“Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him.” (1 Corinthians 8:1–3, AV)
Early in my technical career, I worked as a department manager in a factory that made folding cartons. These were the boxes like you see on the shelves in the grocery stores containing things like detergent, etc. My department printed the carton stock before it was cut, glued and shipped to the customer.
One of the products that we printed was for a tissue manufacturer. For this particular job we printed rolls of paperboard with a catalytic varnish. At the end of the printing units the rolls were wound up and then sent to the die-cutting machines. It so happened that one of my shifts forgot to put the catalyst in the varnish. Thus, the varnish was not dry before the rolls were wound up. We ran eight rolls of paperboard like this and when the rolls got to the cutter a day later, they would not run. The rolls were like a solid log, 5-foot in diameter by about 4-foot wide.
Needless to say, everything that shift ran that night was a complete loss and consequently we short shipped to the customer. We then had to alter our schedule and print eight more rolls of product. The problem was that for the product to be built properly we needed both the catalytic varnish and the catalyst. You could not have one without the other.
In this passage, Paul deals with the issue of things, food, sacrificed to idols. In those days, in pagan religions animals were often sacrificed to false gods. some of the meat went to the temple priests. However, often there was more meat than the priests needed. This meat would be sold in the marketplace. There were then possible situations where a Christian might be confronted with an option to eat such meat. Some Christians had a problem with eating such meat while others did not. The others had knowledge that there were no other gods and thus idols were nothings and could not negatively affect the meat. Meat was meat. Yet, some believers did not feel comfortable eating such meat. This is the situation to which Paul wrote.
The point he brings out is that knowledge (alone) puffs up, while “charity, (love), edifieth.” Knowledge alone puffs up while love builds up. Paul is not saying that knowledge is unimportant or irrelevant. Scripture is clear in this. Knowledge is important. Remember the Lord told Israel, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6, AV). The point is that knowledge without love breeds arrogance and most certainly Corinth struggles with arrogance among the congregants.
Love and knowledge must go hand in hand to be profitable. Just as catalytic varnish will make a real mess without the catalyst, knowledge without love can create a real mess also.
Paul goes on to give the church a precept regarding the believer’s love for God. Those who love God are known by God, implying that the believer is to love other believers as they are joint members of the body of Christ. Paul points out that there were many who had knowledge to eat food sacrificed to idols who were arrogant in their freedom and did not demonstrate love towards those who struggled with this.
This we must remember. In our choices regarding Christian liberty, we must be considerate of other believers in our midst. Do not be puffed up but build up.