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1 COR. 10
In this chapter, and through verse 1 of the next, Paul completed his answer to the triple question regarding the permissibility of Christians: (1) sitting down at idol feasts, (2) purchasing meat in the common markets, and (3) being guests where facts about the origin of the meat were unknown.
The very first word in this chapter demands that a close connection with the previous two chapters must be recognized; and it is deplorable that the RSV omitted that word, ignoring it completely. That word is "for"; and such a perversion of the sacred text was, as Farrar said, "due to the failure to understand the whole train of thought." Also, it may be suspected that the omission of this authentic connective could be related to the critical bias which would make this chapter "the relic of a previous epistle." It is now recognized, however, that such a view is concocted out of "no sufficient evidence." The understanding of Paul's full line of thought in these chapters also explodes any notion that two different positions are advocated by the apostle in 1Cor. 8,1 Corinthians 10.
It will be recalled that in chapter 8, the apostle effectively blasted the conceit and arrogance of his Corinthian questioners by warning them that: (1) knowledge puffs up, but does not build up (1 Corinthians 8:1); (2) those who thought they knew, actually knew nothing as they should have known (1 Corinthians 8:2); (3) their actions defiled the consciences of the weak (1 Corinthians 8:7); (4) such "liberty" was a stumblingblock to the weak (1 Corinthians 8:9); (5) sitting down in an idol's temple encouraged idol worship (1 Corinthians 8:10); (6) through their conduct the weak perished (1 Corinthians 8:11); and (7) their actions were not merely sins against brethren but a "sin against Christ" (1 Corinthians 8:12). In this light, it is ridiculous to make 1 Corinthians 8 to be in any manner permissive with regard to the worship of idols.
The cautious manner of Paul's dealing with the question in 1 Corinthians 8, however, was to make a distinction between the legitimate claims of Christian liberty and the heartless abuse of the principle. Having fully made that distinction in 1 Corinthians 8, and also having reinforced his own example in such matters by explaining his forbearance in the matter of financial support in 1 Corinthians 9, Paul in this chapter returned to make an unqualified demolition of the thesis that any Christian could have anything whatever to do with idol worship.
 F. W. Farrar, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), Vol. 19, p. 322.
; ISBE p. 713.
For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea. (1 Corinthians 10:1)
At the end of 1 Corinthians 9, Paul had hinted that it was possible, even for himself, to be a "castaway," after preaching to others, requiring the conclusion that even he (who had as much "knowledge" as any of the Corinthians, and who knew all about Christian liberty) took the most vigorous precautions against sinning, and that such precautions required him to give up everything such as the indulgences of the Corinthians.
Apparently, the inherent error in the philosophical Corinthians was the impression that the Lord's Supper and Christian baptism had made them immune to any contamination from the idol feasts, especially in the light of their presumed "knowledge" that idols were actually nothing anyway. Paul refuted this by reference to the allegorical nature of historic Israel, many of them, in fact most of them, being lost despite their covenant relationship to God.
For ... This connective requires the understanding that this section of the epistle is a continuation of the argument in previous chapters. See in the chapter introduction.
I would not have you ignorant ... was a favorite expression with Paul. He used it in 1 Corinthians 12:1; 2 Corinthians 1:8; Romans 1:13; 11:25, and in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, as well as here. It is not likely that Paul thought his readers would have been ignorant of the history of Israel, but rather that they would not have been aware of the typical nature of that history.
Our fathers ... Many of the Corinthians were not of Jewish extraction, and therefore the reference here regards Israel as the spiritual ancestry of all Christians. As Russell said, "The Old Testament was used in the Christian church, and even Gentile converts were expected to be familiar with it." See Romans 9:6; Galatians 3:27-29, etc.
All under the cloud ... all passed through the sea ... The word "all," repeated five times in these first four verses, emphasizes the fact that the entire Jewish people enjoyed the high privilege of covenant relationship with God, being fed miraculously, and that they were thus constituted as God's chosen people. Some of the Corinthians seem to have regarded the fact of their being baptized into Christ as some kind of endowment that made them immune from dangers, or in some manner exempt from sin even while indulging themselves at idol feasts. By the analogy of what happened historically to Israel, Paul would teach them that high privilege does not mean immunity from sin and death.
