Scriptures. For such people, even the mere association with something that had been offered to an idol was wrong for it served to misrepresent the God that he or she claimed to follow.
So given what we know about the factions that had developed within the Corinthian church, its entirely possible that Paul’s use of the term “We all possess knowledge” refers to a catchphrase that was employed by certain members of the Corinthian church in regard to others who were seemingly less informed. If this is correct, then it seems that Paul sought to address an attitude of arrogance held by this first contingent of believers- a concern that he has repeatedly expressed throughout this letter to the Corinthians. (1)
While Paul did not discredit the importance of knowledge, he did stress an important standard that we would do well to observe: the application of knowledge should be guided by an attitude of love, not arrogance. The New Testament example of a couple named Aquila and Priscilla can help to provide us with a good illustration in this regard.
When this husband and wife team heard the dynamic teaching of a man named Apollos, they realized that his message lacked some important detail. In response, Acts 18:26 tells us that “…they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” In other words, Aquila and Priscilla did not seek to exhibit their superior knowledge or ridicule Apollos for the things he did not know. Instead, they spoke with Apollos privately in order to provide him with the information he lacked in a dignified manner.
In a similar manner, those with knowledge should seek to help (and not hurt) those who lack it.
“And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him” (1 Corinthians 8:2-3).
Paul the Apostle is a man who serves as a remarkable study in contrasts. For instance, Paul’s New Testament epistles clearly demonstrate that he was a learned individual and a person of high intelligence. Paul spoke and understood at least three of the major languages of his era (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) and appeared to be well versed in the poets and authors of his day, having quoted from them in his letters on three separate occasions.
Yet Paul was not a person who sought to put his intelligence on display. Unlike the intellectual arrogance that sometimes accompanies those who possess great intelligence, Paul demonstrated himself to be a person of great humility throughout his Biblical letters. For instance, Paul will later go on to write the following in his second letter to the Corinthian church: “for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing” (2 Corinthians 12:11).
To the church that met in the region of Galatia, he also wrote: “…God forbid that I should glory, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Galatians 6:14). In addition, Paul composed the following message to the Ephesian church: “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…” (Ephesians 3:8).
Finally, Paul said the following to the church at Thessalonica: “(We did not) seek glory from men, either from you, or from others, when we might have made demands as the apostles of Christ” (1 Thessalonians 2:6).
Thus, Paul served to exemplify the principle of “knowledge guided by love” that he sought to instill within the members of the Christian community at Corinth. One commentator illustrates this concept in the following manner: “Those who ‘know better’ than others are always in danger of feeling superior. Intellectualism seeks to tear down those of inferior knowledge in order to inflate self. Love (Gr. agape) seeks to edify (Gr. oikodomei, build up) the intellectually inferior by denying self.” (1)
Paul will go on to discuss the nature and characteristics of love at much greater length within this epistle. But for now, we can be secure in the knowledge that God knows those who love Him. Yet while there may be many who think they know God, the real question is this: does God know them?
(1) Studies In First Corinthians By Paul T. Butler [pg. 150] College Press Publishing Company, Joplin, Missouri Copyright © 1985 College Press Publishing Company
“Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live” (1 Corinthians 8:4-6).
There were those among the congregation at Corinth who had the right idea concerning the idolatrous beliefs that permeated their society- an idol is really nothing. Paul the Apostle affirmed this basic truth when he said, “So to address your concerns about eating food offered to idols, let me start with what we know. An idol is essentially nothing, as there is no other God but the One” (Voice).
The Scriptures also provide us with a number of common sense observations concerning those who place their trust in anything other than the one true God. Perhaps the best known example among these can be found in the book of Psalms…
“…their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. They have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk, nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them” (Psalm 115:4-8 NIV).
In light of this, we might ask why the Scriptures go to such lengths to condemn something that is essentially nothing. Well, here’s how one scholar addresses that question…
“Paul affirms here that ‘an idol is nothing in the world.’ Yet the Bible repeatedly condemns idolatry (cf. Ex. 20:4), and even Paul said there are demons behind idols (1 Cor. 10:19). Is he then claiming that demons are nothing?
SOLUTION: Paul does not deny the existence of idols, but simply their ability to affect mature believers who eat meat that has been offered to them (cf. 8:1). It is not the reality of idols, but their divinity which Paul denies. The devil does deceive idolaters (1 Cor. 10:19), but he cannot destroy the meat which God has created and pronounced good (Gen. 1:31; 1 Tim. 4:4), even if someone else has offered it to an idol. (2)
(2) Geisler, N. L., & Howe, T. A. (1992). When critics ask : a popular handbook on Bible difficulties (p. 458). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
“Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘an idol has no real existence,’ and that ‘there is no God but one.’ For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:4-6).
Unlike a polytheist who believes in many gods or a pantheist who maintains that “all is god,” the Biblical Scriptures affirm the existence of one transcendent, all powerful Creator (see Deuteronomy 4:35, Deuteronomy 4:39, and Deuteronomy 6:4 for some examples). For Paul the Apostle, the question posed by the Corinthian church regarding meat sacrificed to idols represented an opportunity to reinforce this foundational truth concerning God’s essential nature.
Of course, given the large number of mythological gods that dominated Greek and Roman ideology, it was probably beneficial for Paul to emphasize this point whenever he was provided with the opportunity. But while many such gods were likely to be little more than the product of a fanciful imagination, those who followed such practices were actually (and perhaps unknowingly) engaged with malevolent spiritual beings- and as we’ll see, Paul will go on to issue an appropriate warning regarding such activities in chapter ten.
Finally, Paul’s reference to “one God, the Father” and “one Lord, Jesus Christ” within this passage is one that may benefit from a further explanation…
“When Paul says that there is one God, the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ, he does not mean that the Lord Jesus Christ is not God. Rather he simply indicates the respective roles which these two Persons of the Godhead fulfilled in creation and in redemption. Paul draws a contrast between false deities and the Father and Son. Whereas the pagan deities are false, there is to us ‘one God, the Father’, and ‘one Lord, Jesus Christ’.
He maintains a distinction of Personality between the Father and Son by assigning a different title of Deity to each, while at the same time distinguishing both from all creation [TA PANTA], each in a different way. Whereas the Father is portrayed as the source of all things, Jesus Christ, the Logos, operates in an intermediate role in both the original creation (John 1:3) as well as the new creation.” (1)
(1) Apologists Bible Commentary, Copyright © 2001-2005 by Robert Hommel. For an Answer Ministries (http://www.forananswer.org). All rights reserved.
“However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled” (1 Corinthians 8:7).
For well over a half-century, the animated character Jiminy Cricket (first seen in Walt Disney’s 1940 adaptation of Pinocchio) has provided audiences with the following bit of instruction: “Always let your conscience be your guide.” Unfortunately, this animated insect seemed to encounter some difficulty in explaining exactly how that advice was supposed to work…
“Now you see, the world is full of temptations… there’re the wrong things that seem right at the time. But, uh, even though the right things may seem wrong sometimes, sometimes the, the wrong things, heh, may be right at the wrong time, or, uh, vice-versa; heh-heh- understand?” (1)
This little piece of insight should serve to illustrate two important things…
- We should probably think twice before accepting moral advice from a talking cricket in a top hat.
- It may be a bad idea to simply “let your conscience be your guide.”
One commentator provides us with a far more valuable definition in this regard…
“Paul uses the term ‘conscience’ often in the Corinthian letters (cf. 1Co_4:4; 1Co_8:7; 1Co_8:10; 1Co_8:12; 1Co_10:25; 1Co_10:27-29; 2Co_1:12; 2Co_4:2; 2Co_5:11). It refers to that moral inner sense of what is appropriate or inappropriate (cf. Act_23:1). The conscience can be affected by our past lives, our poor choices, or by the Spirit of God. It is not a flawless guide, but it does determine the boundaries of individual faith. Therefore, to violate our conscience, even if it is in error or weak, is a major faith problem.” (2)
So the conscience can be a good guide when it is led and informed by the Word of God but even then, there are some important things to keep in mind. You see, Paul the Apostle acknowledged that there was nothing inherently wrong with eating something that had been sacrificed to an idol; therefore, a Christian could enjoy the freedom to eat such things in good conscience.
Nevertheless, that freedom did not justify an attitude of insensitivity towards those who were struggling to disassociate such food from the idolatrous beliefs and rituals they represented. As another commentator explains…
“When a man violates his conscience, he assaults the central monitor of his spiritual life; and regardless of whether or not the conscience is properly instructed, the violation of it is a spiritual disaster. This is why a person who thinks a certain action is a sin may not safely take such action.” (3)
(1) Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket – Always Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOZzNOkcEgM
(2) Dr. Bob Utley, 2 Corinthians 1 [1:12] http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL06/VOL06B_01.html Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International. All rights reserved.
(3) Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on 1 Corinthians 8:4”. “Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament”. “www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/1-corinthians-8.html“. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
“But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse” (1 Corinthians 8:8).
The Apostle Paul’s observation here in 1 Corinthians 8:8 brings to mind Jesus’ teaching on a similar subject, one that bears repeating…
“Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.’ After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. ‘Are you so dull?’ he asked. ‘Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.’ (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
He went on: ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come–sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person” (Mark 7:14-23).
As Paul also reminded us in another of his Biblical letters, “hypocritical liars… order (people) to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:2-5 NIV).
These Biblical truths offer a great deal of freedom and liberty in Christ. But it would be inappropriate to violate one’s conscience in such areas, especially for those who are in the process of learning to apply these truths. In such instances, it then becomes necessary for those who enjoy a greater sense of liberty to limit their freedoms for the sake of those who may feel otherwise.
One such example can be found within the Biblical book of Acts where a council of leaders advised a number of churches to refrain from eating things that had been sacrificed to idols (see Acts 15:1-29). This accommodation would serve to benefit those Jewish Christians (and others who had yet to receive Jesus) who may have been hesitant to abandon those dietary restrictions that had been culturally reinforced for millennia.
Paul will go on to expand upon the importance of discernment in this area next.
“But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9).
One recurring theme within the book of 1 Corinthians involves “the right to exercise a right.” The Apostle Paul touched upon this subject earlier when he addressed whether it was appropriate to bring a legal case against another member of the church. At that time, Paul reminded the Corinthians, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful” (1 Corinthians 6:12).
Here now in 1 Corinthians chapter eight, the Apostle provides his readers with a similar warning. In other words, our liberty in Christ does not automatically grant us the right to exercise the freedoms we may enjoy. You see, the question of liberty does not simply concern the right to exercise one’s freedom- it must be broadened to include the effect that the exercise of our freedoms may have upon others.
With regard to act of eating something that had been sacrificed to an idol, it appears that there were some members of the Corinthian church who looked with disdain upon those who had chosen to avoid contact with anything that had been associated with a pagan sacrifice. Since no one enjoys being treated in such a manner, those who were cautious in regard to such things may have felt pressured to go along with a choice they felt was wrong.
So what might we learn from this situation? Well, while there may be any number of things we feel free to enjoy, its important to be wise, perceptive, and discerning in regard to those areas where others may reasonably come to a different conclusion. As mentioned earlier, the Biblical principle given to us in Romans 12:10 (“…give preference to one another in honor” [NAS]) serves to remind us that we should not only think about our own personal interests but what may be best for others as well.
This passage, along with 1 Corinthians 8:9, tells us that it may sometimes be wise to voluntarily limit our freedoms for the sake of others. This basic principle can be applied in many different areas of life from our choices in leisure and entertainment to the manner in which we greet one another- and as one translation renders this passage, “…watch out or else this freedom of yours might be a problem for those who are weak” (CEB).
“For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?” (1 Corinthians 8:10-11).
One of the challenges faced by the first-century Corinthian church involved social interaction with others who held little regard for the God of the Scriptures. One source has already described the “clubrooms” that existed for social dining within the pagan temples of that era while another commentator describes a similar arrangement…
“It was common in a temple to have side rooms that opened up into a courtyard. These courtyards would be used for dinners of food sacrificed to the temple idol. Because most events of life (from marriage to employment) had a corresponding god, it was not uncommon for a Christian to be invited to these functions.
Therefore, those believers who saw idols as a meaningless superstition felt no problem going to these functions since they in no way went to pay homage to what they knew was not real.” (1)
The issue for a number of Christians during that time concerned the fact that it was sometimes difficult to separate attendance at such functions from an appearance of support for the idol that the temple represented. But before we automatically dismiss such concerns from our 21st century vantage point, let’s consider a hypothetical example for today.
Let’s say that a few members of a modern-day church congregation happen to catch a glimpse of a respected church leader while he or she is engaged in a lawful activity that might be viewed as inappropriate by some. While some among this group might respond with an expression of surprise or disappointment, others might defend the right for a minister to engage in such activity.
However, there might also be those who felt compelled to say, “If he or she feels that it’s OK to indulge in such things, then it must be OK” without regard for their own personal standard of right and wrong on the matter.
This illustrates how others may potentially be harmed by the exercise of our freedoms. It also explains why many ministers voluntarily choose to limit their freedoms lest they negatively affect “…a believer whose faith is weak, a believer for whom Christ died” (GW). In like manner, we should also guard against the exercise of our liberty in a way that might cause someone else to stumble.
(1) Bob Caldwell, 1 Corinthians 8 Be Sensitive to Conscience
“But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:12-13).
One commentator provides us with a brief observation that may serve to bring this passage into sharper focus for modern-day readers…
“Think of something in your culture, or life, or church, which in your opinion is not wrong, because you have good discernment. But perhaps you know believers who are not as discerning as you. They do not see the issue as clearly as you do. For their own reasons, they think the matter is wrong. And if they see you do this thing, they will be hurt spiritually.
