1 Corinthians 10b
1 Corinthians 10:14… Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
When the author says, “Therefore” we must ask what is the “therefore” there for? As always it signifies a context, and instead of just taking passages out of their context and misconstruing the meaning of a passage, we must always link individual verses with those around them to get the full meaning of the passage. In this case, the “therefore” refers back to all the Old Testament examples that Paul just finished reflecting upon. The Israelites, in spite of God’s miraculous deliverance and protection of His people, worshipped an image they fashioned, indulged in illicit sexual practices, tried the Lord’s patience, and on top of that, they complained about God! This constituted idolatry, and because of the way these examples were used, Paul now says to “flee from idolatry.” The verb form is present imperative, and it is not only a command to flee, but it signifies a continual flight from all that hinders the worship of God and God alone. If the Israelites had taken flight from their desire to put their own lustful priorities in front of God’s, then Paul would never have used them as examples.
The Corinthian Christians were set free from their freedom to sin. That’s what salvation brings to a person – it gives them the freewill to not sin. They were free to eat meat sacrificed to idols, but they were not free to take part in idol worship. They were free to attend pagan functions, but they were forbidden to take part in the false worship. Idolatry is the worst of sins, and because it has the basic idea of worshipping something or someone other than the One True God, the first commandment says, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Deut. 5:7). Idolatry is about putting an idea, a child, a job, a sport, a spouse – anything – before God. God is a “jealous God” in Exodus 34:14, and He “will not give His glory to another” (Isaiah 48:11). In Romans 1 God is said to have “given over” all those who put anything before Him. In Habakkuk 1:16 there is a description of the false worship of the Babylonians, and it was their military prowess. They worshipped their superior military might. It was their “net,” and it took the form of a false god in their lives. Even atheists worship false gods – they worship themselves, and all rejection of God is the worship of a false god. It might be oneself, another person, or it might be a military fortress. But idolatry didn’t die out with pagan gods. It takes all kinds of shapes.
Food for Thought
Jesus is the Christ, the second member of the Trinity. He is God Almighty. He isn’t just “Jesus” – he is the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who believe that God is anything other that who He really is are idolaters. If a person has any doubts about who Jesus Christ is and his ability to save souls – if his Word is questioned and his promises taken for granted – then this is idolatry. When we put faces to our God, who is spirit and without form, then we border on idolatry. God never revealed Himself in a visible form prior to Jesus Christ because He does not want to be reduced to an image. When we pray to the Father we should visualize nothing, for He has no form.
Idolatry is anything that takes precedence over the worship of God. Worshipping images is idolatry; the worship of angels is idolatry. Worshipping the dead who committed “good” deeds during their lifetimes is idolatry. The insatiable appetite for more – more money, bigger homes, better health, and greater prestige is idolatry. The worship of family and children is idolatry. Remember, God is not wanting a balance in your life of Him and something or someone else. It’s either all Him or it’s idolatry. Serve your family and serve your church, but do so because you love and are committed to the One God who gives eternal life and has the power to throw us into eternal hell. Putting anything else before Him constitutes the detestable sin of idolatry.
1 Corinthians 10:14-17… Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say. 16 Is 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? 17 Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.
Committed Christians are just that – people committed to Christ. They are in hot pursuit of knowing God in a deeper and more personal way. As such, they will allow nothing to hinder their pursuit of Him. If this pursuit is for anyone or anything other than God, then it constitutes idolatry, and Paul says to “flee from idolatry!” – a command with continual ramifications.
In verse 15 the apostle makes reference to the fact that he’s not speaking to unsaved people. Unsaved folks cannot understand a continual pursuit of God, but those who know Jesus Christ are called “wise men” and are able to “judge what [Paul] says.” This is interesting in light of the fact that Paul has been all over the Corinthians concerning their childish and immoral behavior as professed Christians. But he knows that they’re saved (cf. 1 Cor. 1:1-9), and because he knows this he can call them “wise men.” Wisdom begins with understanding the message of the cross of Christ. These people can now “judge” – or decipher – what Paul is saying in reference to comparing the sins of the Israelites of the past and their own sin of taking God’s grace for granted through overconfidence in their own abilities and freedoms.
Paul raises a question in vv. 16-17 by using the Communion table (Lord’s Supper, Eucharist, etc.) as an example. He asks, “Is not the cup of blessing a sharing in the blood of Christ?” The “cup of blessing” was actually the proper name of the third cup of wine consumed during the annual celebration of the Jewish Passover feast. It might also have been the final cup which was commonly drunk at the end of any meal the Jew’s ate as a final offering of thanksgiving to God for their food. It was likely this third “cup of blessing” that Jesus referred to on the night he died as a symbol of his soon-to-be shed blood for all mankind. When believers in Christ partake of the “cup of blessing” they remember the shed blood of Christ for their own sins. Likewise “the bread which we break” is a “sharing in the body of Christ” as v. 16 tells us. Though the breaking of bread represents Christ’s body, the actual breaking of it does not signify that Christ’s body was broken because his body suffered no breaks. Philippians 2:7 says that Christ “emptied himself” so as to live among us, suffer as we suffer, and be tempted as we are tempted. We partake of Christ’s body by eating bread so as to remember what he did for us at the cross. Participation in the Communion table is commanded by Jesus in Luke 22:19 and Paul in 1 Cor. 11:24-25. This sacrament is the ultimate in Christian fellowship, it is done in memory of our Lord’s death on the cross, and it reflects the perfect fellowship we’ll have in heaven with Christ. It is a “sharing” in Christ’s body and blood – a fellowship with Him and His people.
Food for Thought
We must remember that as professed Christians we are identified with our Savior Jesus Christ – our Lord. When we participate in the Communion table and so identify ourselves with Christ by remembering what he did for us, we are pledging allegiance to him and to him alone. We are not free to worship our families (by putting them first before God) and material wealth. To do so would be to worship idols, and it negates the holy sacrament of remembering the Lord’s death. In the same way that Israel of old enjoyed God’s blessings, His miracles, His food, His water, and His leadership – yet forsook Him by adding idols to their worship of Him, so too do we when we allow the world to hinder our worship of God and take His place in our hearts.
1 Corinthians 10:18-22… Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar? 19 What do I mean? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, 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. 21 You 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. 22 Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?
Again Paul calls attention to the nation of Israel – a nation God called through Abraham to be a beacon of light to the world. We are to observe God’s calling of them, what He did with them, what they did with God, and how God dealt with them as we read through the Old Testament (and how God will deal with them in the future in Romans 11:25-27). Paul called attention to, in vv. 16-17, the Christian Communion table as a sacrament in the sharing of the life of Christ, and in v. 18, he calls attention to Israel to parallel the Christian Communion table with the sacrificial system in Israel. He asks, “Are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar?” Those who offered sacrifices gave some to be burned on the altar, some to be eaten by the priests, and some to eat for themselves. In this way they all partook, or “shared; fellowshipped,” with God and one another. They were all one body through their participation in the sacrifice in the same way that Christians come together as one through observance of the Eucharist. The entire point Paul makes here is that to participate in idol worship is to identify with it, and God will not share His glory with another. To worship an idol AND worship God is to reject God.
Now in v. 19 Paul clarifies what an idol actually is. When folks dedicated their meat, homes, or whatever they dedicated, they weren’t exactly accomplishing what they thought they were. Bowing down to a carved idol or a graven image (modern examples would include all relics likes crosses, the Virgin Mary, saints gone before, etc.) is nothing because those images are simply that – images. However, v. 20 clearly teaches that bowing down before these man-made idols constitutes demon worship. Whereas the idol worshippers, both then and now, believed their images to have power in and of themselves, the power behind it was and is simply demonic! And to make sacrifices to idols was nothing short of demon worship – a worship that instead of identifying themselves with Christ, identified themselves with demons.
Verse 21 is clear teaching when it says, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons…” In other words, those who sacrificed their meat to idols to rid the demons from the meat, then sat down at the Lord’s table to celebrate the Eucharist, they provoked the Lord to jealousy. And in keeping with the example of Israel who committed the same crime, it is clear that these actions prove their rejection of God and His subsequent rejection of them.
Verse 22, in the New Living Translation says, “What? Do you dare to arouse the Lord’s jealousy as Israel did? Do you think we are stronger than He is?” Idolaters vainly believe that they’ll fare any better than Israel did – whom God dealt with by killing them in the wilderness. God won’t allow idolaters to go unpunished. No one escapes!
Food for Thought
Evaluate who you serve today. Is it you through your insatiable quest to reach the top of the company ladder? Is it your spouse or your children whom you put before all things – even the church, the elect children of God? Rest assured, it’s idolatry, and don’t think for a moment that anyone will escape God’s wrath for rejecting Him. No matter how faithful you think you are to God, if you have allowed something to hinder that worship, you are guilty of idolatry. Beware.
1 Corinthians 10:23-29… All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. 25 Eat anything that is sold in the meat market, without asking questions for conscience’ sake; 26 for the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains. 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you, and you wish to go, eat anything that is set before you, without asking questions for conscience’ sake. 28 But if anyone should say 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; 29 I mean not your own conscience, but the other man’s; for why is my freedom judged by another’s conscience?
Verse 23 acts as a summary statement to all the teachings of chapters 8-10 concerning Christian liberty. This means that all things not forbidden in the Bible are lawful for believers. However, all things are not always advantageous or beneficial. Having the liberty to do as we please within the realm of morality does not give Christians the right to offend others. The believer’s goal is to “edify” others. That word literally means “to build up,” and if one’s behavior prevents another from being built up, then that behavior must be limited. Verse 24 gives the command to Christians that their job is to seek the good of others as opposed to themselves. Now that teaching goes completely against that which is natural to mankind. But Christians are not “natural” people – they are saved by the blood of Jesus and made alive in Christ. Those who seek their own good prove who their “god” is, and it’s usually themselves and their own self-interests.
Verse 25 specifically answers the Corinthians’ question in relation to meat sacrificed to idols. They could go to the market and buy their meat without giving a second thought to the fact that it was previously sacrificed to idols. But for the sake of their own conscience, they weren’t to ask questions. If they didn’t know, then that was best. After all, as v. 26 states, everything on the planet belongs to God, and because of this it is clean and inherently good. Verse 27 answers the hypothetical situation concerning an invitation to dinner from one who does sacrifice to demons. If a pagan invited them to dinner and served them food, they were to eat everything that was set before them without asking whether or not the food was sacrificed to idols. Again, this was for the sake of their own conscience. However, as v. 28 states, if someone did in fact call attention to the fact that the food had been sacrificed to idols, then they were to forego the eating of that food. Why? Simply because the person who would inform them would be a believer in Christ, and for them to eat of the food and offend a Christian brother would be far worse than offending the pagan host. Abstaining from eating that food in that situation would be for one reason: for the “building up” of the fellow believer who called attention to the fact that the food had once been sacrificed to idols. For if their consciences were offended the strong believer’s freedom would be judged. And Paul rightly asks, “Why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience?” The tone is not “What right do they have to judge my behavior?” – It’s “Why should I even put myself in the position of sinning by eating the food that offends another?” If the chief goal of Christians is to glorify God, and if doing so involves the edification of His elect children, then limiting our Christian freedom certainly is a means to that end.
Food for Thought
If there was one thing you needed to give up starting today so as to edify another Christian, what would it be? If there was one vice you had that caused others to stumble, what would they say it is? If you can’t come up with something in your life that you need to give up, then ask someone else what it might be. Chances are, you’d be better off limiting that freedom.
