I Corinthians 8

Dr. Steve Viars January 14, 1992 1 Corinthians 8:

- tonight we're moving into a new section of the book of
  I Corinthians that begins in chapter 8
- you may remember that our last several studies dealt with
  chapter 7 and what the Lord said about marriage, divorce,
  and remarriage

- the passage we're looking at tonight is actually part of a
  larger section in this book which includes chapters 8, 9,
  and 10
- all three chapters are dealing with the subject of
  Christian liberty and how a key ingredient in the way we
  use our liberty is BALANCE

- I've given you an outline for all three chapters from
  Warren Wiesbe to give us an overview of what to expect in
  coming weeks

   Knowledge Must Be Balanced By Love - chap. 8
   Authority Must Be Balanced By Discipline - chap. 9
   Experience Must Be Balanced By Caution - chap. 10:1-22
   Freedom Must Be Balanced By Responsibility - chap. 23-33

- tonight we're going to begin studying chapter 8

- read 8:1-11
   (after 8:1 - remember, these chapters, beginning with
     chapter 7, are responses to specific questions the
     Corinthians had asked Paul in a previous letter)
       - question on the table here is - what do we do with
         meat offered to idols?

- Let's begin with:

I. The Problem Paul Is Addressing

    - there's a specific issue here, and also a general one

    A. In specific

      1. Question was - should a believer be involved with
           meat that has been offered to idols?

      2. we've mentioned before that the culture in which the
         Corinthians lived was very pagan

       - they were both polytheistic and polydemonistic
           - polytheistic - believed in many gods (which had
               to be pacified with all sorts of offerings)

           - polydemonistic-believed in many evil spirits

       - they believed that the air was filled with all sorts
         of evil spirits and that the evil spirits were
         constantly trying to get inside of you
       - of course one of the easiest ways for an evil spirit
         to get inside of you, so they said, was for it to
         attach itself to a piece of meat and then the evil
         spirit came inside of you when you ate the meat
    - as a result of this, there were regular meat and food
      offerings to the pagan dieties

      3. meat offerings

            - these offerings fulfilled two purposes
               - pacified the "gods"
               - purified the meat of all these evil spirits

            - when this meat was offered - it went to one of
              three places (its important to know these
              because it helps us understand some of the
              questions the Corinthians had to face)

              1) burned on an altar to the god

              2) given to the priests

                 - because the priests couldn't possibly eat
                   all that was given to him - the remainder
                   was sold in the marketplace

              3) kept by the worshipper

- now, the:

      4. Corinthians could face this problem in one of
           three ways:

           a) Can I buy the meat in the marketplace?

              - there was such a glut of this meat around
                that apparently it was cheaper than meat that
                hadn't been sacrificed to idols
              - so it would be like going to Pay Less as a
                believer and being confronted with the choice
                  - Do I buy this hamburger that has been
                    offered to idols for 79 cents a pound, or
                    do I buy the hamburger that hasn't been
                    offered to idols for $2.29?

           b) Can I go to a feast where that kind of meat is
              going to be served?

              - remember, we said that a portion of the meat
                offered to a pagan god was returned to the
              - often that person would have a big feast
                right in the pagan temple and the that
                unbelieving person might very well ask a
                believer to come to the party

             - so the question would be - what does a
               believer do if an unbelieving friend asks
               him/her to come to the pagan temple to
               participate in a feast where meat that was
               just offered to an idol is going to be served?
             - a related question to that would be: Is it
               possible that one is right and the other is
   - is it possible that it would be OK to buy it at Pay Less
     but not right to go to the feast?  Or Vice-versa?
           - another way that might impact a believer is when

           c) Can I go to a dinner party given by an
              unbelieving friend where I don't know what kind
              of meat is being served?

              - do you just stay away from all dinner parties
                to be safe?
              - do you ask what kind of meat is going to be
              - do you just play "dumb"

              - of course that complicates things, too
                 - is it possible that you could go to the
                   private dinner party but not go to the
                   public feast or but it at the market?

                 - there's obviously several other possible

- the problem at the church of Corinth was this - THE BIBLE

      5. Church at Corinth had fallen into at least 2 groups
         (in their response to this issue)

        - in a later message, we're going to try to show that
          there are actually several different groups a
          person can "fall into" in terms of his/her response
          to issues like this one that are not specifically
          addressed in the Bible

        - for our purposes tonight, this passage mentions
          that the church at Corinth had fallen into at least
          two groups on this question of eating meat that had
          been offered to idols

        a. those brother or sisters who had a "weak"
             conscience (and as a result believed it would be
             sinful for them to eat that kind of meat and
             sinful for anyone to eat it)

           conscience - "to know with"
             - our "internal court" where actions are judged
                to either be acceptable or unacceptable

             INPUT - now, our conscience only works properly
               if what?  (if it's making judgments based on
               the Word of God)

           - a weak conscience is a conscience that’s
             triggered by criteria other than the Word of God
           - so folks who have a weak conscience:
               1) are using sources other than the Word of
                  God to determine their standards
               2) want to apply those standards not just to
                   themselves, but to everybody else


