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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 10

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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1 Corinthians 10:0


Food Offered to False Gods
(1 Corinthians 8:1-1)
Warning Against IdolatryOld Testament ExamplesA Warning Against Over ConfidenceWarning Against IdolsA Warning and the Lessonsof Israel's History
1 Corinthians 10:1-131 Corinthians 10:1-131 Corinthians 10:1-51 Corinthians 10:1-51 Corinthians 10:1-13
1 Corinthians 10:6-131 Corinthians 10:6-10
1 Corinthians 10:11
Flee from IdolatryApplication: Sacrifices Idols Again1 Corinthians 10:12-13Sacrificial Feasts: No Compromisewith Idolatry
1 Corinthians 10:14-221 Corinthians 10:14-221 Corinthians 10:14-221 Corinthians 10:14-171 Corinthians 10:14-22
1 Corinthians 10:18-22
Do All to the Glory of GodAll to the Glory of GodPrinciples: Our Freedomand Responsibility for Others Food Sacrificed to Idols: Practical Solutions
1 Corinthians 10:23-11 Corinthians 10:23-11 Corinthians 10:23-301 Corinthians 10:23-241 Corinthians 10:23-1
1 Corinthians 10:25-26
1 Corinthians 10:27-29a
1 Corinthians 10:29-30
1 Corinthians 10:31-11 Corinthians 10:31-1

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO 1 Corinthians 10:1-1

A. Chapters 8 through 10 are integrally related in their attempt to bring balance to the discussion of Christian freedom versus Christian responsibility in love. Paul does not focus on hard and fast rules, but on the priorities of interpersonal relationships that strengthen believers and draw unbelievers to Jesus.

B. Paul's discussion of the Lord's Supper, beginning in 1 Corinthians 10:14 and continuing through 1 Corinthians 10:22, is a foreshadowing of the fuller discussion in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34.

C. Paul possibly addresses the "weak" believers in 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 and the "strong" believers in 1 Corinthians 10:23-33. If this is not the structure, one wonders how these two paragraphs do not contradict each other: 1 Corinthians 10:14-22, don't eat sacrificial food; 1 Corinthians 10:23-33, eat if it is not questioned. Possibly the first refers to a public meal at a pagan temple and the second a private meal at home.

D. The United Bible Societies' Handbook on Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, by Ellingworth and Hatton has an interesting outline of 1 Corinthians 10:1-13.

"The general structure is as follows:

I. Introduction-verse 1 Corinthians 10:1a.

II. Positive aspects.

A. Four positive examples from the Old Testament-verses 1 Corinthians 10:1-4a-the last example being expanded in verse 1 Corinthians 10:4b.

B. Conclusions drawn from the positive examples-verse 1 Corinthians 10:5.

C. Application to the readers-verse 1 Corinthians 10:6a.

III. Negative aspects.

A. Five negative Old Testament examples-verses 1 Corinthians 10:6-10.

B. Application to the readers-verses 1 Corinthians 10:11-13.

The word all is repeated five times in verses 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, giving great emphasis to the fact that all the people of Israel shared God's protection and blessings during the exodus and the following years of wandering in the desert. All contrasts with most of them in verse 1 Corinthians 10:5 and with some of them, which is repeated four times in verses 1 Corinthians 10:7-10" (p. 214).


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Were the Israelites who died in the wilderness spiritually lost?

2. What is the major purpose of the Lord's Supper?

3. How does one balance Christian freedom and Christian responsibility?

4. What should be the main goal of our freedom?

Verses 1-5

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1 Corinthians 10:1-5 1For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3and all ate the same spiritual food; 4and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 5Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.

1 Corinthians 10:1 "For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren" This phrase is a literary technique used often by Paul to introduce a conclusion (cf. Romans 1:13; Romans 11:25; 1 Corinthians 10:1; 1 Corinthians 12:1; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13).

"our fathers" This reflects (1) a believing Jewish element in the Church or (2) NT Gentiles becoming grafted into the natural olive tree, Israel (cf. Romans 10:0; Galatians 6:16), and are now one in Christ (cf. Ephesians 2:11-13).

