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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
1 Corinthians 10

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

SECTION 17 — THE STORY OF ANCIENT ISRAEL PROVES THAT THEY WHO STAND MAY (THOUGH THEY NEED NOT) FALL CH. 10:1-13

For I do not wish you to be ignorant, brothers, that our fathers all were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized for Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they were drinking from a spiritual rock following them. And the rock was Christ.

But not with the more part of them was God well-pleased: for they were smitten down in the wilderness. Now these things took place as types of us; that we should not be desirers of bad things, as also they desired. And do not become idolaters, as did some of them: as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” (Exodus 32:6.) And let us not commit fornication; as some of them committed fornication, and there fell on one day twenty-three thousand. And let us not tempt the Lord; as some of them tempted, and were being destroyed by the serpents. And do not murmur, as some of them murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them typically; and were written for our admonition, to whom the ends of the ages are come. So then, he that thinks that he stands, let him see lest he fall.

Of you no temptation has laid hold except a human one. And God is faithful, who will not let you be tempted beyond what you are able; but will make, with the temptation, also the way out, that you may be able to bear up.

In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul introduced the matter of food offered to idols; and warned his readers not to do that which might destroy their brethren. This warning he supported in 1 Corinthians 8:13 by his own example. This example he strengthened in 1 Corinthians 9, by expounding his rights in the Gospel and his conduct; and concluded by saying that he submits to all kinds of bodily privation lest he should himself be lost. Already he has told his readers (1 Corinthians 9:24) that they like himself are striving for a prize. And he now supports the warning implied in 1 Corinthians 9:27, by reminding them that, whereas all who left Egypt were professed followers of God, 1 Corinthians 10:1-4; yet most of them never reached Canaan, 1 Corinthians 10:5-10. These things were designed to be a warning for us, 1 Corinthians 10:11-12; and God has provided for us a way of escape, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

1 Corinthians 10:1. For: an important various reading; see p. 7. Paul now supports, by Old Testament examples, the warning implied in the fear expressed in 1 Corinthians 9:27 b.

Our fathers: writing as a Jew, but not with special reference to Jews. The fathers were common property of all Christians.

All: the emphatic word (four times) of 1 Corinthians 10:1-4.

Under the cloud: both locally (cp. <19A539>Psalms 105:39; Wisdom of Solomon 10:17; Wisdom of Solomon 19:7) and by subordination. All ranged themselves under the guidance and protection of Him who revealed Himself in the Pillar of Cloud above their heads.


Verse 2-3

1 Corinthians 10:2-3. Spiritual significance of the bare facts of 1 Corinthians 10:1.

Baptized for Moses: see under Romans 6:3.

In the cloud etc. or, with the cloud: the material instruments of their baptism. By ranging themselves under the cloud and passing through the sea, they formally placed themselves in a new relationship to Moses as His followers. They thus openly separated themselves from Egypt, and became the professed people of God. That the position they then took up was analogous to that of Christians, is suggested by the word baptized. And the presence of water, in the cloud and sea, made it very appropriate. We saw, under Romans 6:4, that in Paul's day baptism by immersion was usual. But, that the passing of Israel beneath the cloud and through the divided sea on dry land is called baptism, now warns us that if water be used, the mode is not essential to the reality of the baptism. The immersion was reserved for the Egyptians.

1 Corinthians 10:3. The emphatic repetition of all and the same keeps conspicuously before us the similar position of men whose fate was different.

Spiritual food: the manna, bread from heaven, Psalms 78:24 f; Wisdom of Solomon 16:20; John 6:31 f; because produced, not naturally, but by the special energy of the Holy Spirit, who is the personal bearer, even in the material world, of the presence and power of God. Cp. Romans 1:11; Romans 7:14; 1 Corinthians 15:44; Ephesians 5:19; 1 Peter 2:5; cp. Genesis 1:2; Psalms 33:6; Galatians 4:29.

Spiritual drink: the water from the rock, Exodus 17:1-6; Numbers 20:2-11.


Verse 4

1 Corinthians 10:4. Proof that it was “spiritual drink.” That the manna was spiritual, needed no proof: for it was evidently supernatural. But the water from the rock was ordinary water.

Were drinking: graphic description of the scene. The real source of the water drunk by Israel on two occasions in the wilderness was not the natural rock from which it visibly flowed, but a spiritual rock, viz. the invisible and spiritual presence and resources of God; and this not stationary like “the rock in Horeb” and that at Kadesh, but following them, i.e. God not only going before them as a guide but, after they had pitched their tents providing in each encampment for their need. Therefore, the water from the rock, though natural in composition, was “spiritual drink:” for it was a miraculous work and gift of God present in the Holy Spirit. This exposition is so complete and simple that we have no need to assume a reference here to the foolish Jewish fable about the rock following the Israelites.

And the rock was Christ: a great truth linking the spiritual facts of 1 Corinthians 10:3 f with Christianity: as the word “baptized” linked with it the historical facts of 1 Corinthians 10:1. Christ was actually the source of the water which flowed from the visible rock, being Himself the divine Presence which accompanied, and supplied the need of, Israel in the wilderness. This implies that the not yet incarnate but pre-existent Son of God was the Leader of Israel. Cp. Hebrews 11:26. Under these passages and Colossians 1:16; John 1:3, lies the great truth that whatever God has done and does outwardly and visibly, in the material universe and in His spiritual kingdom, is through the agency of His Son. Paul here reminds his readers that the same divine power and presence which brought them into, and now maintains them in, the Christian life, of which the two sacraments are a visible representation, also led Israel of old through the Red Sea and daily fed them in the wilderness. This identity lays a foundation for the warnings of 1 Corinthians 10:5-12.


