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People's New Testament
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Chapter VIII

The Duty of the Strong Toward Weaker Brethren

SummaryMeat Offered in Idol Temples. Not Changed Because So Offered. But Not to Be Eaten Because of Weaker Brethren. Those Having Knowledge Must Act in Love.

1–3. As touching things offered unto idols. Corinth, like all Greek cities, was full of temples to heathen idols. At their altars victims were constantly sacrificed, the flesh of which was afterwards eaten. The question arose whether a Christian could eat of such flesh without the sin of showing deference to an idol. Perhaps the letter to Paul (7:1) had asked about this matter. We all have knowledge. Some pleaded their knowledge that “an idol was nothing,” not divine in any sense. Paul tells them that the question is one, not of knowledge, but of charity. Knowledge puffeth up. Those who professed to be knowing ones put on an air of superiority. 2. If any man thinketh that he knoweth, etc. If he is inflated with a sense of knowledge, he has not got on the right track for true knowledge. Humility is essential. 3. If any man love God. Not knowledge, but love “buildeth up.” Love, too, is a source of true knowledge. It is he who loves God who knows him. “The same,” grammatically, refers to God. The sentence then says, “If any man love God, the same is known by him,” i. e., by that man. Love is the means of obtaining the true knowledge, the highest knowledge.

4–6. We know that an idol is nothing. Not a god, not even a living being. Only wood, stone, or metal. 5. Though there be that are called gods. The heathen world worshiped many false gods. 6. But to us there is but one God. To Christians, there is but one divinity, one object of worship, the true and living God. One God, the Father, instead of the “gods many;” one Lord, Christ, instead of the “lords many” of heathenism; one God, and one Mediator between man and God.

7–9. There is not in every man that knowledge. While “we,” the better informed, know better, still there were some in the church who had not entirely outgrown their former superstitions. They could not realize that an “idol was nothing.” Meat that came from idol sacrifice was to them the meat of the idol. They could not eat it without their conscience being defiled. 9. Take heed lest … this liberty of yours, etc. The meat itself made one neither better nor worse (verse 8), but if those who “had knowledge” ate it, it might prove a stumbling-block, the occasion of the fall of those who were not so well informed and were weaker.

10–13. For if any man see thee … sit at meat in the idol's temple. In the heathen temples, great banquets often followed the sacrifice. That a weaker Christian should see a stronger one, a leader, sitting at such a banquet, would lead him to believe that his brother was honoring the idol. The example would encourage idolatry. 11. Hence his knowledge, the knowledge that made him dare eat, because he knew an idol was nothing, might be the means of destroying the weak brother by leading him to idolatry. 12. But when ye so sin. To wound, injure, imperil the weak brethren, is a sin against Christ. It injures Christ's cause; besides, he denounces those who cause the weaker ones to stumble (Matt. 18:6; 25:40). 13. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend. To stumble and fall. Love, in this case, would demand that the meat be given up. The principle applies to many things. Some Christians can, perhaps, go to the theater, or dance, or attend the fairs of our day, where the races are the great feature, or even drink wine or beer, without falling. Others cannot. Yet the example of the strong will lead the weak to engage in them, and hence that example will lead them to spiritual death. The Christian principle, the rule of love, is, “If eating meat, or going to the theater, or going to a ball, or attending the fair, or drinking wine or beer, causeth my brother to offend, I will not do these things while the world standeth.”

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