"all. . .all" This inclusive term (i.e., pantes) is used twice in 1 Corinthians 10:1 and once in 1 Corinthians 10:2, 1 Corinthians 10:3, and 4. It is a way to emphasize the unity of all Israelites in the experience of God's grace and judgment, called the Wilderness Wandering Period (i.e., Numbers).

"the cloud" This refers to the unique symbol of the presence of YHWH. It was called by the rabbis the shekinah cloud of glory (cf. Exodus 13:21-22, Exodus 14:19). The Hebrew word shekinah meant "to dwell with." YHWH was with His people during this period of judgment in such intimate and caring ways that the rabbis began to call this the "honeymoon" period between YHWH and Israel.

"all passed through the sea" This is an allusion to YHWH's splitting of the Red (literally "reed" or "weed") Sea. Today scholars are uncertain as to which specific body of water this refers. The same term, yam suph is used in the OT to refer to (1) the Gulf of Aqaba (cf. Exodus 21:4; Deuteronomy 2:1; 1 Kings 9:26; Jeremiah 49:21) or (2) the Indian Ocean. Apparently it referred to the mysterious waters to the south. It is interesting that "water" is not said to have been created by God in Genesis 1:0. Often the Mesopotamian creation myths speak of the waters (i.e., salt and fresh) as gods who desired human destruction. YHWH delivers His people from watery chaos and defeat.


1 Corinthians 10:2 "were baptized into Moses" The Greek manuscripts vary between passive voice (i.e., MSS א, A, C, D) and middle voice (i.e., MS B). It seems to me the middle voice is contextually appropriate in emphasizing the volitional decision of the Israelites to follow Moses and the historical fact the Jewish proselyte baptism was self administered. This is an unusual phrase, found only here in the NT. It implies a parallel between the responsibility and privilege of the Mosaic covenant, and our new covenant in Christ; both are from God and in some ways are similar. Here baptism is used as a symbol for one who follows.

There is a rabbinical tradition going back to Hillel (cf. b Ker 9a; bYeb 46a) which relates proselyte baptism to the Red Sea event. See Richard N. Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period, pp. 102-103.

1 Corinthians 10:3 "spiritual food" This refers both to manna (cf. Exodus 16:0) and quail (cf. Exodus 16:13; Numbers 11:31-32), which were God's supernatural provisions during the wilderness wandering period.

1 Corinthians 10:4 "same spiritual drink" This refers to the miraculous provision of water (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:8ff).

"they were drinking from a spiritual rock" Rock is a title for YHWH in the OT which emphasizes His strength and permanence (cf. Deuteronomy 32:4, Deuteronomy 32:15; Psalms 18:2; Psalms 19:14). It is also used of the Messianic Kingdom as a destroying force (cf. Daniel 2:45).

"which followed them" These seem to refer to a rabbinical legend based on Exodus 17:6 and Numbers 20:11ff, that the rock followed the Israelites and that it was the Messiah. This tradition is specifically mentioned in the Koran.

"and the rock was Christ" This is a rabbinical typology (the personification of the rock may have come from Numbers 21:17 or Deuteronomy 32:4, Deuteronomy 32:15, Deuteronomy 32:18, Deuteronomy 32:30, cf. Targum Onkelos on Numbers 21:0). God provided life-giving water during the wilderness wandering period. Paul sees an analogy between God's provision then and God's life-giving provision now. Paul's theology viewed Christ as pre-existent and as the Father's agent of life and blessing. Jesus has always been God the Father's fullest provision and greatest blessing.

1 Corinthians 10:5 "Nevertheless" This is the Greek alla, which shows a strong contrast. See Contextual Insights, D.

"with most of them God was not well-pleased" This is an attention-arresting understatement: all but two of that generation died. Only those under twenty years of age (i.e., not yet old enough to be in the military) and Joshua and Caleb (i.e., the two spies who brought a positive faith report) entered the Promised Land (cf. Jude 1:5).

"they were laid low in the wilderness" This word implies their bones were scattered along the desert route (cf. Numbers 14:16). They were God's chosen people, but He judged their unbelief. These OT believers saw the miraculous provision of God. They knew His will through their God-given leaders (i.e., Moses, Aaron, and Miriam), yet still they acted in unbelief and rebellion (cf. Hebrews 3-4).

Paul has just commented on his own strenuous efforts at self-control (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27). In chapter 11 he is alluding to those who try to separate theological knowledge from godly lifestyle (i.e., Gnostics and other intellectuals). Even the common fellowship meal (i.e., the agape feast) cannot be eaten by godless believers (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:27-32). Physical death can be a temporal, divine judgment suffered by disobedient believers.

Verses 6-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1 Corinthians 10:6-13 6Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. 7Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play."8Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 12Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 13No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:6 "Now" The NRSV, TEV, and JB also mark a paragraph division at this point to show the transition from historical analogies to present application.

"these things happened as examples for us" The Greek term tupoi, "examples," (singular tupos) has a wide semantical field. It was the mark left by a blow. This can refer to a physical beating (cf. Matthew 24:49; Matthew 27:30) or a metaphor for it (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:12).

It came to be used for an imprint left by a blow of a hammer (cf. John 20:25). This imprint could refer to a physical image-an idol (cf. Acts 7:43) or a printed image (cf. Acts 23:25; Romans 6:17). From this it came to stand for a pattern (cf. Acts 7:44; Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Timothy 4:12; Hebrews 8:5; 1 Peter 5:3).

The best parallels to this term's use in this text (i.e., "type" 1 Corinthians 10:6) are 1 Corinthians 10:11 and Romans 5:14, where it refers to (1) a foreshadowing type; (2) a figurative counterpart; or (3) a symbolic example.

Verses 1 Corinthians 10:6 and 11 remind NT believers that the OT has spiritual relevance for them (cf. Romans 4:23-24; Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 9:10; 1 Corinthians 10:6, 1 Corinthians 10:11). The revelations of God are eternal and the principles are relevant.

"so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved" Notice that Paul is comparing OT covenant people and NT covenant people. Evil is a recurrent problem. It can rob a human of eternal life, of intimate fellowship with God. Evil corrupts every level of mankind's existence. Salvation does not free us of the struggle (cf. Romans 7:0; Ephesians 6:10-19). The Corinthian church was in danger in the areas of both orthodoxy and orthopraxy! Godliness, not information, is the goal!

The term "crave" (used twice) reflects the strong compound Greek term epithumeô, which is made up of the preposition "upon" and "to rush." It refers to a strong feeling or emotion overtaking and controlling the mind and heart of a person. It can be used in a positive sense as in Philippians 1:23, but usually is used in a negative sense (cf. 2 Timothy 2:22). Paul may be reflecting the strong desire and disobedience of the Israelites recorded in Numbers 11:31-35, because he alludes to Numbers 25:9 in 1 Corinthians 10:8 and Numbers 16:4-5; Numbers 17:5, Numbers 17:10 in 1 Corinthians 10:10.

1 Corinthians 10:7 "Do not be idolaters" This is a present middle (deponent) imperative with the negative particle, which usually means stop an act already in process. This OT quote refers to the idolatrous orgy of Exodus 32:0.

The exact idolatrous practice that Paul is referring to in Corinth is uncertain. Somehow the believers were in danger of offending God. From chapter 7 and the historical situation at Corinth it might have been pagan sexual worship practices or from chapter 8 pagan idolatrous sacrifices.

"The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play" This is an allusion to Aaron's making the golden calf in Exodus 32:0 and the children of Israel feasting before it and committing sexual acts (cf. Exodus 32:6, Exodus 32:19). The sexual aspect of the term "dancing" is seen in the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 26:8 of Isaac making love to Rebekah.

1 Corinthians 10:8 "Nor let us act immorally" This shows the pagan setting of Corinth and also the tendency of pagans, even redeemed pagans, to be prone to immorality in the name of religion.

"twenty-three thousand fell in one day" This is a reference to Numbers 25:1-9. There is an obvious discrepancy between this and the Hebrew text of Numbers 25:9, which has twenty-four thousand. This does not seem to be a copyist error. This discrepancy is in all Greek manuscripts. It could be a lapse of memory on Paul's part. This does not mean to imply a lack of inspiration or trustworthiness, but the ancient world was not as precise in their use of numbers as modern western people.

