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Responding to A Defense of Paul Over Eating Idol Meat

Here is an email exchange, beginning with a critic of our case that Paul permits eating meat to idols. As of November 29, 2016 I have received no reply.

 

James J. Post October 2016 in Defense of Paul

Now the first claim in the link, In 1 Corinthians 8, especially in verse 7, Paul sounds like he makes it okay to eat idols, for Chrisitians who know that those gods in those idols do not exist. However when you read closely, its a statement of a preposed theory, "since gods of idols do not exist, when they say eat to this idol, I am really eating to no one" Of a truth, Paul agress with "gods in idols do not exist" but is still telling Christians not again to eat at all to them, and gives them a reason, for the Christians who do not know any better. He says when they see you they fall, so your knowlegde leads to their destruction. Paul is given an augmentation (auxillary) to the Christians who think eating to idols is okay since they do not exist. He uses the people without that knowlegde to further discourage them.

My stand is that Paul says "I see your logic but once again do not eat to these idols because of people who do not know your logic." He also says that the conscience of those is defiled in that verse 7.

Also in 1 Corinthians 10:28, Paul says not to eat things which are sacrificed to idols, explicitly. Romans 14:21 has nothing to say about idols and 1 Corinthinas 10:19 expresses the same logic statement I expressed above. To claim he says, eat food offered to idols, is a false accusation.

 

My Reply of 11/20/2016

 

First, we need context about this eating idol meat issue. The issue here is whether Jesus is warning us about Paul in Revelations chapter 2, especially verses 6, 14-15. Jesus begins by commending the Ephesians for rejecting one who said he was an apostle of Jesus, but was not. (Jesus in Rev 21:14 says there are only 12 apostles. Matthias replaced Judas in Acts 1. So where does Paul fit in?)

Then Jesus in Revelation chapter 2 commends the Ephesian church for rejecting the one who teaches falsely it is ok to eat meat sacrificed to idols. Rev. 2:6; 14-15. Is Jesus pointing at Paul? After all the Ephesian synagogue in Acts 19 that for weeks was persuaded toward Christ suddeny spoke evil of the "way" taught by Paul and expelled him. (See Acts 19:1, 8-9.) What is that "way" that those persuaded about Christ in Ephesus could not tolerate from Paul? It is clear Paul teaches it is ok to eat meat sacrificed to idols, and your conscience should not worry about it at all. Only if a weaker brother's conscience would be bothered if you ate such meat in their presence should you feel the need to refrain. Otherwise, it is not wrong, and you are the stronger conscience for knowing this freedom.

 

Ironically, you cite 1 Cor. 10:28 as proving Paul prohibits eating meat sacrificed to idols. You wrote: "Also in 1 Corinthians 10:28, Paul says not to eat things which are sacrificed to idols, explicitly…"

 

However, this passage, when you read the next verse, makes it 100% crystal clear that you can eat such meat even knowingly because your conscience would be clean. The next verse -- verse 29 -- say you should not eat idol meat only for the sake of another believer's "weak" conscience who thinks eating such meat is wrong and then sees you eating such meat which then emboldens him to do something he thinks is wrong. However, Paul then adds you need not refrain due to your own conscience - which has the freedom to eat such meat. So 1 Cor. 10:28-29 reads:

28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 

Your reading missed the key -- "I am referring to the other's conscience, not yours." That is crucial. So Paul clearly says his conscience would be clear eating such meat even if he was told it was meat sacrificed to idols. But for the sake of the other's conscience, not Paul's conscience, he won't do so in their presence if the other believer has a "weak" (unlearned) conscience and still thinks it is somehow wrong to eat such idol meat.

 

This is clear again when you read 1 Cor. 8:4-12. But this passage is even worse because it allows you to eat at an idol's temple without any concern doing so is wrong. Paul's only concern is a believer is able to see you in the idol's temple who thinks eating idol meat is wrong, not about the fact at all that you are eating at an idol's temple:  

“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 & that there is none other God but one...but meat commendeth us not to God: for neither if we eat are we the better, neither if we eat not are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast 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: & through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren & wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.”  KJV

First, recognize that Paul treats as a non-concern that "if any man see thee which has knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple…." Paul is not telling the Corinthians to stop getting lunch at the idol's temple. He is just telling you if you go there for lunch, dinner, etc., and you are eating idol meat, you have to be concerned if a believer sees you eating such idol meat. Paul is not questioning you shouldn't even be at the idol's temple for lunch or dinner hand-outs.

Then Paul says if you know someone sees you eating idol meat at such temple who has a "conscience … which is weak" -- he believes it wrong to eat such meat, then such a "weak" believer could be "emboldened" to do what his "weak" conscience thinks is wrong. So Paul teaches you to refrain eating such meat while at the idol's temple for the sake of "conscience" - "not yours."  You refrain solely for the sake of the conscience of a "weak" brother who thinks eating such idol meat is wrong.

 

Now listen to the Lord Jesus in Revelation speak about this kind of thinking:

1. Jesus in Revelation 2:14 faults the churches at Pergamum for tolerating those who teach it is acceptable to eat meat sacrificed to idols. Jesus says "some... hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumblingblock (skandalon) before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols,…"

 

2. The church at Ephesus, by contrast, is commended by Jesus on this issue. The Ephesians were the ones who put on trial those who claimed to be an "apostle and are not, but [are] a liar" (Rev. 2:2.) The Ephesians were also commended for rejecting the Nicolaitans' teaching on idol meat. (Rev. 2:6.)

 

3. The Nicolaitans, Jesus notes, taught that a Christian could "eat things sacrificed to idols...." (Rev. 2:14-15.)

 

4. The Nicolaitans' true historical background reveal whose underlying teaching that Jesus is truly criticizing. Robertson (a Paulinist and famous Baptist scholar) in Word Pictures confesses the Nicolaitans defended eating such meat based on Paul's grace gospel: "These early Gnostics practiced licentiousness since they were not under law, but under grace." (Robertson's Word Pictures on Rev. 2:14.)

 

So the issue remains - did Jesus approve the Ephesians for hating the Pauline doctrine of that day? That they could eat meat sacrificed to idols? The answer is clear.

Blessings, Doug

 

PS You are correct that Paul in Romans 14 does not specifically mention idol meat, but he clearly alludes to it by saying some "weaker" Christians avoid all meats. This was a practice to avoid eating idol meat by accident. See Romans 14:1-23. Paul sternly enjoins the weaker believer not to "condemn" a teaching which endorses the 'stronger' view that the meats they are avoiding (i.e., idol meat in the greater context) are acceptable to God:  

2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. (Romans 14:2-3.)