1 Corinthians 8:7 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

1 Corinthians 8:7, NIV: But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled.

1 Corinthians 8:7, ESV: However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

1 Corinthians 8:7, KJV: 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.

1 Corinthians 8:7, NASB: However, not all people have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

1 Corinthians 8:7, NLT: However, not all believers know this. Some are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real, so when they eat food that has been offered to idols, they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated.

1 Corinthians 8:7, CSB: However, not everyone has this knowledge. Some have been so used to idolatry up until now that when they eat food sacrificed to an idol, their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

What does 1 Corinthians 8:7 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

In some previous letter (1 Corinthians 7:1), the believers in Corinth appear to have pushed back against Paul's teaching to avoid eating food they know to have been offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8:1). He has agreed that the many gods and idols of Corinthian culture are not real: they do not actually exist (1 Corinthians 8:4–5). He understands that many Corinthian Christians know there is only one God.

The problem, though, is that not every Corinthian Christian possessed this knowledge, even though it is true. Strange as that may sound to modern readers, belief in many gods was not a trivial concept in the ancient world. It was fundamental. Many converts to Christianity were deeply involved with idol worship prior to conversion. Paul seems to imply it is difficult for newer Christians in that pagan culture to think of idols as imaginary beings. When presented with idol food, their conscience tells them they are participating again in idolatry. If they eat, they violate their own conscience.

Paul then makes a remark which must be carefully understood, since it comes with powerful implications. He refers to the conscience of one who thinks eating idol food is a form of idolatry as "weak." Based on his prior statements, Paul appears to be saying that the eating of such meats—in and of itself—is not a sin. It's not wrong, since those idols are, in fact, imaginary and meat is just meat (1 Timothy 4:4). This is a key point in understanding this passage: there is no inherent sin in the act being questioned. Ideally, those who suffer from this weakness can grow beyond it.

However, that fact is not meant to be the end of a Christian's thought process. Paul does not condemn those with "weak" consciences for failing to recognize it is okay for Christians to eat idol food. What he does say is that to act in violation of their conscience will "destroy" them. Here, as he did with the Romans, Paul will insist that if someone acts against their conscience, doubting whether their action is pleasing to the Lord or not, he or she is condemned as sinful (Romans 14:23).

The importance of this idea, as it relates to Christian conduct, cannot be overstated. Few things in the Christian life are absolutely and totally forbidden—but all things, always, are subject to a submissive and obedient relationship with the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, attitude is what makes something a sin, not the act itself.