V77However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat [food] as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.. Because of the preaching of Paul the Corinthians knew that there was only one God and only one Lord. Idols didn’t mean anything to them anymore. Yet, there were some among them to whom that was not yet that clear. Realize that these people had lived all their lives in idolatry. It is not surprising that, after their conversion, some of them haven’t been freed yet from everything that had kept them in captivity for a long time, before their conversion.
Eating a piece of meat for example, could still bother their conscience because they still connected it to the idols. In their minds they stood in the idol’s temple again bringing meat offerings to a certain god and to eat these offerings themselves afterwards. They had been maintaining this ritual for many years. Now they had become Christians they knew that an idol meant nothing and that meat was just meat, but still they were not free inwardly.
V88But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat.. He who is free from former influences, knows that food is not something by which we have some advantage in our relationship with God. Eating or not eating doesn’t make any difference, regarding our place before God. He doesn’t judge us on the base of our eating habits. In Acts 15:2929that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”
it is said that you are allowed to eat anything you want, except things with blood and things strangled. The prohibition of eating things with blood also concerns meat products mixed with blood, for example blood sausage. The ‘strangled’ is meat of an animal of which the blood hasn’t flown out, for example a rabbit that has been caught in a noose.
V99But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.. In Acts 15 it is also mentioned “things sacrificed to idols” – even before the prohibition of eating blood or things strangled – and that is what this section is about. If to somebody who eats meat, that meat is connected to an idol, he is not to eat it. That applies to both the strong and the weak. The weak will get a defiled conscience when he eats that meat. He will be reminded of some idol. To the evil spirit that is hidden behind this idol image, room is given again in such a person’s spiritual life. This may turn out in such a way that a person completely falls back to idolatry. Therefore the strong, who knows that an idol means nothing and neither that meat offered to idols means anything, is being admonished to consider the weak.
V1010For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols?. You can imagine that the strong had no difficulties in going to an idol’s temple and eat meat there. After all, to a strong person that temple didn’t mean anything more than a building where you can get meat. You also can imagine that a weak person might have seen his strong brother entering that temple. Now the weak brother could have thought: ‘I am also allowed to do what he is doing.’ Then the weak brother enters the temple, orders his meat and eats it.
But now the point is that he doesn’t eat it as ‘regular’ meat, but as meat offered to idols. He is actually not free in his conscience to enter such places and eat such meat. This meat, to him, is still connected to the idols. You might say: he must not imitate the strong brother just like that. Yet, here this matter is not viewed from the side of the weak brother, but from the side of the strong brother. The latter might actually be making use of his right in a wrong way, so that he is a stumbling block for the weak.
The question here is this: Is the strong brother so strong that he is willing to consider the conscience of his weak brother? The power to consider the other is only to be found in love. When there is true love for the other person who is weak, you will not do anything that could cause the other to have moral dilemmas.
It is not about things that are sinful in themselves. In this case, about eating meat, it is a completely lawful thing to do. God Himself has given meat as food. There is nothing wrong about it at all. The point is, how you make use of your liberty. Do you use it for your own concern or do you also think of the weakness of your brother or sister in a certain matter?
V1111For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died.. A wrong way of using these rights can even work out in such a way that a brother for whom Christ has died, is ruined that means perishes! That is coming on very strongly, isn’t it? But just imagine the following case, which is not fictional. A drunk comes to conversion. Alcohol had been very destructive in his life. Because of that his body and family have been destructed. Don’t think that after his conversion the urge for alcohol has disappeared completely.
Actually, for a Christian, the use of “a little wine” (1Tim 5:2323No longer drink water [exclusively], but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.) is allowed. Yet, when the ex-drunk pays you a visit, would you offer him a glass of wine? If you do that and he accepts it, that might cause him to get back the taste of alcohol and completely fall back into his former life. The result is that because of your knowledge such a person perishes.
The reaction of people is often: If anyone is converted and has received a new life, he cannot possibly perish eternally, can he? Paul also knows that very well. He even speaks about “for whose sake Christ died”. Therefore the doubt, that this brother would perish, is excluded. Nevertheless, this reaction may distort these verses. For the point is causing a brother to sin. That is by no means insignificant!
The wages of sin is always and inevitably death. God will never let somebody, who has come to Him with repentance of his sins and who has accepted the work of the Lord Jesus, ever perish. God will bring such a person to his senses. In John 10 it is written very clearly that it is impossible for a believer to still perish (Jn 10:28-2928and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.29My Father, who has given [them] to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch [them] out of the Father’s hand.). However, here it is not about all the things that God will do, but about our own attitude.
V1212And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.. In order to point out the gravity of the situation, Paul uses these strong expressions, and you should not interpret them as if he is exaggerating. He who doesn’t consider his weak brother, sins against him and against Christ. He who loves Christ, also loves his brother, also the one who is weak.
V1313Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.. Paul’s attitude in the last verse can be of an example to us. He also says this very strongly: he would never again eat meat, lest he would make his brother stumble.
Don’t think that all these words are exaggerated. If Paul says all these things that strongly, it must be very important. Nevertheless, I think that there are a few sections in the Bible, with which people deal in such a wrong way as they do with this section. I include myself in this. Do we really consider our weak brother in all things, that are not wrong to us, but that could be a stumbling block to our weak brother? If we don’t do that, we sin and we must confess that.
A lot of spiritual weakness occurs, because we have made use of liberty, without having asked ourselves what the consequences could be for others who imitate us and in that way wound their conscience. You can think about a computer game. Let’s assume that you occasionally play a game on the computer, for your relaxation. You also know how to keep control of the time you spend on it. Yet, when someone, who is a former game addict who has been converted, pays you a visit, it is not wise to suggest to him to play games on the computer. Playing a game could easily cause him to fall back into his former addiction. By choosing another kind of recreation for the sake of your brother, you take his weakness into consideration.
These verses involve an important message for all who know their position in Christ and who know that their God is their Father and that the Lord Jesus is their Lord. Nevertheless practice proves if this knowledge is real knowledge, whether it is also in the heart and not only in the head.
Christian liberty is too often seen as an untouchable right. You might feel very violated in your liberty as a Christian, when you think that you should consider others and yet even those who think of themselves that they are not allowed to do certain things. This ‘thinking of themselves not to be allowed to do certain things’ is indeed very important, of course. When a weak person would forbid you to make use of your liberty, he would be going too far. Your liberty remains indisputable and you shouldn’t let anyone take that away from you. Yet, as it is said, here the issue is not the attitude of the weak towards the strong, but the attitude of the strong towards the weak.
Now read 1 Corinthians 8:7-13 again.
Reflection: Just name a case wherein you should consider a weak brother.