Study Notes for I Corinthians 10:14-11:1 (click here for Study Sheet)
COLLEEN MOORE TINKER
Paul has just reminded the Corinthians of some of Israel's most
ignoble moments, and he has told them that "these things happened to
[Israel] as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the
fulfillment of the ages has come." Now he progresses to a practical
warning to help these early Christians not to compromise themselves with
evil as Israel had.
Paul reminds the Corinthians that when they drink "the cup of thanksgiving"
and break bread together, they are participating in the blood and the body
of Christ. The symbols of the cup and the loaf came from the Passover service.
When Jesus ate the Last Supper with his disciples, he took the cup of thanksgiving,
which was one of the four cups of wine served at each Passover meal, and
gave it new meaning. "This cup is the new covenant in my blood,"
he said; "do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."
(I Cor. 11: 25) Likewise when he broke the Passover bread he told the disciples,
"This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."
Corinthians, who had no history of celebrating Passover, nevertheless celebrated
communion when they became Christ-followers. For Jewish Christians the new
communion service was rich with the meaning of fulfilled symbolism. For
the Corinthians, communion was a Christian rite which was completely different
from the pagan rituals they left behind. Their pagan rituals had involved
eating meat offered to idols, and to eat bread and drink wine as symbols
of Deity was a new paradigm.
didn't have the personal understanding of liberation from Egypt, wandering
in the wilderness, and years of apostasy and repentance with the God who
finally fulfilled his promises to them. Instead, the Corinthians had a completely
new life. They had been rescued from the darkness of demon worship, and
their God only asked that they eat bread and drink wine to remember His
gift of salvation.
reminds them, therefore, that the wine is not just a drink and the bread
is not just food. When they drink the wine they are participating in the
shed blood, the life-giving blood, of their Savior God. When they break
the bread they are participating in the broken body of Christ, the symbol
of their Savior's humanness that suffered and died in the place of their
were not to forget what these symbols stood for. No longer did they have
to offer animals and kill them as they had in their pagan rituals. They
no longer had to witness a creature's physical suffering or eat its dead
flesh every time they worshiped. Furthermore, their worship was not to be
a plea for their God's mercy and grace, as their pagan worship had been.
Their worship as Christ-followers was to be a celebration of Jesus, of his
life and death and resurrection, and of their own eternal life.
also points out to the Corinthians that they break bread from one loaf.
"Because there is one loaf," he says, "we, who are many,
are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf."
are all one in Christ," he says to them in effect. "You all accept
Jesus and participate in communion together; you need to remember that you
all belong to Him and are His body. You are all nourished by the same bread
and wine became the symbols of the body and blood of Christ because never
again does blood have to be shed for sins. Jesus died and bled "once
for all"; the continuing symbols of his sacrifice are symbols only
of life: bread-the basic food of life-and wine. Meat would not have represented
Christ's sacrifice as a completed act. Ceremonial meat involves an animal
dying. But Jesus has already died; his blood has been shed eternally. No
other creature's death will ever be needed to represent salvation!
The Lord's Table vs. the Table of Demons
Now Paul asks the Corinthians to think about "the people of
Israel". When they ate the sacrifices in their temple, he asks, didn't
they "participate in the altar"? In other words, when people participated
in the Jewish rituals and ate the food that's part of the ritual, they were
participating in worshiping God, who established those rituals.
Paul points out, when a person participates in eating sacrificial meat in
a pagan ritual, he is participating in the worship of the god being honored.
Paul says again that idols are nothing, but he clarifies that the pagans
are really worshiping demons.
do not want you to be participants with demons," he says. "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."
warning was especially important for people who had recently left demon
worship behind. They were vulnerable to those demons because they had honored
and worshiped them all their lives. To exercise their "freedom"
to participate in pagan temple rituals with their friends was to put themselves
in a position where they could very easily be sucked back into demon worship.
All their habits and responses were in their memories, ready to spring back
into action if they put themselves in the demons' territory.
there is also another reason why Paul cautioned the Corinthians. Whether
or not a person had been involved in worshiping demons, he or she cannot
honor two masters. A person who accepts Jesus and is filled with the Holy
Spirit cannot simultaneously participate in the motions of honoring a demon.
If a person tries to do both, rationalizing that he or she really is committed
to Jesus but is participating in evil for the sake of socializing, that
person dishonors his Savior who defeated those demons by giving up his life.
who put themselves in such a double-minded position become the sites of
internal spiritual battles. Demons can claim the right to harass such people
because they have honored them. Christ-followers cannot truly honor God
when they participate in activities they know to be against God. Paul is
warning the Corinthians not to put themselves in spiritual danger by returning
to their pagan rituals. They now belong to God, and God, who actually suffered
and died for their sakes, claims their hearts and their worship. They must
honor their Savior.
all, compromising with pagan rituals was Israel's repeated downfall throughout
their entire history. Although they were God's people always, God could
not bless them when they honored demons. God cannot do in a Christ-follower
what He wants to do if that person is compromising with evil.
