1Corinthians 10 - Outline of 1Corinthians (MENU page)
This chapter is a continuation of Paul's answer to the question (posed by the Corinthian church) concerning eating meats offered to idols. In the first part of the answer (in ch.8), Paul agreed with the knowledgeable questioners: that because we have been saved, by the grace of the living and true God, we have nothing to fear from empty idols. Therefore, we have liberty to eat such meat. However, we ought to restrain our liberty, in love for 'weaker' brethren who would be caused to sin, in following our example, by acting contrary to what their conscience allowed.
     In ch.9, the apostle presented his own way of life as a positive example, of setting aside one's rights and privileges, in order to benefit others (eg., 1Cor 9:19). He urged his readers to run the race of life, as he did: with self-denial, self-discipline, and with their eyes on the prize, lest they be disqualified (eg., 1Cor 9:23-27).
     As ch.10 opens, Paul presents a negative example: the disobedience of ancient Israel, because of which a generation was disciplined severely and disqualified from entrance into the land of promise.
1. Moreover, brethren,
I would not that ye should be ignorant
{without knowledge, cp. 1Cor 8:1,2},
how that all our fathers were under the cloud,
{Ex 13:21,22}
and all passed through the sea;
{Ex 14:19-22}
2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
{Ex 14:31}
3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat;
{Ex 16:4,15,35}
4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink:
{Ex 17:6; Num 20:7-8,11}
for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them:
and that Rock was Christ.
{Psa 18:31; Rom 9:31-33; 1Pet 2:6-8}
5 But with many of them God was not well pleased:
for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
The word 'all' occurs five times, in this brief recounting of Israel's experience during their exodus from Egypt. The entire congregation enjoyed the spiritual and physical blessings of the Lord's presence, protection and provision.
     The entire congregation identified themselves with Moses. Following him, they crossed the Red Sea 'by faith' (Heb 11:29). But it was not their faith, for they were ready to turn back. Rather, they crossed because they were identified with the man of faith, the servant of God, whose authority was confirmed supernaturally.
     The entire congregation partook of food and drink, which foreshadowed our Lord and Savior, who is the Rock upon whom the salvation of all believers rests, and upon whom the whole church is built (1Cor 3:11).
But with many... God was not well pleased...
God's displeasure and disciplinary measures, toward unbelieving Israel, are outlined in the next few verses. Here in v.5, the effect of God's displeasure is summarized: they were 'overthrown' {lit., strewn around, cast down} in the wilderness. Because of their rebellious unbelief, they were disqualified from entrance into the land and consigned to forty years of wandering in the wilderness. cp. Heb 3:12-19
6. Now these things were our examples, to the intent
we should not lust after evil
{bad, worthless} things,
as they also lusted.
{Num 11:4-6; Psa 106:14,15}
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.
{Ex 32:4-6}
8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed,
and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
{Num 25:1-9}
9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted,
and were destroyed of serpents.
{Num 21:5,6}
10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured,
and were destroyed of the destroyer.
{Num 14:2,27-30,37}
Now these things were our examples...
We often disparage the Israelites for the behavior which revealed their unbelief. But we are subject to the same failures. In v.1-4, Paul listed five ways that 'all' the Israelites were blessed by God. Similarly, God has provided 'all' spiritual blessings to all who are in Christ (Eph 1:3).
     In v.6-10, he warns of five ways that 'many' in the church (like 'many' Israelites) may fail to trust and obey Him. The list is far from exhaustive. (Also see the references at the corresponding verses, above.)
  1. lust after 'worthless' things. (v.6)
    The Israelites passionately desired variety in their diet. The food, for which they longed, was not 'evil.' The evil was in their dissatisfaction with God's provision. Heb 13:5
  2. idolatry. (v.7)- This term is not limited to the worship of statues in heathen temples.
    Your idols include anything which usurps the place of God in your life (eg., Col 3:5). These may include coveted possessions, position, financial or political power, or even a person (eg., Ex 20:17).
  3. fornication {sexual immorality}. (v.8) -
    Fornication is not limited to adulterous physical relations, but includes pornography and a filthy mind. Mat 5:28; 1Cor 6:18-20
  4. tempting {testing} the Lord. (v.9) -
    I 'test' the Lord when I refuse to obey His Word, and instead, follow the way that seems right to me. In effect, it is daring God to do something about it... and He will.
       In order to obey God's Word, I must know it. Satan twisted Scripture when he tested Jesus. Jesus quoted Deu 6:16, in answer to Satan's misquote (cp. Mat 4:6,7; Psa 91:11,12; Note the phrase omitted by the tempter).
  5. murmuring {grumbling, complaining}. (v.10) -
    Murmuring is the sound of insubordination to God and His appointed church leaders (eg., Php 2:12-14).
Note: Critics imagine a conflict between v.8 and Num 25:9.
A careful reading of the text shows that while 23,000 died "in one day," 24,000 perished during the plague.
11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples:
and they are written for our admonition,
upon whom the ends of the world
{lit., the ages} are come.
12 Wherefore let him that thinketh
{supposes that} he standeth
take heed lest he fall.
{eg., 1Cor 8:2; Prov 16:18}
13 There hath no temptation
{a test for proof of quality, a trial} taken you
but such as is common to man
{ie., according to human nature}:
but God [is] faithful, who will not suffer
{allow} 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].
Believers, like all other men, are susceptible to weaknesses and failings like those which led to Israel's fall (as described in v.6-10). But just as God provided richly for His people in their wilderness trials (v.1-4), He has made provision for us to stand with and for Him (eg., Eph 6:11-18).
     The phrase "a way of escape" {lit., a way to walk out} does not guarantee a quick exit from the temptation. Like well equipped firemen inside a burning building, believers who have "put on the whole armour of God" can endure the heat of the trial, until they walk out unscathed.
