1 Corinthians 8 Knowledge Love And Liberty

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1.   Paul has addressed problems of division and the need for church discipline in chapters 1-5.  Chapter 6 = Suing a brother.  Chapter 7 = Marriage questions.

2.   In chapter 8 we come to what may be the second ?? the Corinthians had for Paul.  “In the church, how much should we let another person’s views control our actions?”  “How much is MY liberty limited by YOUR opinion?”

      (1)   Not a problem limited to the Christians of the first century.

      (2)   If we polled brethren in North Texas we would get a diverse differing of ideas as to what activities are right or wrong in our daily lives as well as worship. (Eg. Wearing shorts, playing cards, going to r-rated movies, youth songs, dimming lights during Lord’s Supper or during a baptism, etc.)

      (3)   At Corinth the question came to light over the matter of eating meat sacrificed.

3.   Read the text: (1 Corinthians 8:1-13).

4.   Regarding the text:

      (1)   For us, this doesn’t seem to be a problem, but this was for the Corinthians a very practical matter, as the Christian might easily come to eat such meat, either through being invited to a feast by heathen acquaintances (10:27) or by buying it in the market (10:25), and thereby offense would be given to scrupulous consciences. (From The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary).

      (2)   For a poor person, the pagan temples was a cheap source of meat.

              A.   Similar to Levite priests – Animals were offered, but only a portion.

              B.   Pagan priests would put the reserved meat up for public sale.

      (3)   Therefore the question arose among Christians, “If a Christian eats meat offered to idols isn’t he participating / fellowshipping in some way the pagan worship of the idol?”

              A.   Some in the church were saying, “YES, that is exactly what is going on!”

              B.   Others said, “NO, not true.  There is nothing to an idol!” (Acts 17:24; Psa. 115:5-7 ).

              C.   Those who thought it wrong went on to say, “you cause the weak to stumble.”

              D.   The other side might say, “You are the ones causing them to stumble because with your attitude they are going to think that there is something to this idol business other than their being a piece of polished wood.”

      (4)   The confusion is understandable.

              A.   Cf. Acts 15:29 – “abstain from things sacrificed to idols.”

              B.   In their infancy Christians consciences would be tender and eating of meats might  cause them to revere their old idols.

              C.   In their maturity, Christians grew to know idols are nothing.  Good meat.

              D.   If it did not defile the conscience could I eat the meat?

5.   We realize eating meats is not a common problem in churches today, but this issue of conscience, knowledge, stumbling, weaker brother etc. is.

      (1)   Celebration of Christmas, Easter and Halloween (cf. Bob’s joke @ 2 less holidays).

              A.   Christmas tree – pagans of North Germany decorated tree at winter solstice.

              B.   Easter eggs – Pagan spring festival.  Egg symbolizing fertility.

              C.   Halloween – Obvious difficulties.

              D.   Some in good conscience cannot celebrate however I do not have a problem.  They do not mean such to me!  (cf. Sunday, Monday, Janusary, Mars).

      (2)   Use of singing groups at weddings or funerals.

      (3)   Eating in the church building.

6.   We may not understand completely their difficulty with eating meat, but we can very clearly understand how this is a difficult principle to settle.  Let’s notice Paul’s inspired strategy to deal with the situation



We do not ever want to compromise truth, but we must recognize that we are dealing with real people and not “straw men.”

1.       The Freedom party boasted in their knowledge (v.1, 2, 4, 6, 8-11).

(1)          “All of us possess knowledge” (v. 1) – Possibly Paul quotes them.

(2)          They would say, “Everybody knows that an idol has no existence!!!” v. 4

(3)          “We know there is only ONE GOD!  We are eating meat, we are not worshipping God or a pagan god!

(4)          Paul acknowledges that their knowledge was right (v. 6) but as strange as it might sound, Paul says, there is a problem with knowledge.

