There were many issues in Corinth that needed to be corrected by Paul. Eating in temples dedicated to the gods was one of the problems.
Some of the issues that surrounded this problem are as follows:
— Most people in Corinth did not eat meat. The meat was reserved for the wealthy.
— All of the meat for sale, except that butchered by Jewish inhabitants, was previously sacrificed to one of the local idols.
— When the wealthy ate in the temples of the gods, they believed that the idol joined the participants in the meal. A portion of the dinner was placed before the image of that particular god.
— There were special events where the city’s patrons provided meat for the common person. All of these special events were dedicated to one god or another.
— The church in Corinth had a few wealthy members. They wanted to continue eating meat in the pagan temples. They rationalized their behavior with intellectual arguments.
One Side of the Conversation
Reading 1 Corinthians is like listening to one side of a phone conversation. We hear Paul’s words and must guess at what the Corinthian Christians were saying.
It is believed that the leading members of the Corinthian church were using intellectual arguments like these:
— “All of us possess knowledge.”
— “No idol in the world really exists.”
— “There is no God but one.”
All of those statements are true but can be used as a rationalization for harmful behavior.
Paul addressed the faulty thinking of leading members of the church in the first verses of chapter 8.
— 1 Corinthians 8.1-6 – Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.
Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.
Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.”
Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords—
Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
Paul Exposes Error
Paul exposed the error of the powerful members of the church with three arguments that resonate today.
(1) Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.
Knowledge puffs up people with pride. It is worthwhile to remind ourselves that pride is the essential nature of Satan.
Isaiah pictured the pride of the king of Babylon, but Satan has also been identified with these words.
You said in your heart,
“I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
on the heights of Zaphon;
I will ascend to the tops of the clouds,
I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14.13-14)
The nature of Satan’s pride is reflected in the number of “I will” statements he made.
When our pride asserts our willfulness and our knowledge rationalizes wrong behavior, we resemble the one who opposes our Lord.
Love is the defining character of God. “God is love” (1 John 4.8). Yes, God loves, but his very essence and eternal nature is love.
When we live in love, we reflect the nature of God and build up other people at the same time.
(2) Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.
The most intimate knowledge is not “head” knowledge.
Notice the use of “knowledge” in the story of Adam and Eve. Now the man KNEW his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord” (Genesis 4.1 emphasis added).
The intimacy of love is the deepest knowledge. “Head” knowledge divides, but “love” knowledge unites and creates.
(3) For us there is one God, the Father . . . and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
We exist through God and we exist for God. Our ultimate loyalty is to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We surrender self-will to the will of our Creator and the lover of our soul.
Prayer for Ukraine
During a Middle East conflict, a terrorist group claimed responsibility for bombing a hospital. An insightful commentator remarked with words like these, “Anyone can tear something down. Real people create and build things up.”
As I look at the images from the shelling and bombing of Ukraine and compare them to 1 Corinthians 8, the word of the commentator resonates with me.
The kind of knowledge it takes to build a cruise missile, hyper-sonic rockets, and long-range artillery is good at destruction.
Love ultimately will reconstruct the broken world in which we live. Please join millions in prayer that God’s love will conquer the hate and destruction in our world.
Rudy Ross and I recorded a video discussion of this passage. You can see it on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
Please email your prayer request to email@example.com or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.