Paul now addresses yet another issue in the church in Corinth. It’s the thorny one of food sacrificed to idols. Last year I used the modern day example of a Halal Doner kebab, where the animal was slaughtered with an Islamic issue. In Paul’s day “food sacrificed to idols” was an even bigger deal than high street kebab shops. In one type of sacrifice -a family would take an animal to the Temple, have it sacrificed and then split into 3. A small part was burnt on the altar and then the priest received a portion and the worshipper the rest to be used for a feast. Another type of sacrifice mean the surplus went to markets to be sold.
In this new church full of baby Christians – the issue then arose: Can I go to a feast with my friends and eat? The legalists would say “absolutely not” and the libertine “of course”. Paul is free, and teaches freedom and the voluntary limiting of one’s freedom for the sake of those whose conscience is less robust v13.
The argument goes like this. Some in the libertine camp are arguing they have received knowledge from God (the Greek word is gnosis). The knowledge is about freedom to do anything, but it is the kind of knowledge that is limited to those in the know! The enlightened ones who would in the next century get called Gnostics. Their knowledge was that only spirit matters, you can do what you like with your body. That kind of knowledge is self-centred and proud – hence Paul’s assertion that it puffs up. Paul tells us knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.
Paul knows we are free to eat whatever, because idols aren’t real and anyway He that is in us is greater than He in the world (1 John 4:4). But because love builds up, we want to help and grow our weaker brethren. Paul stress that the stronger should voluntarily restrict their freedom for the sake of the weak- so that they don’t stumble and because they are also someone Jesus died for v11.
So I’ll happily eat a doner kebab, unless I’m with you and your faith doesn’t allow it. When I will have a portion of chips instead so as not cause you to stumble.