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1 Corinthians Chapter 10, Part 2

by Karl Kemp  
5/25/2012 / Bible Studies

The verse-by-verse study of 1 Corinthians chapter 10 is completed here in Part 2.

(14) Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. [["Therefore" refers to the warnings of the preceding verses coupled with the teaching of the preceding verse, which demonstrates that there always is a way of escape from all temptation/sin. As the following verses (10:15-22) and 8:10 show, the particular form of idolatry that Paul was concerned with was the attendance at sacrificial feasts/meals, where sacrifices were being offered to the gods (demons). It seems that the Christians involved in this idolatry did not think of it as idolatry. They were proud of their "knowledge" (cf. 8:1-13), but their knowledge was faulty. (A little knowledge can be dangerous - we need the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches.) They were right that the idol gods being worshipped did not really exist (cf. 10:19), but they did not know (at least they did not adequately understand) that demons were behind these religions - they were being worshipped in the sacrifices (see 10:19-22).

I'll quote part of what Leon Morris said in the article on 1 Corinthians under the subheading "Sacrifices to Idols" ("International Standard Bible Encyclopedia," Vol. 1 [Eerdmans, 1979], page 778). "To us it seems axiomatic that the believer can have nothing to do with idol worship. But in the 1st century practically all social life involved some contact with idolatry. Celebrations calling for men to eat a communal meal, whether public or private, would be the very kind of occasion when the offering of a sacrifice seemed most appropriate. Christians who claimed to be mature reasoned that an idol means nothing. 'What harm can it possibly do,' they asked, 'to eat one's meat in front of a block of wood or stone? What if the heathen do think of it as a god? We know better, and know that bringing meat before a piece of wood cannot defile it.' "

I'll also quote a few sentences from what F. L. Godet said under verse 13 ("First Epistle to the Corinthians" [Zondervan, 1971 reprint of the 1886 edition], page 71). "Hoffman [another Bible commentator] rightly observes that nothing rendered the breach of the converted heathen with his past and with his surroundings so conspicuous as his refusal to take part in the sacrificial feasts. [Few people want to be conspicuous when it can lead to ostracism, persecution, loss of employment, etc.] And so, many Corinthians sought to persuade themselves that they might harmonize this participation with their Christian profession. Had they not declared the nothingness of idols? Such a feast, therefore, had no longer for them the character of a sacrifice; it was a purely social act...."

Most people (including Christians) are rather good at looking at things from their own vantage point and arguing that what they are doing is not sinful. But God is the one who determines what is sinful, and what is not. The apostle informed the Corinthians of God's viewpoint. For those that were submitted to the ministry of the apostle Paul, and most of the Christians at Corinth apparently were (cf., e.g., 2 Cor. 6:5-16), it would have become obvious what they must do, in accordance with his instructions. The epistles to the Corinthians show that there were some at Corinth who did not submit to the apostle; some wrongly thought that they knew more than Paul did - that was dangerous thinking.]] (15) 1 speak as to wise men; you judge what I say. (16) Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing [or, participation (Greek "koinonia")] in the blood of Christ? [[I'll quote part of what Leon Morris said here ("1 Corinthians," page 143). " 'The cup of blessing' (NIV thanksgiving) is the name the Jews gave the cup at the end of a meal, over which a thanksgiving was said.... ... 'Bless'...means that a prayer of thanksgiving was said over [the cup] (hence the translation of the NIV). Among the Jews the usual form of thanksgiving began, 'Blessed art Thou, O Lord,' after which came the matter for thanksgiving. Paul is referring then to the prayer of thanksgiving said over the cup at Holy Communion."]] Is not the bread which we break a sharing [or, participation (koinonia)] in the body of Christ? [[(This double bracket continues for more than a page.) The apostle is speaking of the Lord's Supper. For one thing, he wants to demonstrate that there is all too much similarity between this covenant meal, which commemorates the all important sacrificial death of the Lamb of God, and the sacrificial feasts of the pagans. New covenant believers certainly cannot be faithful to God and be involved in demon worship. One of the most grievous sins on the part of some of the ancient Israelites was the attempt to worship the gods of the nations along with the God of Israel. In the Lord's Supper (see Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20; and 1 Cor. 11:17-34), we focus on, and we reaffirm, that which is at the heart of, and which is the basis for, our covenant with God, the sacrificial death of the Lamb of God. As the old covenant was ratified with blood (Ex. 24:8), so was the new covenant.

Christ, the Lamb of God, was slain at Passover: "for Christ our Passover has been sacrificed" (1 Cor. 5:7). The Lord's Supper was initiated at Passover; the Lord's Supper of the new covenant replaces Passover of the old covenant. His sacrifice also replaces all the other old covenant sacrifices, including the very important sacrifices of the Day of Atonement. His sacrifice (unlike the old covenant sacrifices, which foreshadowed His One Sacrifice) was able to fully solve the sin problem forever (cf., e.g., Heb. 9:11-10:31). The Christians of the early church, unlike the Jews and the pagans, did not have sacrificial offerings, but they had the Lord's Supper, and they lived their entire lives in the light of, and on the basis of, the One Sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

"In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes" (1 Cor. 11:25; also see Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; and Luke 22:19, 20). As we remember the Lord and "proclaim [His] death until He comes," we consider, with praise and thanksgiving, our glorious covenant with God. For one thing, we consider the provisions and benefits of the covenant (e.g., forgiveness; death and burial for the old man; the new birth and indwelling Holy Spirit; healing (very much including holiness) for spirit, soul, and body; and having a place in God's eternal kingdom, reigning with the Lord Jesus in a never ending reign, starting at the time "He comes [returns]"). These things are all part of what it means for us to share/participate in the blood and body of Christ; in union with Him, we share/participate in His death (He died in our place, bearing our sins) and in His resurrection life.

First Corinthians 1:9 says, "God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship [Greek koinonia] with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." The Greek noun translated "fellowship" in 1:9 is used twice in 10:16, translated "sharing" (or, participation). (This Greek noun is also used in 2 Cor. 13:14 of "the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.") It is also instructive to note that the Greek noun koinonos, from which koinonia was derived, is used in 10:18, 20, translated "sharers."

The Lord's Supper is an appropriate time for us to renew our covenant with God. We consider what is required of us in this covenant, and we examine ourselves (cf. 1 Cor. 11:28) to make sure we are being faithful to the covenant. If required, we ask for forgiveness; and we commit ourselves to do everything we can do to repent and bring our lives into divine order (by God's grace). We share in the blood of Christ and His body when we come to the "altar" spoken of in Heb. 13:10. In Heb. 13:8-16 we see that for us to come to this altar is for us to walk in the all-sufficient grace of the new covenant, staying faithful to God, as required by the covenant. This is something we are required to do on a continuous basis. When we celebrate the Lord's Supper in faith, in truth, and in the Spirit, it is anything but a dead ritual. Christ is very much present with His people, even as the demons are present at the pagan sacrificial feasts.]] (17) Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body [cf. Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:12-27; Eph. 4:4, 16; and Col. 3:15]; for we all partake of one bread. [[The "one bread" refers to the literal bread used in the Lord's Supper, but since the bread represents the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, we can also say that the "one bread" refers to Him too. Under verse 16, we briefly discussed the fact that we share/partake in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, in union with Him. All those who truly partake of the "one bread," are, by definition, "one body." (This is true for the church worldwide, which is made up of all true Christians, not just for the local church.) The church is one body, and it must be understood that the members of this body cannot be united with other religious bodies or activities, where other gods are being worshipped. All true Christians are united with the Lord Jesus Christ (in/by the Holy Spirit), and through Him we are united with one another in the one body of Christ. We worship the God of the Bible, Him and Him alone. (We do, of course, worship the Lord Jesus Christ [God the Son] and the Holy Spirit along with God the Father.) In the Lord's Supper we are communing with God (not that we just do this at the Lord's Supper). He is our God; we trust Him; we obey Him; and we look to Him for all things (as He instructed us to).

One last issue: Do we literally partake of the body and blood of Jesus Christ when we partake of the bread and of the fruit of the vine at the Lord's Supper? Many Christians think so, but to me this idea confuses the issue; it puts the focus the wrong place and detracts from God's intended purpose in the Lord's Supper. (I am not suggesting that all who disagree with me on this issue miss the proper focus of Christianity. Many such Christians know and believe the basic truths of Christianity, they have been born again by the Spirit of God, and they are walking in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God by the grace/Spirit of God.) I agree with the many who point out that the fact that Jesus was present with the apostles when He initiated the Lord's Supper should suffice to show that He did not intend for us to take His words literally about the bread being His body and the fruit of the vine being His blood. The Lord Jesus frequently used figurative language.

Furthermore, it seems clear to me that the words of John 6:52-58 (which speak of eating Christ's flesh and drinking His blood), when read in context with all of John chapter 6 (and the rest of the New Testament), are to be understood in a non-literal, spiritual/Spiritual sense. If there is any reference at all to the yet-to-be-initiated Lord's Supper in John chapter 6 (and I doubt that there is), it is very limited. It is impossible to think, for example, that the bread of the Lord's Supper "gives life to the world" (John 6:33). John chapter 6 (and the rest of the New Testament) makes it clear that the work of the Spirit (who comes to us through the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning death, as we submit to God and His Word through faith) is what gives life to the world (cf., e.g., John 6:35-40, 63).]] (18) Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers [plural of koinonos] in the altar? [In Paul's day Israel was still sacrificing in the temple at Jerusalem. It was understood that those who were sharers in that altar could not be sharers in other altars. The apostle is reinforcing his point that Christians, who have their altar, cannot be sharers in other altars, the altars of demons.] (19) What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? [cf. 1 Cor. 8:4] (20) No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God [cf. Deut. 32:17; Psalm 106:37; and Rev. 9:20]; and I do not want you to become [or, be] sharers [plural of koinonos] in demons. [I prefer the translation "be" instead of "become," with the NIV and other translations. For one thing, this translation fits better with the fact that some of the Corinthians were apparently already involved with this idolatry (1 Cor. 8:9-13). Because of their inadequate (fleshly) understanding, however, they did not realize that they were involved in idolatry. Now that the apostle has informed them that their attendance at the sacrificial feasts in the pagan temples (or at other locations) involves communion with demons, they will have to repent or face very serious trouble with God. I assume that some did repent and that others who considered joining them gave up their misguided plans, but I would not be surprised to learn that some rejected what Paul said here (at their peril).] (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. [cf. 2 Cor. 6:16] (22) Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? [Compare Deut. 32:21. Many verses of the Bible point out that God is a jealous God - He will not tolerate His people's being unfaithful to Him (see under James 4:4 in my verse-by-verse study of James 3:1-4:10).] We are not stronger than He, are we? [Cf. Eccl. 6:10; Isa. 45:9.] (23) All things are lawful, but not all are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. [[See 1 Cor. 6:12-20; 8:1-13. Some of the Corinthians were pushing the idea that all things are lawful to ridiculous extremes. It is true, however, that when it comes to indifferent (ceremonial) things, like whether we eat meat, or certain kinds of meat, or do not eat, all things are lawful. For one thing, we are not under the ceremonial laws of the old covenant. The apostle, in the following verses, will go on to speak of meat sacrificed to idols. He will show that it is OK to eat this meat, assuming that you know in your heart/conscience that it is OK (not that it is ever OK to be involved in the sacrificial feasts devoted to pagan gods; see 10:14-22), but that occasions may arise where you would waive your right to eat this meat for the sake of a weaker brother, who was not yet convinced in his heart that such eating would be OK before God. See Rom. 14:1-23. (This chapter of Romans is discussed in some detail in my "A Paper On Faith.") We are to "edify" and seek the good of (cf. 10:24) the weaker brethren, not contribute to their stumbling.] (24) Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. [Compare Rom. 15:2; 1 Cor. 10:33; and 13:5.] (25) Eat anything that is sold in the meat market [Some of this meat had been sacrificed to idols.], without asking questions for conscience' sake [Compare 1 Cor. 8:7. As Paul will go on to show, he is speaking of the conscience of the weaker brethren, who are not yet convinced in their hearts that it would be OK to eat meat sacrificed to idols.]; (26) FOR THE EARTH IS THE LORD'S, AND ALL IT CONTAINS. [The apostle quotes Psalm 24:1 to help substantiate the idea that it is OK to eat all things. Compare 1 Tim. 4:3-5; Mark 7:19.] (27) If one of the unbelievers invites you [That is, he invites the strong Christian (at least he is strong with respect to his knowledge that it is OK to eat all things) to a meal at his home.], and you wish to go, eat anything that is set before you, without asking questions for conscience' sake. [Compare 1 Cor. 10:25, 28, 29. As Paul explains in verse 29, he is speaking of the conscience of the weaker brethren.] (28) But if anyone says to you, "This is meat sacrificed to idols," do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you [The one who informed the Christian regarding the status of this meat would apparently be one of the brethren who did not believe it was OK to eat such meat.], and for conscience' sake; (29) I mean not your conscience, but the other man's; for why is my freedom judged [condemned] by another man's conscience? (30) If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks? [[The "other man" would be a weak brother, who would judge/condemn you for eating meat sacrificed to idols. This same Greek verb is used in Rom. 14:3 and 4 (cf. 14:10) of the weak brethren judging/condemning the strong brethren for eating meat (not just meat sacrificed to idols). Also, the verb translated "slandered" here in 1 Cor. 10:30 is used in Rom. 14:16 in a similar way. It will not work for good, or for the glory of God (cf. 10:31), for the strong to "give thanks" and exercise their "freedom" and go ahead and eat the meat sacrificed to idols if it results in their being judged/condemned and slandered. It is clear that the weak brother would be wrong (sinful) in judging/condemning and slandering his brother, but Paul does not take time to make that point here - he is speaking here to the strong brethren.

The key point Paul makes here is that the strong need to waive their right to eat meat sacrificed to idols in a situation like this. That way they can avoid giving offense (cf. 10:32). Also, there is another, more-important issue that he raises in 1 Cor. 8:7-13 and Rom. 14:1-23. That is, the strong need to do everything they can do to avoid putting pressure on the weak to go ahead and do something (here, specifically, eat meat sacrificed to idols) before they are convinced/have faith in their hearts that it is OK before God. If they go ahead and eat before they are convinced in their hearts (efore their conscience is satisfied), it will be sin for them (even though in itself it is not sinful) - all sin is a serious matter.]] (31) Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. [Compare Col. 3:17; 1 Pet. 4:11.] (32) Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God [We should do everything possible to try to avoid giving offense. Some will always take offense, even as they took offense at Jesus.]; (33) Just as I also please all men in all things [The apostle tried to please all men in all things (that is, he did everything that he could reasonably do and still put God first, always doing His will), but it is very clear that many men, both Jews and Gentiles, including many Christians, took offense at him (not that their offense was justified).], not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved." [Compare 1 Cor. 9:19-23.]

May God be glorified through this article and His people be edified!

Copyright by Karl Kemp Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

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