Revelation of God’s heart puts knowledge in its place

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Mere knowledge can be arrogant and putting down of others, while the love that is at the heart of life in Jesus builds people up.

1  Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.

  • More literally, “about things offered to idols”. But v.4 is specific about brosis, food.
  • “We all possess knowledge” was most likely a Corinthian saying in a city known for its arrogance. Paul is saying that parading knowledge is heading towards pride. Christians, on the other hand, should be known for their love – and forebearance to those who have doubts, as explained in vv. 7-13.

2  Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know.

  • Wisdom as a Christian is realising the limits on what we know and perceive, and the gap between this and God’s omniscience.

3  But whoever loves God is known by God.

  • The person who puts their love for God above love for recognition by what they know, is demonstrating a close walk with 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.”

  • In pagan sacrifice only a part of an animal was used – leaving plenty that could be eaten.

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.

  • “There is but one God…” Deut 6:4, expanded by Paul into “one Lord, Jesus Christ” through whom all things were created. Paul calls attention to the role of God’s Son at creation, and also as the mediator of our salvation John 1:3, Col 1:16, Heb 1:2 .

7  But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so 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.

7  Newly converted former pagans have been used to sacrificing and eating in the local temples and need the support of the good values of others, to grow in their new beliefs and lifestyle.

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?

  • More specific than v.1 and v.4, this is about eating in a banqueting hall attached to a pagan temple – and so being seen in a religious setting and by inference,  possibly participating in that religion. Christians may have been invited to meals in a banqueting hall attached to a temple with members of their trade guild. Paul says that would be difficult for a new believer or someone exploring faith to understand a more mature Christian apparently compromising their faith in this way.

11  So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.

  • Paul goes on to say elsewhere that Corinthian believers should not eat in pagan temples – but even if they had that right, knowing that it could not harm them as those in Christ, it would be arrogant to demonstrate it. He is saying “Don’t go there” out of concern for the spiritual well-being of others.

12  When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.

  • It’s not helpful – and if they are harmed by your practice, then that is an offence against Christ.

13  Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

  • Paul says, if it came to it, he would rather not eat meat rather than be the cause of someone else having a wobble in their faith.


The key truth here is that the Christian life is about love and concern for others. Someone who parades their knowledge of the gospel, without showing concern for others, is giving out a mixed message.

What is the equivalent of eating meat sacrificed to idols in our day? An earlier generation of Christians were strict about limiting or forbidding drinking alcohol, the cinema and dances; present-day  Christians are more likely to uphold moderation while feeling free to engage in things seen as social interactions, rather than idolatrous failings.

Present-day idolatry is more likely to be seen in career choices and the sporting and media world – the unhealthy exalting of celebrities, stars and sporting heroes, or uncritical involvement in areas of business or politics whose values or actions conflict with those of the gospel.

We should always be ready to examine ourselves in the light of the Bible’s teaching – and to be aware of the sensitivities of others trying to reconcile the world they know and live in, with the

Discussion starter

What is more of a barrier to those looking from the outside in, at the church and Christian faith: strict attitudes intended to safeguard holiness, or an easy accommodation with the ways of the world which devalues holiness? (You may want to think about scenes in BBC Two A Vicar’s Life

C of E alternative epistle reading – Revelation 12: 1-5a

1  A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.

2  She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.

3  Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads.

4  Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born.

5a  She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre.”

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