By Dr. Lawrence Butler, The Bridge Church, Pembroke.
The first several issues dealt with by Paul resulted from needs within the church of which he had become aware. Things like debates, lack of spirituality and immorality comprised the early chapters of this epistle.
According to I Corinthians 7:1, apparently the saints had written to Paul asking questions that they needed guidance with. (1Co 7:1) “ Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me:…” It is with one of these issues that we shall concern ourselves in this lesson. The problem: (1Co 8:1) “ Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” There was much idolatry in this time, and Christians were surrounded by customs not associated with Christian living. One such was the offering of meat unto idols, or the placing of blessings upon meat in idolatrous ceremonies. Paul clearly addresses this in verse 4, “concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols.” Should Christians eat this food? Was this meat spiritually contaminated?
The response: The Apostle makes the point that these idols are not gods though they be called such. They are false, and none other but God our Father is real. Therefore it really doesn’t affect us if the meat was part of some spiritual ceremony. There is but one Father and one Lord, by whom are all things. There is no problem with eating such food, for our Father gave us the right to eat all things (I Tim. 4:1-5).
Our lesson: The real problem for Christians is that of weak consciences. One person will feel free to eat the meat, and another will not because it bothers him. Neither eating the meat, nor not eating the meat, makes you a better Christian. Paul says we are neither better nor worse for either choice (v. 8). However, he makes a strong case for not offending another person who has a weak conscience. Ignoring the feelings of others to the point that they lose their experience with the Lord as a result is a sin in Paul’s judgment. (1Co 8:12) “But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.” I have encountered people who did not prefer to drink coffee, tea or soft drinks. I have dealt with some who refused to wear neckties. I’ve heard of some who didn’t have whitewall tires on their cars, or stripes on their white socks. Some people wouldn’t wear feathers in their hats, or bows in their hair. I can’t settle all this, but it is my responsibility to love everyone and try not to be offensive. (1Co 8:13) “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth…”