Lesson 30: "Flee From Idolatry. . .Do All to the Glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:14, 31)
I Corinthians 10:1--11:1
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson #30. Welcome again! I Corinthians chapter 10! I do not see chapter 10 as answering another question on Paul's list of questions he received from Corinth. Although Paul will get back to that list later, chapter 10 is rather a continuation of chapter 9 and a further discussion of the same. It is true that Paul broadened that discussion at this point and ties it back into what he had already said about idolatry and other things. (Remember chapters and verses were not put there by Paul, but these study and locater devices were added about 1000 years later.) In the last half of chapter 9, you will recall, Paul rambled into a discussion of some of his evangelistic techniques, i.e. how he disciplined himself by keeping under his body (verse 27), and how he labored so as to preach the gospel without charge (verse 18), and how Paul tried to accommodate any he worked with whether Jews, Gentiles, Greeks or barbarians (verses 19-23). Then Paul expressed the fear that after preaching to others, he himself could be a castaway in the last verse, i.e. we always face the possibility of apostasy and we must constantly guard against falling away. Now, notice how he began chapter 10, "Moreover" (verse 1), i.e. "moreover" means in addition to what has been said. In other words, more thought on the same subject. So, please realize in chapter 10 Paul is continuing the same thought. Let's read it! There's not a natural and convenient place to break Paul's discussion; so, let's read the first 10 verses and discuss that and then we'll read some more. Beginning in I Corinthians 10:1, let's read.
"Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written. The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer."
All right, you recognize this, I'm sure, as a continuation of Paul's illustration material and that he took his illustration (here) from the Old Testament. Paul addressed the Corinthian Christians as "brethren." And although Paul was writing this primarily to Gentile Christians at Corinth, i.e. non-Jews, he refers to the Israelites back in the book of Exodus and the book of Numbers as "our fathers" (verse 1). Reflect on that just a minute! The Mosaic period was preparatory to the Christian age. But, even beyond that we need to recognize that the patriarchs of Israel were our spiritual fathers, i.e. the forerunner of Christians (Jews or Gentiles), in the sense of "faith." In writing to the Galatians, a little later, Paul said, "they which are of faith (i.e. Christians), the same are the children of Abraham." Now, how is that? The next verse there in Galatians 3:8 explains: "the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed." You see, the point is: through faith, Christians are descendants of Abraham. It doesn't make any difference whether you are Jew, Gentile, Greek, English, Kentuckian, hillbilly, briar-hopper or a country bumpkin; if you are a Christian, when you were baptized into Christ you became a spiritual descendant of Abraham. Children of the kingdom, i.e. members of Christ's church, are the spiritual descendants of Abraham. Now, please get this embedded into your Christian thinking. Jews by race ARE descendants of Abraham after the flesh. But, that does not make them descendants of Abraham in the spiritual sense. Two different things! Don't get them confused. Paul WAS CAUTIOUS to make this distinction. Look down in verse 18 for example; Paul said, "Behold Israel after the flesh...", i.e. Jews by race; those that followed the law of Moses, you see, not Christians. Get back to verse 1, what happened to our spiritual fathers back there Paul? They "were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses..." Do you get that? Paul sees a likeness between the Israelites back there and Christians today. What's the likeness? God called the Israelites out of Egypt through the leadership of Moses. Just as Moses conducted the Israelites through the Red Sea as it miraculously opened up and they were brought through a narrow passage to Mt. Sinai where God gave them his covenant, we, today as Christians, have been conducted through a narrow passage called baptism and thus baptized into Christ and given Christ's covenant, the New Testament, that separates us from the world, i.e. spiritual Egypt. Just as Moses and the old law guided them back there, Christ and the New Testament guide us today. Thus, the word "baptize" in verse 2 is a figurative expression and does not mean baptism for the remission of sins as used in Acts chapter 2. Just as they were given miraculous food in the desert, i.e. manna or a form of bread and water from a rock as a form of drink, we, in a manner of likeness, are given spiritual food in the form of the Lord's supper which Paul refers to as "communion" (down in verse 16). Even the Israelites (back there) ate and drank with the understanding of (or a view to) the coming Messiah; thus, "They drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ." (verse 4) This implies the Corinthians were very familiar with the Lord's supper, but we'll get back to that. However, the point Paul wanted to make here was that many of the Israelites back in those days succumbed to the temptations of the desert and were lost, just as Paul had cautioned the Corinthians could be lost back up in verse 27 of chapter 9. Then in verses 6-8, Paul makes reference to an occasion recorded at the beginning of Numbers chapter 25, where the Israelites got into a big sexual orgy with the women of Moab and sacrificed to the Moabite god, Baalpeor, and the bottom line was that thousands were lost or slain as a result. Thus, Paul here identifies three sins, "lust" verse 6), "idolatry" (verse 7) and "fornication" (verse 8), in common with Corinth and also with Israel at the place of Shittim back in the desert, where we talked about. You see, lust, idolatry and fornication must have flowed like water in the community of Corinth. Some of the Corinthian church members were sucked in, so-to-speak, and Paul was sounding the alarm. All right, let's read some more, verses 11-22. Please put your eyes on the text, beginning in verse 11: "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to men: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the
Lord's table, and of the tables of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?"
