1 Corinthians 8
1 Corinthians 8:1-Paul’s response here suggests that perhaps the Corinthians had asked him if it was permissible to eat meat that had been offered at a pagan temple, and then sold in the market. After all, they know that those pagan gods are not real and don’t even exist. Paul says it isn't just a matter of whether we know that those gods don't even really exist...because it's not just about us. We have to be aware and considerate of the spiritual maturity and concerns of other people. For them, they still struggle with eating meat that was sacrificed to a pagan god. We know that since that god doesn't even really exist...there is nothing wrong with eating the meat. However, when they see you eat that meat...it causes spiritual problems for them…”their conscience being weak is defiled” (:7).
(b) that process of thought which distinguishes what it considers morally good or bad, commending the good, condemning the bad, and so prompting to do the former, and avoid the latter; Rom 2:15 (bearing witness with God's Law); Hbr 9:1; 2Cr 1:12; acting in a certain way because "conscience" requires it, Rom 13:5; so as not to cause scruples of "conscience" in another, 1Cr 10:28, 29; not calling a thing in question unnecessarily, as if conscience demanded it, 1Cr 10:25, 27; "commending oneself to every man's conscience," 2Cr 4:2; cp. 2Cr 5:11. There may be a "conscience" not strong enough to distinguish clearly between the lawful and the unlawful, 1Cr 8:7, 10, 12 (some regard consciousness as the meaning here). The phrase "conscience toward God," in 1Pe 2:19, signifies a "conscience" (or perhaps here, a consciousness) so controlled by the apprehension of God's presence, that the person realizes that griefs are to be borne in accordance with His will. Hbr 9:9 teaches that sacrifices under the Law could not so perfect a person that he could regard himself as free from guilt.
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament,
Notice that Paul uses three words that describe what happens to a person when we use our Christian “liberty” (:9-in this case the knowledge that pagan gods do not exist and the resulting freedom we have to eat meat sacrificed to them) at the expense of a weaker believer.
One, it is “defiled” (:7-).
properly denotes "to besmear," as with mud or filth, "to befoul." It is used in the figurative sense, of a conscience "defiled" by sin, 1Cr 8:7; of believers who have kept themselves (their "garments") from "defilement," Rev 3:4, and those who have not "soiled" themselves by adultery or fornication, Rev 14:4.
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,
In other words, when they follow your example without having settled the question in their own minds (:9-10), they feel dirty…like they have actually done something wrong. We should never do anything that would lead another believer to have a false sense of guilt, or shame. When people feel such, they sometimes withdraw from the Lord…feeling like a failure and unworthy of His love.
The second word is “ruined” (:11)…it comes from a Greek word that means to be lost.
Destroy, Destroyer, Destruction, Destructive:
a strengthened form of ollumi, signifies "to destroy utterly;" in Middle Voice, "to perish." The idea is not extinction but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well-being. This is clear from its use, as, e.g., of the marring of wine skins, Luk 5:37; of lost sheep, i.e., lost to the shepherd, metaphorical of spiritual destitution, Luk 15:4, 6, etc.; the lost son, Luk 15:24; of the perishing of food, Jhn 6:27; of gold, 1Pe 1:7. So of persons, Mat 2:13, "destroy;" Mat 8:25, "perish;" Mat 22:7; 27:20; of the loss of well-being in the case of the unsaved hereafter, Mat 10:28; Luk 13:3, 5; Jhn 3:16 (ver. 15 in some mss.); 10:28; 17:12; Rom 2:12; 1Cr 15:18; 2Cr 2:15, "are perishing;" 2Cr 4:3; 2Th 2:10; Jam 4:12; 2Pe 3:9. Cp. B, II, No. 1.
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,
This person was doing so well…progressing in their faith and beginning to grasp matters of spiritual truth and significance. Then they saw you eating meat sacrificed to pagan gods…perhaps the very god they had formerly worshipped. They become confused and uncertain. The teachings of their polytheistic, heathenistic society become intermingled with what they have been learning about their newfound faith and it clouds their mind. They become “lost”, their weak faith is damaged, “ruined”.
The third word is “wounded” (:12). It means to hit or strike…to harm. Perhaps they still have memories of what went on in those temples (prostitution)…what they did in those temples…and the struggles they still face with the temptations of those temples. Their strength, resolve, has been wounded. They think, “Well, if it’s okay to eat the meat…then maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I went back just once, just one more time…”
Don't claim that because you are spiritually mature (knowledge) that you can do whatever you want to do...and eat that meat…even at their expense. No! When you do this...and it causes them to stumble (sin)...then you, yourself have sinned against Christ…“And thus by sinning against the brethren…you sin against Christ” (:12). The guiding principle for the decision is not knowledge, but love…not what you know, but Who you love. “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies” (:1). The person who claims that because of his superior knowledge he can do whatever he wants regardless of who it hurts…really doesn’t know as much as he thinks. “Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much.” (:2, NLT)
Prayer: Lord, please don't ever let me cause a brother to stumble...not even by mistake. Help me to be spiritually sensitive enough to recognize when it might happen and to be willing to do what is necessary for the good of my brother (:13).