And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
By this bold comparison, Paul made the marvelous deliverance of Israel through the Red Sea from the pursuing armies of Pharaoh as a figure, or type, of Christian baptism. It should be carefully noted that the figure in evidence here is not baptism, that being the reality of which the great deliverance of Israel was the figure. Nowhere in the New Testament is baptism ever referred to as any kind of "figure" or "sign." "The voluntary character of that baptism is suggested by the aorist middle," as in Acts 22:16; Acts 2:38, where the meaning is "have yourselves baptized."
Bruce presented the analogy between Israel and Christians thus:
Their (the Christians') baptism is the antitype of Israel's passage through the Red Sea; their sacrificial feeding on Christ by faith is the antitype of Israel's nourishment with manna and the water from the rock; Christ the living Rock is their guide through the wilderness; the heavenly rest before them (the Christians) is the counterpart to the earthly Canaan which was the goal of the Israelites.
As the next verse indicates, there is also a reference to the Lord's Supper in Paul's analogy.
 Paul W. Marsh. A New Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 394.
 W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1940), p. 97.
 F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrew (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 62.
And did all eat the same spiritual food.
Just as Israel's commitment "unto Moses" by their passage through the sea corresponded to the Christian's baptism, their being fed with "spiritual food," that is, food of supernatural origin, as in the manna, and the water from the rock, corresponded to the Christian's eating the flesh of Christ and drinking his blood in the manner of John 6:54-58. John Wesley said that this spiritual food was "typical of the bread which we eat at Christ's table." Dummelow noted that "Only here in the New Testament are the two Sacraments mentioned side by side," giving three reasons why the term "spiritual food" was used in this verse: (1) it was miraculous; (2) it was typical; and (3) it assured them of God's presence.
 John Wesley, One Volume New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1972), in loco.
 J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 907.
And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them; and the rock was Christ.
Rock that followed them ... This is not to be understood as Paul's reference to the Jewish legend about a literal rock that followed the Israelites in their wanderings. The rock to which Paul referred here was clearly stated: "The rock was Christ." The miracle of Moses' bringing forth water from the rock in the wilderness (Exodus 17:5ff) provided literal water for Israel; but much more than that is in evidence here. As Marsh said, "The rock was Christ, not `is' or `is a type of' ... and this is a clear statement of the pre-existence of Christ."
One of the most beautiful and instructive titles of Christ in all the Bible is "Christ the Living Stone"; and for a full discussion of this, see my Commentary on Romans, pp. 352-357.
In these first four verses, the broad outlines of the great allegory of fleshly Israel are laid down; and a little further attention is due to it. As DeHoff declared: "The story of the Israelites and their journey from Egypt into Canaan is a type of our journey from the Egypt of sin into the everlasting Canaan."
Egypt is a type of sin and bondage.
God's sending Moses to deliver them is a type of God's sending Christ to deliver us from the degrading slavery of sin.
Pharaoh is a type of the devil.
The compromises he offered Moses are like the compromises that Satan still suggests to Christians.
Moses is the most eloquent type of Christ in all the Bible (see my Commentary on Hebrews, pp. 67-69).
Israel's crossing the Red Sea is typical of Christian baptism.
Their spiritual food is typical of the Lord's Supper.
Israel's entering the wilderness is typical of the Christian's entering the church.
The wilderness is a type of the church.
That Israel sinned is typical of the sins and rebellions of Christians.
The majority of them failed to enter Canaan; and this is typical of "the many" Christians who will not be saved eternally.
Canaan is a type of heaven.
Some of Israel entering Canaan is typical of the final victory of victory of Christians who shall enter into the joy of the Lord.
That some of them "fell" is typical of Christians who fall away and are lost.
God's providential care of Israel in the wilderness is typical of his providential care of Christians till "the end of the world."
