Chapter 1. The Quest for Answers about Questionable Activities

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. 2 And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. 3 But if any man love God, the same is known of him. 4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. 5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) 6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

7 Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. 9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. 10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; 11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. 13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

The Bible plays a vital role in the life of the Christian that wants to make his or her life count for Christ. It provides for us a standard or blueprint for living, instructing us how to live, what to do, and what activities or attitudes to avoid in our daily living. If you want to be an effective ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ that is maturing and growing spiritually, then obedience to God's Word is crucial.

Many Christians want God's blessings on their lives. They want God to use them to reach others for Christ. It is the desire of their hearts to please and honor the Lord and not do anything that would cause them to be a hindrance to the salvation or spiritual growth of another person. There are times, however, that questions may arise about certain activities that the Bible does not specifically address. Such activities are in what some call the "gray areas." Participation in such activities are fine for some Christians because they find nothing wrong with them, but to others, they are considered sinful. This was the situation that Paul was facing in the church at Corinth and he addresses this problem in this section of the epistle.

The issue in Corinth was about eating meat that had been dedicated to idols. Mature Christians saw nothing wrong with this at all, but those who were new Christians and had been saved out of a life of worshiping these idols wanted nothing to do with this meat. They did not want to have a part of anything that was connected to their old lifestyles and would not eat this meat. Paul provides for us principles about dealing with questionable practices and activities.

We do know that we as Christians have been set free from the bondage of sin. Christians are not under the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. We are saved by grace and have liberty in Christ, who was the final sacrifice for the sins of man.

* John 8:31-32 — ... Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

* 2 Corinthians 3:17 — Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

* Galatians 5:1 — Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

We have liberty in Christ, but our liberty does not give us the freedom to live in sin.

* Romans 6:15 — What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

Our freedom from sin's power is to enable us to serve Jesus Christ, to reach the lost with the gospel, and to help them live godly lives. It will be difficult for you to help someone conquer sinful habits in his or her life if you are living in sin yourself and spiritually defeated. Your freedom in Christ should help you to help others and to be the right kind of example.

* 1 Peter 2:15-16 — ... For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16- As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

Let's dig into this chapter and go on a quest for answers about questionable activities. Let's find out how to deal with this issue and how it relates to the Lord and our relationships with others.

I. The Canker of Cockiness and Charity's Strength 1 Cor 8:1

8:1 — Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.

Paul begins this portion of the epistle by addressing the question about food that has been sacrificed to idols. What was this all about and why was it an issue in the church at Corinth?

Idolatry was rampant in Corinth and deeply ingrained in the culture of the people. People ate meals in pagan temples or places associated with idols. They worshiped a variety of false gods. If they sought love, they prayed to Athena. If they needed healing, they would pray to Apollo. If they were in a war, they would seek Athena. If a woman wanted a child, she prayed to Hera. For protection at sea, they would cry out to Poseidon. The king of all the gods was Zeus. All of these different pagan gods were worshiped and animal sacrifices were made to them.

If a banquet, party, feast, celebration, or wedding was held, sacrifices were made to an idol of one of these idols. This was very important to the people who wanted to honor their gods, but also to protect themselves. They believed that the air was filled with demonic spirits that were trying to get inside of their bodies. They felt that the easiest way for a demon to do this was to attach itself to food, and when the person ate that food, the demon would enter the body. To keep this from happening, they believed they would be protected if that food was dedicated to their god who would cleanse the food of evil spirits.

When this meat was offered to a pagan idol, the presiding priest would divide the portion of meat three ways. One portion was burned. The second portion of meat was consumed by those offering the meat as a sacrifice. The third portion was given to the priest who could use it to sustain himself or if he had more meat than he could eat, he could sell the meat in the markets for a reasonable profit. This meat was highly sought in the market because it was cheaper, it was believed to be cleansed of evil spirits, and blessed by their pagan gods. It was purchased by citizens and used for their meals in their private homes.

