1 Corinthians Chapter 8: Warnings About Food Sacrificed to Idols
Key verses: (1 Corinthians 8:1–11)
1 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God.
4 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.” 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 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.
7 But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are stillso accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.
Many passages in the Bible are difficult to understand without first knowing the historical context. In speaking of eating food sacrificed to idols, we need to understand that at the time, the Corinthians were polytheistic; they worshiped many Gods.
They believed that evil spirits could enter their bodies by attaching to food before it was eaten. To gain favor with the gods and to remove the risk of evil contamination, they made burnt offerings to the gods and then ate the remaining food at pagan feasts. In Paul’s time, this was a frequent and visible sign of idol worship. Literally thousands of Corinthians, by their practices, were routinely violating the 1st commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).
A Moment to Reflect
In today’s society, there are many culturally accepted practices that on the surface, and in moderation, may not elevate to the extreme of idol worship — for example, drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana (which is now legal in many jurisdictions), gambling, using abusive language or exhibiting abusive behavior. When any of these practices become addictive or compulsive, they are in violation of God’s commandments. Of course there are gray areas between moderation and addiction, but to live righteous lives in concert with biblical teachings, we must guard against such transgressions. Are there areas of your own life and habits you should be concerned about?