He now passes on to another question, which he had merely touched upon in the sixth chapter, without fully discussing. For when he had spoken of the avarice of the Corinthians, and had drawn that discussion to a close with this statement — Neither covetous, nor extortioners, nor fornicators, etc., shall inherit the kingdom of God, he passed on to speak of the liberty of Christians — All things are lawful for me. He had taken occasion from this to speak of fornication, and from that, of marriage Now, therefore, he at length follows out what he had touched upon as to things intermediate — how we ought to restrain our liberty in intermediate things. By intermediate things, I mean those that are neither good nor bad in themselves, but indifferent, which God has put in our power, but in the use of which we ought to observe moderation, that there may be a difference between liberty and licentiousness. In the outset, he selects one instance, distinguished above all the others, as to which the Corinthians grievously offended — their having been present on occasion of the sacred banquets, which were held by idolaters in honor of their gods, and eating indiscriminately of the meats that were offered to them. As this gave much occasion of offense, the Apostle teaches them that they rashly perverted the liberty granted them by the Lord.
1.Concerning things offered unto idols.He begins with a concession, in which he voluntarily grants and allows to them everything that they were prepared to demand or object. “I see what your pretext is: you make Christian liberty your pretext. You hold out that you have knowledge, and that there is not one of you that is so ignorant as not to know that there is but one God.I grant all this to be true, but of what avail is that knowledge which is ruinous to the brethren?” Thus, then, he grants them what they demand, but it is in such a way as to show that their excuses are empty and of no avail.
Knowledge puffeth up He shows, from the effects, how frivolous a thing it is to boast of knowledge, when love is wanting. “Of what avail is knowledge, that is of such a kind as puffs us up and elates us, while it is the part of love to edify?” This passage, which otherwise is somewhat obscure, in consequence of its brevity, may easily be understood in this way — “Whatever is devoid of love is of no account in the sight of God; nay more, it is displeasing to him, and much more so what is openly at variance with love. Now that, knowledge of which you boast, O ye Corinthians, is altogether opposed to love, for it puffs up men with pride, and leads to contempt of the brethren, while love is concerned for the welfare of brethren, and exhorts us to edify them. Accursed, then, be that knowledge which makes men proud, and is not regulated by a desire of edifying.”
Paul, however, did not mean, that this is to be reckoned as a fault attributable to learning— that those who are learned are often self-complacent, and have admiration of themselves, accompanied with contempt of others. Nor did he understand this to be the natural tendency of learning — to produce arrogance, but simply meant to show what effect knowledge has in an individual, that has not the fear of God, and love of the brethren; for the wicked abuse all the gifts of God, so as to exalt themselves. Thus riches, honors, dignities, nobility, beauty, and other things of that nature, puff up; because men, elated through a mistaken confidence in these things, very frequently become insolent. Nor is it always so; for we see that many who are rich and beautiful, and abounding in honors, and distinguished for dignity and nobility, are, nevertheless, of a modest disposition, and not at all tainted with pride. And even when it does happen to be so, it is, nevertheless, not proper that we should put the blame upon what we know to be gifts of God; for in the first place that were unfair and unreasonable; and farther, by putting the blame upon things that are not blameworthy, we would exempt the persons themselves from blame, who alone are in fault. My meaning is this — “If riches naturally tend to make men proud, then a rich man, if proud, is free from blame, for the evil arises from riches.”
We must, therefore, lay it down as a settled principle, that knowledge is good in itself; but as piety is its only foundation, it becomes empty and useless in wicked men: as love is its true seasoning, where that is wanting it is tasteless. And truly, where there is not that thorough knowledge of God which humbles us, and teaches us to do good to the brethren, it is not so much knowledge, as an empty notion of it, even in those that are reckoned the most learned. At the same time, knowledge is not by any means to be blamed for this, any more than a sword, if it falls into the hands of a madman. Let this be considered as said with a view to certain fanatics, who furiously declaim against all the liberal arts and sciences, as if their only use were to puff men up, and were not of the greatest advantage as helps in common life. Now those very persons, who defame them in this style, are ready to burst with pride, to such an extent as to verify the old proverb — “Nothing is so arrogant as ignorance.”
As touching things offered unto idols – This was another subject on which the Corinthians had asked the apostle’s advice, and we shall understand the whole of this chapter the better when we consider one fact, viz. That there had long subsisted a controversy between the Karaites and the Traditionists, how far it was lawful to derive any benefit or advantage from things used by the Gentiles. The Karaites were a sect of the Jews who scrupulously held to the letter of the sacred writings, taking this alone for their directory. The Traditionists were those who followed the voice of the elders, interpreting the Divine testimonies by their decisions. From a work of the Karaites, entitled Addereth Eliyahu, Triglandus has extracted the following decisions, which will throw light upon this subject. “It is unlawful to receive any benefit from any kind of heathen worship, or from any thing that has been offered to an idol.” – “It is unlawful to buy or sell an idol, and if, by accident, any such thing shall come into thy power, thou shalt derive no emolument from it.” – “The animals that are destined and prepared for the worship of idols are universally prohibited; and particularly those which bear the mark of the idol. This should be maintained against the opinion of the Traditionists, who think they may lawfully use these kinds of animals, provided they be not marked with the sign of the idol.” Thus far the Karaites; and here we see one strong point of difference between these two sects. The Karaites totally objected to every thing used in idolatrous services: the Traditionists, as the Talmud shows, did generally the same; but it appears that they scrupled not to use any animal employed in idolatrous worship, provided they did not see the sign of the idol on it. Now the sign of the idol must be that placed on the animal previously to its being sacrificed, such as gilded horns and hoofs, consecrated fillets, garlands, etc. And as, after it had been sacrificed, and its flesh exposed for sale in the shambles, it could bear none of these signs, we may take it for granted that the Jews might think it lawful to buy and eat this flesh: this the Karaite would most solemnly scruple. It may be just necessary to state here, that it was customary, after the blood and life of an animal had been offered in sacrifice to an idol, to sell the flesh in the market indiscriminately with that of other animals which had not been sacrificed, but merely killed for common use. Even the less scrupulous Jews, knowing that any particular flesh had been thus offered, would abhor the use of it; and as those who lived among the Gentiles, as the Jews at Corinth, must know that this was a common case, hence they would be generally scrupulous; and those of them that were converted to Christianity would have their scruples increased, and be as rigid on this point as the Karaites themselves. On the other hand, those of the Gentiles who had received the faith of Christ, knowing that an idol was nothing in the world, nor was even a representation of any thing, (for the beings represented by idol images were purely imaginary), made no scruple to buy and eat the flesh as they used to do, though not with the same intention; for when, in their heathen state, they ate the flesh offered to idols, they ate it as a feast with the idol, and were thus supposed to have communion with the idol; which was the grossest idolatry.
From these observations it will at once appear that much misunderstanding and offense must have existed in the Corinthian Church; the converted Jews abominating every thing that they knew had been used in the heathen worship, while the converted Gentiles, for the reasons above assigned, would feel no scruple on the account.
We know that we all have knowledge – I am inclined to think that these are not St. Paul’s words, but a quotation from the letter of the Corinthians to him, and a proof of what the apostle says below, knowledge puffeth up; but however the words may be understood as to their origin, they contain a general truth, as they relate to Christians of those times, and may be thus paraphrased; “All we who are converted to God by Christ have sufficient knowledge concerning idols and idol worship; and we know also the liberty which we have through the Gospel, not being bound by Jewish laws, rites, ceremonies, etc.; but many carry their knowledge in this liberty too far, and do what is neither seemly nor convenient, and thus give offense to others.”
Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth – This knowledge is very nearly allied to pride; it puffeth up the mind with vain conceit, makes those who have it bold and rash, and renders them careless of the consciences of others. And this knowledge, boasted of by the Corinthians, led them to contemn others; for so the word φυσιοι is understood by some eminent critics.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
1Co_8:1-13. On partaking of meats offered to idols.
Though to those knowing that an idol has no existence, the question of eating meats offered to idols (referred to in the letter of the Corinthians, compare 1Co_7:1) might seem unimportant, it is not so with some, and the infirmities of such should be respected. The portions of the victims not offered on the altars belonged partly to the priests, partly to the offerers; and were eaten at feasts in the temples and in private houses and were often sold in the markets; so that Christians were constantly exposed to the temptation of receiving them, which was forbidden (Num_25:2; Psa_106:28). The apostles forbade it in their decree issued from Jerusalem (Act_15:1-29; Act_21:25); but Paul does not allude here to that decree, as he rests his precepts rather on his own independent apostolic authority.
we know that we all have knowledge — The Corinthians doubtless had referred to their “knowledge” (namely, of the indifference of meats, as in themselves having no sanctity or pollution). Paul replies, “We are aware that we all have [speaking generally, and so far as Christian theory goes; for in 1Co_8:7 he speaks of some who practically have not] this knowledge.”
Knowledge puffeth up — when without “love.” Here a parenthesis begins; and the main subject is resumed in the same words, 1Co_8:4. “As concerning [touching] therefore the eating,” etc. “Puffing up” is to please self. “Edifying” is to please one’s neighbor; Knowledge only says, All things are lawful for me; Love adds, But all things do not edify [Bengel], (1Co_10:23; Rom_14:15).
edifieth — tends to build up the spiritual temple (1Co_3:9; 1Co_6:19).
Now as touching – In regard to; in answer to your inquiry whether it is right or not to partake of those things.
Things offered unto idols – Sacrifices unto idols. Meat that had been offered in sacrifice, and then either exposed to sale in the market, or served up at the feasts held in honor of idols, at their temples, or at the houses of their devotees. The priests, who were entitled to a part of the meat that was offered in sacrifice, would expose it to sale in the market; and it was a custom with the Gentiles to make feasts in honor of the idol gods on the meat that was offered in sacrifice; see 1Co_8:10, of this chapter, and 1Co_10:20-21. Some Christians would hold that there could be no harm in partaking of this meat any more than any other meat, since an idol was nothing; and others would have many scruples in regard to it, since it would seem to countenance idol worship. The request made of Paul was, that he should settle some “general principle” which they might all safely follow.
We know – We admit; we cannot dispute; it is so plain a case that no one can be ignorant on this point. Probably these are the words of the Corinthians, and perhaps they were contained in the letter which was sent to Paul. They would affirm that they were not ignorant in regard to the nature of idols; they were well assured that they were nothing at all; and hence, they seemed to infer that it might be right and proper to partake of this food anywhere and everywhere, even in the idol temples themselves; see 1Co_8:10. To this Paul replies in the course of the chapter, and particularly in 1Co_8:7.
That we all have knowledge – That is, on this subject; we are acquainted with the true nature of idols, and of idol worship; we all esteem an idol to be nothing, and cannot be in danger of being led into idolatry, or into any improper views in regard to this subject by participating of the food and feasts connected with idol worship This is the statement and argument of the Corinthians. To this Paul makes two answers:
(1) In a “parenthesis” in 1Co_8:1-3, to wit, that it was not safe to rely on mere knowledge in such a case, since the effect of mere knowledge was often to puff people up and to make them proud, but that they ought to act rather from “charity,” or love; and,
(2) That though the mass of them might have this knowledge, yet that all did not possess it, and they might be injured, 1Co_8:7.
