1 Corinthians 10
Normally, I try to give a bit of a briefing as to how we got to this point from the beginning of the book, but because of the time constraints in dealing with a chapter that is over 30 verses in one evening, I will only give the briefest of summaries. It needs to always be kept top of mind that ALL of the letters without exception of the Apostle Paul to the church at Corinth were corrective in nature. This is actually the second letter that Paul wrote to the congregation there, the first one being lost to history (hence called the lost epistle [Corinthians A]). Our current Study is often labelled as Corinthians B, but we will go with the normalized conventions, 1 Corinthians. There was a third called “the angry epistle” [Corinthians C] after what is known as “the painful visit” of Paul to the Corinthians, and after that he wrote 2 Corinthians [Corinthians D] as a defense of his own apostleship, given by Jesus Christ.
It is important to know all of this because if we were to forget the context in which the letters to Corinth were written, well, frankly we end up with the modern Charismatic movement. What many people, including those of the “New Thought” (which is better called “old lie” if you ask me), and the children of that movement, which gave rise to, among others, a man named Kenneth Hagin, who is often proudly heralded by the Charismatics as the grandfather of the modern Charismatic movement. It is his interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14 that is responsible for much of the Charismatic madness about so-called “speaking in tongues,” prophecy, and other like nonsense. We will examine that more when we get to 1 Corinthians 14 (or more likely starting in Chapter 12).
This chapter is important to understanding the whole of what has just been said in chapters 8 and 9 about the identifying mark of agape love for biblical Christians (Ch.8) and the subsequent rights and responsibilities of those who really do belong to Christ (Ch.9). We’ll start our study of chapter 10 with how I broke the chapter down:
KV6: Examples of how not to be
“Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.”
1-14: Grace – God’s way of escape
15-22: Of whose table will you partake?
23-30: All things are permitted, but not all benefit
31-33: Do all to the Glory of God alone
With all of what has been said about the distinguishing mark of agape love for those who really belong to Christ, it is reasonable for Paul to show us examples of how to behave. The problem is that these examples up to this point have been non-existent. Paul points out in detail in Romans 3 that no one has ever really hit the mark that God has set up for that personal holiness and walking in His love. Because that is the way it is, Paul does the next best thing, and he talks about how NOT to behave.
KV6: Examples of how not to be
“Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.”
This is kind of a critical concept in studying the Bible as a whole, particularly the old Testament. All of what was written there is at the very least an example for us to either emulate or not, depending on what was being said, and the context usually makes that obvious. At least that is true for the historical portions of the text. Also the Psalms and Proverbs, being filled with wisdom to follow. The prophets are a bit of a different animal, but even they point to how we should conduct ourselves in the world, because the speak of and often clarify and proclaim the Lord’s law.
However, because the heart of man is continually and deeply given over to wickedness (see Jeremiah 17:9), we are often not ready or even willing to hear it, so the Lord allows people to go their own way so that we can see with our own eyes what disobedience to His law has for us as a consequence, and throughout the Old Testament, it isn’t a pretty picture. Yet, because of our inner being, this is what we crave most. Society today reflects this with pithy sayings like, “Follow your heart.” Given what it says in Jeremiah 17:9, I’m certain that’s a bad idea, and that’s what Paul is going to show. The truly sad part to me is that sometimes, even God’s people desire evil and not good, and walk in the old nature, the flesh. I can and have done that this week.
[I was frustrated this very week at the lack of ability to book an appointment for COVID-19 testing for my son, who has a cold, but not COVID-19. However, because the school requires either a 14-day quarantine or a negative test, most parents that love their kids would choose the test. Now – try booking it. First you have to register an account online. That’s always a laborious thing. Then, you have to use that account to create an appointment sometime in the next three days. Then they tell you that the next 3 days are booked solid. And they only book 3 days at a time. They also say you can call a number. When you call it, no one answers. Because I have worked on the phone most of my adult professional career, I know how to beat automated attendants by pressing certain buttons. I pressed that button, and after ringing through about 17 different exchanges (and you can tell because there is an interruption in the ring pattern), I finally hear a voice say, “Queensway-Carleton Hospital, may I help you?” I begin to tell them what the issue I am experiencing is, and it becomes clear very quickly that they do not wish to speak with me. They are polite, but they simply try to push me back to the online portion. I was polite and let them do so because it wasn’t going anywhere that could help me.]
Think about all the immoral behaviour there. Never mind not wanting to help a fellow traveler, look at the avoidance of responsibility, the washing of hands, the deliberate obfuscation of any helpful information. And every COVID-19 treatment place requires the same thing. Register online, you cannot call in or no one answers the phone, and anyone that you DO manage to talk to is deliberately less than helpful because they do not know how to solve your problem. As a salesman, I have faced that for years, and you become kind of impassive and just figure out how to beat the gatekeeper, electronic or otherwise. But when your offspring becomes involved, it is another level of urgency, and your brain turns to mush, and your flesh rises up. I will confess that I wanted to throw my phone at the wall hard enough to embed it in the drywall. I didn’t, but that desire was there, and I have to confess that. I’ve already done so with the Lord, incidentally, and in doing that I was reminded of the key to everything – the very grace of God.
1-14: Grace – God’s way of escape
Now hang in there, because it is going to take us a few verses to get there, but we will, I promise. I won’t just push you to online resources that may or may not help. The help is coming, but you do have to wait a bit, because Paul wants to tell us how not to behave first, and since this is a study and not a sermon or pastoral counselling, you have to patient and look at the whole thing in context. I have learned by experience that is not a bad thing when the Scriptures are involved. See what I mean.
1: For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea;
- Paul begins this next thought with a joining word, “for.” This invokes the context of the few verses that immediately precede for context, and we should read those as a reminder of what is there. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 read, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
- Paul is now pointing to an Old Testament example of what he was just talking about. He is going to great lengths to show it in fact.
2: and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
- Now this is interesting, at least to me. Have you ever encountered a person that went on and on about how they weren’t really saved until they were baptized? This is an Old Testament reference to being baptized. Now the original definition means to be completely immersed in something, but here it was not a water baptism.
- It actually says that they were baptized into a person, in a cloud and in the sea. That person was Moses, not Jesus in this case. (It is true that Moses here was a foreshadowing of Jesus, the that seems to be where the analogy stops. I’ll say more about that in a moment.
- They were completely immersed into Moses. What was in the cloud? Was it little Moses droplets? No, I assume it was a regular cloud, so water droplets, and the sea is of course water. Were the children of Israel ever actually immersed in the sea or cloud? They were NOT. They passed through the sea on dry land. They camped around the cloud. Moses as the type of Christ is who they were immersed in. What could that mean? I think this speaks of how they were immersed into the Law of God and into the great Lawgiver. They were to partake of that law, live it, walk in it, what have you.
3: and all ate the same spiritual food;
- ALL of them were. There were no differences between them in this. They were all together one. They trod the same road at the same time as their brothers and sisters. The ate the same spiritual food. This usually means that this text is either allegorical or that it is foreshadowing something from the New Covenant (or both). It continues onto the next verse.
4: and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.
- They all drank the same spiritual drink.. How do we know that? Because they drank from water that God brought them when Moses struck a rock and water came out, it is said to be spiritual drink – in fact, according to this verse, that rock was their Messiah, the One who delivers us from death. So all God’s chosen people were all the same, had the same blessings, went through the same baptism, like that. And yet, the Scriptures tell us that was not enough.
5: Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.
- And there it is. There was a long list of things that didn’t matter. Baptism into Moses (the Law) through the cloud (the shekinah Glory that burned like a fire at night) and the water (the red sea, the color of blood, indicating great deliverance from bondage and death) DID NOT MATTER. Their spiritual food and drink did not matter. Did you get that? Their correct practices did not matter. Even though the Rock was Christ.
- Most of them, it says here, God was not pleased with them – and he led them around the wilderness and they died there.
- But What are you saying, Gerry? You mean it isn’t enough for me to say I’m a Christian, even though I’m baptized, and I walk in the Law and follow all the church rules, and am orthodox in my doctrine and practice? Even though I claim the substitutionary penal atonement of Christ?
- Yes, that is what I’m saying. None of that is enough if you do not believe it in your heart and you are not really convinced of the deity of Jesus Christ for real! See what the Word of God says.
6: Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.
- I once heard a gent named Glen Kaiser, an evangelist and lead singer for the Resurrection Band, say it like this: “You can say the words, and not live the life, and what good is it? It’s empty. It’s empty.” The death of the Lord Jesus on a Roman Cross was not a random event, it was the central event of all history. It was planned from before the beginning of time, and it will be remembered by God and His chosen people long after history is concluded here.
- The problem here is that sin has tainted every area of our lives. We’ve already talked about how our hearts are desperately sick, according to Jeremiah 17:9. But that spills over into literally everything else we do, my friends. We are not capable apart from Christ of even thinking one decent thought, never mind doing the right thing. We, as Paul puts it here, “crave evil things.” All of us. Without exception. And apart from Christ, without hope of any change whatsoever, no matter how bad we may feel about it. And worse, there is nothing we can do about it.
- But these things, Paul tells us, are written so that we would NOT crave evil things like they did. When mankind fell into sin with Adam as our representative, we all fell into that same sin because he is what theologians call our federal head. He is our representative, and when he chose to disobey God, he died, first spiritually, and then physically many years later. And we died in him, speaking spiritually. That’s the BAD news.
- The GOOD NEWS, or “Gospel,” is that a second Adam came to die for us so that we would not have to pay that price of dying because of our own sins. His name was Jesus, (more like Yeshua in Aramaic, or Joshua in English) which means “God Saves [alive].” He, as the only Son of God, or God the Son if you like (and I know there is an important distinction, but both terms apply equally here), became that man, Jesus, was born like we all were, and grew up with the sole specific purpose of dying on a Roman cross in our place. God was so pleased with His sacrifice, that God the Father raised God the Son from the dead by the power of God the Spirit! (Yes, it was an exercise of all of the Godhead.)
- For those that news appeals to, with repentance and faith, they find that God adopts them into His family, making them sons (a legal term having to do with who may inherit, and it includes women), and giving them a new nature that wants to please Him and walk with Him. If that has happened to you, you know what I mean. If you want that to happen to you, we should talk after the study this evening! If this has happened to you, we no longer crave evil things. In fact, it breaks our hearts, just like it must grieve God every time a preborn baby is murdered, or a young child is abused, or two teens get a little too personal in the backseat of dad’s car. Or any number of other sinful behaviours that are all to common in the human condition. Those were listed in 1 Corinthians 6:9, and then it says, “and such were some of you.” That tells us it is in the past, and that it done with, and we no longer have to be “The Way We Were,” with apologies to Barbera Streisand for capitalizing on the title of her hit song. We can be done with all that! And according to Paul, we SHOULD be done with all that.
7: Do 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.”
