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The Example Of The Israelites At The Exodus and In The Wilderness (10:1)
The illustration is now given from the account of the Exodus and what followed of the fact that not all attain the prize. Outwardly they may appear to be the people of God, but they are soon revealed as not being so. All took part, as it were, in the contest, but not all received the prize. We should note that it is being used as an illustration. It is not a comment on the individual eternal destiny of each one in the wilderness. It is not saying that all were lost. The fact that God persevered with them shows that He had not deserted totally them. It is true that they did not attain the prize of Canaan, but many died in God's love.
'For I would not, brothers, have you ignorant, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and were all baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and did all eat the same spiritual food, and did all drink the same spiritual drink. For they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.'
'For' connects back to his previous words. He had described how he put every effort into success. Let them now look back and recall others, others who failed. Thus he reminds them of the great privileges enjoyed by Israel on their redemption from Egypt. Firstly they were separated off from Egypt by the cloud, which went behind them and positioned itself between them and the Egyptians (Exodus 14:19), and then by the sea which allowed them through and then destroyed the Egyptians, sealing the way to Egypt and cutting God's people off from Egypt for ever.
By this also they were baptised into the great Moses (compare 'were you baptised into the name of Paul' - 1 Corinthians 1:13), firstly under the cloud that represented the presence of God (Exodus 14:19-2.14.20) and then in passing through the sea to safety (Exodus 14:21-2.14.22). It was a full commitment to Moses, a turning away from the past to follow Moses. By this they had done with the past and put themselves totally in his hands, something later sealed in the covenant at Sinai. What greater name to be baptised into apart from Christ? Thus they had been separated off from the world and baptised with a spiritual baptism, just as the Corinthians now were.
Then they ate God-ordained, God-provided, spiritual food in the manna (Exodus 16:0) and drank similar spiritual drink from the rock (Exodus 17:0), just as the Corinthians now partook of the Lord's Table. Nothing was missing of the blessings of God. And that rock represented Christ. So in figure they drank of Him.
The 'spiritual rock that followed them' may refer to the fact that they drank of the rock at the beginning of the journey (Exodus 17:1-2.17.7), and then lo, at the end of their journey to Kadesh, there it was again (Numbers 20:2-4.20.13), thus encompassing the whole journey. That is why tradition later had it that the rock had accompanied them through the wilderness. Compare a similar idea in Psalms 78:15-19.78.16.
‘For they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.’ But alternatively, and more likely, this may be saying that they not only drank of the rock in the wilderness but also of God’s spiritual work done constantly among them by Him Who was their Rock and Who was constantly with them (Deuteronomy 32:4; Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 32:18; Deuteronomy 32:30) even though sometimes they forgot Him. It was He Who as their Rock followed them around. And the One Who followed them around and sought to sustain them was in fact Christ (the ‘angel of Yahweh’). Thus we should look to no other.
The way this illustration is put would seem to suggest that some Corinthians were making a great to do about who had baptised them, and about the power and knowledge it gave them, and about the efficacy of partaking of the Lord's Table, possibly suggesting that it made them immune from all failure and able to ignore idols and partake openly of idol food in idol temples. They considered that they did not need to fear temptation. Thus they are reminded of the failure of Israel who symbolically had all the same benefits that they had, and failed. They must beware lest having their benefits they fail too.
Note the ' our fathers'. Paul sees the church as the true Israel who can look back to the promises.
'Howbeit with most of them God was not well pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.'
The spiritual benefits of the Israelites proved to be of no efficacy to them when it came to the sins of idolatry and sexual misbehaviour, both prominent in idol temples. They failed, displeased God and were overthrown in the wilderness one by one as they died off (Numbers 14:16 LXX). Their participation in sacraments had not saved them. Let the Corinthians beware lest the same thing happen to them. Note the 'most of them' taken along with the earlier 'all'. There were only a few of all the adults who originally received the spiritual sacraments who actually survived the stay at Kadesh, e.g. Moses, Caleb and Joshua.
So among these who had experienced these things some were specifically destroyed. Others died one by one, day by day, in the wilderness, their bodies left there in the wilderness. But only the few survived to enter Canaan. We may possibly (and rightly) distinguish between those who were finally lost, those who were saved but did not receive the prize, and those whose triumph was final, but that is not Paul's emphasis here. He is concentrating on the thought of their failure to receive the prize they were aiming at. The point is that they just did not get there. (Aaron fell in the wilderness but we are not to gather from that that God had eternally rejected him. It was simply that he came short of receiving the fullness of blessing).
This is now followed by four or five examples of the way in which the majority had failed. Lusting after evil things; its resultant idolatry, having in mind the molten calf incident when the 'play' probably included sexual misbehaviour as well as false worship (Exodus 32:6); fornication (Numbers 25:1-4.25.9); testing God through unbelief (Numbers 21:4-4.21.9); murmuring (Numbers 11:1-4.11.15). All these sins were being reproduced among the Corinthians.
'Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.'
So these things were examples for us, given as a lesson so as to prevent us from doing the same, that is, preventing us from setting our minds on evil things, idolatry, fornication, trying God and murmuring. 'These things' (compare 1 Corinthians 10:11) looks ahead to the verses that follow, for what came earlier would not have been examples that prevented the desire for evil things in the Corinthians.
'We should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.' This may refer to the cry of the people for 'the flesh pots of Egypt' (Exodus 16:3 compare Numbers 11:4-4.11.6) and stresses the danger of looking back, and regretting the loss of the past. This was the precise nature of the problem that could arise from knowingly eating food sacrificed to idols, a regretting of the past and a looking back, but his use of 'we' shows that it went wider than that. All, (Paul included), had to be aware of the danger of human desires and longings, and a looking back to the things of the world (1 John 2:15-62.2.16).
'Nor be you idolaters, as were some of them. As it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.'
Reference here is to worship of the molten calf and its accompanying immoral rites (Exodus 32:6), again paralleling entering idol temples, and the danger of participation in their immoral behaviour. Note the stress on the fact that they ate in the presence of the idol which resulted in sin as a consequence. That is precisely what the danger was for the Corinthians.
Note also the change from 'we' (1 Corinthians 10:6) to 'you' (1 Corinthians 10:7) to 'us' (1 Corinthians 10:8). Paul could not link himself to idolatry because he had never been involved with it. But he recognised his ever present, (although held under by his walking with the Spirit), propensity for sins of the flesh.
'Nor let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.'
Here the sin of sexual immorality is more clearly spelled out. If the reference is to Numbers 25:1-4.25.3 it also includes being influenced by idolatry, and eating in the presence of idols. But 'us' shows his consciousness that the sin is one he too might commit, so he does not emphasise the connection with idols directly. Sexual impropriety was highly prevalent in Corinthian society, as it is for many today. It was so easy to think, 'everyone does it, it is part of modern culture'. But Paul condemns it out of hand.
There would appear to have been a possible tradition that 23,000 died 'in one day', with the remainder dying soon after, making 24,000 in all (Numbers 25:9), or it may be that Paul is accentuating the severity of the punishment by stressing how quickly the large majority died, while not wishing to commit himself to all dying in one day.
The 24,000 may well have deliberately reflected twice twelve stressing the intensity of the punishment on the twelve tribes. Paul would recognise this. His 23,000 would then reflect the large majority, but not all, as dying in one day by a simple reduction by a fraction (a thousand). Numbers were regularly used in this kind of way in those days, to convey ideas rather than be exact. Note the mention of 'the day of the plague' in Numbers 25:18 which draws attention to the severity of the first day.
It is extremely unlikely that Paul got it wrong accidentally. He knew the Scriptures too well. That Paul clearly saw the 'one day' as significant in expressing the severity of the punishment comes out in the next verse where the imperfect suggests that in contrast the snake judgment occurred over a period of time, but he was clearly wary of saying that all without exception died in one day, thus he reduced the number lightly.
'Nor let us make trial of the Lord, as some of them made trial, and perished ('were perishing') by the snakes.'
Again they tested the Lord by looking back and comparing their present state with the past (Numbers 21:4-4.21.9 compare Psalms 78:18), an ever present danger in times of trial. The result for them was God's judgment in the form of the poisonous snakes in the camp. Their past spiritual experiences did not save them. So neither Paul nor the Corinthians must put themselves in danger of looking back (compare 1 Corinthians 9:26). It could be even worse for them.
Note: Some MS have 'the Lord'. Some have 'Christ'. Some have 'God'. 'The Lord' is found for example in Aleph and B. P46, D, G have 'Christ', easily seen as interpretive of 'the Lord'. A has 'God', again interpretive. An original 'the Lord' easily explains both variances, the change being made for clarity. But the matter is not certain.
'Nor murmur you, as some of them murmured, and perished by the destroyer.'
The final example is of their dissatisfied murmurings. Examples of this accompanied by judgment are found in Numbers 11:1-4.11.3; Numbers 14:1-4.14.38; Numbers 16:41 but they 'murmured' on numerous occasions. The change to 'you' might seem to indicate that he has in mind their murmuring against him, as the people had against Moses, and this would favour Numbers 14:1-4.14.38 as being in mind, as would the connection of that passage with the people dying in the wilderness (compare 1 Corinthians 10:5 above). But the point is the same. The people murmured against Moses and against God and were severely punished and perished in the wilderness. In the nicest possibly way he indicates what happens to people who murmur against their God-given leaders.
'The Destroyer ('olothreutes).' Exodus 12:23 LXX speaks of 'the destroyer' ('olothreuon), and the destroying angel who utilised pestilence is described in 1 Chronicles 21:12; 1 Chronicles 21:15. In Jewish literature 'the Destroyer' is linked with the incident in Numbers 16:0. Thus the emphasis is on the fact that they were destroyed directly by God's instrument. God Himself was responsible for what happened.
'Now these things happened to them by way of example, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages are come.'
He stresses again that 'these things' (compare 1 Corinthians 10:6) happened 'by way of example' as an admonition to all who would follow. The imperfect, strictly 'were happening', stresses the continual nature of the happenings over time all through the wilderness period, just as would continue to happen among the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:30).
'On whom the end of the ages has come.' To the early church the coming of Christ had introduced the ends of the ages, 'the last days' (Acts 2:17); 'the end of the days' (Hebrews 1:2); 'the end of the times' (1 Peter 1:20); 'the end of all things is at hand' (1 Peter 4:7); 'the end of the ages' (Hebrews 9:26). And the fact that we live in such vital times, says Paul, stresses the importance of right living and obedience to God.
'For this reason let him who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.'
So from all this the general principle arises that we should beware of complacency. We may feel that we are of such stature spiritually that we cannot fall, even that we 'have knowledge' (1 Corinthians 8:1), have been baptised and partake of the covenant feast, the Lord's Supper, but that is no guarantee against falling. There is only one such guarantee, the faithfulness of God and constant watch, disciplined living, continuance in faithfulness and prayer (1 Corinthians 9:26-46.9.27). Arrogance and self-confidence is excluded. We are most likely to fail when our confidence is in ourselves. We must therefore be constantly watchful in our ways (see 1 Corinthians 16:13), working out our own salvation with greatest care, but recognising that it is God Who is at work within us to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-50.2.13) as Christ Himself lives in us and through us (Galatians 2:20).
'There has no temptation taken you but such as man can bear, but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.'
Paul now intervenes in his catalogue of exhortation (1 Corinthians 10:1-46.10.9) with the assurance of divine aid. 'If these failed what hope is there for us?' some may ask. He does not want to make them too discouraged. His reply is to turn them, and us, to the faithfulness of God, as he did in 1 Corinthians 1:9. There He was faithful as the One Who would confirm us to the end. Here He is faithful as ensuring that we are not tempted above what we are able to cope with, and as the One Who will provide the way of escape from any temptations and tests that He does allow us to endure.
'There has no temptation taken you but such as man can bear (such as is of a human nature, common to man).' The stress here is on the fact that the temptations and tests that Israel endured, and that the Corinthians now endure, were of earthly origin. They were ones that come on them from outside, that 'took' them, and were such that men can face them with the confidence that they will overcome with God's help. Whether having in mind the temptations of Satan in the world, or the trials of the world, all men experience them. And with God's help they can be overcome.
Indeed for such temptations they can rest confidently in the faithfulness of God. In His watch as their keeper He will not allow temptations that they cannot overcome, and will ensure that they always have a way out, a way of escape.
Note that this is not a promise that we will not be tempted. That would not be good for us. It is rather the promise that, if we are His, God will sift temptations in accordance with our ability to deal with them, and that when we are being tempted we will be enabled to bear it, partly because we are confident of God's willingness to provide the way of escape, and partly because He will be with us in it and will indeed provide that way of escape. It does not mean that we will never fail. Peter was an example of one who was warned, and yet fell, but he found a way of escape for he fled to the mercy and forgiveness of God and was enabled to bear it (Luke 22:31-42.22.32).
So we need not despair, for God is with us in our temptations and through them, and can give us strength and wisdom to overcome, and provide forgiveness when necessary. Note how Paul is turning their thoughts from their own ability to deal with such things, to God's. Their pride must not be in themselves, and what they are, but in what God is.
'For this reason, my beloved, flee from idolatry.'
All temptation must be faced in the right way. The way of escape from idolatry is to flee from it. This is significant. It is saying that they are not to say, 'God can give us strength to fight the evil influence of idolatry if we participate in these feasts'. Rather they are to flee from them That is the only way to fight their influences. For if we put ourselves in the way of temptation ('for this reason') we cannot expect God's assistance in overcoming it.
Idolatry has its own subtle pull. Men who have been involved with idolatry may feel that they have rid themselves of its influence, but at weak moments, if they pander to it, it will work its way into their hearts and drag them down, for by it they are consorting with devils (1 Corinthians 10:20). Thus avoidance is the best way to deal with it. Elsewhere Paul applies the same principle to youthful lusts. They are to be fought by hasty, strategic withdrawal and careful avoidance of places which might produce the temptation, not by 'facing up to the temptation and trying to resist it’ (1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22). To watch films that are full of immorality so that we can prove that we can overcome our desires is a sure way to be defeated. But as always there are exceptions. Some may be called to go among such things that they may present Christ there. But those very exceptions prove the truth of the principle. For the vast majority such things should be avoided.
I knew a man in Christ who worked among the sins of Soho. He would sometimes take theological students with him, but always warning them never to visit the dens of vice alone. But one was sure that he was strong enough, and it was only because that man in Christ had friends who were concerned enough to contact him that he learned in time what was happening and was able to rescue that rather foolish young man from what would have destroyed his future. The word is true. Flee youthful desires.
This reminds us that in the main sins of the flesh are to be met by fleeing, sins of the mind by looking to the word of God and standing firm (1 Corinthians 16:13; Ephesians 6:10-49.6.18; 2 Timothy 2:15; Galatians 5:1), and the pride of life by humbling oneself, subjecting oneself to God and resisting the Devil (James 4:7). Each must be fought using the right weapons.
'I speak as to wise men. You judge what I say.'
He pleads now that they will think about the question. They put themselves forward as wise men, so let them use their intelligence and consider what is involved by comparing the situation with their own religious ceremonies. His argument will be that religious meals involve communion, a sharing with someone in something, a sharing in common, and that that sharing is in respect to that with which they have the meal, whether Christ, or the ancient altar, or demons. Indeed, he asks, how can they be the body of Christ and participate with demons in sharing a meal?
'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 are all partake of the one bread.'
Let them consider. When they partake of the cup of blessing, the wine of the Lord's supper, does it not bring them into oneness with the blood of Christ? They drink of Him by faith (John 6:35). Is it not a sharing in His death? This 'cup of blessing' is based on the third of the four cups in the Passover meal. It is the cup which He described as symbolising the new covenant in His blood. By partaking of it in His presence at the Lord's Table they renew their oneness in the covenant and in His sacrifice for them. They represent themselves as crucified with Christ, and as partakers in His death and resurrection. It is a partaking in, a communion with, a participation in, a uniting with, what the blood of Christ shed for them symbolises and represents. They are revealing that they are spiritually one with Him, in His death and resurrection, and in His life.
When they break the bread and partake of it, does it not bring them into oneness with the body of Christ, into participation in that body of which they have become a member by being baptised into Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-46.12.13)? The one bread represents Christ, Who is the Bread of Life (John 6:35). By eating of the broken bread they become one bread together, as the bread was one, and by partaking of that one bread, indicate that they are the one body, the body of Christ, which that one bread represents. Here we have the heart of why the church is the body of Christ, because they are united with Him in His body (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-46.12.27; 1 Corinthians 6:15; Romans 12:5; Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 5:29-49.5.30), the one body, partaking of the one bread (John 6:35). He is one body and they are one body in Him.
This idea is central to the New Testament concept of the body of Christ. It does not so much teach that He is the head and we are the body, but that He is the body, and that by uniting with Him in His body through faith we also become the one body with Him (Ephesians 2:15-49.2.16). Thus in 1 Corinthians 12:0 some members of the body include the eyes, ears and head because they are all part of His one body (1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 10:21).
