Reading through the Bible together
The Apostle Paul has his hands full with more problems about church members in Corinth. As the most visible leader of the first generation of believers, he now turns to the troubling issue of “eating things offered to idols” (vs. 1). The answer seemed to be clear, because the apostles forbade eating anything that was offered to idols (see Acts 15:20, 29).
Even though this lifestyle requirement for Christians was well known, Paul takes issue with those who are obeying and not eating meat offered to idols, feel good about themselves and are becoming proud of their behavior. “Knowledge puffs up,” he warns (vs. 1b), because these idols are simply manmade objects that Satan uses to create division and harm spiritual growth (as noted previously in chapter 4). Paul uses this controversy to get at deeper issues about how Christian believers should treat one another.
The situation reminds me of a vegetarian I once knew: he examined every church fellowship meal placing his acceptance on the dishes of food he approved and blessed. All other members who brought unacceptable dishes of food were admonished because they were not properly following the Spirit of Prophecy (i.e. the prophetic counsels of Ellen G. White). As a vegetarian pastor I grew concerned because we had some new people who were just learning about the church, who occasionally brought fish and meat to these gatherings. When I questioned him as to what he would do with the fact that Jesus ate fish, he told me that “Jesus didn’t have all the truth; He did not have the Spirit of Prophecy.” In other words, if Jesus would have had Ellen White’s health counsels, He would have been vegetarian. The boldness of such a statement still astounds me to this day.
The Apostle Paul observed that it is not the food we eat that commends us to God (vs. 8). We first have to get our priorities straight! And when we do, as we live a Christ-centered life, a truly mature believer lives in such a way so as not to be a “stumbling block to those who are weak” (vs. 9), newly coming to the faith.
Michael W. Campbell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Historical/Theological Studies
Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies