1 Corinthians 8

8:1 seems to indicate that this is another question the Corinthians had in writing Paul. It is that concerning ‘food offered to idols.’ I am inclined to think that the ‘knowledge’ Paul is referring to is that concerning this topic. The more knowledge one has concerning secondary subjects, the more puffed up one becomes. Paul wants the Corinthians to exult in love. If one has love, the ethical issues dissolve and are permitted by one’s true passion for God and people. Loving God means we know God, because loving God makes us ‘known by God.’ And in order to be known by God in the sense employed by Paul, we must ‘know’ God. It is an intimacy, a unity, like that of a man ‘knowing’ his wife. The ‘therefore’ of 8:4 alludes to this truth – i.e., love above knowledge of ethics.

One must know the essential knowledge of the gospel and the nature of God, but concerning these grey areas of ethics, God has not revealed explicit commands. So one acts in the essential, according to the great commandments, which are to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Because of the nature of God – the knowledge of His monotheism – the idea of idolatry is simply beyond the scope of our ethical basis; it is completely removed. We only act within those ethics that have our faith as its foundation, because all that is done without faith is sin (Rom. 14:13).

The perception of idolatry is an item beyond and outside of our faith claim, but eating food that God has created and permitted to be eaten is within our faith claim (8:6). Thus, we can receive it with gratitude if our pursuit is love for God and people. Yet, there is a caution rooted in 8:7. Not all have this mindset, because their conscience is bound otherwise – whether by past experience or wrong teaching. We therefore must not take this liberty as an opportunity to flaunt our rights, but rather we must use it wisely. We must be cautious, as to not cause those brothers who are of weak conscience to stumble. They may stumble by assuming that we do not take holiness seriously, or even worse that God does not take holiness seriously. That is the crux of the issue: holiness. If we rather flaunt our right, then we weaken our brother, sinning against him, thus sinning against Jesus Christ. There is no easy calculation.

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