Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The Weaker Brother (1 Corinthians 8:7-8)

"… and their conscience, being weak, is defiled" (1 Cor. 8:7).

The context here shows that the knowledge Paul wrote about is the knowledge that idols are nothing, that they have no power, that the pagan gods are imaginary beings. Even though weaker believers knew that there is only one God, they were still not fully persuaded that the gods of the heathen had no existence. Whenever they ate meat sacrificed to idols, they did not consider it ordinary meat, but a sacrifice, a part of a religious ceremony. They could not separate the meat from the idolatrous practice. When Paul says that they eat with “consciousness of the idol” or “conscience of the idol,” this means that their moral judgments and feelings were still influenced by the apprehension that the false gods might be real beings.

If weaker brothers who have this apprehension eat food sacrificed to idols, they eat it against their conscience. In their own minds, they are continuing to eat something that serves as a sacrifice, not ordinary meat. “A weak conscience is one which either regards as wrong what is not in fact so; or one which is not clear and decided in its judgments,” Hodge wrote. “According to the Scriptures, ‘whatever is not of faith is sin,’ Rom. 14:23; therefore whatever a man does, thinking it is wrong, or doubtful whether it be wrong or not, to him it is sin. Thus the man who eats an idol-sacrifice, uncertain whether he is doing right or not, defiles his conscience. The conscience is said to be defiled, either when it approves or cherishes sin, or when it is burdened by a sense of guilt. The latter form of pollution is that here intended. The man who acts in the way supposed feels guilty, and is really guilty.”

In light of the condition of our weaker brethren, and because food does not commend us to God, the strong should not be too hasty to flaunt their liberty. If meat were a matter of importance and necessity, if it really did commend us to God, then we would have reason to eat these sacrifices. But because it is a matter of indifference, we should not cause our brethren to be offended. Another way of saying verse eight is “Meat does not commend us to God; it makes us neither better nor worse; but take heed how you use your liberty.”

What are some things you do that may offend a weaker brother? What are some things which you may think are unlawful that others find to be lawful? Could you be wrong in thinking that those things are wrong? Ask God to give you more love for others and instruct your conscience in what is right.