Having stated this argument of the Corinthians, that all had knowledge, in 1Co_8:1, Paul then in a parenthesis states the usual effect of knowledge, and shows that it is not a safe guide, 1Co_8:1-3. In 1Co_8:4, he “resumes” the statement (commenced in 1Co_8:1) of the Corinthians, but which, in a mode quite frequent in his writings, he had broken off by his parenthesis on the subject of knowledge; and in 1Co_8:4-6, he states the argument more at length; concedes that there was to them but one God, and that the majority of them must know that; but states in 1Co_8:7, that all had not this knowledge, and that those who had knowledge ought to act so as not to injure those who had not.
Knowledge puffeth up – This is the beginning of the parenthesis. It is the reply of Paul to the statement of the Corinthians, that all had knowledge. The sense is, “Admitting that you all have knowledge; that you know what is the nature of an idol, and of idol worship; yet mere knowledge in this case is not a safe guide; its effect may be to puff up, to fill with pride and self-sufficiency, and to lead you astray. charity or love, as well as knowledge, should be allowed to come in as a guide in such cases, and will be a safer guide than mere knowledge.” There had been some remarkable proofs of the impropriety of relying on mere knowledge as a guide in religious matters among the Corinthians, and it was well for Paul to remind them of it. These pretenders to uncommon wisdom had given rise to their factions, disputes, and parties, (see 1 Cor. 1; 2; 3); and Paul now reminds them that it was not safe to rely on such a guide. And it is no more safe now than it was then. Mere knowledge, or science, when the heart is not right, fills with pride; swells a man with vain self-confidence and reliance in his own powers, and very often leads him entirely astray. Knowledge combined with right feelings, with pure principles, with a heart filled with love to God and human beings, may be trusted: but not mere intellectual attainments; mere abstract science; the mere cultivation of the intellect. Unless the heart is cultivated with that, the effect of knowledge is to make a man a pedant; and to fill him with vain ideas of his own importance; and thus to lead him into error and to sin.
But charity edifieth – Love (η αγαπη he agape); so the word means; and so it would be well to translate it. Our word “charity” we now apply almost exclusively to alms-giving, or to the favorable opinion which we entertain of others when they seem to be in error or fault. The word in the Scripture means simply “love.” See the notes on 1 Cor. 13. The sense here is, “Knowledge is not a safe guide, and should not be trusted. love to each other and to God, true Christian affection, will be a safer guide than mere knowledge, Your conclusion on this question should not be formed from mere abstract knowledge; but you should ask what love to others – to the peace, purity, happiness, and salvation of your brethren – would demand. If love to them would prompt to this course, and permit you to partake of this food, it should be done; if not, if it would injure them, whatever mere knowledge would dictate, it should not be done.” The doctrine is, that love to God and to each other is a better guide in determining what to do than mere knowledge. And it is so. It will prompt us to seek the welfare of others, and to avoid what would injure them. It will make us tender, affectionate, and kind; and will better tell us what to do, and how to do it in the best way, than all the abstract knowledge that is conceivable. The man who is influenced by love, ever pure and ever glowing, is not in much danger of going astray, or of doing injury to the cause of God. The man who relies on his knowledge is heady, high-minded, obstinate, contentious, vexatious, perverse, opinionated; and most of the difficulties in the church arise from such people. Love makes no difficulty, but heals and allays all; mere knowledge heals or allays none, but is often the occasion of most bitter strife and contention. Paul was wise in recommending that the question should be settled by love; and it would be wise if all Christians would follow his instructions.
2.And if any man thinketh That man thinketh that he knoweth something, who is delighted with the opinion that he entertains of his own knowledge, and despises others, as if he were far above them. For Paul does not here condemn knowledge, but that ambition and haughtiness which ungodly men contract in consequence of it. Otherwise he does not exhort us to be sceptical, so as to be always hesitating and hanging in doubt, and he does not approve of a false and counterfeit modesty, as if it were a good thing to think that we are ignorant of what we do know. That man, therefore, who thinketh that he knoweth something, or, in other words, who is insolent from an empty notion of his own knowledge, so that he prefers himself before others, and is self-conceited, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. For the beginning of all true knowledge is acquaintance with God, which produces in us humility and submission; nay more, it prostrates us entirely instead of elating us. But where pride is, there is ignorance of God — a beautiful passage! Would to God that all knew it aright, so as properly to understand the rule of right knowledge!
And if any think … – The connection and the scope of this passage require us to understand this as designed to condemn that vain conceit of knowledge, or self-confidence, which would lead us to despise others, or to disregard their interests. “If anyone is conceited of his knowledge, is so vain, and proud, and self-confident, that he is led to despise others, and to disregard their true interests, he has not yet learned the very first elements of true knowledge as he ought to learn them, True knowledge will make us humble, modest, and kind to others. It will not puff us up, and it will not lead us to overlook the real happiness of others.” See Rom_11:25.
Any thing – Any matter pertaining to science, morals, philosophy, or religion. This is a general maxim pertaining to all pretenders to knowledge.
He knoweth nothing yet … – He has not known what is most necessary to be known on the subject; nor has he known the true use and design of knowledge, which is to edify and promote the happiness of others. If a man has not so learned anything as to make it contribute to the happiness of others, it is a proof that he has never learned the true design of the first elements of knowledge. Paul’s design is to induce them to seek the welfare of their brethren. Knowledge, rightly applied, will promote the happiness of all. And it is true now as it was then, that if a man is a miser in knowledge as in wealth; if he lives to accumulate, never to impart; if he is filled with a vain conceit of his wisdom, and seeks not to benefit others by enlightening their ignorance, and guiding them in the way of truth, he has never learned the true use of science, any more than the man has of wealth who always hoards, never gives. It is valueless unless it is diffused, as the light of heaven would be valueless unless diffused all over the world, and the waters would be valueless if always preserved in lakes and reservoirs, and never diffused over hills and vales to refresh the earth.
3.But if any man loves God- Here we have the conclusion, in which he shows what is especially commendable in Christians, and even renders knowledge, and all other endowments worthy of commendation, if we love God; for if it is so, we will also love our neighbors in him. By this means all our actions will be properly regulated, and consequently approved by God. He shows, therefore, from consequences, that no learning is commendable that is not dipped in the love of God; because that alone secures, that whatever endowments we have are approved by him, as it is said in the second Epistle — If any man be in Christ he is a new creature. (2Co_5:17.) By this he intimates, that without the Spirit of regeneration, all things else, whatever they may have of show, are of no value. To be known by God means to be held in any estimation, or to be reckoned among his sons. Thus he erases all proud persons from the book of life, (Phi_4:3,) and from the roll of the pious.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
love God — the source of love to our neighbor (1Jo_4:11, 1Jo_4:12, 1Jo_4:20; 1Jo_5:2).
the same — literally, “this man”; he who loves, not he who “thinks that he knows,” not having “charity” or love (1Co_8:1, 1Co_8:2).
is known of him — is known with the knowledge of approval and is acknowledged by God as His (Psa_1:6; Gal_4:9; 2Ti_2:19). Contrast, “I never knew you” (Mat_7:23). To love God is to know God; and he who thus knows God has been first known by God (compare 1Co_13:12; 1Pe_1:2).
But if any man love God – If any man is truly attached to God; if he seeks to serve him, and to promote his glory. The sense seems to be this. “There is no true and real knowledge which is not connected with love to God. This will prompt a man also to love his brethren, and will lead him to promote their happiness. A man’s course, therefore, is not to be regulated by mere knowledge, but the grand principle is love to God and love to man. Love edifies; love promotes happiness; love will prompt to what is right; and love will secure the approbation of God.” Thus, explained. this difficult verse accords with the whole scope of the parenthesis, which is to show that a man should not be guided in his contact with others by mere knowledge, however great that may be; but that a safer and better principle was “love, charity” (αγαπη agape), whether exercised toward God or man. Under the guidance of this, man would be in little danger of error, Under the direction of mere knowledge he would never be sure of a safe guide; see 1Co_13:1-13.
The same is known of him – The words “is known” (εγνωσται egnostai) I suppose to be taken here in the sense of “is approved by God; is loved by him; meets with his favor, etc.” In this sense the word “known” is often used in the Scriptures. See the note at Mat_7:23. The sense is, “If any man acts under the influence of sacred charity, or love to God, and consequent love to man, he will meet with the approbation of God. He will seek his glory, and the good of his brethren; he will be likely to do right; and God will approve of his intentions and desires, and will regard him as his child. Little distinguished, therefore, as he may be for human knowledge, for that science which puffs up with vain self-confidence, yet he will have a more truly elevated rank, and will meet with the approbation and praise of God. This is of more value than mere knowledge, and this love is a far safer guide than any mere intellectual attainments.” So the world would have found it to be if they had acted on it; and so Christians would always find it.
9.Take heed that your liberty- He leaves their liberty untouched, but moderates the use of it thus far — that it may not give occasion of stumbling to the weak. And he expressly desires that regard be had to the weak, that is, to those who are not, yet thoroughly confirmed in the doctrine of piety, for as they are wont to be regarded with contempt, it is the will and command of the Lord, that regard should be had to them. In the meantime, he hints that strong giants, who may be desirous tyrannically to subject our liberty to their humor, may safely be let alone, because we need not fear giving offense to those who are not drawn into sin through infirmity, but eagerly catch at something to find fault with. What he means by an occasion, of stumbling we shall see ere long.
But take heed – Lest by frequenting such feasts and eating things offered to idols, under the conviction that an idol is nothing, and that you may eat those things innocently, this liberty of yours should become a means of grievously offending a weak brother who has not your knowledge, or inducing one who respects you for your superior knowledge to partake of these things with the conscience, the persuasion and belief, that an idol is something, and to conclude, that as you partake of such things, so he may also, and with safety. He is not possessed of your superior information on this point, and he eats to the idol what you take as a common meal.
But take heed – This is the reply of Paul to the argument of the Corinthians in 1Co_8:8. “Though all that you say should be admitted to be true, as it must be; though a man is neither morally better nor worse for partaking of meat or abstaining from it; yet the grand principle to be observed is, so to act as not to injure your brethren. Though you may be no better or worse for eating or not eating, yet if your conduct shall injure others, and lead them into sin, that is a sufficient guide to determine you what to do in the case. You should abstain entirely. It is of far more importance that your brother should not be led into sin, than it is that you should partake of meat which you acknowledge 1Co_8:8 is in itself of no importance.”
Lest by any means – μη πως me pos. You should be careful that by no conduct of yours your brother be led into sin. This is a general principle that is to regulate Christian conduct in all matters that are in themselves indifferent.
This liberty of yours – This which you claim as a right; this power which you have, and the exercise of which is in itself lawful. The “liberty” or power εξουσια exousia here referred to was that of partaking of the meat that was offered in sacrifice to idols; 1Co_8:8. A man may have a right abstractly to do a thing, but it may not be prudent or wise to exercise it.
Become a stumbling-block – An occasion of sin; see the note at Mat_5:29; also see the note at Rom_14:13. See that it be not the occasion of leading others to sin, and to abandon their Christian profession; 1Co_8:10.
To them that are weak – To those professing Christians who are not fully informed or instructed in regard to the true nature of idolatry, and who still may have a superstitious regard for the gods whom their fathers worshipped.
