These small group studies of 1 Corinthians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
1 Corinthians 8 Inductive Bible Study and Discussion Questions
Outline: To eat or not to eat: that is the question
Love over knowledge (1-3)
God over gods (4-6)
Edification over liberty (7-11)
Brother over self (12-13)
What is the issue in these verses?
Describe the problem facing the Corinthian believers?
What “knowledge” is Paul referring to?
Explain verse 2.
What is the true mark of a believer?
What is the true fact of idols and eating food sacrificed to idols?
What does it mean that there are many “gods and lords”?
Does this mean there are many gods, but for believers we just choose and worship one?
How do we exist?
Why do we exist?
What does it mean that “not all men have this knowledge”?
What does it mean that their conscience is defiled?
We have liberty, but how should we take care to exercise it? (9)
Why should we be careful what we do around others? Does this mean we are living according to others’ convictions instead of our own?
What did Christ do for our brothers in Christ? So what should we be wiling to do?
If we misuse our freedom, what are we doing?
Should we be willing to sacrifice our own enjoyment for others?
What other areas, besides food sacrificed to idols, might this apply to?
1 Corinthians 10:23-32 – Food sacrificed to idols.
Isaiah 5:21 – Woe to those who are wise in their own sight.
1 Corinthians 13:1-4 – Beginning of love chapter.
1 Corinthians 16:14 – Do everything in love.
1 Corinthians 10:23 – Everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial.
Romans 14:5-21 – Some regard one day as better than another or say should eat or should not eat. Food is clean, but the principal is love and don’t cause others to stumble.
Proverbs 26:12 – There is more hope for a fool than someone wise in their own eyes.
1 John 5:2-3, 1 John 4:19 – Loving God is the mark of the believer.
Jeremiah 10:12-16 – Contrasting the true God with idols.
Isaiah 44:6-20 – Contrasting the true God with idols.
Psalms 115:4-7 – Mocking idols.
Galatians 4:8 – Before you knew God you were slaves to those who are not gods.
Daniel 5:4 – The pagans praised the gods of silver and gold and iron.
Jeremiah 11:13 – Judah had as many gods as towns.
John 1:3 – All things made by Him.
Colossians 1:16-17 – All things were made by Him and for Him.
Galatians 5:13 – You were called to be free, but don’t use freedom for sin. Instead serve on another.
Idols and the surrounding rituals was a major problem at that time. There were all kinds of idols Merchants had turned it into a trade and promoted them to people. Likely most houses contained their own idol. Certain rituals were practiced when worshiping the idols. One of these was food sacrifices. This is also done in China today. The idea is to offer food to somehow appease the idol. Typically meat was offered at a local pagan temple. Because the temple didn’t have use for so much, much of this meat found its way back on the market. So sometimes a person might know they were eating the food sacrificed to idols. Other times they might not. When Christians came out of this environment they naturally wondered how much they could be involved with these practices and if it was OK to eat the food sacrificed to idols or not.
The Corinthians may have expected Paul to say, yes, eat the food, or no, don’t eat the food. But Paul’s answer wasn’t that clear cut. We will see a bit later if it was acceptable or not to eat the food, but his first point isn’t even eating or not eating. His first point is the importance of love over knowledge. While Paul and many other mature believers knew that eating it wasn’t a big deal, he also realized that the more important principle at play was love, specifically love towards the brothers and sisters.
Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.
Knowledge has a tendency to puff one up and make them prideful. Knowledge tends to make one look down on others and consider that he is superior. A person who knows that it is OK to eat this kind of food sacrificed to idols might tend to look down on the other brothers who don’t think its OK and consider that he is superior because he understands the truth. This is completely the wrong attitude. Knowing the Corinthian church it is very likely that they were also split into two groups on this, with both groups looking down on and criticizing each other. That is exactly what Paul wanted to avoid. If he said “eating food sacrificed to idols is OK” and left it at that, then that group would be puffed up further and say “I told you so”. Knowledge and right doctrine are important, but so is living them out in our life in a way that honors God.
The principle is to use our knowledge in a loving way. It doesn’t mean we ignore the truth and compromise on issues for the sake of loving each other. Rather it means that our knowledge should not be used as an excuse to look down on others and that instead we need to combine our love and knowledge together.
From verse 2 we know that our knowledge is incomplete. One day when we see Christ we have will much more complete knowledge and realize that all of our petty arguments and divisions were stupid. Also, this doesn’t mean that we can’t form convictions based on God’s word. We can and should where God’s Word is clear. But where it is not clear we should allow our different interpretations to divide us and we should have an open mind. Also, we must not be prideful because our knowledge is still very minimal.
Christians sometimes exalt knowledge, but love, not knowledge, is the most important mark of a Christian. Jesus didn’t say “all Christians will know that you are my disciple, if you have great knowledge” or “if you have more knowledge than others”. He said it was by love. Love is the mark of a believer. Recently I’ve heard several people complaining about the bad testimony of believers. These believers talked very spiritually and smoothly, but their actions didn’t seem to follow their words (at least in the eyes of some). They talked like Christians, but didn’t exercise a lot of love towards others. If we love God we belong to Him. If we love God we will love others.
These verses tell us the “knowledge” of eating or not eating the food. It is OK to eat because the idols are not real. They can’t contaminate the food. These “gods” are not real gods at all. Therefore the food sacrificed to these idols is harmless. Idols are fake. Eating food set before an idol is just like eating food set before a computer or a block of wood. It is harmless.
Idols are fakes. They are created by men and for men. Read cross-references. Now days most people don’t make their own idols, but it is just as foolish. A man has some money. With his money, he goes shopping. He buys some clothes and he buys some food. With the leftover money he decides to buy an idol. There are rows upon rows sold in the market and he chooses his favorite one. After giving the money, he carries the idol home and puts it in his house. Every day the dust gathers and the man faithfully cleans off the idol. And on and on. It is just dumb. An idol cannot even take care of itself, but God created the entire world. There is no comparison. People like to make small gods for several reasons.
They are bigger than their god so they can follow their own standards.
They are smarter than their god so they can make the god and its morals be like their own.
The god cannot see, so they can do whatever they want in the dark.
So what are the “gods” and “lords”? Many gods and many lords means that there are many of these so-called gods, not a few. Some of these are complete fakes. Some have some demons behind them exerting some influence that contributed to the superstitions and beliefs. But none was actually deity. People’s belief in fake gods also has a lot of influence. Although the god is not real, he is deemed to be real and therefore this imaginary god also exerts a lot of influence. This influence is actually just people’s reactions to what they imagine to be god.
1 Corinthians 1:1-17
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
1 Corinthians 2
1 Corinthians 3
1 Corinthians 4
1 Corinthians 5
1 Corinthians 6
1 Corinthians 7:1-16
1 Corinthians 7:17-40
1 Corinthians 8
1 Corinthians 9:1-18
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
1 Corinthians 10:14-33
1 Corinthians 11:1-16
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
1 Corinthians 12:12-30
1 Corinthians 14
1 Corinthians 15:1-28
1 Corinthians 15:29-58
1 Corinthians 16