1 - 6 Things That Happened As Examples For Us
1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. 6 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.
Paul directly connects the verses 1-13 of this chapter to the end of the previous chapter. There it is about somebody who preaches; a person who does a certain service for God. What now follows is about people who outwardly belong to God’s people, but who inwardly are not partakers of it. The history of the people of Israel serves as an illustration. There you see people who partook in many privileges that God had given to His people. Yet they did not enter the promised land, but were overthrown and died in the desert.
That says a lot to us as Christians. Many call themselves Christians; they are baptized and they even partake of the Lord’s Supper, but still will perish eternally. Why? Because they lack the new life inwardly. They were never truly converted and have never really repented of their sins before God.
Those people think that God is satisfied with them keeping certain statutes, like baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In Christianity they are called sacraments. In the protestant churches they have two sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper; in the roman catholic church they have five more sacraments. These so-called sacraments have in common that they are only outer signs.
Just take a look at baptism and the Lord’s Supper. What do they consist of? With baptism common water is being used. The Lord’s Supper is being celebrated with common bread and common wine. But just look at what these external matters, as baptism and the Lord’s Supper, mean to a greater part of Christianity. People sometimes just say that you receive new life through baptism or that by partaking of the Lord’s Supper you become a partaker of eternal life. It is said that an inner renewal appears through participation of these external signs. Many people in Christianity believe that and base the assurance of their salvation on that. That is a gross error that will lead many of these people into destruction.
V1. In order to stop this error, Paul refers to the history of Israel. He starts with “I do not want you to be unaware”. This phrase makes you see that he finds it important that the Corinthians should know this. Then he summarizes the privileges of Israel. First, there is “the cloud”. In Exodus 13 you read that the Lord dwelled in this cloud and in that way showed His people the way, after they departed from Egypt (Exo 13:21-22). In Exodus 14 the cloud stands in between the Egyptians and Israelites in such a way that the Egyptians couldn’t come near the Israelites (Exo 14:19-20). The cloud, as a symbol of the Lord Himself, presents guidance and protection. Next they “all passed through the sea”.
V2. How that happened is to be read in Exodus 14 (Exo 14:21-22). The action of going through the sea looks like baptism. Here it is also said like that “all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea”. To be baptized means ‘to be added to’. Moses was their leader. He was appointed by the Lord. They had to listen to him; otherwise they couldn’t stay with the people.
V3-4. The following privileges mentioned, concern food and drink. After all, they needed food for life and strength for their journey through the desert. In Exodus 16 and 17 God provides His people with manna from heaven to eat and water from the rock to drink (Exo 16:13-15; 17:6).
But do you notice how this food is referred to in our chapter? There is a mention there of spiritual food and spiritual drink. Wasn’t that plain manna that they ate and wasn’t it literal water that ran from the rock? Yes, it was, but what Paul intends to say is that the literal manna and the literal water have a spiritual meaning. The Israelites weren’t aware of that then and that’s why it isn’t mentioned in that sense in the book of Exodus. We can be aware now that these things have a spiritual meaning, because we have the whole Bible.
In the Gospel of John, in the chapters 6 and 7, the Lord Jesus also speaks about the manna and the water. He says, after He has spoken about the manna: “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven” (Jn 6:49-51,31-35). In chapter 7 of that Gospel the Lord Jesus speaks about “rivers of living water” (Jn 7:38). The following verse is clarifies it: “But this He spoke of the Spirit” (Jn 7:39).
Now you may ask yourself: ‘If the Israelites didn’t know that, why is it written like that here?’ I think, because they were not to take it for granted that they were so well taken care of. It was the care of God that was apparent again and again when the manna was there each morning for the taking.
The same is to be applied to the “spiritual rock”. Of course it was literally a rock to the Israelites. The fact that they always had water to drink was due to God’s care for them. God could give them that care, because He was anticipating the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore here it is said: “The rock was Christ.” Whatever blessing God gave to His people, it was only because Christ would become the Redeemer of the people. The same applied to us, who live in the time after the coming of Christ. We too owe each blessing to Christ and to the work that He has fulfilled.
V5. After Paul had summarized various privileges, to which all partook (the word ‘all’ is mentioned at least five times in verses 1-4), it is like getting a cold shower at verse 5: “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.” How could that have happened – so many privileges and still die? It cannot be otherwise than that the people practiced those privileges in a wrong way. And that can happen to us as well! We are no better at all.
