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1 Corinthians 8:1-13 Study Guide


1 Corinthians 8

Opening: Before we move into our study, it would be good to think about “Lens 13” principle.
“Lens 13” principle is a hook—or a tool—to help us remember a key biblical truth.

  • Do you remember what the “Lens 13” principle is?
  • Why is the “Lens 13” principle crucial to understanding chapters 8-12?

Transition:  Chapter 8 in a nutshell: Christ has given his followers much freedom in many areas of life, but this freedom was never intended to be used to harm others. Paul applied this principle to a controversial question in the Corinthian church: Should Christians eat food sacrificed to idols?[1]

Let’s get some background: Corinth was one of the most decadent cities in the Roman empire and full of idol worship (those things tend to go together). So, there were many temples to idols. These temples served as community social hubs, like churches today do with the Boy scouts, AA meetings, bingo…whatever. In these temples, people would host meals for friends or families and other types of social events (like renting a room for club meetings, wedding receptions, Roman VFW, and the like).

Large dining rooms for such purposes have been discovered at Corinth in the ancient temples like the one dedicated to Asclepius (Son of Apollos, God of medicine), you might recognize his rod. It’s used as a symbol of medicine to this day. These places were, of course, associated with idol worship, and a part of the meal would have been a sacrifice to an idol.

So, maybe the local Medical and Dental Association of Corinth, holding their annual meeting at the Temple of Asclepius, would raise their glasses to the god of medicine. In addition, the meat offered to idols that was not consumed as a part of the worship or event would be sold in the meat market at a discount. It was cheap meat.

So, there are three separate questions that are relevant to their setting:

  1. Can I take part in an idol feast (even though I don’t believe in idols anymore)? No
  2. Can I take part in a civic event in an idol temple? Depends
  3. Can I eat the meat bought in a shop that was used as a part of idol sacrifice? Also depends

Discussion 1: Read verses 1-3.

  • How does Paul apply the “Lens 13” to the question?
  • What does knowledge do on its own?
  • Why is love more valuable?
  • What is the most important thing we should know?
  • How was Paul’s answer a loving and gentle rebuke?

Discussion 2: Read verse 4-8.

  • Summarize what you’ve just read in your own words.
  • What would Paul say brings us closer to God: eating/not eating food, or love?
    Why do you think he would answer that way?
  • Is it more important to love or to know? Can we get by with only one or the other?
    Why or why not?

Discussion: Read verses 9-13.

  • How might your freedoms become a stumbling block to others?
  • So, does this mean you should let what others think hold you back?
  • How should we teach others about what freedom in Christ looks like?
  • How do we avoid being prone to thinking we are the stronger not the weaker brother?

Application: Beliefs/Values/Behavior

Now let’s personalize what we’ve just read from Paul:

  • How might we apply what we’ve talked about to our current cultural setting (think about the last year and all that has gone on)?
  • How can we heed Paul’s instruction?
  • How often do people offend you? Rarely? Often?  How long do you hold on to an offense?  Not long?  Quite long?
  • Do you find yourself seeking to impress or to bless? What steps can you take to make it your ambition to seek to bless and not to seek to impress? What would that look like?
  • How would you plot your love trajectory? Are you trending down or up?


[1] Pratt, R. L., Jr. (2000). I & II Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 132). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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