10.If any one see thee. From this it appears more clearly, how much liberty the Corinthians allowed themselves; for when the wicked made a kind of sacred banquet for their idols, they did not hesitate to go to it, to eat of the sacrifice along with them. Paul now shows what evil resulted from this. In the first clause, instead of the words who hast knowledge, I have rendered the expression thus — though thou shouldest have; and in the second clause, in the expression who is weak, I have introduced the word notwithstanding. This I found it necessary to do for the clearing up of Paul’s meaning. For he makes a concession, as if he had said: “Be it so, that thou hast knowledge; he who seeth thee, though he is not endowed with knowledge, is notwithstanding confirmed by thine example to venture upon the same thing, while he would never have taken such a step if he had not had one to take the lead. Now when he has one to imitate, he thinks that he has a sufficient excuse in the circumstance that he is imitating another, while in the meantime he is acting from an evil conscience.” For weakness here means ignorance, or scruple of conscience. I am aware, at the same time, in what way others explain it; for they understand the occasion of stumbling to be this — when ignorant persons, induced by example, imagine that in this way they perform some kind of religious service to God, but this idea is quite foreign to Paul’s meaning. For he reproves them, as I have said, because they emboldened the ignorant to hurry on, contrary to conscience, to attempt what they did not think it lawful for them to do. To be built up means here — to be confirmed. Now that is a ruinous kind of building, that is not founded on sound doctrine.
If any man see thee which hast knowledge – Of the true God, and who art reputed for thy skill in Divine things.
Sit at meat in the idol’s temple – Is it not strange that any professing the knowledge of the true God should even enter one of those temples? And is it not more surprising that any Christian should be found to feast there? But by all this we may see that the boasted knowledge of the Corinthians had very little depth in things purely spiritual.
There are many curious thin-spun theories in the rabbinical writings concerning entering idol temples, and eating there, and even worshipping there, providing the mind be towards the true God. Dr. Lightfoot produces several quotations to prove this. Perhaps the man of knowledge mentioned by the apostle was one of those who, possessing a convenient conscience, could accommodate himself to all circumstances; be a heathen without and a Christian within, and vice versa, as circumstances might require.
Be emboldened to eat – Οικοδομηθησεται, Be built up – be confirmed and established in that opinion which before he doubtingly held, that on seeing You eat he may be led to think there is no harm in feasting in an idol temple, nor in eating things offered to idols.
For if any man – Any Christian brother who is ignorant, or anyone who might otherwise become a Christian.
Which hast knowledge – Who are fully informed in regard to the real nature of idol worship. You will be looked up to as an example. You will be presumed to be partaking of this feast in honor of the idol. You will thus encourage him, and he will partake of it with a conscientious regard to the idol.
Sit at meat – Sitting down to an entertainment in the temple of the idol. Feasts were often celebrated, as they are now among the pagan, in honor of idols. Those entertainments were either in the temple of the idol, or at the house of him who gave it.
Shall not the conscience of him which is weak – Of the man who is not fully informed, or who still regards the idol with superstitious feelings; see 1Co_8:7.
Be emboldened – Margin, “Edified” οικοδομηθησεται oikodomethesetai. Confirmed; established. So the word “edify” is commonly used in the New Testament; Act_9:31; Rom_14:19; Eph_4:12; 1Th_5:11. The sense here is, “Before this he had a superstitious regard for idols. He had the remains of his former feelings and opinions. But he was not established in the belief that an idol was anything; and his superstitious feelings were fast giving way to the better Christian doctrine that they were nothing. But now, by your example, he will be fully confirmed in the belief that an idol is to be regarded with respect and homage. He will see you in the very temple, partaking of a feast in honor of the idol; and he will infer not only that it is right, but that it is a matter of conscience with you, and will follow your example.”
11.And thy brother perish- Mark how serious an evil it is, that mankind commonly think so little of — that of venturing upon anything with a doubtful or opposing conscience. For the object to which our whole life ought to be directed, is the will of the Lord. This, therefore, is the one thing that vitiates all our actions, when we disregard it. This we do, not merely by an outward action, but even by a thought of the mind, when we allow ourselves in anything in opposition to conscience, even though the thing be not evil in itself. Let us bear in mind, therefore, that whenever we take a step in opposition to conscience, we are on the high road to ruin.
I read, however, the sentence interrogatively, thus: Shall he perish through thy knowledge? as though he had said: “Is it reasonable that thy knowledge should give occasion of ruin to thy brother? Is it for this reason that thou knowest what is right, that thou mayest cause another’s ruin!” He makes use of the term brother, in order to expose their pride as unfeeling, in this way: “It is true that the person whom you despise is weak, but still he is your brother, for God has adopted him. You act a cruel part, therefore, in having no concern for your brother.” There is, however, still greater force in what follows — that even those that are ignorant or weak have been redeemed with the blood of Christ; for nothing were more unseemly than this, that while Christ did not hesitate to die, in order that the weak might not perish, we, on the other hand, reckon as nothing the salvation of those who have been redeemed with so great a price. A memorable saying, by which we are taught how precious the salvation of our brethren ought to be in our esteem, and not merely that of all, but of each individual in particular, inasmuch as the blood of Christ was poured out for each individual!
Shall the weak brother perish – Being first taught by thy conduct that there was no harm in thus eating, he grieves the Spirit of God; becomes again darkened and hardened; and, sliding back into idolatry, dies in it, and so finally perishes.
For whom Christ died? – So we learn that a man may perish for whom Christ died: this admits of no quibble. If a man for whom Christ died, apostatizing from Christianity, (for he is called a brother though weak), return again to and die in idolatry, cannot go to heaven; then a man for whom Christ died may perish everlastingly. And if it were possible for a believer, whether strong or weak, to retrace his steps back to idolatry and die in it, surely it is possible for a man, who had escaped the pollutions that are in the world, to return to it, live and die in its spirit, and perish everlastingly also. Let him that readeth understand.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
shall … perish — The oldest manuscripts read “perisheth.” A single act seemingly unimportant may produce everlasting consequences. The weak brother loses his faith, and if he do not recover it, his salvation [Bengel] (Rom_14:23).
for whom Christ died — and for whose sake we too ought to be willing to die (1Jo_3:16). And yet professing Christians at Corinth virtually tempted their brethren to their damnation, so far were they from sacrificing aught for their salvation. Note here, that it is no argument against the dogma that Christ died for all, even for those who perish, to say that thus He would have died in vain for many. Scripture is our rule, not our suppositions as to consequences. More is involved in redemption than the salvation of man: the character of God as at once just and loving is vindicated even in the case of the lost for they might have been saved, and so even in their case Christ has not died in vain. So the mercies of God’s providence are not in vain, though many abuse them. Even the condemned shall manifest God’s love in the great day, in that they too had the offer of God’s mercy. It shall be the most awful ingredient in their cup that they might have been saved but would not: Christ died to redeem even them.
And through thy knowledge – Because you knew that an idol was nothing, and that there could be really no danger of falling into idolatry from partaking of these entertainments. You will thus be the means of deceiving and destroying him. The argument of the apostle here is, that if This was to be the result, the duty of those who had this knowledge was plain.
Shall the weak brother – The uninformed and ignorant Christian. That it means real Christian there can be no doubt. Because:
(1) It is the usual term by which Christians are designated – the endearing name of “brother;” and,
(2) The scope of the passage requires it so to be understood; see the note at Rom_14:20.
Perish – Be destroyed; ruined; lost; see the note at Joh_10:28. So the word ἀπολεῖται apoleitai properly and usually signifies. The sense is, that the tendency of this course would be to lead the weak brother into sin, to apostasy, and to ruin. But this does not prove that any who were truly converted should apostatize and be lost; for:
(1) There may be a tendency to a thing, and yet that thing may never happen. It may be arrested, and the event not occur.
(2) the warning designed to prevent it may be effectual, and be the means of saving. A man in a canoe floating down the Niagara river may have a tendency to go over the falls; but he may be hailed from the shore, and the hailing may be effectual, and he may be saved. The call to him was designed to save him, and actually had that effect. So it may be in the warnings to Christians.
(3) the apostle does not say that any true Christian would be lost. He puts a question; and affirms that if “one” thing was done, “another might” follow. But this is not affirming that anyone would be lost. So I might say that if the man continued to float on toward the falls of Niagara, he would be destroyed. If one thing was done, the other would be a consequence. But this would be very different from a statement that a man “had actually” gone over the falls, and been lost.
(4) it is elsewhere abundantly proved that no one who has been truly converted will apostatize and be destroyed; see the notes at Joh_10:28; compare the note at Rom_8:29-30.
For whom Christ died – This is urged as an argument why we should not do anything that would tend to destroy the souls of people. And no stronger argument could be used. The argument is, that we should not do anything that would tend to frustrate the work of Christ, that would render the shedding of his blood vain. The possibility of doing this is urged; and that bare possibility should deter us from a course of conduct that might have this tendency. It is an appeal drawn from the deep and tender love, the sufferings, and the dying groans of the Son of God. If He endured so much to save the soul, assuredly we should not pursue a course that would tend to destroy it. If he denied himself so much to redeem, we should not, assuredly, be so fond of self-gratification as to be unwilling to abandon anything that would tend to destroy.
12.When ye sin so against the brethren, etc. For if the soul of every one that is weak is the price of Christ’s blood, that man who, for the sake of a very small portion of meat, hurries back again to death the brother who has been redeemed by Christ, shows how contemptible the blood of Christ is in his view. Hence contempt of this kind is an open insult to Christ. In what way a weak conscience may be wounded has been already explained — when it is built up in what is evil (1Co_8:10 ) so as daringly and rashly to rush on farther than the individual thinks to be lawful for him.
But when ye sin so against the brethren – Against Christians, who are called by the Gospel to abhor and detest all such abominations.
Ye sin against Christ – By sending to perdition, through your bad example, a soul for whom he shed his blood; and so far defeating the gracious intentions of his sacrificial death. This is a farther intimation, that a person for whom Christ died may perish; and this is the drift of the apostle’s argument.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
wound their weak conscience — literally, “smite their conscience, being (as yet) in a weak state.” It aggravates the cruelty of the act that it is committed on the weak, just as if one were to strike an invalid.
against Christ — on account of the sympathy between Christ and His members (Mat_25:40; Act_9:4, Act_9:5).
But when ye sin so against the brethren – This is designed further to show the evil of causing others to sin; and hence, the evil which might arise from partaking of the meat offered to idols. The word sin here is to be taken in the sense of “injuring, offending, leading into sin.” You violate the law which requires you to love your brethren, and to seek their welfare, and thus you sin against them. Sin is properly against God; but there may be a course of injury pursued against people, or doing them injustice or wrong, and this is sin against them. Christians are bound to do right toward all.
And wound their weak conscience – The word “wound” here (τυπτοντες tuptontes, “smiting, beating”) is taken in the sense of injure. Their consciences are ill-informed. They have not the knowledge which you have. And by your conduct they are led further into error, and believe that the idol is something, and is to be honored. They are thus led into sin, and their conscience is more and more perverted, and oppressed more and more with a sense of guilt.