V6. Therefore we should be willing to learn from the things that happened to Israel. Those are examples that should impress us, because God uses them in order to warn us.
Do you know how the people started to have troubles, which caused them to be scattered in the wilderness? This is how: They started to hate the manna. That made them “crave evil things”. They started to long back for Egypt and reminded themselves, ‘how well they were doing there’ (Num 11:4-7). Out of convenience sake they forgot how they groaned under the yoke of slavery.
Why is this history our example now? Only when the Lord Jesus (He is the real manna, as you know) remains everything for our heart and life, we shall not long again for the things from the world. You have been freed from the world through the work of the Lord Jesus. You owe Him everything.
However, if you start to get bored with reading the Bible in order to know Him better, if you get bored to pray and to testify to Him, briefly, when your taste changes, then you will surely think back about the time when you were living in the world. What a great joy you had! You did everything you liked to do. Thus, you conveniently forget how distressed you were then. Then, before you know it, whether you are aware of it or not, you will do things again that belong to your former life. It is true, this is how it works.
Therefore we ought to take these examples seriously. Stay close to the Lord Jesus. He really is sufficient. You don’t need more than Him.
Now read 1 Corinthians 10:1-6 again.
Reflection: Think about how you may apply this section in your own life.
7 - 13 Who Thinks He Stands …
7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” 8 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
At the end of the last part I wrote: Stay close to the Lord Jesus. If you do that, you have no pleasure in doing bad things. If you don’t do that, the same will happen to you as happened to the Israelites. In verse 6 you actually find the root, the first cause of all other sins that the people of Israel committed. When the desire for a life with and for Christ weakens, then other desires or cravings come instead. You will be dragged into an intoxication of food and drink and having fun.
V7. Paul refers here to the ‘festivities’ around the gold calf (Exo 32:1-6). Moses had been away already so long; that’s why they wanted a visible god. In that way they lost sight of the Lord and dropped off in a flood of dissoluteness. They became idolaters. Idolatry means: to replace God and Christ for something else. That can easily happen. It doesn’t necessarily have to be things which you know are sinful and wrong. You see that with the people of Israel.
What was their idolatry? The answer is directly given: food and drink and play. Are those wrong occupations? Not really, but regarding Israel it was wrong. The people lost connection with Moses, their great leader. He was gone for a long time. The people didn’t see him anymore and they didn’t hear him anymore. Therefore they then said to Aaron that he should make a god. Aaron did that and the gold calf rose on its pedestal. Afterwards they ate, drank and feasted. What was then the cause of them eating, drinking and playing? It was because Moses had been away for such a long time.
How is this an example for us? The Lord Jesus has been away for such a long time already. It seems like He will never come back. Okay guys, let us make ourselves comfortable in this world and let’s have fun. We will also make ourselves a god, one we can really be friends with, a good one. Life will be one big party! Only, it will be a party without the true God. These kinds of sounds are to be heard with people who confess to be Christians, but do not consider the coming of Christ.
In Matthew 24 the Lord Jesus speaks about the attitude of Christians who confess Him but lose the sight of His return (Mt 24:48-51). To not become an idolater it is important to stay focused on the coming of the Lord Jesus. Of the believers in Thessalonica is said that they turned to God from idols to serve “the living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven” (1Thes 1:9-10).
V8. The next warning is not to commit fornication. In popular language fornication is called ‘to cheat (to have strange sexual intercourse)’. In Biblical language it is not otherwise. The history that is being referred to is written in Numbers 25. The fornication that was being committed was that men from Israel married Moabite women (Num 25:1-2). They married strange women who didn’t belong to God’s people. They fell in love with people of whom God said that they should not love them (Deu 23:3-6).
This history is an example for us as well. When we love and have friendship with people who don’t want to have anything to do with God, we ‘cheat’ also. This is of course not about the love of Christ that should inspire us to preach the gospel to sinners so that they may be redeemed. It wouldn’t be a good thing if we would not love lost people. No, it is about expressions of love in practice, whereby God’s involvement is not asked for.
James is straight to the point when he says: “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?” (Jam 4:4). Adultery is a certain way of fornication. You should be very aware of it that in the world there was, and there still is, no place for Christ. The world rejected Him and still rejects Him. Everyone who hasn’t chosen Christ belongs to the world and lives in hostility toward Him. This is the way God looks at it and we ought to do the same.
