July 19

1 Corinthians 8 / Read

Today we read of an issue that had arisen in the Corinthian church - that of how to deal with food sacrificed to idols (that is, false or “empty” gods). However, it is the issue behind the issue that Paul addressed, and we would do well to reflect on the principle he laid down.

It was common at the time for meat to be sold after it had been used for sacrificial purposes in pagan temples. Some in the Corinthian church had - by God’s grace - come to understand that the meat was not made unclean by idol worship because idols were nothing and, therefore, the meat had really been offered to nothing. It had no power to make them clean or unclean before God.

These Christians lived out there newfound freedom by eating this food without reservation. Yet there were some in the church who remained affected by the superstitions of their old way of life. They weren’t convinced that they could eat anything because of the relative immaturity in their faith. So the church had written to Paul asking him to provide guidance as to who was correct.

Paul responded to the issue at hand first: Eat whatever you want because “food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.” (vv. 8) But he quickly followed it up with the real issue - the issue of the heart - that following Jesus is not about knowing all of the right answers, but living a life defined by love.

Christian love prioritizes God and others over self. Paul encouraged the believers in Corinth to consider how their actions impacted others around them in the church and to deny their personal preferences if it meant promoting the spiritual health of their brothers and sisters.

  • What from today’s Scripture and commentary most grabs your attention. Why?

  • To what degree are you aware of the spiritual needs of those in your church? What are you doing to promote their health and growth?

  • Is there any way in which you sense God leading you to change your behavior in order to identify with and encourage another believer?