Permissible but not Beneficial
After warning the Corinthians of the dangers of participating in
demon feasts, he again says, "'Everything is permissible,'-but not
everything is beneficialnot everything is constructive. Nobody should seek
his own good, but the good of others."
this advice Paul is underscoring the freedom a believer has in Christ. When
we are in Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we live in freedom from
external laws and requirements. As Paul said in I Cor. 2:15, "The spiritual
man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any
man's judgment." Each believer is answerable directly to God; he can
speak to God and receive direction directly from God.
members of Christ's body, we have a role different from any other people
in the history of earth. We, the church, the temple of the Holy Spirit,
are priests of God and one with God through the Holy Spirit. We have the
authority of God in us; "we have the mind of Christ." (I Cor.
2:16) We truly have freedom in Christ from all external requirements.
freedom, however, does not nullify our responsibility and accountability
for our choices. As believers, we now have the freedom to let God show us
how to speak and behave on a moment-by-moment basis so we represent him
and love others for him. Sometimes following the direction of the Holy Spirit
will look like foolishness to other people. Sometimes it will look noble.
But other people's perceptions of our actions and choices do not indicate
whether or not we're behaving the way God wants us to behave.
we are completely free to do certain things that, were we alone, would be
no problem for us or for anyone else. But those same things might be a spiritual
stumbling block to other people who are coming from different backgrounds
or who are spiritually immature. Our responsibility as Christ-followers
is to allow the Holy Spirit to check our behaviors if we will be offending
others or putting ourselves in compromising situations.
told the Israelites that they were to "touch no unclean thing."
Because they were under the law, because Jesus had not yet died and sent
the Holy Spirit to indwell them as he does the church, because the law was
necessary to point out sin and spiritually dangerous situations, Israel
lived by the rules God gave them. God told the Israelites to "touch
no unclean things" because he wanted them to be conscious of their
position as his chosen holy people. He wanted them to keep themselves ritually
pure in order to cause them to think about their relationship to him and
their place in his heart. He wanted them to take seriously his requirements
that they dedicate themselves to purity, holiness, and loving obedience
gave Israel laws of ritual purity to keep them from sliding into pagan rituals.
By having to keep themselves from touching unclean things, they would have
to decide to break their agreement with God if they were to engage in eating
or participating in pagan ceremonies. Their clean/unclean laws were in place
to keep Israel separate from paganism. Those laws were there to protect
Israel from ignorantly becoming involved with the pagan practices all around
them. And the reason God wanted Israel separate from paganism was to keep
them spiritually untainted by the demons the pagans worshiped.
however, Paul underscores to the Corinthians that their role is different
from that of Israel-but the ultimate goal is still the same. God wants his
people to be spiritually pure and committed to him. And now he has removed
the external laws and given them something far more powerful and effective-the
Living Law, the Holy Spirit, residing in them. Now they are free from ritual
laws of clean/unclean. Nothing in itself is unclean. Now, however, God will
inform his people when to refrain from participating in things that would
spiritually compromise them or the people around them.
The point of this passage in I Corinthians is that Christ-followers
are to avoid confusing other people. A person with a "weak conscience",
or someone who has habits related to false worship that he needs to break,
may be spiritually confused by a believer who participates in the rituals
the new believer feels he or she must leave behind. We are never to be cavalier
about our freedom in front of people who are struggling to be obedient to
the call of Christ. For many new believers following Christ means abandoning
certain practices that connect him or her to the past. We must respect those
things others give up; we must not try to convince them that they're really
O.K. to do. We have to respect the new believers' needs to make clean breaks
from the falsehood or deception they have connected to the behaviors they're
the other hand, Christ-followers also need to be sensitive to their witness
to unbelievers. An unbeliever who watches a Christ-follower do things connected
to evil or self-indulgence may think that a Christian is hypocritical, or
that he can be loyal both to God and to gods. As Christ's body on earth,
we are to represent the living Christ to our world. We are to allow the
Holy Spirit to direct our actions and choices so we speak truth and represent
our Savior truthfully.
Surrender to God
God asks us to submit our freedom to him and to the influence of
the Holy Spirit. He asks us to pray for the people in our lives, and he
asks us to let him minister to those people through us.
also asks us to give him our lingering habits that compromise us spiritually.
We don't worship idols, but we do embrace loyalties and compulsions that
come between Jesus and us. God asks us to submit these things to him because
they become the equivalent of participating in the altar of demons. Satan
has access to the places in us that are hurt or broken when we don't surrender
those places to God.
wants to extend our spiritual freedom to include our emotions and minds.
He wants our entire life experience to be one of peace, joy, and freedom.
He wants us to become so unconscious of self and so focused on him that
we walk joyfully in his will with our hearts and minds at peace.
to me, all you who are weary and burdened," Jesus says, "and I
will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle
and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke
is easy and my burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30)
wants us to step into his yoke. He's calling us to give up our own yoke
of bondage and join him. He will help us bear our burden; no longer do we
have to fight our battles alone. Jesus is walking with us-and we're safe
inside HIS yoke. When we commit ourselves to Jesus, he does the hard work.
"My yoke is easy," he says, "and my burden is light."
don't have to struggle and fail, over and over, any longer. Jesus walks
with us, and his love bears the burdens of our life. We bear the burden
of facing the world as a Christ-follower, but that burden is light compared
to fighting our own internal demons alone.
calls us from double-mindedness. He calls to us a clear commitment to him.
He calls us to reveal and release our secret shame and bondage to him.
calls us to a life of healing and freedom. He calls us to peace and joy
Holy Spirit calls us to listen to his constant ministration of God's love
and power in our hearts. He calls us to a life of integrity.
calls us to be free!
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Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised June 22, 2000.
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