The Corinthian Christians liked to boast in their superior spirituality. They favored demonstrations of knowledge and individual freedom as the highest form of godliness rather than responsibility and love toward their brethren. In other words, they were selfish and did what pleased then without giving thought to how what they did affected their weaker brethren. One of the areas that demonstrated their selfishness was eating meat sacrificed to idols. The problem was they did this at fellowship meals in pagan temples at which the food was sacrificed to an idol. They figured they could eat such meat at the pagan temple because idols had no real existence. They taught this behavior to recent converts and urged them to do the same to show that they were truly “in the spirit”.
While Paul allowed that idols had no real substance, he maintained that the Corinthians sinned, first because they did not take into account that they were misleading their weaker brethren and causing them to sin. To these weaker ones, an idol was real and when they saw their “stronger” brethren eating at pagan temples, they perceived that fellowship with false gods was part of the Christian experience. The Corinthians sinned by not edifying these weaker ones, for they destroyed their faith.
Paul’s argument is that Christian behavior is not a matter of exercising personal freedom or boasting in superior knowledge, but love for one another. Everything we do, no matter how innocuous or neutral it may be must take into account the affect it may have on our brethren in Christ. What we do should be determined by the affect it may have them. We should never do anything that may be misinterpreted, set a bad example or cause someone to sin. Perhaps in our age we may equate this with the media, movies, computer games, TV shows, theater, musicals or music in general. Most of what our culture celebrates is sensual, self-centered and does not glorify God. It teaches and promotes a message that is antithetical to the kingdom of God. Yet when we Christians partake of these things under the guise of Christian freedom, we may cause other, weaker brethren to sin. They think we support and approve of all that they see us do. Then they will follow our example and partake of that which does not honor God. So we must be wary of what we do. Many things may be innocuous and harmless but they are not all edifying or beneficial.