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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 10

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

1 Corinthians 10:1. For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant, how that our fathers. Though writing to a Church mainly Gentile, he calls the ancient Israel “our fathers,” not so much because some of them had been proselytes to the Jewish faith before their conversion, but because as he says to the Galatian converts (Galatians 3:29), who were also mainly Gentile “If ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise;” and to the Ephesians (Ephesians 2:19), “So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.”

were all under the cloud that “cloud” of glory which hovered over and went before them (Numbers 10:34; Numbers 14:14; Psalms 105:39). and all passed through the sea.

Verses 1-13

The substance of this closing portion of the digression may be thus expressed: ‘I have told you of the disastrous issue too sure to follow on a fearless, self-confident assertion of your Christian liberty, not only to the souls of your weaker brethren, but to your own souls as well; and, applying the same principle to my own case, I have told you how I act myself, whose danger is not less than your own. This may startle some of you who flatter themselves that they have been Christians long enough to make it pretty sure that they are safe for the future, their period of greatest danger being already over. But from the past history of the Church I will now show you how delusive this is.’ And it is worthy of notice that the apostle selects his first illustrations from those events in the Israelitish history which have their analogy in the Baptismal commencement and the Eucharistic nourishment of the Christian life.

Verses 1-33

It was impossible for Christians in almost any Greek or Roman colony, and least of all at Corinth, to avoid coming frequently in contact with idolatrous practices in various and ensnaring forms. In writing, therefore, for instruction and direction on various practical points, we can hardly suppose that this would be omitted. Here, accordingly, it is dealt with in great detail.

Verse 2

1 Corinthians 10:2. and were all baptized into Moses i.e. into the Mosaic economy.

in the cloud and in the sea. even as the Christians had the starting-point of their new life when publicly “baptized into Christ.”

Verse 3

1 Corinthians 10:3. and did all eat the same spiritual meat the manna which, by a mysterious arrangement of heaven, fed them all their journey through.

Verse 4

1 Corinthians 10:4. and did all drink the same spiritual drink the water that gushed for them out of the flinty rock (Psalms 105:41; Psalms 114:8).

for they drank of the spiritual Rock that followed them: and the Rock was Christ. This “meat” and “drink” are called “spiritual,” perhaps primarily, as having been supplied supernaturally (as Meyer, after the Greek fathers, and Alford take it), but mainly because under this merely outward and visible sustenance, by which the chosen people were enabled to pursue their way to the Promised Land, is couched the higher nutriment of God’s true people which certainly is “Christ” in their progress towards the “better country.” As to how “the Rock followed them,” it was certainly not in the fantastic sense of the Jewish legend (that a well, which was formed out of the spring in Horeb, followed Israel during all the forty years), which too many modern critics palm upon the apostle, as if it was to this, as a fact, that he here refers. The question is as Neander pertinently asks whether the tradition is not itself of later date than our Epistle, and was not suggested by it. As to the actual matter of fact, all we know for certain is, that they had two miraculous supplies of water one, near the outset of their wilderness journey, at Horeb (Exodus 17:4-6); the other, at Meribah Kadesh, near its close (Numbers 20:11); and since without a supply of water all through they could not have subsisted for a week, and yet no such fatal want overtook them, one may well say that they had an unfailing supply, or (in the apostle’s way of putting it), that “the Rock followed them.”

The reader should observe how, five times in the course of these four opening verses, the word “all” is ominously repeated, the more emphatically to make the sad contrast between the commencement and the close of the journey how all had a common start, and, almost to the end, all made common progress, and yet, as is now to be added, in the case of most of them, far from a common end.

Verse 5

1 Corinthians 10:5. Howbeit with most of them God was not well pleased in point of fact, with all that came out of Egypt by Moses, save Caleb and Joshua, because they “had another spirit with them, and followed the Lord fully” (Numbers 14:24). for (as the issue shewed) they were overthrown in the wilderness.

Verse 6

1 Corinthians 10:6. Now these things were our examples historical ‘types’ or ‘figures’ permitted to occur, as beacons divinely held forth for all time to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Some of these “evil things,” fitted to come specially home to the Corinthian converts at that time, are now specified.

