In 1 Corinthians 8 Paul addressed a very specific problem in the Corinthian church: eating meat offered to idols. Some possessed a special knowledge:
Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” (1 Corinthians 8:4 ESV)
There was nothing wrong with this knowledge: as a matter of fact, there was everything right with it! Idols have no real existence. Their power is not inherent–it lies in the illusions of peoples’ minds who worship them. There is no God but one. God, the Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer of the universe stands alone as God. He is unequaled in power and position. In 1867, Walter Smith wrote these words:
Immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes, most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light, nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might: thy justice, like mountains high soaring above, thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.
Some, knowing how great God was and how foolish idols were, had no problem eating meat offered to idols. “There’s nothing wrong with that meat,” they thought! “God is greater than those idols.” What they didn’t realize was that, sitting in their midst, were weak-minded new Christians. Their faith wasn’t sure–their understanding shallow. They were spooked by the meat and for them to eat it meant they had returned to their old way of life. Paul made it clear: when you notice such a brother, put the meat aside. Don’t offend him. How far did he go in giving this instruction:
Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. (1 Corinthians 8:12 ESV)
From Paul’s statement we learn that Christ lives in his people–weak and strong. The strong are to bear the burdens of the weak. Rather than wounding their conscience, build their faith. This takes the focus off of meat and puts it on the Message.
Smith finishes his great hymn:
To all, life thou givest, to both great and small; in all life thou livest, the true life of all; we blossom and flourish like leaves on the tree, then wither and perish, but naught changeth thee.
Thou reignest in glory, thou dwellest in light, thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight; all praise we would render; O help us to see, ’tis only the splendor of light hideth thee!