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1 Corinthians 8:8

ESV Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.
NIV But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
NASB Now food will not bring us close to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat.
CSB Food will not bring us close to God. We are not worse off if we don't eat, and we are not better if we do eat.
NLT It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do.
KJV 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.

What does 1 Corinthians 8:8 mean?

Some in Corinth are challenging Paul's teaching about not eating food they know has been offered to false gods and idols (1 Corinthians 8:1). After all, they have argued, we all know the idols are fake gods and that only God is real (1 Corinthians 8:4).

Paul has answered that even though this knowledge is true (1 Corinthians 8:5–6), it is not universally understood. Some Corinthian converts to Christianity have a background of idol worship. After a lifetime of belief in multiple gods and the power of idols, some of those new believers struggle to be convinced the idols are not real entities. Those people cannot eat idol food with a clear conscience, because their conscience is "weak" (1 Corinthians 8:7).

Paul now agrees with those challenging him that the "weak" view of idol food is false. Food is just food. Eating one thing and not another, in and of itself, does not matter to God. It is neutral, as everything God has made can be used for some good and proper purpose (1 Timothy 4:4). There is no sin absolutely tied to any specific food or drink. Part of the discipleship process, over time, would be growth that includes a "strong" understanding of Christian liberty.

That does not—at all—mean that there are no boundaries for the believer. Paul will clarify that our motive for eating and whether we eat with a clear conscience before God matters a great deal. In other writings, Paul will state directly that any action taken without faith that it's acceptable to God is, thanks to violation of conscience, a sin (Romans 14:23). That is the perspective missed by those challenging Paul on this issue.
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