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1Corinthians 10 (web)

Lawless Christianity

10:1 Now I would not have you ignorant, brothers,
that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
10:2 and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
10:3 and all ate the same spiritual food;
10:4 and all drank the same spiritual drink.
For they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.
10:5 However with most of them, God was not well pleased,
for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
10:6 Now these things were our examples,
to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

10:7 Neither be idolaters, as some of them were. As it is written,

"The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play." (Ex 32:6)
10:8 Neither let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them committed,
and in one day twenty-three thousand fell.

10:9 Neither let us test the Lord, as some of them tested, and perished by the serpents.

10:10 Neither grumble, as some of them also grumbled, and perished by the destroyer.

10:11 Now all these things happened to them by way of example,
and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come.

10:12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands be careful that he doesn't fall.
10:13 No temptation has taken you except what is common to man.
God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able,
but will with the temptation also make the way of escape,
that you may be able to endure it.
10:14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

Avoid inappropriate symbolism

10:15 I speak as to wise men. Judge what I say.
10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, isn't it a communion of the blood of Christ?
The bread which we break, isn't it a communion of the body of Christ?
10:17 Because we, who are many, are one bread, one body;
for we all partake of the one bread.
10:18 Consider Israel after the flesh.
Don't those who eat the sacrifices have communion with the altar?

10:19 What am I saying then?
That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?
10:20 But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons,
and not to God, and I don't desire that you would have communion with demons.
10:21 You can't both drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.
You can't both partake of the table of the Lord, and of the table of demons.

10:22 Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

Be sensitive to other people's conscience

10:23 "All things are lawful for me," but not all things are profitable.
"All things are lawful for me," but not all things build up.

10:24 Let no one seek his own, but each one his neighbor's good.
10:25 Whatever is sold in the butcher shop, eat,
asking no question for the sake of conscience,

10:26 for "the earth is the Lord's, and its fullness."
10:27 But if one of those who don't believe invites you to a meal, and you are inclined to go,
eat whatever is set before you, asking no questions for the sake of conscience.

10:28 But if anyone says to you, "This was offered to idols,"
don't eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for the sake of conscience.
For "the earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness."
10:29 Conscience, I say, not your own, but the other's conscience.

For why is my liberty judged by another conscience?
10:30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced for that for which I give thanks?

10:31 Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
10:32 Give no occasions for stumbling, either to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the assembly of God;
10:33 even as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit,
but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.

Discussion Questions

What warnings should Christians heed to from Israel's example in the desert?
What kinds of modern behavior might their examples in the desert be likened to?
How does this passage come in conflict with Free Grace Theology?
What specific activities which Christian are free to engage in might Paul have exhorted the Christians to avoid today?
What does "playing" have to do with idolatry?
What are examples today of unBiblical ceremonies Christians should avoid?
Have you even been subjected to a temptation you couldn't handle?


Consider the Consequences

1Cor 10:1-5 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert

Baptism is a public declaration of one's allegiance. The people of Israel demonstrated their allegiance in following Moses as he followed the cloud through the sea into the desert. Nevertheless, one's public allegiance may differ from one's private convictions. One's true faith is revealed in the long run by one's lifestyle. "And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief." Heb 3:18,19 There are many who are baptized into the Christian faith but who end up disqualified.

Paul leaves open the question as to the salvation status of such people. For a Christian's assurance of salvation is to be proportional to the degree to which he behaves as a child of God should. There are those who fall into sin and are disciplined, like Moses. But there are those, God's people in name only, who diliberately keep on sinning

"If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?" Heb 10:26-29
Whichever the case it is certain that he writes this to motivate the Corinthian Christians to behave properly in view of the consequences.

So "Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ." Philippians 3:17-20

Guard Your Heart

1Cor 10:6-11 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.  Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: "The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry." We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did— and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did— and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did— and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.

Pr 4:23 "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Your heart's desires will determine the direction of your life, and indeed your fate. Therefore control what you set your heart on. Determine what you should set your heart on and the desires you should avoid. Make a conscious attempt to do so.

For example if you find that you are feeling insecure financially or discontent with your circumstances, it says, "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'" Heb 13:5  Nor should we set our hearts on the lusts of the flesh. Concerning unjust suffering or if the Lord has put you in difficult circumstances, respond with meekness. Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without grumbling or resisting. This also means we need to learn to give up our expectations in life to God.

