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It is doubtful that the average members of the church in Corinth were ever invited to participate in meals at the pagan temples. They did get to eat meat from wealthy patrons of festivals and sporting events.
Apparently, there were some well off members in the church who wanted to have a relationship with Jesus and also the ability to participate in temple events. They used their so-called “wisdom” to explain why their behavior should be considered acceptable.
This problem was serious enough that Paul devoted three chapters to call them to account.
Modern day followers of Jesus need to observe Paul’s argument to make sure that don’t end up imitating the prideful and willful attitudes and actions of these people.
Putting God to the Test
It is one thing to be tested or tried in the normal course of our lives. It is completely another issue to put God to the test by our behavior.
When we are tested, we can count on God’s faithful provision. This the is the well known truth of God’s care.
“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10.13).
However, deliberate, willful putting God to the test is a serious issue. God’s grace is sufficient even then, but we need to be willing to respond to it.
Verse 14 summarized everything that Paul wanted the Corinthian Christians to do. “Therefore, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols” (1 Corinthians 10.14).
In chapter 8 Paul answered questions about eating at pagan temples. Paul resorted to talking about himself in chapter 9 and argued for people to follow his example of self-giving love as the ruling principle for their lives.
The first half of chapter 10 recounted Israel’s history as a lesson to not take profound spiritual experiences for granted.
These varied arguments were presented with one goal in mind. The church needed to give full devotion to Jesus and to refrain from giving idols any of their energy.
They were literally to run away from idols or any kind of substitute for the True and Living God.
The Example of the Lord’s Supper
If the hard-headed church members needed more persuasion to change their behavior, Paul was willing to give it to them. Let’s look at what he wrote verse-by-verse with some explanatory notes.
— 1 Cor. 10.15 – I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.
The troublemakers in Corinth believed themselves to be wise. In a touch of irony Paul addressed them as “sensible people.”
— 1 Cor. 10.16 – The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?
At the end of a Jewish meal, thanksgiving was expressed to God: “Blessed are you, O Lord, who gives us the fruit of the vine.”
At the Last Supper, Jesus prayed this prayer before identifying the cup with covenant of his shed blood for the sins of the world.
The sharing of the broken bread is a picture of a dynamic spiritual connection – Jesus to the believer and each believer with one another.
— 1 Cor. 10.17-18 – Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
18 Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar?
The communion meal is more than sharing bread with each other. Jewish sacrifices always connected other worshipers to each other. They benefited one another and were blessed by the connection they experienced with each other.
We must recognize that the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper and Jewish sacrifices were not “neutral” food, as the so-called “wise” people in Corinth said about eating food in pagan temples.
— 1 Cor. 10.19-20 – What do I imply then? That food sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?
20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons.
Why should people run from idols? Because behind these substitutes for God are demons.
Food that is eaten in a pagan temple is not “neutral.” It has been sacrificed to demons.
— 1 Cor. 10.21-22 – 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 are we provoking the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
The people in Corinth and people today can’t have it both ways. We can’t be devoted to Jesus and substitutes for God at the same time.
Jesus made it clear. He said, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6.24).
Richard Foster wrote a book with the title, “Money, Sex and Power.” The book was an insightful treatment of three major preoccupations in American life.
If the quest for money, sex or power becomes a driving force in our lives, it becomes an idol, a substitute for a life that trusts God.
I think there are a few things we can learn from the Corinthian church in A.D. 50.
(1) If we use so-called wisdom or intellectual reasoning to excuse giving money, sex or power more devotion than to God, we should recognize our error and change our behavior.
(2) The wisdom of the cross is lived out as self-giving love. Self-giving love has a proper relationship with money, sex and power where love and giving overrule self-seeking and greed.
(3) We should literally run away from any temptation to make money, sex, or power a substitute for humble trussing in God.
May We Pray For You?
The Maywood Baptist Church prayer team is honored to pray for you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. We will pray for you.