Thursday 09 September 2010

Bible Book:
1 Corinthians

"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? So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall." (v.10-13)

1 Corinthians 8:1-13 Thursday 9 September 2010


Two pieces of social background help us make sense of thisrather obscure passage.

The first concerns "food sacrificed for idols", which is the keytheme through this and the next two chapters of Paul's first letterto the Corinthian church. Within the prevailing ancient Greekculture, the temples of gods and goddesses served as communitycentres, the places people held their special celebratory meals.Ritual worship and sacrifice were invariably a part of suchfunctions, but not the heart of them. Moreover, most of the meat onsale in the marketplace would have been slaughtered in the templeswhich effectively served as abattoirs. In chapter 10 Paul gives more space toarguing that Christians should not eat in pagan temples, but saysthat market meat may be bought and eaten without raising questionsof conscience for a Christian.

The second key piece of background concerns the value that theGreeks placed on knowledge and its pursuit. So the words in verse 1- "all of us possess knowledge" - are to be taken as a claim ofthose Christians who believe that the knowledge that is theirs 'inChrist' enables them to know that idols are worthless, andtherefore so is the worship of them. This, they claim, allows themto socialise in the temples without any risk to their faith.

Paul makes his key point immediately, that love counts more thanknowledge, and it is that which governs his subsequent instructionon the whole subject. Paul then indicates that he agrees with thefurther claims of the libertarians (verse 4-6), but then headdresses the fact that many believers have not yet risen abovetheir pagan past and that for those who still think of idols ashaving some reality it would be sinful to eat meat in a pagansetting. If some of their Christian peers are so eating, they arelikely to follow suit and so go against their conscience and bejudged for it.

To Ponder

This passage presents us with the interestingnotion that an action may not be right or wrong in an absolutesense, but is to be judged in terms of what impact our doing itmight have on others. What are the issues today where you believeit is perfectly right for a Christian to do something in private,but it may not be right in the company of others who are notpersuaded that it would be OK for them?

The 'demon drink' has sometimes been regarded asa parallel example in modern culture to food sacrificed to idols.In what ways is the issue equivalent?

Paul says in verse 13 that he will never eat meatif to do so risks causing someone else to stumble. What pleasureswould you be prepared to give up if a Christian friend felt theywere not proper activities for a Christian to engage in?

"In fact there are many gods and many lords"(verse 5). People today do not worship the kind of idols found inGreek temples, but what 'gods' and 'lords' do they serve? Which ofthese are a temptation to you?

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