2.       The Fainting party was troubled in conscience (v. 7, 12-13).

(1)          Many Corinthian Christians were recently converted from paganism and wanted to be as far removed from it as possible.

(2)          In a sense they were doing a “good thing” because they did not want to defile their conscience with the problem, but their problem became the problem of others. 

3.       Divisions can and often do result from such parties inability to come to grips.


1.       Knowledge can “puff up” (v. 1).

(1)          Puff = “use a bellows; pride.”

(2)          It doesn’t matter which side of the matter you are on (freedom or fainting).  Knowledge can create a sense of pride and despising.

(3)          This side = “How can they do such a thing?  Don’t they love the Lord as much as we do?”

(4)          That side = “They should not be so literal and legalistic.  They need to grow up.  They are straining a gnat.”

(5)          Knowledge must consider the scruples and difficulties of others.

2.       Our knowledge is often incomplete (v. 2).

(1)          We can know and prove truth!  But if or when we do it in a spirit of haughtiness (I’m full grown and mature and you aren’t so I’ll show you a thing or two!), God through Paul says “You really know nothing!”

(2)          A spirit of “I’ve Arrived!” might block your acquiring full knowledge .

(3)          If you put yourself in a position of weighing something only from your point of view you’ve almost put self in a position of being “infallible.”

III.        PAUL PRESCRIBED ONE SOLUTION (vv.7-13).  Apply love towards those weak in conscience.  Notice the contrast between blowing a bubble and building a building.

1.       Love edifies (v. 1)

(1)          Man with true love will be strong in faith and knowledge of God’s will.

(2)          Man with true love will be just as strong in Christian character and willingness to help others, look towards the good of others, and sacrifice our own rights

(3)          Such a man will take into account the will of God as well as the good of fellow man.

2.       Realize that not everyone has correct knowledge!  In fact even their conscience may be weak with what knowledge they do have (v. 7).

(1)          They eat things offered to idols.

(2)          They do so in violation of their conscience.

(3)          Illustrate:  “I have been in trouble because we didn’t close services with a prayer.”  Some thought it was wrong!

(4)          Some think it wrong if you fail to pray corporately before a meal in public.  Some think it wrong to do so (More show than anything else).

3.       Don’t let something inconsequential become a stumbling block (vv. 8-9).

(1)          In some matters God does not care if we partake or abstain (v. 8).

(2)          However, in expedient matters, as we exercise liberty we must be aware of the impact we have on our weaker brother (v. 9).

A.        If at Corinth I see ________ eathing meat sacrificed to idols and he invites me to join, but I think it is sinful, he might influence me to eat.

B.        The matter may be insignificant, but if the indulgence causes a brother to not grow it is very significant.

4.       Abuse your knowledge and liberty and it may lead to sin against Christ (v. 10-12).

(1)          Weak might be encouraged/emboldened to sin (v. 10).

(2)          We might, in our liberty, cause others to perish.  That is a sin against Christ.

5.       If exercise of your liberty causes a brother to stumble then it must be avoided (v. 13).

(1)          Read Rom. 14:21; 15:1.

(2)          Our conscience is to be ruled by the conscience of the weak.


1.     Brethren must not hide behind their weak conscience to selfishly have their way!

        (1)     Can one be a Christian 25 years and still be considered a “weak brother?”

        (2)     Brethren can differ without dividing.

        (3)     Paul was not going to eat meat, but he didn’t command that the whole congregation abstain.

        (4)     Paul was speaking about brethren with weak consciences and not hard heads.

2.     We must not cause our brother to stumble.

        (1)     Stumble means they are moving, walking, growing.  You cannot trip a non-moving man.

        (2)     Paul protects such a man.  Saying “don’t cause him to stumble.”

3.     We will avoid causing another to stumble if:

        (1)     We recognize the relationship of knowledge to love.

        (2)     We realize our liberty is not a license. We do not have to have our rights!  We are free to give them up at any time for the good of others.

        (3)     We remember our responsibility to our brethren!

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