- Do not be idolaters, as some of them were. Does everyone here know the meaning of “idol” in this sentence? It has a specific religious connotation. [wait for participation]
- An idol for this purpose is the physical (yet manmade) manifestation of some kind of higher being that controls outcomes in your life. Paul has already belaboured the point in this letter that there are no other gods but our God and Father, the Lord Jesus Christ His Son, and the Holy Spirit, the three persons of our one God. Outside of that august group, anyone claiming to be a god is in fact a FALSE god. My friends, God is telling us not to have false things as the center of our lives. Nothing but God Himself should have controlling interest in our lives. That can include ourselves, by the way.
- And what example does Paul use here? He quotes Exodus 32, but he is only giving the punchline of that passage, verse 6. The context of the passage comes from verses 4-6:
- He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.
- This is the passage about the false idol, the golden calf. And what did the people do when it was unveiled and worshipped? They had a big party. They sat down to have a big meal accompanied by alcohol, and then they stood up to play [like children from the Hebrew word definition in the lexicon].
- As painful as this is, I have to ask what characterizes so-called “Christian” worship today? Entertainment. I’m not talking about the brothers planning an order of service that fits with the biblical message that the pastor will deliver. I’m talking about putting that music as the main attraction of the service. I’m talking about using that sappy music to emotionally manipulate people. And I’m talking about the so-called “seekers” that go around looking for the next great worship service on those bases. Even Christian Worship can be turned into an idolatrous affair with a falsehood if your heart is not right with God. Beloved, there is no shortage of so-called churches doing this very thing. You usually hear the code phrases about what is relevant to people to justify it. Beloved, we need to know what is relevant to GOD, and NO ONE ELSE. We don’t need a better band, or shorter sermons, or more intellectual or emotional content – we need THE WORD OF GOD, preached simply, fully, and in order – and if we don’t have THAT, we don’t HAVE church. We have a social club, and all the spiritual good that doesn’t actually do. And anything goes. Beloved, if that’s where you go, you need to find a better place. And if you’re actually a part of that, you need to come out of that, in accordance with God’s call to come out of the world to a better place, His heavenly throne.
8: Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.
- Paul now introduces Numbers 25 here. He has summed up the chapter in a sentence, but this is where the Moabites under King Balak hired the foreign prophet Balaam to curse the people of Israel because I think he was afraid of them and what they meant to him and his rule. Balaam tried to curse them on three separate occasions, and was unable to do anything other than bless them, because that’s what God would allow. Instead, Balaam told Balak to let them have a big party together, and it wouldn’t be long before the men of Israel with start pairing off with the women of Moab for a little intimate fun, and Israel would pull the curse down on themselves. Okay, that’s my modesty trying to tone that down. Here’s what verse 1 says:
- While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab.
- That’s pretty graphic about the behaviour that was a result of Balaam’s counsel to Balak. And Israel paid a terrible price. Moses, the leader of the nation at the time had to have a purge! He sent the leaders of the households through the camp to kill anyone that had broken the rules. And a few of them were slain themselves. There was an incident where a couple were being intimate on the floor of the tabernacle and Phineas (Aaron’s grandson) ran them both through at once with the same spear and stuck them to the floor, in the very doorway of the tent of meeting. Scandalous! 23,000 people died that day because of that particular party. And Paul isn’t done with the tale of woe.
- Now what you may want to know here is that this is an analogy about how our pursuits in the world can consume us. What is the thing that takes all of your time? To what do you give all of your energy? What makes you light up? It might not even be something bad in itself. But we must take care not to be carried away by worldly pursuits.
9: Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.
- This is a bit of a different case, this one. It isn’t related to our pursuits so much as our attitude. Paul here is referring to what occurred in Numbers 21 with the fiery serpents. What caused the Lord to actually send these fiery vipers to the camp? Well, because of impatience with the journey, it tells us, the people began to start to speak against Moses, the Leader.
- I know a little of what that can be like as a pastor. Somehow, because people have long-term struggles and burdens, it must be the pastor’s fault. He’s not doing enough! I should have better results! Brethren, slow down and obey the Lord and go through the struggles He allows in your life. You aren’t without help, and we’ll say more about that in this chapter. Don’t you get lazy and blame it all on the shepherd, Mister or Ms. sheep. It isn’t HIS issue to deal with, it’s yours. You don’t think you’re making fast enough progress, look at the real cause – the one in the mirror. Stop blame-shifting like Adam and Eve attempted. The moment that starts, it lets a certain other flaming serpent in, and you really DON’T need help from that guy.
- Don’t get me wrong. It is okay to become frustrated. I would be surprised if you didn’t. Just – deal with the real cause, and stop blaming your shepherd, who God put over you, and who has to give a report about you to God. Let him give a good one, not a bad one. And we’re still not done.
10: Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
- Paul is actually nonspecifically referencing two different incidents. In each case, people had a terrible attitude and decided to prosecute their case against the Leadership. That’s a common theme, by the way. When something isn’t going right in your life, and you’re not happy with some part of it, larger or smaller, you WILL immediately start to become more accusative of your leaders. Most of it isn’t serious, and after some sober second thought, you realize that you’re the guy (or gal). On occasion, however, it escalates beyond that and we face a big problem from you as pastors.
- In the first event, it was a congregational issue that members of the congregation were blaming the deaths of the sons of Korah (that had felt that they should be the High Priests, because they felt like they could do it better or some such. It was actually GOD that picked the High Priest and given it to who He saw fit. So God consumed them with the ground and with fire from heaven. Somehow that became the Leadership’s fault. It wasn’t and God actually expressed that He was wiping out all Israel. Moses’ quick thinking and action seemed to stay His hand at least somewhat.