They might speak friendly and appreciative about Him, but that doesn’t change the fact that God sees them like that. He who commits fornication like that and goes on with living in fornication, will finally have nothing left of being a Christian. The testimony of such a person will finally disappear totally.
V9. Here we are being warned not to tempt Christ. Doubt enters the heart of the people about which way God wants them to go. They wonder if God means well with them and pronounce their suspicion about that. This sowing seeds of doubt is the work of satan. This is how he came to Eve in the garden of Eden, in the guise of a snake, and whispered to her: “Indeed, has God said?” (Gen 3:1). This is how he injected her heart with the poison of suspicion.
Since then he always operates in this way, and with much success. When thoughts of doubt arise in you about God, be assured that this is from satan. Do not give in to these thoughts. Keep on trusting God, in spite of all appearances which may give the impression that God doesn’t care about you. Otherwise the poison of the snake will slowly affect you deeper and deeper and will let you perish with the world.
V10. Paul also warns against moaning. Moaning is one of the sins that was very often committed by the people in the desert journey. Time and again they found something to express their dissatisfaction about God. Does that also bother you sometimes? Make sure that you will not be infected by the spirit of dissatisfaction. It will absorb out of you all joy and gratitude that you normally have towards God. You will lose the experience of a joyful life with God. Moaning spoils your life and makes you become a sourpuss without a testimony.
V11. Actually the whole history of Israel is one big illustration. Everything that had happened to them happened to be as a warning for us. You may wonder: Was that necessary? Rather, not half! If you’re not alert, you can easily follow the world and easily join the moaners with complaining; you will like to join humanitarians or environmentalists and will want to put your trust in macrobiotics to keep your body healthy, etc. etc. You will also fall into the trap of handsome guys or attractive looking girls. You may pray and give thanks for your food and join a church or gathering and then? … Exactly, you will get under the spell of worldly temptations. So do not do like Israel did. You have been warned.
We live in the “ends of the ages”. There is nothing left but judgment, for there is no hope anymore that man will yet fulfill what God asks of him. Total corruption of man has become apparent in every which way. The history of Israel is a striking illustration of that.
V12. He who still has any confidence in himself, despite this extensive argumentation of the apostle, can be sure that he is close to a fall. You and I do not have any assurance in ourselves that we will not fall. He who thinks that he stands, only because he calls himself a Christian and because he thinks he acts as a Christian, will surely fall from faith, for his faith is only a lip confession. A confession is important, but only when it comes from a living and personal relationship with God and with Christ, it is valuable.
V13. Fortunately everyone who has such a relationship with God can count on the faithfulness of God. Whatever the temptations may be that could have caused you to fall into a trap, God is still there. He is above the circumstances and He will surely help you to get through, if you do not trust yourself but Him. Then He will also make a way of escape with the temptation, that you may be able to bear it. Everything that can happen to you has been weighed by God. He will not allow you to be tested beyond what is common to man, although sometimes it might seem so. Always trust on God’s faithfulness, despite all appearances and despite your emotions in such situations. He never disappoints anyone who puts his trust in Him!
Now read 1 Corinthians 10:7-13 again.
Reflection: What lessons do you learn about yourself in these verses and what do you learn about God?
14 - 17 One Bread, One Body
14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say. 16 Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.
Here Paul starts with a new issue. Up until now he has spoken about the church as a house where God dwells. Because God dwells there, He has the right to say how believers should behave there. It is His house after all, isn’t it? When things happen in the church that do not please Him, He points out how to deal with them. In chapter 5 you have read about a clear example regarding such a case. There it is written that the evil person should be put away.
The issue Paul starts with now is still connected to the church. But here the church is no more presented as a house, but as a body. In verse 17 you read about “one body”. We will see what that means soon.
V14. Firstly another thing about verse 14: This verse connects to the previous part. Actually it is a kind of summary of verses 1-13. In the previous verses it is made clear that idolatry is something that takes your eyes off of God and Christ. It is something that takes Their place. The meaning of that ‘something’ is often different for each child of God. Apparently you know for yourself which things can so easily bring a distance between you and God. But the call “flee!” is the same for each child of God. He who allows himself to be dragged down in any way by idolatry, cannot partake in the blessings which are the result of the communion of the blood of Christ.
