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Liberty in Christ
1 Corinthians 10, and Idolatry
in Christ: Extended Introduction
Liberty in Christ: Introduction
and New Testament Survey
for Liberty in Christ
the Law, and the 10 Commandments
of the Law of Liberty
and Yet Prohibition
Pagan Practices in the Old Testament
is Observing Times?
Bondage, and Righteousness
and Meat Sacrificed to Idols
and 1 Corinthians 8
1 Corinthians 10, and Idolatry
1 Corinthians 10, and Your Neighbor
and Practical Applications
Romans 14, the Conscience, and Morality
we will see as we move on into 1 Corinthians 10 where Paul
resumes his instructions on the topic of eating sacrificed
meat, in this chapter, Paul actually refutes the practice
of eating meat sacrificed to idols on the grounds that it
violates both of the commands of the Law of Christ, the Law
1 Corinthians 10:1 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; 2 And
were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink
the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual
Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they
were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things
were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after
evil things, as they also lusted. 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. 9 Neither
let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and
were destroyed of serpents.
Even the way Paul begins chapter 10 tells us he is about to
uphold the prohibition of eating meat sacrificed to idols
given by the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 and 21. Notice that,
as is Paul's custom when presenting an argument, he refers
back to an Old Testament example. In this particular Old Testament
example, Paul is paralleling how even though the Israelites
were baptized into Moses, just as we are baptized into Christ,
and even though those Israelites drank from the Rock that
was Christ, afterward, many of them displeased God and were
How? They were overthrown because they partook of idolatry
and fornication, which are the exact same two things prohibited
by the apostles in Acts 15 and 21. These are also the exact
same two things Jesus condemns people for teaching in Revelation
2:14,20. In what way does Paul say they became idolaters?
In verse 7 he says they became idolaters when they "sat down
to eat and drink." We must remember Paul's association of
eating and drinking here with idolatry as we move ahead into
verses 14-22, where Paul will discuss the practice of eating
food and drinking drink that have been offered to idols.
Lastly, we should notice that Paul says if we follow in the
footsteps of these Israelites who by their eating and drinking
became idolaters even after they partook of Christ, then we
too, will tempt Christ.
Let's continue with 1 Corinthians 10.
1 Corinthians 10:14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee
Verse 14 is a critical one. Having just laid out a comparison
to the Israelites of Exodus who by eating and drinking a feast
unto an idol became idolaters, Paul concludes here in verse
14, "Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry." It
is clear that in this context of eating meat that had been
sacrificed to idols and following this example of the Israelites
who ate and drank at the feast to an idol, when Paul writes
"wherefore, flee from idolatry" what Paul means is "flee from
eating and drinking sacrifices to idols."
And Paul goes on to explain why.
At this point we must once again note that the Law of Christ
as Paul calls is or the Law of Liberty as James calls it had
two commands given by Christ in Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31,
and Luke 10:26-27. What Jesus calls the "first and greatest"
of those two commands was to love God with all your being,
having no gods before him. This meant abstaining from idolatry.
And the second of these two commands was to love your neighbor
What is most interesting about Paul's arguments in 1 Corinthians
10 is that 1 Corinthians 10 is divided into two sections.
In the first section in 1 Corinthians 10:14-23, Paul refutes
the eating of meat sacrificed to idols on the grounds that
it violates the first command of the Law of Liberty. In the
second section in 1 Corinthians 10:24-33, Paul refutes the
eating of meat sacrificed to idols on the grounds that it
violates the second command of the Law of Liberty.
So, by stating that eating meat sacrificed to idols violates
both commands of the Law of Liberty, the Law of Christ, Paul
is actually saying that eating sacrificed meat violates, rather
than demonstrates, the liberty we have in Christ Jesus.
What follows next in 1 Corinthians 10 is very significant.
In verse 15-18, Paul gives two examples, one from the present
practices of the Church of his day and one from the Old Testament
practices of Israel.