Verse 5-6

1 Corinthians 10:5-6. The more part: very much less than the truth, as the readers knew, but sufficient for Paul's warning. Of this statement, 1 Corinthians 10:5 b is proof.

Smitten-down in the wilderness: exact words of (LXX.) Numbers 14:16; cp. Numbers 14:32. That they died in the wilderness instead of entering Canaan, was a punishment for the sin of Numbers 14:1-10 Cp. Hebrews 3:16 ff.

These things: all that was included in smitten down etc.: cp. “none of these things,” 1 Corinthians 9:15.

Types of us: sketches in outline of what will come to us if we do as they did. See under Romans 5:14. All lessons learned by others from the fate of the sinning Israelites were not only foreseen but designed, by God. Therefore, since the Old Covenant was preparatory to the New, Paul could say that the various punishments of Israel were chosen and inflicted by God in order to teach the men of his own day the evil of desiring bad things. Cp. 1 Corinthians 9:10.

Bad-things; refers only to the men of Paul's day, not to Numbers 11:4 : for flesh and vegetables were not in themselves bad.

As they also etc.; gives prominence to the conduct followed by such punishment.


Verses 7-10

1 Corinthians 10:7-10. Four examples, expounding in detail “as they also desired.”

Idolaters: put prominently first, preparing the way for 1 Corinthians 10:14-22. So “fornicators” in 1 Corinthians 6:9, preparing for 1 Corinthians 6:13-20.

The people sat etc.: word for word from Exodus 32:6. This verse, without expressly mentioning idolatry, recalls the idolatrous scene; and is specially suitable to dissuade from taking part (1 Corinthians 10:21; 1 Corinthians 8:10) in idol feasts.

Fornication: ever closely connected with idolatry, especially at Corinth; and expressly in Numbers 25:1-9, to which Paul here refers.

Twenty-three thousand: 24,000 in Numbers 25:9, with which agree Josephus, Antiq. bk. iv. 6. 12, and Philo, vol. ii. 382. Since Paul had no source of information but the Old Testament, we cannot evade this discrepancy but supposing that on one day only 23,000 fell. Surely we need not stretch his apostolic authority to trifling numerical details. See my Romans, Dissertation iii. 2. Nor does a trifling slip of memory, if this be such, in a matter no way touching the spiritual life, lessen in the least degree his absolute authority when declaring the commands and promises of God. Cp. Galatians 3:17. How needful at Corinth was this second warning, we learn from 1 Corinthians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 12:21.

The Lord: probably, especially after 1 Corinthians 10:4, in its usual sense, viz. Christ, the Master whom all Christians obey.

Tempt, or try: put to the test, as if to see how long His patience will last.

The serpents: plain reference to Numbers 21:6. Consequently, tempted refers to the murmuring about their food. The similar murmuring in Exodus 17:3 is expressly called (Exodus 5:7, cp. Deuteronomy 6:16) tempting God; and gave a name to the place, Massah, or Temptation. In these cases the Israelites tested whether God was among them and His longsuffering towards them, by looking back to the land of bondage out of which He had brought them. A similar leaning in the Corinthians to the idolatrous practices and the impurity of their past life, prompted the warnings of 1 Corinthians 10:7 f. Such looking back was a tempting of their Master, Christ, similar to that punished by the fiery serpents.

Were-being-destroyed; both depicts the scene, and includes the bitten ones who looked at the brazen serpent and recovered. 1 Corinthians 10:10 refers evidently to Numbers 16:41-49; and was naturally suggested by the murmuring of Numbers 21:5.

The destroyer: Wisdom of Solomon 18:25; Exodus 12:23. It implies that the “plague” of Numbers 16:46 ff was inflicted by a personal agent, probably an angel of God. Cp. 2 Samuel 24:16; Isaiah 37:36. The story of Numbers 16:41 ff is a solemn warning to all who set themselves against a divinely constituted authority; and was perhaps referred to here as a covert warning to those at Corinth who rejected Paul's apostolic authority.


Verse 11

1 Corinthians 10:11. Parallel to 1 Corinthians 10:6; as are 1 Corinthians 10:7-10 to 1 Corinthians 10:5 b.

These things; the foregoing punishments.

Typically: by way of pattern of what will happen to others. Yet they were real events: for they happened to them.

Written for our admonition: cp. Romans 3:19; Romans 4:24; Romans 15:4; see my Romans, Dissertation iii. 3.

The ages: the various world-periods, in which God dealt with men in different modes, e.g. antediluvian, pre-Abrahamic, patriarchal, Mosaic. Of these, the age introduced by Christ is a completion (Hebrews 9:26) and the end, to be immediately followed by the coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the new earth and heaven.

Ends, (see under 2 Corinthians 11:15,) rather than “end:” because in the Christian dispensation each of the former ages finds its goal and consummation: This justifies Paul's assertion that the narratives written in former ages were designed for admonition of those living in the Christian age.

Have come: as though the Christian age had overtaken them; and specially appropriate in the lips of one who lived before the Christian age began.


Verse 12

1 Corinthians 10:12. Desired result of the foregoing narratives.

He that thinks: the man's opinion about himself, whether true or false. Cp. 1 Corinthians 7:40. Same word (R.V. “reputed”) in Galatians 2:2; Galatians 2:6; Galatians 2:9. The man of whom Paul thinks actually stands: else he could not fall.

Stand: Romans 5:2; Romans 11:20 : retain his Christian position.

Fall: lose it by committing the sins of 1 Corinthians 10:7 ff. Cp. Romans 11:11; Romans 11:22.


Verse 13

1 Corinthians 10:13. Encouragement after warning.

Temptation: whatever, painful or pleasant, tends to lead us to sin, and thus tests our loyalty to Christ. Cp. Matthew 4:1-10.

Human: within the limits of the spiritual powers God has given to men.

We can conceive higher intelligences to be attacked by severer temptations.

Faithful: 1 Corinthians 1:9. To what has been (1 Corinthians 10:13 a) in the past, Paul adds what will be in the future.

Will not let: for each temptation attacks us under His eye and restraint.

Will make etc.; does not imply that the temptation is God's work, (though, in a sense, this is true: cp. Genesis 22:1,) but that God will provide that it shall be accompanied by the way-out. And that God is faithful, pledges Him to do this. For He has promised life to all who believe; and this implies escape from all temptation, which in turn implies that we shall not be tempted beyond the powers God has granted to men.

That you may etc.: God's purpose in making the way out. We endure temptation by flying from it.

SECTION 17 confirms strongly my note under Romans 11:24 in disproof of Calvin's doctrine that all who have been justified will be finally saved. The word “rejected” in 1 Corinthians 9:27, supported as it is by examples of those who never entered Canaan, can refer only to rejection from heaven. And Paul must have thought this possible in his own case; or the motive given in 1 Corinthians 9:27 would be utterly unreal. Yet he was quite sure (Romans 5:9 f; 2 Corinthians 5:18) of his own justification. The examples of those who, as Paul so emphatically tells us, actually started for Canaan but never reached it, would be quite inapplicable to those who, the right start once made, could not fall finally.


Verse 14-15

SECTION 18 — AVOID GIVING ANY SANCTION TO IDOLATRY CH. 10:14-22

For which cause certainly, my beloved ones, fly from idolatry. As to prudent men I say, Judge yourselves what I assert. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not partnership in* (* Greek, partnership of the blood, etc.) the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not partnership in* (* Greek, partnership of the blood, etc.) the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, one body we, the many, are. For, from the one bread, we all partake.

Look at Israel according to flesh. Are not they who eat the sacrifices partners with the altar?

What, then, do I assert? That an idol-sacrifice is anything? or that an idol is anything? but that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, to demons and not to God they sacrifice. And I do not wish you to become partners with demons. You cannot be partaking of a table of the Lord and a table of demons. Or, are we moving the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?

On introducing the matter of food offered to idols, which occupies DIV. IV., Paul laid down in § 14 the principle of not doing that which injures others. This he supported in §§ 15, 16 by his own example; and in § 17 by a warning from the story of the Israelites. He will not deal specifically with one part of the matter in hand, viz. idol-feasts; by showing that attendance at them involves partnership with evil spirits. This he proves by the analogy

(1 Corinthians 10:16-17) of the Lord's Supper and (1 Corinthians 10:18) of the Mosaic sacrifices; shows it to be (1 Corinthians 10:19-20 a) in harmony with what he has already said, and the Old Testament has said, about idols; and adds (1 Corinthians 10:20-22) a threefold dissuasive from such feasts.

1 Corinthians 10:14-15. Fly from idolatry: 1 Corinthians 10:7 abstain from idol-feasts, (cp. 1 Corinthians 8:10,) which Paul will prove to be actual idolatry.

For which cause: Since God has pledged Himself to make in every temptation a way of escape, there is no need even in Corinth to yield to the many inducements to attend such feasts. These words remind the readers that such inducements were only a “trial” of their faith.

Prudent: or thoughtful. This appeal prepares us for something important and difficult.

Assert: not an unproved assertion. For judge for yourselves implies that reasons will be given.


Verse 16

1 Corinthians 10:16. Appeal to, and exposition of, The Lord's Supper, as a foundation for the argument of 1 Corinthians 10:21 and also to support the analogy of 1 Corinthians 10:18. Our interpretation of these words will be in great part determined by our interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:23 ff: and this interpretation must be in turn attested by its applicability to the argument here. We must therefore assume the results gained in our note under 1 Corinthians 11:34.

The cup: put first (contrast 1 Corinthians 11:24) perhaps because of the fuller exposition in 1 Corinthians 10:17 of the other element, the bread, which presents a closer parallel to 1 Corinthians 10:18.

Cup of blessing: name given by the Jews to the third cup of wine at the Passover. Whether Paul refers to this and whether this term was commonly used of the Lord's Supper, we cannot determine.