Ye sin against Christ – Because:
(1) Christ has commanded you to love them, and seek their good, and not to lead them into sin, and,
(2) Because they are so intimately united to Christ (see the notes at Joh_15:1 ff) that to offend them is to offend him; to injure the members is to injure the head; to destroy their souls is to pain his heart and to injure his cause; see the note at Mat_10:40; compare Luk_10:16.
13.Wherefore if meat make my brother to offend- With the view of reproving more severely their disdainful liberty, he declares, that we ought not merely to refrain from a single banquet rather than injure a brother, but ought to give up the eating of meats during our whole life. Nor does he merely prescribe what ought to be done, but declares that he would himself act in this way. The expression, it is true, is hyperbolical, as it is scarcely possible that one should refrain from eating flesh during his whole life, if he remain in common life; but his meaning is, that he would rather make no use of his liberty in any instance, than be an occasion of offense to the weak. For participation is in no case lawful, unless it be regulated by the rule of love. Would that this were duly pondered by those who make everything subservient to their own advantage, so that they cannot endure to give up so much as a hair’s-breadth of their own right for the sake of their brethren; and that they would attend not merely to what Paul teaches, but also to what he marks out by his own example! How greatly superior he is to us! When he, then, makes no hesitation in subjecting himself thus far to his brethren, which of us would not submit to the same condition?
But, however difficult it is to act up to this doctrine, so far as the meaning is concerned, is easy, were it not that some have corrupted it by foolish glosses, and others by wicked calumnies. Both classes err as to the meaning of the word offend. For they understand the word offend to mean, incurring the hatred or displeasure of men, or what is nearly the same thing,doing what displeases them, or is not altogether agreeable to them. But it appears very manifestly from the context, that it means simply to hinder a brother by bad example (as an obstacle thrown in his way) from the right course, or to give him occasion of falling. Paul, therefore, is not here treating of the retaining of the favor of men, but of the assisting of the weak, so as to prevent their falling, and prudently directing them, that they may not turn aside from the right path. But (as I have said) the former class are foolish, while the latter are also wicked and impudent.
Those are foolish, who allow Christians scarcely any use of things indifferent, lest they should offend superstitious persons. “Paul,” say they, “prohibits here everything that may give occasion of offense. Now to eat flesh on Friday will not fail to give offense, and hence we must abstain from it, not merely when there are some weak persons present, but in every case without exception, for it is possible that they may come to know of it.” Not to speak of their misinterpretation of the word rendered occasion of offense, they fall into a grievous blunder in not considering that Paul here inveighs against those who impudently abuse their knowledge in the presence of the weak, whom they take no pains to instruct.
Hence there will be no occasion for reproof, if instruction has been previously given. Farther, Paul does not command us to calculate, whether there may be an occasion of offense in what we do, except when the danger is present to our view.
I come now to the other class. These are pretended followers of Nicodemus, who under this pretext conform themselves to the wicked by participating in their idolatry, and not contented with justifying what they do amiss, are desirous also to bind others to the same necessity. Nothing could be said with greater plainness to condemn their perverse dissimulation than what Paul here teaches — that all who by their example allure the weak to idolatry, commit a grievous outrage against God as well as men. Yet they eagerly shield themselves from this by endeavoring to show that superstitions ought to be cherished in the hearts of the ignorant, and that we ought to lead the way before them to idolatry, lest a free condemnation of idolatry should offend them. Hence I will not do them the honor of dwelling upon a refutation of their impudence. I simply admonish my readers to compare Paul’s times with ours, and judge from this whether it is allowable to be present at mass, and other abominations, giving so much occasion of offense to the weak.
If meat make my brother to offend; suppose therefore it were lawful for me to eat flesh offered to idols, yet if I cannot do it but I shall make my brother sin, I will forbear. Others understand it more generally, not of the meat before mentioned, but of all flesh: I will rather live upon bread and herbs; by which expression the apostle doth not suppose, that there can ever be such a case when there shall be any such need, but only declares how much a good Christian should do, to prevent his brother’s sinning against God.
I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend: those expressions, Mar_5:29, of plucking out the right eye, and cutting off the right hand, are much of the same nature; both those phrases and this phrase signify only, that we ought to do any thing, and to deny ourselves in any thing, rather than ourselves to sin, or be wilful occasions to others of sin.
From this discourse of the apostle it is very plain, that it is the duty of Christians, in any matters where they are by the law of God at liberty whether they will do a thing or not, to take that part which they see will give least occasion of sin unto their brethren, and to avoid that part which, if they will take, they see they shall by taking it give occasion to others to sin, though they be themselves never so well satisfied as to the lawfulness of their action (provided the action be only lawful, not necessary, and what by the law of God they are bound to do, or to avoid). But here two grave questions arise:
1. Whether the command of superiors doth not here alter the case? Admit a thing be in itself by us judged lawful, what by God’s law we may do, or let alone; and our superiors command us to do, or to avoid that thing: we on the other side see, that if we do it, or avoid it, we shall very probably be occasion to make our brethren sin, who doubt of the lawfulness of the thing. The question is: What is to be done in this case? That the law of God commanding love to our brethren equally concerneth high and low, is out of doubt; so that no superior ought more to command any to do what it is evident he cannot do without making his brother to offend, than the inferior ought to do it: but the question is: What is the inferior’s duty, if commanded?
2.A second question is: Suppose that, in such a case, I am commanded to do what I judge I may lawfully do, were it not for making my brother, by my example, to offend, and by the command of men I am obliged to do it, or to ruin myself and family; what is my duty in this case? In both these cases there seems to be a collision of precepts. In the first case the precept of loving our neighbours seems to dash against the many precepts for obeying superiors; in the other case, it seems to dash against the precept for providing for ourselves and families; so as the question is: Which precepts lay here the greatest obligation, where both cannot be obeyed? But we leave these questions to casuists. The determination of what is the will of God in either of them, will require a great many more words than what is fit to encumber annotations with, especially considering that neither of them properly falls into the explication of this text, where it is certain that the Corinthians were at a perfect liberty, and had no superiors that commanded them so to eat, (had the thing been in itself lawful), neither were they under any necessity, either to eat that meat, or to starve themselves or families; they had other flesh besides that to eat. In this case the duty of Christians is plainly determined by the apostle.
Wherefore, etc. – Rather than give any occasion to a Christian to sin against and so to harden his conscience that he should return to idolatry and perish, I would not only abstain from all meats offered to idols, but I would eat no flesh, should I exist through the whole course of time, but live on the herbs of the field, rather than cause my brother to stumble, and thus fall into idolatry and final ruin.
The following words of Origen contain a very solemn lesson and warning: “If we did more diligently attend to these things, we should avoid sinning against our brethren and wounding their weak conscience, that we might not sin against Christ; our brethren that are among us, for whom Christ died, often perishing, not only by our knowledge, but by many other ways, and things, in which things we, sinning against Christ, shall suffer punishment; the souls of them that perish by us being required of and avenged upon us.” See Whitby on this place.
1. The greater our reputation for knowledge and sanctity, the greater mischief we shall do by our influence and example if we turn aside from the holy commandment delivered unto us. Every man should walk so as either to light or lead his brother to heaven.
2. It is the duty of every Christian to watch against apostasy in his own case, and to prevent it as much as possible in that of others. That a person for whom Christ died may finally perish is strongly argued, says Dr. Whitby, from this place, and Rom_14:15; for here the apostle dissuades the Corinthians from scandalizing their weak brethren, by an argument taken from the irreparable mischiefs they may do them, the eternal ruin they may bring upon them by this scandal; whereas if it be, as some assert, that all things, even the sins of the elect, shall work together for their good, and that they shall never perish; if the apostle knew and taught this doctrine to them, why does he endeavor to affright them from this scandal, by telling them that it might have that effect which he had before told them was impossible? If you interpret his words thus: So shall he perish, for whom in charity ye ought to judge Christ died; it is certain, from this doctrine, that they must be assured that this judgment of charity must be false, or that their brother could not perish. In the first place, they could not be obliged to act by it, and in the second, they could not rationally be moved by it to abstain from giving scandal on that impossible supposition.
If you interpret the apostle thus: So shalt thou do that which, in its nature, tends to make thy brother perish; and might have that effect, had not God determined to preserve all from perishing, for whom Christ died; since this determination renders it sure to me, who know it, that they cannot actually perish, it must assure me that there can be no cause of abstinency from this scandal, lest they should perish by it.
Moreover, by thus offending, saith the apostle, ye sin against Christ; viz. by sinning against him whom he has purchased by his blood; and destroying them for whose salvation he has suffered. If this intent of Christ’s death be denied, how can we show in what Christ has demonstrated his great love to them that perish? Is it possible that they can sin against redeeming love? and how, by thus offending them who neither do nor can belong to him as members of his mystical body, are we injurious to Christ? See Whitby on this place.
3. It is natural for man to wish and affect to be wise; and when this desire is cultivated in reference to lawful objects, it will be an indescribable good; but when, like Eve, we see, in a prohibition, something to be desired to make one wise, we are then, like her, on the verge of our fall. Though extensive knowledge is not given to all, yet it is given for all; and is the public property of the Church. He who does not use it for general edification robs the public of its right. For the misuse and misapplication of this talent we shall give account to God, as well as of other gifts and graces.
4. Persons of an over tender and scrupulous conscience may be very troublesome in a Christian society; but as this excessive scrupulosity comes from want of more light, more experience, or more judgment, we should bear with them. Though such should often run into ridiculous extremes, yet we must take care that we do not attempt to cure them either with ridicule or wrath. Extremes generally beget extremes; and such persons require the most judicious treatment, else they will soon be stumbled and turned out of the way. We should be very careful lest in using what is called Christian liberty we occasion their fall; and for our own sake we must take heed that we do not denominate sinful indulgences, Christian liberties.
5. Though we are bound to take heed that we put not a stumbling block in the way of a weak brother, yet if such a brother be stumbled at any part of our conduct which is not blamable in itself, but of which he may have taken a wrong view, we are not answerable for the consequences. We are called to walk by the testimony of God; not according to the measure of any man’s conscience, how sincere soever he may be.
6. Many persons cover a spirit of envy and uncharitableness with the name of godly zeal and tender concern for the salvation of others; they find fault with all; their spirit is a spirit of universal censoriousness; none can please them; and every one suffers by them. These destroy more souls by tithing mint and cummin, than others do by neglecting the weightier matters of the law. Such persons have what is termed, and very properly too, sour godliness. Both are extremes, and he who would avoid perdition must avoid them.
Wherefore – As the conclusion of the whole matter.
If meat … – Paul here proposes his own views and feelings, or tells them how he would act in order to show them how they should act in these circumstances.
Make my brother to offend – Lead him into sin; or shall be the cause of leading him into error and guilt. It does not mean, if the eating of meat should “enrage or irritate” another; but if it is the occasion of his being led into transgression. How this might be done is stated in 1Co_8:10.
I will eat no flesh … – My eating meat is a matter of comparative unimportance. I can dispense with it It is of much less importance to me than happiness, a good conscience, and salvation are to my brother. And the law of love therefore to him requires me to deny myself rather than to be the occasion of leading him into sin. This is a noble resolution; and marks a great, disinterested, and magnanimous spirit. It is a spirit that seeks the good of all; that can deny itself; that is supremely anxious for the glory of God and the salvation of man, and that can make personal comfort and gratification subservient to the good of others. It was the principle on which Paul always acted; and is the very spirit of the self-denying Son of God.