1 Corinthians 10:15 I speak as to wise men; judge ye
what I say. 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? 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?
Both of these examples are designed to show one thing and
only one thing. With both of these examples Paul is demonstrating
that by partaking of a sacrifice, by eating it, by drinking
it, we commune with and become one with the other people who
are partaking of it AND we are communing with and partaking
of the one to whom the sacrifice was made.
In fact, this is also why in the very next chapter of 1 Corinthians
Paul says the following.
1 Corinthians 11: 20 When ye come together therefore
into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper.
21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own
supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. 22
What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise
ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall
I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.
...29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth
and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's
When the Corinthians were coming together weekly to eat the
Lord's Supper, Paul says they were treating it as if it were
not the Lord's Supper at all. Instead, according to Paul,
they were eating without waiting for each other and consuming
greedily to the point of feeding their hunger as if this were
just a regular meal. Some are even getting drunk. In verse
22, Paul instructs that normal meals should be eaten in the
home, so that the Lord's Supper will not be treated as mere
food and drink. Last, Paul concludes since the Lord's Supper
is a sacrificial meal by which we fellowship of the Lord Jesus
Christ, each other, and God (to whom the sacrifice was made),
those who eat and drink of the Lord's Supper while unconcerned
with its sacrificial nature, bring damnation on themselves.
So we see, Paul is warning the Corinthians not to ignore the
fact that sacrificial meals convey spiritual fellowship and
to treat a sacrificial meal as though it were merely a regular
meal is so dangerous that it can even threaten our very lives.
In the case of the Lord's Supper, by eating the bread and
drinking from the cup, we became one with the Christians who
do so with us AND we also partake of Jesus Christ. In the
case of the Old Testament Israelites, those who ate the sacrifices
on the altar partook of the altar and so communed and fellowshipped
with God to whom the sacrifice had been offered.
Now, with these two examples, Paul is laying a precedent.
He is building a PATTERN. And having established that pattern,
Paul now applies that very pattern to his third example in
1 Corinthians 10:19 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.
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.
These 3 verses are so critical to the entire passage, that
it almost impossible to overemphasize their significance.
They are loaded with significant statements.
Can Christians eat meat sacrificed to idols so long as they
eat it "unto God?" In verse 20, Paul clearly answers "no"
to this question. And why? Because as Paul has already established,
to eat or drink of a sacrifice is to fellowship with the other
people who are partaking and to fellowship with the being
to whom the sacrifice has been offered.
In the case of Christians, by eating the bread and drinking
the cup of Christ we fellowship with both God and each other,
since the sacrifice of Christ was a sacrifice to God. In the
case of the Israelites, when they ate of the altar they fellowshipped
with God to whom the sacrifice had been made. In the case
of things sacrificed to idols, if we eat or drink of them,
we likewise fellowship with the pagans AND with the being
to whom those sacrifices is made. That this is what Paul meant
is proven by the fact that he concludes this sentence with
"I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils."
Clearly what Paul is depicting here is that since these meats
and drinks are offered to devils, to partake of them is to
fellowship with devils.
As Paul clearly says in verse 20, those sacrifices are made
to demons, so to eat or drink them is to fellowship with demons.
Furthermore, as Paul also says, one cannot eat or drink those
sacrifices "unto God" because those sacrifices are not made
to God but to devils.
And, in verse 21, Paul gets even more specific to make sure
we don't miss the point. In verse 21, Paul spells it out exactly
saying we "cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of
devils" and we "cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and
of the table of devils." If we could eat and drink that which
was offered to idols so long as we did so in our hearts "unto
God" and gave God thanks for it, then it would be possible
to eat and drink at both the table of the Lord and the table
of devils. But it is not possible to eat and drink at both
tables because by the very act of eating and the very act
of drinking we partake of those who offer the sacrifice and
the being to whom the sacrifice is given. This is the nature
of a sacrifice. And so, because the things offered to idols
are offered to devils, not God, Paul says we cannot eat and
drink these things unto the Lord.