- The second incident was also a direct challenge to the Spiritual Leadership that God had hand-picked for Israel. Some folks thought that they could do a better job than Aaron, and they made a challenge. That was where God had all the leaders of the all the tribes pick a willow rod and lay it before the altar. He had Aaron do the same, and then come back the next morning. All the other rods withered, as one might expect. Aaron’s on the other hand bloomed with only God as its resource.
- I think the point in this verse is that you need to think more than twice if you are thinking about attacking the Leadership directly for some perceived weakness in them God is able to make them stand and make YOU fall. Who is the “destroyer” here? I don’t know the answer to that, but it could be God, and that my friends, should give us all pause.
11: Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
- And beloved, this is the entire point Paul is making – all of the Scriptures written before, and for Paul, that was the entire Old Testament without the Apocryphal books, were important. Andy Stanley can shut up now.
- Somewhere about 300 years before Christ came, a panel of Rabbis fixed the canon of Jewish Scripture. If it had to do with the Old Testament, I think that was the province of the people who were charged with it.
- But the entire Old Testament is important enough for Paul to say that it was written to be examples for us twice in five verses.
12: Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.
- So PAY ATTENTION! In the last verse, Paul tells us that the ends of the ages have come upon us. The Word of God is telling us through Paul that time is winding down. Beloved, Paul wrote this just about 2000 years ago. How much time have we got left? I don’t know, but at some point, God will say the word and the angels will reap the harvest and it will be done!
- Those words – “take heed” – they mean pay attention. If you can’t get that through your head that this is God Himself waking you up here, I don’t know if I can help further.
13: No 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.
- Here is what we are supposed to be paying attention to. We WILL be tempted. All of us. Even Jesus was tempted. Beloved, temptation is not sin. And you are not any different than anyone else – we all have the same temptations, though the details may differ from time to time.
- And look at the good news here! God is FAITHFUL! That is, He is reliable. He can be depended upon. Now I need to be careful here in my exposition to word this properly, because the Charismaniacs have torn this verse out of the context of our walk with the Lord in our trials (just like the children of Israel were in the OT examples that Paul used).
- The English phrase is a little less than accurate if you’re asking me. The translators of the NASB here have made it sound like God will prevent us from being tempted beyond our limits. What it is actually saying is that in our temptations, God will not leave us alone in that place, and we can turn to him for Him to provide “THE” way of escape. And I double- and triple-checked – it really is a definite article there. That means that the way of escape is very specific, and it is something I learned and am learning constantly.
- First, let me deal with the misunderstanding of God allowing us to be tempted beyond our limits. Beloved, He does that all the time with me. Many of you know all of the things I and my family have been through, especially in the last 6-8 years. This has been over my head in terms of water level for a long time. It doesn’t say that He will stop the temptation at some prescribed limit. Rather it says that He will not leave us to face it alone, or without resources that we can deploy or have deployed to help us.
- And beloved – that resource has a name – it is His grace. So in THE temptation, whatever it is – we may employ THE way of escape, His grace. Isn’t His grace in our lives that enabling factor that allows us to face down any trial? How else would the Christians that were fed to the lions in the Coliseum in Rome faced their death? How would Paul at a future point from this letter have faced his own executioner with peace in his heart? Or how would Peter have faced inverted crucifixion? His grace, which brings His Holy Spirit to come alongside for aid in our time of need.
- And we DON’T deserve it. We deserve His justice, that is His wrath. And because we have repented and believed, He gives us His mercy, and provides us with His grace – saving grace – justifying grace – sanctifying grace – the Lord Jesus gives us His very own nature so that we may respond to Him, and respond LIKE Him. No, Beloved, we don’t deserve any of it – and that’s why it is called grace.
14: Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
- And Paul draws a conclusion after all that – he simply says, “Therefore flee idolatry.” Why? Well, there are a good number of reasons, but I think the most important of those is that because idolatry is spiritual adultery. Think about this for a moment. For the most part here this evening, you folks know the word at least as well as I do. The first commandment is “you shall have no other gods before me.” Now you single guys in the crowd might not catch this, but that to me is reminiscent of my marriage vows. I said to Susan on November 4, 2000, that I took her as my lawfully wedded wife, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, as long as we both shall live (and maybe even longer, who knows, I know I like that thought).
- When you take God to be your God, that’s what YOU should be doing. Forsake all others for as long as you are together. In fact, God calls Israel His bride in places. If you have another god to whom you pay fealty, then how does God work in your life? You’re in that awful conundrum of having two masters. What can you do? You can’t serve both. You’re going to end up hating one and loving the other, and that will be observable in your activities in the world, friends.
- So what can you do if you find yourself in that terrible position of having given your fealty to someone before the Living God? Beloved, you can repent and return to Him. And sometimes that’s what it takes. But that’s all it takes. You will find yourself foreswearing all the distracting garbage in the world and not even missing it. That new heart comes with your regeneration or new birth. Walk in it, beloved.
What we see in this first thought unit is that God is a God of Grace. That Grace is yours when you need it – whenever you need it. All you have to do is ask. But that’s hard to do if you have other loyalties interfering with your walk with Christ. “Oh, you’re meeting on Thursday nights for a Bible Study? I can’t make it, I have this other meeting to play poker with the boys…” – or whatever it’s about if isn’t in pursuit of God – How are you going to be sanctified? How are you going to be justified? You will have some things to answer for during the coming judgement.
15-22: Of whose table will you partake?
