DID PAUL TEACH OTHERS TO EAT FOOD OFFERED TO IDOLS?

Those who teach that Paul contradicted the teachings of Jesus claim that Paul taught that it was OK to eat meat offered to idols in Romans 14,  1 Corinthians 8, and 1 Corinthians 10.

Is this the case?

To begin, it is important to remember that Paul was present at the Jerusalem counsel (Acts 15) and was one of the supporters of the decision made to exhort the Gentiles not to eat food offered to idols.

2Then pleased it the apostles and elders with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch WITH PAUL and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas and Silas, chief men among the brethren:

23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia.

24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:

25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you WITH OUR BELOVED BARNABAS and PAUL,

26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.

28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;

29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

Notice that Paul is mentioned in this letter (the letter encouraging the Gentiles not to eat things offered to idols) along with Barnabas as beloved and men who had hazarded thier lives for the name of the Lord Jesus.

Notice that James, along with the other apostles, and the elders, endorsed Paul in this letter to the Gentiles. With this in mind let’s consider Paul’s teachings in Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8, and 1 Corinthians 10.

Does Paul teach the Gentiles to eat things offered to idols? 

FIRST, there is nothing in Romans 14 about meats offered to idols. Romans 14 is addressing meat or food, which is offensive to another brother. The teaching by Paul is to abstain from offending your brother by what you eat.

Those who claim that Paul is teaching it is OK to eat meat offered to idols in Romans 14 are carelessly proof-texting to support their claims. Paul’s exhortation in Romans 14 is most likely within a Jewish/Gentile context as Paul addresses the two cultural backgrounds throughout the book of Romans.

SECONDLY, Paul does not teach his followers to eat meat offered to idols in 1 Corinthians 8, nor is he promoting such practices.

Paul is actually teaching the Corinthians to walk in brotherly love and not to use their liberty in Christ as an occasion for offending a brother or sister who is weak in their faith. Paul instructs the Corinthians to refrain from eating things offered to idols so they don’t damage the conscience of others.

Paul makes it clear that food – in and of itself – has no value with regards to our relationship with God because there is only one true God and he is the creator of all things. However, not all possess this liberating knowledge, and for the sake of those whose consciences are weak, Paul admonishes the Corinthians to refrain from foods which are offered to idols so as not to wound another believer’s conscience.

Paul continuously teaches the Gentile brethren not to eat food offered to idols, not because of superstitious reasons, but out of love for others. Love is the right motive in everything.

Throughout the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul repeatedly addresses the importance of abstaining from idolatrous practices.

In 5:10-11, Paul tells the Corinthians not to keep company with a person who is called a brother if he engages in idolatrous practices.

In 6:9 he tells them that idolaters have no part in the Kingdom of God.

In 10:7 he tells them not to be idolatrous like the Israelites who fell in the wilderness.

In 12:2 he reminds them that they were previously Gentiles who were carried away by dumb idols.

Paul certainly would not have warned the Gentile believers against idolatry and then turned around and taught them to eat things offered to idols.

It is ironic that some use 1 Corinthians to support their claim that Paul taught that it was OK to eat things offered to idols. On the contrary, Paul very specifically instructs the Corinthians to NOT to do such things.

FINALLY, Consider the following for 1 Corinthians 10:18-33. I have chosen the NLT for clarity.

18 Think about the people of Israel. Weren’t they united by eating the sacrifices at the altar?

19 What am I trying to say? Am I saying that food offered to idols has some significance, or that idols are real gods? 

20 No, not at all. I am saying that these sacrifices are offered to demons, not to God. And I don’t want you to participate with demons. 

21 You cannot drink from the cup of the Lord and from the cup of demons, too. You cannot eat at the Lord’s Table and at the table of demons, too. 

22 What? Do we dare to rouse the Lord’s jealousy? Do you think we are stronger than he is?

23 You say, “I am allowed to do anything” —but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. 

24 Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.

25 So you may eat any meat that is sold in the marketplace without raising questions of conscience. 

26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

27 If someone who isn’t a believer asks you home for dinner, accept the invitation if you want to. Eat whatever is offered to you without raising questions of conscience. 

28 (But suppose someone tells you, “This meat was offered to an idol.” Don’t eat it, out of consideration for the conscience of the one who told you. 

29 It might not be a matter of conscience for you, but it is for the other person.) For why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? 

30 If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it?

31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 

32 Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. 

33 I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.

Paul’s words concerning food offered to idols, is that “food” – in and of itself – has no virtue, however, food which has been offered to idols ought not to be eaten out of love for others.

