Chapter eight started a new broad topic with several different parts: freedoms available to believers. The Corinthians’ first question had to do with meat that had been sacrificed to idols in the pagan temples. However, before answering that, Paul made a quick detour. When seeing someone else do something we think is wrong or questionable, we are prone to say, “They don’t know better.” Regarding this issue, though, Paul wrote that knowledge was not the issue; in fact, knowledge could be misused (1 Corinthians 8:1-3). The issue was not knowledge but brotherly love.
It seems that he had taught them on this subject already, so he knew what they knew (1 Corinthians 8:4-6). They knew that “an idol in this world is nothing,” and they knew that “there is no God but one.” Because of this, food that had been offered to idols (representing various false gods) should mean nothing to these believers in the only true God.
The problem was that not everyone was aware that these idols were nothing (1 Corinthians 8:7-13), including some of their fellow believers who had come out of these pagan religions. They may have even been the ones who asked the question: Is food offered to idols fit for a Christian? For some former pagans, eating this food would defile their conscience, as if they were worshiping those false gods again. They genuinely thought they were sinning against the true God by enjoying food that had been dedicated to a false god. For this reason, Paul encouraged the believers to refrain from eating this food if a fellow believer might cause himself to sin by participating with them.
This is why the issue was really about brotherly love not knowledge of the truth. For Paul, there were many things that he would rather not do – even though they were perfectly fine – if participating in them would cause a fellow Christian to sin against God, even in his conscience.