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1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.

(verses 1-3)


In the first century world of Corinth, idol worship was an ongoing feature of daily life. Indeed, for many in the young Corinthian church, it was a very recent personal reality. As a result, some had very tender consciences about the whole issue, including meat sold in the public market which had previously been offered as sacrifice on an idol’s altar. They wouldn’t go anywhere near it.

Others, claiming clearer knowledge, ate such meat unbothered, knowing that an idol is nothing and that food itself does not impact our relationship with God one way or another. Paul agrees.

But, he says, there is a larger issue. That issue is love. Love has its eyes set on other people, caring about their well-being, concerned that they not be harmed by stumbling. Love “builds up,” Paul says, using a word that has within it the root word “house,” conjuring up images of a construction project in which a home is being expertly built, square and true and solid.

Knowledge, apart from love, can become proudly self-focused. It “puffs up,” Paul says, using a different word that literally means to “inflate” or “swell” - it became used as a metaphor for arrogance and pride. This, in fact, was one of the Corinthians’ chief faults. They had become puffed up regarding their own spiritual gifts and knowledge. They proudly took sides under the opposing banners of “Paul” or “Apollos” (1 Cor 4:6), beyond anything that either of these two men would have desired. Indeed, the Corinthians were so proud of their supposed freedom that they arrogantly revelled in the blatant sexual sin of one of their members (1 Cor 5:2). If knowledge leads to such puffing up, it is undermining of love, for love itself, in its patience and kindness, “is not proud” (1 Cor 13:4, using this same “puffed up”word).

If we opt for knowledge over love, we don’t actually know what we think we know. More strongly, we don’t know what we need to know. If, on the other hand, we start with love of God himself, we discover the most important knowledge of all – namely, that we ourselves are known by God Almighty.

Paul will spend the rest of this chapter, and right through the end of chapter 10, dealing with the practical issue of meat sacrificed to idols. But the foundational issue is love.

Only when that’s in place can knowledge – un-puffed – play its proper, helpful role.


Lord, please refocus my eyes beyond myself – beyond my own spiritual understanding and freedom – to care unselfishly for the needs of my sisters and brothers in Christ. Let my starting point always be love for you. Spill that over into love for others. Deepen within me the knowledge, sure and strong, that I am completely known by you. And then – only then – fill me with clearer understanding regarding how to honour you in the practical issues of life in a world that is easily as pagan as was ancient Corinth.



Take stock. Is there any circumstance or relationship in which sureness of your own perspective has caused you to disregard the needs and conscience of those around you? If so, repent, and consider how you can express love – love that builds up.


Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

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