THE EXAMPLE OF THE ISRAELITES (1 Corinthians 10: 1-11)
“Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.” (1 Corinthians 10:6)
Paul begins this section of his letter by providing an example of the Israelites during the time of their exodus from Egypt and their subsequent wandering in the wilderness. (You can read more of what Paul was talking about in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). The Israelites were God’s chosen nation. They even experienced, first-hand, God’s miracles. Yet, as Paul explains, even they rebelled and sinned against God. They ended up having to wander in the desert for 40 years before being brought into the land that God had promised to give them as a result of their distrust that God could conquer the people that were already living there and give the land to the Israelites. Many faced immediate death upon indulging in sexual immorality and rebelling and grumbling against God. Paul says that all of this was recorded to serve as a warning for future generations.
HE WILL MAKE A WAY (1 Corinthians 10: 12-13)
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Paul exhorts the Corinthians to be cautious and not let their guard down. He warns them that they are not immune to temptation, just as the Israelites, who had the privilege of having such a special relationship with God, were not immune. The Israelites fell into sin, and the Corinthian church faces the same danger. It would be prideful of them to think that they were not capable of sinning.
This ought to serve as a warning for us as well. As believers of Jesus, we are saved and we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, but we are not immune to the temptations of Satan. We are still capable of falling into sin. However, praise God that He does not leave us on our own! When you look at the Bible, never does God tell His people that they have to accomplish anything on their own strength. Instead, He is constantly telling His people to reach out to Him to receive strength and help from Him. What a kind and loving Father we have! In verse 24, Paul says that God is faithful, and that He will provide a way to escape temptation. God alone is capable of defeating sin. Whenever we face temptation, let us run to our Father, who alone can conquer sin and death!
FLEE FROM IDOLATRY (1 Corinthians 10: 14-22)
“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.” (1 Corinthians 10:21)
Paul exhorts the Corinthians to flee from idolatry. The word “flee” means to run from danger. Paul is not asking the Corinthians to turn away from something harmless or good, but to actively run away from something that is dangerous to them. Paul clarifies that it is not that idols have power themselves, but the danger is that idolatry breaks fellowship with God.
When we take communion, we are proclaiming to the world and to ourselves that we belong to Christ. Yet, when people practice idolatry, they are proclaiming that they belong to that idol, and not to Christ. That is the danger that Paul is warning the Corinthians of.
Most of us probably do not struggle with this kind of idolatry, but we certainly face the temptation of worshiping idols of a different kind. I would like us to ask, are we giving ourselves and proclaiming to the world that we belong to the idols of money, social status, comfort, or entertainment? Or are we proclaiming to the world and to ourselves that we belong to Christ?
Paul makes it clear that we cannot belong to idols and to Christ. This passage is reminiscent of Luke 16:13, where Jesus says “no servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” We cannot serve God and money. We cannot serve God and social status. We cannot serve God and comfort and so on. We can either serve God and belong to Him or we don’t. And again, when we face temptations, we can turn to God! He does not leave us to fight idolatry on our own.
FOR MY NEIGHBOR’S SAKE (1 Corinthians 10: 23-30)
“Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” (1 Corinthians 10:24)
Here Paul is once again addressing the issue of eating food offered to idols. The Corinthians had a saying “all things are lawful” which was their justification to do whatever they wanted to do. However, Paul refutes this and says that not everything is helpful or builds up. So while things may be “lawful” in the Corinthians’ minds, they are not good. May we also consider what is truly good rather than try to justify our actions by saying that it is technically not wrong.
Furthermore, Paul again emphasizes to the Corinthians that they ought to consider the good of others rather than being selfish and merely seeking their own good. He says they do not need to be legalistic and go out of their way to make sure they avoid any foods that could possibly have been offered to idols, but if they become aware of it, they should not eat the food for the sake of another, who may have a weaker conscience and may be stumbled by another Christian eating this food. This issue is not mainly concerned with the act of eating the food itself, but is concerned about protecting others from being stumbled. Paul is trying to rewire the Corinthians to stop thinking selfishly but to be more considerate and loving toward their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. May we too stop acting in a selfish manner, but consider how our actions may affect those around us. You may not consider an action sinful, but if it is stumbling to another brother or sister, perhaps the most loving thing to do would be to simply refrain.
TO THE GLORY OF GOD (1 Corinthians 10: 31-33)
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Paul sums this section up by encouraging the Corinthians to do everything to the glory of God. He reminds the Corinthians that our purpose in life is to live for God and to be a witness of the Gospel. May we do everything in light of that very purpose. May everything we do be unto the glory of God.