For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 1 Corinthians10:1
The expression “I do not want you to be ignorant,” was a favorite literary technique of Paul. He used it in several places (cf. Rom. 1:13; 11:25; 1 Cor. 10:1; 12:1; 2 Cor. 1:8; 1 Thess. 4:13). McGee says, “When Paul writes that, you can be sure that the brethren were ignorant or unaware of something he is going to explain to them…” 1
We need to realize that the apostle here is continuing right on with the subject he began in chapter 8, that is, how we should deal with idolatry and idolatrous sacrifices. He will continue on with this subject into the first verse of chapter 11.
It is important here that Paul aligns us with our ancestors or fathers of the faith. Abraham was not just the father of Israel, but he is now the father of all who believe in Jesus (Rom. 4:16). Guthrie says, “The expression ‘our fathers’ points to the continuation of the church of God from its Old Testament foundations.” 2 In Romans 11:17, Paul carefully illustrates that we Christians are now a part of the ancient olive tree of Israel. In Ephesians 2:11 through 3:13, he makes the mystery known, that Gentile believers are becoming joined with Israel as the two will make up God’s new creation.3
The teaching here is rich in its symbolism and has numerous spiritual implications for us all. Paul tells us that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. Pfeiffer and Harrison refer to this as their “prolonged supernatural guidance” (cf. Ex 13:21-22; 14:19).4 Let us try to understand this. Every day on their forty-year journey, the people of Israel were protected and guided by a supernatural cloud, as noted in Exodus 13:21-22. Just think of it! There was never a day that the average Israelite could not look up and see the presence of God, or the Shekinah glory of God. There was never a night that he could not peek out of his tent and see the pillar of fire. In all her history, Israel never again experienced the presence of God to such an extent.
Then, there was the matter of passing through the sea. We remember how the sea opened that night and Israel passed through safely. When Pharaoh and his army tried to follow, they were met with something like twin tidal waves coming from opposite directions. They were hit so hard that chariots and horses actually flew through the air and into their burial at sea (Exo. 15:1). What amazing and astounding events! How could Israel ever forget such miraculous interventions by the Almighty God? Yet, they did, and it didn’t take them long. Soon they were dancing around an idol that Aaron had made for them. Keener comments on Paul’s words saying: “He parallels the experience of salvation in the first exodus and salvation in Jesus to show that salvation does not render one invulnerable to falling.” 5
“They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (10:2). We see here that Israel had a baptism that was very much a pattern and type of Christian baptism to come centuries later. There are some commentators who try to make this metaphor “walk on all fours” so to speak. They try to say that the Israelites got wet in the cloud and sprinkled from the raging sea, but there is no proof of this. Bruce remarks that they did not come into contact with either of these things.6 McGee, in his folksy down-to-earth manner, describes the scene in more detail: “Actually they did not get wet at all!…they went through the sea on dry ground….The folk who really got wet were the Egyptians…So obviously when it says they were baptized unto Moses, he is not talking about water…Well, it simply means that they were identified with Moses…” 7
“They all ate the same spiritual food” (10:3). It appears that the Israelites had an all-around spiritual experience when they journeyed from Egypt to Canaan. Even their food was provided – spiritual food at that (Exo. 16:4, 14). Psalm 78:25 calls it the “bread of angels.” Their meals were thus provided supernaturally for the next forty years. This was a clear type of the true bread from heaven, which is Jesus Christ (Jn. 6:31, 48). Again, it is a type or shadow of the sacrament of his body. The Corinthians were partaking of that sacrament (the Lord’s Supper), and no doubt were expecting that it would protect them, like some sort of talisman. Of course, that didn’t even happen for the Israelites, as they soon fell into idolatry. Trapp says of them, “They fed upon sacraments, and yet died in God’s displeasure.” 8
The Israelites ate spiritual food, “and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ” (10:4). Water from the rock is mentioned on two separate accounts in Scripture, one at the beginning of their journey (Exo. 17:1-9) and the other near the end (Num. 20:1ff.). Several commentators tell of a Jewish legend, that the rock, or else a stream from the rock, followed Israel throughout their journey.9 We now know that this legend was true and that the rock was Christ himself, Israel’s Messiah in his pre-incarnate form. On one occasion, the Lord instructed Moses to speak to the rock. Instead, he struck the rock and water came out. For this transgression Moses was not allowed to lead the people into the land of promise (Num. 20:7-12).
