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In the tenth chapter the apostle first warns us that it is possible to make a profession of Christianity by having part in Christian ordinances and yet perish. He then gives us the true significance of the cup and the loaf, of which we partake at the Lord's Supper, and closes by warning us against using our individual liberty in a way that would compromise Christian fellowship or give offence to the Jews, the Gentiles or the assembly of God.
(Vv. 1-5). Already the apostle has warned preachers that it is possible to preach and be a castaway; now he warns professors that it is possible to be baptized and partake of the Lord's Supper and yet be lost. He does not say that we can have part in the death of Christ and perish, but that it is possible to have part in the symbols of His death and perish. He thus exposes the snare, into which the great mass in Christendom has fallen, of making a sacramental system in which salvation is made to depend upon having part in baptism and the Lord's Supper. To illustrate this solemn fact, the apostle refers to the history of Israel. He reminds us that all Israel were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and that all ate of the manna and partook of the water that flowed from the rock, things which in figure spoke of Christ. Nevertheless, with “the most of them” (N.Tn.) God was not well pleased, and they were overthrown in the wilderness.
(Vv. 6-11). Now, says the apostle, these things happened as examples. Evidently they set forth in type the initiatory rite of Christianity - baptism - as well as the continuous rite of the Lord's Supper. However important these rites, they do not impart life to the participants. Alas, it is possible to have part in them, and yet live in a way that calls down the displeasure of God. The participators may thus prove themselves to be mere professors and in the end perish.
To warn us against this danger, the apostle reminds us of the evils into which many in Israel fell, to the intent that we should not act as they did. First, they lusted after evil things of this world and wearied of the heavenly provision ( Num_11:4-6 ). Secondly, yielding to these lusts, they allowed the things of sight and sense to come between their souls and God, fell into idolatry, and abandoned themselves to the gratification of their lusts; “The people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play” ( Exo_32:1-6 ). Thirdly, having turned from God, they fell into gross sins in unholy alliance with the world, and came under the judgment of God ( Num_25:1-9 ). Fourthly, this unholy alliance with the world destroyed all sense of the presence of the Lord. They tempted the Lord to prove His presence by saying, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” ( Exo_17:7 ). This speaking against God led to a solemn proof of His presence by His dealings in judgment ( Num_21:5-6 ). Fifthly, they murmured against God's way with them and fell under the power of their enemies ( Num_14:2-4 ; Num_14:45 ).
The order in which these evils are stated is evidently moral and not historical. Lust heads the list, for, as the apostle James tells us, “When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin” ( Jam_1:15 ). It leads to idolatry, for that which we lust after becomes an idol between the soul and God. Then, through the idol, an unholy alliance is formed with the world, which in turn destroys all sense of the presence of God with His people, and leads to murmuring or rebellion against the ways of God by which He may chasten men because of their evil ways.
These evils brought down the judgment of God upon the Israelites. “They were overthrown”; they “fell”; they “were destroyed of serpents”; they were “destroyed of the destroyer”. Further, the things that happened to them are types for us, warning us not to act as they did, lest while partaking of the Christian rites we give way to lust and fall under the power of sin and Satan and death.
(Vv. 12-14). The apostle, in searching words, proceeds to apply these warnings to professing Christians. He warns us against the natural self-confidence of the flesh; “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall”. Let us not think that, because we have partaken of the Supper, we are safe from falling into the grossest sins. But, we are reminded, God is our resource. The temptations that come upon us are common to man, and God never allows us to be tempted without making a way of escape, though, alas, we may neglect the way. “Wherefore”, says the apostle, “flee from idolatry”. Avoid all that would stir up lust, come between the soul and God, and lead to an outward fall.
(Vv. 15-17). Having warned us against the abuse of Christian ordinances, the apostle sets before us the true significance of the symbols, the cup and the loaf, in the Lord's Supper. For us the cup is a “cup of blessing”, a symbol of the blood of Christ, reminding us of His death, when the blood that cleanseth from all sin was shed at the Cross. For Him it was a cup of judgment, but the cup that brought judgment to Him secures blessing for us. The cup of judgment for Christ thus becomes a cup of blessing for the believer. For this cup we can bless, or give thanks. In speaking of blessing the cup, there is no thought of an individual consecrating the elements according to the ideas of corrupt Christendom. The apostle says, “we” bless, “we” break, and “we” partake. It is an act of thanksgiving in which all who partake have their part.
In partaking of the loaf we express two great truths. First, in the broken loaf - “the bread which we break” - we set forth the great truth that we have part in Christ's death, His body given for us. Secondly, in the unbroken loaf we have a symbol of the mystical body of Christ, which includes every true believer, and, in partaking of the “one bread”, we set forth our identification with the one body of which Christ is the Head and all believers members. The “one bread” does not only set forth that those who at any given time partake of the bread are one, nor that believers in any particular locality are one, but it sets forth the unity of the whole body which includes every true believer.
(Vv. 18-22). Having set forth the deep significance of the cup and the loaf, the apostle warns us against having any part in human fellowships which are set aside, or condemned, by the death of Christ. He first alludes to Israel to establish the important principle that, by partaking of a sacrifice, we express communion with all that it sets forth. This makes it so intensely solemn for a Christian to have part with anything that expresses fellowship with idols. The Corinthian believers knew that the idols themselves were nothing, and the meats offered to idols were no different from other meats; they were therefore in danger of arguing that they could attend a heathen temple and eat meats offered to idols. No, says the apostle, you forget that the things they sacrifice to idols are really sacrificed to demons, who are the instigators of this idol worship. The idol may, indeed, be a mere nonentity, but the demons behind them were very real, and in leading men to worship idols they were leading men to worship demons, and thus usurp the homage due to God alone. How, then, could the Christian, who by drinking of the cup of the Lord expressed fellowship with the Lord, His death, and His people, dare to drink of a cup that expressed fellowship with demons? If we sit down at the Lord's table, where He presides, and partake of the blessings that He provides, how can we partake in the evils that demons may provide for the gratification of the flesh at their table? The Lord is surely jealous lest the affections of His people be drawn away from Himself to another. Can a believer who has wandered in affection from the Lord with impunity ignore the Lord? Are we stronger than He? Let us beware of provoking the Lord to act in governmental dealings with us, as God had to do with Israel.
(Vv. 23-11: 1). Having warned us against every idolatrous fellowship, the apostle meets questions that may arise as to eating meats apart from the idol's temple. Difficulties may arise in the markets, or at feasts in private houses, where meats that have been offered to idols may be sold or served. In such cases let each remember that, if all things are lawful, it by no means follows that all things are expedient, and that we have to consider what will be for the edification and advantage of others. In the markets, or at the feasts, we need ask no questions, as we can partake of food as being the Lord's and His provision. If, however, it is pointed out that the meats have been sacrificed to idols, then the Christian should refrain from eating for the sake of a believer who has a conscience about it, and to prevent an unbeliever bringing the charge that believers eat of meats offered to the very idols they condemn.
In eating or drinking, therefore, as in all else that we do, we are to consider, not merely ourselves and our liberty, but “the glory of God”, and the consciences of our brethren, and thus avoid giving offence to Jews, or Gentiles, or the assembly of God. Further, we are not only to avoid giving offence to any, but we are to follow the apostle, even as he pleased all men in all things, seeking not his own profit, “but that of the many, that they may be saved”. And how did he seek to “please all”? Not, we may be sure, by associating with their evils, but by following Christ in all His lowly grace. The apostle can thus conclude this portion of his Epistle with the exhortation, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ”.
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25