1 Corinthians 10

1 Corinthians 10  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 9
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OUTWARD PRIVILEGES AND rites also guarantee nothing, as is witnessed by the history of Israel, summarized in the opening verses of chapter 10. They had things that answered to baptism and the supper of the Lord, and yet they were overthrown and destroyed. And in all this they were “ensamples,” or “types,” for us.
In their passage of the Sea we have a type of baptism. At that point they definitely committed themselves to the authority and leadership of Moses; just as in Christian baptism, which is in the Name of the Lord Jesus, we are definitely committed to His authority and leadership. Though neither cloud nor sea actually touched them, they were under the one and through the other.
Verse 3 refers to the manna: verse 4 to the rock of which they drank in Ex. 17, and Num. 20 Both one and the other were “spiritual,” for both were supernatural: and both were types of Christ. But in spite of these peculiar privileges, which were common to all Israel, the great majority of them were overthrown in the wilderness. This sad fact is referred to again in Heb. 3 and 4, and there it is pointed out that the root of the whole trouble was that they had no faith. Our scripture tells us that what they did have was lust, and idolatry, and fornication, and the spirit of tempting God and of murmuring. Where faith comes in these evil things go out.
Now the Spirit of God has recorded these things for our warning. The true believer is marked by confidence in God, and the more simple and absolute his confidence the better. But it is correspondingly true that he is marked by no confidence in himself, and the more deep his self-distrust the better. It is when we think that we stand that we are in danger of a fall. It is quite another thing when a saint has confidence that “God is able to make him stand” (Rom. 14:4).
And not only is God able to support us, but also He keeps a watchful eye upon us in His faithfulness, not permitting us to be tempted beyond a certain limit. The temptations that confront us are “common to man,” or such as “belong to man.” They are not of some superhuman sort. And again there is with them an issue, or way out. “Way of escape,” might lead us to suppose that we may always expect some way by which we may escape the temptation altogether. It is not that, but that God always sees to it that there is a way through by which we may emerge unscathed at the other side. Temptation may be like a long dark tunnel, but there is always visible the light of day at the further end.
Having issued this tremendous warning, the Apostle gives it a very personal turn in verse 14. The whole of chapter 8 was taken up with the matter of idols, and of meats offered to them; and now this verse brings us back to that point. That chapter asserted the liberty of the believer in regard to meats offered to idols. This verse counter-balances the matter by stressing the enormous evil of the idols themselves. Idolatry is not merely to be avoided; it is to be fled from, as an utterly abhorrent thing.
Let us in every sense of the word keep ourselves from idols.
Up to this point in the epistle the Apostle had addressed the Corinthians on the ground of their responsibility, and therefore assumed that there might be some amongst them who were unreal. At verse 15 he changes his view-point somewhat and addresses them as “wise-men.” Not every true Christian could be so designated, we fear; and it is certain that no unconverted person could be. He speaks to the true members of the body of Christ, who possess His Spirit, and hence are capable of judging concerning that which he is now going to bring before them. Verses 16 to 22 Contain reasonings, the spiritual force of which should come home to us.
The simple primary meaning of the cup and the loaf, of which we partake in the Supper of the Lord, is the blood and the body of Christ. This was quite evident from the moment of the original institution, as recorded in three of the Gospels. But there was a further significance, underlying the primary meaning, which does not come to light until we reach the verses now before us: that is, the thought of “communion” or “fellowship.” This holy ordinance is not merely an occasion appealing to the deepest instincts of personal and individual piety; it is an occasion of communion, springing out of the fact that we who partake of the one loaf are as much one as is the loaf of which we partake.
But let us at this point carefully distinguish things that differ. The one loaf signifies the body of Christ which was given for us in death. The fact that we believers, though many, all partake of that one loaf signifies that we are one body. We are one body by a Divine act—see 12:13. Partaking all together of the one loaf does not make us one body, but it is the sign that we are one body. And to that sign Paul appeals to enforce his point.
The point he enforces is this, that communion is involved in the Supper of the Lord: not merely communion with one another, but the communion of the blood and body of the Lord. There is nothing here to foster superstition. That which we break is bread. That of which we partake is bread. Yet in drinking and in partaking we have communion in that which the cup and the bread signify; and shall be held responsible in regard to that, as is plainly stated in the next chapter, verse 27. This is exceedingly solemn truth—truth, which all too often is overlooked.
In verse 18 the Apostle shows that there was a fore-shadowing of this truth in the case of Israel, inasmuch as the priests were permitted to eat certain parts of certain offerings, and in the case of the peace offering even the offerer had certain parts to eat. Details as to this are given in Lev. 6 and 7. If these chapters be read it will be seen that restrictions were laid upon those who eat. All defilement had to be kept far from them just because they were thereby in communion with the altar of God, and all that it signified. Had they taken liberties with their holy food and treated it unworthily, they would have come under serious consequences.
The same thing was true in principle of the idol sacrifices of the Gentile world. The idols they venerated represented demons; and these demons were but subordinate officers of Satan. By their sacrifices they entered into the communion of demons. Now such a communion as this the child of God is to flee at all costs.
Verses 16 to 20, then, set before us three communions, the Christian, the Jewish, the heathen; centered respectively in the Table of the Lord, the Altar in the midst of Israel, and the idol sacrifices of paganism; and expressed in each case by the act of eating. In this passage Israel’s altar is not in question so it is merely introduced as an illustration; and left at that, (to be referred to further in Heb. 13:10). The issue here lies between the communion of Christ’s death and the communion of demons. These two are totally, fundamentally and continuously opposed. It is impossible to be a participator in both. “Ye cannot,” says the Apostle, twice in verse 21.
And supposing someone ignores this “cannot” and is bold enough, having partaken of the Lord’s table, to partake of the table of demons—what then? Then, he provokes the Lord to jealousy for the sake of His Name and glory. The Lord will not give His glory to another, and the offender will come into sharp collision with the Lord Himself, and taste the bitterness of coming under His dealing in discipline, possibly unto death. Disciplined of the Lord he will soon discover that he is not stronger than He, and come face to face with the toilsome road of repentance, which is the only way that leads to recovery.
In the mercy of God we are hardly endangered by “the fellowship of demons.” But, because of that, let us not lightly dismiss this truth from our minds, for the principle of it is of much wider application. If we partake of the Lord’s table it is necessary for us to set a watch lest we partake also in things that are inconsistent with it and its holiness. If we are in the communion of the blood and body of Christ, we shall find it great enough to exclude all other communions. We shall keep clear of communions that can only entangle us, and may possibly defile us. We fear that the implications of this truth are often ignored. It is all too possible to partake of the cup and of the loaf without giving much thought to the solemn obligations that are connected therewith. We can have no fellowship with evil things.
This serious matter disposed of, there remained the questions as to meats which had been offered to idols, to which the Apostle had previously referred. He digressed from it at the beginning of chapter 9, and he returns to it in verse 23 of our chapter. The pagan world was so full of idols that most of the animals, whose carcasses were offered for sale in their markets, had been killed in connection with idol sacrifices and ceremonies. Supposing the Christian bought his food in the “shambles,” or “markets,” and if he was eating in the house of someone who did not believe, and hence had no feelings on these points, what was he to do?
In this connection Paul makes the statement twice over, “All things are lawful” (ch. 6:12). That is he sets us in a place of liberty. Yet he reminds us that by no means everything is either “expedient,” (that is, “profitable”) or “edifying;” and moreover that we are not merely to consider what is good for ourselves, but what is good for others. The two-fold test that he mentions is capable of a thousand applications. Again and again situations arise as to which we have not only to raise the question, Is it lawful? but also, Is there profit in it? and, Does it tend to building up? And further we have to consider the profit and the building up of all. If we ordered our lives by that standard we should be cutting out a good many things of a doubtful and unprofitable nature.
We may well thank God for the liberty which is ordained in this passage. It would have been an intolerable burden to the early Christians if they had been responsible to track out the history of every bit of meat they bought in the markets, or consumed in the house of some acquaintance. For us today, living under conditions which are highly complicated and artificial, it would be ten times worse. It is evidently God’s will for His people that they accept the conditions in which their lot is cast, and pursue a simple path through, without inquisitively looking for sources of trouble, whether meat be in question or any other matter.
If, on the other hand, without any special inquisition, one becomes aware of defilement, as in the case supposed in verse 28, then it is to be carefully avoided. In so saying the Apostle reasserts what he had stated at the end of chapter 8.
This leads up to the very comprehensive instruction of verse 31, a statement which covers the whole of our lives. In all things we are to seek the glory of God: just as the next verse adds that we are to avoid giving offense to man. Indeed, taking this passage as a whole we may observe five valuable points which offer us guidance as to whether any course may, or may not, be according to the will of God. That which is according to His will (1) is lawful, (2) is expedient or profitable, (3) is to the edifying or building up of oneself or others, (4) is to the glory of God, (5) gives no occasion of stumbling to any. Often the question is asked, How may I get guidance? Well, here is some guidance of a very sure and definite sort. Are we always so willing to be guided when we get the guidance?
Verse 32 classifies mankind under three heads. Notice how distinctly “the church of God” (ch. 1:2) stands out from both Jew and Gentile. The Old Testament classified men under two heads, Israel and the Gentiles. The Church, a body called out from both Jews and Gentiles, only appears in the New Testament. Though we have thus been called out from the mass of mankind we are to consider men, seeking their highest good, even their salvation. This was Paul’s way even as it was the way of Christ. And we are to be imitators of Paul. Verse 1 of chapter 11 should be treated as the last verse of chapter 10.