V15. In the case of the Corinthians, it was the tendency of going back to the idol temples. Besides, they also could fool themselves, now they were Christians, that an idol was nothing. That, however, was a mistake. You cannot participate with religious, idolatrous rituals without denying your position as a Christian. That was something the Corinthians had to think about very carefully. Paul addressed them as “wise men”, which means people who were able to judge what they were doing.
V16. The absurdity of their participation in the service of idols is most visible in the presentation of their communion, which they have as Christians. As Christians they celebrated the Lord’s Supper every Sunday. Thereby they made use of a cup and bread, as the Lord Jesus told them. You can read about the institution of the Lord’s Supper by the Lord Jesus in the Gospels (Mt 26:26-28; Mk 14:22-24; Lk 22:19-20). Also in the next chapter of this letter you read about it (1Cor 11:23-26). The emphasis there is that the Lord’s Supper is a meal of remembrance.
When we eat of the bread and drink of the wine, we do that in remembrance of what the Lord has done on the earth. We think of Him and we do that in remembrance of Him. In the study of chapter 11 I will tell you more about this special occasion.
In chapter 10 that lies before you, another aspect is highlighted. The issue here is that by participating in the Lord’s Supper, you have communion of the blood and body of Christ. Of course I don’t know whether you already participate in the Lord’s Supper. In case you do not yet participate, I do hope you soon will. Of course the reason should not be just ‘to belong to the fellowship’, but out of love for the Lord Jesus, because He invited you to.
It is important to examine where you should do that. To be able to do that you should discover if the place where you want to participate in the Lord’s Supper, is a place where the practice is according to what is written here.
1. In the first place it is: Do you recognize if they gather there, it is to express the communion of Christ’s blood and of Christ’s body? That is what verse 16 says.
2. Secondly: Do you recognize that they gather there as a unity, as it is expressed in ‘the one bread’? That is what verse 17 says.
You might find it difficult, which is understandable. You ought to make some efforts to become aware of these aspects. Therefore it is not for nothing that Paul addresses them as wise men. These are not things you address to children. The participation of children in the Lord’s Supper is therefore not according to God’s thoughts. He who participates in the Lord’s Supper, needs to have some awareness of what he is doing.
I will try to clarify that a little bit more. The word ‘communion’ that occurs often in this part, means ‘to be partakers of something together’. You share something with others. Before you knew the Lord Jesus, you shared the things in the world with your friends. You partook of their pleasures, you feasted with them. Now you have other people, your brothers and sisters in Christ, with whom you share in blessings that have become your share also because you know the Lord Jesus.
That communion has been made possible through the blood of Christ. It is the communion of his blood. Through the blood you have been reconciled with God. Your sins have been taken away forever. All who hide behind the blood (see Ex 12:13), which means whose sins are covered before God through faith in the blood, partake in that communion. All who have no share in the blood of Christ are outside of that communion. The blood is mentioned here first, because it is the basis of the communion.
When subsequently the bread is spoken about, you see there the communion of the body of Christ. The expression “the body of Christ” has two meanings. The first meaning is the physical body of Christ, which is His body in which He was on earth and bore our sins. The second meaning is the metaphorical body of Christ, which is the church, to which all true believers belong.
When we break the bread we firstly think of His body that He surrendered into death. We admire collectively, that is together or with one another, that precious body with which He glorified God. That means that we admire His Person. Christ has come in the body that God had prepared for Him when He came into the world (Heb 10:5). That is also in remembrance of the fact that the church has come into being, because He gave His body into death.
A beautiful picture of that you find in Genesis 2 (Gen 2:21-23). God caused a deep sleep to fall, as it were a death sleep, on Adam. Then God took one of Adam’s ribs and built him a woman out of that rib. When He brought Eve to Adam, Adam says: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.”
That’s the way you can recognize the body of Christ in the church. Therefore we break the bread in remembrance of both the body that Christ gave into death and of the church that has come into being through His death.
V17. In this verse the issue is obviously the church. It is about us, “we who are many”. All who belong to the church are allowed to show that by partaking of the one bread. Thereby you may say that it is ‘inclusive’, which means they who are included, who belong to the body. You may also say that it is ‘exclusive’, which means that it excludes everyone who doesn’t belong to the body. It is inclusive, because it is for all who really belong to the church. It is exclusive, because the Lord’s Supper has no room for unbelievers and for believers who live in sin or don’t exercise discipline on it.
