1 Corinthians 8:1-13 . ON PARTAKING OF MEATS OFFERED TO IDOLS.
7. Howbeit--Though to us who "have knowledge" ( 1 Corinthians 8:1 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 ) all meats are indifferent, yet "this knowledge is not in all" in the same degree as we have it. Paul had admitted to the Corinthians that "we all have knowledge" ( 1 Corinthians 8:1 ), that is, so far as Christian theory goes; but practically some have it not in the same degree.
with conscience--an ancient reading; but other very old manuscripts read "association" or "habit." In either reading the meaning is: Some Gentile Christians, whether from old association of ideas or misdirected conscience, when they ate such meats, ate them with some feeling as if the idol were something real ( 1 Corinthians 8:4 ), and had changed the meats by the fact of the consecration into something either holy or else polluted.
unto this hour--after they have embraced Christianity; an implied censure, that they are not further advanced by this time in Christian "knowledge."
their conscience . . . is defiled--by their eating it "as a thing offered to idols." If they ate it unconscious at the time that it had been offered to idols, there would be no defilement of conscience. But conscious of what it was, and not having such knowledge as other Corinthians boasted of, namely, that an idol is nothing and can therefore neither pollute nor sanctify meats, they by eating them sin against conscience (compare Romans 14:15-23 ). It was on the ground of Christian expediency, not to cause a stumbling-block to "weak" brethren, that the Jerusalem decree against partaking of such meats (though indifferent in themselves) was passed ( Acts 15:1-29 ). Hence he here vindicates it against the Corinthian asserters of an inexpedient liberty.
8. Other old manuscripts read, "Neither if we do not eat, are we the better: neither if we eat are we the worse": the language of the eaters who justified their eating thus [LACHMANN]. In English Version Paul admits that "meat neither presents [so the Greek for 'commendeth'] us as commended nor as disapproved before God": it does not affect our standing before God ( Romans 14:6 ).
9. this liberty of yours--the watchword for lax Corinthians. The very indifference of meats, which I concede, is the reason why ye should "take heed" not to tempt weak brethren to act against their conscience (which constitutes sin, Romans 14:22 Romans 14:23 ).
10. if any man--being weak.
which hast knowledge--The very knowledge which thou pridest thyself on ( 1 Corinthians 8:1 ), will lead the weak after thy example to do that against his conscience, which thou doest without any scruple of conscience; namely, to eat meats offered to idols.
conscience of him which is weak--rather, "His conscience, seeing he is weak" [ALFORD and others].
emboldened--literally, "built up." You ought to have built up your brother in good: but by your example your building him up is the emboldening him to violate his conscience.
11. shall . . . perish--The oldest manuscripts read "perisheth." A single act seemingly unimportant may produce everlasting consequences. The weak brother loses his faith, and if he do not recover it, his salvation [BENGEL] ( Romans 14:23 ).
for whom Christ died--and for whose sake we too ought to be willing to die ( 1 John 3:16 ). And yet professing Christians at Corinth virtually tempted their brethren to their damnation, so far were they from sacrificing. aught for their salvation. Note here, that it is no argument against the dogma that Christ died for all, even for those who perish, to say that thus He would have died in vain for many. Scripture is our rule, not our suppositions as to consequences. More is involved in redemption than the salvation of man: the character of God as at once just and loving is vindicated even in the case of the lost for they might have been saved, and so even in their case Christ has not died in vain. So the mercies of God's providence are not in vain, though many abuse them. Even the condemned shall manifest God's love in the great day, in that they too had the offer of God's mercy. It shall be the most awful ingredient in their cup that they might have been saved but would not: Christ died to redeem even them.
12. wound their weak conscience--literally, "smite their conscience, being (as yet) in a weak state." It aggravates the cruelty of the act that it is committed on the weak, just as if one were to strike an invalid.
against Christ--on account of the sympathy between Christ and His members ( Matthew 25:40 , Acts 9:4 Acts 9:5 ).
13. meat--Old English for "food" in general.
make . . . to offend--Greek, "is a stumbling-block to."
no flesh--In order to ensure my avoiding flesh offered to idols, I would abstain from all kinds of flesh, in order not to be a stumbling-block to my brother.