(i) SECTION ONE: Chapter 8:1-13.

Map of Corinth / Map of Corinth's Location / Picture of the Temple of Apollo / Outline Chart/ Read The Letter

Read this passage of Scripture before continuing...


1 Cor 8:1-13

1Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.

2And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.

3But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.

4Therefore 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.

5For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords),

6yet 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.

7However, 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.

8But 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.

9But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.

10For 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?

11And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?

12But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.

13Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.


In this opening section we see that Paul goes right to the heart of the matter...the Corinthians had not misunderstood the nature of idolatry but the nature of what ? Click here for the answer (See verse 1).

In 1 Corinthians 8 the apostle Paul discusses eating meat that had been offered to idols in idol feast and in 1 Corinthians 10:25 Paul refers to the eating of food offered to idols later sold in the marketplace . What is the background? When meat was sacrificed to an idol, that which was not eaten by the priests or those attending the idol feasts was sold at the market. Some Corinthian Christians said it was permissible to eat the meat since idols are nothing but wood and stone(v4-6). Others thought it was not permissible because it might appear they were still involved in pagan worship (v7)

How do we interpret 1 Corinthians 8 ?

Once we understand the facts and background of the passage, once we have asked what the passage actually is saying and what is its context, then we see that Paul is teaching the principle of voluntarily refraining from a practice which, although not wrong in and of itself, might be harmful to a fellow Christian (see verse 9).

But sometimes a Biblical teaching is directed so specifically to the culture of the ancient world that another culture cannot understand it. For example, Western culture today generally does not sacrifice meat to idols, and therefore the meaning of <1 Corinthians 8> may be lost. How then do we evaluate its meaning for us?

It is helpful at this point to define two terms. A "cultural expression" is a statement that can be understood only within a certain cultural context. An "eternal principle" is a principle that God uses to govern the world regardless of culture. "I will never again eat meat, lest it make my brother stumble" <1 Cor. 8:13>, is a cultural expression because it is understandable only within those cultures that offer meat to idols. "God is love" <1 John 4:8> is an eternal principle because it is understandable in all cultures.

The main principle to extract from this section therefore is what is generally called 'The Stumbling Block Principle'. What is it ? Click here (see also 1 Corinthians 6:12).

As Christians, knowing the Biblical teachings on idols, we know that we should not worship idols but we can freely eat meat offered to them as all food that is eaten with a prayer to the Lord is clean. But in a culture where this is a common practice and , for example, a Christian son is asked by his parents to eat such food offered to idols what should he do ?

If he has problems in his conscience eating the food then he should refrain from eating unless his parents force him then he is to honour them (an over riding Biblical principle comes in here that the son should honour his parents - the only exception here is that his parents ask him to pray to idols then he should stand firm against this). A 'stronger' Christian would actually be damaging (or even destroying -see verses 11-12) the son's faith if they advised him to eat the meat because his conscience is weak in this matter. Also, if another Christian went with the son and freely ate the meat offered to idols he would cause the son to stumble and this would not be a loving action, indeed the 'stronger' Christian would be sinning against the 'weaker' one and indeed against Christ (see verse 12).

Can you think of other practices that we may have knowledge on that we are free to do, but in so doing we could stumble others ?

One example is drinking alcohol. In some Christian cultures it's alright to drink in moderation and is a social practice. But in other societies Christians feel its wrong to drink alcohol at all. Hence a Christian from the first country visiting the second should refrain from drinking alcohol even though he can freely do it, simply out of love for the Christian brothers and sisters in the country he is visiting.

Remember that Paul's main desire is to see the Church being in a position where it can powerfully carry out God's mission for it! In a church where some are blatantly doing things than stumble others, they are actually hindering God's purposes for a united Church reaching out in love to the nations. The 'stumbling block principle' is essential for all Christians to grasp and live by.

Now we will look at SECTION TWO: Chapter 9:1-27 which looks at why Paul willingly has given up certain Apostolic rights.

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