Meat Sacrificed to Idols

After Paul had finished his first missionary journey, he and Barnabas returned back to Antioch where they came into contact with some Judaizers who said, essentially, that the Gentiles must become Jewish if they want to be saved. Their specific message was that they must follow the law, even more specifically that they need to be circumcised. The circumcision was part of the law that had been given to Moses and passed down to the rest of the Israelites.

Paul and Barnabas end up having some “discussion” with the Judaizers there in Antioch but ultimately head to Jerusalem to meet with the rest of the Apostles to confirm that they are preaching the same Gospel that the Apostles are teaching. They are concerned that this has been an official stance that has come out of the church there in Jerusalem, so they go to have a meeting to confirm that everyone is on the same page.

It turns out that all is well and there is no significant difference between Paul’s message and that of the rest of the Apostles, but given the state of the current culture that they found themselves, they give warnings to stay away from food sacrificed to idols, sexual immorality, meat from strangled animals, and blood. Each of those had their own reasons to be included but primarily focus around the worship of the Greek gods and the surrounding culture.

With that as a background, Paul is responding to the Corinthians who have asked him about the meat sacrificed to idols, presumably specifically why they can’t eat it. It seems that they think that they should be able to and Paul’s response is interesting. He writes in his response in an attempt to help them understand why this is a problem instead of simply saying because the Council said so! He doesn’t invoke a new type of law – which it is not, of course – but instead labors to help them understand the reason that they are trying to stay away from the meat sacrificed to idols. It is based on love for those around them, and the intent of staying away from having others stumble as a result and lose their faith.

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 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.

1 Corinthians 8:9-13

It is critical, from Paul’s perspective, to not lose people from Christ and to not prevent people from coming to Christ. So for this, he explains that he will not eat meat if it will causes others to fall, essentially saying, it isn’t worth it. If it will cause others to lose faith, he would rather not eat meat at all.

Paul is saying that the Corinthians should have the same perspective. Do they prefer to eat meat sacrificed to idols and fall from faith in Christ? Or do they prefer that others would retain their faith even if it means that they can’t eat that meat?

While we don’t have temples with meat sacrificed to idols, what is the principle that we can learn? What are things that we should consider to prevent people from falling from faith in Christ? What can we do to prioritize more people coming to faith? What should we lay down? Or pick up? Where is our priority on these things?

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