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Food Sacrificed to Idols August 11, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 1 Corinthians 8.

Summary: Paul begins by addressing the question of whether the Corinthians could eat idol sacrifices (all believers admit that an idol is nothing in theory – yet not all of them can apply this knowledge); indeed, abstract knowledge foments vanity and conceit, in contrast with an attitude that aims to increase the happiness of others and delight in their joy. Moreover, vanity and conceit are actually signs of ignorance. In contrast, anybody who loves God is approved by Him and recognized as having the right type of knowledge. Paul then returns to the subject of eating idol sacrifices and states that idols – as unbelievers perceive them – do not exist; there is only one divine being in the universe. It should be noted that many supernatural beings exist in the universe and can be labelled as “gods” and “lords.” Christians believe that there is only one eternal, self-existing, almighty Being – God, who created all things and for whose glory all believers live; also, there is only one administrator of the universe – Jesus Christ, through whom:

  • God created all things
  • all believers are brought near to God.

Some believers allow their consciences to be influenced by idols, though, and so when they eat idol sacrifices their consciences condemn them – even though the act of eating is not inherently sinful – causing them to feel guilty. Yet food does not affect the relationship of a believer with God. Strong believers, though, should aim to use their lawful power in a way that does not cause their doubting brothers to sin. For example, if a doubting believer sees a strong brother lying down at a table in an idol’s temple, this could cause him to eat an idol sacrifice – thereby condemning himself. In that event, the doubting believer – for whom Christ laid down His life – will be eternally separated from God. When strong believers cause doubting brothers to feel remorse, they are actually bringing them under the power of Satan – injuring Christ. Paul concludes by stating that he is willing to avoid eating idol sacrifices if that will prevent his doubting brothers from sinning.

Thoughts: In verse 4, we see “that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one.” Hodge offers some insightful thoughts as follows:

This does not mean that the heathen gods are either nonentities or powerless, for in 10:20 Paul says they are demons. But it means there are no such beings in the universe as the heathen conceived their gods to be. There was no Jupiter, Juno or Mars. There is only one real divine being. The objects of heathen worship were neither what the heathen took them to be, nor were they gods in the true sense of that term.

This implies that the being who reigned supreme on Mount Olympus, the being who changed a hunter into a stag after he stumbled upon her while she was bathing, and the being whose abduction to the underworld spurred the changing of the seasons…are all demons. Indeed, it is rather sobering that Satan and his servants can pervert what appears to be awesome and pure in the eyes of man for their own evil desires; the above-mentioned examples show that the Greeks were actually worshiping Satan – in the guise of their pantheon.

Verse 11 seems to indicate that doubting believers can lose their salvation if they sin against their consciences. Hodge, though, offers some eye-opening thoughts on this issue:

Similarly, the Bible teaching that those for whom Christ died will perish if they violate their conscience prevents their transgressing and brings them to repentance. God’s purposes embrace the means as well as the end…He secures the end by securing the means. It is just as certain that those for whom Christ died will be saved as that the elect will be saved.

The debate over whether believers can lose their salvation has persisted in Christian circles, so the above statements should not be taken as the definitive word on this issue. It should be noted that strong believers can be assured that living in a way that accounts for their doubting brothers’ consciences will not have any negative consequences. Indeed, strong believers can render this debate moot by following the principles that Paul has presented in this passage.

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