In Archer's Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pp. 141, 401, he asserts that the OT passage Paul is referring to is not Numbers 25:1-9, but Exodus 32:0. He makes a good point in that 1 Corinthians 10:7 quotes from Exodus 32:4 and that Exodus 32:35 mentions the Lord's smiting of the people apparently even beyond the 3,000 of 1 Corinthians 10:28. This is surely a viable contextual option.

1 Corinthians 10:9 "Nor let us try the Lord" This is the term peirazô with the preposition ek, which intensifies it (cf. Matthew 4:7; Luke 4:12; Luke 10:25). See Special Topic: Greek Terms for Testing at 1 Corinthians 3:13. The Corinthian Church was acting in a similar manner to the Israelites in the wilderness (cf. Numbers 21:5-6). God does use temporal judgment to correct His people.

The term "Lord" (cf. NASB, TEV, NJB, and NIV) is found in the ancient Greek manuscripts א, B, C, P, and the Armenian translation. It would fit the OT allusion best, referring to YHWH in Numbers 21:0.

The term "Christ" (cf. NKJV, NRSV) is found in manuscripts P46, D, F, G, and the Vulgate and Peshitta translations. It fits Paul's immediate audience best.

While the UBS4 favors "Christ" with a "B" rating (i.e., almost certain), a strong argument for "Lord" is made by Bart D. Ehrman in The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pp. 89-90.

See Special Topic: Greek Terms for "Testing" and Their Connotations at 1 Corinthians 3:13.

"were destroyed by the serpents" This is a reference to Numbers 21:0. See Special Topic: Apollumi at 1 Corinthians 8:11.

1 Corinthians 10:10 "Nor grumble, as some of them did" The first phrase is a present active imperative with the negative particle, which usually means to stop an act in process. This refers to Numbers 16:41-50, which is referred to in Numbers 17:5, Numbers 17:10. The Corinthian church was grumbling just like Israel of old.

"the destroyer" This alludes to the plague in Numbers 16:49. It was a theological way of showing that death was in the hands of YHWH (cf. Exodus 12:23, Exodus 12:29; 2 Samuel 24:16; 1 Chronicles 21:15; Hebrews 11:28). There is no "grim reaper"! There is no chance, fate, or luck! There is God, the God of Israel, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. He and He alone is in control of life and death!

1 Corinthians 10:11 "to them" This is referring to the people in the OT who died at the Destroyer's hands.

"example" See note at 1 Corinthians 10:6. See SPECIAL TOPIC: PAUL'S VIEWS OF THE MOSAIC LAW at 1 Corinthians 9:9.

"ends of the ages have come" This is a perfect active indicative. It is a metaphor for the prophesied new age (similar phrase in Hebrews 9:26). Believers live in the Kingdom of God, inaugurated at Jesus' first coming, to be consummated with His Second Coming. We live in the tension of the "already and the not yet"!


1 Corinthians 10:12 "let him who thinks he stands take heed" The self assurance and arrogant pride of the Corinthian factions were a major problem, as the same attitude is today (cf. Romans 11:20; 2 Peter 3:17). God has and will judge His own people (cf. Jeremiah 25:29; 1 Peter 4:17). Self deception is a curse of religious people! Those in Christ must continue to exercise diligence (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27)!

1 Corinthians 10:13 "temptation" This word is used three times in this verse and means to tempt with a view toward destruction (see Special Topic at 1 Corinthians 3:13). There are three sources of temptation in the NT:

1. fallen human sin nature

2. personal evil (i.e., Satan and the demonic)

3. the fallen world system (cf. Ephesians 2:1-3; James 4:1, James 4:4, James 4:7)

NASB"but such as is common to man" NKJV"except such as is common to man" NRSV"that is not common to everyone" TEV"the kind that normally comes to people" NJB"none. . .is more than a human being can stand"

Other humans have faced the same temptation as the Corinthian believers. Jesus also has experienced and overcome all temptation which is common to human beings (cf. Hebrews 4:15).