And that gives, you a choice, dear friends. It is a clear one, and no one but yourself can make it for you. And not choosing is a choice for the wrong side, I’m afraid. That choice is nothing less than who you will offer your undying fealty and love. Nothing serious at all. Whoops, I forgot to turn of the sarcasm emphasis…
15: I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say.
- Look, Paul isn’t going to treat you like an idiot or a child, and neither will I. He says he is speaking to wise men, meaning he sees his audience as sensible people. He invites people to listen and make up their own minds – that is, judge for themselves – about the merits of his argument about their spirituality.
- I concur. You all have brains, and God gave them to you. He also expects you to use them. No pastor or teacher should have to come along and constantly tell you what you are supposed to do. You should be deciding for yourself the habits you will adopt, the lifestyle you will have for yourself. So you listen to what I say, those who name the name of Christ, and you make up your won mind using the brain God gave you.
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?
- Paul here is cutting to the heart of what it means to be a Christian. I mean, he really goes for the very center of it all. He invokes the elements of our most holy tradition, one of two ordinances seen in the Scripture plainly. He begins to examine the Lord’s Supper.
- He says a lot, but the key to understand what he means is his word usage here. The cup and the bread – are they not a “sharing” in the body and blood of Christ? Of course they are. But they are a special kind of “sharing” – the Greek word here for “sharing” is none other than koinonia, the same word we translate as “fellowship.”
- Folks, I need to say something really pertinent to something said by one of these “celebrity” pastors, a man named Andy Stanley. He says that Jesus never told us to meet in His name. Then what, I ask, is the Lord’s Supper actually about? Beloved, we know it is a CORPORATE exercise of remembrance of what the Lord Jesus did for us on the cross. You can’t call it a “sharing” or any kind of fellowship if there isn’t more than one person there! You can’t share things with yourself, regardless of what idiot editors have allowed to be done to the English language. The Greek is very clear here! It is a FELLOWSHIP! A COMMON SHARING! And this was set up by the Lord Jesus at the Last Supper when He instituted the practice! Yes, Mister Stanley, the Lord Himself DID command us to meet for the purposes of remembering, serving, and worshiping him. So please remove yourself from ministry, you have disqualified yourself through your false teaching. Either that or stop doubling down on your heresy and daddy issues. I was an abused kid. I know daddy issues. But I reconciled with my dad before he died of cancer in 2011. You need to reconcile with your dad too. Stop trying to be a celebrity pastor and just do the job if that’s what God called you to – otherwise just close your doors and do something else. Because you aren’t pastoring or being any kind of example to your flock, shepherd. And if a guy like me has to call you out, that’s bad, because I’m a nobody shepherd of the sheep, and that’s all I ever want to be. Take the advice of the Lord – repent, because you aren’t being clever or relevant. You’re being rebellious.
- Because WE are to be in a SHARING – a fellowship, a COMMON SHARING of these emblems. And the Lord said to do these things right up until He comes back. I think they should be done on a weekly basis as it was in the New Testament, not just twice a year at Christmas and Easter. Or once per month, though at least that’s an attempt at faithfulness. Moving on.
17: Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.
- As done as I might be on the topic, Paul is not, and it wasn’t his job to call out a modern heretic. I don’t know Mister Stanley, but I think we should pray for him. He clearly has some issues that need to be resolved, and he shouldn’t be taking those issues out on his assigned sheep or the millions of other followers he has on the internet and other media.
- Paul’s point here is that we who are many are made on in Christ! He is using the bread, one of the symbols of the ordinance to explain it. It doesn’t matter what or who you are if God has saved you. You are now a part of the family of God, and WE are ALL supposed to be ONE! And that does mean we have to gather, regardless of circumstances. Folks, brothers and sisters in other places where it is death to meet find a way. So should we. Someday soon, it might be death for us too. That should not make us afraid. God is still in control. He will come for us at just the right time for us. We all “share” in one bread. The word here in Greek, however is different, and it is metechō, meaning to partake or share. This is the Lord’s provision for his people, friends. We are meant to share it with each other, and possibly all that need it! Not isolate ourselves from each other and hide in our basements without good reason, as we are doing now. I’m not saying COVID-19 isn’t real, or that the threat isn’t real. I’m saying that God alone is sovereign, and anything we might do to “protect” ourselves is useless! If God says something will not happen, it just won’t. If He want’s something to happen, I defy you to stop it! And folks, as much as we don’t want to think in these terms, that makes us expendable in the service of God. What happens to us is not really relevant. What is important is that God’s will is done. Otherwise, none of us would have died in the Roman Coliseum as food for big wild cats and the like. Don’t worry, God still loves us. What could be better than going home to be with Him forever after we have accomplished the work He has set for us to do here? And God is not a terrorist, nor are His people, who do not use those means – ever. Anyone who says he is a Christian and deliberately harms others without just cause (and there are very tight definitions on what constitutes just cause, mostly the defense of the helpless) is no Christian. Okay, now I’m rambling, so I’ll move on.
18: Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar?
- Paul cites the example of the Old Testament Levitical priests in Israel. This is how the Lord provided food for those who served Him. All those who ate the sacrifices “fellowshipped” [koinonia] in the altar. They had a COMMON sharing of that altar, and they participated in its activities. And what have we said? You cannot share something with yourself! This was a corporate exercise! So not only am I not eisegeting, that is reading into the text, as opposed to exegeting, my actual job here, but this has been in the Scriptures themselves for a very long time. This concept actually predates what we call Christianity and was a part of ancient Judaism, the faith in Yahweh God.
19: What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?
- Now in case you haven’t been clear on what Paul is talking about, he is coming to the point here. “What do I mean then?” Paul was NOT rambling. He even does a short questioning. “Is this what you think I’m talking about? Or this, perhaps?”
- I think in this context, Paul is asking if people think he is talking about the importance of things sacrificed to idols, or perhaps the idols themselves. And he is about to say some potentially offensive things, so if you’re one of those snowflakes that is easily offended by things, you might want to take a coffee break here.
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.
- The word “Gentiles” here should not offend us who are of Gentile stock here, folks. If we are believers, we have died to that and are now a part of His family, the “Israel of God,” described by Paul in Galatians 6:16 as an entity that was worthy of the grace and mercy of God. The word here is like us saying “unbeliever” today, and not meant to be insulting but descriptive.
- So what is Paul saying? He is saying that when an unbeliever is giving his fealty and loyalty to an idol, a false god, he is actually sacrificing to a demon and not to God. He says it quite plainly in the text. And he does not, as he says here, want us to become those who fellowship with or in the name of demons.
- This has, as do most things in the Bible, a deeper and spiritual meaning. The Greek word for sacrifice [thuō] means “to offer” or “to sacrifice [give up, surrender].” I ask once more, what are you offering your time to? You don’t have to answer, I’m not asking for public confessions, but every one of us MUST think about this. What activity is more important than the headlong, lifelong pursuit of God? What fears prevent you from coming to a merciful and loving God who is actually calling to you to coax you out of your darkness? What do you [try to] hide from Him that he doesn’t already know? My friends, you should be running headlong, in carefree fashion, be running after this God. If you aren’t, it means you are actually enjoying some fellowship with darkness.
- That leaves one in the unenviable position of serving two masters. Two of the three synoptic Gospels (Matt. 6:24 and Luke 16:13) talk about this as a bad thing. You cannot serve two masters, it tells there. You will end up revealing your choices through your behaviours, and we will be able to discern whether you serve God or mammon, or whatever other “master” to which you give your time, effort, loyalty, and fealty. If that’s where you find yourself, you need to repent. Every time you realize you’re there in that place again. That’s how turning starts, friends, and sometimes it is a process. We can go through that another time.
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.
- See? It’s almost like Paul knows what he was talking about, right? You cannot partake of the two tables because they are mutually exclusive. Some of the brothers here have seen results of following the wrong path in their own lives. I am one of them. I spent 30 years running from God’s calling to ministry. I knew after 3 years in the faith that the Lord was pulling me in the direction of being a shepherd of His sheep, or rather a nameless undershepherd that labours hard for no thanks and very little reward in this life. But I was afraid, and I ran in the opposite direction. I chased Mammon, which doesn’t mean “money” per se, but “wealth” in a greater sense. I chased the dream. And when I had a golden opportunity to set myself up for life with a few years of hard work, I leapt for that brass ring. And just as it was within my grasp, everything went wrong. I’ll spare you the details, but it was a bad landing and I did not walk away from it. Actually, it shattered me. And when my pieces somehow beyond belief began to swirl around miraculously in the air as they reassembled me, I was a different man, beloved. I began to pray about what the God we have been talking about and describing in this study might want from me, and I found that if I could give it, I would. And then the renewed call came to me. And brothers and sisters, I am relentlessly following that call. I am NOT oblivious to things going on around me (although I used to be). However, my priorities have changed, and what I think is important in terms of the kingdom of God has a much more biblical foundation than it EVER had. Why would I ever WANT to go back to giving my sacrifice at the altar of plenty? All of its promises simply turned to dust, in a land with no water. No compassion. No saviour. Now I have all of those things, Beloved.
- You CANNOT participate in the activities of demons and be a practicing Christian. And there are NO exceptions. And that brothers and sisters, is the choice it comes down to for you and for me.
22: Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?
- Because that is the result of a choice to pursue other so-called gods, who are really just the demonic servants of the accuser of the brethren. Is that what you really want? A rumble with the Almighty God? You really think you’re at that level? Oh, beloved, step down from your pride for a moment so you can see clearly. Repent. You don’t want that fight.
- Or maybe you’re like I was, and you’re just going along doing your best and this is the first time you’ve heard about this. Please, I implore you, turn before God lets you suffer the consequences of your own actions like He did with me. You won’t walk away. I could have died when I had my heart attack. Don’t do this. Repent. Turn to Him instead.
Beloved, we don’t always take the time to think about the course of our life or measure it incrementally, but this is a command of the Scriptures. I’ll try to say a word about it in 1 Corinthians 11 next study, but it is in the specific context of whether you are in a spiritual condition to partake in the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. Paul say there that we are to “examine ourselves.” That self-examination is a time for careful analysis of how we are living our lives. And sometimes, we are too easy on ourselves. Our culture tells us this in phrases like, “Don’t be so hard on yourself,” or “Take is easy on yourself.” I’ve heard both of those. No, Beloved. In fact, this is one of the reasons I have for the CONSTANT study of the word. I want to approve myself in those examinations. That has to take top priority, even over being a pastor or anything else – to be worthy of His fellowship, or as we are seeing in our Friday evening book study, to be Holy as He is also HOLY. Set apart. Alien to the world and its ways. You might say that since God has redeemed us, that we are no longer those who are of earth. We are extraterrestrial beings in pursuit of alien knowledge to us, members of what Paul reportedly called tritongenos, a third ethnicity if you will. (Jews, Gentiles, Other. We are “Other.”) Okay, enough joking, back to the study.