Bless; see Romans 1:25 : literally, to speak good words. The words spoken over the cup evidently set forth the goodness of God; as in Luke 1:64; Luke 2:28. Hence they were equivalent to “thanksgiving.” Cp. 1 Corinthians 14:16; 1 Samuel 9:13; Matthew 14:19; Luke 9:16, with John 6:11; Mark 8:6 with Mark 8:7; Matthew 26:26 with Matthew 26:27. So Chrysostom: “A cup of blessing He called it; since, holding it in our hands, in this way we sing praise to Him.” Our first thought as we behold the symbols of the death of Christ is gratitude to God. Hence the term “Eucharist,” i.e. thanksgiving. And the cup which recalls the death of Christ is made here (cp. Mark 8:7; Luke 9:16) the object or matter of our blessing. The gratitude evoked by sight of the cup is made very prominent by the addition, which we bless.

We: whether by one person at each celebration or by the whole company, is left uncertain. Paul joins with others, whoever they be, in pronouncing it.

Partnership: 1 Corinthians 1:9; see Romans 15:26.

Partnership of; denotes both partnership with others, as 1 Corinthians 10:18; 1 Corinthians 10:20; 1 Corinthians 1:9; Hebrews 10:33; and partnership in something, as 2 Corinthians 1:7; 2 Corinthians 8:4; Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 5:1; 2 Peter 1:4. Here probably, in spite of 1 Corinthians 10:18; 1 Corinthians 10:20, partnership (with others) in the benefits of the death of Christ, (contrast Matthew 23:30,) reminding us that others share these benefits with us. Cp. 1 Corinthians 10:17. For we cannot well conceive a partnership with the blood of Christ.

Is; must be expounded by Paul's teaching elsewhere, but requires a sense which justifies the argument of 1 Corinthians 10:16-21. Elsewhere we learn that through the shedding of the blood of Christ we receive pardon of sins and a union with Him so close that He lives in us making our life to be an outflow of His; that this truth is set forth visibly in the wine poured into the cup and drunk; and that to drink the material wine is a divinely-appointed and, to speak generally, indispensable condition of this spiritual partnership. Consequently, had not Christ died, there had been no Eucharist cup: and if we refuse the cup we surrender, by disobeying Christ's express command, all claim to the blessings which flow from the shedding of His blood. Therefore, to us the cup is, both symbolically and practically a partnership of the blood of Christ.

We break: made prominent in the narrative (1 Corinthians 11:24) as setting forth, like the poured out wine, the death of Christ.

Of the body of Christ: partnership with other believers in the benefits resulting from the entire history of the human body of Christ, from His incarnation, holy life, death, resurrection, and glorified human presence in heaven.


Verse 17

1 Corinthians 10:17. Confirmation of 1 Corinthians 10:16 b, from the oneness of the church, by an argument from effect to cause. A similar argument would support 1 Corinthians 10:16 a. But to develop one side is sufficient: and the bread is a closer analogy to 1 Corinthians 10:18.

We, the many, are one body: an admitted and glorious truth, a forerunner of 1 Corinthians 12:12 ff.

Because there is etc.; declares that of this one body the one sacramental bread is a cause.

For we all etc.: connecting link between the one bread and the one body. If to partake the eucharistic bread be a condition of receiving spiritual life of the church, which is its very essence, is in the same sense a result of all the members of the church partaking the one symbolic bread.

Consequently, the church of Christ, consisting of many members of various nations and all ranks but living the same spiritual life and embodying it before the eyes of men, and drinking this life from the same source, viz. the death and life of Christ, on the condition that all its members partake the same material and symbolic food-the one church proves by its very existence the importance of the Lord's Supper and the spiritual reality which underlies it. These words also suggest the direct uniting influence of this one simple rite. Wherever a Christian went among Christians he found them eating and drinking the same bread and wine in memory of the same bruised body and shed blood; and was thus made to feel, in the most effective way conceivable, the oneness of the whole church. Paul may therefore say that the wonderful fact that the many and various members of the church are visibly united into one community, in which each member lives the same spiritual life, is a result of the fact that upon a table in their various assemblies the same bread lies; and may explain his words by reminding us that of this one bread all the members of all the churches partake.


Verse 18

1 Corinthians 10:18. After justifying beforehand the words “cup” and “table of the Lord” in 1 Corinthians 10:21, Paul now introduces beforehand an analogy in support of “partners with” and “cup of demons” in 1 Corinthians 10:22.

According to flesh; suggests that already the word Israel was used in a spiritual sense: cp. Galatians 6:16; Galatians 4:29.

They who etc.: the offerers of peace-offerings, who, after a part had been burnt on the altar and a part given to the priest, ate the rest in the temple court: Leviticus 7:15-21; Deuteronomy 12:5 ff, Deuteronomy 12:17 ff. They were partners of the altar, not only inasmuch as part of the sacrificed animals was consumed by the altar and part by them, but in that, by joining that sacrificial feast in the holy place, they visibly and formally set themselves on the side of the God of the Temple, and lent their influence to maintain the temple ritual. Thus, by simply eating and drinking, they were aiding to set before the nation and the world the great preparatory lessons taught by the ancient symbols. And, in so doing, they were partners of the brazen altar, which, stained with the blood of the sacrifices, held so prominent a place in the ritual. That in days of spiritual declension the ritual was left in abeyance, and was restored in days of revival, (2 Chronicles 29:1-36; 2 Chronicles 30:1-27; 2 Chronicles 35:1-19,) reveals its spiritual importance.


Verse 19-20

1 Corinthians 10:19-20. Application of 1 Corinthians 10:16 f and 1 Corinthians 10:18 to the idol-feasts, in a form which answers an objection.

What then etc.: “in bringing the Christian and Jewish feasts, so full of spiritual significance, as analogies of the heathen feasts, am I not conceding to heathenism the reality of its idol-gods?”

Is anything: that any reality underlies the name; that an idol-sacrifice is anything more than common meat, and an idol than a block of wood or stone.

Idol-sacrifices, idol: a climax. The answer to these questions is so plain that Paul does not give it, but merely tells us what he does assert about idols. He does not say that idol-sacrifices or even idols themselves are anything at all, but that the sacrifices offered to them are really offered to demons. Same word in Tobit 3:8; Tobit 6:15 f; Matthew 9:33 f, etc.,

John 8:48 f; 1 Timothy 4:1 : in classic Greek, a superhuman being, (Acts 17:18,) generally of an inferior class; elsewhere in the New Testament, an evil superhuman being.

To demons and not to God: word for word from Deuteronomy 32:17, LXX.; (cp. <19A637>Psalms 106:37; Baruch 4:7;) and probably a correct rendering of the rare Hebrew word there used. That heathen sacrifices are a service rendered to evil spirits, is but an application of the broad principle of Romans 6:16 to the specific matter of idolatry. For it is assumed everywhere in the New Testament that the abstract power and rule of sin have taken concrete form in superhuman beings, acting under one personal head, and bringing evil influences to bear on the human race: Ephesians 6:12; Ephesians 2:2; 2 Timothy 2:26; Romans 16:20; 2 Corinthians 4:4. Therefore, every act of sin, being (Romans 6:16) obedience to sin, is also obedience to these superhuman enemies, and tends to carry out their purposes of death. Now idolatry is the ritual of sin. It is, therefore, the ceremonial of the rule of evil spirits over men. Consequently, though the heathen neither intend nor know it, every act of idolatry and whatever tends to support it, is a sacrifice laid on the altar of demons. And nowhere and never was this more evident than at Corinth in Paul's day. The variety of idols suggests demons rather than “Satan.”

1 Corinthians 10:20 b. Dissuasive from idol-feasts. It is explained and justified by the analogy, in 1 Corinthians 10:18, of the Mosaic sacrifices. Those who took part in the sacrificial feasts of the temple were, perhaps unconsciously, supporting by their presence the Mosaic ritual, and thus helping forward the educational and spiritual purposes for which it was ordained by God. And they who sat down at a heathen feast were, really though perhaps unintentionally, giving by their presence countenance to idolatry, and thus helping to maintain it and to accomplish its deadly tendencies. They were thus aiding the work of, and making themselves partners with, demons.


Verse 21

1 Corinthians 10:21. A second dissuasive from idol-feasts, suggested by 1 Corinthians 10:16-17. Now only was the presence of Christians at an idol-feast a service rendered to demons, but the pleasure which induced them to go was a cup which demons held to their lips. For such pleasure was a result of idolatry, and therefore a result of the reign of demons over men. In this lies an argument. For a cup of demons must needs be poison.

You cannot etc.: another argument. Not only is it a cup of death, but it keeps from us the cup of life.

Drink: the inward reality underlying the material act of drinking, the absorption into our inner nature of the influences proceeding from Christ and from demons. For, outwardly and materially, it is possible to drink both cups at once. But the spiritual and life-giving influences which flow to believers from the shedding of Christ's blood, and of which the eucharistic cup is a condition, are not given to those who indulge in pleasures resulting from sin. Therefore, to accept the pleasures which idolatry offers, is to renounce the salvation offered by Christ.

The Lord's table, table of demons; adds emphasis by picturing, in their incongruity, the sacred meal and an idol-feast.


Verse 22

1 Corinthians 10:22. A third dissuasive, suggested by Deuteronomy 32:17 and Deuteronomy 32:21. Paul asks, “What is the practical significance and effect of our conduct? For, to countenance idolatry, is to rouse the anger of Christ, who claims to be our sole Master.” This solemn warning, 1 Corinthians 10:22 b supports by appealing to the greater strength of Him whom some were so carelessly provoking.

ARGUMENT. Paul wishes to dissuade from all contact with idolatry, and especially from attendance at idol-feasts. Even this might be thought allowable; since (1 Corinthians 8:4) idols have no real existence, and (Romans 14:14; Matthew 15:11) no food can of itself defile. But Paul reminds us that upon eating and drinking hang great spiritual consequences; that a simple Christian feast is a condition of receiving individually the results of Christ's death, and a means of maintaining the wonderful oneness of the church throughout the world, a result far from the thought of many who partake the feast. But a closer analogy is at hand.

They who partake the Mosaic feasts in the temple-court at Jerusalem are evidently, though most of them think nothing about it, supporting by their presence the Mosaic ritual and economy. Now, although idols have no existence, yet behind and beneath them is a real and superhuman and diabolical power. (Else, idolatry were harmless.) Therefore, as in the analogous case of the Jewish sacrificial feasts, all who join the idol-feasts lend by the presence aid to idolatry, and thus help demons to rule over men. Therefore, whatever pleasure comes from such feasts, since it is a result of sin, is a cup presented by evil spirits. From such a cup we may well draw back.