The fact of Israel's being "baptized" and having the Lord's Supper (in the analogy) did not make them immune to sin and death, as Paul was teaching here; and the same is true of Christians now.
Canaan was entered when Israel crossed Jordan, making Jordan a type of death, beyond which Christians enter heaven.
The dangers which beset Israel in the wilderness are typical of the dangers confronting Christians during confronting Christians during their probation.
They were tempted to commit fornication, even as the Corinthians were being tempted, and by the same means, through the licentious celebrations of idol worship.
Other analogies in this remarkable allegory may be pointed out, but the above is sufficient to show the extensive parallel between the fleshly Israel and the spiritual Israel.
 Paul W. Marsh, op. cit., p. 394.
 George W. DeHoff, Sermons on First Corinthians (Murfreesboro, Tennessee: The Christian Press, 1947), p. 79.
Howbeit with most of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
Of all that great host who passed through the Red Sea and witnessed God's mighty act of delivering them from slavery, all of them except Caleb and Joshua failed to enter Canaan (Numbers 14:30-32). This brief, pungent verse is the apostle's summary of one of the most tragic and pathetic failures of all history. Passing over, except for the brief references in the first four verses, the startling parallels between fleshly and spiritual Israel, Paul here called attention to the pitiful defeat of an entire generation in the wilderness and made their overthrow a warning to the Corinthians and the Christians of all generations of the dreadful consequences of disobedience.
Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
The blunt meaning here is that Christians should not suppose that their having been baptized into Christ and having been made partakers of the Lord's table, nor the fact of their sharing high privileges of spiritual life in God's kingdom, could endow them with any immunity to sin, a conceit which it seems some of the Corinthians had.
Were our examples ... Farrar believed that these words might also be rendered, "Now in these things, they also proved to be figures of us"; but the meaning is the same either way. After having been totally and completely "saved" from Egyptian slavery, they were lost and rejected; and, corresponding to that, Christians who are completely and totally saved may fall into sin and lose their hope of eternal life.
Lust after evil things ... Although the technical meaning of "lust" is "to desire either good things or bad things," its use in the holy Scriptures is invariably a reference to illicit and harmful desire. The inspired author James identified this inward desire ever burning in people's hearts as the embryonic source of all sin. To paraphrase James, "Lust has a child, which is sin; and then sin also has a child, which is death" (James 1:12-15). Self-denial is the soul's rejection of all unlawful desire. The surrender to Christ is the subordination of all selfish desire to the will of the Lord. The lust after evil things is the first of five rebellious actions of fleshly Israel; and, enumerating them one by one, Paul demanded that Christians avoid committing them.
 F. W. Farrar, op. cit., p. 323.
 Donald S. Metz, Beacon Bible Commentary (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1969), p. 405.
Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
The Scriptural quotation here is Exodus 32:6; and thus the idolatry Paul mentioned was that of Israel's worshipping the golden calf. The mention of idolatry almost in the same breath with "lust" (v. 6) shows the close connection, the one leading to the other, indicating that idolatry depended for its motivation upon the gratification of fleshly lusts. It is of great significance that in the incident thus cited by Paul, the Old Testament specifically revealed that the people "were naked" (Exodus 32:25); and this may not be dismissed as a mere reference to their SPIRITUAL nakedness!
Sat down to eat ... rose up to play ... The "playing" was not some innocent diversion, or game, this being a reference to the wild naked dances which concluded the idol feasts. As Wesley said, "(the word play) means to dance in honor of their idol." McGarvey declared that the kind of playing in view here "was familiar to the Corinthians who had indulged in such licentious sportfulness" in such temples as those of Bacchus, Poseidon and Aphrodite (Venus).
 John Wesley, op. cit., in loco.
 J. W. McGarvey, Commentary on 1Corinthians (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, 1916), p. 100.
Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
Notice the list of sins: (1) we should not lust after evil things; (2) neither be idolaters; (3) neither let us commit fornication. The whole sequence was the normal procedure in idol worship.