We cannot miss the fact that in the Bible God is described as the rock (Gen. 49:24; Deut. 32:15; Isa. 26:4). It is clear that Paul assigns to Christ the very title used of God himself.10 In 1 Peter 2:4, Jesus is even called “the living Stone.” Despite the fact that the rock followed them, providing spiritual drink, and despite the fact that they feasted for forty years on spiritual food, the people didn’t make it into the land of promise. The Corinthians were feeding on spiritual food and drink (symbolized by the Eucharist), yet, Paul paints a foreboding picture for them if they continued to hang out around idol temples.
“Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness” (10:5). Guzik calls this verse “a hard-hitting understatement.” 11 God was not pleased with almost all of them. Only Joshua and Caleb made it to the Promised Land (Num. 14:28-30; 26:65; Deut. 1:34-39). That is not very good odds – two out of two million. They made it by faith. Forty years after the exodus began the youth of Israel also made it into the land under Joshua’s leadership. They never saw the great miracles witnessed by their fathers. Rather, they entered the land by simple faith.
God was not pleased with the others. Their bodies were scattered in the desert. The Greek word is katestrōthēsan. Utley says: “‘…they were laid low in the wilderness.’ This word implies their bones were scattered along the desert route (cf. Num. 14:16).” 12 Here we almost get the picture of their bleached bones scattered along the way. They had become the castaways of God. Now, we cannot assume by these pictures that all these throngs of people missed out on the eternal kingdom of God. They missed out on his natural promises for sure. But we must remember in this crowd was the great Moses himself, as well as Aaron and Miriam. There were no doubt many others who had valiantly stood for truth, but who were not able to enter into the land for one reason or another.
So, how does all this apply to the Corinthians? Morris says, “It may be that some of the Corinthians felt that their baptism and their use of Holy Communion guaranteed their final salvation, no matter what they did.” 13 Smith adds: “Such a magical view of the Christian ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper plus an inadequate appreciation of idolatry’s dangers apparently led many of the ‘strong’ or ‘knowledgeable’ Corinthians (cf. 8:1-4, 7, 10-11) to flirt with idolatry.” 14 Some Christians today cling to the “once saved always saved” by-words. While this is true from God’s perspective, we can never take salvation for granted and cease our striving.
EXAMPLES FOR US
Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 1 Corinthians 10:6
We see here how chosen people, even God’s very own folks, can sometimes get themselves in awful messes. The Israelites, miraculously delivered from Egypt and miraculously cared for by God, began to lust after evil things. They first longed for the fleshpots of Egypt (Exo. 16:3). They loathed the miraculous manna and lusted for meat (Num.11:4-6). Then they began to get tangled up with idolatry (Exo. 32:1-6; Num. 25:1-3). As a result of their idolatry, they immediately fell into adultery and lewd sexual acts (Exo. 32:6, 19). Many died as a result of God’s wrath.
Meyer remarks: “The great lesson is human failure under the most promising circumstances. Here were people who had been brought out of the most terrible hardships and perils, who were under the greatest obligations to God, but who, in the hour of temptation, absolutely failed him…” 15 The Corinthians needed to take heed of their example. Likewise, we need to take heed of it, lest we presume upon the grace of God.
