What’s For Supper?
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Introduction: What’s for supper? It is a common question that we ask. We want to know what we are going to eat? What we are supposed to eat seems to keep changing. What we have been told was good for us has gone from good to bad and sometimes back to good again! It is hard to know just what we should eat!
A dietician was once addressing a large audience in Chicago. "The material we put into our stomachs is enough to have killed most of us sitting here, years ago. Red meat is awful. Soft drinks erode your stomach lining. Chinese food is loaded with MSG. Vegetables can be disastrous, and none of us realizes the long-term harm caused by the germs in our drinking water."
"But there is one thing that is the most dangerous of all and we all have, or will, eat it. Can anyone here tell me what food it is that causes the most grief and suffering for years after eating it?"
A 75-year-old man in the front row stood up and said, "Wedding cake."
The believers in Corinth also wanted to know what was good for them and what was bad. They had written to Paul to find out what they should have for supper. Although the specific issue that they inquired about does not exist for us today, the principle is still valid and applicable.
1. The question
a. Beginning in Chapter 7 Paul addressed some questions about Christian living that had come to him from the Corinthian believers. First it was about marriage and divorce and here about what they should eat.
b. To understand the question we must take a look at the culture of that day. The pagan worship system of that day required animal sacrifices similarly to the Jewish system. Part of the sacrifice was burned, part of it went to the priest, and part of it went to support of the temple through the selling of the meat in the market place. You could buy this “slightly used” meat a little cheaper than you could the regular meat that sold at market. The cheaper meat would go first. Like some of us who can’t resist a bargain, they saw no need to pay more for the non-temple meat. When people in the community had family celebrations they might even have a banquet at the temple fellowship hall and use the food that had been offered to idols.
c. The question that came to Paul must have been something like this: Some of us who know that meat is meat and God made it all, have no problem with purchasing and eating the meat that was offered to idols. Others, who by the way seem to be rather immature in their relationship with the Lord, think that it is wrong to eat this meat and they feel that it is sinful to do so. Who is right, or would you tell these newer Christians that we are right and that they are wrong?
d. I believe that their question was something like that because of the way that Paul answers. In reading the opening verses he makes it clear that the ones asking the questions seemed to be a little bit arrogant about their position.
e. If you have ever been put in the middle of an argument and asked to choose sides in order to make one person feel vindicated, perhaps you can appreciate Paul’s situation. The opposing positions each made sense and yet they were looking for only one right answer. How would he deal with the question at the risk of greatly offending one side or the other?
f. As you know, sometimes there is more than one correct answer to a problem. One of the mysteries of Christianity is that there are times when what is right for one person is wrong for another. It makes us uncomfortable to even consider such a thing but the Scriptures teach that when we come to a “gray” area, a situation where the Scriptures don’t address the specific situation by precept and the principle is hard to distinguish, that we must leave room for people to follow their God given conscious. Don’t confuse that with letting you conscious be your guide it could be dangerous. Only a Spirit directed conscious should be trusted with such a task!
g. In this situation Paul does have and answer for the question, “should we eat meat offered to idols”? He answers it in two parts.
2. The intellectual answer
a. The first part of his answer probably appealed more to the ones who had actually penned the question.
b. He agrees with the position that they had probably held to, that since idols were nothing but man made objects constructed to gods that did not exist then the meat that was offered to them in worship had not been tainted in any way.
c. People construct idols and have their gods in futility. Paul makes it clear in verse 6 that there is only one God, one Lord and one Spirit who exists. In our day people have the belief that God can be whatever you want him or her or it to be and the each person’s god is just as valid as the next. People who go through life this way will be very much disappointed when they stand before the one true God and be judged by Him.
d. The meat was just meat and it could be eaten because the one true God had supplied it regardless of what those false worshippers thought. The believers who were eating it were right, there was nothing wrong with the meat itself, but the issue was bigger that just a philosophical position regarding where to buy their meat.
e. Technically those eating the meat were right, spiritually they might be wrong.
3. The spiritual answer
a. In verse seven we find the word “however”. This indicates that although on a technicality they might be correct, it wasn’t a simple matter of they were right and the others were wrong.
b. Paul says that not everyone in the church was just like them. Some of them had just been saved out of this pagan worship system and that they were struggling to separate their past from their new found faith in Christ. They are described as having a conscience that was weak because they were still growing out of infancy stage as a believer. For them to go right back into the pagan temple and buy food that was associated with false worship was just too hard for them. Also when invited to eat in an idol’s temple for community events, some of the Christians went and other were defeated by their going.
c. Paul cautions those with the knowledge to have the maturity to realize what the most important issue was. It was not that they had the liberty to eat the meat that had been used in idol worship, it was that they needed to consider how it affected their brothers and sisters in Christ that were struggling.
d. If exercising liberty was causing the new believers to be defeated, then the meat was not worth the savings and the nourishment. He goes on to say that even though it would not be sin for them who have the knowledge to eat it, they would be sinning by doing so in the presence of a new brother in Christ who was wounded in conscience.
e. What does it mean to offend? In verse 13, Paul says that he will not eat meat even though it is OK, if his fellow believer would be offended. How does this apply today? Does it apply?
i. Realize that he is not talking about bowing to every whim of the legalistic person.
ii. The context is talking about people who are new in their relationship with Christ.
iii. It is also talking about involving them or having them watch you being involved in things that because of their past would cause them to struggle in their walk with God.
iv. The struggle or the offense does not merely mean that we are uncomfortable with the situation. Offense in this sense literally means that it would cause them to “cease believing” and to fall into sin. Because of our actions they fall back into the same life style that they had before they were saved because we have confused them by the exercising of our liberty. Our brother or sister’s progress in their relationship with Christ is more important than our liberty!
v. Example: Going to a restaurant that has a bar or is a bar. If you are going out to eat with a new believer who was saved out of alcoholism, would it be a good idea to take them back to the place where their struggle was and perhaps still is?
f. Some questions to ask when I am exercising my liberty:
i. What is my Holy Spirit driven conscious telling me about it?
ii. What effect will it have on my brothers and sisters in Christ?
iii. Am I willing to set aside my liberty for sake of another?
Conclusion: Remember: We can be both technically correct and spiritually wrong. God values people. He wants us to do the same. We have great liberty in Christ but we must be certain that we are using it appropriately.
1 Corinthians 8:1-13 (NASB95)
1 Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.
2 If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know;
3 but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.
4 Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one.
5 For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords,
6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.
7 However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.
8 But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat.
9 But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.
10 For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols?
11 For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died.
12 And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.
13 Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.