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Food Offered to Idols


Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; 3but anyone who loves God is known by him.

4 Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— 6yet 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.

7 It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8“Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? 11So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. 12But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.


11. And thy brother perish Mark how serious an evil it is, that mankind commonly think so little of — that of venturing upon anything with a doubtful or opposing conscience. For the object to which our whole life ought to be directed, is the will of the Lord. This, therefore, is the one thing that vitiates all our actions, when we disregard it. 474474     “Quand nous entreprenons quelque chose center ceste saincte volonte;” — “When we attempt anything in opposition to that holy will.” This we do, not merely by an outward action, but even by a thought of the mind, when we allow ourselves in anything in opposition to conscience, even though the thing be not evil in itself. Let us bear in mind, therefore, that whenever we take a step in opposition to conscience, we are on the high road to ruin.

I read, however, the sentence interrogatively, thus: Shall he perish through thy knowledge? as though he had said: “Is it reasonable that thy knowledge should give occasion of ruin to thy brother? Is it for this reason that thou knowest what is right, that thou mayest cause another’s ruin!” He makes use of the term brother, in order to expose their pride as unfeeling, in this way: “It is true that the person whom you despise is weak, but still he is your brother, for God has adopted him. You act a cruel part, therefore, in having no concern for your brother.” There is, however, still greater force in what follows — that even those that are ignorant or weak have been redeemed with the blood of Christ; for nothing were more unseemly than this, that while Christ did not hesitate to die, in order that the weak might not perish, we, on the other hand, reckon as nothing the salvation of those who have been redeemed with so great a price. A memorable saying, by which we are taught how precious the salvation of our brethren ought to be in our esteem, and not merely that of all, but of each individual in particular, inasmuch as the blood of Christ was poured out for each individual!

12. When ye sin so against the brethren, etc. For if the soul of every one that is weak is the price of Christ’s blood, that man who, for the sake of a very small portion of meat, hurries back again to death the brother who has been redeemed by Christ, shows how contemptible the blood of Christ is in his view. Hence contempt of this kind is an open insult to Christ. In what way a weak conscience may be wounded has been already explained — when it is built up in what is evil (1 Corinthians 8:10) so as daringly and rashly to rush on farther than the individual thinks to be lawful for him.

13. Wherefore if meat make my brother to offend With the view of reproving more severely their disdainful liberty, he declares, that we ought not merely to refrain from a single banquet rather than injure a brother, but ought to give up the eating of meats during our whole life. Nor does he merely prescribe what ought to be done, but declares that he would himself act in this way. The expression, it is true, is hyperbolical, as it is scarcely possible that one should refrain from eating flesh during his whole life, if he remain in common life; 475475     “S’il demelure en la conuersation et communication auec les autres?” — “If he remains in converse and fellowship with others.” but his meaning is, that he would rather make no use of his liberty in any instance, than be an occasion of offense to the weak. For participation is in no case lawful, unless it be regulated by the rule of love. Would that this were duly pondered by those who make everything subservient to their own advantage, so that they cannot endure to give up so much as a hair’s-breadth of their own right for the sake of their brethren; and that they would attend not merely to what Paul teaches, but also to what he marks out by his own example! How greatly superior he is to us! When he, then, makes no hesitation in subjecting himself thus far to his brethren, which of us would not submit to the same condition?

But, however difficult it is to act up to this doctrine, so far as the meaning is concerned, is easy, were it not that some have corrupted it by foolish glosses, and others by wicked calumnies. Both classes err as to the meaning of the word offend For they understand the word offend to mean, incurring the hatred or displeasure of men, or what is nearly the same thing, doing what displeases them, or is not altogether agreeable to them But it appears very manifestly from the context, that it means simply to hinder a brother by bad example (as an obstacle thrown in his way) from the right course, or to give him occasion of falling. Paul, therefore, is not here treating of the retaining of the favor of men, but of the assisting of the weak, so as to prevent their falling, and prudently directing them, that they may not turn aside from the right path. But (as I have said) the former class are foolish, while the latter are also wicked and impudent.

Those are foolish, who allow Christians scarcely any use of things indifferent, lest they should offend superstitious persons. “Paul,” say they, “prohibits here everything that may give occasion of offense Now to eat flesh on Friday will not fail to give offense, and hence we must abstain from it, not merely when there are some weak persons present, but in every case without exception, for it is possible that they may come to know of it.” Not to speak of their misinterpretation of the word rendered occasion of offense, they fall into a grievous blunder in not considering that Paul here inveighs against those who impudently abuse their knowledge in the presence of the weak, whom they take no pains to instruct.

Hence there will be no occasion for reproof, if instruction has been previously given. Farther, Paul does not command us to calculate, whether there may be an occasion of offense in what we do, except when the danger is present to our view.

I come now to the other class. These are pretended followers of Nicodemus, 476476     Our author speaks of the same class of persons when commenting on John 7:50. See Calvin’s Commentary on John, vol. 1, p. 317. — Ed. who under this pretext conform themselves to the wicked by participating in their idolatry, and not contented with justifying what they do amiss, are desirous also to bind others to the same necessity. Nothing could be said with greater plainness to condemn their perverse dissimulation than what Paul here teaches — that all who by their example allure the weak to idolatry, commit a grievous outrage against God as well as men. Yet they eagerly shield themselves from this by endeavoring to show that superstitions ought to be cherished in the hearts of the ignorant, and that we ought to lead the way before them to idolatry, lest a free condemnation of idolatry should offend them. Hence I will not do them the honor of dwelling upon a refutation of their impudence. I simply admonish my readers to compare Paul’s times with ours, and judge from this whether it is allowable to be present at mass, and other abominations, giving so much occasion of offense to the weak

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