Key Text: When you are tempted, He will show you a way out.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT)
1-5 Remember our history, friends, and be warned. All our ancestors were led by the providential Cloud and taken miraculously through the Sea. They went through the waters, in a baptism like ours, as Moses led them from enslaving death to salvation life. They all ate and drank identical food and drink, meals provided daily by God. They drank from the Rock, God’s fountain for them that stayed with them wherever they were. And the Rock was Christ. But just experiencing God’s wonder and grace didn’t seem to mean much—most of them were defeated by temptation during the hard times in the desert, and God was not pleased.
Reflection: (1 Corinthians 10:1-5)
The cloud and the sea mentioned here refer to Israel’s escape from slavery in Egypt when God led them by a cloud and brought them safely through the Red Sea (Exodus 14)
The spiritual food and water are the provisions God gave as they traveled through the wilderness (Exodus 15-16).
Reflection: (1 Corinthians 10:1)
In 1 Corinthians 9. Paul used himself as an example of a mature Christian who disciplines himself to better serve God in 1 Corinthians 1, he uses Israel as an example of spiritual immaturity, shown in their overconfidence and lack of self-discipline.
Reflection: (1 Corinthians 10:2)
“All of them were baptized” means that just as we are united in Christ by baptism, so the Israelites were united as God’s children, especially seen through the events of the Exodus.
6-10 The same thing could happen to us. We must be on guard so that we never get caught up in wanting our own way as they did. And we must not turn our religion into a circus as they did—“First the people partied, then they threw a dance.” We must not be sexually promiscuous—they paid for that, remember, with 23,000 deaths in one day! We must never try to get Christ to serve us instead of us serving him; they tried it, and God launched an epidemic of poisonous snakes. We must be careful not to stir up discontent; discontent destroyed them.
Reflection: (1 Corinthians 10:7-10)
The Israelites made a gold calf and worshiped it in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:7; see Exodus 32).
They worshiped Baal of Peor and engaged in sexual immorality with Moabite women (1 Corinthians 10:8; see Numbers 25:1-9).
They complained about their food.
They put the Lord to the test by seeing how far they could go (1 Corinthians 10:9; see Numbers 21:5-6).
The people complained against Moses and Aaron, and a plague resulted (1 Corinthians 10:10; see Numbers 14:2,36; 16:41-50).
The angel of death is also referred to in Exodus 12:23.
11-12 These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.
Reflection: (1 Corinthians 10:10)
Paul warned the Corinthian believers not to grumble.
We start to grumble when our attention shifts from what we have to what we don’t have.
The people of Israel didn’t seem to notice what God was doing for them – setting them free, making them a nation, giving them a new land – because they were so wrapped up in what God wasn’t doing for them. They could think nothing but the delicious Egyptian food they had left behind (Number 11:5).
Before we judge Israelites too harshly, it’s helpful to think about what occupies our attention most of the time.
Are we grateful for what God has given to us, or are we always thinking about what we would like to have??
Don’t allow your unfulfilled desires to cause you to forget God’s gifts of life, family, friends, food, health, and work.
Reflection: (1 Corinthians 10:11)
Today’s pressures make it easy to ignore or forget the lessons of the past.
But, Paul cautions us to remember the lessons the Israelites learned about God so we can avoid repeating their errors.
The key to remember is to study the Bible regularly so that these lessons remind us of how God wants us to live.
We need not repeat their mistakes.
13 No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.
Key Reflection: (1 Corinthians 10:13)
In a culture filled with moral depravity and sin-inducing pressures, Paul encourages us about temptation.
They happen to everyone, so we don’t need to feel we’ve been singled out. Others have resisted temptation and so can we.
We can resist any temptation because God will show us a way out.
God will help you to:
- Recognize those people and situations that give you trouble.
- Run from anything you know is wrong.
- Choose to do only what is right.
- Pray for God’s help.
- Seek friends who love God and can offer help when you are tempted.
Running from a tempting situation is your first step on the way to victory (See 2 Timothy 2:2).
14 So, my very dear friends, when you see people reducing God to something they can use or control, get out of their company as fast as you can.
Reflection: (1 Corinthians 10:14)
Idol worship was the major expression of religion in Corinth. There were several pagan temples in the city, and they were very popular.
The statues of wood or stone were not evil themselves, but people gave them credit for what only God could do, such as provide good weather, crops, and children.
Idolatry is still a serious problem today, but it takes a different form.
We don’t put our trust in statues of wood and stone but in paper money and plastic cards.
Putting our trust in anything but God is idolatry.
Our modern idols are those symbols of power, pleasure, or prestige that we so highly regard.
When we understand contemporary parallels to idolatry, Paul’s words to “flee from the worship of idols” become much more meaningful.
15-18 I assume I’m addressing believers now who are mature. Draw your own conclusions: When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life, of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the loaf of bread we break and eat? Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ? Because there is one loaf, our many-ness becomes one-ness—Christ doesn’t become fragmented in us. Rather, we become unified in him. We don’t reduce Christ to what we are; he raises us to what he is. That’s basically what happened even in old Israel—those who ate the sacrifices offered on God’s altar entered into God’s action at the altar.
Reflection: (1 Corinthians 10:16-21)
The idea of unity and fellowship with God through eating a sacrifice was strong in Judaism and Christianity as well as in paganism.
