1 Corinthians 8 Bible Commentary

The Geneva Study Bible

(Read all of 1 Corinthians 8)
8:1 Now 1 as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we a all have knowledge. Knowledge b puffeth up, but charity c edifieth.

(1) He begins to entreat of another type of indifferent things, that is, things offered to idols, or the use of flesh so offered and sacrificed. And first of all he removes all those things which the Corinthians pretended in using things offered to idols without any respect. First of all they affirmed that this difference of foods was for the unskilful men, but as for them, they knew well enough the benefit of Christ, which causes all these things to be clean to those that are clean. Be it so, Paul says: even if we are all sufficiently instructed in the knowledge of Christ, I say nonetheless that we must not simply rest in this knowledge. The reason is, that unless our knowledge is tempered with charity, it does not only not avail, but also does much hurt, because it is the mistress of pride. Nay, it does not so much as deserve the name of godly knowledge, if it is separate from the love of God, and therefore from the love of our neighbour.
(a) This general word is to be abridged as (1 Corinthians 8:7) appears, for there is a type of taunt in it, as we may perceive by (1 Corinthians 8:2).
(b) Gives occasion of vanity and pride, because it is void of charity.
(c) Instructs our neighbour.

8:4 2 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto d idols, we know that an idol [is] e nothing in the world, and that [there is] none other God but one.

(2) The application of that answer to things offered to idols: I grant, he says, that an idol is indeed a vain imagination, and that there is but one God and Lord, and therefore that food cannot be made either holy or profane by the idol. But it does not follow therefore, that a man may, without regard of what they are, use those foods as any other.
(d) The word "idol" in this place is taken for an image which is made to represent some godhead, so that worship might be given to it: whereupon came the word "idolatry", that is to say, "image service".
(e) Is a vain dream.

8:6 But to us [there is but] one God, the Father, f of whom [are] all things, and we g in him; and h one Lord Jesus Christ, i by whom [are] all things, and we by him.

(f) When the Father is distinguished from the Son, he is named the beginning of all things.
(g) We have our being in him.
(h) But as the Father is called Lord, so is the Son therefore God: therefore this word "one" does not regard the persons, but the natures.
(i) This word "by" does not signify the instrumental cause, but the efficient: for the Father and the Son work together, which is not so to be taken that we make two causes, seeing they have both but one nature, though they are distinct persons.

8:7 3 Howbeit [there is] not in every man that knowledge: for 4 some with k conscience of the idol unto this hour eat [it] as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.

(3) The reason why that does not follow, is this: because there are many men who do not know that which you know. Now the judgment of outward things depend not only upon your conscience, but upon the conscience of those that behold you, and therefore your actions must be applied not only to your knowledge, but also to the ignorance of your brethren. (4) An applying of the reason: there are many who cannot eat of things offered to idols, except with a wavering conscience, because they think them to be unclean. Therefore if by your example they wish to do that which inwardly they think displeases God, their conscience is defiled with this eating, and you have been the occasion of this mischief.
(k) By conscience of the idol, he means the secret judgment that they had within themselves, by which they thought all things unclean that were offered to idols, and therefore they could not use them with good conscience. For conscience has this power, that if it is good, it makes indifferent things good, and if it is evil, it makes them evil.

8:8 5 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.

(5) An anticipation of an objection: why then will we therefore be deprived of our liberty? Nay, says the apostle, you will lose no part of Christianity although you abstain for your brethren's sake, as also if you receive the food, for it makes you in no way the more holy, for our commendation before God consists not in foods. But to use our liberty with offence of our brethren is an abuse of liberty, the true use of which is completely contrary, that is, to use it in such a way that we have consideration of our weak brethren.

8:10 6 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;

(6) Another plain explication of the same reason, propounding the example of the sitting down at the table in the idol's temple. This thing the Corinthians did wrongly consider among things indifferent, because it is simply forbidden for the circumstance of the place, even though the offence had ceased, as it will be declared in its place.

8:11 7 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?

(7) An amplification of the argument taken both of comparison and opposites: "You wretched man", he says, "pleasing yourself with your knowledge which indeed is not knowledge, for if you had true knowledge, you would not sit down to eat food in an idol's temple. Will you destroy your brother, hardening his weak conscience by this example to do evil, for whose salvation Christ himself has died?"

8:12 8 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.

(8) Another amplification: such offending of our weak brethren, results in the offending of Christ, and therefore do not let these men think that they have to deal only with their brethren.

8:13 9 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

(9) The conclusion, which Paul conceives in his own person, that he might not seem to exact that of others which he will not be first subject to himself. I had rather (he says) abstain forever from all types of flesh, then give occasion of sin to any of my brethren. And on a smaller scale, in any certain place or time, I would refuse to eat flesh offered to idols, for my brother's sake.