Truth, Understanding, Insight


20th August 2010, mgh


2) A problem Passage

Paul writing to the Corinthians says in 1 Corinthians 8: 1, that 'Knowledge puffs up'. Following on from our previous section this appears to be an extraordinary statement presenting a conflict with other sections of the New Testament.

The context and subject of this chapter are related to idols and things offered to idols. Knowledge here is 'gnosis', and a general knowledge (gnosis) about idols.

I Corinthians 8: 1-13

Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge (gnosis) puffs up, but charity edifies.
And if any man think that he knows any thing, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him.
As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)
But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. (I Corinthians 8: 1-6)

Paul states that idols are totally without power, but eating of meat that has been offered to idols can have serious consequences.

Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commends us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. (Corinthians 8: 7-8)

If a person who has the knowledge that idols have no power and eats meat in an idol's temple may not be affected by his actions but if he is observed by one who is weak in understanding, that weak brother could perish, becoming embroiled in idol worship.

Take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.For if any man see you which has knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? (I Corinthians 8: 9-11)

Paul also explains this in Romans. He again uses the word 'edify'. In 1Corinthians 8:1, Paul says that love edifies when he states that 'charity edifies'. To understand about idols and offerings does not mean that one's brethren will also have that understanding. To place a cause for stumbling in their way is not an act of love. One must be aware of the consequences of one's actions and words. To act in an irresponsible manner and place stumblingblocks in the path of others is not the knowledge of full discernment, 'epignosis', to which the faithful should aspire.

Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eats with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumble, or is offended, or is made weak. (Romans 14:19-21)

In other words one person may not be affected by the eating of the meat, but a weak brother could be led astray into idolatry by such actions and could stumble and fall through the actions of another. The word 'offend' means to 'cause to stumble'. A person who attains a full discerning knowledge (epignosis) has a love and care for others and will consider the effects that their actions could have on others.

But when you sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world stand, lest I make my brother to offend. (ie stumble) (I Corinthians 8: 12-13)

The Parable of the Sower

This parable is recorded extensively in the New Testament in three of the Gospels and does have relevance to knowledge. The seed that was scattered was defined by Yeshua as the Word of God. (Matthew 13: 3-23; Mark 4: 2-20; Luke 8: 4-15) Those who are commended are those who increase in understanding of the Word of God, which is essential to their growth and they bring forth fruit and in turn teach others. The implication is that those who want to be accepted by Yahweh should endeavour by consistent reference to the Word of God increase in knowledge. This can be achieved by a regular reading of the Word of God and searching of the scriptures as the Bereans did in Paul's day. (Acts 17: 10-12)

This is not a new concept in the Bible. The Old Testament has many references to the importance of the acquisition of knowledge.

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