In one day three and twenty thousand ...; Numbers 25:9 gives the number who fell as 24,000; and many have been perplexed by this, even Lipscomb saying, "Why this discrepancy I am not able to explain." The explanation is in the words "in one day," a phrase not in the Old Testament narrative. Paul's 23,000, therefore, did not include those slain by the judges before this "one day." It will be recalled that, before the plague broke out, God through Moses had commanded the judges of Israel to "hang all the heads of the people" who had condoned and encouraged the worship of Baal-Peor, the idol god of the Moabites, especially the Moabite women who had used the device of idol worship to seduce the Israelites to commit fornication. Putting the two figures together, in which there is no discrepancy whatever, it is clear that the judges hanged one thousand men in connection with this disaster which are not counted in Paul's 23,000 who perished in one day. Guthrie pointed out a Jewish tradition which confirms this explanation. He said, "Jewish tradition ascribed 1,000 deaths to the action of the judges described in Numbers 25:5." Another pseudocon bites the dust!
 David Lipscomb, Commentary on First Corinthians (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1935), p. 149.
 Donald Guthrie, The New Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 1064.
Neither let us make trial of the Lord, as some of them made trial, and perished by the serpents.
Make trial of the Lord ... refers to provoking the Lord through disobedience and murmuring against his benign government, in a sense "testing" the Lord to see whether or not he will punish the disobedient. The Old Testament background of this admonition is found in Numbers 21:5,6. Significantly, all sin and disobedience of God fall into the category of making "trial" of him. The particular sins of Israel mentioned here were those of speaking against God and Moses and complaining of the manna.
The Lord ... Many ancient authorities read "Christ" instead of "Lord" (English Revised Version margin); and, as Barnes observed, "It cannot be denied that the more natural construction is ... `Christ' ... rather than `God.'" As the reference is to a time before Christ came, however, the translators rendered it "Lord," thus avoiding the difficulty. The point is not crucial, because, as a matter of fact, they made trial of both God and Christ. The view preferred here is that Paul meant "Christ," the same being another reference to his pre-existence, and indicating that our Lord's pre-incarnation activity included that of shepherding the chosen people in the wilderness. It was not Christ, however, who spake the law to Israel, for Hebrews 1:1 makes it clear that God did that through the prophets, and not through his Son.
Neither murmur ye, as some of them murmured, and perished by the destroyer.
The sin of murmuring rounds out the five: lusting, idolatry, fornication, making trial of God, and murmuring.
Neither murmur ye ... For a more detailed comment on this vice, see my Commentary on Acts, pp. 121-122. The murmurers are the complainers, fault-finders, objectors and critics who, alas, form a part of every congregation that ever existed. The attitude represented by such behavior is not a minor or negligible "fault" but an atrocious sin, standing in sequence here as the climax involving even greater guilt than idolatry and fornication; for it would certainly seem to be true that Paul arranged these in ascending order of magnitude.
Now these things happened unto them by way of example; and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come.
Now these things happened ... This is a bold testimony to the Old Testament record, which contains not legends, myths or traditions, but what "happened."
By way of example ... This same thought was expressed in 1 Corinthians 10:6; and under 1 Corinthians 10:4 is given a list of analogies in the great allegory of fleshly Israel, the type of spiritual Israel. Romans 15:4 has much the same teaching, indicating that the Old Testament is for the "learning" of Christians, and making it clear that the Old Testament is a legitimate part of the teaching which applies to every Christian, only with this limitation, that all of its forms and ceremonies and TYPES have been replaced by the great realities of the new covenant.
Upon whom the ends of the ages are come ... This is similar in thought to "this is the ... last days" (Acts 2:16,17) mentioned by Peter on Pentecost, and a number of other similar references in the New Testament; and the usual interpretation is to refer these to the final dispensation of God's grace, the Christian age, which at that time was only beginning. In this interpretation, the meaning is that the present dispensation is terminal, which is believed to be true of course; but the words have a more immediate application to the end of the Jewish dispensation which had already occurred in the crucifixion of Christ; but that terminus of the whole Mosaic age would shortly be marked by the destruction of the Jewish state, the city of Jerusalem and the temple. It is not incorrect to see this also in Paul's words here. It was indeed the "ends of the ages" shortly to be fantastically demonstrated before their eyes in 70 A.D.
