Art Toombs Ministries 

Online Bible Commentary

Knowledge Puffs Up, But Love Edifies

1 Corinthians 8:1 Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. 2 And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him. 4 Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live. 7 However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. (NKJV)

In this passage Paul begins a new subject. He is addressing a question that had been asked of him from someone in the church in Corinth, likely in the context of a letter.

The question has to do with food “offered to idols” (v. 1a). The Corinth market place was lined with idols of mythological gods that the Greeks worshiped, gods such as Jupiter, Juno, Mercury, Ceres and Neptune.

This was not a question of whether Christians should offer up their food to idols, for they had the knowledge that they should not. The question was should Christians eat this food that was offered up to idols.

So the Christians had the “knowledge” of what to do (v. 1b). They knew not to offer up their food to idols. But knowledge without application only serves to “puff up”, to make one arrogant (v. 1c). Instead, Paul wanted this knowledge to be used to “edify”, to educate, and thus to show our love for God (v. 1d). If we love God, we will obey His commandments {Jn. 14:15).

Although our knowledge of God is good, we know “nothing yet” as we “ought to know”, we do not have full knowledge of God (v.2). But when we show our love for God, He will “know” us, find favor with us (v. 3).

“Therefore, concerning the eating of things offered to idols”, we know that idols have no power and there is only one “God” (c. 4). We know that some people believe in many idols, “many gods and many lords” (v. 5). But we Christians know that there “is one God, the Father…and one Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 6).

Paul is not saying that Jesus is not God. We interpret the Bible through the context of the entire Bible and we know that the Bible teaches the concept of the Trinity; that God has revealed Himself through three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Paul has worded verse six only as a counter to verse five.

The literal Greek text of verse 6 reads “but to us one God the Father, of whom all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things, and we through him.” The phrase “of whom all things” means all things are from the Father. The phrase “and we for him” means the future goal is that we all are for Him. The term “Lord” refers to the deity of Jesus Christ. The Jews at the time of Christ used the term “Lord” for God. The phrase “through whom all things” refers to all things being made through Christ”. The phrase “we through him” refers to the fact that all Christians are redeemed by Christ.

Paul recognizes that this knowledge is “not in everyone” (v. 7a). In other words, not everyone has the knowledge expressed in verse six. They still believe in idols and because of this weakness they continue to offer food to idols (v. 7b). For this sin they are “defiled” (v. 7c).

“But” for Christians, eating food that has been offered up to idols means nothing (v. 8a). We are not “better” Christians or “worse” Christians for eating it because we are not offering it up to idols (v.8b). It is just food.

The teaching here is that participating in things that some people hold as idols is not a sin, even though it is a sin for them. Anything we put before God is an idol. As long as we are putting God first we need not worry about making idols of which others may be making an idol.

But we should not refrain from this idol worship in an arrogant manner, that we are better than them. Nor should we just keep our knowledge to ourselves and not worry about their spiritual well-being. This would also be arrogant, and would not be showing them the love of God.

Instead, we Christians should edify those who lack the knowledge that we possess. We should try to educate them in the things of God. In doing so, we take the chance of being rebuked. But in doing so, we show the love of God, and we find favor with God.