SETTING DOWN AND PICKING UP EBENEZER STONES

The following was written by my lovely wife back in 2010. 

I am “setting down” an Ebenezer stone. Please continue reading to find out what in the world I mean.

My sweet, Holy Spirit-sensitive friend Jennifer was encouraging me as I was going through a thick patch of discouragement and frustration. After I thanked her for her care and concern, she sent me this message: “Pick up the Ebenezer stones, sister!” I have to admit, I knew that Ebenezer was a biblical name (No, Charles Dickens didn’t make it up), but I had no clue of its significance. My next step naturally was to Google the term. One of the first things I found was “a reminder of God’s real, holy presence and divine aid. Spiritually and theologically speaking, an Ebenezer can be nearly anything that reminds us of God’s presence and help.” Wow! To make sure that was biblically accurate, I plugged the term into a favorite Bible study website (www.biblegateway.com). There I found a historical account of God’s deliverance of Israel from the Philistines recorded in 1 Samuel 7:5-15 (New American Standard Bible).

Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel to Mizpah and I will pray to the LORD for you.” They gathered to Mizpah, and drew water and poured it out before the LORD, and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the LORD.” And Samuel judged the sons of Israel at Mizpah.Now when the Philistines heard that the sons of Israel had gathered to Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the sons of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines. Then the sons of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry to the LORD our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it for a whole burnt offering to the LORD; and Samuel cried to the LORD for Israel and the LORD answered him. Now Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, and the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel. The men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and struck them down as far as below Beth-car. Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” So the Philistines were subdued and they did not come anymore within the border of Israel. And the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. The cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even to Gath; and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. So there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.

As the Israelites were in the process of doing the right thing by repenting, in came the enemy to attack viciously. Sound familiar? In times that you know you’re doing exactly what God wants you to do, the enemy takes his nastiest, meanest, most conniving shots at you. We’re not defenseless though. We have Jesus who defeated the enemy and made us “more than conquerors” in Him!

I know the Lord’s leading me to lean into Him and recall all He’s done for my family and me as He takes us into a new chapter in our lives. As we look forward, we also look back and remember His immense grace and mercy toward us as evidenced time and time again.

When you are experiencing a time of discouragement or despair, let me encourage you, as my precious Jennifer did, to “pick up the Ebenezer stones” and remind yourself that “thus far the LORD has helped us”.

JOB, THE WORD OF FAITH, AND DECLARING AND DECREEING

There are wonderful and sincere believers who have been taught that they are to declare and decree as part of their faith confession. This practice is common  within the Word of Faith movement.

The scriptural text for this practice is Job 22:28 which says; “Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways” (JKV).

These words were spoken by Eliphaz the Temanite, one of Job’s three friends who were rebuked by God in Job 42. Eliphaz the Temanite does all of the speaking in Job 22. He also does the speaking in chapters 4, 5, and 15.

In Job 42 God said to Eliphaz the Temanite ; “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has.”

Those who teach the practice of declaring and decreeing using Job 22:28 as their scriptural text are actually counting as the word of God, the words of a man who angered God by what he said about him. God said the words spoken by Eliphaz the Temanite were wrong.

Please don’t missunderstand me because it is scriptural to speak positively and encourage yourself in the Lord. We have examples in scripture that we can follow such as the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:28). She confessed her faith in Christ in the midst of dire circumstances and recieved the blessing she desired from the Lord.

There are also many others throughout the Bible who made bold declarations of faith in God.

On the contrary, the use of Job 22:28 is sometimes coupled with the concept that our words are creative, and therefore we can “create the world we desire.” If we want to be rich we can declare and decree I am rich, I am prosperous, etc.

Such teachings are not scripturally sound but are rooted in mysticism instead.

If we could create the world we want to live in by simply “declaring and decreeing” we could just all stay home and confess what we want for several hours a day.

On, the contrary, it is when our words are an expression of our faith in God based on his promises, regardless of our circumstances, that our confession has power. We are not created as little gods confessing the world we want to live in, instead we are called to be servants of the ONE TRUE GOD living by faith in him.

We are called to be people of faith and speak according to our faith in GOD’S POWER, not in our own power.

Finally, Job sometimes gets a bad rap by Word of Faith teachers because he said the thing he feared the most had come upon him. Yet God came to Job’s defense (42:7). God looks on the heart and Job was righteous in his heart towards God.

God also commanded Eliphaz the Temanite, and his two friends to come to Job and offer sacrifices to God and have Job pray for them. God said; “My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer on your behalf. I will not treat you as you deserve. “