It is important that we do not miss this message. Paul says that the Israelites were examples (tupoi) for the Corinthians and for us. This word speaks of an example we should imitate (1 Pet. 5:3; 1 Tim. 4:12) or an example to be avoided, as in this case. It can also speak of type in a doctrinal sense as well (Rom. 5:14; Heb. 9:24).16
Coffman says: “The blunt meaning here is that Christians should not suppose that their having been baptized into Christ and having been made partakers of the Lord’s table, nor the fact of their sharing high privileges of spiritual life in God’s kingdom, could endow them with any immunity to sin, a conceit which it seems some of the Corinthians had.” 17
“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 revelry.’” (10:7). We may think we are far removed from idolatry today. After all, who would bow down to a block of wood, a carved stone or a piece of metal? Our idols are just more sophisticated today. They are sometimes still made of wood, stone and metal though, as we bow down to our expensive houses, fancy automobiles and other paraphernalia. But many other things today fall into the category of idols. Tim Challies, in his book The Next Story, Life and Faith after The Digital Explosion says, “There is an unmistakable connection between technology and idolatry.” 18
Today some of the most serious idolatry is the making of God in the image of man – of ourselves. There is the sad story of one Sheila Larson. She was a young nurse who described her faith as “Sheilaism.” She said, “I believe in God. I’m not a religious fanatic. I can’t remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It’s Sheilaism. Just my own little voice.” 19
We can’t ignore the idolatry of philosophy that has made such a wreck out of our society. Patrick Glynn says, “The great error of the Enlightenment – for which the worst horrors of modern history are themselves the evidence – was the idolatry of reason, the belief that reason could replace God.” 20
The children of Israel had their problem with idolatry and so did the Corinthians. The Israelites made for themselves a golden calf (Ex. 32:1-6), no doubt patterned after the popular Apis bull of Egypt. Probably, the idea was to make some image representing the true God, but that somehow never works out. Calvin says, “Dancing comes after a full diet.” He says, that the people, “having observed their sacred banquet, rose up to celebrate the games, that nothing might be wanting in honor of the idol…” 21 This was one of the sorriest affairs that ever happened to Israel. Keener reports how the later rabbis looked upon this episode as one of the most embarrassing in Israel’s history.22
Obviously, for the Corinthians, the problem was not so simple as merely eating meat that had been offered to idols, which they later bought in the market. The real problem with the Corinthians was idolatry itself.23
“We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did— and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died” (10:8). The Israelites were not done with idolatry and sexual immorality. In Numbers 25:1-9, they were lured by the Midianites and Moabites into the worship of the Baal of Peor, followed by gross immorality. As we have mentioned, ancient idolatry usually included immorality and there was no shortage of “holy” temple prostitutes to carry this out. As a result of this open and flagrant idolatry God destroyed 24,000 of the Israelites. Corinth had its share if idol temples and the accompanying sexual sin.
There is an obvious discrepancy in the 23,000 Paul mentions and the 24,000 stated in the Hebrew text of Numbers 25:9. This has been explained in several ways. Paul could be referring to those slain by the plague the one day, while the Numbers 25:9 reference could be to others who died from the effects.24 The extra thousand may have been slain by Phinehas and companions as they dealt with those who were chief in this idolatrous rampage.25 These warnings are surely for us in our sex-crazed 21st Century.
“We should not test Christ, as some of them did— and were killed by snakes” (10:9). This account is reflected in Numbers 21:4-9. The people had complained because there was no water and because they detested the heavenly food. God judged them by sending venomous snakes among them. As a result, many Israelites died. This episode had a good ending though. God allowed Moses to make a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. All those bitten were healed when they looked upon the bronze serpent. Through Christian history this has always been an image of Jesus who was also put up on a pole. All who look to him are healed of their sin and sickness.
“And do not grumble, as some of them did— and were killed by the destroying angel.” (10:10). It appears that the reference here is to Numbers 16:41, where the people grumbled against Moses and Aaron, charging them with the deaths of their fellow Israelites. Their charges resulted in another great plague being sent. The Greek for grumble or murmur is gogguzete, an onomatopoetic word.26 Such words seek to imitate the sound of that which they describe. In other places, such as Exodus 12:23 and 2 Samuel 24:16, the Bible speaks of the destroying angel. He was sent in this very situation. We might note that this was not the only time the Hebrews grumbled. It was their continual practice (cf. Exo. 15:24; 16:2ff.; 17:3; Num. 11:1; 14:2ff; 16:11, 41; Deut. 1:27).
It is good when we can let the Lord control our tongues. It is blessed when we stay quiet if we cannot say something good about someone or something. I remember a story my mother-in-law told long ago. She knew a woman who always said something good about everyone. Someone asked her if she could even say something good about the devil. She replied, “Well, he’s a hard worker.”
WARNINGS FOR US
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 1 Corinthians 10:11
These Old Testament examples were for the Corinthians and they are for us, who live at the end of the age. They are for warnings, lest we fall into the same patterns as did the Israelites of long ago. The early church believed that the coming of Christ had introduced us into the last days (Acts 2:17) or the end of days (Heb. 1:2). This period is also referred to as the end of times (1 Pet. 1:20), the end of all things (1 Pet. 4:7), or the end of the ages (Heb. 9:26).27 Utley says of this period, “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!’” 28
It is sobering to realize that the last day clock was already ticking for the Corinthians in the First Century. We can only imagine where we are in that end-day time scheme after two thousand years have now passed.
