We now begin a new section in the letter to Corinth. Sha’ul is responding to the questions around meat sacrificed to idols and our freedom in Messiah. Chapter 8 frames the problem; Chapter 9 has Sha’ul giving himself as an example; Chapter 10 provides additional examples from Israel’s history, and then concludes with specific warnings and directions. This section can best be summed up by the verses (10:31-33), “Therefore, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jewish or Greek people or to God’s community— just as I also try to please everyone in everything, not seeking my own benefit but the benefit of many, so that they may be saved.”[i][Read 1 Cor. 8]
Meat Sacrificed to Idols
(Vs. 1-3) Sha’ul begins this section with “Now concerning,” and then proceeds to quote the letter he received from Corinth. [ii] Not only did some in the congregation of Corinth have no problem with eating meat that was sacrificed to idols, but they also attributed this freedom to their new-found knowledge about idols. Just as Sha’ul has already addressed the pride within the congregation concerning the sexual sin (see Ch 5), he now shows how their “knowledge” has produced pride. This is a warning to all of us who love to study. Simply gaining knowledge will only produce pride in our relationships. Love builds others up and recognises that while we may have acquired some additional information, we all have so much more to learn. Sha’ul then beautifully shows the superiority of love to knowledge, by showing that when we love God, we are “known by Him.” Notice that he does not say that we know Him, but rather that we are “known by Him?” This reveals an intimacy of relationship between us and God.
(Vs. 4-6) Usually the best way to understand a counterfeit is to compare it to an original. Sha’ul does this by comparing the many false gods throughout the world to Adonai in Verse 6. There is one God, The Father just as the Tanakh teaches. The New Covenant does not teach that there is more than one God, nor does it teach that the one God is Yeshua the Son. [iii] Rather as Michael Brown answers:
“We believe that the eternally pre-existent Son of God, through whom the universe was made, came forth from God his Father and was clothed with human flesh, making himself known to us as Yeshua the Messiah. … We understand that Jesus, the Son of God, is the very image of God, the one in whom God caused his fullness to dwell, the one through whom he revealed himself completely to mankind. Since the Son came forth from the Father and shares his divine nature, in once sense it is quite correct to say that Jesus is God (or divine or deity), always bearing in mind that the overwhelming testimony of the New Testament writings is that Jesus is the Son of God. … God has always revealed himself to his people. He did it most permanently and most fully through Jesus his Son.”[iv]
Notice that Sha’ul states that “all things” are “from” the Father, and “we exist for Him,” but then goes on to say that “all things” are “through” Yeshua the Messiah, and “we exist through Him.” This is the same important distinction that John made in (John 1:1-14). It is also the same understanding that the Rabbinic authors of the Targums held. The Targums were paraphrases of the Tanakh written in Aramaic which were read in the Synagogues around the time of Yeshua.[v] In the Targums, almost every time that Adonai interacts with mankind, the Rabbis inserted “the Word of Adonai,” in place of “Adonai”. So, every interaction between God and Man was through “the Word.” Therefore John shows how Yeshua is the Word made flesh.
(Vs. 7-13) Sha’ul now comes back from his poetic discourse and begins to make his case. He shows that our lives should be lived in such a way as to help all those around us to follow Yeshua more closely. We are no worse off when we don’t eat meat sacrificed to idols, and we are no better off when we do. However, if our freedom in Messiah causes another believer to stumble, then we have truly sinned against Messiah.
Many people ask me if I keep Kosher. I usually answer that I keep Biblically Kosher, by which I mean that I do not eat any of the things that are forbidden in the Torah such as pork and shell-fish. Many of my believing, Gentile friends, have then asked me why, and some have mocked. While others may have different reasons for eating or not eating, I have chosen to live this way so that my food, and the food in my home, will not cause an additional stumbling block for a Jewish person to accept Yeshua. I would gladly give up more, if it would lead to more people coming to Yeshua as their Messiah.
On another personal note, we use to serve wine at our Erev-Shabbat meals, however, we now only serve grape juice. The reason is that we were devastated to learn that one of our friends, who had struggled with alcoholism, had begun to drink again because of our meals. We have since repented to them, and to God. God is gracious, and they are now doing much better. But this is part of what this passage is talking about. Sha’ul actually uses the word “destroyed” which usually refers to eternal destruction. In the case of the believers in Corinth, could their freedom of eating food sacrificed to idols have cause someone to fall away from Yeshua? Could anything in our lives cause another person to fall away from Yeshua? Yeshua put it this way, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who trust in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck and to be sunk in the depth of the sea!” (Matt 18:6)
There is one other area of application that I never thought would occur in a Western country. I never thought that I would have to make a choice as to weather or not to eat meat sacrificed to another god. I will quote directly from the Islamic Council of Victoria website:[vi]
Halal products are derived from animals and/or poultry that have been prepared according to Islamic law under the following statement, “In the name of God – God is the Greatest/Bismillahi Allahu Akbar”. … Muslims cannot consume the meat of animals that are sacrificed in a name other than God. Any animal slaughtered in the name of a person alive or dead, any deity or idol will be considered as haram and therefore it is not permissible for Muslims to consume that meat.”
It is true that Jews, Christians and Muslims all only believe in one God, and all believe that there is only one God listen to our prayers and receiving our worship. But, as Nabeel Qureshi asks, “Is that one God the Islamic conception or the Christian conception?”[vii] The God that we believe in is:
- complex in His unity,
- He is a Father, the perfect, loving Father,
- He is willing to enter into this world and suffer alongside His creation,
- He is willing to forgive us from all our sins by paying the penalty Himself.
On the other hand, the Quran defines God (or Allah) as:
- He is unknowable and remains behind a vail (Ch 5 of Quran)
- It is not meat for Him to enter this world and be made known
Both descriptions of God are different. These Gods do different things and they offer different paths. So here we have a great application of today’s passage.
While there are freedoms in Messiah, we must make every
effort that our freedom does not cause someone else to stumble. While we have
the knowledge about food and about freedoms, do we express/demonstrate love to
those we meet and walk with?
[i] All Scripture quotations are taken from the Tree of Life (TLV) version unless otherwise noted.
[ii] The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Rev. Ed., Vol 11, pg. 329.
[iii] Jewish New Testament Commentary, David Stern, pg. 458.
[iv] Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol 2, Michael Brown, pg. 14.
[v] Ibid, pg. 18-22.