In Old Testament days, when Jews offered a sacrifice, they ate a part of that sacrifice as a way of restoring unity with God, against whom they had sinned (Deuteronomy 12:17-18).
Similarly, Christians participate in Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice at the Lord’s Table when they eat the bread and drink from the cup, signifying His body and blood.
Recent converts from paganism could not help being affected if they knowingly ate meat that had been offered to idols at pagan feasts.
19-22 Do you see the difference? Sacrifices offered to idols are offered to nothing, for what’s the idol but a nothing? Or worse than nothing, a minus, a demon! I don’t want you to become part of something that reduces you to less than yourself. And you can’t have it both ways, banqueting with the Master one day and slumming with demons the next. Besides, the Master won’t put up with it. He wants us—all or nothing. Do you think you can get off with anything less?
Reflection: (1 Corinthians 21)
As followers of Christ we must give Him total allegiance.
We cannot, as Paul explains, have a part in “the cup of the Lord and…the cup of demons.”
Eating at the Lord’s Table means communing with Christ and identifying with His death.
Drinking from the cup of demons means identifying with Satan by worshiping or promoting pagan (or evil activities).
Are you leading two lives, trying to follow both Christ and the crowd?
The Bible says that you can’t do both at the same time.
23-24 Looking at it one way, you could say, “Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.” But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.
Reflection: (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)
Sometimes it’s hard to know when to deter to weaker believers.
Paul gives a simple rule of thumb to help in making the decision:
We should be sensitive and gracious.
The goal here is not a general hypersensitivity that worries about what others might possibly think. Rather, it is a genuine awareness of others and a willingness to limit what we do when there is a real possibility of misunderstanding and offense.
Some actions may not be wrong, but they may not be in the best interest of others.
We have freedom in Christ, but we shouldn’t exercise our freedom at the cost of hurting a Christian brother or sister.
We are not to consider only ourselves, we must also consider the needs and perspective others. (For more on the proper attitude toward a weak believer, see Romans 14 and the note on 1 Corinthians 8:10-13).
25-28 With that as a base to work from, common sense can take you the rest of the way. Eat anything sold at the butcher shop, for instance; you don’t have to run an “idolatry test” on every item. “The earth,” after all, “is God’s, and everything in it.” That “everything” certainly includes the leg of lamb in the butcher shop. If a nonbeliever invites you to dinner and you feel like going, go ahead and enjoy yourself; eat everything placed before you. It would be both bad manners and bad spirituality to cross-examine your host on the ethical purity of each course as it is served. On the other hand, if he goes out of his way to tell you that this or that was sacrificed to god or goddess so-and-so, you should pass. Even though you may be indifferent as to where it came from, he isn’t, and you don’t want to send mixed messages to him about who you are worshiping.
Paul gave one answer to the dilemma: Buy whatever meat is sold at the market without asking whether or not it was offered to idols.
It doesn’t matter anyway, and no one’s conscience will be bothered.
When we become too worried about our every action, we become legalistic and cannot enjoy life.
Everything belongs to God, and He has given us all things to enjoy.
If we know something is a problem, then we can deal with it, but we don’t need to go looking for problems.
Why should we be limited by another person’s conscience?
Simply because we are to do all things for God’s glory, even our eating and drinking.
Nothing we do should cause another believer to stumble.
We do what is best for others so that they might be saved.
We should also be sensitive to the meaning of our actions to new Christians who are sorting out how to renounce sinful ways from the past and live for Christ.
However, Christians should not make a career out of being the offended people with oversensitive consciences.
Believers must not project their standards onto others.
Many believers who have been Christians for years are still oversensitive and judgmental of others.
Instead of being the offended weaker brothers, they are no more than offended “Pharisees..”
Christian leaders and teachers should carefully teach about the freedom Christians have in matters not expressly forbidden by Scripture.
New or weak Christians should not remain in a weak or sensitive state but should grow into maturity and discernment lest they prove to be an unnecessary burden on others’ freedom in Christ.
29-30 But, except for these special cases, I’m not going to walk around on eggshells worrying about what small-minded people might say; I’m going to stride free and easy, knowing what our large-minded Master has already said. If I eat what is served to me, grateful to God for what is on the table, how can I worry about what someone will say? I thanked God for it and he blessed it!
31-33 So eat your meals heartily, not worrying about what others say about you—you’re eating to God’s glory, after all, not to please them. As a matter of fact, do everything that way, heartily and freely to God’s glory. At the same time, don’t be callous in your exercise of freedom, thoughtlessly stepping on the toes of those who aren’t as free as you are. I try my best to be considerate of everyone’s feelings in all these matters; I hope you will be, too.
Reflection: 1 Corinthians 10:31)
Our actions must be motivated by God’s love so that all we do will be for His glory.
Keep this as a guiding principle by asking, “Is this action glorifying God?” or “How can I honor God through this action?”
Reflection: (1 Corinthians 10:33)
Paul’s criterion for all his actions was not what he liked best but what was best for those around him.
The opposite approach would be:
- Being insensitive and doing what we want, no matter who is hurt by it.
- Being oversensitive and doing nothing, for gear that someone may be displeased.
- Being a “yes person” by going along with everything, trying to gain approval from people rather than from God.
In this age of “me first” and “looking out for number one,” Paul’s startling statement is a good standard.
If we make the good others one of our primary goals, we will develop a serving attitude that pleases God.