What we need to see here is that this is NOT a religious restriction on our freedom, which was given by God. Like a child that learns to internalize controls for his own behaviour, as we walk with Christ and grow in Him, we should also be learning to internalize these self-controlling principles so that we may governing our own behaviour. Remember, self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit. It is a part of the new nature God gave us when he regenerated us, or caused us to be born again, however you want to say it, and it needs to be learned and exercised by constant use. Beloved, we are literally free to do whatever we want, up to and including sin. But we should realize that we will pay consequences for our behaviour, good or bad, and that’s the next paragraph.
23-30: All things are permitted, but not all benefit
Remember what I just said. Our behaviour, good or bad, always has consequences, and those consequences outlive the deed itself. We will answer for everything we have EVER done wrong, for example. And our good behaviour counts as well, because it will carry eternal reward of some kind. That’s all we know, don’t ask – it hasn’t entered into our wildest dreams according to Paul (2:9). This principle is called “sanctification” in the New Testament. Will we continue to feed the old nature and its lusts, or will we kill our sin and walk in the new nature that Christ died to give us? Let’s see what this is all about.
23: All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.
- Paul is telling us that we are indeed free to do whatever we want. If we want to go out and give ourselves to what we have called in the past studies, porneia, we can. If we want to pursue wealth, we can. If we want to lie to ourselves and call ourselves by the category of our opposite sex, we CAN. Many today do, and they like to tell us that we can’t tell them they are only lying to themselves. However, Paul’s perspective is not a worldly perspective, but is instead a heavenly one. You can do whatever you want – but your actions will have consequences. That’s the part that the world doesn’t like to hear about today – the eternal consequence of not repenting and believing that Jesus died for their sins and rose again to show we have been set free from its’ penalty, power, and ultimately its presence in our lives. All things are allowable for me to do. But some things carry penalty in an eternal sense, and some might even land me in earthly prison. Some might land me in eternal hellfire if I remain unrepentant to the end.
- And even among good things, all things are lawful – but not everything builds up. We should instead of running around seeing what we like (I guarantee that it will be something sinful before God), seek those things that build us and those around us up. Remember, this is both an individual and a corporate exercise. There are components to our walk that are both individual and corporate if we are to have a full walk with Christ.
24: Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.
- Now we have seen this from Paul before, and not in just one or two obscure references. Paul was so convinced of this, he had said that if his eating of meat offended someone, he was prepared to become a vegetarian. That’s pretty drastic, and it was earlier in this book, so I’ll not rehearse it again.
- The point here is that we are to be putting the good of others before our own good or benefit. This for Paul was an axiom, a universally governing statement. If that meant he had to rebuke you for your own good, he would. If it meant he would patch your tent even though you couldn’t pay for it, he would. This is referred to by Paul in earlier passages in this letter as agape love, that self-giving, self deprecating to the point of self-sacrificing love of God. It was more than emotional, more than experiential, it was a commitment based in what was good for that other person in the light of God’s truth. That’s how and what to seek for others. It is simply to do what is good for others. Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God stuff. And starting here, a subtle shift in what Paul is talking about takes place.
25: Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience’ sake;
- This is a throw back to the earlier discourse Paul gave about eating meat sacrificed to idols. Look, if you bought it a Larry’s discount temple leftovers, it might be an issue (we’ll see that in a minute), but if you got it legitimately in the marketplace, and it was at a great price, then call it good financial stewardship. For us, Beloved, it shouldn’t matter if someone says its kosher or halal or not. Their deities do not actually exist, so there is no reality in their sacrifice. It doesn’t matter. There is even a reason for that.
26: FOR THE EARTH IS THE LORD’S, AND ALL IT CONTAINS.
- The all-caps in the New Testament does not mean that Paul was shouting, it indicates that he is quoting from the Old Testament. In this case, he is quoting both Psalm 24:1 and 50;12. There is even a NT cross reference that we should hear: 1 Tim. 4:4 says, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude…” Look, God made it to be enjoyed. What’s the issue?
27: If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience’ sake.
- This is clear to anyone that knows that it was the Almighty, the Ancient of Days that created the universe. If he made venison, you should be able to eat it without people telling you God doesn’t want you to do that. But that isn’t precisely what the Apostle is speaking about. Let’s say that some guy from the temple of Apollo invites you to his home for dinner so you can tell him and his family more about Jesus.
- If you want to go, and a meal is involved, it is perfectly allowable to go and to eat whatever is put in front of you. However, there might be a problem, assuming it comes up, and it may not. However, we should know what that problem is.
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, and for conscience’ sake;
- Now the skunk has escaped the sack, as it is said. (Okay, I know it’s the cat out of the bag, but it somehow isn’t bad enough.) You are being fed Larry’s discount sacrificial offerings, they tell you. There is no problem with the food. It is the principle. You just have to stop eating it. Why? Because the one who told you that is what it is needs to know that you take separation from the world seriously. It isn’t that the meat will defile you, it is that participating in an activity that could be seen as blasphemous could. Also, Paul talks about “for conscience sake, but he tells us in the next verse that it isn’t YOUR conscience. What?
29: I mean not your own conscience, but the other man’s; for why is my freedom judged by another’s conscience?
- See? Not YOUR conscience, but the other man’s conscience. Okay, even Paul heard the question from the hecklers in the back row of the internet. [mocking tone] Why does someone else’s conscience get to place limits on my freedom?
- Now there are some that would take issue with my mocking tone there, but I think it is what Paul was doing here. It’s like Paul, by mocking the people that ask the question, shows the question for how stupid it really is. It’s like he says, “Look, we just finished talking about how we are supposed to put the good of others before our own benefit or good. Why are asking this dumb questions? Then Paul’s lawyer stands up. “Objection, judge! Asked and answered.” The judge will sustain that objection here.