"God is faithful" This is such a crucial descriptive statement! Biblical faith rests on the character of God. Our hope is in His gracious character, sure promises and redemptive acts.

This aspect of God's character is first stated in Deuteronomy 7:9, which is an amplification of Deuteronomy 5:9-10. God's justice moves through time to three and four generations, but His lovingkindness (i.e., covenant loyal love, hesed) to a thousand generations. This same affirmation is continued in Isaiah 49:7.

This is a major theme in the Corinthian letters (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 1:18, as well as 1 Thessalonians 5:24 and 2 Thessalonians 3:3). Believers are to faith God's faithfulness; to trust God's trustworthiness. This is the essence of biblical faith!

NASB"but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it" NKJV"but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" NRSV"but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it" TEV"at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out" NJB"with any trial will also produce a way out by enabling you to put up with it"

This Greek word was used of a way of escape for a trapped military unit. Believers do not face temptations alone!

The problem in this text is how one relates "provide the way out" with "be able to endure it." Do some get a way out and others bear it or is God's way out really a means of enduring? Does the testing stop or do believers work through the testing by faith? Although this ambiguity cannot be settled, the good news is that God is with us in the problems (cf. Psalms 23:4). God will not leave us or forsake us. The exact mechanism of victory is not clearly revealed, but the victory is!

Verses 14-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 14Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say. 16Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. 18Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar? 19What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. 21You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?

1 Corinthians 10:14 "Therefore" Paul is concluding the previous discussion and moving on to a conclusion.

NASB, NKJV"my beloved" NRSV, TEV, NJB"my dear friends"

Paul's Corinthian letters (and Galatians) are his hardest words to churches. Therefore, he wants to remind them how precious they are to him even when he speaks so harshly to them (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:14; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Corinthians 12:19).

This term was used by God the Father of Jesus (cf. Matthew 3:17; Matthew 12:18; Matthew 17:5). Paul, Peter, Jude, and John, in their letters, use this adjective to denote the followers of Jesus. They are beloved because of their relationship to Christ; beloved by God, by Christ, and by the writers of the NT letters.

"flee from idolatry" This is a present active imperative. Notice "idolatry" has the definite article. God provides a way, but believers must choose to take advantage of it (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:18). One way to handle temptation is to flee its presence. Believers must not put themselves into the arena of temptation.

"Idolatry" in the OT was the image and worship of pagan gods. In our day it is anything that replaces God in our priority structure (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:7, 1 Corinthians 10:14). As Jesus said, where your treasure is there will your heart be (cf. Matthew 6:21). Moderns reveal their priorities by time, money, and thought life. Religion is often a significant appendage, but not the core priority. True faith does not deal with excess, but with the essence of life. The book of 1 John closes with "guard yourselves from idols" (cf. 1 John 5:21).

1 Corinthians 10:15 This shows Paul's approach to leadership. He was an Apostle of Christ, yet he admonishes these prideful believers to judge his words for themselves (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:39-40). It is surely possible that Paul is being sarcastic. He used this same word (i.e., wise man) in 1 Corinthians 4:10 and 2 Corinthians 11:19 in a sarcastic sense.

1 Corinthians 10:16 This verse is constructed as two rhetorical questions (although TEV translates it as indicative statements).

"the cup of blessing" This probably refers to the third cup in the Jewish Passover service. It was what Jesus used to inaugurate the Lord's Supper.

The term "blessing" is eulogia from the verb eulogeô, which means "to praise," "to flatter," "to bless," or "to benefit." See note at 2 Corinthians 9:5. We get the English term eulogy from this Greek root. When Jesus enacted this ordinance he took both the cup and bread and gave thanks to God. The Greek term for thanks or thanksgiving is eucharistia, from which we get the term Eucharist. Both of these Greek terms are used in a synonymous way in 1 Corinthians 14:16.

It is interesting, but not theologically significant, that the normal order of the cup and bread (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:24-27) is reversed here. The order is not the issue, rather fellowship with Christ at His communal meal versus fellowship with pagan deities at their communal meals.


"sharing" This is the Greek word koinonia, which means "joint participation with." This is the origin of the English word "communion," used for the Eucharistic symbolic meal, which emphasizes fellowship now, but a more intimate fellowship in the future. See Special Topic: Koinonia at 1 Corinthians 1:9.