Now read 1 Corinthians 10:14-17 again.
Reflection: Do you already partake of that one bread?
18 - 22 The Lord’s Table
18 Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar? 19 What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 [No], but [I say] that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?
V18. To clarify what he means by ‘communion’, Paul presents the example of the worship service of Israel. What was that like? In the book Leviticus you can read about different kinds of offerings that could be brought, and sometimes had to be brought. All those offerings show something about the Person and the work of the Lord Jesus. He is the true Offering. Those offerings were put on the altar that stood in the court of the tabernacle. That altar was called ‘the bronze altar of burnt offering’.
The exact offering Paul is referring to, is the peace offering. That is the offering that you could call a meal offering or a fellowship offering. Of the peace offering God received a portion, the priest received a portion and for the rest each member of the people who was clean could eat from this offering. You can find this in Leviticus 3 and Leviticus 7. That means that God had fellowship with His people and this fellowship consisted of eating the peace offering together. The place where this fellowship, this sharing together of the offering happened, was the altar. The altar was the meeting place where God and the people came together.
When you think of the altar to be a place where the offering was consumed in the fire, you may think of the cross of the Lord Jesus. Then it is clear that the altar is a meeting place between God and the people. After all, the Lord Jesus has reconciled sinful and repentant people with God by bearing and taking away their sins in the fire of God’s judgment. He has fulfilled God’s holy demands with a view to the sins.
You may remember at the same time that the altar is a picture of the Lord Jesus Himself. Just like the altar, as it were, offered the true offering to God, the Lord Jesus offered Himself to God. This is what you read in Hebrews 9: “Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God” (Heb 9:14) Therefore, when you think of “sharers in the altar” as it is said here, it means that we may, together with God, enjoy the Lord Jesus. Isn’t that fellowship after all: enjoying together the same portion?
Don’t you think that God enjoys His Son unspeakably? And don’t you enjoy Him very much also? Of course Israel didn’t understand that in this way. But you remember from verse 6 and verse 11 of this chapter that everything that happened to Israel had happened for our example. We now may know what God really has meant by that when He gave all these statutes to Israel. Therefore Paul can say: “Look at Israel according to the flesh”.
V19-20. Because of this example, it also becomes clear that any other way of fellowship is excluded. To Israel it was absolutely forbidden to partake of pagan offering feasts of the nations around them. The same applied to the believers at Corinth. Not that Paul wanted to withdraw what he said before, in chapter 8, about the offerings to idols and about the idols (1Cor 8:1,4). The meat that was offered to an idol was and still remained plain meat. And an idol was and still remained just a piece of wood or stone. That was not the point.
The real point was that – and he wanted to make that very clear to the Corinthians – the offerings that were offered by the gentiles in fact were offered to devils, which means to demons, evil spirits. Behind the idols of wood and stone demons were hidden. The honor and worship that the gentiles brought their offerings with and the fact that they knelt down before an idol, were received by these demons.
Demons really exist and they are a reality. They are creatures that are aimed to destroy man and to keep him far from the fellowship with God. The demons respond to the imagination and fear of man. In this way man is forced to bring offerings to an idol, in order to please him, while the demons are the real recipient of those offerings. In this way the true and only God is being excluded. Everyone who participates to these offering feasts will not be aware of that, but that is actually the case in reality.
V21. Therefore there needs to be a radical separation between the Christian worship service and the gentile worship service. Fellowship with demons and fellowship with God cannot go together. The cup of the Lord and the cup of demons exclude one another. It really is unimaginable that we for one moment drink the cup of the Lord, whereby we remember the blood that He shed to be able to bless us and we then for another moment drink from a cup that is dedicated to demons and we thereby are connected to the big opponent of Christ.
It is remarkable that in Ezekiel 41 and in Malachi 1 the Table of the Lord is mentioned as well (Eze 41:22; Mal 1:7,12). There the bronze altar of the burnt offering is indicated this way. So here Paul again connects to the picture of the Old Testament. And what again was presented by the altar? Indeed fellowship. What is presented by the Table of the Lord? Fellowship.
Every family that functions normally has its supper together at set times. For the family members, parents and children, that is the time to have fellowship with one another. During the whole day they have been at several places: in the house, at school, at the working place, but at suppertime they share their experiences of the whole day with one another. That is also the thought of the Table of the Lord. To the Table of the Lord every believer partakes with what he has enjoyed of the Lord Jesus during the week, in order to tell that, collectively together with others, to God the Father and to the Lord Jesus.
