1 Corinthians 10
1For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea;
2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
3and all ate the same spiritual food;
4and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.
Paul speaks of some of the commonalities of the Jewish people, he being a Jew himself. They all wandered in the wilderness with God leading them by a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day (Exodus 13:21). They all followed Moses as their leader and received the Law of God from him. They all ate manna and drank from the rock which miraculously gave forth water (Exodus 16:15, 17:6). The Rock which followed Israel was Christ, He being God. The pre-incarnate Christ was there with Israel in their wanderings looking out for them and providing for them.
5Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.
6Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.
7Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, "THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY."
8Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.
9Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.
10Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
11Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
Most of the Israelites who had escaped Egypt ended up dying in the wilderness because of their lack of faith to go into Canaan and take it. Others died at various judgments of God along the way because of their evil and disobedience. We are to be mindful of how easy it is to fall into temptation and that God disciplines His beloved children when we sin (Hebrews 12:6). Sin has consequences, and we must take sin seriously. Quoting from Exodus 32:6, Paul explains how the people were idolaters and immoral. They did their sacrifices in the morning and then went to play, which implies sexual immorality. Their minds were set on evil, and their hypocrisy didn’t bother them. After the immoral idol worship and orgy in Exodus 32 at Sinai, God killed 23,000 of the Israelites, 3,000 at the hand of the Levites (Exodus 32:28) and presumably the other 20,000 by divine destruction (Exodus 32:35). The Levites were the only ones recorded to still be for the Lord, but as usual, there was a faithful remnant. The lesson is to be faithful so that we don’t try the Lord with sin, lack of faith, disobedience, or grumbling and complaining. The Israelites died of fiery serpents (Numbers 21:6) because of complaining against Him, and they died at the hand of the destroyer, an angel of God, because of rebellion (presumably referencing the plague of Numbers 16). All of this should serve as an example to remind us how to live and to teach us to fear the Lord. The Scripture is written for our instruction in this time. As Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” God always proves Himself to be powerful, sovereign, and faithful. There is no need to test His anger when we can be sure of His love, goodness, and the hope and joy that comes from serving Him.
12Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.
Korah’s rebellion recorded in Numbers 16 speaks of 250 men who took their stand in defiance against God and were swallowed up by the earth. They thought they could stand on their own against God and win, but they were wrong. They wanted to worship God their own way, but God is firm in how He is to be worshipped. They fell, but we need not to fall if we learn from their example. Rather than rebel and test the principles of the Lord, we should believe every Word of it and obey it. If we become self-sufficient or arrogant, we make ourselves prone to a great fall. It is imperative that we guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Proverbs 4:23, Philippians 4:7).
13No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
14Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
When we are tempted, we ought not to be surprised by the fact. Temptation is common to man. We are going to xperience it; even Christ experienced it. Yet we don’t have to give into temptation, for God is faithful, providing a way of escape. It is not as if we are going to experience a certain kind of temptation that will be so strong and so severe that God’s faithfulness won’t be enough to enable us to resist and flee. We can always win and cause the devil to flee (James 4:7), but we must believe God and resist the devil by faith in His Word. We can always endure a temptation without giving into it if only we will trust the Lord. Never will we be given more than we are able to handle with the help of our Lord. The same Jesus Who withstood all temptation while on earth is within our hearts to help us live in victory. Some temptations are extremely appealing and aggressive, but, even if it is an intense battle of faith, we can endure and win. In light of God’s promised victory, we must flee all sin. In this particular instance, Paul is concerned that the Corinthians flee idolatry rather than mix and match some idol worship with the worship of God.
15I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say.
16Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?
17Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.
18Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar?
19What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?
20No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons.
21You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.
22Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?
23All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable All things are lawful, but not all things edify.