Be Prepared for Temptations

1Cor 10:12-14 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.

"Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position." 2Peter 3:17  "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." 1Peter 5:8

Despite the fact that "No one who is born of God will continue to sin" 1John 3:9a, the saints are subject to the same kind of temptations which are common to all men. There are ways to escape temptations. Some may involved avoiding circumstances which lead to temptation in the first place. Or to learn to flee from temptation. Or to resist it as Jesus did in the wilderness. But in any case we can never excuse ourselves for sinning. For God does not allow tempations beyond what we can handle. "Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey— whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." Rom 6:16-18 And Jesus said, "Everyone who sins is a slave to sin."John 8:34, a behavior of which is not characteristic of the saints.

Therefore watch that you never say to yourself  "I couldn't help myself", for in doing so you call into question God's faithfulness.

Ceremonies are to Reflect One's Faith

1Cor 10:15-22  I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

Wisdom is shown in inferring right applications from the principles to which the scriptures allude. Though Paul doesn't preach sacramentalism, the ceremony of communion has meaning which is to reflect and to express our faith, part of which he spoke about previously in 1Cor 5:6-8

Conversely you should not be involved in a ceremony which contradicts your faith. For example I don't think Christians should be ecumenically involved with Islamic ceremonies affirming their god who denies Jesus Christ being the Son of God, denies his death on the cross, denies his resurrection from the dead. And certainly not being involved in Hindu or Buddhist ceremonies or Chinese ancestor worship which have meaning to them which contradicts our faith. For many worship demons and not God.

When you, perhaps out of friendship with the world and social pressure, participate in non-Christian ceremonies, consider what you are communicating about your faith. You may offend them by abstaining. But better to offend them than to offend God - don't you think?

For example Jesus said, "I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality." Rev 2:14 and "I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols." Rev 2:20 So "Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth." Rev 2:16

Use Your Freedom Constructively

1Cor 10:23,24 "Everything is permissible"— but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"— but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

He had said this previously in 1Cor 6:12,13 "Everything is permissible for me"— but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"— but I will not be mastered by anything. Food for the stomach and the stomach for food"— but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.

By "permissible" (which literally is "lawful"), he is referring not to the spirit of the Law which is reflected in its principles, but rather to the regulations of the law, namely the particular applications of those principles. That is, while we are under the spirit of the Law, Christians are free from the regulations of the law.

As an example of one of the general cases, the spirit of the law is "don't  worship false gods". A regulation in the law is to not “You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD.” Lev 19:28 For such things the pagans did in Moses' time as part of their religious ceremony and he did not want his people falling in with them in a slippery-slope fashion. Christians are not bound to that regulation, but nonetheless there is wisdom in considering applications along the same line of avoiding imitating the world, which could lead to one's falling into sin.

When developing your own applications, your own regulations, consider things which are constructive. For people have come up with applications which are not actually beneficial or constructive. In fact many applications Christians come up with are unnecessarily divisive and destructive. In developing applications remember not to look out just for yourself. Consider how others are affected. "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." Php 2:4,5 And "it is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to seek one’s own honor." Pr 25:27

Don't Violate One's Conscience

1Cor 10:25-29  Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, "The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it." If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if anyone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake— the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience?

Christians are not to violate their own conscience. But we are also not to violate the conscience of another. This is an example of  loving our neighbor as ourself. Beware of utilizing your freedom at the expense of others. You are free to drink wine, but not at the expense of tempting another to get drunk. Women are free to dress as they like, but not at the expense of tempting men to sin sexually. The Corinthians were free to eat what they wanted, but not at the expense of causing a brother to endorse a false god.

That is, "Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind." Rom 14:1-5   But don't vioate the conscience of another.

Relinquish Freedoms to Win Others

1Cor 10:30-33  If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

Notice that this principle is not only with regards to fellow saints, but also to the unsaved. In the previous chapter Paul said, "Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible." 1Cor 9:19 To be a slave in this sense is to freely give up one's rights and priviledges so as to win others to Christ. What freedoms might you reliquish so that the many may be saved, or at least to keep them from stumbling into sin?

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Jan 28,2022