Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.5. Concerning Meats Offered to Idols: Christian Liberty Governed by Love
Another question is raised concerning things offered to idols. Should Christians eat what had been offered in sacrifice to idols? These idol-offered meats were generally sold in the meat market. Would a believer be defiled by using such meats? They all had knowledge concerning these matters. But mere knowledge without love only puffeth up. Love is better than knowledge, for it edifieth, and this love they had to manifest in the matter of eating things sacrificed to idols. As to knowledge, how little man knoweth. How true it is “if any man think he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” Pride because of knowledge is a dangerous thing, and much of this we see among Christians. True knowledge of God produces love for Him and such a one is known of God. Then the question is taken up. They had the knowledge that an idol is nothing in the world. There is none other God but one, “the Father, of whom are all things and we for Him, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things and we by Him.”
But not all had this perfect knowledge. Some had the conception that the idol is a reality, a god, though a false one; they did not grasp the fact that an idol is nothing. They ate of the meat, feeling that it had been an idol sacrifice, and their conscience in these scruples being weak is defiled. They were therefore in bondage and did not enjoy the liberty in Christ. (1Corinthians 7:8 shows that eating meat or not eating meat has no advantage whatever before God. The important thing then is stated. “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours becomes a stumbling block to them that are weak.” One who is weak in faith (not possessing true knowledge) sees a brother eating meat in the idol’s temple and by it he will become emboldened to do violence to his conscience and do the same thing, and in doing it he sins. He acts not in faith, but imitates another and worse things may follow. By his act the brother who has knowledge may be more than a stumbling block. The weak brother may perish, for whom Christ died, through such an example. The disastrous effect is put in the strongest term. Of course the weak brother will not actually perish, but in his conscience he will be guilty. However grace will step in and prevent this threatening danger. No sheep or lamb of His shall perish; for none can pluck them out of His hand. We are our brother’s keepers, not their Savior. Well has it been said, “out of our careless hands they fall for safety into His.” But sinning against brethren and wounding their weak consciences is sinning against Christ. “Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth” ((1Corinthians 7:1). The Apostle then states that he will relinquish his knowledge and liberty in case it would offend his brother, “Lest I make my brother offend.” Christian liberty is to be governed by love for the brethren.
“The liberty of God’s children is absolute, but they are expected to use it as imitators of God. We have to consider not ourselves only, but both our brethren and the world. A saint may be walking without circumspection, and yet with an unruffled conscience. But this is dangerous. Heed must be taken lest, while enjoying, in one sense blamelessly, our liberty, we become unwittingly a stumbling block to others. An ostentatious use of liberty rarely fails to injure the boaster and those who may observe his ways. True grace, because it is free and knows its happiness in fellowship with God, makes no effort to seem free. Rather it will seek to use its liberty in love, considering the weak, and neither despising them, nor tempting them by wrong example to act in anything beyond their faith.”--Pridham.
All this is practical truth and much needed in our days of worldliness and laxity in the Christian walk. It is a good rule to ask in all our walk and in the use of our liberty, how will it affect the fellow-members of the body? We refer the reader to Romans 14:1-23 where the same truth is treated. (See the annotations there.)