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The Sunday Sermon – 1st Corinthians 8:1-8

26/02/2012

A Corinthian Eating Disorder!
1st Corinthians 8:1-8

There is yet another issue besetting the Corinthian Church. Paul commences chapter 8 with these words, 1 Corinthians. 8:1 Now as touching things offered unto idols.
Remember that Paul was dealing with issues that had been communicated to him by means of a letter from some concerned Christians. In 7:1, Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. He continues to address the issues of this letter throughout 7, (v25) and again in 8:1

Paul is simply adding more teaching in response to their own expressed concerns. He will now deal with the problems of those in the church who are divided over whether it is right for a Christian to eat meat sacrificed to idols, and he will do so in three chapters of the book, (8-10). As far as we are concerned, in a modern Western society, what is the point of even discussing this section? We don’t buy our meat from the idolatrous temples of Corinth. We have supermarkets! Perhaps so, but still there are some very valuable underlying principles that we can learn from this chapter, and the chapters that follow. Let us then see:_

Precaution with Bare Facts
Paul’s first issue here then, is the issue of knowledge. Perhaps you have heard the old maxim that ‘a little knowledge is a bad thing!’ So it was in Corinth! It is an interesting exercise to go through the chapter, and to underline all the occurrences of the word ‘knowledge’ & ‘known.’ Paul continually links ‘knowledge alone’ with relationship problems in the church! The reason therefore that knowledge must first be examined is that there were some in the church who were more educated, or more aware, of the issues which are involved in this whole problem. Let me put it like this. They might say, “We know that meat sacrificed to idols is fine for eating! Idols are just bits of wood! They’re not real Gods, like our great God is. They cannot affect the food one little bit! Anyone who can’t plainly see that this is the case is just utterly stupid!”

So Paul, rightly says that knowledge can make you conceited! We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up. He adds that knowledge is never complete! And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.

So Knowledge is good. But knowledge alone is the problem with this little group of ‘eaters.’ For knowledge to be beneficial in the church, it must always be tempered with LOVE! but charity edifieth.

I used to teach a church history class for young people training for lay-ministry within their local church. It was enrolment day, and a middle aged student sat in front of me. We went through the registration form, and we got to the bit where I asked him his occupation. “Teacher” “Oh” I said, “And, what exactly do you teach?” “Religious education!” I looked up at him and saw this kind of smug, knowledgeable look. My first impression was, this person is going to make this a tough year for me! (Actually, after a few weeks, I found that he was a pleasant, Godly man, who was so humble and so kind, that he contributed more to the class than any of the other students, and he was a model student, and of course, top of the class when it came to projects and essays.)

In fact, you cannot hope to understand God at all without true love for Him! I paraphrase the Amplified Bible, “If anyone imagines that He has come to know… divine things without love… he does not yet recognise or understand.. anything that he ought” Being a great theologian does not make you a Christian!

Greeks excelled in knowledge, and in philosophy and debate. They wrote wonderful plays and poetry, they worked out mathematical equations and built beautiful structures. But all that intellectual activity achieved was to make them arrogant and conceited. For the Christian, to be KNOWN of God is far more important! In fact, what God knows is of much greater import than what we will ever know! If we are KNOWN by God, if we are in a relationship with Him, it is will be outworked in our lives, and evidenced by our obvious love for Him! So Paul writes, 1 Cor. 8:3 But if any man love God, the same is known of him.

Now think about this-
Do people know us as believers by our obvious and apparent Godliness? By our observable love for him? Or are we just people who like to spout out our knowledge. We can know the Bible back to front, we can know theology from A to Z., we can quote the Bible all day, and still not be believers in Christ! Knowledge about God is nothing without love for God! Paul will reiterate this point in chapter 13. 1 Cor. 13:2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.

In verse three, the Amplified Bible gives three evidences of our true love for God:

Affectionate reverence! We will love God, but we will love Him in a very reverent and respectful way. He is, after all, ALMIGHTY GOD, who dwells in unparalleled and incomparable holiness. At the same time that awesome God is our Father, and we can love him as such!

Prompt obedience! If we love the Lord, we will yield unto Him our complete obedience! John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.

Grateful recognition of God’s blessing! If we love the Lord, we will want to thank Him for all that He has done for us. We will be so grateful to Him! We will look back through our lives, and we will see the hand of God guiding us and keeping us, and we will stand back in amazement at the wonderful providence of God and we will praise Him for all of His blessing! Actually, this acknowledgement of God’s continual blessing in our lives will in itself encourage us to further and continually seek His ways and walk in them. Proverbs 3:6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Do we recognise these qualities in our own lives? They are the evidences of God’s presence in our lives, and God will recognise us as being His! Of being worthy of His intimate friendship! So, you see, it is not enough just to have a knowledge of Biblical matters. The truly spiritual man or woman will have that knowledge, but it will co-exist with love for others, and each of those attributes will temper the other! Now, having established that principle, Paul further addresses the issue:-

Problems with Butchered Food!
So, what was this issue that made these Corinthian Christians take up the cudgels again against each other? It was simply a visit to the butchers! Of course, in Corinth, nothing was quite that simple. In Corinth, meat was sold at the pagan temples, and all meat killed had been through a ritual slaughter. Some Christians would buy the meat, cook it and eat it. These false gods are just a superstitious nonsense, so how can it matter where the meat came from? Some of these ‘eaters’ would even go to the pagan feasts in the temple, and sit down and eat!

