1Co 8:1-3 Recall that Paul has begun answering questions posed to him by the Corinthians; what question does he begin answering here? Note: In Roman and Greek culture, animals were not just slaughtered for food, but nearly always sacrificed to the gods; a portion would go to the officiating priest, and the remainder would then either be eaten sacrificially by the one making the sacrifice, or taken home to eat privately, or else sold in the local markets for food. Is Paul’s answer to their question a matter of making them more knowledgeable? Why not? What answer to their question does he give at this very beginning of his discourse? Explain the truth of 1Co 8:2. See 1Co 3:18, 13:8-12. What does Paul mean that if anyone loves God, he is known by Him? See Ex 33:17, Mat 7:23, Jn 10:14, Gal 4:9, 2 Tim 2:19, Rev 2:19.
1Co 8:4-6 What “knowledge” did many of the Corinthian Christians possess regarding the nature of an idol? Was such knowledge true? What does Paul mean that there is no such thing as an idol in the world? See Ps 135:15-17, Jer 51:17-18, Hab 2:19, Acts 19:26. Does that mean that people who worship idols are actually worshiping nothing at all? See 1Co 10:19-21. What does he mean that there is no God but one (1Co 8:4), and yet there are many gods and many lords (1Co 8:5)? See Deut 4:35, Is 46:9, Ps 106:37-38, Rev 9:20. What “idols” do people bow down to today, that like the idols of old are vain and worthless, without life or breath to save them, and yet in fact are inspired by demons? See Mat 6:24, Luke 4:5-7. What does 1Co 8:6 teach us about God, our purpose in life, and the Lord Jesus Christ?
1Co 8:7-8 Is it such knowledge as Paul has discussed in the previous verses that will commend us to God? What does commend us to God? See again 1Co 8:1 and 3. In 1Co 8:7, was it the food itself that defiled the weak Christian? See Mark 7:18-19. What was it? See Rom 14:14. Did the knowledge about the true nature of an idol that allowed a strong Christian to have no reservations about eating meat that may have been sacrificed to an idol make him “better” before God? Did the lack of such knowledge make the weak Christian “worse” before God? See Rom 14:17.
1Co 8:9-13 Notice that “liberty” in 1Co 8:9 is literally “right”. Christ died to make us free, and in Him a Christian has many rights. However, what tempers and is more important than those rights? When a person clings to his “rights” is he being like Jesus? See Mat 20:28, Luke 22:27, 2 Cor 8:9, Phil 2:6-7. (Note: all of chapter 9 expands upon this concept.) In 1Co 8:1 Paul explained that love edifies, or builds up, or strengthens another. In 1Co 8:10 he uses the same word to explain how one person’s knowledge and rights may strengthen or embolden another to do something that violates his conscience, thus causing him to stumble into sin. What is the great danger of this to one who has a weak conscience? See 1Co 8:11, and notice that “ruined” there means to be destroyed or perish. What is the great danger of this to the one who has knowledge and is simply exercising his “rights”? See 1Co 8:12, and also Luke 17:1-2. Oh! Do we understand like Paul the great danger into which we put others and ourselves by exalting our knowledge and rights over love? What conclusion does Paul therefore draw that we would do well to follow? See 1Co 8:13, and also 1Co 10:23-24, Rom 14:15.
The principle Paul discusses in this and the following two chapters applied especially to food sacrificed to idols in the first century, something we don’t face today. What issues do we face today to which the same principle still applies?