Again, Christ claims our sole allegiance, and will tolerate no rival. Therefore, to indulge in the pleasures offered by idolatry, is to forego the salvation which comes through the shed blood of Christ, which is solemnly set forth in the Christian feast and makes the sacramental cup to be a cup of praise to God. To attempt to mingle the pleasures of idolatry and the salvation of Christ, is but to attempt, in spite of God's warning to ancient Israel, to call forth the jealous and irresistible anger of our Master, Christ.

This section is the stronghold of the Lutheran doctrine of CONSUBSTANTIATION, viz. that all who partake the Lord s Supper thereby receive Christ, though it depends upon themselves whether they receive Him to bless or to condemn. See note under 1 Corinthians 11:34. The argument is, that he who attends an idol-feast is said to become thereby even without or against his intention, a partner with demons, and that therefore by analogy we must suppose that he who partakes the Lord's Supper becomes thereby, whatever be his state of heart, a sharer of the body and blood of Christ. But it is unsafe to build up an important doctrine not expressly taught in Scripture on its supposed necessity to give validity to one Scripture argument, an argument somewhat obscured by distance of time and total change of circumstances. Moreover, without assuming the Lutheran Doctrine, we have already felt the great force of Paul's argument. Nay more. The Lutheran doctrine is inconsistent with 1 Corinthians 10:21. For, since outward attendance at idol-feasts involves, even against our will, spiritual partnership with demons, if in like manner material eating of the Lord's Supper involved spiritual union with Christ, then it would be possible and easy to eat on the same day of the Lord's table and the table of demons: which Paul declares to be impossible. We therefore infer that he refers to a spiritual reception of the results of Christ's death which does not always accompany a reception of the bread and wine.

The argument of § 18 was doubtless suggested by the matter of § 21. The matters which come before him, Paul grasps so firmly that he instinctively makes various use of them: e.g. 1 Corinthians 9:13 f and 1 Corinthians 10:18.

This section teaches the solemn and far-reaching lesson that, if by our countenance we help forward anything of which the results are evil, we thereby become allies of those evil spirits who through the bad things of the world are seeking to destroy men; and that, if by the countenance thus given to evil we obtain pleasure or profit, we thereby accept and drink a cup which demons hold to our lips.


Verse 23-24

I CORINTHIANS

SECTION 19 — FOR OTHERS' SAKE, DO NOT EAT WHAT IS POINTED OUT TO YOU AS AN IDOL-SACRIFICE CH. 10:23-11:1

All things are allowable: but not all things are profitable. All things are allowable: but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own interest; but that of his fellow.

Everything sold in the shambles, eat, making no examination because of conscience. For “the Lord's is the earth and the fullness of it.” (Psalms 24:1.) If any one invites you, of the unbelievers, and you wish to go, all that is set before you eat, making no examination because of conscience. But if any one say to you, This is a sacred-sacrifice, do not eat, because of him who pointed it out and because of conscience; conscience, I say, not thy own, but the other's. For why is my liberty judged by another's conscience? If I with thanks partake, why am I evil spoken of about that for which I for my part give thanks?

Whether then you are eating, or are drinking, or are doing anything, do all things for the glory of God. “Become men giving no cause of stumbling either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God. According as I also in all things please all, not seeking my own profit but that of the many, that they may be saved. Become imitators of me, as I also am of Christ.

§ 18 dealt with one side of the matter of DIV. IV. viz. with attendance at idol-feasts: § 19 will deal with the other side of it, viz. with the eating at a private meal of meat offered to idols. An abrupt reassertion of the general principle of 1 Corinthians 6:12, modified and developed, marks the transition from the one side to the other; and forms a suitable platform from which to treat of the only question now remaining about idol-sacrifices.

1 Corinthians 10:23-24. All things etc.: see under 1 Corinthians 6:12.

Profitable: to ourselves or to others. It thus bears on § 18 and on § 19. Though all kinds of food are lawful, it is against our interest to drink a cup which demons put in our hands. Consequently, the advice of § 18 is consistent with full Christian liberty.

Edify: spiritual progress resulting both (1 Corinthians 14:4) to ourselves and (1 Corinthians 14:17) to others from our actions. That the latter chiefly is in Paul's thought, we learn from 1 Corinthians 10:24, the foundation stone of § 19. Cp. Romans 15:2. In 1 Corinthians 6:12 he developed profitable by “be mastered by any;” because he was dealing with a sin which robs man of self-control. But here, in view of injury to others from our conduct, he develops it by the word edify.

Let no one seek his own interest: a broad principle which must guide our entire conduct. Cp. Philippians 2:4. Our own interest must not be our real aim. If we make even our spiritual profit our final aim, we shall miss the object aimed at. Regardless of all else we must seek to do the greatest possible good to men around us. It is true that in order to do this we must care for the preservation and greatest possible development of our bodily and spiritual life. But this must be a means to an end. And, between making it a means and an end, is an infinite moral and practical difference.

1 Corinthians 10:23-24. Specific advice.

Examination because of conscience: do not allow yourselves to be compelled, by that inner judge which pronounces sentence on conduct, to inquire, when buying food, whether it has been offered to idols. Just as all the meat eaten, even privately, by Israel in the wilderness, had (Leviticus 17:2-6 : contrast Deuteronomy 12:21) first been presented as a sacrifice to God, so the heathens frequently offered as a sacrifice the animals slain for food. Consequently, a Christian might, without knowing it, eat an idol-sacrifice either (1 Corinthians 10:27 f) in the house of a heathen, or as 1 Corinthians 10:25 implies, by purchase in the public market. Paul bids his readers not trouble themselves about this possibility.