A simplistic comparison might be made with the ‘hallal’ meat which Moslems eat. Some years ago an abattoir in Co. Down negotiated a contract to supply meat to an Arab country. It was not enough for them to simply slaughter the meat and ship the carcasses. The meat for the Moslems had to be kept separate from other beasts, and had to be killed by a Moslem slaughterman, following certain rituals. Now we would not believe in such rituals, but if we were given that meat, we would eat it without a thought, for we would know that meat is meat, and the ritual of the Moslem cleric would just be superstition.

But other Christians in Corinth were horrified! They had been redeemed from these pagan activities, and they felt that it was better to abstain from them, to have no further contact with them. Their argument might be, well, if people see us sitting, eating at the tables of the ungodly pagan worshippers in the temple, and buying their meat, would our testimony to the saving work of Christ not be greatly impaired? This caused great difficulties! There are three factors to be considered:-

Firstly, there were two types of sacrifice in Corinth. There were public sacrifices, where beasts were sacrificed to some pagan god, a token part was sacrificed, the priests and the town officials had their portion and then the remainder was offered to the people, in the shops adjoining the temple. Most meat in Corinth would already have been through the ritual of sacrifice to a pagan god. In a private sacrifice, the person who offered the sacrifice would take it along to the temple, and it would be divided into three parts. A token part of the animal would be burned as a sacrifice, a part would go to the priests and the ‘worshipper’ would take the remainder for a feast for his guests. You can see the problem! If the Corinthian Christian went to the shops he was using his money to encourage the pagan rituals at the temple. If he refused to attend the feast at his neighbour’s house because the meat was ritually sacrificed, he was offending his neighbour and cutting himself off from society! If he was a business man, how would he conduct his business, when he could no longer attend the Corinthian equivalent of the ‘business lunch?’

There was another factor for there was a misconception of evil. In the pagan society of Corinth there was a strong belief that all around them were evil spirits, who could enter the body and take control, making someone mad. Paul agrees with them up to a point. 1 Cor. 10:20 But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. The Corinthian, pagan belief however, was that these demons could somehow attach themselves to a person’s food, and thus gain entry to the body! To some of Christian Corinthians, it followed that the best course of action would be simply to not eat meat at all, then there would be no possibility that they could be affected by these pagan demons.

Thirdly, there was a rigorist party in the church! We have seen that the Corinthian church consisted of both Jews and Gentiles. Those Jewish Christians would already have a rigorous attitude to food. They would already be abstaining from pork and other meats, and they would certainly not have eaten anything sacrificed to a false god.

So we have then two sides in this argument. The ‘eaters’ who regarded the whole debate as a total waste of time and energy, on the grounds that a pagan god is no god at all, and the ‘abstainers’ who forcibly argued that Christians should not be involved in the idolatry of the world and should not encourage heathen temples to prosper by giving them their money! Once again Paul is caught up in a divisive and difficult dilemma. Who is right and who is wrong? What advice can he give to keep the church from tearing itself apart? Paul makes a:-

Proclamation of Basic Faith
There is one basic fundamental which underlies our Christian faith. It is this, there is, Ephesians. 4:6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. Here is how Paul explains and applies this basic tenet of belief for his Corinthian readers. He tells them that an idol has no actual existence! we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.

He tells the Corinthians that although there are many idols in the world, there is only one true God! though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,). I do believe this to be the case even today. There are still many idols and many false gods in this world. People create idols for themselves, and they are perhaps no longer the idols of wood and stone of the ancient Corinthians! They create idols of their jobs and their pursuits. They make idols of people with high esteem in this world. Pop idols and football idols are especially common. Anything that takes the worship that God is due, and deflects our attention from Him is an idol!
So the Christian disregards and discounts all these other false gods! 8:6 Paul argues that there is but one God, and one Lord Jesus Christ! He makes the same argument in his letter to Timothy! 1 Tim. 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

However, at Corinth not everyone seems to know this! 8:7. There evidently were some Christians at Corinth who still thought that these idols were actual gods! That they had some mystical powers! These were still very young, immature Christians. When such a person would eat meat, they would have it upon their conscience for days, that they had perhaps dishonoured God by such an act! We must be loving and tender towards young believers. We must gently lead them in paths of righteousness. And we cannot please God by what we eat! 8:8. Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

So, Paul demands that there is only one God, the Father of the Lord Jesus, and the Father of all true believers, the One who created the universe, (unlike these other ‘gods’ who themselves are created by men) and who gives true life to all who trust in Him through Christ our Saviour.

So Paul has opened the discussion on food sacrificed to idols in an even-handed manner. On the one hand, he has conceded that we know that there is only one God, and that all these idols are useless pieces of wood and metal. On the other hand, he has said that this simple fact must be mingled with love before it can have a practical application. The grounds of Paul’s argument thus being established, he will now be able to develop in further in the next few chapters. In our next study, we will see how that argument is progressed.

From → Sermon Notes

One Comment
  1. micheal permalink

    because we believe and have faith we dont eat the meat or a meal prayed over in that way tainted by pagan prayer or muslim prayer etc and when the greeks were pagan pauls says i come to tell you of the unknown god that you have a shrine to was the ackknowledge of god that he heard their prayers (without over emphasizing it). and waling in times of dispair abandonment when they prayed as pagans they were very poor some of them warn poverty striken having nothing but are coming to hear him paul preach of jesus and becoming saved or converted becoming converted is what their perspective would of been would be how they saw it then they received the holy ghost becomed saved it must of been a shock the restorative nature power of it to the first christians. good tidings

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