"As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. 5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) 6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him." 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 KJV
NOTE: All the scripture references are found in 1 Corinthians 8.
The Oneness of God has been a passion of mine since well before I started preaching. I can remember as a small child staying awake till the wee hours of the morning listening to every debate I could get my hands on. Everywhere my father went to preach I always had my ear open for a hint that a pastor would have a set of debates that I did not have so that I could get copies.
I soaked up every word and every argument and the appropriate rebuttal. I knew it inside and out. I had all of the scriptures memorized. Anyone who would talk to me about the topic I would bug them until they were probably completely annoyed by me. I would play devils advocate for the Trinitarian view just so that I could talk about it.
In a revival at Bro. Swindle's church years ago Jeff Lewis, Chris Jewel and I would stay at the church all afternoon and debate. I do mean debate. We had timed speeches and moderators; we would go at it for hours. When we went out to eat after church we argued about the Godhead. We would start discussions in restaurants with denominational folds at other tables about baptism in Jesus name and the Oneness of God.
I converted my first Trinitarian as a teenager with Tim Stamper in Weedpatch, CA. Tim Stamper was another friend who was obsessed with the Oneness of God. I would like to think that I had some influence on his life. During that revival at the Dawson's church we were teaching Bible studies in the mall and anywhere else we could find someone to listen. That was also the first time that I had ever baptized someone; it was a Trinitarian that Tim and I had taught a Bible study to and he saw the truth.
Around the age of 23 I had my first debate. My opponent was Thomas N. Thrasher. Mr. Thrasher had been debating for decades and at that time had already participated in at least 75 debates. So, as you can see, the Oneness of God is not just something that was taught at the church I attended, or just the way I was raised; I had made it mine.
It was not until recent years that I really began to realize that the Oneness of God was more than mere theology that must be believed in order to be saved. The text at the beginning of this post, as well as other factors, opened my to the realization that the Oneness of God should have some very practical impact on my day-to-day walk with God. I am going to deal with only one of the practical applications of the Oneness of God.
THE ONENESS ADHERENT AND IDOLATRY
In our text the Apostle Paul uses the Oneness of God in a very practical manner to solve a real-world problem within the Christian experience. There was the issue of former pagans in the Corinthian church that had newly converted to Christianity, and they still had a conscience toward recently forsaken idols and were offended at other believers who were eating in the temples of idols things sacrificed in worship to the very idols they had just forsaken.
So, Paul is attempting to address this issue among the Corinthian church. His solution, at least in part, is the Oneness of God. I see Paul as primarily addressing the stronger brother who was exercising a liberty that the weak brother, the newly converted pagan, could not exercise. It seems a little strange to me that Paul calls the brother that can not eat things sacrificed to idols the "weak brother" (vs. 11). We automatically think of the person with the most restrictions as the "strong brother," not the "weak brother."
Paul's first argument is in defense of the strong brother's liberty to eat in the temple of an idol things sacrificed to idols knowing all the while that it was offered in worship to an idol (vs. 4 & 9). Paul clearly argues, "an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one (vs. 4)." This is a powerful statement! The idea that there is none other God but one invalidates the existence of the idol. Faith in the Oneness of God makes it as if the idol does not even exist, therefore the believer is at liberty to eat anything he wants anywhere he wants.
The only problem is that you have weak brothers who had just last week worshiped at this very alter that he sees the strong brother eating at. The idol is still very alive in his conscience, therefore he cannot eat this food dedicated to the idol without feeling like he is worshiping another God. His faith has not been elevated to the point that the Oneness of God has affected the way that he lives.
Since the idol is nothing, the only power that it has is what his weak conscience gives it; however, in reality it has no power at all. What this weak brother needs is two-fold: The first thing that he needs is a revelation of the Oneness of God that will free his conscience from slavery to this non-existent idol. Secondly, until his faith is elevated to that place he needs the strong brother to walk in charity with him.
Paul never absolutely removes the liberty of the strong brother, he only cautions him to take heed lest his liberty becomes a stumbling block to his weak brother. The wrong response is to enact as law what should only be an act of charity. If Paul makes a law prohibiting the eating of things sacrificed to idols then he has brought the whole Corinthian church down to the level of the weak brother who has conscience toward an idol.
On the other hand, by exhorting charity he preserves both the liberty of the strong brother, and the conscience of the weak brother. By doing this, the weak brother's conscience will be brought UP to the level of the strong brother's conscience by having his current faith in the Oneness of God completely replace his previous faith he had in idols. The goal should be to bring the weak brother UP, not the bring the strong brother DOWN.