Study Sheet for I Corinthians 8:1-13 (click here for Study Notes)
Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.
So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will not cause him to fall. (NIV)
The Corinthian believers were young in the faith. They were just learning to live with their new knowledge of salvation and the truth about the paganism they had left. They were growing at different rates, and some had a more clear understanding of theological facts than had others.
1. Since knowledge is a necessary part of leaving a false religion, why did Paul say, "The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know"? (see verses 4, 7, 10; Acts 15:20; Romans 15:14; I Cor 3:18)
2. What does Paul mean when he says, "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up"? (see I Cor 13:8, 9, 12; I Timothy 6:4)
3. "But the man who loves God is known by God," Paul continues. In this statement he emphasizes our need for love, not knowledge, and he says our love allows God to have knowledge of us. This distribution of love and knowledge is reversed from the way we usually perceive them. Why is it more important for us to have love and to be known by God than it is for us to have knowledge and to know God loves us? (Jeremiah 1:5; Romans 8:29; Galatians 4:9; Psalm 139:7-10, 13-16, 23, 24)
Paul addresses the Corinthian concern of eating food offered to idols. He begins by an unequivocal statement: "We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one." (Ex. 34:1; Acts 14:15, I Cor. 10:19; Eph. 4:6;I Tim 2:5; Deut. 6:4; Ps. 86:10) But even "if there are so-called gods(as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live," he continues.
1. What are the "so-called gods" to which Paul is referring? (see II Thes. 2:4)
2. Why does Paul say all things came "from" God the Father and we live "for" him, but all things came "through" the Lord, Jesus Christ, and we live "through" him? What is the difference? (see Mal. 2:10; Romans 11:36; Eph. 4:5; John 1:3; Hebrews 2:10; Acts 4:24, 17:28; Col. 1:16)
3. What things came "from" God and "through" Jesus?
Not everyone understands, Paul says in essence, that an idol is nothing. They are so used to idols that if they eat food offered to one, they can't think of it as just eating food. They think of the idol sacrifice and feel as if they're participating in that offering. "since their conscience is weak, it is defiled," Paul says.
1.What does Paul mean when he says such a person's conscience is "weak"?
2. If an idol is really nothing, why does Paul say such a person's conscience is defiled if he eats food sacrificed to idols? (Romans 14:17)
3. Why doesn't Paul just tell the "weak" former idol-worshippers to embrace the truth that an idol is nothing and learn to eat all food without worrying about whether or not it had been part of a pagan sacrifice?
"Be careful," Paul warns those who are strong in their freedom, do "not become a stumbling block to the weak." If a person with a weak conscience sees you exercising your freedom and acting on your knowledge by "eating in an idol's temple," he may feel free to eat meat offered to idols also and thereby be "destroyed by your knowledge." (Paul may have been referring to feasts at which Christians might be the invited guests of their pagan friends.)
1. Why does Paul put the burden on the person with the strong conscience not to indulge in his or her freedom in front of a "weak" brother? (see II Cor. 6:3; Matthew 5:29; Romans 14:1, 13, 20; I Cor. 10:32; Gal. 5:13)
2. Why shouldn't a "weak" believer observe the "strong" believer eating food offered to idols and thus learn to eat it him or herself?
3. If a believer with a "weak" conscience can be "destroyed" by a strong believer's acting in freedom, why is that destruction blamed on the strong believer? (see Romans 14:15, 20; Eph. 5:2, 21)
Paul began this passage by saying, "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." He ends it by saying that when we sin against our weaker brother, we sin against Christ. He also says that if what he eats causes his brother to sin, he will never eat meat again.
1. How are "knowledge" and sinning against one's brother related?
2. How is sinning against one's brother sinning against Christ? (see Matthew 18:6; 25:40, 45; I Cor. 12:12)
3. Why do we have to "give up" our freedom for the sake of weaker brothers? (Matthew 18:6)
Many of us brought weak or wounded consciences with us when we became Christ-followers.
1. What do you have to avoid doing that other Christians might be perfectly free to do?
2. Why do you have to avoid the things named in the question above?
3. Do you have any pride or arrogance about the things you avoid?
4. What wound or weakness do you need to acknowledge before God and ask Jesus to heal?
1. Are there people toward whom you feel irritation because they hold rigidly to certain practices that limit your own freedom?
2.What knowledge do you have that makes you annoyed with those people?
3. In what areas of your life does knowledge overrule love?
4. What arrogance do you need to confess to God, asking him to replace it with the love of Jesus?
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Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised April 23, 2000.