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Just as, in the end of chapter 9, Paul shows himself willing to submit to a serious test as to the reality of his Christianity, so in the first of chapter 10 it is plain that all who claim the place of Christian will be subjected to a similar test. And the early history of Israel is appealed to as an example of this. All the children of Israel had the benefit of the protecting cloud in leaving Egypt. All of them passed through the Red Sea, "and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea." These things linked them publicly with Moses, just as water baptism identifies one outwardly with Christ. They all ate the manna, not that it was spiritual in itself; but it had spiritual significance as speaking of Christ, the true Bread from Heaven. They drank of the spiritual Rock. Again, it is the significance of the Rock that is stressed as being spiritual: the rock was a type of Christ. Not that the rock literally followed them, but the blessing that is symbolized in the water from the rock followed the entire company through the wilderness. "That Rock was Christ." He provided blessing for them, just as today He provides blessing in the circle of Christianity; and all those who profess the name of Christ are in that sphere of blessing outwardly, just as all Israel was outwardly blessed because of association with Moses and the nation.
"But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness." When the test came, they were found lacking: they did not complete the race. If the reality is not present, this will be eventually exposed. If so in Israel, then certainly so in the present day. For these things were types, directly applicable to us, seriously warning us not to lust after evil things, as they did. This is the first of five negatives, and deals with the state of heart that is at the root of all the following evils. The positive antidote to this is of course in maintaining "first love" toward the Person of Christ.
Next, idolatry is warned against. Israel introduced this to have a religious justification for indulging their own appetites and pleasures. They talked about holding a feast "to the Lord" (Exodus 32:5-6); but it was contrary to Him, and a god merely of their own invention. In all idol worship there is necessarily the element of hypocrisy. And whether realized or not, it is actual entertainment of the devil, who uses this means of displacing God.
And fornication follows. If faithfulness to our one Master is compromised, then association with any kind of evil will result. Balaam counselled Balak to use the Moabites to seduce Israel, and they succumbed to this false and evil association. But God hates such mixtures, and in one day twenty-three thousand Israelites died as a result. Numbers 25:9; Numbers 25:9 speaks of 24,000 dying in the plague, but it does not say, in one day. Evidently the other 1,000 died on a different day. Let its remember that spiritual fornication is no less serious than that literal.
Next, we are admonished not to tempt Christ. Israel did this by despising the manna as a light and unsatisfactory food (Numbers 21:5). But it is a type of Christ in humiliation as the lowly Son of Man. Playing into Satan's hands by doing his tempting work, they were destroyed of serpents, the symbol of Satanic deceit.
The last of the five admonitions here is no less serious: "Neither murmur ye." The spies of Israel who brought back a report of the land of Canaan mixed with their own murmuring, "died by the plague before the Lord" (Numbers 14:36-37). Such murmuring was the dreadful evil of judging God as being untrustworthy in His assurance that he would enable them to conquer the land. Let the believer remember that all mere complaint is in its essence against God. Is He not caring rightly for His people and all their interests? Notice here it is not the serpents destroying, but the destroyer: it was a divine infliction, God's own judgment.
Verse 1 I insists that all these things happened to Israel for types. It is not that they occurred by chance, and are taken as convenient lessons; but that the wisdom of God Himself designed the history in such a way that we should have these specific types from which to learn. While they may not have been written to us, yet they are written specifically for us. In fact, Israel could not realize the significance of these Old Testament types in such a way as can believers today; and we must not lightly estimate their present value. For upon ourselves is come the end of the ages. The probationary ages of conscience, human government, and of law had an end in view, that is, the pure grace of God revealed in the Person of His Son; and we, the recipients of this glorious revelation, are therefore those who, by the Spirit of God, are privileged to benefit the most greatly by past history, which has been designed by God for this very purpose. Let us not ignore or forget a truth so transcendently wonderful.
And one who thinks he stands is warned test he fall. Is his confidence in himself? Peter had this, and he sadly fell, though not as did Judas, who had no faith whatever. For one who is not born again, that confidence in himself only leads to eternal ruin: on the other hand, as to a believer, self-confidence will lead to a painful fall, but for which there is recovery by the grace of God.
