In ancient Israel, people gave animals to God at his house, called the temple, in Jerusalem. The altar was the place where the priests burned meat from those animals, to offer it to God.
However, the priests did not burn all of the meat. Godís law told them that they themselves should eat certain parts of some gifts (Leviticus 6:24 to 7:36).
Paul has referred to this matter before, in 1 Corinthians 9:13. Then, his subject was the rights of people who work for God. Now, his subject is the meat that people offer to false gods.
Food itself can neither benefit nor spoil a personís relationship with God (8:8). However, when people eat special, sacred food, they do it for a purpose.
For example, when a Christian accepts the bread and wine at church, he does it for a purpose. He does it to express that he trusts God to save him, by means of Christís death. He wants to please God, and he can only do that because of Christís death.
When the priests of Israel ate their sacred meat, they too had a purpose. They were expressing the fact that, because of the death of the animal, Godís relationship with his people continued. They too wanted to please God; and their work at the altar was necessary to do that.
When people offered meat to false gods, they had a purpose also. Their purpose was to give honour to false gods, that is, to evil spirits. They wanted to please those evil spirits. For that reason, Paul advised Christians not to eat that meat (10:20-21).
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© 2014, Keith Simons.