Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today we’ll be looking at the tenth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. In this chapter, Paul reveals the true reasons why we continue to avoid sin, though we are saved.
Reading: I Corinthians 10
Before we begin this reading, it’s useful to know a bit about the history of Israel, particularly that laid out in the book of Exodus. Many of the references made here are only truly significant in that context.
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;
When the children of Israel were led out of Egypt, they all passed through the Red Sea together, and they were all guided by the Lord, who appeared as a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.
2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
In this shared experience, they were all baptised in the same faith and bound to the larger family of Israel.
3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat;
All those who wandered in the desert were fed of manna and quail.
4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
All those who were there drank of the water which was brought from the rock which Moses struck. Here we begin to understand the metaphor – all of us are baptised into the same gospel, partakers of the same scripture, and recipients of the living water which will not run dry (that is, Christ).
5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
Though they had seen all these miracles, and they were all children of Israel, still there was sin and human weakness. Man will not be truly free of these curses until the final day, when we are given perfect form and brought to be with God forever.
6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
We know that there were idols made in the desert. Many grumbled about Moses’s leadership, despite the signs that were given to support him. These issues are listed to remind us of our plight – we may be redeemed, but we are not yet perfected.
7 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.
8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
When the golden calf was built in the desert, Moses punished the people by forcing them to drink water tainted with ground gold. When they committed great fornication, the very earth devoured those sinners. This is the example we have – sin and be punished.
9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.
Many lost faith, and were punished for their sinful ways by poisonous serpents. In this case, we know that the Lord provided a way of salvation – if you looked upon the staff which Moses carried, you would live, though you would still suffer the pain.
10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
Even Miriam, Moses’s sister, began to grumble about him. The Lord punished them all mightily, though at Moses’s urging he ultimately restored Miriam.
11 Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
Guard yourself against sin and complacency. When you think yourself holy, you are likely to give in to a number of temptations whose punishments are grave.
13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: 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 to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
Remember that the Lord was compassionate to the children of Israel. When they complained about the manna, he gave them quail (after punishing their grumbling). When they built the idol, they were not immediately struck down, but they were disciplined. When they grumbled, they were punished by snakes, but still there was a method of salvation.
So it is today. God does not place temptations in our path, but he allows us to be tempted. Even so, he always gives us a way to resist and/or be redeemed when we fail.
14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
15 I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.
These are teachings which make sense to the wise, who are able to see the patterns and embrace truth. Paul gives us reasons, so that we may judge the truth of his words and find them good.
16 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?
“Communion” literally refers to the establishment and enjoyment of community. We are bound together in our communion of the body and the blood, which we share. This is why many denominations have given communion often – it both binds us together and celebrates our union with Christ.
17 For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
18 Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?
All those who eat of the food of the altar (that is, the priests) are bound in communion with God under the old covenant. We are bound with Christ in the new covenant which he has given to us.
19 What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?
20 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.
While we are bound with each other in the communion of Christ, we may yet be bound with others under their deities. We know that the devils which the others worship are powerless against the Lord whom we serve, but it is still best to be with our own than with others.
21 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.
22 Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?
Recall that ours is a jealous God, who seeks our eternal and complete worship and loyalty. It is best that we act in accordance with this truth.
23 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
Though all of our sins are covered under the blood of Christ, not all things are good for us to do. It is of little value for us to make greater company with pagans and atheists than with those who belong to Christ – it has been said that we are the sum of the five closest people to us.
In the same way, we should seek out that which is good and right and true. This preserves us against all else, for we are steeped in that which is right and good and useful for us.
24 Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.
Care more for others than for yourself. This principle edifies the whole community of believers.
25 Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake:
Take what you get. Better is stale bread from a fellow believer than the richest cuisine from fools and liars.
26 For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.
All things are made by our Lord, and all things belong to Him. He is sovereign over all things in this world, visible and invisible.
27 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.
If you know that you commune with idolaters, you may eat, but ask not whether the food is consecrated to a false deity. Call it “plausible deniability”, if you wish.
28 But if any man say unto you, this is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof:
Honor God above all things. This includes food, drink, and all other things. It’s also best not to buy idols and fortune trinkets, for you know the origins thereof.
29 Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?
All this is less for our sake (because we know that there is no true danger to us from devils and idols) than it is for others. They will see your loyalty and earnestness, and wonder.
30 For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?
It’s a pity that we must be judged so, but it is true. We are ambassadors of our Lord, so we must act in ways that are not pleasant for His sake. Let them know how we love and serve our God, and wonder.
31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
This is a key verse that all should know and meditate upon.
32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:
33 Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.
We are saved, but many are still not. We are redeemed, but many are still slaves to sin. We live, yet many are still dead.
Let us act in such a way that they wonder about the God we serve. Let them know that we worship a God who Lives and reigns. In this way, we profit others over ourselves, and many more may be granted the Glory.
Let us Pray
Sovereign and Righteous is the Lord who reigns in the heavens. His might covers all the earth, and even the demons fear his name. Praise be to the Great God, who Lives.
Mighty Father, we know that we are to be ambassadors for you. Though we should do all things in accordance with your will, and we should do all things for your glory, we are yet trapped in a body of sin. Grant us the strength to overcome our weaknesses; show us the way out of all temptations and guide us down that path.
You are the God who is With Us. Jesus is the Prince of Peace and the King of Kings, so we know that we serve one with dominion over all things. Help us to continue in this faith which you have granted to us.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
May the Lord go before you to lead you,
Behind you to encourage you,
Beside you to befriend you,
Beneath you to uphold you,
Above you to protect you,
And within you to inspire you.
Go in the peace and power of the Almighty God. Amen.