You may ask, ‘Why should my liberty be limited by somebody’s weak mind or conscience?’ This is where love comes in. This is why Paul says it is not a matter of knowledge. Knowledge puffs you up and makes you feel proud, but love builds you and others up. Jesus Christ loved the weaker brother enough to die for him. How much do you love him? Out of love, not knowledge, are you willing to give up the things that might offend a weaker brother?” (1)
Once again, this passage should prompt us to ask a difficult and penetrating question: what effect will the exercise of my liberty have upon others? For instance, do we subtly pressure others to act or respond in a manner that makes them uncomfortable? Are we dismissive of their concerns in light of our knowledge of the Scriptures? Do we choose to express our preferences with little regard for what others may think or how they might feel?
You see, whenever someone is compelled to violate his or her conscience to accommodate others, it often becomes easier to do so again in other matters. Over time, this may eventually lead to compromises in areas when there should be little debate concerning what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. This may help to explain why this passage twice uses the word “sin” to describe the act of provoking such a response.
Paul the Apostle echoed a similar sentiment in his Biblical letter to the church at Rome when he said, “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble” (Romans 14:21 NLT). Taken together, these verses again serve to remind us of the importance of seeking God’s wisdom, perception, and discernment in this area.
(1) Dick Woodward, Mini Bible College International Booklet Eighteen Verse by verse Study of First Corinthians (Part 1) [pg. 34] http://mbc.icm.org/
“Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:12-13 ESV).
If asked to justify a questionable act or decision, some may attempt to claim that we are only answerable to God alone. Yet while it is certainly true that we are answerable to God for our choices and decisions, how many of us actually stop to consider this question: “What are we answerable for?” In some instances, we may well be answerable for the impact of our decisions upon others.
The Apostle Paul has spoken extensively within this chapter concerning the way in which the exercise of our liberty might serve to violate the consciences of others and cause them to sin. Many translations use the word “stumble” to illustrate the effect associated with the careless exercise of our freedom in this manner- and a closer look at the word “stumble” reveals some surprising nuances…
- to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey
- to cause to fall away
- to be offended in one, i.e. to see in another what I disapprove of and what hinders me from acknowledging his authority
- to cause one to judge unfavourably or unjustly of another (1)
With these definitions in mind, we can say that the indiscriminant exercise of our freedom in Christ not only serves to affect others- it also serves to affect their view of us. You see, whenever people are compelled to accommodate others in this manner, they may respond in one of two ways…
- They may fall away in some respect.
- They may begin to distrust or disapprove of those who encourage them to engage in activities or expressions that make them uncomfortable or are not truly reflective of their character, personality, and/or beliefs.
However, we should note the condition that Paul attaches within these verses: “… if what I eat causes another believer to sin” (NLT). In other words, the Apostle placed himself under no obligation to abstain from eating certain things unless that choice had an adverse impact upon a brother or sister in Christ.
In that instance, Paul agreed to voluntarily refrain from eating such things on a permanent basis. In doing so, Paul presented himself as an example for the church and provides us with a preview of what is to come in 1 Corinthians chapter nine.
(1) G4624 skandalizo Thayer’s Greek Definitions https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g4624
“And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ. So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:12-13 NLT).
Before leaving this chapter, we should consider an appropriate means of interacting with those who may fall into one of the following categories:
- The person who claims to have a sensitive conscience but may actually be seeking to impose his or her standards upon others.
- The legalist who demands that others adhere to a self-defined set of rules and regulations.
Unfortunately, there are some who seek to control the conduct of others in areas where there may be a justifiable difference of opinion as to what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. These views might be expressed in any number of areas including…
- Pastimes and leisure activities
- Food and beverage
- Political preferences
- Personal appearance and dress
- Style and manner of worship
To help identify those who are truly concerned about a violation of conscience in these areas from those who are seeking to pressure others into conformity with their standards, a few questions might prove useful…
- Is the person involved a relatively new Christian or is he or she someone who is (or should be) mature in Christ?
- Can the person identify a Biblically based standard that governs such activity or is the matter in question more of a personal opinion?
- Does the person involved seem interested in genuine spiritual growth and maturity or does he or she appear to be more interested in enforcing a self-determined code of conduct?
- Is there an attitude of love or an attitude of compulsion? (See 3 John 1:9-10 for an example of the latter).
- Is there a genuine danger of damaging another person’s faith?
In instances where others may be adversely affected, it is right and proper to voluntarily lay aside our rights for the sake of those others. In other instances, it may be more appropriate to gently and respectfully set the proper example regarding our liberty in Christ. As one commentator observes…
“…(this) passage does not refer to legalists desirous of imposing their narrow-minded scruples on others. Such are not weak brethren, but willful brethren desirous of glorying in the subjection of others to their tenets (cf. Gal 6:11–13). This is tyranny, and Christianity must always be on guard against this.” (1)
(1) Hindson, E. E., & Kroll, W. M. (Eds.). (1994). KJV Bible Commentary (pp. 2303–2304). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.