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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.


9. Take heed that your liberty He leaves their liberty untouched, but moderates the use of it thus far — that it may not give occasion of stumbling to the weak. And he expressly desires that regard be had to the weak, that is, to those who are not, yet thoroughly confirmed in the doctrine of piety, for as they are wont to be regarded with contempt, it is the will and command of the Lord, that regard should be had to them. In the meantime, he hints that strong giants, who may be desirous tyrannically to subject our liberty to their humor, may safely be let alone, 470470     “Nous ne nous en devons point soucier, mais les laisser la;” — “We should not concern ourselves as to them, but leave them there.” because we need not fear giving offense to those who are not drawn into sin through infirmity, but eagerly catch at something to find fault with. What he means by an occasion, of stumbling we shall see herelong.

10. If any one see thee. From this it appears more clearly, how much liberty the Corinthians allowed themselves; for when the wicked made a kind of sacred banquet for their idols, they did not hesitate 471471     “Les Corinthiens n’auoyent point de honte;” — “The Corinthians were not ashamed.” to go to it, to eat of the sacrifice along with them. Paul now shows what evil resulted from this. In the first clause, instead of the words who hast knowledge, I have rendered the expression thus — though thou shouldest have; and in the second clause, in the expression who is weak, I have introduced the word notwithstanding. This I found it necessary to do for the clearing up of Paul’s meaning. For he makes a concession, as if he had said: “Be it so, that thou hast knowledge; he who seeth thee, though he is not endowed with knowledge, is notwithstanding confirmed by thine example to venture upon the same thing, while he would never have taken such a step if he had not had one to take the lead. Now when he has one to imitate, he thinks that he has a sufficient excuse in the circumstance that he is imitating another, while in the meantime he is acting from an evil conscience.” For weakness here means ignorance, or scruple of conscience. I am aware, at the same time, in what way others explain it; for they understand the occasion of stumbling to be this — when ignorant persons, induced by example, imagine that in this way they perform some kind of religious service to God, but this idea is quite foreign to Paul’s meaning. For he reproves them, as I have said, 472472     See commentary on 1 Corinthians 8:7. because they emboldened the ignorant to hurry on, contrary to conscience, to attempt what they did not think it lawful for them to do. To be built up means here — to be confirmed 473473     The original word οἰκοδομηθήσεται, shall be built up, is used here, in the opinion of some learned critics, to mean encouraged or emboldened, and a parallel passage is pointed to in Malachi 3:15, where the Hebrew word כבכי is rendered in the Septuagint ἀνοικοδομοῦνται or emboldened It deserves notice, however, that the Apostle had in the commencement of the chapter spoken of love as edifying, while knowledge puffeth up, and it is not improbable that he made use of the same word here ironically, as we would say — “Will not this be edifying the wrong way?” — Ed Now that is a ruinous kind of building, that is not founded on sound doctrine.

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.

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