Idolatry, Eating and Love

1 Corinthians 8

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God. (8”1-3)

With these verses, Paul begins the next section of the letter, which runs through 11:1. For best results, we need to keep in mind as we go through the section that it is indeed three chapters in length with three subsections; more about that as we continue. Of course, we can easily see the shift in topic in verse 1, which will remind us of Paul’s structure as we have seen in multiple times before now.

He begins this section in an interesting way, with a contrast between “knowledge” and “love”: But knowledge puffs up while love builds up (1n). This is the dominant thought of the chapter and is reinforced by verses 2-3.

 Paul makes the point that an idol, representing a pagan god, is nothing other than a hunk of rock, for these are non-existent “gods”. There is only one God, the Father and one Lord Jesus Christ. These other so-called “gods” are nothing (8:4-6).

Yet in Corinth and other cities and towns of that era, there were still new Christians for whom that fact had not yet quite sunk in, and should they eat food that had been sacrificed to an idol, they would still think of it as something significant, and for them, eating such food would be highly problematic, even though there was no actual reality to the idol or the sacrifice (8:7-8).

If a Christian is clear about this, eating such food is not a problem, but in doing so, we must be careful, for if a brother or sister who doesn’t understand this yet should see us, they might be tempted to partake it thinking they are free to participate in pagan rituals, which would be a sin against Christ. For our parts, we too would be sinning, for in doing this, we will have caused our weaker brother or sister to fall back into the old ways− and we wouldn’t want to do that, would we (8:9-13)?

At this point, Paul’s dominant though becomes crystal clear:

But knowledge puffs up while love builds up

The very idea that a hunk of rock is a god is silly, and so is the notion that there is there is even such a thing as a “sacrifice” to a god that doesn’t exist… Pure nonsense! I’m hungry, and that meat is perfectly good food and I’m going to eat some of it because I can, and it’s my right to do so. That is the “puffed up” part.

How often do we hear this kind of thing today: It’s my RIGHT to do this!

The way of love, however, is quite different. Love is willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of someone who understands less than we do; it’s a pity we don’t see more love in action today.

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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5 Responses to Idolatry, Eating and Love

  1. photojaq says:

    I love your last paragraph. Yes, as the song says, “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love…” Of course it has to be from God as one of His precious Spiritual fruits. (Sigh) So often I see myself taking my “rights” to the extreme however…. because I can. Lord, make me more like Jesus.

  2. Or might they be actually participating in a demonic presence represented by that piece of rock or image, to which homage is actually being paid? Sometimes I think we modern Christians have been far too flippant about the unseen realm, for we wage war not against flesh and blood, but against unseen forces of darkness.

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