7 “However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.”
The word “however” is strong contrast in the Greek indicating a change from strong theological argument (8:4-6) to how that theology applies in a practical situation. It is not knowledge that takes precedence over the situation but edification.
there is not in everyone that knowledge;
Some Corinthians had difficulty in shaking their belief that eating meat offered to an idol was not real worship of an idol. Some Christians do not have “knowledge” of Christian liberty, that is, of a principle of the Word. Because they do not understand liberty, they think that they commit an idolatrous act by eating meat offered to an idol.
for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol;
Sophomore Christians had pangs of guilt in eating meat offered to idols because they used their conscience independent of the Word of God to evaluate the situation. Their essential problem is that they used a norm different from the Bible to assess the situation. Prejudice, tradition, or prevailing viewpoints often distort the truth of Scripture.
The word “conscience” comes from two words: know and with. Conscience then is to know along with something by a rule to determine right and wrong. When a weak Christian accepts the prejudice of his past (eating meat offered to idols), then he will distort his conscience.
and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.
The “weak” Christian cannot summarily ignore his conscience, so his weak conscience is “defiled.” A defiled conscience will bring guilt and confusion. All this comes from accepting prejudices of the past. This is weakness in the Word of God. Ignorance of divine truth always indicates that the conscience is weak. A strong conscience is always filled with the principles of God’s Word. A “defiled” conscience is a contaminated conscience. Taking our norms from something other than the Word of God defiles our conscience. Therefore, our conscience is weak because of ignorance of the Word of God, and we accept the viewpoint of the world system rather than the Bible.
But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.
The “food” (meat) of this verse may have three situations:
1. The meat of the temple restaurant (this is not “Ptomaine Joes” but the best restaurant in town – the Temple of Aphrodite!)
2. The meat of a dinner party
3. The over-the-counter meat sold on the streets of Corinth (flies swarmed around this meat because it was in the open market).
There was nothing intrinsically wrong with eating food dedicated to an idol as long as the eating of that food was not an act of worship. Eating food offered to an idol was a non-issue, but it did not curry favor with God. The word “commend” means to present for approval. Not eating food sacrificed to an idol did not put us in a favorable position with God. Accepting the principle of the weaker brother’s conscience and therefore abstaining from eating did not provide intrinsic approbation from God. God’s approval does not depend on what we do but on what Christ did on the cross (8:11-13). Christ satisfied the standard of God’s absolute character by His death on the cross.
A strong conscience is imbued with the principles of Scripture
The greatest manifestation of a weak conscience is a guilt complex about things not wrong – a cadre of taboos about life. A taboo is something a segment of society forbids. How can we tell the difference between a good conscience and a bad conscience? A bad conscience is subjective and does not hold to objective biblical norms. Anything that the Bible forbids is wrong. Observing taboos to make points with God violates the grace principle.
Spirituality and taboos are opposites. Spirituality is a relationship and fellowship with God. Taboos are a form of legalism –living out of fellowship with God. Taboos are a form of ego lust because it makes people feel good to give up something. It is very gratifying to the self.
A believer walking around with a guilt complex is a believer with a weak conscience. This is a Christian of great distortion, whose conscience is the accumulation of norms of society and personal experience of the past. All this countervails the Word of God and distorts our souls because it introduces instability into our lives. Conscience is a good thing, but it must be monitored by the Word.
We get rid of a bad conscience by confession of sin and acknowledging that Christ paid sufficiently for our sin (1 John 1:7-9).