The problem that surfaced in the church was the fact that some Christians believed that this meat was contaminated because it was offered to a pagan god on a pagan altar. They felt that eating this meat would be an act of worship to that particular god. These believers did not want to have anything to do with meat linked to a pagan idol. Many of them had come out of this kind of background.

This food brought back memories of their old lifestyles. They also were concerned that people might conclude that they were reverting back to pagan worship if they partook of this meat. Their testimony was important to them. They were confused why other Christians did not feel the same way they felt. So this problem created tension in the church.

With this background, Paul begins to lay the foundation to address this issue and provide a solution to the problem by stressing the importance of having a balance between knowledge and love. The apostle stated they all had knowledge, most likely referring to the knowledge that there is only one God and the fact that idols are powerless and worthless.

This kind of knowledge would free the conscience of those who were mature believers who understood this truth. They knew that food dedicated to idols was not contaminated. These false gods did not exist and eating any meat dedicated to them would not harm them at all. They could eat with their friends without any problems whatsoever. Others, however, did not understand this truth. Their consciencess bothered them concerning this matter. They were troubled about eating the offered meat and any other believer that ate it.

This is where knowledge has to be balanced with love. The knowledge of a person can be of great help to those who need help and teaching. Sometimes, however, knowledge of the truth can be a hindrance instead of a help, especially when that knowledge creates an attitude of pride or "puffs up" a person. Paul said, "Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth."

Knowledge that is tempered with love is usually a characteristic of someone with maturity and spiritual growth. Yet, there are many believers that have knowledge of God's Word, and think they are mature Christians, but they struggle with arrogance, selfishness, and a lack love for others, demonstrating a lack of maturity in their lives. The Corinthians had an abundance of spiritual knowledge.

* 1 Corinthians 1:5 — That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

These folks were proud of their achievements, but they were not using their knowledge to help those who were spiritually weaker. Paul wanted these more mature believers to strengthen the spiritually weaker ones with the knowledge God had given to them.

The pride from knowledge creates a problem when it leads to bitterness or irritation. When a person becomes "puffed up," his pride makes it difficult to help or teach others about finding answers to questionable activities or teaching them truth. The pride can make it difficult for a person to be teachable, but it can make matters difficult for the one doing the teaching, too.

If the mature Christian who has grown in knowledge, becomes bitter, impatient, or irritated with those who are immature, then teaching and growth are hindered. On the other hand, if the teacher has love and patience, in most cases, he can help weaker Christians to learn the truth if there is a sincere desire to learn. Love goes a long way in teaching knowledge to others.

If you are a pastor, you have to love and be patient with the people you are trying to help. If you don't love them, you will become impatient, irritable, irritated, and indifferent toward them when they don't listen to what you say or do exactly opposite of what the Bible teaches. It will drive you crazy if you are not careful.

Paul made it clear that knowledge or truth must always be balanced with love. Genuine love counters the effects of arrogance.

* Ephesians 4:15 — But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

* 1 Corinthians 13:4b... charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.

When the truths of God are presented without love and concern for the student, then the teacher and those truths can come across as caustic or harsh. Through my years, I have heard preachers who are down right hateful or extremely harsh in their preaching of the Word. They made the same mistakes I made when I started preaching in 1972. There is nothing spiritual about being harsh or hateful when you preach. Let me add that you don't have to be a sissy either when you preach.

The knowledge of truth can also cause a person to get a swelled-up head instead of a swelled-up heart. A person with genuine understanding and maturity understands the fact that he does NOT know everything. Someone put it this way, "Knowledge is the process of passing from the unconscious state of ignorance to the conscious state of ignorance." When someone is ignorant, they do not know that they do not know it all. On the other hand, the person who has gained knowledge and maturity knows that he does NOT know it all. The older he gets he realizes what little he knows and that there is so much to learn. A person with true knowledge does not know everything and he knows it.

