The whole discussion of food offered to idols in 1 Corinthians 8-10 is still immediately relevant to billions of people in our world today. The applications of the passage are very important for all Christians. For now, we will focus on the immediate context of these chapters.
The Corinthian believers were asking:
In 1 Corinthians 8:1-6, Paul begins by confronting some of the Corinthian believers who were eating meat offered to idols. These boldly ate food offered to idols because they had strong faith in Jesus (possessed knowledge). In their pride, these thought that they could eat food offered to idols because they were unafraid of idolatry. These “strong” believers seemed to feel more righteous because they ate food offered to idols.
Billions of people in today’s world worship idols, angels, spirits of the dead/ancestors, and other spiritual powers.1 People have been worshiping demons and idols since the Fall. God’s people ever since have had to learn how to honor the One True and Living God in a pagan world.
Many believers in Christ today share a dilemma quite similar to that of Corinth in New Testament times. They are confused about how to live out their faith in relation to the pagan community around them. What are they to do about eating food offered to idols? How they answer this question will prove vital to their faith.
This issue is more important than many who are from a Christian-influenced, secularized, or monotheistic religious background readily understand.2 Cultures dedicated to this kind of pagan worship are dominated by public religious festivals and regular rituals. Community and family life revolve around these observances. Involvement in all this is the major expression of community, ethnic pride, unity, and even patriotism.
There is nothing simple about making disciples, and yet, making disciples should be done simply. Forming local churches from new disciples does not need to be an overly complicated affair.
In unreached areas, or among unreached people groups, to make disciples is to plant local churches. This is what Jesus communicated to us in the Great Commission:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, [even] to the end of the age. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV)
The Lord Jesus commissioned His people to go and make disciples of all nations. They are to baptize these new believers in the Name of the Triune God and teach them to obey Him.
To be an obedient disciple of Jesus means that a believer becomes a significant part a local body of Christians, a local church. There they learn to put into practice the teachings of Jesus and His apostles. It is God’s design that His disciples follow Him in the context of local churches. As the author of Hebrews tells us,
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (10:23-25 ESV)