So that verse 12 presses the faithfulness of God, and that it is upon this only that we can safely depend. If temptation comes to a believer, it is not a completely new thing: others too have been similarly tried, no matter how unusual the thing may seem. But God will not allow one to be tempted above his ability to endure it. Let us therefore remember God's faithfulness, and depend thoroughly upon it. He will provide a way out in His own time, that the individual may have grace to bear it. The important thing here is the confidence of faith in the Living God that is the opposite of self-confidence. We cannot stand alone, but God is able to make us stand.
Verse 14 sums up this section with the urgent admonition to "flee from idolatry." This goes back to verse 7 as the first manifestation of the inward working of evil, and is in fact the underlying principle involved from the first of chapter 8 to the end of chapter 10. Paul was himself so purposed to be fully for, Christ that no element of idolatry would have a place to enter in; and in this chapter he encourages the Corinthians similarly.
This leads now to the central expression of all true assembly fellowship, the united fellowship of saints with Christ Himself, and with one another, as the body of Christ. Paul appeals to the wisdom they have in Christ Jesus, and asks that they judge wisely as to his words.
Was not the cup in the Lord's supper the fellowship of the blood of Christ? When partaking, one expresses fellowship with the value and significance of the blood of Christ, identification with the atonement fully completed by shedding of that blood. Precious association indeed! And the bread which is broken, is it not the fellowship of the body of Christ? Certainly, His literal body given for us, in which He suffered agony beyond all thought, is to be considered here, ourselves expressing fellowship with the blessing resulting from His dread sufferings, with hearts drawn in appreciation and thanksgiving.
But verse 17 indicates a further application for us here. Believers being many, are one loaf, one body, all being partakers of that one loaf. This is most striking and important. The breaking of bread is the predominant expression of assembly fellowship. In doing this we are to give expression to fellowship with the entire body of Christ, not with any mere part of it, local or otherwise. This is a basis we must not ever ignore, or we drop into sectarianism. When Paul wrote, separations had not divided the Church into numerous parties, of course, though the attitude of independency and division was threatening harm in Corinth, and had to be reproved. This being the case, how important it was that they get back to the precious recognition of the one sound principle, basic to all unity in the Church of God. We too must pay greatest attention to this crucial matter.
At the present time, every denomination has its distinct and separate basis of gathering; but any basis that is not that of the entire body of Christ worldwide is in its essence sectarian, however good or however poor may be the attitude or spirit of those who gather on such grounds. Many may acknowledge the truth of the one body; and urge that, on this account, there should be interdenominational fellowship; but this is not at all really acknowledging the only basis of fellowship, for in this case, various bases are retained, and their inconsistency with one another ignored. And more seriously, God's basis is ignored, a basis far more important than is our enjoyment of fellowship. Faith therefore would cause the believer to leave every other basis, and gather on God's one basis, not adding anything to the declared truths of Scripture in these matters. The breaking of bread, in these verses, is seen clearly to be not at all individual, but connected with the Assembly, the body of Christ, and it is only rightly observed when its basis of the one body is recognized as its principle of unity, and of gathering.
Israel after the flesh is again used in illustration of these things. When an animal was sacrificed on the altar, those who ate of the sacrifice were thereby identified with the altar. The serious question of association is that which is pressed here. If we are having fellowship with Christ and His body, as expressed in the breaking of bread, is it consistent at the same time to have fellowship with what is contrary to Him?
One might say that an idol anyway was nothing, and therefore there was no significance in any outward identification with it. But this is not correct reasoning. True, the idol is nothing, and meat offered to idols is not actually changed by this. But, behind the idol in every case, is an evil spirit, and the Gentiles, in their idol worship, were sacrificing to demons. Can the believer have any part in this? It is not a question of whether his own conscience is defiled, or his own soul affected; but of his outwardly showing fellowship with an idol. He is outwardly compromising the honor of his Lord.