30: If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks?
- And here I hear that same mocking tone. “Why can’t I do this? What’s wrong with it. I was thankful! You’re SLANDERING me!” Oh boy, if I had a nickel for every time. I believe that Paul is saying these “objections” to what he is saying mockingly to show that they are utterly without merit. I realize that Dr. MacArthur says things differently here. But that is how I hear Paul in these two verses.
Now, Dr. MacArthur’s statements are not necessarily excluded by what I see as Paul’s mocking tone on these questions. Paul just said that we are to be limited to what builds up others, in terms of believers. That is what is important here, because of Paul’s statement about how we fellowship or have common participation in the Lord’s Supper. The protection of a brother or sister’s conscience is so important it is worth more than an offended host who is not a believer. My position does not invalidate what Dr. MacArthur has said. In fact, I think it highlights it and gives a little colour to Paul’s personality. I’m including this little blurb because I know some of you think the world of Dr. MacArthur, and I want to assure you that I do as well.
What Paul is actually saying here with his antics and tone is that whatever we do, we need to do everything we do as “unto the Lord,” as he did in another study in this series. In fact, it should be our very purpose for being: to do everything we do to the glory of God alone.
31-33: Do all to the Glory of God alone
Why should we in fact worry about ourselves at all? I mean apart from our God-given self-preservation instinct, which is clearly intended to help us stay alive until we can’t anymore. It seems clear that we are to submit to others, we are to worry about the needs of others, the good of others, the building up of others before we worry about ourselves. This is in direct contradiction by the way, to everything I have learned from the world. Society says, “Put yourself first. You’ll be happier.” My happiness should have nothing to do with this, I should be happy doing whatever God tells me to do, and he does that here in His word. Go and do those things.
Time-management can help, but it is not the sanctification that God speaks of in His Word. A planning product that I use as the best I have come across to date has a section called “Sharpen the Saw.” It encourages planning time for yourself so as to be more effective in helping others. And as true as it is that prior planning prevents poor performance (because we all need a good alliteration now and then), it is cut from the same cloth as what society says. The concept is not entirely Biblically based, it comes from Stephen Covey’s book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It is a great book if you have to manage yourself through a busy schedule, and it can be sustained for years if not indefinitely as people go. But Paul’s axiom is that the needs of others must go before your own. We are clearly to manage ourselves in the light of what others need and will build them up.
My friends, this can only be done when we have a right mindset about who or what comes first. It is in this order and this order only. God, Others, Self. There are no exceptions. Even the analogy of the mother putting her own breathing mask on so she can help her little one fits in that order. Her concern is for her little one, and she must continue to live to be of use to her child. That isn’t a disruption of this order, it is the situation dictating an unrelated order of events.
We MUST do all things to the Glory of God alone, or we fail, and that is all there is to it. Let’s look.
31: Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
- Paul is stating it now as a universally applicable command. Whatever you do – do it ALL to the glory of God. I know that isn’t how we typically do things, we do it for our own glory, or even for a friend’s glory – but very little of our time is spent glorifying God like this. I say this so that we may repent and follow His commands.
32: Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God;
- And this is another thing that we should strive to do – to NOT offend anyone. Now I don’t think Paul is talking about the Gospel here, I think that is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence. People are offended at the Gospel sometimes (okay most of the time) and are offended at the truth. But in other areas, as it does not touch the gospel or the truths of the Scriptures, we should try to be gentle people, keeping ourselves under control (we said it earlier – self-control is a part of the fruit of the Spirit…). Why do you say “Anyone” here, Gerry?
- Well, who could we possibly offend? Jews – a special class of people originally called by God to be His people through the Old Testament, who are no longer His people, having rejected the Messiah, God’s anointed Son. Greeks – a stand-in for all unbelievers here, and they are often easy to offend, so we must take great care. Well, there is only one group left. That is the church of God. Those would be all believers through time and space that God has put into the Israel of God. We are supposed to be difficult to offend, by the way. Some of us have awfully soft skin and sensitive nerves when it comes to being addressed about our own sinfulness, lack of faithfulness, like that. This is the group Paul Washer told, “I don’t know why you’re clapping – I’m talking about you.”
33: just 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.
- This is to say that Paul lived in such a way that he was pleasing to all men in all things. It isn’t referring to the gospel, as I have said that is an automatic stumbling stone and a cause of offense for everyone. But in the way he lived. If a fellow was hungry and didn’t have a lunch for some reason, Paul shared his sandwich kind of scenario.
- He never sought his own profit. I think this is the opposite of what some of us have seen on almost a weekly basis, where a fellow we know seems to force himself into a situation that could likely better be resolved without his “help,” and I use the term “help” loosely, and when it solves itself, he gives a self-promotion commercial. And worse, I don’t think he is aware he does it, or that you can actually hear the congregation collectively roll its eyes when he does it. It’s the opposite of what Paul means here. It was never about Paul.
- Instead, Paul’s focus was solely on the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how He died in our place to give us new life if we will believe and repent. Any way he could advance THAT cause, he did, and those who are truly followers of Christ do all the time, at every opportunity, to win as many as possible, although it isn’t our job to win them, just to preach Christ to them. God does the winning on those whom He chose before the foundation of the world.
All this to say that for us, as it was for Paul, should be about doing everything we do for the glory of God. Every other potential purpose should take a back seat, unless completing it first would greatly increase the preaching of Christ and bring glory to God.
And Beloved, that’s chapter 10!