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(Warnings against idolatry)
1 Corinthians 10
In 1 Corinthians 10, verses 1-12, the Apostle Paul takes his readers back down memory lane to an unforgettable place in Jewish history, some 1500 years earlier. Here, he reminds them that, it was activities surrounding idolatry that led ancient Israel to sin. While still on the desert, immediately following their release from captivity in Egypt, their forefathers had already began again to sin against the GOD WHO rescued them.
He reminded the people of Corinth how Israel failed to remember how GOD had guided them with the miraculous “pillar of cloud” by day and “pillar of fire” by night. They were also prompted to recall the parting of the waters of the Red Sea, that allowed them to escape the Egyptians on dry land, and then, how GOD drowned their pursuers with the same waters, when they tried to follow them across (Exodus 13:21-14:31).
Paul then cautions them that the ensuing disciplinary actions upon the Israelites in the wilderness by GOD, that turned a thirty-day trip into a forty-year journey, can be viewed as a warning to them, and to all future generations, so that we won’t repeat the same old evil practices of that era.
In those days, on another occasion, Paul says, the peoples’ fling with sexual immorality and other sins led to the deaths of 23,000 people in one day, a direct result of the wrath of the Almighty GOD (Numbers 25:3-9). Paul further tells the Corinthian Church that they also would not want to end up, quite literally, “snake bitten” as those were, who chose to put CHRIST to the test, by grumbling against, both, GOD and Moses, on yet another occasion, near Mount Hor, just outside the borders of Edom (Numbers 21:4-9).
Paul insists that all these things happened as a warning to future generations, and, they are recorded in the annals of biblical history so that we can share these admonishments, or “distinctive acts of GOD”, with others, as a determent from sin, for all time. And if you think you are OK, don’t get too smug, because every human being is always just a breath away from falling into sin (v.12). In fact, satan often attacks a person at a point where they are most sure of themselves, because he knows it is there, where they are most likely to be unprepared.
The good news, however, is that GOD is always faithful, and whenever temptation presents itself in our lives, GOD, through the aid of HIS HOLY SPIRIT, will not only help us to withstand them, HE will also present us with a way out (v.13). This, the fact that GOD is faithful, is the continuing source of our security.
As Christians, and as reasonable people, Paul says that we must decide for ourselves, whether or not we are going to believe the whole Word of GOD. For instance, when we bless the cup at the LORD’s table during communion services, we are sharing in the benefits of the blood of CHRIST. And when we break the bread we are sharing in the benefits of the body of CHRIST. In effect, we are all eating from one loaf, showing that we are one body. All who eat the sacrifice are symbolically and spiritually united by the process with CHRIST, and the whole GODHEAD (Vs.14-18).
After laying the foundation for his argument, Paul now returns to the discussion started in chapter 8, regarding the eating of food that has been sacrificed to idols. In the first century, dinner parties, or feasts, were the most common way that people would socialize with each other. It was very typical for pagan dinners and feasts to be dedicated to pagan gods and goddesses.
The Christians often debated whether or not it was right for them to attend these kinds of events. The trouble with attending such events, in their minds, was likened to eating dinner at the table of a pagan deity, which symbolically implied that, the people who dined were under that deity’s protection. In that case, as Christians, they would be disrespecting the power of the protection of GOD the CREATOR, whom they say they are committed to.
The demonic power that is ascribed to idols cannot ever be condoned by Christians. We cannot eat at the LORD’s table, and, at the table of demons too. The blood of CHRIST symbolizes HIS saving work, in which Christians participate in, through faith. A Christian cannot participate in both, the idolatry of a pagan feast, and the community of CHRIST. We cannot drink from the cup of the LORD, and then, turn around and drink from the cup of demon too, lest we rouse the jealousy of the Almighty GOD (Vs.19-22).
In verses 23-30, Paul gives his summation in this warning against indulging in idolatry in any way, form, or fashion. Here he leaves us with three important points:
· Do not take part in social events that are dedicated to demons, or, pagan gods and goddesses (i.e. in today’s society, rock concerts, secular parties and get-togethers with motifs that are specifically not of GOD, etc.)
· Feel free to eat meat that is sold in the marketplace.
· Feel free to eat at an unsaved person’s home, and don’t ask where he got the meat, unless he makes it an issue. (see explanation below)
Even though GOD blessed us with wills that are free, everything we choose to do may not be good, or beneficial to us, or someone else. As Christians, we also have the responsibility to consider what is good for other Christians as well (Vs.23-24).
Paul says, we are free to eat any meat that is sold in the marketplace, and since idol gods are not real gods, we don’t need to ask whether or not it has been sacrificed to idols, and our conscience should be clear. The whole earth belongs to the LORD, and also everything that is in it (Vs.25-26).
If a non-Christian invites you to dinner, then, accept the invitation, because with that invitation, comes an opportunity to witness of CHRIST JESUS, and the Gospel. However, if someone warns you that meat is being served, that has been offered to idols, don’t eat it, just out of having consideration for the person who warned you. While it may not be a matter of conscience for you, it is a concern for the other person who warned you, that may also be a believer, and it is important that you do not “stumble” them. Then too, the “unsaved person” may also be testing you to see how committed you are to CHRIST (Vs.27-29).
Whether we like it or not, as Christians, our freedom has to be “respectfully limited” by our concern for others, just as CHRIST JESUS’ freedom was limited because of HIS concern for us. We must always consider what is best for others so that they too may be “saved” because of our sacrifice of “giving up certain liberties”. We can overcome any tempting offer from satan, simply by being “unselfishly” obedient to GOD.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website