I Corinthians 10:25-29
By Kelly McDonald, Jr.
“25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.’ 27 If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if anyone says to you, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice,’ then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake – 29 the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours.”
Common Argument: This passage has been used by some to say that Paul negated the dietary commandments and we can eat whatever we want.
Think it Through: Why would Paul tell people to violate God’s instructions about clean and unclean in I Corinthians when in 2 Corinthians 6:17 he commanded them not to touch any unclean thing? Unclean animals are also mentioned in Revelation 18:2, so they can’t be changed.
Short Answer: The chapter has to do with clean animal meat that has been sacrificed to idols. It has nothing to do with changing the dietary commandments.
Longer Answer: A crucial detail to help us understand chapter 10 is that chapter 8 comes first. In I Corinthians 8, Paul begins to address the issue of eating food offered to idols. He uses the word broseos once (verse 4) and the word broma two times (verses 8 and 13). These Greek words refer to clean animal meat (to learn more about this, read the article “How Does God Define Food” by clicking here). By using these words, he has defined food by the time we arrive at I Corinthians 10.
In ancient times, most people went to an open market to get their meat. Sometimes this meat had been sacrificed to an idol before it was put on display for people to buy. I Corinthians Chapters 8-10 address a situation between two groups of people. The first group is composed of mature believers who do not care if meat has been sacrificed to idols or not. The second group is composed of newer believers who think that Christians should never eat meat sacrificed to idols.
In I Corinthians chapter 8, Paul said that idols are nothing and that there is only one God (verses 1-6). Therefore, it should not matter if a believer eats meat sacrificed to idols. At the same time, he warned the more mature believers not to knowingly eat meat sacrificed to idols in front of less mature believers. If mature believers do such things, then it may encourage others to turn back to worshipping other gods.
In I Corinthians 10:25-29, Paul explained that eating food sacrificed to idols should be avoided if possible. If a believer was told the food was sacrificed to an idol, then he or she should not eat it. This is to protect the conscience of the newer believers. On the other hand, if believers go to a meal and they are not informed that the food was sacrificed to idols, then they should not worry about it. There is only one true God. Idols are nothing. This passage, like others from Paul and Jesus, is emphasizing how we should eat in a specific situation. It is not discussing what types of animals we should eat.
A second key to understanding this passage is to read the verses following it. Paul concludes this passage in verse 31 by saying “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” That means our thinking, how we treat others, and even how we eat should be used to glorify God.
In Leviticus chapter 11, God explained one way that we glorify Him by in our eating. If we are to uplift His name when we eat, then we must make this important distinction. Eating unclean animals is not glorifying His name because it is contrary to His Word. Paul’s main concern in this passage is not to define or redefine what God made to eat. He is trying to educate believers in how to encounter situations where they might eat food sacrificed to idols.
Kelly McDonald, Jr.
BSA President www.biblesabbath.org