"in the blood of Christ" This is an emphasis on the death of Christ in its sacrificial OT context (cf. Levticus 1-7). The blood symbolized the life (cf. Leviticus 17:11, Leviticus 17:14).

"the bread which we break" This is the source of the English phrase we use for the Lord's Supper, "breaking bread" (cf. Acts 2:42). This was the symbol Jesus chose to represent the New Covenant in His broken body on the cross. He purposely did not choose the Passover Lamb, which was a symbol of the old covenant experience (cf. Exodus 12:0).

"sharing in the body of Christ" The symbol of the "body of Christ" is twofold: (1) His physical body was sacrificed for human sin and (2) His followers became His spiritual body, the church (which also has two aspects in 1 Corinthians: [a] local church and [b] the universal church).

1 Corinthians 10:17 This is an emphasis on the unity of Christ and His church expressed in the Lord's Supper symbolism (i.e., one bread). This same unity of Christ's body is in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 in relation to spiritual gifts.

1 Corinthians 10:18 "the nation Israel" This is literally "Israel according to the flesh" (see Special Topic at 1 Corinthians 1:26). This is another symbolic way (i.e., historical allusion) to show the unity of those who partake of the Lord's Supper.

1 Corinthians 10:19 "What do I mean then" Paul's writings are some of the easiest biblical texts to interpret because he logically develops his thought. Logical markers such as this phrase allow modern interpreters to outline Paul's thoughts at paragraph level, which is a key in interpreting his books.

Paul develops his thought throughout this context by a series of rhetorical questions (cf. NASB, 1 Corinthians 10:16 (two); 1 Corinthians 10:18 (one); 1 Corinthians 10:19 (two or three); 1 Corinthians 10:22 (two); 1 Corinthians 10:29 (one); 1 Corinthians 10:30 (one).

"or that an idol is anything" As an example of how ancient scribes unintentionally altered the texts they were copying, this phrase was accidentally left out in the very early ancient Greek manuscripts (i.e., P46, א*, A, and C). For further discussion of Textual Criticism see Appendix Two.

1 Corinthians 10:20 "sacrifice to demons" Paul, going back to the OT, understood idolatry as related, not to the reality of the image, but to the reality of spiritual forces in the physical creation (cf. Leviticus 16:8; Leviticus 12:7; Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalms 96:5; Psalms 106:37; Isaiah 65:11; Revelation 9:20; Revelation 16:14). Behind all human activity is the spiritual realm (cf. Deuteronomy 32:8 [LXX]; Daniel 10:0; Ephesians 6:10-18). Although it is never stated specifically that the fallen angels of the OT are the demonic of the NT, Paul refers to these fallen spiritual forces by other terms in Romans 8:38-39; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 3:10; Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:10, Colossians 2:15. Paul uses the term "demon" only here and in 1 Timothy 4:1. See Special Topic: Personal Evil at 1 Corinthians 7:5.


"sharers in demons" Follow Paul's analogy. Christians are one with Christ's body (i.e., the church) because they are one with His sacrifice (i.e., His body crucified on Calvary) because they share in the bread of the Lord's Supper that symbolized His broken body. Therefore, pagans who share in the eating of meat sacrificed to a non-existent idol participate in spiritual idolatry relating to the demons behind world religions. As believers share in the historical events of Jesus' life by means of ritual (i.e., Romans 6:0), so too, unbelievers share in the demonic.

1 Corinthians 10:21 This phrase refers to the pagans' sacrifices and rituals in the pagan temples of Corinth. A believer cannot affirm the exclusiveness of Christianity (i.e., one and only one true God and Jesus His Messiah) and still spiritually participate in pagan worship. If they do, it is spiritual idolatry!

1 Corinthians 10:22 "provoke the Lord to jealousy" This seems to be an allusion to Deuteronomy 4:25; Deuteronomy 32:16, Deuteronomy 32:21; Psalms 78:58; or Isaiah 65:3. The term Lord in 1 Corinthians 10:21 obviously refers to Jesus, but in 1 Corinthians 10:22 to YHWH. This type of transfer is one of the ways that NT authors assert the deity of Jesus of Nazareth.

