1 Corinthians 8 Study Notes


8:1a Now about indicates that Paul is answering a question the Corinthians had asked him in a previous letter (5:9; 7:1). By custom, Corinthians commonly dined in pagan temples (which were centers for civic activity) or else partook of meat portions that had been offered there. The Corinthian Christians wanted to know if it was permissible to eat food sacrificed to idols as they reclined “at banquet” in a pagan temple (“dining in an idol’s temple,” v. 10) or feasted in a household that had received such things.

8:1b-3 Paul offers two guiding principles. First, knowledge (of Christian freedom) by itself makes a person arrogant, but love builds up believers. Second, it is not by knowledge that we are approved of God, but by our love for God we are known by him. That is the knowledge that counts most. Thus no believer should allow his relatively unimportant knowledge to become a cause of arrogance.

8:4-6 Paul’s answer that believers technically have the right to eat food sacrificed to idols may surprise us, but the logic is sound: idols are a “non-reality” and there is no God but one. But his advice on this matter does not stop here (cp. vv. 7-13; and esp. 10:14-22).

8:7-8 Christian freedom should never be flaunted or wielded carelessly. Believers at Corinth needed to be mindful that some in their fellowship, being so used to idolatry and having as yet a weak . . . conscience, could be harmed by seeing Christians partake of food associated with idols.

8:8-13 For those who knew that idols were nothing, Paul stated the obvious: eating food (even food sacrificed to idols) does not make believers unacceptable to God.

8:9 In language reminiscent of Jesus, Paul says the strong are not to be a stumbling block to the weak (cp. Mt 18:10). When misused, the right of the strong can destroy a weaker person’s allegiance to Christ.

8:10-12 If a weak person saw a knowledgeable believer dining in an idol’s temple, he might attach religious significance to it and become confused about allegiance to Christ.

8:13 Self-limitation by more mature believers safeguards the Christian allegiance of new believers, especially in overtly pagan environments such as Corinth.