Having described some of Israel's privileges and failings, Paul has shown that the Corinthian believers (and also you and me) are similarly prone to failure. Now, he begins to apply this truth to their question about eating meat offered to idols.
14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
15. I speak as to wise men; judge ye
{ie., you must discern} what I say.
16 The cup of blessing which we bless,
is it not the communion
{GK=koinonia} of the blood of Christ?
The bread which we break,
is it not the communion
{GK=koinonia} of the body of Christ?
17 For we [being] many are one bread
{ie., loaf}, [and] one body: {1Cor 12:12,13}
for we are all partakers of that one bread.
{Joh 6:35,51}
18 Behold Israel after the flesh:
are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?
...flee {ie., run away from} idolatry...-
Believers are to distance themselves from any association with idolatry. But not all idolatry is visible to the eye.
I speak as to 'wise men' {GK=phronimos, those who are prudent, thoughtful, sensitive}...
No longer bound by the world's wisdom, the Corinthian believers, should be able to discern Paul's warning concerning idolatry (v.14), if they were sensitive to the Holy Spirit (1Cor 2:15,16). But would they? Was there some form of idolatry, from which they needed to flee?
The cup... the bread...
In the next chapter (1Cor 11:23-26), Paul will address the proper order of celebrating the Lord's Supper. Here, he emphasizes that through faith in Christ's sacrifice, believers enter into real 'communion' {fellowship, participation} with Him (1Cor 1:9) and with all who are His (1Cor 12:13; 1Joh 1:3,7).
     As the OT priests ate (and assimilated) meat offered in sacrifice upon the altar, believers truly eat of (participate in) our Savior and His sacrifice on the cross. (However, our 'eating' is not physical, but spiritual. See Joh 6:53-58, 63. We partake of Him through 'believing on' {trusting in} Him, Joh 6:35.)
19 What say I then? that the idol is any thing,
or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?
{See 1Cor 8:4}
20 But I [say], that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice,
they sacrifice to devils
{demons (occurs 4x in v.20,21)}, and not to God: {Deu 32:17}
and I would not that ye should have fellowship
{GK=koinonos, companionship} with devils.
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.
the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons...
Here is knowledge, not previously considered by those church leaders, who were proud of their knowledge that idols were 'nothing.' The idolatrous images were indeed empty statues. But according to God's Word (quoted by Paul, in v.20), there are wicked spiritual entities behind them.
Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of demons...
It is impossible to have communion with the Lord of Light and the powers of darkness (2Cor 6:15-17; 1Joh 1:5-7).
22 Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? {Deu 32:16,17}
are we stronger than he?
{Heb 10:31}
23. All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient
{ie., beneficial}:
all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
{1Cor 6:12; 8:1}
24 Let no man seek his own, but every man another's [wealth].
{1Cor 8:9,13; 9:19}
Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?
The verse, which Paul quotes (in v.22a), relates to God's anger over Israel's idolatrous worship of the Gentile's false gods and demons. The Corinthian church leaders wanted nothing to do with such practices. But they had made idols of their supposed superior knowledge, their liberties, and rights! (Apparently, this is the matter which Paul urged them to wisely discern, in v.14,15.)
Thus far, Paul has rebuked the pride of those who claimed liberties based on their knowledge, and he has answered their question (about meats offered to idols), in two parts:
  1. A believer's knowledge of personal liberty must be limited by love for 'weaker' brothers (ch.8).
  2. Empty idols represent demons, with which believers can have no communion. Therefore, the 'weaker' brothers are right to avoid all association with idols (v.16-22).
Now, Paul prescribes two practical 'ways of escape' for dealing with this thorny issue:
25 Whatsoever is sold in the shambles {meat market}, [that] eat,
asking no question for conscience sake:
26 For the earth [is] the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.
{Psa 24:1}
First way of escape (v.25-26) -
A believer should feel free to buy and eat any meat available in the market. If he avoids asking about its source, he will avoid the issue entirely, regardless of the sensitivity of his own conscience. After all, it is the Lord who provides for us, from His resources. Rom 14:14; 1Tim 4:4
Second way of escape (v.27-28) -
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.
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:
...if any man say... This is offered... unto idols... eat not for his sake...
Until the issue is raised by someone else, the believer is free to eat (as in v.25,26), regardless of the sensitivity of his own conscience (v.27).
     But the believer should not eat, if the issue is raised by 'any man' (not necessarily another believer). In this way, the believer will avoid causing a weaker brother to stumble (1Cor 8:9-13), and he will maintain a clear testimony for Christ before unbelievers (eg., 1The 5:22).
29 Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other:
for why is my liberty judged of another [man's] conscience?
30 For if I by grace be a partaker,
why am I evil spoken of
{GK=blasphemo, denounced} for that for which I give thanks?
31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink,
or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
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.
{1Cor 9:19-23}
11:1. Be ye followers of me, even as I also [am] of Christ.
Why... Why...?
Paul answers the questions, of v.29,30, directly:
  1. for the glory of God (v.31), cp. Col 3:17,23; 1Pet 4:11
  2. to give 'no offence' {ie., 'no occasion for stumbling'} (v.32)...
    ie., to avoid leading anyone away from the One who is the glory of God (2Cor 4:6).
    ...neither to: Note that the Holy Spirit divides mankind into the three divisions, above.
    It is impossible to 'rightly divide' the Word of Truth, unless you understand which group(s) is being addressed by specific passages of Scripture. 2Tim 2:15
  3. to follow the example of Paul, as a follower of Christ. (v.33- 11:1)
    Rom 15:2,3; Eph 5:1,2; Php 2:4,5

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