This principle can certainly be applied to a denominational association. Many denominations have been so mixed with idolatry that any Christian should discern this clearly, and have no fellowship with such things. The very effort to exalt and justify a certain denomination, has in it the element of idolatry; for it puts the denomination in the place of Christ. Certainly we are to love those Christians who may be deceived by such things, but the thing itself we should avoid.
For it is impossible to drink the cup of the Lord, and also the cup of demons: impossible to be partakers of the Lord's table, and also of the table of demons. This is a matter of our true, vital fellowship. It is not here the Lord's supper he is speaking of: this is found later in chapter 11:20-33. But every true believer drinks the cup of the Lord and partakes of the Lord's table by the very fact of his being saved. It is spiritually true the moment one believes, that he eats of the Lord's flesh and drinks of His blood. Compare John 6:53-57. This has become his proper, vital sphere of fellowship. So therefore it is impossible for him to drink the cup of demons or partake of their table. God has in absolute fact delivered him from that realm, to which he cannot return. If God has done this in fullest perfection, then it is only right that our practical actions should be consistent with the established fact.
And they are asked a conscience-searching question: "Do we provoke the Lord to jealously?" Is He not rightly jealous of our giving any honor (honor that belongs to Him) to demons? Or, "are we stronger than He?" Do we think we are strong enough to engage in such mixtures without danger, while God Himself is totally separate from them?
Was it a question of what was merely "lawful"? Indeed, no legal attitude of "touch not, taste not, handle not" is implied at all; for that kind of thing is contrary to Christianity. But were they not wise enough to judge as to what is becoming to those redeemed by the blood of Christ? Did not their own faith and conscience, as well as the Word of God, enlighten them in these matters? Paul at least sought the positive character of things, things expedient or becoming, and that might be for true edification, the building up of souls. A principle of great value here is urged upon the saints: "Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth." If the blessing of others is honestly sought, this will itself give a more proper perspective as to my own personal conduct; while mere selfishness will always leave me susceptible to Satanic influence. And let us avoid the subtle suggestion that we are kind and unselfish if we mingle with others in wrong associations: this is neither faithfulness to God, nor actual kindness to others.
The connection here with chapter 8, where this subject began, is evident. If meat was sold in the stores, there was no need to question whether it had been offered to an idol. Certainly this made no difference as to the meat itself, and the Christian has perfect liberty to eat it; "for the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." And the believer receives it from the Lord, with thanksgiving.
Or, if a believer accepts an invitation to a meal with an unbeliever, he is to be fully free to eat what is furnished without question. But if his host, or anyone present, were to tell him this had been offered in sacrifice to an idol, then immediately the issue is raised as to whether he will recognize the idol. His informer certainly has this in view, and therefore the believer is not to eat. This is proper care for the informer's conscience. And again it is said, "for the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." If my eating would give another the impression that I believed the food was a demon's, and not the Lord's, then I should not eat. So whether eating in the first case, or not eating in the other, the basis of truth for both is identical.
The conscience of another then, not merely my own, should concern me; for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience? If I have liberty, let me express it in such a way that the other man's conscience will not judge it. For if my eating would stumble him, then let me use my liberty not to eat, and his conscience will not judge my liberty. If I partake with thanksgiving to God, why should I do it in such a way that another will have occasion to speak evil of me on account of the very thing for which I give thanks?
So that, as well as the consideration of another's conscience, there is the question of the glory of God involved here. For His glory is certainly a supreme consideration in the way we represent Him before men. "Do all things to the glory of God" is a sobering, steadying reminder for our souls. Our conduct should give no occasion of stumbling to any, whether Jews, Gentiles, or the Church of God. They are all God's creatures, and my own comfort and pleasure is secondary to the proper welfare of their souls. Paul was the example in this self-sacrificing attitude of pleasing all men in all things. This is, of course, not pleasing men as subject to their domination, or as merely seeking human approval (as is fully refuted in Galatians 1:10); but as genuinely seeking the purest good of their souls, that they may be saved. He would not compromise the truth of God for anyone, but he would give up his own personal advantage for the sake of any, if it might bring them to God.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25