The term "jealousy" is a powerful love word. One is only jealous about someone they love. YHWH is emotionally involved with His people, who reflect His character and take His name to the world. Idolatry destroys this fellowship and the evangelistic purpose.

"We are not stronger than He, are we" The grammar expects a "no" answer. This terminology implies two different Christian groups being referred to: the weak brother in 1 Corinthians 10:14-21 and the strong brother in 1 Corinthians 10:23-33. Verse 22 shows the difficulty of trying to deal with the mindset of these two groups of believers (cf. Romans 14:1-13). Paul is trying to walk a theological tightrope between two Christian philosophies/world views (i.e., freedom and bondage to past experiences).

Verses 23-30

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1 Corinthians 10:23-30 23All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. 25Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience' sake; 26 for the earth is the Lord's, and all it contains. 27If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience' sake. 28But if anyone says to you, "This is meat sacrificed to idols," do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience' sake; 29I mean not your own conscience, but the other man's; for why is my freedom judged by another's conscience? 30If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks?

1 Corinthians 10:23 This is a return to the subject begun in chapter 1 Corinthians 6:12 about how to balance Christian freedom and responsibility (cf. Romans 14:19). Verses 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 address the strong brother.

"All things are lawful" This phrase is repeated twice. Some translations put this phrase in quotes (cf. NRSV, TEV, NJB) because they think it was a slogan of one of the factious groups at Corinth or a cultural proverb. This is the emancipated world view of the "strong" Christian (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12; 1 Corinthians 10:26; Romans 14:14, Romans 14:20).


"but not all things edify" The practical, spiritual test is, "Does it edify the body (i.e., the believing community)?" (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12; 1 Corinthians 14:3-4, 1 Corinthians 14:26; 2 Corinthians 12:19; Romans 14:19; Romans 15:2). This must be the test in all believers do or say. One's freedom in Christ must not hurt another for whom Christ died (cf. Romans 14:15).

Just a personal word, this is not to imply that spirituality must float at the lowest level of the weakest believer, but that mature believers must not flaunt their freedom at the expense of fellow-believers. Some believers are dogmatic, Pharisaic legalists. I do not have to succumb to their rules, but I must love them, pray for them, fully accept them, and not publicly embarrass them or flaunt my freedom. I am spiritually responsible for my fellow believers! See SPECIAL TOPIC: EDIFY at 1 Corinthians 8:1.

1 Corinthians 10:24 "Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor" This is a present active imperative. Mature Christianity puts the welfare of others to the forefront (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:33; 1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Corinthians 13:5; Romans 14:7; Romans 15:2; Philippians 2:1-5, Philippians 2:21).

1 Corinthians 10:25, 1 Corinthians 10:27 This is the voice of emancipated faith. But "strong" faith publicly yields to "weak" faith (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:28-29).

1 Corinthians 10:25 "conscience" There is not an OT counterpart to the Greek term "conscience" unless the Hebrew term "breast" implies a knowledge of self and its motives. Originally the Greek term referred to consciousness related to the five senses. It came to be used of the inner senses (cf. Romans 2:15). Paul uses this term twice in his trials in Acts (i.e., 23: 1 Corinthians 10:1 and 24:16). It refers to his sense that he had not knowingly violated any known religious duties toward God (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:4).

Conscience is the developing understanding of believers' motives and actions based on (1) a biblical worldview; (2) the indwelling Spirit; and (3) a lifestyle knowledge based on the word of God. A Christian conscience is made possible by the personal reception of the gospel. See fuller note at 1 Corinthians 8:7.

1 Corinthians 10:26 "For the earth is the lord's and all it contains" This is the affirmation of the goodness of all created things (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12; 1 Corinthians 10:26; Romans 14:14, Romans 14:20), taken from a combination of 1 Corinthians 10:1 and 50:12, which was used by the OT Jews as a blessing at meals.

The Textus Receptus repeats 1 Corinthians 10:26 at the end of 1 Corinthians 10:28. This is not original. It is missing in the Greek manuscripts א, A, B, C, D, F, G, H*, and P, also it is not included in the Vulgate, Syriac, or Coptic translations.

