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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 10

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

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Verses 1-33

(b) Food offered to Idols

(iii) Historical Illustrations and Practical Advice

St. Paul has been speaking of the need of earnestness and self-discipline, and the danger of failure; he now holds out the fate of the Israelites as a warning against self-confidence. The Corinthians were tempted to the very same sins for which Israel suffered.

All of the Israelites received great blessings from God, types of the sacramental privileges Christians enjoy, yet most of them perished in the wilderness because of sin. They accepted the privilege of their high calling, but renounced its responsibility. Their fate should warn his converts against setting their heart on evil things, idolatry, impurity, presuming on God’s patience, murmuring.

1. All our fathers] Though most of the Corinthians were Gentiles, yet the Israelites were their spiritual forefathers; the Christian Church is a continuation of the Jewish.

The cloud., the sea] see Exodus 13:21-22; Exodus 14. The cloud denoting the presence of God was over them, the water of the Red Sea on either side of them. Their passage through the sea was a break with their old life in Egypt; it definitely committed them to Moses’ guidance, was in effect a profession of discipleship to him (Exodus 14:31); they were thus baptized unto Moses. This typified our baptism, which is, (1) deliverance from the bondage of sin and entrance upon a new life; (2) discipleship to Christ and union with Him. So the spiritual meat (the ’manna,’ Exodus 16) and spiritual drink (water from the rock, Exodus 17 Numbers 20) by which their life was sustained, were types of the Body and Blood of Christ, by which our souls are nourished. Our Lord Himself made the manna a type of Himself, the Living Bread (John 6:31-35). Here only in the NT. are the two Sacraments mentioned side by side. This food and drink are called ’spiritual’ because, (1) miraculous, (2) typical, (3) assuring the people of God’s presence, strengthening their faith.

4. That (RV’ a’) spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ] The several visible rocks from which water came were symbols of the one invisible Rock who accompanied them and bestowed these blessings. God is often called a Rock in the OT., e.g. Deuteronomy 32:15-18; Psalms 18:2, Psalms 18:31. We see St. Paul’s recognition of Christ’s pre-existence; the divine power which sustained the Israelites was the power of Christ working on earth before His Incarnation: cp. also John 7:37-38

5. Many] RV ’most.’ All shared these same blessings, yet most, all, in fact, except Caleb and Joshua, perished in the wilderness. So our sacramental privileges will not save us if we live a careless life.

6. Examples] to be avoided: cp. Hebrews 3:7 to Hebrews 4:2. They.. lusted] after the flesh-pots of Egypt (Numbers 11); the Corinthians were mchned to hanker after heathen pleasures.

7. The people sat down, etc.] in honour of the golden calf (Exodus 32:6). Play] revelling accompanying the idol-worship.

8. Some of them committed] Numbers 25. Fornication was a temptation to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 6). It was closely associated with idolatry; at Corinth there were a great number of women attached to the temple of Aphrodite (Venus) and devoted to her shameful service.

9. Tempt Christ] (RV ’the Lord’; with AV, see on 1 Corinthians 10:4) i.e. try His patience. Destroyed of serpents] Numbers 21:5, Numbers 21:6.

10. Murmur] as some might at losing their old heathen pleasures. Destroyed of the destroyer] i.e. the destroying angel inflicting pestilence (Exodus 12:23; 2 Samuel 24:15-16; Numbers 16:41-49).

11. For ensamples] RV ’by way of example.’ Written for our admonition] not merely as ancient history: cp. Romans 15:4. The ends of the world] RV ’of the ages.’ Christians are ’the heirs of all the ages,’ living in the final dispensation: cp. Hebrews 1:2;

13. Such as is common to man] RV ’such as man can bear.’ God is faithful] He will not fail you (1 Corinthians 1:9); so endure, assured that He will support and finally deliver (make a way to escape).

14-22. Partaking of the Holy Communion is morally incompatible with partaking of idolatrous feasts. By partaking of the Eucharist they showed themselves Christians having communion with Christ, and in Him with one another; by sharing in sacrificial feasts in honour of idols they made themselves pagans, recognising the existence of false gods and forming a brotherhood with idol-worshippers. The two were morally incompatible, an offence against the Lord, who required their whole allegiance.

Paraphrase. ’(14) Therefore avoid all connexion with idolatry. (5) Judge for yourselves, ye that are sensible men. (16) The Cup that we bless, the Bread that we break, do they not mean fellowship with Christ through sharing in Christ’s Blood and Body? (17) And we are all made one body in fellowship together by partaking of the one Bread. (18) So among the Jews, eating of the sacrifice means communion with God through (or with) the altar. (19) Now though an idol is a mere nothing, (20) yet we cannot help regarding heathen sacrifices as offered to evil spirits, (21) and it is morally impossible to share both in the Table and Cup of the Lord, and in those of evil spirits; (22) we cannot afford to provoke the Lord to jealousy.’

14. Flee, from idolatry] do not run into temptation by attending these sacrificial feasts.

15. As to wise men] such as the Corinthians prided themselves on being: cp, 1 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Corinthians 4:8; 1 Corinthians 8:10. They could judge how incongruous it was, after having by the Eucharist been made partakers of Christ, to share in idol sacrifices, and so enter into fellowship with evil spirits.

16. Cup of blessing] the cup of wine upon which a blessing was pronounced. We bless] i.e. consecrate by thanksgiving and prayer.