Paul is going to reason with the Corinthians as to how they should live when it comes to coming together for worship. It appears that some were trying to merge pagan feasts and rituals with the observance of the Lord’s table, mixing the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. This cannot be done unless we want to rouse the Lord’s anger and jealousy and risk experiencing judgment as Israel did. God is not to be trifled with or tested as if we are stronger than He is. He will always win and have the final say. When we take communion, we share in the body and blood of Christ in that we remember what He has done for us. We confess that we are His, and all who are part of the body of Christ are welcome to the table and to share in the one bread. When we take communion, we share not just in the food but in the worship of God. When Israel ate of the sacrifices of the altar, they jointly professed worship to God. When the Gentiles sacrificed their food to idols, they sacrificed it to demons and worshipped them. Paul wasn’t concerned about the corruption of the food as if it was cursed, given that idols are not living. His concern was that, for all intents and purposes, the believers, by drinking of the cups that were offered to demons, were, in effect, participating in the worship of demons. It is not like they just walked into the pagan temple and bought some food to take it home and eat before God. It seems that they were actually somewhat participating in the pagan rituals and not making it clear that the cup of Christ has nothing to do with the cup of demons. The dividing line was not clear for them or for those watching. Their actions might have even seemed to grant approval to the demon worship because they didn’t condemn it or clearly separate themselves from it. Their worship may well have become a polytheistic, syncretistic practice, merging beliefs and religions into one assembly and process. When we take of the Lord’s table, we are not to be jointly taking of things given to demons. The Lord demands exclusive worship, and communion is a time for reflection, introspection, remembrance, and worship.
24Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.
It might have been convenient to get supplies or food from pagan places, but Paul’s admonition is to think of the pagans as lost souls who need the gospel. The Believers needed to be thinking of the lost, and therefore they needed to show them the jealousy and holiness of the Lord, which they were failing to do.
25Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience' sake;
26FOR THE EARTH IS THE LORD'S, AND ALL IT CONTAINS.
27If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience' sake.
28But if anyone says to you, "This is meat sacrificed to idols," do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience' sake;
29I mean not your own conscience, but the other man's; for why is my freedom judged by another's conscience?
30If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks?
31Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Paul further illumines the Corinthians as to what he is actually, practically desiring them to do. He has earlier said that it is acceptable to eat food from the meat market even if it has been sacrificed to idols. This is because God is the one true God Who owns everything. They need not feel guilty for eating of this food, but they can go and buy it and eat it at home freely. If an unbeliever invites a believer to the market, the believer can go and eat the food with them. They don’t have to feel guilty for being in the market because they are not actively sinning or leading someone astray by doing so. After all, their God is the real God, and they don’t need to be intimidated or afraid of false deities. But if the unbeliever or anyone mentions that the food has been sacrificed to idols, then the believer needs to abstain. He must do this because to eat publicly after all in association are aware that the food has been sacrificed to idols is to communicate an acceptance of idol worship. It communicates that God doesn’t care about idol worship as if it is not an offense to His holiness and jealous nature. For the sake of the conscience of the one who informed the believer and any unbelievers in association, the believer must abstain. It is not that his conscience is bothered, for he knows he is free to eat the food. It is for the sake of the others who would see it as participation in idol worship that the believer must abstain. They don’t understand that the idols aren’t real, so their consciences say something much different about eating of the food. It is important to take a stand against the idol worship in such an instance, albeit respectfully. Hopefully, a stance against participating in the evil deeds of the culture will open a door for the gospel. Surely, not taking the stance closes the door. When the believer is on his own or in the presence of other believers (as long as their consciences are knowledgeable to understand their freedom to eat), then they can be thankful for the food which God has provided, and they can eat it with thankfulness. Believers shouldn’t slander one another for this. The point is that God gets the glory in all things, even in eating and drinking, which He wouldn’t get if unbelievers thought that a believer worshipped their idol.
32Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God;
33just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.
In abstinence from the meat sacrificed to idols, it is important for believers to be respectful in how they decline the hospitality of the unbelievers. They must explain in love and grace why they must do what they do so as not to cause any needless offense. The offended party may still get angry or hurt, but it is necessary for the sake of the gospel. The church should also not offend one another by causing a weaker brother to stumble, and they must not needlessly offend the Jews by flaunting their freedom or casting any kind of insult. The point is that Paul desires the Corinthians to follow his example to consistently value the salvation and eternal well-being of others ahead of their own convenience and comfort such that they could be presented the gospel and possibly come to Christ. Paul did all things for the sake of the gospel and for the glory of God, and so should we.