1 Corinthians 10:30-11:1… If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks? 31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved. 11:1 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
When the apostle says, “If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that which I give thanks?” he asks a question in relation to his own freedom to act in accordance with his conscience. Paul says the same sort of thing in 1 Timothy 4:1-5. In that passage he warns of those who will come and deceive Christians into thinking that marriage is wrong and that eating certain foods is wrong. But he also says that God created everything, and all that He created is good as long as it is received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. All things are good if they’re prayed over and sanctified by prayer and thanksgiving. So Paul wonders why, with this truth in mind, he himself would be slandered for partaking of something that is completely lawful and good in and of itself. The ones he refers to here are weak believers – those who have gone to the opposite extreme of Christian freedom and turned the Christian faith into a legalistic list of dos and don’ts. They tend to slander free Christians.
Verse 31 is the key verse for all Christians as found in the Bible. No matter what believers do, whether eating or drinking, celebrating or mourning, they must do it to the “glory” of God. The word means “something that is worthy of praise or exaltation; brilliance, beauty, renown.” There are at least two aspects of God’s glory. First, God’s innate glory. God does not need to be glorified by His people, for He is fully glorified and has no “needs.” He possesses all glory by virtue of who He is, and even if no one ever game Him glory, He’d still be fully glorious. The second aspect of God’s glory is attributed glory. This is glory given to God by His children. This comes through prayer, praise, worship, confession of sins, teaching/preaching His Word, and through evangelistic efforts to bring others to Christ. Giving God glory means taking none for ourselves – even when we’ve accomplished a great feat. It all belongs to God anyway.
Verse 32 sums up the matter: Offend no one as long as it’s within your power. When the apostle says, “Either to Jews, Greeks, or the church of God” he includes every single person in the world – whether saved or unsaved. It is the goal of each Christian to glorify God through giving no offense either to believers in Christ or unbelievers. Paul himself became “all things to all men so that he might win more to Christ” (1 Cor. 9:22-23), but he limited his freedoms so as to keep from offending certain ones. He wasn’t seeking his own profit or satisfaction, rather he sought the edification of existing believers and the salvation of the lost. Because this was his chief goal, and because he knew that he was following Christ faithfully and wholeheartedly, he could command with a clear conscience, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.”
Food for Thought
Do you work hard? Is it simply to have more? Why do you serve? Is it for acclaim and recognition? Why do you endure physical exercise? To look good? If you work to serve Christ and strive for more money so as to give more money, then you do well. If you serve your family, your neighbors, or even strangers for any other reason than to help them and bring glory to God, then your service is a failure and won’t be rewarded. If you work your body out rigorously for the sole purpose of looking good, remember that you’ll die whether you’re in good shape or bad. Do all things for God’s glory and not your own. That’s why He created you and redeemed you.
Worshipping Demons Vs. Glorifying God
1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1
I) The Truth About Idolatry (14-22)
A) We must flee from it
1) It puts anything and everything ahead of God
2) It slanders the name of Christ (i.e., he’s just a man)
3) Worshipping the wrong way is idolatry
4) Worshipping images is idolatry
5) Worshipping angels/demons is idolatry
6) Worshipping dead people is idolatry
7) Covetousness is idolatry
8) Worship of family, job, and materialism is idolatry
B) Idolatry is inconsistent (16-18)
C) Idolatry is demonic (19-21)
D) Idolatry is offensive to God (22)
II) Using Freedom for God’s Glory (10:23-11:1)
A) God’s Inherent and Intrinsic Glory
B) God’s Ascribed Glory (Ps. 29:1-2)
1) Confession of sin
2) Trusting in God
3) Evangelism (bearing fruit)
4) Giving thanks
5) Being content
C) Christian Freedom must be used properly (23-30)
1) Edification over gratification (23)
(a) God’s Word builds up (Acts 20:32)
(b) Preaching and teaching (1 Cor. 14:3-4)
(c) Love (1 Cor. 8:1)
(d) Obedient service (Eph. 4:12)
2) Others over self (24)
3) Liberty over legalism (25-27)
4) Condescension over condemnation (28-30)
D) The Purpose of Christian Freedom (31-32)
E) The Pattern of Christian Freedom (10:33-11:1)