The Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Use Knowledge in a Loving Way

Chapter eight presents us with a situation from the ancient world, the particulars of which we would not face today, but the principles we learn from which we find everywhere around us.  The ancient world was full of pagan temples where people gathered to sacrifice to a god and then eat a meal in that temple in the god’s honor.  These meals served as social as well as religious occasions, and Gordon Fee refers to them as the “restaurants” of the ancient world (NICNT, 361).  No doubt, many of the Corinthian believers frequented these places before coming to saving faith.

The question was whether believers may continue to frequent these pagan temples for meals.  If the question is asked why a believer would wish to do so, I can only guess for the social aspect and what we might call today, “networking.”  We shall see in chapter ten that Paul has a very definite opinion about attending pagan temples, but for now he approaches the problem from a different angle which is evident from the very beginning of the chapter.  You see, the Corinthians liked to think themselves very knowledgeable: “All of us possess knowledge,” Paul quotes them as saying.  But Paul answers back, “This knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”  Both here and in chapter thirteen, Paul will exalt love above all other Christian virtues, and it is just this virtue these Corinthian believers seemed to lack.

Now there was nothing wrong with their argument, per se (as I said, Paul will address it more pointedly later on).  After all, it is true that the “gods” in the pagan temples are not gods at all, and it is also true that food will neither commend us to nor drive us away from God.  Yes, Corinthians, we know these things.  But there is a deeper issue.  It has to do with your “weaker” brother who once frequented these temples and worshiped these idols.  Having come out of that life, he now lives to God.  Perhaps you too have come out of that life and now live to God as well.  But you have come to terms with that former life, having received God’s grace and having come to know the true God, and now know that those gods you once worshiped are no gods at all, and see no problem eating there with a client.  And you wonder, “Why can’t my brother see that?”  Because his conscience is more tender than yours; and what’s worse, what if he does follow your example and thereby return to idolatry?  Isn’t his salvation more important to you than your “knowledge” and “freedom”?  Do you not love your brother for whom Christ died more than your appetite?  And so where might we be a cause of stumbling for a brother out of a desire to please ourselves?

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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