Moving from his lengthy response to the Corinthians’ questions on marriage (“Now, concerning the things you wrote to me…” 7:1), Paul now responds to their question of the matter of eating meat offered to idols. (This also being part of their correspondence to Paul, marked by Paul’s transition, “Now…” 8:1).
From the statement, “We know that we all have knowledge,” it appears that the Corinthians were eating meat offered idols and defending the practice based upon their knowledge that “an idol is nothing in this world (v 4). They were indeed correct on their knowledge of the futility and vanity of idolatry. However, their correct understanding was not tempered or regulated by love, and Paul says from the outset, “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” Think of this statement as, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” In verses 4-6, Paul commends their knowledge of idols as contrasted with their understanding of the one true God and Father and the one Lord Jesus Christ.
But in verse 7, Paul makes an important correction in their claim. While Paul and those who wrote to him had a proper understanding (“we know”), Paul was quick to note that their letter does not accurately represent everyone in the local body, “However, there is not in everyone that knowledge.” We know that Paul is speaking of new Christians, for he expresses concern for those who violate their conscience by eating meat offered to idols. Only a new Christian would struggle with this.
Paul returns to the correctness of their knowledge in verse 8, but warns these brethren that they were in danger of causing their own brethren to be lost through the exercise of their liberty. Such would be a sin against those brethren and a sin against Christ (v 12).
Mature Christians often err by thinking that new Christians think like we do and understand the minutiae of the host of topics that might be discussed in Bible class, sermons, or in pre/post worship exchanges. This is a grave mistake. Moreover. We must be cautious, lest through the exercise of our liberties, we cast a stumbling block before our weaker brethren and wound their conscience.
All the knowledge in the world is of no value if it is not exercised in love.