But just like the table of the family, the Table of the Lord should be no place for things that do not belong there. Children, who do or say bad things, spoil the atmosphere at the table. Then they should be dismissed for a certain time from the table, till they understand what they did wrong. This every-day example shows something of what also applies to the Table of the Lord. There is a place for each member of the church at the Lord’s Table. But he who teaches wrong doctrines about the Lord or who allows things in his life that do not suit a believer, has to be refused from the Lord’s table. The Lord Jesus cannot tolerate any connection with demons with His own people.
The Table of the Lord and the table of demons are about two extremes which cannot be related to each other. A person who participates in the Lord’s Supper should only partake of the Lord’s Table and not of the table of the demons. In many places of Christianity the Lord’s Supper is celebrated, but it cannot be said that it is celebrated at the Lord’s Table. This does not mean however that it is the table of demons.
It’s not about just a table; it is the Table of the Lord! That means that you can speak with certainty of the Table of the Lord only if it is clear that people practice it according to the will of the Lord. In His Word we can read what His will is. Therein we read that the circle of fellowship is not to be made smaller or larger than the body of Christ.
In case we get in touch with Christians who gather in a certain way and also celebrate the Lord’s Supper with one another, we need to examine, on the basis of the Bible, if these Christians are willing to obey God’s Word. Obedience to God’s Word will become apparent from a life to God’s honor, and that any sin is being judged. In that case we may recognize them as believers who only want to do what the Lord says and together with them we can express the unity of the church as the body of Christ by breaking the bread.
V22. Christianity is split into a lot of churches and denominations. Therefore we are exclusively dependent on the Bible as our guide. We do not want to tempt the Lord to jealousy by connecting His Name to miscellaneous restrictions that are created by men in many parts of Christianity, do we? He cannot approve that we let ourselves be guided by our own ideas. When we do that He will have to admonish us and if we do not listen, He will have to chastise us. He is strong enough to do that.
Now read 1 Corinthians 10:18-22 again.
Reflection: Is there only one Table of the Lord or are there more?
23 - 33 Do All Things To the Glory of God
23 All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own [good], but that of his neighbor. 25 Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience’ sake; 26 for the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains. 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience’ sake. 28 But if anyone says to you, “This is meat sacrificed to idols,” do not eat [it], for the sake of the one who informed [you], and for conscience’ sake; 29 I mean not your own conscience, but the other [man’s]; for why is my freedom judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks? 31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the [profit] of the many, so that they may be saved.
V23-24. A Christian is a free man; all things are permitted for him. Then he is allowed to do a lot of things; though, a Christian is actually also a man with a sense of responsibility. Therefore he asks himself: ‘Is it helpful (for other people) and is it edifying (to others)?’ In all his doings he wants to consider other people.
In chapter 6 you have already read about such issues (1Cor 6:12). There the word “me” is added. There it is about your personal attitude regarding the use of food and about not being brought under the power of it. Here it is more general; the word ‘me’ is not added and it is about eating the offerings to idols. In that way it connects directly to the previous part, where it is about fellowship with Christ or fellowship with demons. That has to do with the practice of our religion.
V25-26. The Corinthians now knew that they couldn’t partake of the pagan offering services without having fellowship with the demons that were hiding behind the idols. Did that mean that they had to examine, in their daily life, whether the meat they bought might have been related to idols? No, that was not the case. All food that creation produces comes from God and belongs to Him. In 1 Timothy 4 is written: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude” (1Tim 4:4). You are allowed to enjoy with full freedom from all the food that God gives you.
V27. In fact, you are allowed to accept freely the invitation of an unbeliever to have supper with him. You neither need to worry about the origin of the meat he sets before you. If you accept the invitation of the unbeliever, it is your own decision.
It says: “And you want to go.” That means that you have made a considered decision to accept this invitation before the Lord and you have got the conviction that it is a good thing to do that. Then the Lord will also give you the opportunity to testify of Him. Thus you will surely start the meal by prayer.
V28. It is another thing when somebody says to you that the piece of meat, set before you, has first been offered to an idol. Then you shouldn’t eat it. Not, because the meat has suddenly changed, but because of the other person who has said that to you. The other person, actually, has no free conscience. Just don’t eat the meat, in order to meet the other in his weakness. This is how you practice love. For if you would have eaten of that meat despite his remark, it would have appeared as if you agreed with him and also honored the idols.
