While we now live in an era where information is at the tips of our fingers, just a few swipes and searches away, knowledge still holds as much power as ever. At the beginning of this chapter, Paul reminds us of this crucial fact when he says, “… But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.” (1 Corinthians 8:1b-3) Here, Paul highlights how gaining knowledge can lead to becoming arrogant and result in divisions between people. He then explains the flip side of this coin: love. By using what we do know for the benefit of others, we can become better leaders in the church and set an example for how to live a life like Christ. To better elaborate on this concept, Paul addresses a question the people of Corinth had for him concerning eating food sacrificed to idols.
Later in the chapter, Paul states, “… yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live But not everyone possesses this knowledge…” (1 Corinthians 8:6-7a) Since Christians are aware that all things come from God, it was clear at the time that the meat in the markets was just meat, despite its old use in rituals to idols past. As more experienced Christians were aware of this fact, they would eat the meat casually as they should; however, as Paul states, not everyone knows this information. To the average individual, seeing the meat could still serve as a reminder of the idols of the past, and witnessing Christians eating this same meat could cause confusion and make one deviate in their faith. It’s here where Paul warns us, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:9)
The rest of the chapter really speaks for itself as Paul describes how wounding someone with knowledge by being that stumbling block also hurts yourself. In verses 11-13, Paul writes, “So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” The result of not being responsible with our knowledge is devastating because not only do we sin against the individuals concerned, but we also sin against Christ. However, as mentioned previously, there is a flip side to all of this. If we are responsible with this powerful knowledge and use it lovingly, then we can build upon one another. It’s no easy feat of course—like giving up meat for good, as Paul describes—but by preventing the fall of those around us, we can continue to raise our commitment to Christ together.
— Austin Kizer
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- How do you use your knowledge to grow closer to Christ? Do your actions and applications of this knowledge show other people your firmness in faith, or are you sending mixed signals?
- A unique phrase in this chapter was “stumbling block for the weak”. What are different stumbling blocks that the world throws at us, and how can we combat them to stay firm in our faith?
- With knowledge about Christianity becoming more accessible to people worldwide, it’s important to hone in on the areas that we can directly impact. Discuss how Christians in this modern day can share their knowledge and build relationships with people in their community.