The thought is of spiritual oneness with Christ and with each other. All are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). In spiritual oneness we have died with Christ. We have been broken with Him. But in His resurrection we are all made one together. All is put right. And that is what eating the bread symbolises.
We are not His body in a physical sense. Nor are we united with His body in a physical sense. Nor do we eat of His physical body. It is through what He has done in His body through the cross, that we are united with Him (Ephesians 2:14-49.2.16), and this is by faith. We are 'eating' what He is for us. We are united with what He did for us. It is as though we died and rose with Him. We are conjoined with Him.
(There is of course a way in which Christ is described as the Head, but that is not in contrast with the body, but in respect of His full Headship as Lord over all and over His church. It does not signify that He is not Himself the body with which they are united, for He is. The ancients did not see the body as just controlled by the head, but as controlled by the heart, liver, kidneys and bowels).
Note on the Body of Christ.
The idea of the body of Christ begins with teaching concerning the literal body of Christ. Thus when Jesus at the Last Supper took the bread and broke it and said, ‘Take, eat. This is my body.’ (Matthew 26:26). ‘Take you, this is my body.’ (Mark 14:22). ‘This is my body which is given for you, do this in remembrance of me’ (Luke 22:19). ‘This is my body which is for you, do this in remembrance of me’ (1 Corinthians 11:24), He was clearly pointing to His death on the cross in a physical body and equally pointing to the fact that they could nourish themselves from Him and His death. He was symbolising spiritual participation in the body of His flesh as the crucified One.
It is hardly necessary to point out that someone who was alive and well at the time could hardly have meant this to be taken literally. The bread could not be His body for He was still in His body. To claim that it was His body in a ‘mystical’ sense is to make such an idea meaningless. Such a ‘mystical body’ would not be His body in any meaningful sense of the term. It would not in fact be to declare a miracle but to argue a literal and factual impossibility, a contradiction. It would be to play with words. If we mean (rightly) that it was a symbol, a representation, then let us say that.
What Jesus in fact simply meant was that the bread was to be seen as representing His body symbolically, just as in the Passover, of which Jesus’ words were a parallel, the leader took bread and said ‘this is the bread of affliction which your fathers ate’. Such a person did not mean that it literally was that bread of affliction, but that it represented it, it symbolised it. What he actually meant was, ‘this is to remind you of, and symbolises, and allows you to partake in, by inference, by thought transference, the bread of affliction’. Each time they ate they as it were entered into the experience of eating the bread of affliction. And in the same way each time we eat the bread at the Lord’s Table we enter by inference and by thought transference into the experience of His crucifixion, confirming that we are united with Him in His death, and united with Him in His body.
Our being members (individual parts united in one) of the body of Christ Himself is likened to the union between a man and his wife in marriage (Ephesians 5:28-49.5.29) and in sexual relations (1 Corinthians 6:15). These relationships make a man and his wife ‘one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24), acting as one in all things with the wife being totally responsive to her husband. It is the closest possible spiritual union, and in the ideal the closest possible spiritual co-operation. Its closeness is expressed in 1 Corinthians 12:12. It is Christ Himself Who is immediately represented in terms of the church as members of His body. The body is Christ. So in ‘the body of Christ’, Jesus Christ and His people are conjoined as one.
End of note).
Being then made one with Him, and partaking in His death and resurrection, can they go as members of His body (taking Christ with them) to participate in meals in the presence of, and dedicated to, demons? Can they take Christ's body into heathen temples to participate in its functions? Can they so degrade Christ? And showing oneness in the covenant of Christ by drinking, can they not see that by partaking of the sacrifice to idols they are also showing covenant oneness with them by partaking? Do they really wish to compromise Christ and what He has accomplished?
'Behold Israel after the flesh, do not those who eat the sacrifices have communion with the altar?'
His second example is the oneness with the altar, and all that it meant, of those in physical Israel who ate of the sacrifices offered on that altar. This was important because it paralleled exactly the worship of idols in the offering of a sacrifice and then partaking of it. As they ate of the sacrifices they were one with the altar because that was where the sacrifice had been offered, and they were one with all who participated of the meal, and one in benefiting from the efficacy of the sacrifice. They as it were ate before God (compare Exodus 24:10-2.24.11), and were seen as under His sovereignty. His point here is that in the same way if you participate of the sacrificial meat in the temple you are, at least in the eyes of others, uniting yourself with the sacrificial offering which was made to the god from whose altar the meat came. Thus you are making yourself at one with the altar of whichever god is in mind, and therefore professing yourself as under his jurisdiction.