Knowledge that leads to pride causes a person to focus upon himself instead of the needs of others. That is why knowledge of God's truths are to be tempered with love, and love is to be tempered with knowledge or truth. Love without truth or knowledge leads to compromise, hypocrisy, or error. For example, folks that claim that God is love and would not send anyone to Hell are sadly mistaken. They emphasize love at the expense of truth. God loves sinners, but He is also holy and will not tolerate sin. You must be born again!

Love must be controlled by the knowledge of God's truth. They walk hand in hand. The one needs the other, especially if we are going to live godly lives, grow in wisdom, and walk with God.

* Philippians 1:9-11 — ... And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; 10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; 11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

Knowledge of God's truth is vital if we are to be victorious Christians. Our beliefs affect our behavior. This is why the knowledge of Bible truth is so important. We need to know what to believe and that what we believe is true. The lack of knowing the truth is what leads to choices that defeat or destroy us.

* Hosea 4:6a — My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee....

II. The Claim to Know It All 1 Cor 8:2-3

8:2-3 — And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. 3 But if any man love God, the same is known of him.

Pride can get you into trouble and it was creating trouble in the Corinth church. Some of the Corinthians were proud of their knowledge of spiritual things, yet, their pride was hurting their ministry with others. Paul points out that if a person thinks he knows all the answers, he really does not know very much at all. He knows nothing! Our society is filled with people that claim to know it all, but in reality they know nothing.

* He Knows Nothing

* If a man claims to know about Creation, stating that man evolved from amoebas or apes, he knows nothing.

* If a man claims to know about the Creator, that there is no God or there are many different gods, he knows nothing. The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.

* If a man claims to know about Christ, but denies that He is the Son of God, he knows nothing.

* If a man claims to know about the Consequences of our actions, that a person can live any way he pleases and he will not receive any punishment or judgment, he knows nothing. Solomon said, "A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing (Proverbs 9:13)."

* If a man claims that the Cause or purpose of life is to live for now, eat, drink, and be merry, he knows nothing. Revelation 3:17 states," Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:"

* If a man claims to know about death or the Cessation of life, stating that death ends it all, there is no eternity, no Heaven, no Hell, he knows nothing.

* If a man claims to know about the Canon of Scripture, stating the Bible is full of fables, lies, and worthless stories, he knows nothing. Paul said, "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4 He is proud, knowing nothing.... (1 Timothy 6:3-4a)."

Knowledge of the truth should cause us to not be arrogant. It should cause us to adore the Lord and fall in love with Him more and more each day. It is one thing to know the truths of the Bible, but it is more important to know God Himself. God wants us to have a heart knowledge of Him, not just a head knowledge. Not only does He want us to grow in our knowledge of Him, but He wants us to grow in grace and our love for Him. Jesus told us that the person who loves God will obey His Word and is known by God. Does the Lord know you? Are you obeying His Word?

* John 14:21 — He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

The love that a person has for the Lord will be reflected in his love for other people. It will be an indication of his relationship with the Lord. The Corinthians had knowledge but lacked in their love for others. This was evident by their constant fighting in the church. They were focused upon themselves instead of Christ. John addressed this problem in his epistle.

* 1 John 4:20-21 — ... If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

III. The Certainty of God's Oneness and the Cause of Our Lives 1 Cor 8:4-6

8:4-6 — ... As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. 5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) 6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

Paul continues to address the issue about food dedicated to idols. He confirms the fact that idols are not gods at all. Idols are nothing, even though these idols are believed to be gods and worshiped by people. There is only ONE God, from whom are all things. That means that Buddha, Allah, Hindu gods, or even virgin Mary are not to be worshiped at all. The Lord Jesus Christ is the source of all life. The universe itself is held in His hands. It is His because He made it.