V29-30. Of course that is not the case with you. Your freedom cannot be judged by the conscience of another person. After all you give thanks to God for your food and do not have idols in mind, right? Many questions about whether anything is allowed or not, can be answered by asking yourself if you can thank God for it.
V31. You may call verse 31 the golden rule of the Christian life. When all things in our life are focused on God’s glory, they will also be visible in the most common things of our life. Whether it concerns food or drink or whatever; it should be “all to the glory of God” in the life of the Christian. Then there is no room anymore for the ‘I’.
Actually it is very nice to look at the Christian life in this way. Being a Christian is not a negative matter with only don’ts, but in fact a positive matter. In the most common detail your life can be to the glory of God. What is more common than to eat and to drink? You can do that to His honor. You may enjoy it. God has even equipped you with a ‘taste’ to be able to enjoy, although we should not always give in to that, so that we only eat what we like. Even things we do not like that much, but nevertheless received from God, we can use to His honor and thank Him for that.
Whatever it is, we can do that in a way that glorifies Him. Your work or study, leisure time, friendship, relationship, in all these things you may involve Him. If you live in such a way, your life will only then make really sense. Then you’re allowed to go and do everything. All things are lawful, right?
I once heard from a youngster who wondered if he could go to a football stadium to watch a match. This match would take place at a moment that he had no other commitments. Would the Lord approve of that? He went to an older brother to ask him for advice. That brother gave him the next advice: ‘You can go easily to the stadium, but don’t forget to take a lot of gospel pamphlets with you, for you will surely meet a lot of people who do not know the Lord Jesus yet.’
In former days I once in a while went to a pub to get a little bit of entertainment. When I surrendered my life to the Lord Jesus, I went back several times, but then with a bunch of gospel material to distribute to the youth.
V32. In all cases it is important that you give no offense to other people, not to Jews or Greek and neither to the church of God. The whole human race consists of these three groups. Each person belongs to one of these three groups. A person is a Jew or a Gentile or a member of the church of God. Each of these three groups has its own characteristics. That is what you should take into consideration; otherwise you give offense to somebody. To give offense means that you do something that hurts another person and push him away from you, while in case you would have acted more carefully you could have prevented it.
In case you have a real Jewish visitor, do not serve him pork. To the Jew it may be an implication that you want to tempt him to do something that he is legally forbidden to do. You could defile his conscience and therefore disqualify yourself as a Christian.
With Gentiles you have contact on a daily basis. Let your light shine as a Christian in your whole conduct. Be an example in the way you’re doing your work, in the way you spend your leisure time, your way of dealing with others, in your talk and silence. Daniel is a nice example of a person who was noticed in an ungodly environment. The next testimony of him is written in God’s Word: “But they could find no ground of accusation or [evidence of] corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was [to be] found in him” (Dan 6:4).
And then the church of God. That is the group where you belong. You are surrounded by its other members. Everything you do has an influence on the whole church. Nothing in your whole life, not even in your thinking, is excluded from it. There is not a moment that you are separated from the church. This doesn’t apply to the Jew and Gentile towards their group. You only have to do with them when you have contact with them. With the church it is different. You yourself take part in it.
Let your conduct be edifying. Seek the best for the other members. Be willing to serve one another. Do not give destructive criticism. The spirit of destructive criticism within the church has already been an offense to a lot of people. You are allowed to be critical, but let the criticism you give, be edifying (take a look at verse 23b).
V33. If verse 32 served as a warning, something we should not do, verse 33 is intended to be an encouragement, something we should do. To please all people in all things goes very far. Yes, but the purpose is nothing less than “that they may be saved”. Do you keep that purpose in mind? Then you will not seek your own concern either.
Are you then supposed to always join the other and do what he says or wants? Yes, within the boundaries that God has ordained, which you can find in the Bible and in your walk with the Lord. Just remember the invitation that comes from an unbeliever, asking you to have dinner with him. Of the Lord Jesus people said: “This Man receives sinners and eats with them” (Lk 15:2). Do you think that the Lord adjusted Himself to them in a way that would dishonor the Name of His Father?
Now read 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 again.
Reflection: Examine if you can thank God for everything you do or plan to do.