So, while in 1 Corinthians 8:8, Paul acknowledges the declaration
made by Jesus in Matthew 15:11,17-20 and Mark 7:15-20 that
food of its own nature cannot defile a man, Paul here demonstrates
with these 3 examples that the nature of a sacrifice can defile
a man. And since these meals are by their very nature sacrifices,
they then become spiritual and not just mere meat or drink.
Just as Paul began the chapter in verses 2 and 3 by saying
that the Israelites of Exodus "all at the same spiritual meat"
and "all did drink the same spiritual drink," Paul now explains
that sacrificial food and drinks become spiritual food and
drink because the nature of a sacrifice conveys spiritual
fellowship with those who offer the sacrifice and with the
being to whom the sacrifice is made.
It is not the meat or the drink that defiles us when we partake
of food and drink that has been sacrificed. It is who we are
fellowshipping with that defiles us.
And here is Paul's conclusion to this section.
1 Corinthians 10:22 Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?
are we stronger than he?
Paul has just said that we "cannot eat at the Lord's table
and at the table of devils." Now, in the very next verse he
says "Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?" What does Paul
mean by this question?
First, by using the phrase "provoke the Lord to jealousy"
Paul is referring back to the second commandment from Exodus
20:1-6, where God himself states the following reason why
the Israelites are forbidden to practice idolatry.
Exodus 20:1 And God spake all these words, saying,
2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the
land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have
no other gods before me. 4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any
graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven
above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the
water under the earth. 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to
them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous
God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children
unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
The first commandment is found in verse 3. Verse 4 then begins
the second commandment. And by quoting this line from the
second commandment found in Exodus 20 with regard to God's
jealousy being aroused by idolatry, Paul is clearly upholding
that this second commandment was still binding on Christians
and that eating at the table of devils violated that commandment.
However, by attaching the phrase "provoking the Lord" to the
word "jealousy" Paul is also simultaneously referencing all
of the following passages in which God's people provoked him
to anger by mingling in idolatrous practices including the
"observing of times." (See Deuteronomy 4:25, Deuteronomy 32:16-17,
Judges 2:12, 1 Kings 14:9, 1 Kings 15:30, 1 Kings 16:2, 1
Kings 22:53, 2 Kings 17:11, 2 Kings 17:17, 2 Kings 21:6, 2
Kings 22:17, and 2 Chronicles 33:6.)
This is why Paul begins this section in verse 14-23 with "flee
from idolatry." Paul clearly feels that by eating and drinking
things that had been sacrificed to devils Christians were
provoking the Lord to jealousy in the same way that the Israelites
did in the Old Testament. Paul clearly feels that to eat and
drink of sacrifices offered to devils is to break the first
two commandments given by God in Exodus 20:1-6 and, therefore,
also to break the first commandment of the Law of Christ,
the Law of Liberty, given by Christ Jesus in Matthew 22:36-40,
Mark 12:28-31, and Luke 10:26-27.
Finally, Paul concludes this section with these words.
1 Corinthians 10:23 All things are lawful for me,
but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful
for me, but all things edify not.
Now, many Christians read the words "all things are lawful
for me" and they forget or ignore the rest of Paul's argument.
Thus, they conclude that Paul is declaring it perfectly acceptable
to eat meat sacrificed to idols. But this is not at all the
As we have said, one of the three aspects of our "liberty
in Christ" is our freedom from the Law of Moses. So, when
Paul says "all things are lawful for me" he is simply referring
to the fact that we are free FROM the Law of Moses. And Paul
is clearly telling the Corinthians that this freedom from
the Law of Moses does not make it acceptable for them to eat
meat that had been sacrificed to idols. This reference to
what is "lawful" only refers to the Law of Moses and does
NOT refer to what is a "matter of liberty" under the Law of