'Israel after the flesh.' That is, physical Israel. We have here another reminder that the church is the true spiritual Israel. To suggest that this refers directly to the worship of the molten calf is to read too much into the wording. Had Paul meant that he would have made it quite clear. Rather he is making a point from true ancient worship.
'What do I say then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? But I say, that the things which they sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God. And I do not wish that you should be sharers in common with demons.'
He firmly insists that he is not by this saying that a thing sacrificed to an idol is anything special, or that an idol is anything special. What he is saying is that in fact idolatrous worship is not just harmless superstition, it is backed by demons, by evil spirits, and that whoever offer sacrifices to idols, whether Israel in its false worship of the molten calf, or Gentiles in the worship of idols, are thus unknowingly offering sacrifices to demons (compare Deuteronomy 32:17). They are not to be seen as worshipping God in any way. Their way is not just another way to God, it provides contact with the supernatural world of evil. So what Paul is encouraging them to avoid is to actually have things in common with 'the demons', that is, the whole world of demons.
You cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord, and of the table of demons.'
That being so they only have to think about it. How can they at the same time drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons? How can they eat that which comes from the table of the Lord, and at the same time that which comes from the table of demons? The thought is abhorrent. For they would then be participating in the Lord while participating with those who are His worst enemies, with that which He hates. They would be consorting with Him and at the same time with all that is in opposition to Him. They would thereby be acting as doubleminded traitors.
'Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?'
By not fleeing from idolatry they are provoking the Lord to jealously (the symmetry of the passage connects the two statements). He thus compares the act of eating in pagan temples with lovers seeking to make their partner jealous by consorting with another. Is that what they are trying to do, make God jealous? Do they really think that they are so mighty that they can treat God in that way?
Or perhaps in the light of Deuteronomy 32:17 he is simply pointing out that they are deliberately rebelling by approaching false gods even while they pretend to worship the true God, and thus stirring God's 'jealousy', His concern that His people should only look to Him (Exodus 20:5). For In Deuteronomy 32:17 we read, 'they sacrificed to demons which were no God, to gods whom they knew not, whom your fathers did not fear' and this is followed by (1 Corinthians 10:21), 'they have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God, they have provoked me to anger with their vanities, and I will move them to jealousy with those who are not a people, I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.'
These foolish Corinthians, he suggests, are behaving just like those foolish Israelites of old (compare 1 Corinthians 10:5-46.10.10) and may therefore bring on themselves the same judgment, that God will show favour to others who are not His chosen and not to them who think they are. They are thus choosing their own way in defiance of God and thereby giving the impression that they think themselves stronger than Him. While what they are really doing is flaunting God.
'All things are lawful, but not all things are expedient. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.'
Again he takes up their own challenge that 'all things are lawful to us' (compare 1 Corinthians 6:12). Quite right, he says, but they are not necessarily expedient, not necessarily for the best, not necessarily good. Such things may be lawful to them, but they edify neither them themselves nor those who see them in the act. Rather do they do them both harm. So what is of primary importance is not the assertion of liberty, true though it may be, but the concern to show love to one's fellow. Freedom is glorious, but misused freedom is in this case devilish.
Once again we have here an example of the danger of what seem to be sensible catch phrases, but which turn out not to be so, for they always have to be qualified in some way. Trite sayings misrepresent truth.
'Let no man seek his own, but each his neighbour's good.'
A much better catch phrase, suggests Paul, is, 'let no man seek his own but each his neighbour's'. In other words a man should not be always thinking of himself and his own freedom and his rights to this or that, but should be thinking of what is good for his neighbour (compare Romans 15:2). And this they were failing to do.
'Whatever is sold in the shambles (meat market), eat, asking no question for conscience' sake, for the earth is the Lord's, and its fullness.'
But having forbidden the eating of sacrificial meat in temples he now turns to the question of meat sold externally by temples to the meat markets, some of which might also have been sacrificed to idols. Must this then also be avoided in case it had been sacrificed to idols? Pious Jews were in fact expected to ask whether such meat had been sacrificed to idols, and if it had not to eat it. After Paul's previous words pious Christians might have felt that they should do the same. But Paul points out that for Christians whether Jew or non-Jew it is unnecessary. Meat itself does not become contaminated by religious use, it is known connection with such use that disqualifies it, because of the weaker consciences of others. Otherwise it can be eaten with alacrity.
The reference here is to meat bought in the meat market whose origin is unknown. In that case, he says, they may eat of it without asking questions, for being of unknown origin it is neither giving a false witness to others, nor is it in any way giving countenance to idols. For everything that is in the world is God's for Him to dispose of as He will and idols and demons cannot affect meat. It is only when there is a conscious connection with idol worship that such meat has to be avoided, simply because of the bad effect such eating may have on some people. So what he has previously said does not mean that they must question the origin of every piece of meat they come across. Let them express their loyalty to the Creator by eating of it secure in the knowledge that it is His provision, part of what He has given man in creation, and that none other supposed creators matter.
'For the earth is the Lord's, and its fullness (what is in it).' This phrase from Psalms 24:1 was regularly used in grace at Jewish tables. Thus we may well see Paul as saying, 'having given thanks for it you may certainly eat of it if no reason is given why you should not'. For it is all part of God's provision.
'If one of those who do not believe bids you to a feast, and you are disposed to go. whatever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience' sake.'
The same principle applies when they are invited to go to a pagan friend's house or banquet. There is no reason not to go if they wish to. Nor do they have to start asking questions about the meat. If its source is unknown they do not have to ask about it. Their conscience need not be so bound. They can eat whatever is set before them, accepting it as from the Lord and His fullness, and giving thanks to Him.
So the principle that he is stressing is that it is not whether the meat has been sacrificed to idols that matters. That affects things neither one way or the other. What really matters is when it is publicly known that it is so. Then it does matter because of the testimony it gives, and the effect that it might have on those who are spiritually weak. It is all a matter of testimony and concern for the thoughts of the weaker brother, not of the meat itself.
'But if any man say to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice in a temple (hierothyton)," do not eat, for his sake who revealed it, and for conscience sake. Conscience, I say, not your own, but the other's.'
Thus if someone deliberately draws their attention to the fact that the meat has been offered to idols in a temple, then they must immediately think of the effect that their eating will have on others, and abstain from eating. This not for the sake of their own conscience, but for the sake of the conscience of the other who clearly sees it as significant. It will then be a testimony that they have nothing to do with idols and idolatry, and will not sow error or doubts in the observer's mind. It should be noted that the very fact that the question is being asked should put them on the alert that their response does matter and will be judged.
This may offend some who want to know why their freedom should be bound by someone else's conscience. Why, if they eat the meat with gratitude to God, or do so because they enjoy the grace of God revealed in their status before Him, should they be criticised for eating what they have given thanks for? Why should they judged in terms of what others think? If they are doing right from their own viewpoint, why should they be concerned with what others think?
Paul' reply would be, as he has already shown, that once again all their thought is of themselves and of what is for their own benefit, when what they should be thinking of is what effect it would have on others. They are lacking that consideration for others which is central to Christian love. (It is thus noteworthy that it is not only modern day men who demand their rights at any cost regardless of the effect on others).
'Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.'
Paul's reply is specific and clear. He points to the positive aspect, the need to do all to the glory of God. His reply is that they must ensure that, whatever they do, even in the eating of meat, they do it to the glory of God. It is not their own liberty and rights that they should be concerned about, but God's rights. Their thoughts should be on what pleases Him and what brings glory to Him. And what pleases Him involves consideration for the effect of the things they do on others. Surely they can see that no glory comes to God in doing something which actually causes harm to others of His people? That is the point, and the thing that has to be taken into account
'Give no occasions 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 my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.'
For what should be their first concern is to give no occasion for tripping up or stumbling to anyone, whether Jew, or Gentile, or Christian. They are to be like Paul is, not seeking his own advantage or gain, but concerned to be rightfully pleasing and satisfactory to all men, living so as to present to them the best witness and the clearest testimony, so that they might profit, and, best of all, be saved (see 1 Corinthians 9:19-46.9.23).
Note the wide range of those who could be affected by the act of knowingly eating meat sacrificed in a temple to idols, each for different reasons, the Jew because the idea is abhorrent to all to which he has been brought up, the Gentile because he judges the eater as giving credence to idols, and the believer because it can raise doubts within him that can be harmful, and even destroy him.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent