Updated: Dec 19, 2020
1 Corinthians 8: The Corinthians who have “knowledge” know that “an idol has no real existence” and that “there is no God but one” (8:1,4). Idols are simply chunks of marble, nothing other than a lifeless statue. So, all the pagan “gods” and “lords” are nothing, only the “one God” and “one Lord” are real (8:5-6). The Corinthians worship Him instead of the pagan idols they used to worship before, however, continuing to live in that pagan culture raises questions (8:7). For sometimes the Corinthians would eat food that had been originally offered in a pagan sacrifice ritual. Is that food still connected with idolatry, and should the food be avoided? Paul says that it means nothing whether the Corinthians eat such food, cause, “food will not commend us to God” (8:8). Food is food. The Corinthians just need to keep in mind that they could become a near occasion for sin to others. Christian charity requires one to think of his neighbors, and Paul warns them not to “become a stumbling block to the weak” (8:9). The strong-minded Christians know that idols are nothing and that such food is harmless. But a weak Christian could see a strong Christian eating such food and be “encouraged” to go back into idolatry (8:10). When that happens, the “weak man is destroyed,” and “you sin against Christ” (8:11-12). Christian love for one’s neighbor is more important than Christian liberty.
1 Corinthians 9: Paul talks about how he did not use certain rights of his apostleship. He has numerous rights, for he is an “apostle,” and has the right to “food and drink,” to “a wife,” and to receive money (9:1,4-6). However, he does not take advantage of these. Why? Because he does not want to “put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ,” so he does anything he possibly can to “win” souls (9:12, 18-19). This is mentioned by Paul not to boast, but so that he can draw a comparison between himself and the actions of the Corinthians. The “strong” Corinthians need to give up their right to eat meat sacrificed to idols. For charity for their weaker brothers and sisters is more important than freedom to act. The Corinthians should do anything they can to aid their brothers and sisters in holiness, and not put any obstacle in their way.
1 Corinthians 10: The Israelites died while in the wilderness due to their many sins - which surprisingly always had something to do with food and drink. That is the very issue Corinth is struggling with right now, the issue of eating certain foods, so Paul draws another connection here. Within the wilderness, the Israelites worshipped the golden calf (idolatry), and then sat down “to eat and drink” (10:7). If Israel was judged by God and died in the wilderness due to that sin, then the weaker Corinthians could be judged by God due to that sin as well. So, the strong Corinthians should not eat and drink the sacrifices given to idols, so that the weaker Christians can be kept from idolatry. The same is true for the other sins in the wilderness, such as when the Israelites committed sexual immorality, and started eating and drinking the sacrifices offered to the gods of the Moabites. That caused the deaths of 23,000 Israelites (10:8, cf. Num. 29). Now, what will happen to the “strong” Corinthians if they possibly lead their brothers and sisters into idolatry? They also should not eat and drink such foods sacrificed to idols because of what that does to someone. For whenever someone eats the sacrifice given to the idol, he becomes a “partner” with the idol, just as Christians “participate” in the body and blood of Christ when they eat and drink the Lord’s table (10:21, 16). Becoming a “partner” with an idol is frightening, for idols are truly demons, so the Corinthians should not “provoke the Lord to jealousy” (10:20-22). They need to avoid such food and drink.