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (10:12). Barnes has to say of this verse: “A confidence in our own security is no evidence that we are safe. Such a confidence may be one of the strongest evidences that we are in danger. Those are most safe who feel that they are weak and feeble, and who feel their need of divine aid and strength.” 29
Guzik compares temptation to rocks in the harbor. When the tide gets low everyone can see the danger and avoid it. However, Satan likes to raise the tide and obscure the rocks so that our little boats will crash upon them.30 He also tells of a little girl who had a sure cure for Satan’s temptations. She explained that when Satan arrived at the door of her heart, she just asked Jesus to answer the door. When Satan saw Jesus he would just say, “Oops, sorry, I must have the wrong house.” 31
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it.” (10:13). This is surely one of the great defense verses to keep on hand. When temptation comes, we need to start looking for that way of escape that the Lord promises us here. God knows how much we can stand, and when we have had all we can take, he opens the doorway of escape for us. It is then our responsibility to flee out that door. There are several important things we are to flee from. One is fornication (1 Cor. 6:18) and another is idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14).
Barclay gives us some background on the way of escape. The Greek word is ekbasis, and it pictures a mountain pass that opens up so that a surrounded army can escape to safety.32 McGee exclaims, “Let the Devil see your heels – run as hard as you can to get away from the temptation.” 33
IDOL’S FEAST OR THE LORD’S FEAST?
Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 1 Corinthians10:14
Coffman says that it might not be wise for the Corinthians to attend feasts where meat sacrificed to idols is served, lest they be drawn back into their former sins.34 It is a little like the recovering alcoholic going back just for a little visit at the bar. Idolatry was hard enough to deal with because the ancient society was totally absorbed with it. Stedman says, “…the whole Roman and Greek citizenry of the city regarded the temple as the most exciting place in town. There you could get the best food, served up in the open-air restaurant. There they had the wildest music and all the seductive pleasures of wine, women and song.” 35
The ancient Christian writer Tertullian comments: “When the apostle says: ‘Flee from the worship of idols,’ he means idolatry whole and entire. Look closely at the thicket and see how many thorns lie hidden beneath the leaves.” 36 Once again, we need to let the devil see our heels as we run away.
“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?” (10:15-16). No doubt, we all know that the Lord’s Supper was instituted during the Jewish Passover, which was being celebrated by Jesus and his disciples. The Passover celebration was built around four cups of wine, two before the meal and two after it. The cup immediately after the meal was called “the cup of blessing.” It is generally accepted that this cup, the third cup, was the one Jesus took as he instituted the Lord’s Supper.37
Sometimes this third cup is called the cup of redemption, for God says, “I will redeem you with outstretched arm” (Exo. 6:6). We can now understand how this promise came true when Jesus was crucified. His arms were outstretched on the cross for us. They were nailed to the cross. His precious blood was shed for all mankind, that through that blood we all might have forgiveness of sins and salvation. We read in Matthew 26:27-28, that as Jesus was eating the Passover meal with his disciples, “…he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’”
More than likely, Jesus blessed the cup with the very Hebrew blessing that is used today in the Passover, “Baruch atah Adonai Elo-he-nu Melek ha-olam, Boreh p’ree ha-gafen,” (Blessed are you O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine).
Paul is saying in these verses that when we partake of the Lord’s Supper we become participants or sharers in it. The Greek word used here for sharing in the blood and sharing in the body of Christ is the word koinonia (fellowship). This word is used again in verse 18, showing that we also become partners and participants in the altar.38 Barnes says, “In almost all nations the act of eating together has been regarded as a symbol of unity or friendship.” 39 Jamieson, Faussett & Brown draw out the implications that Paul is making here: “…the partaking of the Lord’s Supper involves a partaking of the Lord himself, and the partaking of the Jewish sacrificial meats involved a partaking of the altar of God, and, as the heathens sacrifice to devils, to partake of an idol feast is to have fellowship with devils.” 40
“Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf” (10:17). As Paul speaks of Communion he paints a beautiful picture here. He speaks of Christians in Christ as making up a single loaf of bread. The eloquent Chrysostom describes it in this way: “The body of Christ is not many bodies but only one body. For just as the bread, which consists of many grains, is made one, to the point that the separate grains are no longer visible, even though they are still there, so we are joined to each other and to Christ.” 41
SACRIFICES OFFERED TO DEMONS
Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?1 Corinthians 10:18
At the Jewish temple, the priests and Levites were always given their share of the sacrifices. They and their families were sustained by these holy offerings. Also, those who came making offerings were able to share in most of them. In some sacrifices, the one making the offering, as well as family and friends could share in eating part of the sacrifice. It was a sort of holy banquet (Deut. 12:17-18; 14:22-27). The act of eating at the temple was a way of restoring their relationship with God, and it made possible the forgiveness of their sins.42 In a similar manner, Paul would now point out how there was also a participation with the gods or rather false gods when one would join in the pagan sacrifices.
“Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything?” (10:19). Once more, Paul wants to make perfectly clear that the idol is nothing. It is only a lifeless block of wood, stone or metal (cf. Is. 44:12-20; 45:20-25; 46:1-11). However, Paul knows that there is something lurking behind the idol, and that something is spiritual and sinister.
“No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons” (10:20). Barclay shares a lot of information about how the ancient world was tormented by demons. He says, “The world was packed with demons. For the Jew there were the shedim…These were evil spirits who haunted empty houses, who lurked ‘in the crumbs on the floor, in the oil in the vessels, in the water which we would drink, in the diseases which attack us, in the air, in the room, by day and by night.’” 43 Of course, demons were especially present and powerful around the idols. We can imagine that Satan lost no opportunity to work false signs and wonders to convince the doubting.
Barclay further comments: “…. it was often held that, after the meat had been sacrificed, the god himself was in it and that at the banquet he entered into the very bodies and spirits of those who ate…The person who sacrificed was in a real sense a sharer with the altar; he had a mystic communion with the god.” 44 Obviously, this was the dangerous part about idolatry that Paul was warning against. He did not want Christians to join in communion with these pagan gods and have this mystical communion with them by eating at the temple sacrifices.
“…One of the great statues of Christ is that by Thorwaldsen; after he had carved it, he was offered a commission to carve a statue of Venus for the Louvre. His answer was, ‘The hand that carved the form of Christ can never carve the form of a heathen goddess.” 45
“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” (10:21). Bruce remarks that the “cup of demons” could have a reference to the libation that was often poured out to the sponsoring deity at the end of the meal.46 Barnes brings all this down to the present by adding: “The custom of drinking ‘toasts’ at feasts and celebrations arose from this practice of pouring out wine, or drinking in honor of the pagan gods; and is a practice that still partakes of the nature of paganism…Such a pouring out of a libation was usually accompanied with a prayer to the idol god, that he would accept the offering; that he would be propitious; and that he would grant the desire of the worshipper. From that custom the habit of expressing a sentiment, or proposing a toast, uttered in drinking wine, has been derived.” 47
Paul was certain that Christians could not be involved at idol temples, joining in idol feasts and idol worship. All this had nothing to do with the holy table of the Lord or the holy people of the Lord.
“Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?” (10:22). Clearly, for Christians to visit idol temples and join in worship and festivities was to ask for trouble. Both the Corinthians and we today must keep in mind that our God is a jealous God. He says in Exodus 20:5: “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me…” How can we dare provoke God to jealousy (parazēlouoo)? How can we become spiritual adulterers by hanging around an idol temple?
OUR FREEDOM IN CHRIST
“I have the right to do anything,” you say— but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”— but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:23
Once more, we probably have reflected here something the Corinthians were mouthing. Paul cannot disagree with the basis of what they were saying. The Christian does have a great deal of freedom. For instance, Christians have the right to eat anything (cf. Mk. 7:14-23; Acts 10:9-16, 28; 1 Tim. 4:3-5). They can eat anything that is set before them without asking any questions (Lk. 10:8).48 However, Paul knows that everything is not beneficial or constructive. Clement of Alexandria once said: “Those who take advantage of everything that is lawful rapidly deteriorate into doing what is not lawful.” 49
Christians have the responsibility to bring glory to God in all things (1 Cor. 10:31). However, it is impossible to bring glory to God if we are causing others to stumble. Wiersbe gives us several questions to ask ourselves when we are making decisions about things we will accept or do: “Will they lead to freedom or slavery? (1 Cor. 6:12). Will they make me a stumbling block or a stepping-stone? (1 Cor. 8:13). Will they build me up or tear me down? (1 Cor. 10:23). Will they only please me, or will they glorify Christ? (1 Cor. 10:31). Will they help to win the lost to Christ or turn them away? (1 Cor. 10:33).” 50
It seems that Paul is briefly returning to the subject he dealt with in 6:2, and that is how Christian freedom and responsibility can be balanced.51 Sometimes it seems that the whole Christian life is just one delicate balancing act.