1 Corinthians 10:27 This verse is crucial in making a distinction between participation in public idolatrous feasts versus common daily socializing with unbelievers. Paul does not have hard and fast rules. He prioritizes personal relationships (i.e., evangelism and discipleship). People are priority. People are eternal. People are the purpose of Christ's death, not food! Verses 1 Corinthians 10:29-33 show us Paul's summary on this issue.

1 Corinthians 10:27, 1 Corinthians 10:30 "If" Both of these are first class conditional sentences, which are assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes.

1 Corinthians 10:28 "If" This is a third class conditional sentence, which means potential action.

"do not eat it" This is a Present active imperative with the negative particle which usually means stop eating it. If the Christian is informed he/she must not eat because the very fact the issue is brought up shows the presence of weak faith or a seeking faith (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:29).

1 Corinthians 10:29

NASB"why is my freedom judged by another's conscience" NKJV"why is my liberty judged by another man's conscience" NRSV"why should my liberty be subject to the judgment of someone else's conscience" TEV"why should my freedom to act be limited by another persons' conscience" NJB"why should my freedom be governed by somebody else's conscience"

The NRSV punctuates this as if these were Paul's words. The TEV translates this as if they were another question asked by a supposed objector. This is the literary technique called diatribe (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12, 1 Corinthians 6:13).

This is the crucial question you must answer for yourself. Each of us, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, must define the boundaries of our self-limitation for others, out of love and respect for Christ.


1 Corinthians 10:30 This refers to a meal for which the believer has given thanks and eaten. The question sets the stage for the universal principle about how to exercise our Christian rights, which follows in 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Verses 31-33

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1 Corinthians 10:31-1 31Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved. 11:1Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:31 "do all to the glory of God" This is the universal principle applicable in every area of the believer's life (cf. Ephesians 6:7; Colossians 3:17, Colossians 3:23; 1 Peter 4:11). See SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (DOXA) at 1 Corinthians 2:7.

1 Corinthians 10:32 "Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God" This seems to refer to three groups. The first two are related to evangelism; the last group to fellowship in the church.

The term "church" is obviously being used in a universal sense as in Matthew 16:18. The term is used in the NT in

1. a local sense (most occurrences)

2. a regional sense (cf. Acts 9:31; Galatians 1:2)

3. a universal sense (cf. Philippians 3:6; Hebrews 12:23)

4. a cosmic sense of all the saints of all ages alive and dead (cf. Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 5:23, Ephesians 5:24, Ephesians 5:25, Ephesians 5:27, Ephesians 5:29, Ephesians 5:32; Colossians 1:18, Colossians 1:24)

"church" See Special Topic: Church at 1 Corinthians 1:2.

1 Corinthians 10:33 "just as I also please all men in all things. . .so that they may be saved" Evangelism, not self-rights, is the priority of mature believers (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:19-22).

"the many" In English this might be understood as a large part of the whole group. However, in Hebrew thought it is just a literary variation of "the all." This parallelism can be seen in

1 Corinthians 10:1. Isaiah 53:11, "the many"

Isaiah 53:12, "of many"

Isaiah 53:6, "of us all"

1 Corinthians 10:2. Romans 5:18, "to all men. . .to all men"

Romans 5:19, "the many. . .the many"

3. In Corinthians 1 Corinthians 10:17, "we who are many" (here Paul uses the term "many" to refer to the whole group of believers)

"so that they may be saved" This is the goal of gospel preaching and Christian living (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:19-22). God's promise of Genesis 3:15; Genesis 12:3 has now been fulfilled. The broken fellowship (i.e., the marred image of God in mankind) has been restored through Christ. "Whosoever will" may come (cf. Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 18:32; John 1:12; John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).

1 Corinthians 11:1 This verse seems to go with chapter 10, not 11. Paul's evangelistic motives and actions parallel the life and teachings of Jesus. As Paul mimicked Him the believers at Corinth were to focus on (1) the good of the body (the church) and (2) the salvation of the unbelieving world.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/1-corinthians-10.html. 2021.
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