As Barnes truly observed, "This by no means denotes that the apostle believed the world would soon come to an end."
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
Whether taken alone or in context, this verse may not be referred to anything else other than to the danger of apostasy, which is an ever-present POSSIBILITY for all of the saved in Christ as long as they are under the probation of earthly existence. We shall not take occasion here to demonstrate the lengths to which scholars have gone in their vain efforts to edit such a thought out of it. Unless there is a real and present danger of falling away so as to be lost, the message of this whole chapter is meaningless. "The history of Israel not only showed the mere possibility of apostasy, but demonstrated its actual reality and the sad prevalence of it."
There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it.
No temptation ... but such as man can bear ... The notion of temptations being irresistible was not allowed by Paul. "Any temptation that comes to us is not unique! others have endured it, and others have come through it."
God ... The agency of God himself is in view in this passage. All temptation, while allowed by God, is also controlled by him; and the Father will simply not allow a child of God to be tempted above what he is able to bear. In the wise providence of God, he has made a way out of every temptation; and, as Barclay noted, "There is the way out, and the way out is not the way of surrender, and not the way of retreat, but the way of conquest in the power of the grace of God."
This instruction regarding "the way of escape" seems to have been given by Paul to alleviate any undue discouragement caused by the blunt and dreadful warning in 1 Corinthians 10:12. The fact that many may, and do, apostatize cannot mean that they were overwhelmed by irresistible temptations, but that they neglected to take "the way of escape."
 William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1954), p. 100.
 Ibid. p. 101.
Wherefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
This is Paul's dramatic summary of the whole epistle from 1 Corinthians 8:1 to this place, tying the whole passage together as one ardent and sustained plea against any indulgence whatever, by any persons whatever, including both the weak and those who thought of themselves as "strong," and demanding absolutely that they "flee from idolatry." The meaning of that is to get as far away from it as possible. Such dilly-dallying with idolatry as that being engaged in by the "knowledge" party in Corinth was the most stupid kind of folly. Their acceptance of any kind of participation in the idol feasts was a violation of their status as participants in the Lord's Supper; and Paul's saying, "I speak as to wise men," in the next verse, far from complimenting them on their wisdom, is a bitter irony spoken in rebuke of their phenomenal spiritual density.
I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.
Wise men ... (?)" To these who were sitting down in the temples of idols and criticizing the "weak" who would not do likewise, these who were boasting of their "liberty" and declaring that "all things were lawful" for Christians, Paul's remark here has the weight of "All right, you smart people, listen to this."
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion of the body of Christ? seeing that we who are many are one bread, one body: for we all partake of the one bread.
The cup of blessing ... This was one of the four cups which marked participation in the Jewish Passover (see my Commentary on Luke, pp. 467-468), being the final one, over which the patriarch pronounced a blessing at the end of the Passover. "It is here transferred to the chalice of the Eucharist."
Which we bless ... Paul's use of the plural "we" reveals "his representing the entire company present, and not as individually possessed of some miraculous gift." The superstition that the one presiding at the Lord's table performed any function that could change the nature of the elements of bread and wine did not arise until a much later time. The thought of this whole verse is that participants in the Lord's supper were unified and bound together in one spirit. Their taking the supper was a declaration that "They had the same object of worship, the same faith, the same hope, etc., with others whom they joined in such a religious act."
Nothing may be made of the fact that Paul mentioned the cup first in this passage, a circumstance which probably resulted from the fact that, "In the heathen feasts, the libation came before the food." Also, there is the obvious intention of the apostle to dwell at greater length upon the bread. The great principle behind Paul's remarks here is the truth that "Partaking of a religious table, whether Christian, Jewish or heathen, involves fellowship with the being to whom it is directed," as well as with the participants themselves. This great principle was not even guessed at by the Corinthians who partook of the idol feasts.
"In almost all nations, the act of eating together has been regarded as a symbol of unity and friendship." This is even more true with reference to eating a sacred meal such as the Lord's supper.
 F. W. Farrar, op. cit., p. 324.,
 T. Teignmouth Shore, Ellicott's Commentary on the Entire Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 324.
 James Macknight, Apostolical Epistles and Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1969), p. 160.
 S. Lewis Johnson, Jr., Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 620.
 Albert Barnes, op. cit., p. 191.
Behold Israel after the flesh: have not they that eat the sacrifices communion with the altar?
"The question is not the intention of the actor, but the import of the act, and the interpretation universally put upon it." Paul thus removed the evaluation of idol worship altogether from the consideration of any "intention" in the heart of the worshiper, the act itself being universally understood as worship either of God or of idols. Here again the question of "What is worship?" demands consideration; and it is a principle laid down dramatically in Scripture that worship is "an action," not some kind of subjective feeling. For full discussion of this see in my Commentary on Acts, pp. 208-210. The subjective feelings of Jewish worshipers made no difference whatever; if they brought their sacrifices, they had communion with the altar and were invariably accounted as worshipping God.
What say I then? that a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?
The Hebrew idiom here is to be understood as a negative, such use of the interrogative being common in the New Testament. In Paul's view, the idol was actually nothing at all; and the intention of the "knowledge" group in Corinth was nothing at all; but none of this made any difference with the fact that actions engaged in the worship of idols were sinful.
But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have communion with demons.
To demons ... Despite the fact of an idol; being nothing at all, there is, nevertheless, a Satan in the world, and a great number of malignant spirits, perhaps even fallen angels, who are used by the evil one to attain his goals regarding human corruption and destruction. The device of the idol is used by Satan as a means of destroying people's souls; and Paul brings such facts as these into sharp focus here. One of the great blind spots in modern thinking regards the very existence of Satan as a person; but the most universally prayed prayer on earth says, "Deliver us from the evil one." Paul here identified such things as idol feasts at a theater where the forces of Satan are operative. People refuse to believe this at their peril.
"The essence of the matter lay in the participation in idol worship, which was a reversion to heathenism." As Alford said, "Heathendom being under the dominion of Satan ... he and his angels are in fact the powers honored and worshipped by the heathen, however little they may be aware of it." "Demons are the real force behind all pagan religion; attested not only by the Old Testament and the New Testament, but by missionary experience. Idolatry is a medium through which satanic power is particularly manifest."
 Donald S. Metz, op. cit., p. 410.
 Paul W. Marsh, op. cit., p. 396.
Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of demons: ye cannot partake of the table of the Lord, and of the table of demons.
Ye cannot ... has the weight of "I forbid you to ..." Of course, it was not a physical impossibility for some to lead such double lives; and it may be inferred that some in Corinth were actually partaking of both; but it was a sin, the words here indicating that it was morally impossible to do such a thing.
Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?
Even in the Old Testament, idol worship was spoken of as provoking the Lord to jealousy; and, as Macknight said, "This is an allusion to Exodus 20:5, where, after prohibiting the worshipping of images, God adds, "I the Lord thy God, am a jealous God!"
Are we stronger than he? ... This carries the thought, "Do you really wish to be an enemy of God?" Jesus gave a parable of one who contemplated going to war with one stronger than himself in Luke 14:32. The thought there is particularly applicable here. See my Commentary on Luke, p. 319.
All things are lawful; but not all things are expedient. All things are lawful; but not all things edify.
All things are lawful ... The total absence from this passage of any mention of behavior which might, under any circumstances, be considered "lawful" raises a question of how these words should be understood, fithis was the watchword of the "knowledge" party in Corinth, and if they had been pressing Paul for permission to engage in idol worship, which seems likely, then the words here are spoken by way of identifying those to whom these stern words were addressed.
Let no man seek his own, but each his neighbor's good.
