Summary: Arrogance, the one vice that should be least present in the Christian life, is perhaps one of the most pervasive.
Arrogance, the one vice that should be least present in the Christian life, is perhaps one of the most pervasive. The reason is simple enough. We possess truth. Possessing God’s Word, we have cornered the market on spiritual truth. It is not a big step to make to become arrogant about it, regardless of the fact we did nothing to create or discover it. But our arrogance not only extends to our attitude towards the world, but even creeps within our Christian community. After all, not all Christians understand to the same measure the truths of God’s Word. Obviously we Reformed Christians are ahead of everyone else, but then we even measure ourselves against one another. If you question my assertion, go to a Reformed bulletin board site or blogsite. You will not read far before coming across some slight made against other Christians. This chapter addresses such an attitude.
Now concerning food offered to idols. Before we go any further, we need to determine the issue at hand. In Corinth, as in all the Roman cities, sacrificing meat to the pagan gods was common religious practice. Often, the sacrifice included a meal, similar to that prescribed in the OT laws (cf. Exodus 24:11 and Deuteronomy 14:22-26). The sacrificer would invite family and friends to the occasion. Here is an actual invitation: “Chaeremon requests your company at the table of the lord Sarapis at the Sarapeum tomorrow, the 15th at 9 o’clock.” Not all meat was consumed in the sacrifice and the meal; the remainder was sold in the marketplace.
The question then is whether the issue is over eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols, or is it over the propriety of participating in such temple feasts? It appears that the latter is the issue as will become evident in our progress through this chapter and in chapter 10.
The issue has most likely been raised in an exchange of letters between Paul and the Corinth Church. If you recall, there is tension between the two. The church is questioning Paul’s authority. Quite frankly, many are growing impatient with their spiritual father who seems to be out of touch with the spiritual growth they are making. They are growing in spiritual knowledge, while the old man can’t seem to keep up. Indeed, the very one who led them into the freedom they have in Christ doesn’t seem able or willing to go all the way, this issue about eating in temples being yet another example.
Paul, we are not children anymore. We possess knowledge. We are mature believers.
Paul takes up the argument at this point: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
As a reminder, there are no things as quotation marks in ancient Greek. The translators believe that Paul is responding to a letter or comments made by the Corinthians. Whether Paul is recounting an actual quote or not, he is addressing their argument which follows. The Holy Spirit has given us gifts of knowledge. We have insight into Christian freedom that less mature Christians have; therefore, knowledge should be our guide. As we climb ever upwards towards God, we should not be held back by the ignorance of our weaker brothers and sisters.
Paul’s response: Get real. Your knowledge is merely making you arrogant. You might be getting puffier, but you definitely are not getting taller in the faith. First, of all, if you had real knowledge, you would know how little you know. That is the mark of a truly knowledgeable person. Another thing you would know is that love, not knowledge, marks the Christian who has a real relationship with God. That is the mark of a truly spiritual person.
Back to the issue:
4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
The Corinthians argue that attending the temple feasts are acceptable because they know that in truth the pagan gods do not exist. There is but one God. Paul acknowledges the truth of their assertion. There is but one God the Father from whom and for whom all things exist. Further, it is but through the one Lord Jesus Christ that one knows God the Father. Their point is well taken.