Conscience: the man's own, as representing the abstract and definite idea of conscience. There is no hint here, as there is express and emphatic mention in 1 Corinthians 10:29, of “another conscience.”

For the Lord's etc.: word for word from Psalms 24:1; a reason for 1 Corinthians 10:25. Cp. 1 Timothy 4:3 f.

The fullness of it: parallel with “they that dwell therein:” the totality of men and things, with which the world is full, and without which it would be empty. Cp. Romans 9:12. In itself and looked upon as mere material, everything belongs to God: and therefore nothing is in itself defiling. For a Christian to eat an idol-sacrifice, is merely to claim for God that which is His by right, but which a rebel has offered to His enemy. Whatever evil there is about any created material comes from its associations. But the fear which Paul here declares to be needless rests upon a belief that meat offered to idols is in itself defiling.


Verses 27-30

1 Corinthians 10:27-29 a. A second case. In 1 Corinthians 10:25 Paul gave advice to Christians when in the market: he now gives them the same advice when at the table of a heathen.

Invites: same word as “call” and “bid” in Matthew 20:1-14. See under Romans 8:28. We cannot detect, in if you wish to go, a tacit dissuasion from going. This is left entirely to the reader's own judgment.

But if any one say etc.: a further development of this second case.

Any one: a weak brother, (cp. 1 Corinthians 8:7-13,) probably a Gentile Christian. For, to eat an idol-sacrifice would not injure the conscience of a heathen: and a Jew, or a Jewish believer of weak faith would not be at a heathen's table.

Sacred-sacrifice: more suitable at a heathen's table than “idol-sacrifice,” which means “meat offered to an image.”

And conscience: added to remind us that while refusing to eat because of our brother we are really paying deference to the majesty of the abstract principle of Conscience, the judge divine who speaks in every heart.

Conscience, I say; tells us whom Paul has in view in this appeal to conscience in the abstract.

The motive here given is expounded in 1 Corinthians 8:9. If we eat, our example may lead him to do the same, though he believes it to be wrong. Conscience will then pronounce sentence against him. He will thus receive a wound in that inner chamber of his being in which he contemplates his own actions. See under 1 Corinthians 8:7; Romans 2:15. And this wound may be fatal. Therefore, a remembrance of our brother's condition and of the judge which speaks in him, is a reason for not eating that which he has pointed out to us as sacrificial meat.

1 Corinthians 10:29-30. Questions supporting, by reference to the strong man's freedom, the advice prompted by thought of the weak man's conscience.

My: as in 1 Corinthians 6:15; Romans 3:7. To show the impropriety of that from which he dissuades, Paul supposes himself to be doing it. “My knowledge that idols are nothing makes me free from all personal fear of eating meat offered to them. But if by eating it I injure another man, his conscience will declare that my freedom has been in its effect upon him a bad thing, that it would have been better for him if I had had less knowledge.” And Paul sees no reason why such a verdict should be pronounced on his freedom, which he knows to be good, by a voice which he is compelled to respect, viz. another man's conscience. Similar argument in Romans 14:16. The same argument, 1 Corinthians 10:30 repeats in a modified form, that we may feel its full force.

With thanks: (same word as grace; see under Romans 1:5 :) proof that his conscience approves his eating.

Evil-spoken-of: or, blasphemed: see Romans 2:24.

I for my part, give thanks: conspicuous incongruity. “While eating this meat I thank God for freedom from scruples which cause such trouble to others. Yet, while I do this, my brother's conscience declares that my liberty has done him harm, that it would have been better for him if I had not that for which I thank God.” Such incongruity Paul will not tolerate. And, to avoid it, he advises his readers to abstain from food which is pointed out to them as being an idol-sacrifice.


Verse 31-32

1 Corinthians 10:31-32. General principles of conduct, exemplified in the reasons given in 1 Corinthians 10:29 b, 30 for the specific advice of 1 Corinthians 10:28, in a form, eat or drink, suggested by the matter of §19.

Glory of God: see Romans 1:21; Romans 3:7. “Since your conduct and the worth of your religion will be estimated by others according to its effect upon themselves, so act in all the details of life that your action may show forth the splendor of God, the Author of all human excellence, and thus exalt Him in the eyes of men.” This conveys a solemn lesson. The practical impression made upon men by the revealed character of God is determined very much by the conduct of His people, even in little things, and especially by the degree to which they take into account the effect of their conduct upon the well-being of others. 1 Corinthians 10:32 gives a second and negative principle of conduct, suggested by 1 Corinthians 10:28 ff, and a special point to be avoided by all who wish that their entire conduct bring glory to God.

To Jews or to Greeks: cp. Romans 15:8 ff following Romans 14. Whether the weak brethren were Jews or Gentiles, the matter of sacrificial food brought into great prominence distinctions of nationality.

Men-without-cause-of-stumbling: having nothing likely to overthrow themselves or others. Latter reference here (cp. Romans 14:13) and in Sirach 35:21; the former, in the same word in Philippians 1:10; Acts 24:16. But practically the two senses coincide. Whatever in us tends to overthrow others tends to overthrow ourselves. Be careful so to act as not to trip up men, Jews or Gentiles, who are groping their way to heaven.

