Looking back, it’s easy for us to sometimes laugh about our beliefs when we first became Christians. Some of us still get uncomfortable when someone asks us what our “sign” is, or the way we hurriedly skip over the horoscopes in the paper. But sometimes on the road to maturity, we may presume to know too much.
The Corinthians were proud about how much they knew. In 1 Cor 8:1 when Paul begins to talk to them about eating food that has been sacrificed to idols, he says “We all have knowledge.” Now previously they had written Paul a letter, inquiring of him in an almost rhetorical fashion about this matter of eating food that has been sacrificed to idols. They knew that idols were nothing, that there is only one true God. And since Jesus declared ALL food to be clean [Mark 7:15 Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean], they knew that they could eat anything they wanted to, whether it had been sacrificed to idols or not. So being proud of the fact that they knew so much, basically they only expected Paul to confirm their point of view.
However, Paul saw right through their pride and pointed out to them that they had become puffed up in their knowledge: [1 Cor 8:1 Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies].
In verse 7 Paul continues to explain what he meant by this. Love edifies, but the Corinthians, having become puffed up by their knowledge, had neglected to love those around them that were not as strong in the faith as they were. Some Christians that were still immature in the faith did not yet have the revelation that nothing in itself is unclean. Christ through the cross had made everything clean, He removed ALL curses from us, whether those curses could come to Christians through food, through ornaments or objects brought into our homes. He took onto Himself all curses or spells that could be cast onto us by witches, satanists, fortune tellers and wizards, all the curses that could come onto us through disobedience, by eating unclean food, breaking the 10 commandments or anything else!! [Gal 3:13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”)]. But Paul points the Corinthians to something very important at the end of verse 1: “…but love edifies.” Paul had written the Christians in Rome the same thing before:
[Rom 14:14 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died].
Now this matter of food can be applied to just about anything. And it simply comes down to us not being the cause of stumbling to those who are not strong in the faith yet. 1 Cor 8:9 But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. Paul is saying that we should not let our freedom in eating certain foods, drinking certain drinks, watching certain movies, going to certain places, etc. be the cause of stumbling and offense to someone that has not yet reached that place of maturity & freedom in Christ.
In verse 7 & 10 Paul asks the Corinthians what it would mean for a Christian that has less knowledge, to see someone that they respect eating the food that has been offered to an idol. The new & weak Christian might have just come out from under serving other gods, and might still be thinking those gods are real & powerful. Now when they see the mature Christian eating that food, would it not suggest to the new Christian that those old beliefs might still have some truth in them? They might believe that those gods still have some power over them. The same applies to us. If a person that has just come out of a bad addiction to alcohol now sees us drink something a little stronger than milk (which by the way there is nothing wrong with), wouldn’t that perhaps be a cause of stumbling to them?
Now this passage does not give legalistic, self righteous people an excuse to put pressure on others (who are more free in the faith than they are) to stop doing this or that thing. If a mature Christian believes strongly with full integrity that things like dancing, drinking beer, watching R-rated movies, etc. is wrong, then there is nothing wrong with that. But such a person should not make others believe he/she is still weak in the faith and expect others to quit going to parties for their sake. Such a person should rather reflect on their beliefs and convictions and question whether the freedom that was purchased on the cross is perhaps much bigger and wider that they think. God dealt with the “sin problem” completely by punishing our sins fully on Jesus.
Yours in Grace
Andre van der Merwe