1Co 8:4-7 “As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.”
How wondrous is the power of the Holy Ghost to reveal to us with certainty that there is “none other God but one!” When we truly understand that there is only one God, then we understand that all idols are empty. Even those things that we may idolize today (money, power, position, etc.) are not able to offer any real or lasting comfort.
If an idol is “nothing in this world,” then there is certainly no spiritual benefit to be gained from an idol. An idol will never enlighten us, make us loving and forgiving, or stick closer than a brother (Pro 18:24). Since idols hold no power over we who believe, those things offered to idols have no power over us. We know this, and we need to handle that knowledge in love to the edifying of our brethren (1Co 8:1).
The world around us is full of idols. There are cultures that use statues and engravings as representations of the various gods they revere. Many tyrants in the world expect to be worshipped as though they were gods. Corporations demand a loyalty from their employees that often supersedes any concern for church or family. As individuals, we may hold in our hearts things that we count more necessary than the presence of God in our lives.
For those of us who are blessed to understand there is one God, we know the joy of calling Him “Father.” We rest in the knowledge that He is the creator of all things and does not need any “lesser” gods to help Him keep order. There is great peace and joy in knowing we are in Him as a highly treasured (the scripture uses the term peculiar – Exo 19:5, Psa 135:4) part of His creation.
We rejoice in the understanding that we have one Lord, and all the things the Father has made for us come through Jesus. Not only do we receive blessings through Jesus, but we come to the Father through Jesus. While we only know it in part (because of our limited condition in the flesh), yet we are confident through the revelation of the Holy Ghost that the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Ghost are but one God.
However, not everyone has the knowledge to understand that idols are nothing, and therefore the things offered to idols have no real meaning. Because of their moral consciousness (see Strong’s definition of the word translated as conscience), they view things like the eating of meat offered to an idol as an act of worship of the idol. They may see us doing something that is, to us, totally insignificant. Because of their background, this may appear to them to be sin. Their conscience is defiled by our action.
Rather than taking the attitude that they are being ridiculous or that they should just “get over it,” we are enjoined by the scriptures to show charity (see the Greek word agapē). We are to cover a weaker brother with godly love and behave ourselves kindly. As a matter of fact, Paul set an example of refraining from a thing when we know it causes a brother to stumble (see Strong’s definition for offend – 1Co 8:13).
May God always give us charity for a brother who is weaker so our knowledge does not become a snare to either of us!