Church of God: title of dignity. Even those who belong to God and are His representatives to the world may (1 Corinthians 8:11) be thrown down or hindered by our conduct.


Verse 33

1 Corinthians 10:33 to 1 Corinthians 11:1. Paul's own example, as in 1 Corinthians 8:13, supporting his advice. This example received irresistible force in 1 Corinthians 9, which expounded and justified the principle which found expression in 1 Corinthians 8:13.

In all things: as in 1 Corinthians 9:25.

Please all men: not an end but a means, viz. that they may be saved. Cp. Romans 15:2. Else it would be unworthy: Galatians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:4. But, to seek men's favor in order to save them and only thus far, is one of the noblest acts of service to God.

I please all: not actually; but noting, according to the use of the Greek present tense, a course of action tending in the direction. So Romans 2:4; Galatians 5:4; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Galatians 1:13.

Not seeking etc.: as in 1 Corinthians 10:24.

That they may be saved: the final object Paul has in view in seeking the profit of the many. He wishes to save them: and, in view of so worthy and so serious an object, he gives up all thought of personal advantage and seeks only their good.

Imitators: as in 1 Corinthians 4:16.

As I also of Christ. Therefore, in following his example, they are walking in the steps of Christ. Cp. Romans 15:3.

Paul s advice about the IDOL-SACRIFICES (1 Corinthians 8:1) is now complete, He warns his readers in § 18 to abstain from all contact with idolatry; and, especially, not to sanction by their presence idolatrous feasts. Such sanction helps forward the work of demons: and any pleasure resulting therefrom is a cup presented by demons. Yet there is no inherent defilement in meat offered to idols; and therefore (§ 19) no need to inquire about the previous history of meat sold in the market or placed on the table of a heathen friend. Nevertheless, in the presence of one who conscientiously and openly disapproves of eating meat offered to idols, Paul advises his readers to abstain from it, lest their example inflict spiritual injury upon him. He does not find it needful to mention the case of meat which they may casually learn to have been offered to idols. For his whole argument implies that there is no sufficient reason for abstaining from it.

Notice that Paul disregards utterly the apostolic decree of Acts 15:23 ff, which he himself apparently assented to and in his second missionary journey (which first brought him to Corinth) distributed to the churches, and which enjoined abstinence from idol-sacrifices as one of the “necessary things.” For even the advice of 1 Corinthians 10:28 referred, not to his readers' conscience, but (1 Corinthians 10:29) to that of the weak brother who gave the information. This disregard cannot be accounted for by a change of circumstances, making expedient a change of practice in so short a time. It rather points to an advance of knowledge in the mind of the apostle, to a firmer grasp of (e.g. Mark 7:18) the teaching of Christ. This does not lessen the authority of the apostles as unanimous witnesses of the teaching of Christ. But it warns us to be careful in accepting, as binding for all time, the letter of their advice in matters of small detail. The contrast of Revelation 2:20 is a difficulty which I can neither dissemble nor solve. It refers, however, to specific erroneous teaching, known to the readers but not to us, and perhaps to such an eating as directly sanctioned idolatry.

Section 19 teaches that our conduct must often be limited, not only by what we think, but by what those around us think, to be right. Else we may lead them to do what their conscience condemns, and thus inflict upon them serious injury. By thus refraining for their good, we are bearing their burdens and fulfilling (Galatians 6:2; Romans 15:1) the law of Christ.

REVIEW OF DIV. IV. Paul might have passed at once from § 14 to § 18. Indeed §§ 15-17, like §§ 3, 4, and § 12, seem to interrupt the matter in hand. But, in reality, they immensely increase the force of the advice which follows them. From matters of detail Paul rises to broad principles, that he may bring the principles to bear with accumulated force on the matters of detail. He thus makes passing details a pattern of the application of great abiding principles.

In § 14 Paul bids his readers consider the effect upon others of their own conduct. This advice he supports by expounding in § 15 his rights in the Gospel, and in § 16 his cheerful surrender of them to save men; that, by the example of his own self-denial, an example well known to his readers, he may drive away by very shame all hesitation to submit to a trifling limitation in a matter so trifling as food rather than expose to risk of destruction those who are already brethren in Christ. Their confident but false security, Paul puts to shame by saying that this unlimited self-sacrifice is needful for his own salvation; and supports the warning herein implied by the example in § 17 of those who fell in the wilderness for conduct exactly analogous to that of the Corinthians. And for this conduct there is no excuse: for God ever provides a way of escape. The destruction of the Israelites in the wilderness gives great force to Paul's specific warning in § 18 against all contact with idolatry, especially all participation in idolatrous feasts. At the beginning of § 19 he reasserts the great principle of which his own conduct (1 Corinthians 9) is so conspicuous an example; and then gives specific advice based on this principle about food eaten in private houses. He concludes DIV. IV. by reasserting the same all-important principle, as embodied in his own example and in that of Christ.

The principles exemplified in DIV. IV. have abiding and infinite value.

Now, as then, there are in the church differences of opinion about right and wrong: and there are many weak brethren. If we resolve to do whatever we think to be allowable, and to claim our rights to the full, we shall lose opportunities of doing men good and inflict actual injury, shall lose the spiritual progress which immediately follows all self-denial for the good of others, and imperil our own salvation.

 


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Bibliography Information
Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:4". Joseph Beet's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jbc/1-corinthians-10.html. 1877-90.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, July 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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