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1 Corinthians: Meats Sacrificed to Idols

1 Corinthians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Notes & Transcripts

I. Introduction

a. We have dealt with Paul’s first questions that the Corinthians sent him in ch7 (marriage and singleness)

b. Today we have a bigger section (chs 8-10). In this section, Paul answers their questions, challenges, or concerns about eating meats that were sacrificed to idols

i. Spending time in idols temples were social hubs at the time. There were social halls for meals and gatherings. Also, meats that were not eaten in the temple because of an over-abundance of sacrificed meats, they would be sent out to the marketplace to be sold for profit. So there were a few questions regarding these ideas for Paul.

c. This is not the only time where we have teaching on eating meats sacrificed to idols, so it may be helpful to look at a couple other passages to get an understanding of what God’s will was regarding this subject

i. See and

1. : The Corinthians would have received this letter.

2. , – Eating meets included in “going astray” and having a “stumbling block” thrown before God’s people.

ii. It is important to see what God’s will is for eating meats sacrificed to idols before we get to because upon reading these chapters, it seems that Paul views this issue as a liberty or an area of conscience that the Lord had not spoken clearly on. Whenever chs 8 and 9 are read on their own, this is the misunderstanding that we can come to

iii. The Corinthians already would have been given the letter from the Apostles and elders (and Holy Spirit) in Jerusalem. They would have been told that they were not to eat the meats…

iv. We also need to understand the whole argument of chs 8-10, not just chs 8&9.

d. Outline of Section

i. Ch 8 – Show concern for your brother in things that you believe are liberties & be willing to, in love, forsake your liberties for the sake of others.

ii. Ch 9 – Paul gives himself as an example of denying ones-self of what they believe is a liberty

iii. Ch10 – Paul tells them that they must not eat meats they know have been sacrificed to idols because it is wrong to do so. To do so brings them into fellowship with demons and Paul wants them to flee from idolatry.

II. Paul’s Teaching to Corinth


i. Paul could have just told them, “don’t eat meats that you know were sacrificed to idols, but he doesn’t right away.” He gives them some principles first to deal with the arrogance that their knowledge has led them to and encourages them towards love instead. Only after he does this does he then go to what God says about the morality of eating meats sacrificed to idols.

ii. 8:1-6 – Showing his agreement and disagreement with the claims they were making regarding their “knowledge”

1. Paul starts out quoting the Corinthians again. They thought they had knowledge (knowledge used 5 times in this chapter). They thought their knowledge gave the right to eat meats sacrificed to idols. But Paul cautions them against this line of thinking because it is clear within the church that knowledge that the brethren had was leading them to arrogance and pride instead of denying themselves and serving one another with love.

a. They thought they had knowledge, but if it was moving them to pride, they had nowhere near the knowledge they needed to have. Knowledge of God needs to move them to love instead of pride.

2. The Corinthians’ point is that since there is no reality to an idol, how can we be faulted for eating meals in the temples or eating the meats knowing they were sacrificed to an idol since the gods represented by these idols do not exist?

3. Paul agrees with them that there is only one God and that the Gods which the gentiles worship do not exist. But Paul still cautions them to consider instances when they need to be careful not to eat them.

iii. 8:7-13 – Show love towards your brethren in how you exercise your “freedoms.” Be willing to deny ‘self’ for the sake of others

1. Paul says that not all have this “knowledge.” There may be some brethren in Corinth that would look at it as honoring that “god” in eating the meat. There may be some newer Christians who don’t fully understand yet that all of the other “gods” do not exist.

2. So Paul tells them to be careful that they do not lead a weaker brother to stumble by what they are doing. They may see a “stronger” brother with “knowledge” eating these meats, and they may get from this that it is ok to go to the temples and to eat of these meats that honored these gods. They may be led to violate their conscience, thus sin. And Paul says that when someone is led to do this by their actions, they sin against this brother and against Christ

3. .


i. When you begin reading chapter 9, it can seem like it has nothing to do with what Paul has talked about before. But it does. Paul, in this chapter, shows how he has applied the principle of ch8 to his own life. He shows how he has denied himself of what he deemed a freedom for the sake of others. At the same time, it does seem like he is responding to some accusations that were sent to him regarding his own ministry

ii. 9:1-14 – Paul defends his “rights”

1. In the last verse of chapter 8, Paul said that if eating certain meats would cause his brother to stumble, then he would never eat those meats again! That is a great example of denying yourself for the sake of someone else’s soul. Paul continues this in chapter 9.

2. In this chapter, Paul goes to great extent to show that he had certain rights given to him by God: The main area that he discusses is the right he has to receive financial support for his work in the Lord

a. Things that went along with this idea that also come up in this passage are being able to take along with themselves family, and to receive enough support to be able to do so
b. They had the right to refrain from secular work so that they could be fully focused on the work of the Lord.

3. Paul uses scripture to prove God’s will on these issues – to show that those who preach the Gospel have these rights given to them by God.

iii. 9:15-22 – Paul denied himself of his “rights”

1. Even though Paul had these rights given to Him from the Lord, he did not take advantage of them all in every situation.

2. Paul didn’t receive financial support from all of the churches he worked with because of how receiving support from churches became a stumbling block for the brethren. IT would at times lead them to think that either Paul was doing it for the money or that not receiving money showed that Paul was not as good or worthy of an apostle as those who did receive support. These things (among other things) led Paul to not accept support

3. Paul’s greatest concern was souls! He did not want the things he was doing to be a stumbling block to others. So he would not exercise his “rights” even if it inconvenienced himself!!

iv. 9:23-27 – The need for self-denial and discipline

1. Paul then gives them the example of an athlete. An athlete is a good example of denying self temporarily in order to win a prize. Some athletes (Olympic) make great sacrifices in order to win an event. They don’t eat certain foods or drink some things. Many quit their jobs in order to have more time to train. There is no such thing as free time or leisure time. Their sleep habits need to change. Sometimes you even need to train through injuries. There are just so many sacrifices that they need to make in order to be successful and to win the gold medal!