While the world standeth – Greek, For ever. The phrase ‘I will never eat meat’ would express the idea. “Lest I make, etc.” Rather than lead him into sin, by my indulging in eating the meat offered in sacrifice to idols.
Remarks On 1 Corinthians 8
This chapter is very important, as it settles some principles in regard to the conduct of Christians; and shows how they should act in reference to things that are indifferent; or which in themselves can be considered as neither right nor wrong; and in reference to those things which may be considered in themselves as “right and lawful,” but whose indulgence might injure others. And from the chapter we learn:
1. That Christians, though they are truly converted, yet may have many erroneous views and feelings in reference to many things, 1Co_8:6. This was true of those converted from ancient paganism, and it is true of those who are now converted from paganism, and of all young converts. Former opinions, and prejudices, and even superstitions, abide long in the mind, and cast a long and withering influence ever the regions of Christian piety. The morning dawn is at first very obscure. The change from night to daybreak is at first scarcely perceptible. And so it may be in conversion. The views which a pagan entertained from his childhood could not at once be removed. The influence of corrupt opinions and feelings, which a sinner has long indulged, may “travel over” in his conversion, and may long endanger his piety and destroy his peace. Corrupt and infidel thoughts, associations of pollution, cannot be destroyed at once; and we are not to expect from a child in the Christian life, the full vigor, and the elevated principle, and the strength to resist temptation, which we expect of the man matured in the service of the Lord Jesus. This should lead us to charity in regard to the imperfections and failings of young converts; to a willingness to aid and counsel them; to carefulness not to lead them into sin; and it should lead us not to expect the same amount of piety, zeal, and purity in converts from degraded pagans, which we expect in Christian lands, and where converts have been trained up under all the advantages of Sunday Schools and Bible classes.
2. Our opinions should be formed, and our treatment of others regulated, not by abstract knowledge, but by love, 1Co_8:1. A man is usually much more likely to act right who is influenced by charity and love, than one who is guided by simple knowledge, or by self-confidence. One is humble, kind, tender toward the frailties of others, sensible himself of infirmity, and is disposed to do right; the other may be vain, harsh, censorious, unkind, and severe. Knowledge is useful; but for the practical purposes of life, in an erring and fallen world, love is more useful; and while the one often leads astray, the other seldom errs. Whatever knowledge we may have, we should make it a point from which we are never to depart, that our opinions of others, and our treatment of them, should be formed under the influence of love.
3. We should not be self-confident of our wisdom, 1Co_8:2. Religion produces humility. Mere knowledge may fill the heart with pride and vanity. True knowledge is not inconsistent with humility; but it must be joined with a heart that is right. The people that have been most eminent in knowledge have also been distinguished for humility; but the heart was right; and they saw the folly of depending on mere knowledge.
4. There is but one God, 1Co_8:4-6. This great truth lies at the foundation of all true religion; and yet is so simple that it may be known by all Christians, however humble, and is to be presumed to be known by all. But though simple, it is a great and glorious truth. To keep this before the minds of people was one great purpose of all God’s revelations; and to communicate it to people is now the grand object of all missionary enterprises. The world is full of idols and idolaters; but the knowledge of this simple truth would change the moral aspect of the entire globe. To spread this truth should be the great aim and purpose of all true Christians; and when this truth is spread, the idols of the pagan will fall to the dust.
5. Christians acknowledge one and only one Lord, 1Co_8:6. He rules over them. His laws bind them. He controls them. He has a right to them. He can dispose of them as he pleases. They are not their own; but are bound to live entirely to him, and for the promotion of his cause.
6. It becomes Christians to exercise continual care, lest their conduct, even in things which are in themselves lawful, should be the occasion of leading others into sin, 1Co_8:9. Christians very often pursue a course of conduct which may not be in itself unlawful, but which may lead others who have not their intelligence, or strength of principle, into error. One man may be safe where another man is in danger. One man may be able to resist temptations which would entirely overcome another. A course of life may, perhaps, be safe for a man of years and of mature judgment, which would he ruinous to a young man. And the grand principle here should be, not to do that, even though it may be lawful itself, which would he the occasion of leading others into sin.
7. We see here the importance and the power of example, 1Co_8:10-11. Nothing is of more value than a correct Christian example. And this applies particularly to those who are in the more elevated ranks of life, who occupy stations of importance, who are at the head of families, colleges, and schools. The ignorant will be likely to follow the example of the learned; the poor of the rich; those in humble life will imitate the manners of the great. Even in things, therefore, which may not he in themselves unlawful in these circumstances, they should set an example of self-denial, of plainness, of abstinence, for the sake of those beneath them. They should so live that it would be safe and right for all to imitate their example. Christ, though he was rich, yet so lived that all may safely imitate him; though he was honored of God, and exalted to the highest office as the Redeemer of the world, yet he lived so that all in every rank may follow him; though he had all power, and was worshipped by angels, yet so lived that he might teach the most humble and lowly how to live; and so lived that it is safe and proper for all to live as he did. So should every monarch, and prince, and rich man; every noble, and every learned man; every man of honor and office; every master of a family, and every man of age and wisdom, live that all others may learn of them how to live, and that they may safely walk in their footsteps.
8. We have here a noble instance of the principles on which Paul was willing to act, 1Co_8:13. He was willing to deny himself of any gratification, if his conduct was likely to be the occasion of leading others into sin. Even from that which was in itself lawful he would abstain forever, if by indulgence he would be the occasion of another’s falling into transgression. But how rare is this virtue! How seldom is it practiced! How few Christians and Christian ministers are there who deny themselves any gratification in things in themselves right, lest they should induce others to sin! And yet this is the grand principle of Christianity; and this should influence and guide all the professed friends and followers of Christ. This “principle” might be applied to many things in which many Christians now freely indulge; and if applied, would produce great and important changes in society:
(1) Entertainments and feasts which, perhaps, you may be able to “afford” (that is, “afford” in the supposition that what you have is “yours,” and not the Lord’s), may lead many of those who cannot afford it to imitate you, and to involve themselves in debt, in extravagance, in ruin.
(2) you might possibly be safe at a festival, at a public dinner, or in a large party; but your example would encourage others where they would not be safe; and yet, how could you reply should they say that you were there, and that they were encouraged by you?
(3) on the supposition that the use of wine and other fermented liquors may be in themselves lawful, and that you might be safe in using them, yet others may be led by your example to an improper use of them, or contract a taste for stimulating drinks that may end in their ruin. Would it be right for “you” to continue the use of wine in such circumstances? Would Paul have done it? Would he not have adopted the noble principle in this chapter, that he would not touch it while the world stands, if it led him to sin?
(4) you might be safe in a party of amusement, in the circle of the joyful, and in scenes of merriment and mirth. I say you might be, though the supposition is scarcely possible that Christian piety is ever safe in such scenes, and though it is certain that Paul or the Saviour would not have been found there. But how will it be for the young, and for those of less strength of Christian virtue? Will they be safe there? Will they be able to guard against these allurements as you could? Will they not be led into the love of gaiety, vanity, and folly? And what would Paul have done in such cases? What would Jesus Christ have done? What should Christians now do? This single principle, if fairly applied, would go far to change the aspect of the Christian world. If all Christians had Paul’s delicate sensibilities, and Paul’s strength of Christian virtue, and Paul’s willingness to deny himself to benefit others, the aspect of the Christian world would soon change. How many practices now freely indulged in would be abandoned! And how soon would every Christian be seen to set such an example that all others could safely follow it!
23.All things are lawful for me- Again he returns to the right of Christian liberty, by which the Corinthians defended themselves, and sets aside their objection by giving the same explanation as before. “To eat of meats that were sacrificed, and be present at the banquet, was an outward thing, and therefore was in itself lawful.” Paul declares that he does not by any means call this in question, but he replies, that we must have a regard to edification. All things are lawful for me, says he, but all things are not profitable, that is, for our neighbors, for no one, as he immediately adds, ought to seek his own advantage exclusively, and if anything is not profitable to the brethren, it must be abstained from. He, in the next place, expresses the kind of advantage — when it edifies, for we must not have respect merely to the advantage of the flesh. “What then? Does a thing that is in other respects permitted by God, come on this account to be unlawful — if it is not expedient for our neighbor. Then in that case our liberty would be placed under subjection to men.” Consider attentively Paul’s words, and you will perceive that liberty, nevertheless, remains unimpaired, when you accommodate yourself to your neighbors, and that it is only the use of it that is restricted, for he acknowledges that it is lawful, but says that it ought not to be made use of, if it does not edify.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
All things are lawful for me, etc. — Recurring to the Corinthian plea (1Co_6:12), he repeats his qualification of it. The oldest manuscripts omit both times “for me.”
edify not — tend not to build up the spiritual temple, the Church, in faith and love. Paul does not appeal to the apostolic decision (Act_15:1-29), which seems to have been not so much regarded outside of Palestine, but rather to the broad principle of true Christian freedom, which does not allow us to be governed by external things, as though, because we can use them, we must use them (1Co_6:12). Their use or non-use is to be regulated by regard to edification.
All things are lawful for me – See the note at 1Co_6:12. This is a repetition of what he had said before; and it is here applied to the subject of eating the meat that had been offered to idols. The sense is,” Though it may be admitted that it was strictly “lawful” to partake of that meat, yet there were strong reasons why it was inexpedient; and those reasons ought to have the binding force of law.”
All things edify not – All things do not tend to build up the church, and to advance the interests of religion; and when they do not have this effect, they are not expedient, and are improper. Paul acted for the welfare of the church. His object was to save souls. Anything that would promote that object was proper; anything which would hinder it, though in itself it might not be strictly unlawful, was in his view improper. This is a simple rule, and might be easily applied by all. If a man has his heart on the conversion of people and the salvation of the world, it will go far to regulate his conduct in reference to many things concerning which there may be no exact and positive law. It will do much to regulate his dress; his style of living; his expenses; his entertainments; his mode of contact with the world. He may not be able to fix his finger on any positive law, and to say that this or that article of dress is improper; that this or that piece of furniture is absolutely forbidden; or that this or that manner of life is contrary to any explicit law of Yahweh; but he may see that it will interfere with his great and main purpose, “to do good on the widest scale possible;” and therefore to him it will be inexpedient and improper. Such a grand leading purpose is a much better guide to direct a man’s life than would be exact positive statutes to regulate everything, even if such minute statutes were possible.
24.Let no one seek his own.He handles the same subject in the 14th Chapter of the Romans. Let no one please himself, but endeavor to please his brethren for their edification. This is a precept that is very necessary, for we are so corrupted by nature, that every one consults his own interests, regardless of those of his brethren. Now, as the law of love calls upon us to love our neighbors as ourselves, (Mat_22:39,) so it requires us to consult their welfare. The Apostle, however, does not expressly forbid individuals to consult their own advantage, but he requires that they should not be so devoted to their own interests, as not to be prepared to forego part of their right, as often as the welfare of their brethren requires this.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
1Co 10:24 (1Co_10:33; 1Co_13:5; Rom_15:1, Rom_15:2).
Let no man seek his own – This should be properly interpreted of the matter under discussion, though the direction assumes the form of a general principle. Originally it meant, “Let no man, in regard to the question about partaking of the meat offered in sacrifice to idols, consult his own pleasure, happiness, or convenience; but let him, as the leading rule on the subject, ask what will be for the welfare of others. Let him not gratify his own taste and inclinations, regardless of their feelings, comfort, and salvation; but let him in these things have a primary reference to their welfare.” He may dispense with these things without danger or injury; He cannot indulge in them without endangering the happiness or purity of others. His duty therefore requires him to abstain. The injunction, however, has a general form, and is applicable to all Christians, and to all cases “of a similar kind.” It does not mean that a man is not in any instance to regard his own welfare, happiness, or salvation; it does not mean that a man owes no duty to himself or family; or that he should neglect all these to advance the welfare of others; but the precept means, that “in cases like that under consideration,” when there is no positive law, and when a man’s example would have a great influence, he should be guided in his conduct, not by a reference to his own ease, comfort or gratification, but by a reference to the purity and salvation of others. And the observance of this simple rule would make a prodigious change in the church and the world.
But every man another’s wealth – The word “wealth” is not in the Greek. Literally, “that which is of another;” the word τὸ to referring to anything and everything that pertains to his comfort, usefulness, happiness, or salvation – The sentiment of the whole is, “when a man is bound and directed by no positive law, his grand rule should be the comfort and salvation of others.” This is a simple rule; it might be easily applied; and this would be a sort of balance-wheel in the various actions and plans of the world. If every man would adopt this rule, he could not be in much danger of going wrong; he would be certain that he would not live in vain.
19.Though I was free from all. Εκ πάντων, that is, from all, may be taken either in the neuter gender or in the masculine. If in the neuter, it will refer to things; if in the masculine, to persons I prefer the second. He has as yet shown only by one particular instance how carefully he had accommodated himself to the weak. Now he subjoins a general statement, and afterwards enumerates several instances. The general observation is this — that while he was not under the power of any one, he lived as if he had been subject to the inclination of all, and of his own accord subjected himself to the weak, to whom he was under no subjection. The particular instances are these — that among the Gentiles he lived as if he were a Gentile, and among the Jews he acted as a Jew: that is, while among Jews he carefully observed the ceremonies of the law, he was no less careful not to give occasion of offense to the Gentiles by the observance of them.
He adds the particle as, to intimate that his liberty was not at all impaired on that account, for, however he might accommodate himself to men, he nevertheless remained always like himself inwardly in the sight of God. To become all things is to assume all appearances, as the case may require, or to put on different characters, according to the diversity among individuals. As to what he says respecting his being without law and under the law, you must understand it simply in reference to the ceremonial department; for the department connected with morals was common to Jews and Gentiles alike, and it would not have been allowable for Paul to gratify men to that extent. For this doctrine holds good only as to things indifferent, as has been previously remarked.
For though I be free – I am a freeman. I am under obligation to none. I am not bound to. give them my labors, and at the same time to toil for my own support. I have claims like others, and could urge them; and no man could demand that I should give myself to a life of servitude, and comply with their prejudices and wishes, as if I were a “slave,” in order to their conversion; compare 1Co_9:1; see the notes at 1Co_6:12.
From all men – (εκ παντων ek panton). This may either refer to all “persons” or to all “things.” The word “men” is not in the original. The connection, however, seems to fix the signification to “persons.” “I am a freeman. And although I have conducted like a slave, yet it has been done voluntarily.”
I have made myself the servant of all – Greek, “I have ‘enslaved myself’ (εμαυτον εδουλωσα emauton edoulosa) unto all.” That is:
(1) I labor for them, or in their service, and to promote their welfare.
(2) I do it, as the slave does, without reward or hire. I am not paid for it, but submit to the toil, and do it without receiving pay.
(3) like the slave who wishes to gratify his master, or who is compelled from the necessity of the case, I comply with the prejudices, habits, customs, and opinions of others as far as I can with a good conscience. The “slave” is subject to the master’s will. That will must be obeyed. The whims, prejudices, caprices of the master must be submitted to, even if they are “mere” caprice, and wholly unreasonable. So Paul says that he had voluntarily put himself into this condition, a condition making it necessary for him to suit himself to the opinions, prejudices, caprices, and feelings of all people, so far as he could do it with a good conscience, in order that he might save them. We are not to understand here that Paul embraced any opinions which were false in order to do this, or that he submitted to anything which is morally wrong. But he complied with their customs, and habits, and feelings, as far as it could lawfully be done. He did not needlessly offend them, or run counter to their prejudices.
That I might gain the more – That I might gain more to Christ; that I might be the means of saving more souls. What a noble instance of self-denial and true greatness is here! How worthy of religion! How elevated the conduct! How magnanimous, and how benevolent! No man would do this who had not a greatness of intellect that would rise above narrow prejudices; and who had not a nobleness of heart that would seek at personal sacrifice the happiness of all people. It is said that not a few early Christians, in illustration of this principle of conduct, actually sold themselves into slavery in order that they might have access to and benefit slaves, an act to which nothing would prompt a man but the religion of the cross; compare the note at Rom_1:14.
1Co 9:20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew,…. That is, in religion; or with respect to some religious observances peculiar to the Jews, for he himself was really a Jew by nature; who became as one unto them in this sense, when he for their sakes circumcised Timothy at Derbe, or Lystra, purified himself at Jerusalem, shaved his head at Cenchrea, observed their sabbath, and abstained from some sorts of food forbidden in the law; and his end in so doing was, not to confirm them in such usages, but that he might hereby have the greater influence over them, and by little and little bring them off of these things, or, as he says,
that I might gain the Jews; bring them over to Christ, and off of a dependence on their own righteousness, for justification before God:
to them that are under the law, as under the law; the Vulgate Latin version adds, “when I was not under the law”, and so the Alexandrian copy and some others; by whom seem to be meant the same persons as before; though some have thought that the Samaritans are intended, and others the Sadducees: but if any as distinct from the former are designed, they should rather seem to be the converted Jews; who though they believed in Christ, looked upon themselves to be still under the law, and therefore observed it; with whom the apostle on certain occasions complied, as if he was under it too, that he might have the greater share in their affections and credit; hoping in time that by such means he might be able to prevail upon them to relinquish these things, and wholly attend to the Gospel and ordinances of Christ, or, as he says,
that I might gain them that are under the law; meaning the Jews, who were observers of the law of Moses.
Unto the Jews I became as a Jew – In Act_16:3, we find that for the sake of the unconverted Jews he circumcised Timothy. See the note on Act_16:3.
To them that are under the law – To those who considered themselves still under obligation to observe its rites and ceremonies, though they had in the main embraced the Gospel, he became as if under the same obligations; and therefore purified himself in the temple, as we find related, Act_21:26 (note).
After the first clause, to them that are under the law as under the law, the following words, μη ων αυτος ὑπο νομον, not being myself under the law, are added by ABCDEFG, several others; the later Syriac, Sahidic, Armenian, Vulgate, and all the Itala; Cyril, Chrysostom, Damascenus, and others; and on this evidence Griesbach has received them into the text.
And unto the Jews – In this verse, and the two following, Paul states more at length the conduct which he had exhibited, and to which he refers in 1Co_9:19. He had shown this conduct to all classes of people. He had preached much to his own countrymen, and had evinnced these principles there.
I became as a Jew – I complied with their rites, customs, prejudices, as far as I could with a good conscience. I did not needlessly offend them. I did not attack and oppose their views, when there was no danger that my conduct should be mistaken. For a full illustration of Paul’s conduct in this respect, and the principles which influenced him, see the notes on Act_16:3; Act_18:18; Act_21:21-27; Act_23:1-6.
To those that are under the law – This I understand as another form of saying that he conformed to the rites, customs, and even prejudices of the Jews. The phrase “under the law” means undoubtedly the law of Moses; and probably he here refers particularly to those Jews who lived in the land of Judea, as being more “immediately and entirely” under the law of Moses, than those who lived among the Gentiles.
As under the law – That is, I conformed to their rites and customs as far as I could do it. I did not violate them unnecessarily. I did not disregard them for the purpose of offending them; nor refuse to observe them when it could be done with a good conscience. There can be no doubt that Paul, when he was in Judea, submitted himself to the laws, and lived in conformity with them.
That I might gain – That I might obtain their confidence and affection. That I might not outrage their feelings, excite their prejudices, and provoke them to anger; and that I might thus have access to their minds, and be the means of converting them to the Christian faith.
21.Though not without law to God.He wished by this parenthesis to soften the harshness of the expression, for it might. have seemed harsh at first view to have it said, that he had come to be without law.Hence in order that this might not be taken in a wrong sense, he had added, by way of correction, that he had always kept in view one law — that of subjection to Christ. By this too he hints that odium was excited against him groundlessly and unreasonably, as if he called men to an unbridled licentiousness, while he taught exemption from the bondage of the Mosaic law. Now he calls it expressly the law of Christ, in order to wipe away the groundless reproach, with which the false apostles branded the gospel, for he means, that in the doctrine of Christ nothing is omitted, that might serve to give us a perfect rule of upright. living.
To them that are without law – The Gentiles, who had no written law, though they had the law written in their hearts; see on Rom_2:15 (note).
Being not without law to God – Instead of Θεω, To God, and Χριστω, To Christ, the most important MSS. and versions have Θεου, Of God, and Χριστου, Of Christ; being not without the law of God, but under the law of Christ.
Them that are without law – Dr. Lightfoot thinks the Sadducees may be meant, and that in certain cases, as far as the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish religion were concerned, he might conform himself to them, not observing such rites and ceremonies, as it is well known that they disregarded them; for the doctor cannot see how the apostle could conform himself in any thing to them that were without law, i.e. the heathen. But,
1. It is not likely that the apostle could conform himself to the Sadducees; for what success could he expect among a people who denied the resurrection, and consequently a future world, a day of judgment, and all rewards and punishments?
2. He might among the heathen appear as if he were not a Jew, and discourse with them on the great principles of that eternal law, the outlines of which had been written in their hearts, in order to show them the necessity of embracing that Gospel which was the power of God unto salvation to every one that believed.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
To them … without law — that is, without revealed law: the heathen (compare Rom_2:12 with 1Co_9:15).
as without law — not urging on them the ceremonies and “works of the law,” but “the hearing of faith” (Gal_3:2). Also discoursing in their own manner, as at Athens, with arguments from their own poets (Act_17:28).
being not without law to God — “While thus conforming to others in matters indifferent, taking care not to be without law in relation to God, but responsible to law (literally, “IN LAW”) in relation to Christ.” This is the Christian’s true position in relation to the world, to himself, and to God. Everything develops itself according to its proper law. So the Christian, though no longer subject to the literal law as constraining him from without, is subject to an inward principle or law, the spirit of faith in Christ acting from within as the germ of a new life. He does not in the Greek (as in English Version) say “under the law (as he does in 1Co_9:20) to Christ”; but uses the milder term, “in … law,” responsible to law. Christ was responsible to the law for us, so that we are no longer responsible to it (Gal_3:13, Gal_3:24), but to Him, as the members to the Head (1Co_7:22; Rom_8:1-4; 1Pe_2:16). Christians serve Christ in newness of spirit, no longer in oldness of the letter (that is, the old external law as such), Rom_7:4-6. To Christ, as man’s Head, the Father has properly delegated His authority (Joh_5:22, Joh_5:27); whence here he substitutes “Christ” for “God” in the second clause, “not without law to God, but under the law to Christ.” The law of Christ is the law of love (Gal_6:2; compare Gal_5:13).
To them that are without law – To the Gentiles, who have not the law of Moses; see the note at Rom_2:12, note at Rom_2:14.
As without law – Not practicing the special rites and ceremonies enjoined in the law of Moses. Not insisting on them, or urging them, but showing that the obligation to those rites had been done away; and that they were not binding, though when among the Jews I might still continue to observe them; see the notes at Acts 15; and the argument of Paul in Gal_2:11-18. I neglected the ceremonial precepts of the Mosaic law, when I was with those who had not heard of the law of Moses, or those who did not observe them, because I knew that the binding obligation of these ceremonial precepts had ceased. I did not, therefore, press them upon the Gentiles, nor did I superstitiously and publicly practice them. In all this, Paul has reference only to those things which he regarded as in themselves indifferent, and not a matter of conscience; and his purpose was not; needlessly to excite the prejudice or the opposition of the world. Nothing is ever gained by provoking opposition for the mere sake of opposition. Nothing tends more to hinder the gospel than that. In all things of conscience and truth a man should be firm, and should lose his life rather than abandon either; in all things of indifference, of mere custom, of prejudice, he should yield, and accomodate himself to the modes of thinking among people, and adapt himself to their views, feelings, and habits of life, that he may win them to Christ.
Being not without law to God – Not regarding myself as being “absolutely” without law, or as being freed from obligation to obey God. Even in all this, I endeavored so to live as that it might be seen that I felt myself bound by law to God. I was not a despiser, and contemner, and neglector of “law as such,” but only regarded myself as not bound by the special ceremonial law of Moses. This is an instance of Paul’s conscientiousness. He would not leave room to have it supposed for a moment that he disregarded all law. He was bound to God by law; and in the conduct to which he was referring he felt that he was obeying him. He was bound by higher law than those ceremonial observances which were now to be done away. This passage would destroy all the refuges of the Antinomians. Whatever privileges the gospel has introduced, it has not set us free from the restraints and obligations of law. That is binding still; and no man is at liberty to disregard the moral law of God. Christ came to magnify, strengthen, and to honor the law, not to destroy it.
But under the law to Christ – Bound by the law enjoined by Christ; under the law of affectionate gratitude and duty to him. I obeyed his commands; followed his instructions; sought his honor; yielded to his will. In this he would violate none of the rules of the moral law. And he here intimates, that his grand object was to yield obedience to the law of the Saviour, and that this was the governing purpose of his life. And this would guide a man right. In doing this, he would never violate any of the precepts of the moral law, for Christ obeyed them, and enjoined their observance. He would never feel that he was without law to God, for Christ obeyed God, and enjoined it on all. He would never feel that religion came to set him free from law, or to authorize licentiousness; for its grand purpose and aim is to make people holy, and to bind them everywhere to the observance of the pure law of the Redeemer.
22.To the weak I became as weak- Now again he employs a general statement, in which he shows to what sort of persons he accomodated himself, and with what design. He judaized in the presence of the Jews, but not before them all, for there were many headstrong persons, who, under the influence of Pharisaical pride or malice, would have wished that Christian liberty were altogether taken away. To those persons he would never have been so accommodating, for Christ would not have us care for persons of that sort. Let them alone, (says he,) they are blind, and leaders of the blind. (Mat_15:14.) Hence we must accommodate ourselves to the weak, not to the obstinate.
Now his design was, that he might bring them to Christ — not that he might promote his own advantage, or retain their good will. To these things a third must be added — that it was only in things indifferent, that are otherwise in our choice, that he accommodated himself to the weak. Now, if we consider how great a man Paul was, who stooped thus far, ought we not to feel ashamed — we who are next to nothing in comparison with him — if, bound up in self, we look with disdain upon the weak, and do not deign to yield up a single point to them? But while it is proper that we should accommodate ourselves to the weak, according to the Apostle’s injunction, and that, in things indifferent, and with a view to their edification, those act an improper part, who, with the view of consulting their own ease, avoid those things that would offend men, and the wicked, too, rather than the weak. Those, however, commit a two-fold error, who do not distinguish between things indifferent and things unlawful, and accordingly do not hesitate, for the sake of pleasing men, to engage in things that the Lord has prohibited. The crowning point, however, of the evil is this — that they abuse this statement of Paul to excuse their wicked dissimulation. But if any one will keep in view these three things that I have briefly pointed out, he will have it easily in his power to refute those persons.
We must observe, also, the word that he makes use of in the concluding clause; for he shows for what purpose he endeavors to gain all — with a view to their salvation. At the same time, he here at length modifies the general statement, unless perhaps you prefer the rendering of the old translation, which is found even at this day in some Greek manuscripts. For in this place, too, he repeats it — that I may by all means save some. But as the indulgent temper, that Paul speaks of, has sometimes no good effect, this limitation is very suitable — that, although he might not do good to all, he, nevertheless, had never left off consulting the advantage of at least a few.
To the weak became I as weak – Those who were conscientiously scrupulous, even in respect to lawful things.
I am made all things to all men – I assumed every shape and form consistent with innocency and perfect integrity; giving up my own will, my own way, my own ease, my own pleasure, and my own profit, that I might save the souls of all. Let those who plead for the system of accommodation on the example of St. Paul, attend to the end he had in view, and the manner in which he pursued that end. It was not to get money, influence, or honor, but to save Souls! It was not to get ease but to increase his labors. It was not to save his life, but rather that it should be a sacrifice for the good of immortal souls!
A parallel saying to this of St. Paul has been quoted from Achilles Tatius, lib. v., cap. xix., where Clitophon says, on having received a letter from Leucippe: “When I read the contents, I became all things at once; I was inflamed, I grew pale, I was struck with wonder; I doubted, I rejoiced, became sad.” The same form of speech is frequent among Greek writers. I think this casts some light on the apostle’s meaning.
That I might by all means save some – On this clause there are some very important readings found in the MSS. and versions. Instead of παντως τινας σωσω, that I might by all means save some; παντας σωσω, that I might save all, is the reading of DEFG, Syriac, Vulgate, Ethiopic, all the Itala, and several of the fathers. This reading Bishop Pearce prefers, because it is more agreeable to St. Paul’s meaning here, and exactly agrees with what he says, 1Co_10:33, and makes his design more extensive and noble. Wakefield also prefers this reading.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
gain the weak — that is, establish, instead of being a stumbling-block to inexperienced Christians (1Co_8:7) Rom_14:1, “Weak in the faith.” Alford thinks the “weak” are not Christians at all, for these have been already “won”; but those outside the Church, who are yet “without strength” to believe (Rom_5:6). But when “weak” Christians are by the condescending love of stronger brethren kept from falling from faith, they are well said to be “gained” or won.
by all means … some — The gain of even “some” is worth the expenditure of “all means.” He conformed himself to the feelings of each in the several classes, that out of them all he might gain some.
To the weak; – See the note at Rom_15:1. To those weak in faith; scrupulous in regard to certain observances; whose consciences were tender and unenlightened, and who would be offended even by things which might be in themselves lawful. He did not lacerate their feelings, and run counter to their prejudices, for the mere sake of doing it.
Became I as weak – I did not shock them. I complied with their customs. I conformed to them in my dress, habits, manner of life, and even in the services of religion. I abstained from food which they deemed it their duty to abstain from; and where, if I had partaken of it, I should have offended them. Paul did not do this to gratify himself, or them, but to do them good. And Paul’s example should teach us not to make it the main business of life to gratify ourselves, and it should teach us not to lacerate the feelings of others; not to excite their prejudices needlessly; not to offend them where it will do no good. If truth offends people, we cannot help it. But in matters of ceremony, and dress, and habits, and customs, and forms, we should be willing to conform to them, as far as can be done, and for the sole purpose of saving their souls.
I am made all things to all men – I become all things; that is, I accommodate myself to them in all things, so far as can be done with a good conscience. “That I might by all means” (πάντως pantos). That I might use every possible endeavor that some at least might be saved. It is implied here that the opposition to the gospel was everywhere great; that people were reluctant to embrace it; that the great mass were going to ruin, and that Paul was willing to make the highest possible exertions, to deny himself, and practice every innocent art, that he might save “a few at least” out of the innumerable multitudes that were going to death and hell. It follows from this:
(1) That people are in danger of ruin.
(2) we should make an effort to save people. We should deny ourselves, and give ourselves to toil and privation, that we may save some at least from ruin.
(3) the doctrine of universal salvation is not true. If it were, what use or propriety would there have been in these efforts of Paul? If all were to be saved, why should he deny himself, and labor, and toil, to save “some?” Why should a man make a constant effort to save “a few at least,” if he well knew that all were to be saved? Assuredly Paul did not “know” or believe that all people would be saved; but if the doctrine is true, he would have been quite as likely to have known it as its modern advocates and defenders.
23.That I may become a partaker of it. As the Corinthians might think with themselves, that this was a peculiarity in Paul’s case on the ground of his office, he argues, from the very design of it, that this is common to all Christians. For when he declares, that his aim had been, that he might become a partaker of the gospel, he indirectly intimates, that all who do not act the same part with him are unworthy of the fellowship of the gospel. To become a partaker of the gospel is to receive the fruit of it.
And this I do for the Gospel’s sake – Instead of τουτο, this, παντα, all things, (I do all things for the Gospel’s sake), is the reading of ABCDEFG, several others, the Coptic, Ethiopic, Vulgate, Itala, Armenian, and Sahidic; the two latter reading ταυτα παντα, all these things. Several of the fathers have the same reading, and there is much reason to believe it to be genuine.
That I might be partaker thereof with you – That I might attain to the reward of eternal life which it sets before me; and this is in all probability the meaning of το ευαγγελιον, which we translate the Gospel, and which should be rendered here prize or reward; this is a frequent meaning of the original word, as may be seen in my preface to St. Matthew: I do all this for the sake of the prize, that I may partake of it with you.
For the gospel’s sake – That it may be advanced, and may be successful.
That I might be partaker thereof with you – You hope to be saved. You regard yourselves as Christians; and I wish to give evidence also that “I” am a Christian, and that I shall be admitted to heaven to partake of the happiness of the redeemed. This he did, by so denying himself as to give evidence that he was truly actuated by Christian principles.
31.Whether, therefore, ye eat, or drink- Lest they should think, that in so small a matter they should not be so careful to avoid blame, he teaches that there is no part of our life, and no action so minute, that it ought not to be directed to the glory of God, and that we must take care that, even in eating and drinking, we may aim at the advancement of it. This statement is connected with what goes before; for if we are eagerly desirous of the glory of God, as it becomes us to be, we will never allow, so far as we can prevent it, his benefits to lie under reproach. It was well expressed anciently in a common proverb, that we must not live to eat; but eat to live. Provided the end of living be at the same time kept in view, the consequence will thus be, that our food will be in a manner sacred to God, inasmuch as it will be set apart for his service.
Contrast Zec_7:6; the picture of worldly men. The godly may “eat and drink,” and it shall be well with him (Jer_22:15, Jer_22:16).
to the glory of God — (Col_3:17; 1Pe_4:11) – which involves our having regard to the edification of our neighbor.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink – As no general rule can be laid down in reference to the above particulars, there is one maxim of which no Christian must lose sight – that whether he eats or drinks of this or the other kind of aliments, or whatever else he may do, he must do it so as to bring glory to God. This is a sufficient rule to regulate every man’s conscience and practice in all indifferent things, where there are no express commands or prohibitions.
Whether therefore ye eat or drink – This direction should be strictly and properly applied to the case in hand; that is, to the question about eating and drinking the things that had been offered in sacrifice to idols. Still, however, it contains a general direction that is applicable to eating and drinking at all times; and the phrase “whatsoever ye do” is evidently designed by the apostle to make the direction universal.
Or whatsoever ye do – In all the actions and plans of life; whatever he your schemes, your desires, your doings, let all be done to the glory of God.
Do all to the glory of God – The phrase “the glory of God” is equivalent to the honor of God; and the direction is, that we should so act in all things as to “honor” him as our Lawgiver, our Creator, our Redeemer; and so as to lead others by our example to praise him and to embrace His gospel. A child acts so as to honor a father when he always cherishes reverential and proper thoughts of him; when he is thankful for his favors; when he keeps his laws; when he endeavors to advance his plans and his interests; and when he so acts as to lead all around him to cherish elevated opinions of the character of a father. He “dishonorers” him when he has no respect to his authority; when he breaks his laws; when he leads others to treat him with disrespect. In like manner, we live to the glory of God when we honor him in all the relations which he sustains to us; when we keep his laws; when we partake of his favors with thankfulness, and with a deep sense of our dependence; when we pray unto him; and when we so live as to lead those around us to cherish elevated conceptions of his goodness, and mercy, and holiness. Whatever plan or purpose will tend to advance His kingdom, and to make him better known and loved, will be to His glory. We may observe in regard to this:
(1) That the rule is “universal.” It extends to everything. If in so small matters as eating and drinking we should seek to honor God, assuredly we should in all other things.
(2) it is designed that this should be the constant rule of conduct, and that we should be often reminded of it. The acts of eating and drinking must be performed often; and the command is attached to that which must often occur, that we may be often reminded of it, and that we may be kept from forgetting it.
(3) it is intended that we should honor God in our families and among our friends. We eat with them; we share together the bounties of Providence; and God designs that we should honor Him when we partake of His mercies, and that thus our daily enjoyments should be sanctified by a constant effort to glorify Him.
(4) we should devote the strength which we derive from the bounties of His hand to His honor and in His service. He gives us food; He makes it nourishing; He invigorates our frame; and that strength should not be devoted to purposes of sin, and profligacy, and corruption. it is an act of high dishonor to God, when he gives us strength, that we should at once devote that strength to pollution and to sin.
(5) this rule is designed to be one of the chief directors of our lives. It is to guide all our conduct, and to constitute a “test” by which to try our actions. Whatever can be done to advance the honor of God is right; whatever cannot be done with that end is wrong. Whatever plan a man can form that will have this end is a good plan; whatever cannot be made to have this tendency, and that cannot be commended, continued, and ended with a distinct and definite desire to promote His honor, is wrong, and should be immediately abandoned.
(6) what a change would it make in the world if this rule were every where followed! How differently would even professing Christians live! How many of their plans would they be constrained at once to abandon! And what a mighty revolution would it at once make on earth should all the actions of people begin to be performed to promote the glory of God!
(7) it may be added that sentiments like that of the apostle were found among the Jews, and even among pagans. Thus, Maimonides, as cited by Grotius, says, “Let everything be in the name of Heaven,” that is, in the name of God. Capellus cites several of the rabbinical writers who say that all actions, even eating and drinking, should be done “in the name of God.” See the “Critici Sacri.” Even the pagan writers have something that resembles this. Thus, Arrian Eph_1:19 says, “Looking unto God in all things small and great.’ Epictetus, too, on being asked how anyone may eat so as to please God, answered, “By eating justly, temperately, and thankfully.”
32.Be not occasions of stumbling to any- This is the second point, which it becomes us to have an eye to — the rule of love. A desire, then, for the glory of God, holds the first place; a regard to our neighbor holds the second. He makes mention of Jews and Gentiles, not merely because the Church of God consisted of those two classes, but to teach us that we are debtors to all, even to strangers, that we may, if possible, gain them. (1Co_9:20.)
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Give none offence — in things indifferent (1Co_8:13; Rom_14:13; 2Co_6:3); for in all essential things affecting Christian doctrine and practice, even in the smallest detail, we must not swerve from principle, whatever offense may be the result (1Co_1:23). Giving offense is unnecessary, if our own spirit cause it; necessary, if it be caused by the truth.
Give none offence – Be inoffensive; that is, do not act so as to lead others into sin; see the note at Rom_14:13.
Neither to the Jews … – To no one, though they are the foes of God or strangers to him. To the Jews be inoffensive, because they think that the least approach to idol worship is to be abhorred. Do not so act as to lead them to think that you connive at or approve idol worship, and so as to prejudice them the more against the Christian religion, and lead them more and more to oppose it. In other words, do not attend the feasts in honor of idols.
Nor to the Gentiles – Greek “Greeks.” To the pagans who are unconverted. They are attached to idol worship. They seek every way to justify themselves in it. Do not countenance them in it, and thus lead them into the sin of idolatry.
Nor to the church of God – To Christians. Many of them are weak. They may not be as fully instructed as you are. Your example would lead them into sin. Abstain, therefore, from things which, though they are in themselves strictly “lawful,” may yet be the occasion of leading others into sin, and endangering their salvation.
33.Even as I please all men in all this- As he speaks in a general way, and without exception, some extend it by mistake to things that are unlawful, and at variance with the word of the Lord — as if it were allowable, for the sake of our neighbor, to venture farther than the Lord permits us. It is, however, more than certain, that Paul accommodated himself to men only in things indifferent, and in things lawful in themselves. Farther, the end must be carefully observed — that they may be saved. Hence what is opposed to their salvation ought not to be conceded to them, but we must use prudence, and that of a spiritual kind.
Even as I please all men – Act as I do: forgetting myself, my own interests, convenience, ease, and comfort, I labor for the welfare of others; and particularly that they may be saved. How blessed and amiable was the spirit and conduct of this holy man!
This chapter has already presented the serious reader with a variety of maxims for his regulation. –
1. As to his own private walk;
2. His domestic duties; and
3. His connection with the Church of God.
Let us review some of the principal parts.
1. We should be on our guard against what are called little sins, and all occasions and excitements to sin. Take heed what company you frequent. One thing, apparently harmless, may lead by almost imperceptible links to sins of the deepest dye. See the example in this chapter:
1. The people sat down to eat and to drink.
2. They rose up to play, dance, and sing: and
3.They committed fornication, and brought upon themselves swift destruction.
2. However conscious we may be of our own sincerity and uprightness, we should ever distrust ourselves. God has made nothing independent of himself; the soul has no principle of self-dependence either in itself or its attainments: it is wise, powerful, and happy, only while it is depending on infinite wisdom, unlimited power, and endless mercy.
3. The Gentiles were in communion with demons by their idolatrous services. In what communion are those who feed themselves without fear, who eat with the glutton and drink with the drunkard? So they partake of the Lord Jesus who are under the influence of pride, self-will, hatred, censoriousness, etc., and who carry their self-importance and worldly spirit even into the house and worship of God?
4. A spirit of curiosity too much indulged may, in an irreligious man, lead to covetousness and theft: in a godly man, to a troublesome and unscriptural scrupulosity of conscience, productive of nothing but uneasiness to itself, and disturbance to others. Simplicity of heart saves from this, and is an excellent gift.
5. In many actions we have a twofold rule – the testimony of God and charity: and in many things charity is the best interpreter of the testimony. The testimony often permits what charity forbids, because circumstances in time, place, etc., may render a thing improper on one occasion that might be proper on another.
6. Pious Quesnel has well said: Every thing honors God when it is done for his sake; every thing dishonors him when any ultimate end is proposed beside his glory. It is an unchangeable principle of the Christian morality that all comes from God by his love, and all should be returned to him by ours. This rule we should keep inviolate.
7. Though many of the advices given in this chapter appear to respect the Corinthians alone, yet there is none of them that is not applicable to Christians in general in certain circumstances. God has given no portion of his word to any people or age exclusively; the whole is given to the Church universal in all ages of the world. In reading this epistle let us seriously consider what parts of it apply to ourselves; and if we are disposed to appropriate its promises, let us act conscientiously, and inquire how many of its reprehensions we may fairly appropriate also.
Even as I … – Paul here proposes his own example as their guide. The example which he refers to is that which he had exhibited as described in this and the preceding chapters. His main object had been to please all people; that is, not to alarm their prejudices, or needlessly to excite their opposition (see the note at 1Co_9:19-23), while he made known to them the truth, and sought their salvation – It is well when a minister can without ostentation appeal to his own example, and urge others to a life of self-denial and holiness, by his own manner of living, and by what he is himself in his daily walk and conversation.
1.Imitators of me. From this it appears, how absurdly chapters are divided, inasmuch as this sentence is disjoined from what goes before, with which it ought to have been connected, and is joined to what follows, with which it has no connection. Let us view this, then, as the close of the preceding chapter. Paul had there brought forward his own example in confirmation of his doctrine. Now, in order that the Corinthians may understand that this would be becoming in them, he exhorts them to imitate what he had done, even as he had imitated Christ
Here there are two things to be observed — first, that he prescribes nothing to others that he had not first practiced himself; and, secondly, that he directs himself and others to Christ as the only pattern of right acting. For while it is the part of a good teacher to enjoin nothing in words but what he is prepared to practice in action, he must not, at the same time, be so austere, as straightway to require from others everything that he does himself, as is the manner of the superstitious. For everything that they contract a liking for they impose also upon others, and would have their own example to be held absolutely as a rule. The world is also, of its own accord, inclined to a misdirected imitation, (κακοζηλίαν) and, after the manner of apes, strive to copy whatever they see done by persons of great influence. We see, however how many evils have been introduced into the Church by this absurd desire of imitating all the actions of the saints, without exception. Let us, therefore, maintain so much the more carefully this doctrine of Paul — that we are to follow men, provided they take Christ as their grand model, (πρωτότυπον,) that the examples of the saints may not tend to lead us away from Christ, but rather to direct us to him.
Be ye followers of me – This verse certainly belongs to the preceding chapter, and is here out of all proper place and connection.
Be ye followers of me – Imitate my example in the matter now under discussion. As I deny myself; as I seek to give no offence to anyone; as I endeavor not to alarm the prejudices of others, but in all things to seek their salvation, so do you. This verse belongs to the previous chapter, and should not have been separated from it. It is the close of the discussion there.
Even as I also am of Christ – I make Christ my example. He is my model in all things; and if you follow him, and follow me as far as I follow him, you will not err. This is the only safe example; and if we follow this, we can never go astray.