8:1 Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. 2 And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.
4 Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.
7 However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.
The principles contained within this counsel are priceless. I need you to set verses 1 to 3 aside for today and we'll pick them back up tomorrow and you'll see why then. For now I want to concentrate on verses 4 through 8. The topic is food sacrificed to idols. For those unaware of the cultural setting Corinth was largely a pagan city and by pagan I mean they were religious but their religion was the worship of other gods. Part of that worship involved the symbolic "giving" of their food to these gods to bless and then they ate it or even sold it in the market. For new believers in Jesus this became a point of controversy and not just in Corinth. This issue comes up repeatedly in Paul's letters. The controversy was over whether or not a Christian should eat food that had been offered to pagan gods.
We'll see the full scope of Paul’s counsel tomorrow but for now let's look at the core of his reasoning. His first point is that a mature Christian knows there is only One God. All other gods are strictly human inventions. There is no Zeus or Nike or Diana or any other. Therefore when food is offered to the gods nothing happens. The food is neither blessed or cursed or tainted by "them" because they simply do not exist.
However not all new Christians had settled into the truth of this. They saw Jesus as the best God or the mightiest or the most loving. He was the One they were choosing to follow among all the options. For them offering food to the gods was a real thing and to eat food offered to another God was like spiritual adultery.
Then he says the most important statement on the entire issue. It is critical not because of its direct application to this specific issue but for its application across the spectrum of like issues. Here's the statement:
8:8 But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.
Don't forget that the church in Corinth is suffering from internal division. Factions are forming each claiming their own favourite pastor/teacher and each having their own views on different issues. Paul by the Spirit of God exposes the singular issue behind it all - pride and self-obsession. To have different view points is practically speaking unavoidable. I disagree with views I used to hold myself so how can I expect to agree with everyone else. This however is not the issue. The real issue comes in when I see myself as better and you as less because you don't agree with me.
Those who ate the food knowing an idol is a man made representation of absolutely nothing were right. However their pride and sense of superiority over and judgment of those whose conscience would not allow them to eat was wrong. We can be right and still be wrong.
Here's the key. God is not in relentless pursuit of us with an untiring desire to bring us Home because of our dietary views or any other external practice. These do not commend us to God. He does not love us more when we are right or less when we are wrong. The root of such thinking is pride and self-centeredness. "I am deserving of God's love because I am smart enough to know an idol is nothing"... Meanwhile in the next pew another is thinking "I'm the real Christian here because I have enough respect for Jesus to have nothing to do with food offered to the lesser gods."
Tomorrow we'll consider both verses 1 to 3 and more that we haven't gotten to yet and tie it all together. See you then. :)