- let me mention a couple of examples:

    - some folks think it's sinful for a believer to drink
    - others would say that its sinful for a woman to wear a
      coat that has sleeves
    - others say its sinful for a woman to wear makeup
    - or its wrong to have these electric candles you put in
       you windows at Christmastime

    - that’s a person with a weak conscience (those are
        obviously extreme examples - we'll mention some that
        are more controversial in coming weeks)

    - but that's a person with a weak conscience
       - the bottom line is - if you handed a person like
         that a Coke and they took a drink, they'd be
         convinced that they had sinned, they'd feel guilty,
         they would believe the Lord was displeased

       - that’s a weak conscience
          Paul says in this chapter a weak conscience can be:
            defiled - vs. 7
            wounded - vs. 12
            offended - vs. 13

- they believed it was wrong to eat the meat offered to idols
    under any circumstances

        b. those who had knowledge (cf. "the strong", Rom.

           - this group believed there was nothing wrong with
               eating the meat

           - Paul calls them "those who have knowledge" in
             that they knew the Scriptures did not
             specifically forbid the practice
           - they also knew some other principles of
             Scripture that seemed to back up their position

           - as we'll see next week, that didn't necessarily
             prove that their position was right - or what
             Paul was now commanding

           - but at least they had some knowledge on the
             subject - so Paul refers to them as the ones
             with knowledge

- at this point - I think we ought to have two responses to
    this material

      6. 2 responses at this point

         a) Scripture didn't specifically address this
              - so that tells us what the context of these
                verses is (issues where the Bible has not
                directly spoken)

         b) You and I probably won't face this specific issue
               - we're probably not going to be confronted
                 with whether to buy meat offered to an idol,
                 or whether we should attend a feast where
                 that kind of meat will be served, or whether
                 to attend a dinner party where that kind of
                 meat might be served

    - so the natural response might be - "well, maybe these
       verses don't have any applications for us"

    - the fact is, just the opposite is true

    - sure, we won't be confronted with the specific issue of
      eating meat offered to idols, but I'd like to present
      to you that the general problem that Paul is addressing
      here is one that we face all the time
    - its one that can lead to great confusion and problems
      unless the principles laid out in this passage are

- so, the problem in general is this:

    B. In General

        What principles should I use when I make decisions in
        the area of "Christian liberty?" (areas where the
        Bible has not directly spoken.)

        - now, there are a lot of answers to that question
          that come from the verses we're going to study in
          the next couple of weeks:
        - but for starters tonight, let's concentrate on this

          1) We must develop the ability to distinguish
             things that truly differ.

             - in other words - folks fall into difficulty
               in these discussions on Christian liberty if
               they apply the same set of principles to
               things that really are different

- for example, let me just give a sample list of decisions a
  Christian has to make about what he/she is/is not going to

1) Should I attend church?
2) Should I wear makeup?
3) Should I covet?
4) Should I go to a movie?
5) Should I drink Coke?
6) Should I play cards?
7) Should I drink alcohol?
8) Should I commit adultery?
9) Should I drink coffee or tea?
10) Should I be evangelistic?
11) Should I go to a wear slacks?
12) Should I have a TV?

- and we could go on and on

- the point is - the things in the list I just mentioned are
  different.  And if we tried to apply the same set of
  principles to that entire list, we'd be in trouble, because
  we didn't work at distinguishing things that are truly

             - here's at least three distinguishing

               a) Black/white areas in the Bible

                  INPUT - can you think of an example?
                    (thou shalt not covet)

               b) Standards that can be readily deduced from
                  principles in the Bible.

                  - in other words - there may not be a
                    specific "thou shalt, or thou shalt not"
                    in the Bible, but as you put different
                    Biblical principles together, the
                    standards can be readily deduced

                  - I think an issue like "drinking alcohol"
                    fits in here.  There is not a passage of
                    Scripture in the New Testament that says
                    - "A believer absolutely can never drink
                       a drop of alcohol."
                          - we talked about that when we
                            studied the Pastoral Epistles

                   - but when you put all the biblical
                     principles together
                       - how wine in that day was much
                         different than wine today
                       - how they did not have the access to
                         clean water and the great assortment
                         of beverages that we have today
                       - how we are accountable for the
                         example we set before our kids, and
                         other folks around

                       - we would say that the issue of
                         drinking is one that can be readily
                         deduced from biblical principles
                         (not to mention the great amount of
                          secular evidence on the subject)

               c) Things that are indifferent

                  - things that the Bible simply does not

                  - We have to think of some questions even
                    with these.

                      1) Will it edify? - I Cor. 6:12
                      2) Will it enslave? - I Cor. 6:12
                      3) The law of love - I Cor. 8:13
- (if time) - let's go back through some of the ones on the
     list and try to categorize them:

1) Should I attend church?
2) Should I wear makeup?
3) Should I covet?
4) Should I drink Coke?
5) Should I play cards?
6) Should I drink alcohol?
7) Should I commit adultery?
8) Should I drink coffee or tea?
9) Should I be evangelistic?
10) Should I go to a wear slacks?
11) Should I have a TV?

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video