Back to verse 11. This verse explains why we must read the Old Testament. It also makes the point that this, the Christian age, is the last age. Hebrews 9:26-27 shows that this age will be followed by the Judgment. Verse 12 is an illusion back to verse 27 up above and contrary to what some teach, this verse teaches very clearly it is possible to be lost after becoming a Christian. Verse 13 is an interesting verse; it has a great message. The apostle, in effect, says it's possible to overcome all temptations. James said in the second verse of his book we should treat temptations as joyful opportunities to perfect our faith. Then in verse 14, what is the best way to handle any temptation of idolatry, fornication and lust? You know, there are some things we simply must not flirt with. If you get close to it, you are going to get sucked in. Someone used to say; "if you get too close you'll get it on ye." So, don't get it on ye! And Paul gives the formula (verse 14), "flee from idolatry," i.e. get away from it. Don't even be associated with it. Run! Now, what about fornication? Paul said back in I Corinthians 6:18 (we've already covered it), "Flee fornication." Run! If you flirt with it, you'll get it on ye! It's just that simple. Over in II Timothy 2:22, Paul gave some friendly advice to his young preacher friend, Timothy; the one Paul was sending to Corinth as Paul wrote this. In II Timothy 2:22, Paul told Timothy, "Flee...youthful lusts." So, flee, flee, flee! Flee fornication! Flee idolatry! And flee youthful lusts; they'll get ye! Remember Joseph in the Old Testament when Potiphar's wife approached him? A great example. In verse 15, you will remember back in chapter 8 in talking about idolatry; we said there was no indication the Corinthians were involved in idolatry and neither is there any indication they promoted the practice in any way. Their question had to do with meats offered to idols, not idolatry as such. So, notice in verse 15, Paul said, "I speak as to wise men." In this respect, Paul commended the Corinthians. Again in verse 19 the reference is to "that which is offered in sacrifice to idols." For all practical purposes, the thought in verses 16-22 is summed up in verse 22: "Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils." The Lord does not allow double dipping in religion. You can't be a Christian and something else at the same time. Some people think you can be a Christian and a Mason and a Mormon and anything else you can stir in. Be careful! The Lord expects your full allegiance! There is a common misconception in our country that one can be a Christian and a denominational at the same time. That is not a scriptural teaching. I ask someone about their religion and they say, "I am a Baptist," or "I am a Methodist" or "I am Presbyterian," or something else. I usually ask, wouldn't you rather be a Christian? Then they start trying to convince me that a Christian and a denominational is the same thing. That is not true. To be a Christian you must obey Jesus. To be a denominational, you must obey a denominational creed and their creed book. Some try to worship God and observe all kinds of holy days and do it their way. A dear friend of mine observes Christmas, with a Christmas tree and all the trimmings. I asked her if that was worship. She said, "Oh No! I observe Christmas in a non-religious way." How can one observe a religious holiday in a non-religious way? Have you got an answer for that? In verse 21, Paul said you can't worship the Lord and the devil at the same time. You cannot be a Christian and a something else. In verse 22, not to give the Lord full allegiance is said to "provoke the Lord to jealousy..." That thought is used over and over in the Old Testament with the idea of idolatry.
Let's read the rest of chapter 10. Beginning in verse 23, we'll read down through the first verse of chapter 11. Here we go: "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth. Whatsoever is sold in the shambles that eat asking no question for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast and ye be disposed to go, whatsoever is set before you eat asking no question for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that showed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof: conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience? For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ."
All right, in verse 23 you recognize Paul's rule that he gave before back in 6:12. The point is don't insist on your rights. Consider the effect upon others. Think what a great world this would be if everyone applied this rule in terms of what is said in verse 24! The first step is to get self out of it. That's hard to do isn't it? Then verses 25-30 goes back to the material in chapter 8. The point is that Christians do not have to spend their time investigating the meat market trying to ascertain which god or even if the meat has been consecrated to an idol. Just eat what's sold and forget about such superstitions and such dumb idols and don't make an issue of it. Don't ask any questions. Don't make an issue out of it. Idols are nothing. Everything is clean in and of itself (verse 26). There are no clean and unclean foods in the Christian age. Some may be more nutritious than others; but foods are not ceremonially clean or unclean. However, if it offended a brother's conscience then take that into consideration; don't do it for his sake. Paul was in effect agreeing with those that were strong, so-to-speak. But, one must also consider the weaker brother. Notice in verse 27, that it's all right for Christians to eat with and associate with non-Christians. But, you must be on your toes NOT to sanction heathen habits or any idolatrous beliefs, practices and superstitions that they push. Don't be sucked in; don't get it on you. Politely refuse to participate. Verses 29-30 simply means you may have to give up some of your rights and Christian liberties in doing so, but seek the welfare of the other (verse 24). Verse 31 is a great principle! Learn it well. If it's eating, drinking or whatsoever (and "whatsoever" includes anything and everything) "do all to the glory of God." Paul repeated that rule in Col. 3:17. You can't take a vacation from your Christianity. Don't be offensive to Jews, Greeks or Christians (verse 32). Paul said that's the way I do it (verse 33, 11:1) and you do it just like me, i.e. Paul. Have a good day!