Paul has rejected the philosophy that Christians are free from any and all restrictions because our sins are forgiven and we live under God’s grace. This is the attitude which simply says, “everything is allowed,” and stops there. In contrast, Paul now says the standard for every Christian should be what it written in this verse: “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” This was the theme Paul explored in chapter 9, saying that even his “rights” were not as important as the spiritual good of other people.
Paul has written earlier that he is not under the law of Moses, but he continues to live under the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21). That “law” is captured in Christ’s words affirming the greatest commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).
Paul will, in the following verses, apply that law of love to the issue of knowingly eating meat that has been offered to idols.Context Summary
First Corinthians 10:23—11:1 shows that merely asking, ”Is this lawful?” is the wrong question for Christians. Instead, we must continue by asking, ”Will this glorify God?” and ”Will this build up our neighbors?” Paul instructs them to act on this by refusing to eat meat they know has been offered to an idol. The reason is to avoid causing anyone to think Christians approve of idol worship in any way. They are free, though, to eat any meat they don’t know to have been offered to an idol, with a clear conscience, and with thanks to God. The key message of this passage is that our intent, and the effects of our actions on others, are more important than the physical things involved.