Welcome back to my study/review of 1 Corinthians. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.
1 Corinthians 10:23-27
23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience.
The passage above is a pretty famous. Paul returns the focus to the topic of eating meat offered to idols. We can remember that chapters 9 and 10 are both (in the wide scope) a way of addressing Paul’s reasoning as to why he is against eating meat offered to idols. He begins to wrap that up in these verses. From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:
(23) All things are lawful for me.—The Apostle now proceeds to conclude, with some practical direction and advice, the question of the eating of meat offered to idols, from which immediate subject the strong expression of personal feeling in 1 Corinthians 8:13 had led him to branch off into the various aspects of collateral matters which have occupied him since, and to which the subject treated of in 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 of this chapter naturally lead back the thoughts of the writer. He repeats here the great principle of Christian liberty, “All things are lawful for me” (see 1 Corinthians 6:12), but insists, as before, that its application must be limited by a regard (1) to the effect which each action has upon ourselves, and (2) its influence on the Church at large. “Does this act tend to my own spiritual profit? Does it tend to build up others?” should be the practical rules of Christian life.
The note, like mine above, reminds the reader that the last couple of chapters originated from the topic of eating meat offered to idols. It is a good idea, for study, to read all of this together as well as to pick it apart in small sections as I have done. I’ll add that these verses are probably famous because they summarize the overall idea so well. Just because we have the freedom to do a thing does not make it a good idea. “I have the freedom to” is not, by itself, a sufficient justification for any action we might undertake. Continuing from Ellicott:
(24) But every man another’s wealth.—Better, but each one another’s good. The English word “wealth” has, in process of time, come to bear a limited significance, such as did not originally belong to it. By “wealth” we now mean temporal possessions or advantage; it originally meant “good,” including more especially “moral welfare,” as in the collect for the Queen in the Prayer Book, “Grant her in health and wealth long to live.”
Obviously the note here refers to a translation other than the ESV quoted above, but it does remind us that value of looking at multiple translations, and sometimes the underlying language, to get a sense of the original author’s intention.
The message here continues to be that our actions should not be selfish. When we have the freedom to make a choice, we should consider the welfare of others above that of ourselves. Continuing to the next verse in The Pulpit Commentaries:
Whatsoever is sold. By this practical rule of common sense he protects the weak Christian from being daily worried by over scrupulosity. If a Christian merely bought his meat in the open market, no one could suspect him of meaning thereby to connive at or show favour to idolatry. It would, therefore, be needless for him to entertain fantastic scruples about a matter purely indifferent. The fact of its forming part of an idol offering made no intrinsic difference in the food. Shambles; rather food market. Asking no question for conscience sake. Do not trouble your conscience by scruples arising from needless investigation (ἀνακρίνων) about the food.
For the earth is the Lord’s (Psalms 24:1). Consequently, “Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving” (1 Timothy 4:4). The text formed the ordinary Jewish “grace before meat.” The fulness thereof. The plenitude of its created furniture—plants, animals, etc.
Here Paul gets into giving practical advice. In verse 25, he tells his audience that they can purchase food at the market, without going to extraordinary efforts to determine the meat’s history. The reason for this is that nobody would connect the purchase of meat at the market with the possibility that it might once have been offered to an idol.
Verse 26 is the justification for his advice in verse 25. From Psalm 24:1:
The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
Verse 27 continues in the same thing. Continuing in The Pulpit Commentaries:
Bid you to a feast. It is assumed that the feast is to take place in a private house, not an idol temple (1 Corinthians 8:10). Ye be disposed to go; rather, ye wish to go, with an emphasis on the “wish,” which, as Grotius says, perhaps implies that the wish is not particularly commendable, although the apostle, in his large-hearted tolerance, does not actually blame it. The rabbis decided very differently. “If,” said Rabbi Ishmael, “an idolater makes a feast in honour of his son, and invites all the Jews of his town, they eat of the sacrifices of the dead, even though they eat and drink of their own” (‘Avodah Zarah,’ fol. 18, 1). There are many passages of the Talmud which raise the suspicion that the rabbis are purposely running counter to the teaching of the New Testament.
Paul says that the same basic principle remains true, in a person’s home, as out in the market. If you are invited into someone’s home, you do not need to go out of your way to find out the history of the food set before you.
The issue for Paul is what one does once that history is stated openly. Once it is known that the meant was offered to an idol, then a Christian must act in consideration of others and to avoid eating the meat. The freedom does not go away, but it becomes superseded by consciousness. We will cover that reasoning more fully in the next section as we finish the chapter and the topic.
When we get into Chapter 11, we’ll begin talking about relational headship and literal head coverings. There is a lot of fun and oddness to mention once we get there.