This does not forbid conduct which is in keeping with enlightened self-interest, but requires that every action shall also be weighed in the light of its effect upon one's fellow Christians. The purely selfish person is by definition non-Christian.
Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, eat, asking no question for conscience' sake.
In verse 21, Paul had commanded, "I forbid you to partake of idol feasts"; but there were two other questions which had troubled the Corinthians, a second being whether or not to eat meat from the common markets, where the likelihood was strong that the meat had been sacrificed to idols. The apostolic answer to this second question was: "Pay no attention to the possibility of its having been sacrificed to idols, there being no intrinsic change whatever wrought in the meat by such an act." Paul reinforced this by an Old Testament quotation in the next verse.
For the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof.
This meant that the meat did not really belong to an idol, no matter if it had been sacrificed. It may therefore be eaten in gratitude as a gift from the Lord, and having no connection at all with an idol. This is a quotation from Psalms 24:1, emphasizing that nothing that people might do can change the ownership of that which intrinsically belongs to God, not merely by the right of creation, but also by the right of maintenance.
If one of them that believe not biddeth you to a feast, and ye are disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience' sake. But if any man say unto you, This hath been offered in sacrifice, eat not, for his sake that showed it, and for conscience' sake.
This was Paul's answer to the third question, which regarded eating as a guest in the home of an unbeliever. Paul's command was full of reason and consideration. The Christian was not to raise any question whatever about the meat served; but, on the other hand, if the meat was definitely identified by "any man" as having been offered to idols, then the Christian should not indulge in it. Thus, by his firm and unequivocal answer to the three solemn questions propounded by the Corinthians, Paul enforced the absolute abstinence on the part of Christians from anything that was identified as a sacrifice to an idol. Where does that leave the "all things are lawful" proposition?
Before leaving this, the words of Farrar should be noted:
How gross was the calumny which asserted that Paul taught men to be INDIFFERENT about eating things sacrificed to idols! He taught indifference only in cases where idolatry could not be directly involved in the question. He only repudiated the idle superstition that the food became INHERENTLY tainted by such a consecration when the eater was unaware of it.
Conscience, I say, not thine own, but the others; for why is my liberty judged by another conscience? If 50partake with thankfulness why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?
It will be remembered that Paul frequently had resort to the old diatribe manner of presenting his arguments, in which a question is raised from the viewpoint of the opponent and then devastated with a concise reply. Something of that is certainly in evidence here; and Metz caught the spirit of these verses perfectly, thus:
Paul writes as though he hears an objection from one of the "enlightened" Corinthians. "Living Letters" paraphrases it thus: "But why, you may ask, must I be guided by what someone else thinks? If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why let someone spoil everything just because he thinks I am wrong?" In 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul replies, "Well, I'll tell you why.
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
The overriding question which must determine all that any Christian does is the question of whether or not his actions will build up, edify, strengthen and encourage the church of Christ; and if any action whatsoever falls short of such utility to bless and honor God's kingdom, then it is forbidden to the child of God. God's glory is paramount; human appetite and convenience have no weight whatever when opposed to God's glory. Paul was a great leader who refused to do anything that might hinder people outside the church or alienate those within it.
Give no occasion of stumbling, either to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the church of God: even as I also please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many that they may be saved.
Give no occasion of stumbling ... This is the apostolic order. If our human brethren, either in or out of the church, may be offended by any action, that action for the true Christian is proscribed and forbidden. We are not living the Christian life for the purpose of blessing ourselves, merely, but for the purpose of saving as many immortal souls as possible.
That they may be saved ... This was the passionate desire of the holy apostle; and everything was subordinated to that goal. What a revival would break out upon earth today if all those who profess to follow Christ should adopt such a rule of conduct.
1 Corinthians 11:1, "Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ." This is included in the next chapter, but the logical connection of it is at the conclusion of Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 10. Paul often used the admonition to be "imitators" of himself, always with the limitation of the qualifier, "as he followed the Lord," whether expressly stated or not. He gave the same command in 1 Corinthians 4:16; Philippians 3:17, and in 1 Thessalonians 1:6.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany