Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), by Watchman Nee

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In this message, we will consider a few more verses. First Corinthians 8:11 says in the King James Version, "And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?" This verse presents a problem. This person mentioned here is definitely saved, for he is called a brother. It is true that he is a weak brother. But nevertheless he is a brother, a person who belongs to the Lord. But here it says that he could perish. The word perish, apollumi, carries two meanings in the original language. One can be translated as perish. The other can be translated as destroy. But this word is the same as the word perish used in John 3:16. John 3:16 says that everyone who believes in Him shall not apollumi, but have eternal life. If we can use the word destroy in 1 Corinthians 8:11, then we can translate John 3:16 as destroy also. Here then is a problem.

When we read the Bible, we cannot read it in a superficial way. We have to study the context in detail. Only after reading the context carefully can we know what the verse says. One cannot hear clearly what others are saying by leaning the ear against someone’s window. One of the most foolish things on earth is to listen to others through the keyhole behind closed doors, for one may not catch what is spoken before or after. If you pull a sentence out of context from the Bible, you will surely not be able to understand it clearly. To understand it clearly, one must read the context.

The subject of 1 Corinthians 8 is on the forbidding of Christians from eating food offered to idols in the idol temple. The Corinthian believers proposed that it was all right for Christians to eat food offered to idols in the idol temple. Their reason was that there is only one God in heaven and on earth. The idols are nothing. If one offers food to the idols, and the idols are real, then the offerings are real offerings. If the idols are not real, then the offerings are not offerings at all, but are food only. If they are not offerings, what harm is there to eat them? If the idols are not real, then the temples are but non-temples, and it would not mean anything for one to eat the offerings in the temples of the idols. They therefore thought that the offerings could be eaten. This is what the Corinthians said.

But Paul said that the offerings should not be eaten. His reason was not that the idols were real or the temples real. At the beginning of chapter eight, Paul said, "Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge." The word "we" refers to the Corinthian believers. Because all have knowledge, therefore they can eat. However, "knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." The purpose of love is to build others up, whereas knowledge puffs up. It is true that the Father is God, that Jesus is the Lord, and that the idols are nothing. But there were many weak brothers in the church in Corinth. They did not have the knowledge; their minds were not as keen as yours are. Although you can turn the words around and consider there to be nothing, these ones do not understand the things you are saying. They still think that it is against the commandment of the Lord to do something like this. One has to remember who these people were and what their backgrounds were. Today you may think that idols are nothing. But these ones had offered to idols before, thinking that they were offering to God; they thought that the idols were gods. When you eat, you do not feel anything. But if they eat, they would be reviewing their past sins. They were not like you. You have the knowledge, and therefore you can eat and go away. But they would feel that they were doing the same thing that they had done before and were sinning the same way they had sinned before. In their mind, they still consider this as sin. Hence, for the sake of the other Christians, and for the sake of loving them, though you may have the knowledge, you would rather not do it. You have the knowledge, but they do not have the knowledge. They feel condemned in their conscience before God. They feel that they have committed some great sin and are falling away again. Therefore, for their sake, we would not eat. This is the general meaning of this passage.

(Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), Chapter 18, by Watchman Nee)