Communion of the blood ’of Christ] In 1 Corinthians 11 St. Paul presents the Eucharist under the aspect of a memorial of Christ’s death; here under that of communion with Him; hence our term ’Holy Communion’ for this Sacrament. Partaking of the Cup bestows spiritual communion with Christ, helping those who have faith to receive more and more of His spirit and influence. So partaking of the Bread brings the same spiritual blessings. Both form one act of communion, the only difference being that while partaking of the Cup their thoughts are fixed on Christ’s Blood shed for many, and while partaking of the Bread, upon His broken Body. We break] following Christ’s own institution (Matthew 26:26-27). The Church is spoken of as doing what was actually done by its president (Acts 20:11).

17. For we being many] better, RM ’Seeing that there is one bread, we who are many are one body.’ It is a Sacrament of unity in Christ; partakers of the one Bread, broken and distributed to each, we all partake sacramentally of Christ’s Body, and are thus ’members incorporate in His mystical Body, the blessed company of all faithful people.’

18. Israel after the flesh] the natural Israel. We Christians are the true Israel, who do God’s will (Galatians 6:16). Partakers of (RV ’have communion with’) the altar] i.e. with God, whose share was offered on it: see on 1 Corinthians 9:18. Or, ’communion (with God) in (by) the altar.’ ’The altar on which the victim was given to Jehovah, and from which it was given back to the offerers, was a meeting-place of communion between God and His people’ (Evans).

19. That the idol is any thing] no contradiction of 1 Corinthians 8:4, 1 Corinthians 8:7.

20. They sacrifice to devils (lit. ’demons’), and not to God] an echo of Deuteronomy 32:17. St. Paul means that while particular heathen gods have no real existence, yet idolatrous worship is the invention of evil spirits, who instigate the excesses connected with it. To join in idolatrous feasts is to come into contact and fellowship with these spirits.

21. Cannot] It is morally impossible; to indulge in the latter makes the former a mere mockery.

22. Provoke the Lord to jealousy] (from Deuteronomy 32:16, Deuteronomy 32:21. Cp. Exodus 20:5) by dividing an allegiance.

Are we stronger than he?] This was really what the conduct of those who frequented idol-feasts amounted to—a challenge to God. How absurd their conduct when thus analysed!

1 Corinthians 10:23 to 1 Corinthians 11:1. Practical directions. St. Paul has shown the moral danger of joining in what was avowedly a sacrificial, idolatrous feast. He now comes to cases where it was lawful to eat meat that had been offered in sacrifice to idols, provided the feelings of others were considered.

Paraphrase. ’(23, 24) In dealing with the limits within which Christian liberty may be exercised, we have to consider not merely whether a thing is permissible, but whether it is helpful to others, as well as to ourselves. (25, 26) You may freely eat, without asking questions, any meat you buy in the market, for all that is in the world is from God, and therefore good. (27) And if you go to a feast at a friend’s house, eat, without questioning, whatever is placed before you; (28, 29) but if told that anything has been offered in sacrifice, abstain from it, so as not to wound the conscience of your informant. (29, 30) Remember it is entirely for his sake that you abstain; for in the abstract it is not well that another’s conscience should be scandalised by the liberty I exercise, or that what I receive as God’s good gift should cause me to be maligned. (31) So not only eat and drink, but do everything, to God’s glory; (32) and avoid giving offence to men, whether Jews, or heathen, or fellow-Christians. (33) Remember that I always seek to deny myself for others with a view to their profit and salvation. (1 Corinthians 11:1) Follow my example in this respect as I follow Christ’s.’

23. All things (i.e. things indifferent) are lawful] see on 1 Corinthians 6:12, 1 Corinthians 6:13. Edify] lit. ’build up’ the Christian character.

24. Another’s wealt] RV ’his neighbour’s good.’ ’Wealth’ is old English for ’welfare.’

25. Shambles] the meat market. Asking no question for conscience sake] i.e. so as not to trouble your conscience, or, not stopping to consult conscience. St. Paul does not want to encourage unhealthy scruples.

26. The earth is the Lord’s, and tine fulness thereof] i.e. all its contents (Psalms 24:1); said to have been a Jewish grace before meat. RV omits these words at end of 1 Corinthians 10:28.

29. Of another] RV ’by another.’ Stevens paraphrases the v., ’Such action would have its entire reason in the weakness of the scrupulous man, for, in itself considered, one’s liberty is not determined by some one else’s conscience, but by his own.’

30. If I by grace be a partaker] RM, better, ’If I partake with thankfulness’: cp. 1 Timothy 4:3-5. Evil spoken of] Heathens, or weak Christians, would think it grossly inconsistent to thank God for food offered to idols.

31. Do all to the glory of God] The principle the Apostle has been inculcating in respect of meats has a universal application.

32. None offence] RV ’no occasion of stumbling.’

33. I please all men] cp. 1 Corinthians 9:22, and especially Romans 15:1-2, ’Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification’: contrast Galatians 1:10.

1 Corinthians 11:1. Be ye followers of me] cp. 1 Corinthians 4:16. For Christ’s example cp. Philippians 2:4; Romans 15:3; ’even Christ pleased not himself.’ This v. is closely joined to the preceding; 1 Corinthians 11:2 begins a new section.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/1-corinthians-10.html. 1909.
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