Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Sacrifices to Idols (1 Corinthians 8-10)

"Now concerning things offered to idols …" (1 Cor. 8:1).

At the council of Jerusalem, the apostles, elders, and brethren decided that the Gentile converts should abstain from meat offered to idols, from blood, and from things strangled (Acts 15:29). Yet Paul, in this first letter to the Corinthians not only leaves out any reference to the Jerusalem council’s decision, but goes directly against it. Is Paul inconsistent in this matter? Charles Hodge explains why Paul was not contradicting the Jerusalem decree: “That decree forbade the eating of meat offered to idols; Paul, in ch. 10, tells the Corinthians that when exposed for sale in the market, or found on private tables, they might eat it without scruple. These facts do not prove any discrepancy between the apostles gathered in Jerusalem and Paul; nor that the decisions of that council were not obligatory on the church. They only serve to explain the true intent and meaning of those decisions. They show, 1. That there was no permanent moral ground for the prohibition of meat offered to idols. 2. That the ground of prohibition being expediency, it was of necessity temporary and limited. It had reference to Christians in the midst of those to whom eating such meat was an abomination. It, therefore, ceased to be binding whatever and wherever the grounds of the prohibition did not exist.… The decisions of that council, therefore, were no barrier to Paul’s discussing the question on its merits.”

The idolatry of the Greeks and Romans pervaded their whole life and would have been a real, practical issue that all Christians had to face. Their social gatherings, feasts, administration of justice, recreation, government, were all more or less connected with religious services. Christians in the early church, therefore, were constantly exposed to the danger of being involved in some idolatrous activity without even realizing it. This resulted in a number of perplexing questions of conscience, which were often decided differently for various situations and different types of Christians. Some people had no scruples on this point; others thought it sinful to eat of such sacrifices under any circumstances. Paul had to give an authoritative answer because it came up so often. In chapter 8, Paul deals with the subject in general terms, urging the Christians to be fully aware of issues concerning sacrifices and to act in love toward others.

As is directed for today, skim chapters 8–10. What points does Paul discuss? What do you think he was trying to get across to the Corinthian believers? Why do you think love is so important to remember when we approach issues of conscience? Pray that God will prepare your heart for the following studies on the conscience.