1Co 8:1-3 “Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him.”
It is obvious by the varied topics Paul has addressed up to this point that there were multiple areas of concern among the brethren at Corinth. They were not clear on their singular unity in Christ (1Co 1:12, 3:23). Great sexual immorality existed among them, and they lacked the proper attitude toward such behavior (1Co 5:1-2). They abused each other with the secular law (1Co 6:1), and there were questions about the legitimacy of marriage and how to conduct themselves (1Co 7:1-40).
Since Corinth was a region where idolatry was common, it is not surprising to find questions arising concerning things offered to idols. The question often arose around the practice of some Christians who willingly ate meat offered to idols. This is not to be understood as though they were actually participating in the worship of idols.
Scholars tell us that it was common practice for the butchers who practiced idol worship to take a portion of the meat they were selling and offer it in the temple of their preferred god or goddess. The priests of these temples ate of this offering, and what was left was sold in the marketplace to any who wished to purchase it. It was in this sense that Paul addressed “things” offered unto idols.
This was not the first time this issue had been addressed. When Paul went up to Jerusalem to discuss the legalities that some were trying to bind upon their Gentile brethren, one of the instructions given was that they “abstain from meats offered to idols (Act 15:27-28).” It is likely such things as these are what Paul had in mind when he told the Corinthians that all things were lawful for him but not all things were expedient (1Co 6:12). Those strong in the knowledge that idols were meaningless might rightly claim by that knowledge that things offered to idols were harmless. However, that attitude shows a great lack of concern for weaker brethren.
We sometimes think it is enough to know a thing. However, Paul says that knowledge alone is a dangerous thing for Christians. When we rely on our knowledge, then we tend to be haughty with our brethren. We may view the ideas of others who do not seem to measure up to our knowledge with disdain. Knowledge without charity is likely to do harm to ourselves and our brothers and sisters (Rom 14:15-16).
To put absolute faith in our knowledge alone indicates a lack of understanding on our part. Those things we know, we know only because God has given us the grace and ability to know them and only to the extent that He allows us to know them. God manifests His knowledge of us in our love for Him (not just our knowledge of Him). When we have true knowledge of God and our relationship to Him, we are going to walk humbly with our brothers and sisters and realize the half has never been told.
May we always rely first on the love of God and may His love always temper our claim to knowledge!