A major concern Paul addressed in his first letter to the Corinthians was the influence mature Christians had over those who were relatively new in their faith. The problem Paul pointed out was that those who knew better than to engage in certain activities weren’t setting a good example for others. Referring back to his analogy of laying a foundation for others to build on, Paul stated, “Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge, knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth” (1 Corinthians 8:1). The Greek word translated edifieth, oikodomeo (oy-kod-om-eh’-o) means “to be a house builder that is construct or (figuratively) confirm” (G3618). What Paul was saying was that understanding the things of God should cause us to want to help others to grow in their faith, not hinder them from spiritual growth.
Paul went on to explain that a person’s conscience could be built up or torn down by the behavior of others. He stated:
As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one…Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour, eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled…For if any man see thee which has knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; and through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? (1 Corinthians 8:4,7,10-11)
Paul’s argument against believers eating food that was sacrificed to idols was that it could make a Christian that was addicted to idolatry think it was okay to continue with his immoral behavior. Even though it might not have been sinful for a Christian to practice idolatry, the demonic beings associated with idol worship were very real and dangerous spiritual forces that could possess and/or ruin an individual’s life. Paul was concerned for the well being of all of the Corinthian believers and didn’t want anyone to suffer as a result of a believer’s careless use of his liberty or freedom in Christ to pursue pleasure (G1658).
Paul warned the Corinthians, “take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9). The Greek word translated stumbling block, proskomma means “a stub that is (figuratively) occasion of apostasy” (G4348). Apostasy in Christianity is the rejection of Christianity by someone who formerly was a Christian. One of the reasons I believe Christians renounce their faith is because of the hypocrisy they see in the church. They get turned off by people that call themselves Christians and yet they do not live the kind of life that Jesus taught his followers to live. Paul’s comment, “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth” (1 Corinthians 8:1) was probably meant to point out that charity or the attitude of God toward His Son, the human race, and to believers on the Lord Jesus Christ (G26) should be evident in our behavior toward other believers. “Self-will, that is self-pleasing, is the negation of love to God.”