“No one should seek their own good, but the good of others” (10:24). We cannot just seek our own wellbeing, but we must consider other people (cf. Phil. 2:4-5; Rom. 15:1-3; 1 Cor. 11:1). Fee says, “…Christian liberty alone, no matter how legitimate, does not regulate Christian conduct.” 52
It was evil Cain that once asked a question that we should never ask: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9). For the Christian, the answer is always “Yes.” We are our brother’s keeper. We must not harm our brother or sister by our careless actions.53 Our freedoms, in a very real sense, are not just for ourselves, but for others (cf. 1 Cor. 10:33; 12:7; 13:5; Rom. 14:7; 15:2; Phil. 2:1-5, 21).
“Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (10:25-26). Paul has forbidden the Christians to eat sacrificial meat in pagan temples. Now he turns to the subject of sacrificial meat that is later sold at the temple and in the surrounding markets. This meat had been sacrificed to idols. The Jewish people would have had to ask questions as to whether such meat was sacrificed or not. Perhaps Christians were wondering if they too should ask such questions.54
In answer, Paul quotes Psalm 24:1,“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (cf. Psa. 50:11; Deut. 10:14). God owns the earth, even the animals used in pagan sacrifices. At the creation, God says many times that everything he has made is “good” (Gen. 1:4-31). Stedman feels that Paul is saying here, “Do not run away from life. Live right out in the midst of it. Do not try to avoid being normal, natural people are enjoying the normal, natural things of life around you.” 55 Years ago, as I was agonizing over some particular decision, I felt the Lord saying to me, “Jim, why don’t you just join the human race?”
Once Dr. John Mackie [president of the Church of Scotland] and two other clergyman were dispatched to call on an Orthodox priest in a small Greek village. The priest was overjoyed and offered them some special Havana cigars. The other two priests declined but Dr. Mackie took one, puffed it a few times and commented on how good it was. The priest then offered the group some of his choicest wine. The two other priests declined but Dr. Mackie took a glass, sniffed it, took a drink and praised its quality. Later in their jeep the two pious clergymen turned on Dr. Mackie asking him if he really smoked and drank although he was the President of the Church of Scotland and officer of the World Council of Churches. Dr. Mackie’s Scottish temper got the better of him and he replied: “No…I don’t, but somebody had to be a Christian.” 56
WHAT TO EAT – WHAT NOT TO EAT
If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 1 Corinthians 10:27
Barnes says, “Christianity is not designed to abolish the courtesies of social life; or to break the bonds of contact; or to make people misanthropes or hermits. It allows and cultivates, under proper Christian restraints, the contact in society which will promote the comfort of people, and especially that which may extend the usefulness of Christians.” 57 If we are invited out by a pagan, we should go and enjoy ourselves. If the person feeds us we should eat what is set before us without raising a fuss. Actually, it would probably be a breach of etiquette for us to ask whether something had been sacrificed to idols anyway.58 We should just eat it and shut up.
“But if someone says to you, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice,’ then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience?”(10:28-29). It really doesn’t matter who brings this up. It could be the host or it could be a weaker brother or sister (cf. 8:10). It could even be a Jewish believer who is present. If the matter is brought up, we should refrain from eating the meat. As Bruce says, “Christian liberty should be modified…by Christian charity.” 59
“If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?” (10:30). As Christians, we should always give thanks to God for our food (1 Tim. 4:4). In the Gentile world we are prone to bless the food. However, in the Jewish world people do not bless the food, but they bless God who gives the food. If we are denounced for eating, we may need to check and see if we are offending the weak conscience of a brother or sister in Christ.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (10:31). Utley comments, “This is the universal principle applicable in every area of the believer’s life (cf. Eph. 6:7; Col. 3:17, 23; 1 Pet. 4:11).” 60 Kretzmann adds, “The fine, tactful decorum of Paul in every conceivable situation obliged people to respect him and in many cases opened the way for the work of the gospel.” 61
We are to do all for the glory of God. It is really that simple. This verse gets down into the cracks and crevices of our daily lives. It applies to everything. McGee cannot help but adding: “Unfortunately, there are Christians who don’t even go to church for the glory of God. They go for some other reason, or maybe just to criticize or to gossip.” 62
“Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved” (10:32-33). Paul was extra careful not to put stumbling blocks before other people, whether they were Jews, Christians or pagans. In the next chapter, the first verse gives us his great challenge regarding what we have covered. He says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”