Paul appears to be answering questions from Christians in Corinth. In the previous chapter he talked about engagement and marriage. In our passage today he talks about food sacrificed to idols. This is one of those subjects where there is no one answer for all situations. It is complicated.
Because it is complicated Paul examines the hearts of the believers that influence their beliefs on this issue.
Instead of discussing the minutiae of this food versus that food. Paul wants us to look at our hearts. In verses 1-2 he notes
“Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know”.
Paul is highlighting the importance of having Biblical knowledge as well as humility and love for our brothers and sisters. This is very wise of him to start with this teaching. It is so easy to promote one idea and think we are better than others and look down on others with a spirit of pride. Many times in the church, Christians have done this, grieved their brothers and sisters, and caused significant church splits. In Romans chapter 14, in which Paul talks about this same issue, he makes clear, we need to decide what we believe, and also consider others’ beliefs. We are forbidden from judging others because they believe something different about a disputable, complicated issue in which people of many cultures have different ideas and practices. Paul in Romans 14:23 exhorts us to look to our faith, and not violate our consciences. Notice Paul says it is ok to eat the food in 1 Corinthians 8, verses 5 and 6, and then in verses 9 to 12 he says consider your fellow brother or sister and don’t offend them or nullify their faith by what you eat or drink.
There are some things in life we all have to believe to remain in the faith. There are other things where differing and sometimes contradictory values are tolerated and considered equally valid. It is ok to eat this food if you are not offending your brother or sister, but not okay if you do. In other situations, Christians have different ideas about the consumption of alcohol, eating meat versus vegetarianism, celebrating holy days or considering all days alike.
Paul in Romans 14:23 tells us that there are some issues we should just keep between ourselves and God. There is no value in sowing controversy, division and confusion in the fellowship of believers. Having knowledge is good, but knowledge is better when we are also filled with love for our brothers and sisters.
Suggested prayer: Heavenly Father, may we love Your Word and gain knowledge. May we also not forget to love our brothers and sisters with humility. Forgive us Father for our pride, and may we build our brothers and sisters up in love and seek to edify the church. We thank You for all the cultures and nations that make up Your church and may we all grow together in Your grace in unity as we go on towards maturity in the Body of Christ. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.