Verse 7

1 Corinthians 10:7. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written (Exodus 32:6), The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. The word means to ‘play’ anyhow; more especially to dance to the sound of music. Here it means to dance religiously round an idol; the idol in this case being the golden calf (Exodus 32:6-19). And could any warning be more appropriate to those who thought themselves at liberty, as Christians, to sit down to an idol feast and partake of its idolatrous offerings knowing them to be such on the plausible pretext that an idol was nothing, and all wholesome food allowable to Christians? But this case only suggests another, no less appropriate.

Verse 8

1 Corinthians 10:8. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Four and twenty thousand, says Numbers 25:9; but as the actual number would probably be between the two, the thing is here stated in round numbers.

Verse 9

1 Corinthians 10:9. Neither let us tempt the Lord, [1] as some of them [2] tempted, and perished by the serpents. The fact referred to is that in Numbers 21:4-6.

[1] We adopt this reading with some hesitation, in place of the received reading “Christ.” For this reading, though weakly supported by Uncial MSS., is strongly sustained by the Versions; and Irenaus and Chrysostom so read. It has also strong internal evidence: (1) Being the more difficult reading, it might easily go out in favour of the easier reading “Lord.” (2) Because, if the copyist remembered our Lord’s quotation in the Temptation-scene “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God”

Verse 10

1 Corinthians 10:10. Neither murmur ye, as some of them [2] murmured, and perished by the destroyer. The reference here is not so much to the rebellion of Korah and Dathan (Numbers 16:0), as most critics think, for there was nothing in the Corinthian Church analogous to this, but rather to that rebellion which broke out on the return of the spies, when the Lord “sware that they should not enter into His rest” (Numbers 13:14), than which nothing could better fit in with the other warnings here given. he might be led unconsciously to substitute “Lord” here for “Christ.” On these grounds such critics as De Wette, Neander, Billroth, Osiander, and Stanley adhere to the received text here. Still, since the external evidence for “Lord” here decidedly preponderates, and there is nothing obliging us to resist it, we must adopt it. And Meyer does so, contrary to his usual practice in such cases.

[2] “Also” in the received text is certainly not genuine.

Verse 11

Now comes the application of all these cases.

1 Corinthians 10:11. Now these things [1] happened onto them by way of example Gr. ‘ typically’ or ‘figuratively,’ as historical facts designed to teach great lessons for all time.

[1] Not “all,” as in the received text.

and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages (see note on “world,” ch. 1 Corinthians 1:20) are come the last and ripest of God’s dispensations towards His Church, to which pointed all that went before, and for which all was designed to prepare (Hebrews 9:26; Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:10).

Verse 12

1 Corinthians 10:12. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall for since our greatest danger lies in a presumptuous, confidence of our safety (of which Peter’s fall is the great outstanding example), our true safety will be found to lie in a humble distrust of ourselves, and continual watchfulness.

Verse 13

1 Corinthians 10:13. There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear Gr. ‘ but what is human.’

but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able to bear and overcome.

but with the temptation make also the way of escape. There seems here an evident reference to some special temptation, the severity of which was pressing upon the Corinthians at this time; and as in the next verse the apostle resumes the topic which gave rise to this long digression with the stringent call to “flee from idolatry,” there can be no doubt that the “temptation” specially referred to here arose from difficulties on this subject which were pressing so hard as to endanger their whole Christianity, if not resolutely met.

Verse 14

1 Corinthians 10:14. Wherefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry,

Verses 14-33

Attendance at Idolatrous Feasts, 1 Corinthians 10:14 to 1 Corinthians 11:1

When the first love of the converts began to cool, and, as a natural consequence, they drew closer to their heathen acquaintances and fellow-citizens, invitations would be given them, in the first instance, to the private houses of their friends, and, by and by, to the religious festivals of their townsmen. For accepting such invitations plausible reasons would easily occur. How such inconsistency was viewed by our apostle we are now to see.

Verse 15

1 Corinthians 10:15. I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say: ‘Apostolic authority I have no need to urge; to your own judgment as wise men I appeal.’

Verse 16

1 Corinthians 10:16. The cup of blessing. This was the name given by the Jews to the last and most sacred of those cups of wine which were partaken of at the Paschal feast, and from that the expression was transferred to the Lord’s Supper.

is it not a communion of (or ‘participation in’) the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion of (or ‘participation in’) the body of Christ? As all the four accounts mention the “breaking” of the bread, it is plain that this was meant to be no mere preliminary act, but an essential feature of the ordinance, considered as a teaching rite; proclaiming the fundamental truth that we are reconciled to God, not by the life, but by the death of Christ. “This is my body, broken for you

Verse 17

1 Corinthians 10:17. seeing that we, who are many, are one bread, one body: for we all partake of the one bread. In all ancient times friends were made one over a common meal; much more is this oneness manifested when, on some festal occasion, great principles are represented and celebrated by those whose principles they are; and they become thereby afresh welded together, impledged to each other, and stimulated to common action in prosecution of those principles. How much more when Christians, as “one body,” “eat of that bread” in which their Lord would have them see “His body broken for them,” and “drink of that cup” in which they were to see “His blood of the new covenant shed for them,” Thus was their common oneness with Him, in the first instance, and in virtue of this, their oneness among themselves, visibly set forth and palpably expressed.

Now comes the conclusion to be drawn from this in relation to idolatrous feasts that, on the same principle, all who partake of idol feasts partake of the idolatries themselves, and have fellowship with the idol-deities there represented.

Verse 18

1 Corinthians 10:18. Behold Israel after the flesh: have not they which eat the sacrifices communion with the altar? Part of the animal was consumed on the altar, and the rest was divided between the priest and the offerer (Leviticus 7:15, Leviticus 8:31). Thus both “had communion with the altar,” that is, with the sacrifice laid on it, and, through it, with the glorious Object of all true worship.

Verse 19

1 Corinthians 10:19. What say I then? that a thing sacrificed to idols is any thing, or that an idol is any thing? [1] That such an inference might be drawn from the strain of the apostle’s reasoning, is only conceivable on supposition of a pretext being wanted to justify attendance on idolatrous feasts. No, says the apostle.

[1] Such is the correct order of these clauses.

Verse 20

1 Corinthians 10:20. But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils ( Gr. ‘demons’), and not to God. But has not the apostle been insisting that an idol is nothing in the world? and how (it may be asked) could they sacrifice to nothing? The obvious answer is, that in the preceding verses he was speaking of what an idol is in itself whereas here he has in view the worshipper’s belief and intention. In itself it is nothing, but to the sincere worshipper it is a living reality. And since, according to Bible teaching, the living God and “the god of this world” the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience are rival claimants to the worship and service of men, it follows that, according to the same teaching, all who serve not the One are in reality servants of the other; for “no man can serve two masters.” It is on this principle that the whole system of idol-worship, in whose feasts the Christians of Corinth were tempted to join, is held up here as a detestable compound of devil-worship, which, as it robs the living God of the glory due to His name, is doubtless inspired by the wicked one to that very end. It may be added that the plural demons here used confirms the impression one gathers from other scriptures, that there exists an organized confederacy of evil, under the inspiration of one chief, “the prince of the power of the air.”

and I would not that ye should have communion with devils: ‘To think of my own children in the faith, after having been dragged out of the mire of a gross sensuality, again sinking, through these idol-feastings, into fellowship with those impure spirits, whose sole object is to pollute their minds, blast all their Christian hopes, and ruin their souls how can I endure this?’

Verse 21

1 Corinthians 10:21. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of the devils. Even the rabbins laid it down as a fixed principle, that to drink the wine of a libation to idols was to apostatise from the true faith. It is not only an incongruous and abhorrent fellowship, but it is an impossible fellowship; we cannot be Christ’s and Belial’s at one and the same time: the rightful Sovereign and the base usurper cannot shake hands.

Note. If ever the sacrificial theory of the Lord’s Supper might be expected to be put prominently forward, one would think it should have been here, if such were its true character. But here it is held forth in a very different light, as a feast upon a sacrifice, and a feast not laid upon an altar, but spread upon a “ table Never, in fact, is the word “altar” used in the New Testament to express that at which the Lord’s Supper is celebrated (for no one who understands exegesis will call Hebrews 13:10 an exception). And considering how frequent in the New Testament is the reference to Old Testament sacrifices, in immediate connexion with the sacrifice of Christ, can this avoidance of all that could suggest a sacrificial character in the Lord’s Supper be other than intentional? In a word, if the Lord’s Supper is not a sacrifice, the New Testament language about it is just what we should expect: if it is, that language is unaccountable.

Verse 22

1 Corinthians 10:22. What? do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he? The allusion is to Deuteronomy 32:21, and almost the words are from it. The word “jealousy,” as applied to God, seems to express the sense of slighted love in one of two wedded parties towards the other; an idea familiar to the Old Testament with reference to Jehovah’s relation to His people Israel, and their treatment of Him. Here this idea is transferred to Christ; for since “the table of the Lord” certainly means Christ’s eucharistic table, “the Lord,” whom they “provoked to jealousy” by partaking both of it and of idol-feasts, must be the Lord Jesus. (And so, with true critical instinct, De Wette, Meyer, Stanley, and Alford understand it) In fact, as all the relations of Jehovah to His covenant people under the ancient economy were appropriated by our Lord to Himself who served Himself Heir to them all so our apostle, applying these to Him as a matter of course, puts the question, Mean ye to try how far His patience will go? Would ye try your strength against His?

This whole subject is now closed with a brief recapitulation of the principles applicable to it, and the proper application of them.

Verse 23

1 Corinthians 10:23. All things are lawful; but all things edify not (see on 1 Corinthians 6:12 and ch. 8).

Verse 24

1 Corinthians 10:24. Let no man seek his own, but each his neighbour’s good Gr. ‘his neighbour’s things,’ meaning his benefit, in the widest sense. As this is God’s own design in all His works, but pre-eminently in redemption, so it is the grand law of the Christian life, and the chiefest ornament of the Christian character. Now for the application.

Verse 25

1 Corinthians 10:25. Whatsoever is sold in the shambles the flesh-market eat, asking no question for conscience sake not another’s conscience, as in 1 Corinthians 10:29. Bengel, De Wette, and others so take it; but that would yield no proper sense here. The meaning is, ‘ for your own conscience sake.’ ‘If ye go to market, and there see flesh exposed for sale, inquire not whence it came; for should it turn out to have been sacrificed to an idol, your conscience would be defiled by purchasing it; but buy it simply as food, which you can do with a good conscience.’ (So Neander, Meyer, Alford.)

What follows confirms this sense.

Verse 26

1 Corinthians 10:26. for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof (Psalms 24:1) its contents, therefore, created for use, are free to all who gratefully own Him in it (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

Verse 27

1 Corinthians 10:27. If one of them that believe not biddeth you to a feast not an idolatrous festival, but a social feast.

and ye are disposed to go. Strange to say, this is understood by some (as Grotius and Alford) as a tacit way of dissuading them from going. Clearly it is a tacit permission to go, and is merely expressed to pave the way for the direction following,

whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no questions for conscience sake.

Verse 28

1 Corinthians 10:28. But if any man say unto you, This hath been offered in sacrifice, eat not, for his sake that shewed it for your informant’s sake.

and for conscience sake: conscience, I say, not thine own, but the other’s the conscience of some weak brother who might be present. [1]

[1] The words following in the received text “for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof” are an unauthorised and meaningless repetition of the statement in 1 Corinthians 10:26.

for why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience? ‘When I eat what he knows to have been sacrificed to an idol, his conscience is hurt, but mine is not, provided I buy and eat it simply as wholesome food; for my liberty is not to fee judged by his want of light on this subject.’

Verse 30

1 Corinthians 10:30. If I by grace partake, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? In short,

Verse 31

1 Corinthians 10:31. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. ‘To give specific directions for every supposable case is neither needful nor possible, for what is proper in one case may in another be the reverse; but, if only guided by the great principle of what is and what is not for the glory of God, you will be at no loss how to act.’

Verse 32

1 Corinthians 10:32. Give no occasion of stumbling either to Jews or to Greeks to prejudice them against the Gospel. or to the Church of God or your Christian brethren.

Verse 33

1 Corinthians 10:33. even as I also please all men in all things all things indifferent (as the next verse makes plain).

not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved. (See on 1 Corinthians 9:22.) Within the limits of Christian consistency, and so far as was fitted to win others to Christ, he was ready to go; but concessions compromising his own conscience, and against the real good of others, he would never make. Indeed, on one occasion, when a fellow-apostle yielded on this point, his indignation was roused, and he was constrained to administer a rebuke (Galatians 2:11, etc.).

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/scn/1-corinthians-10.html. 1879-90.
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