Sunday, 24 August 2014
But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. 1 Corinthians 8:9
Paul has been speaking of “knowledge” concerning the issue of “things offered to idols.” He has clearly shown that eating something offered to an idol makes no difference at all and that the food is not defiled, because the idol is “nothing in the world.” This is an inescapable truth when clearly reasoned out. However, his words today begin with “but.” There is a contrasting thought which must be presented. When he began this chapter, he issued a parenthetical statement which introduced two thoughts. The first was “knowledge” and the second was “love.” He will now begin to address that second issue. Yes, we may have knowledge concerning our “liberty” in the matter, but is that the end of the issue? The answer is, “No.” His understanding of the weakness of some leads him to state his contrasting thought. “But beware” tells us that this is a serious matter. The word translated as “beware” indicates to “look” into a matter or to “discern.” If we have knowledge, we should mix that knowledge with discernment. And the reason is “lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.”
His use of the word “weak” is tied to “knowledge.” In other words, where your knowledge is strong and sound, others may be wavering, unsure, or misinformed. If your knowledge isn’t mixed with discernment, what will be the result in them? It will become a “stumbling block.” A stumbling block is something that trips one up. It is usually an unseen obstacle, such as an imperceptible raise in the level of one block on a path. It is just enough to cause harm, but not big enough to be noticed. At other times, a stumbling block may be perceptible, but the person may have their attention diverted to other things. Either way, the result is a fall.
Paul’s coming explanation of this will move from the subject of knowledge in a person to that of love for another person. This then is a verse which transitions to that thought.
Life application: We are given rights (liberties) in Christ that are very clear and precise. However, they often require knowledge through study in order to be properly grasped. As study is something most people don’t really cherish, have time for, or for whatever other reason, it is up to those who have studied to not use their knowledge to harm those without the knowledge, but rather to instruct them in right doctrine of what they already understand. As Paul noted, “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” Let us impart knowledge and do so in a loving manner.
Lord God, Your word is certainly a treasure and a delight, but oftentimes people disagree on a particular point or precept. If I am certain of my position, help me not to be arrogant in my defense of it, but rather to impart that knowledge in love. With all certainty, arguing will only cause greater divisions and insurmountable walls will result. And so help us to amiably work towards the one truth which You intend for us to see. Be with us and guide us as we search to rightly divide Your word. Amen.