2. This is the kind of approach Paul encourages them to take in their lives. Be willing to sacrifice – to deny yourself – in order to win the prize that God had in store for you. Discipline yourself – have self-control – do the hard things that are necessary in order to be helpful to your brethren.


i. Now, Paul begins to close his argument. After establishing how they need to think about their brothers and sisters in Christ in regards to things they may think are “freedoms” or “liberties” that they have, he shows them that, even though they may think that eating things they know are sacrificed to idols is a liberty, it really is not. Doing this, instead, leads them to follow in the steps of the Israelites of old in how they got involved in idolatry

ii. 10:1-22 – Avoid Israel’s Mistakes Regarding Idolatry

1. God gave the Israelites everything they needed to be successful in their lives. He gave them salvation through the baptism of the Red Sea. He provided for them food and water.

a. It is interesting that all through these sections Paul brings up the ideas of “eating and drinking.” Makes sense regarding the specific issue he is dealing with – eating meats sacrificed to idols.

2. But even though God gave them salvation and provided them with sustenance, they were not successful because of their lack of self-control and self-denial. God was not pleased with them because they craved evil things (v6) and fell into idolatry (v7). The golden calf is just one example of this. They became idolaters, and along with this, were guilty of sexual immorality (v8). They also complained against God (v10).

3. Paul gives them this example so he could encourage the Corinthians not to be like Israel of old. He encourages them:

a. Not to crave evil things as they did (v6). The temptations that the Corinthians had coming against them to commit sexual immorality (chs 5-6) and to commit idolatry (ch10) were the same temptations that the Israelites fell into. Paul says, “Don’t be like them!”
b. One of the “cravings” that Paul is encouraging them to not fall into is idolatry (v6). He says in verse 14 to flee from idolatry. But this is not what they were doing. They were going into the idols temples. They were, when they were in the temples, eating of the meats that they knew were sacrificed to idols.
i. Paul tells them, from the example of Israel again, that those who partake of food from the altar are in fellowship with the one the altar honors (v18-22). Of course, Paul does agree, once again, that the “god” that the altar honors does not exist. He is an atheist towards every God but YHWH. ii. These gods do not exist, so they are not having fellowship with these pagan gods. Instead, Paul says that the pagans don’t sacrifice to gods, but instead, to demons, and demons DO exist! Whenever they go to the temple to eat or whenever they eat meat that they knew was part of a sacrifice that honored a “god”, Paul is showing them that they are having fellowship with demons. And he says, “I DO NOT WANT YOU TO BE IN FELLOWSHIP WITH DEMONS” (v20). They could not eat the Lord’s Supper at the Lord’s table while at the same time having supper at the table of demons. To do so would be idolatry and an attempt to provoke the Lord to jealousy! (v23). So whatever you may think up to this point in Paul’s argument, he clearly says that they should not partake of meat that they know was sacrificed to idols.

iii. 10:23-11:1 – Applications of Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians

1. So Paul close his argument by giving the following wisdom:

a. First, he interacts with the Corinthian slogan that we talked about in ch6… Their “all things are lawful” slogan. He once again tells them, “not all things are helpful. Not all things edify. They needed to be asking questions regarding what they believed was helpful to them and others…
b. Going back to his argument of ch8, Paul says to seek the good of your neighbor. Show love in the decisions that you make whether or not to exercise what you believe to be a “liberty.”
c. Regarding meats sold in the market… Do not ask any questions for conscience sake. If you don’t know where it came from, it is ok to eat.
d. Whenever you are invited to someone’s house to eat:
i. Once again, don’t ask questions for conscience sake. ii. If the host tells you that the meat was used to honor an idol by sacrifice, do not partake of the meat for the sake of the one who invited you and for conscience sake
e. General principle – Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Make it your goal to please Him and to honor Him, and be willing to seek the profit of others. Do not be a stumbling block to others
f. Follow Paul’s example in self-denial for the sake of others.

III. Application

a. Dealing with issues of “liberty.”

i. Just because we believe we have a freedom/right to do something does not mean that we should! As Americans, we are too quick to say, “this is my right! I have the right to free speech! I have the right to bear arms” etc, etc…

1. Not necessarily. What we claim to be a right or a freedom needs to be submitted to the will of God.

2. Our society teaches us to focus on ourselves and to fight for what we want to do… but this is not how it works if we desire to be pleasing to God.

ii. We need to think seriously about:

1. How others will be affected about it. Can this cause someone to sin?

a. This is the main issue discussed in this section. Paul is talking about something causing another brother or sister to sin against the Lord. He is not talking about catering to every like or dislike that brethren have. This is where some go with the text, but I believe it is a misapplication of the text… Paul is talking about throwing a stumbling block before someone - leading someone to sin.
b. As slaves of Christ, we must submit our freedoms to the will of Christ and put others first in our decision to exercise the freedom or not.

2. Are we missing something God may say about this? Don’t let pride blind you to the fact that what you believe is a liberty really may not be. If God has spoken on an issue, saying it is something that he blesses or is against, then we must submit to what God says.

b. Flee from Idolatry

i. We may think that idolatry is not an issue today. Yes, we may not have the exact same issue to deal with in our society today that the Corinthians dealt with (though there are some places in the world where this teaching has specific application). But there are areas where we need to show caution in having hearts that are idolatrous

1. Possessions & wealth

2. Relationships

3. Work & hobbies

4. False teachings about God

IV. Conclusion.

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