Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 23, 1950
NUMBER 29, PAGE 12-13a

There Is Not In All Men That Knowledge

Robert H. Farish, Tarrant, Alabama

I Cor. 8:7 "Howbeit there is not in all men that knowledge: but some being used until now to the idol, eat as of a thing sacrificed to an idol and their conscience being weak is defiled." To discover what knowledge Paul is referring to, we need only to consider the context. In verse 4 he says, "We know that no idol is anything in the world, and that there is no God but one." The knowledge that no idol is anything and that there is no God but one" was possessed by Paul and by the mature element in the church at Corinth. This knowledge however was not possessed by all the members—"Howbeit there is not in all men that knowledge." While all the members must have in their minds acknowledged the sovereignty and oneness of the true God, yet past years of association and participation in idol worship tended to prevent their eating of these meats, which had been used in idol worship, as simply food. They "being used until now to the idol, eat as of a thing sacrificed to an idol." It is well to note right here that so far as the physical act of eating is concerned their act was the same as that of those who had knowledge. The difference is that one ate to satisfy hunger while the other in his eating was unable to disassociate this act from worship. He had been "used until now", that is accustomed in former life to "eat as of a thing sacrificed to an idol."

The procedure for the strong to follow in this matter is to refrain from exercising a liberty which would contribute to a brother's condemnation—the brother for whom Christ died. If Christ gave up so much, it is a great thing to ask of those "who have knowledge" to give up such a minor thing as an instrumental accompaniment in a wedding held in the meetinghouse? Does the asking of such a concession brand the one making the request as weak in the faith? If so, then Paul must be so branded for he demands that things of this nature be foregone in the interest of edification and to prevent the weaker brother from perishing.

The procedure outlined by Paul is not just restricted to acting on the basis of knowledge alone but is further modified by the requirements of love. Certainly Paul knew that an idol was nothing but he did not chart his course in this matter by knowledge alone, but rather points out that knowledge "puffeth up" but love "buildeth up." Paul had knowledge—was strong—yet he did not treat the weak with disdain. Could any one accuse Paul or rather the Holy Spirit by which Paul wrote, of failing to know or make distinction between the eating of meat for physical needs on the one hand and of eating it "As of a thing sacrificed to an idol" on the other? Certainly not, for he has already acknowledged the distinction and then has gone on to make the plea for consideration of the weaker brother. We know that no material building is the church of the Lord "howbeit there is not in all men that knowledge."

As long as the condition can exist, "that there is not in all men that knowledge", just that long must the divine procedure be acknowledged and followed. This condition will continue to prevail as long as denominationalism exits. There will always be those who have "been used until now to the- idol, eat as of a thing sacrificed to an idol." Those who have lately given up their idol of "instrumental music" will be unable to make distinction that more mature Christians may see. These in whom there is not that knowledge, like the poor, will always be bound by the law which has been laid down by the Holy Spirit to govern our attitude and conduct in such matters.

This principle of refraining from exercising a right in the interest of the "one for whom Christ died", bars the instrument from the meetinghouse for weddings—entertainments—or anything else. Certainly we "have knowledge" that the meeting house is not the church but let us not become "puffed up" in our knowledge and chart our course on the basis of knowledge alone, but rather let us be "builded up" in love, allowing love to restrain us from the exercise of rights which will "grieve"—cause the weaker brother to perish.

Guided by the Holy Spirit, brother Paul made a law "forbidding people to exercise their own judgment and to consult their own pleasure in such matters." Brother Paul was not "presumptions" and he did not "sin." Consider these passages: I Cor. 10:24 "Let no man seek his own, but each his neighbors good." Whose good? Rom. 15:1, 2 "Now we that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each one of us please his neighbor for that which is good unto edifying." Whose pleasure is to be consulted in such matters? Does Paul here allow "each one of us" to consult his own pleasure? Who are we to strive to please? We are to please our neighbor for that which is good unto edifying. So says Paul. Paul uses the word "please" to represent the opposite to "grieve"... Compare Rom. 14:15. The idea is that we are not to grieve but to please. If we can discover the sense in which "grieve" is used we can better understand the use of "please." To get the definition of "grieve" as used here I quote from brother Whiteside's Commentary on Romans. "The connection shows clearly that the warning against doing anything whereby a brother is grieved means more than simply a warning against doing anything to hurt his feelings; for the next sentence says, "Destroy not with thy meat him for whom Christ died", that is, do not destroy -him as a Christian. You do not destroy a Christian by violating his prejudices or notions. "Is grieved"—is brought to grief. No one should, by eating meat, bring his brother to grief, that is to destroy him as a brother. As the grieving of a brother means destroying him as a brother, then we can see that to please is to save him as a brother. To walk in love is to direct all our efforts to save and avoid anything that would contribute to a brothers' condemnation.

To use an instrument in the meetinghouse would not grieve the weaker brother, in the sense of violating his prejudices and notions but would please him in this sense. He has been used until now to associating the instrument with worship in the meetinghouse. He had been saying all along that he liked instrumental music and had been asking the question of loyal brethren, "Don't you like instrumental music?" No, he would not be grieved in this sense but he would be grieved in the sense that Paul used the word. He, who has been "used until now" to associate the instrument in the meeting house with worship, would upon seeing it in the place where "prayer was wont to be made" be "emboldened" to participate as in worship, When he does, his conscience is defiled. He is brought to grief. We have sinned against Christ when we bring such a thing to pass.

The only safe course to pursue is never to bring an instrument into the meetinghouse for any purpose. How can we know that there won't be a weaker brother "seeing" us, who have knowledge, engaging in that which appears to him to be worship? This is exactly the case that Paul refers to I Cor. 8:10 "For if a man sees thee who hast knowledge, sitting at meat in an idol's temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak be emboldened to eat things sacrificed to an idol." All the one here saw was the stronger brother eating meat in a place where meat was eaten in sacrifice to idols. He would suppose that the stronger brother was "eating as of a thing sacrificed to an idol." The stronger brother would have no chance to explain that he was not engaging in worship. He may not have known that he was "seen", and if he had known that a brother had "seen" him he could not be certain that the brother was "weak". Yet he is required to follow a course of action that takes cognizance of the fact that "there is not in all men that knowledge." As one thoughtful brother remarked to me, "It requires too much explaining to the outsider and weak brother."