* Colossians 1:17 — And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

God made us and the purpose of our lives is to exist or live for Him. He deserves our admiration, appreciation, dedication, consecration, veneration, and submission. David Livingstone, the pioneer missionary to Africa, walked over 29,000 miles. His wife died early in their ministry and he faced stiff opposition from his Scottish brethren. He ministered half blind, yet, that did not stop him. He existed to serve the Lord. He penned in his diary these words, "Send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever me from any tie but the tie that binds me to Your service and to Your heart." May we have that dedication, too.

IV. The Conscience and Concepts about Idols 1 Cor 8:7-8

8:7-8 — ... Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.

Not all believers have gained the truth or knowledge about this matter concerning idols and the food that is dedicated to them. They believe that eating the meat that has been sacrificed to the pagan god is a form of worship to that god. Eating that meat goes against their weak or sensitive conscience. A conscience that is weak considers wrong an act that is not wrong or is unclear about whether that act is wrong or not. There is doubt and confusion.

The reason the consciences of some Christians are weak is because they have not had time to grow in their knowledge of the Word of God. They may have been recently saved. Others do not grow spiritually because they just don't want to grow. That's pretty sad. They remain in a state of spiritual infancy because they won't study the Bible and go to church faithfully.

* 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 — ... And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

* Hebrews 5:11-14 — ... Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. 12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13 For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

The study of God's Word will go a long way in helping you to discern if something is right or wrong when there is doubt. Make it a part of your life daily. If you attend a Bible preaching and teaching church, you miss out on a great deal of knowledge, counsel, and wisdom when you are absent from the services.

* 1 Peter 2:2 — As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

Paul makes it clear that food is not going to gain God's approval. Offering food will not bring us closer to the Lord. We will not gain anything by refusing to eat this food or by eating it, except a few pounds.

V. Cautions about Your Liberty in Christ 1 Cor 8:9-13

8:9-13 — ... But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. 10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; 11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. 13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

Even though we know that pagan gods do not exist and food sacrificed to them will not harm us or help us, Paul offers a caution here about our liberty in Christ. He tells us to be on guard against causing a weaker brother or sister in Christ to spiritually stumble and be ruined by our actions.

Some are ruined by reverting back to their old lifestyles. They conclude if these Christians think it is Ok to worship pagan gods by eating meat dedicated to them, then it is Ok for me to worship them, too. Others are offended or turned off toward Christians because they consider them to be wrong when they eat food dedicated to pagan gods. When we offend these weaker Christians, we sin against the Lord. Paul's solution was to not participate in activities that would offend weaker believers. He would not eat any meat dedicated to idols.

There are many issues today where Christians are divided including social drinking, smoking, gambling, card playing, going to movies, etc. Some find nothing wrong with these activities while others do. By applying biblical principles, you can follow a checklist that will help you make a decision on what is the right thing to do when you are in doubt.

* Bible Principles that Should Govern our Actions

1. The Principle of Exaltation

Will the Lord be glorified and exalted in what I do? Would I be ashamed if Jesus did this activity with me?

* 1 Corinthians 10:31 — Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

2. The Principle of Excess

Is the particular activity or action really necessary or is it something that is not important at all? Is it a hindrance that we should give up?

* Hebrews 12:1 — Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,.

3. The Principle of Edification

Will the activity help me to grow spiritually or will it hurt my walk with God and other believers?

* 1 Corinthians 10:23 — All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

4. The Principle of Example

Do my actions set a good example for others to follow, especially for those who are new Christians or spiritually immature? If others followed my actions or choices, would they grow spiritually?

* 1 Timothy 4:12 — Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

5. The Principle of Expediency

Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 10:23 that not all things are expedient or helpful. Are my actions useful or helping other people? Paul said in 8:13 he would not eat the meat that honored idols anymore since it offended his brothers in Christ. It was not helpful.

6. The Principle of Evangelism

Is my Christian testimony going to be damaged by my choices or will it be helped? Will people who do not know the Lord as their Savior be drawn to Christ or will they be repulsed?

* Colossians 4:5 — Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. These guidelines will help you in your quest for answers about questionable activities.