PROHIBITION AGAINST IDOLATRY, AND FURTHER EXPLANATION (10:14-22)
"Next, Paul drew several conclusions (therefore) from the previous discussion, and explained further the dangers and idolatrous nature of dining in idols’ temples.
10:14. Paul began by appealing to the Corinthians in very friendly terms, calling them “my dear friends” (“my beloved” NASB), a strategy he employed in a number of passages (see 4:14; 15:58; compare the use of “brothers” in 1:10,11,26; 2:1; 3:1; 4:6; 7:24,29; 10:1; 11:33; 12:!; 14:6,20,26,39; 15:1,31,50,58; 16:15). Paul’s basic advice was simple but dramatic: flee from idolatry. On a several occasions, Paul instructed his readers to “flee” from sin when he saw that they were in grave danger (1 Cor. 6:18; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22). As the preceding verses make clear, idolatry is no insignificant peccadillo. It is a deadly sin. For this reason, Christians should never flirt or toy with it. No measure of compromise is advisable.
10:15. He furthered his application by drawing an analogy between participation in idolatrous festival meals and the Christian practice of the Lord’s Supper (10:15-22). He wrote to the Corinthians with the assumption that they were sensible people (“wise men” NASB), and encouraged them to judge the matter for themselves. Paul had strong convictions on the subject that the Corinthians had no basis to dispute. Still, rather than explicitly assert his authority on the matter, he gave them the benefit of the doubt by assuming that the reasonableness of his argument would win them to his position. In so doing, he asked a series of questions about the Lord’s Supper to which he assumed they knew the correct affirmative answers. His questions focused first on the cup and then on the bread of the Supper.
10:16. Paul’s first question spoke of the cup of thanksgiving and the bread that we break. These expressions parallel the language in the accounts of the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26). This particular passage places special significance on drinking and eating. Drinking from the cup is a participation in the blood of Christ and eating the bread is a participation in the body of Christ. The word participation (koinonia) may also be translated “sharing in” (NASB, NRSV) or “communion of” (NKJV). The New Testament teaches that believers have at least two types of communion. On the one hand, believers experience fellowship with Christ (1 Cor. 1:9; 1 John 1:3,6). On the other hand, believers have fellowship with each another (Acts 2:42; 1 John 1:7).
10:17. Paul added another type of fellowship to explain his concern in this matter. He noted that believers, who are many, are one body, and that this is true because there is one loaf of which all partake. In Paul’s writings, “one body” is a technical phrase that refers to mystical union. For example, in 1 Corinthians 6:16 this same phrase (hen soma) refers to the union between a man and a woman who engage in sexual intercourse. Paul also used this term in Romans 12:5 to explain the relationship between believers, saying not that they are simply members of the same church or followers of the same Lord, but that because they are “in Christ” (in mystical union with Christ), they are “one body” and “members one of another” (NASB). Because all believers are in spiritual union with Christ, all believers share spiritual union with one another in him. Paul’s term “one body” refers to this union.
Paul could have said that believers partake of one loaf because they are one body, because this is also true — but he did not. Rather, he said that believers are one body because they partake of one loaf. Partaking of the bread does not make a congregation from people who were not formerly a congregation, but it does increase the supernatural quality of their fellowship with each another. Paul assumed a similar spiritual effect also took place between the demons and the worshipers in the idols’ temples, and forbid participation in pagan ceremonies as a result (10:19-22).
10:18. Paul added a comment about the people of Israel in the Old Testament. Some interpreters have taken his words negatively, as if they referred to the revelry at the foot of Mount Sinai (Exod. 32:1-6). Others more properly have taken a positive interpretation, suggesting that Paul spoke of the Passover celebration of peace offerings. In the thanksgiving or peace offerings of the Old Testament, the Israelites ate portions of what they sacrificed (Lev. 7:15-16). The Passover meal exemplified the kind of sacrifice of which worshipers ate (Exod. 12:1-14), and the Christian Lord’s Supper had its roots in the Old Testament Passover ceremony (Matt. 26:17-28; Mark 14:12-24; Luke 22:15-20). In this view, Paul referred the Corinthians to the Old Testament practice of Passover as historical support for his views of the Lord’s Supper in 10:16-17.
Once again, he emphasized the fact that those who eat such sacrifices participate (“are . . . sharers” NASB; “are . . . partners” NRSV; “are . . . partakers” NKJV) in the spiritual significance of the altar of the temple. In a word, Paul did not consider eating the Old Testament thanksgiving offerings to be empty symbolism. Rather, he believed that spiritual fellowship took place that could not be ignored. Union between believers and their God occurs as they partake. In the same way, Paul argued that those who partake of the Lord’s Supper fellowship with God.
10:19-20. Paul warned the Corinthians to flee from idolatry (10:14), and supported his command with the fact that participants in biblical sacrificial meals have spiritual communion with God and with each other (10:16-18). Paul’s point is rather plain. If such communion takes place in biblical sacrificial meals, then in some sense it also takes place in pagan sacrificial meals — but Paul anticipated an objection. Did he mean that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? “No, ” he replied. Paul had already argued that pagan religions are false and that their sacrifices are not made to true gods (8:4), and at the same time had qualified that statement by saying that many so-called gods exist (8:5). In the verse at hand, he explained his meaning more fully. Pagans are greatly mistaken about the meanings and powers of the sacrifices they make and about their so-called gods, but they are not mistaken about the fact that something supernatural is involved — the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons.
|image taken from Idolatry, Demons, and Ecumenism - http://thecripplegate.com/idolatry-demons-and-ecumenism/|
10:21. To drive his point home, Paul referred back to the Lord’s Supper. It is inappropriate for Christians to drink the cup of the Lord and also the cup of demons. Drinking the cup of demons is a sharing of fellowship with evil supernatural beings, and somehow affects a mysterious spiritual union with them, just as sexual intercourse between a man and a prostitute affects a similar union (1 Cor. 6:16). Believers rightfully belong to Christ alone, who purchased them with his blood (Acts 20:28). Because of the sanctity of this relationship with God, believers must distance themselves from idols. Demons have no power over Christians even when Christians eat in idols’ temples, but such union with demons corrupts the sanctity of the believer’s relationship with Christ just as fornication with prostitutes does (1 Cor. 6:15).
10:22. Paul made this clear when he closed with two final questions. He wondered if the Corinthians really wanted to arouse the Lord’s jealousy, and asked if they thought they were stronger than the Lord. God is often portrayed in Scripture as a jealous, possessive husband (Isa. 54:5-8; Jer. 31:32; Ezek. 6:9; Hos. 2:1-13). He requires exclusive communion from his people. The Corinthians were to flee the practices of idolatry because they risked incurring the wrath of God much like the Israelites under Moses (see commentary on 10:6-11).
PRACTICAL DIRECTIONS ON MEAT OFFERED TO IDOLS (10:23-11:1)
Prior to this point in his argument, the apostle presented at least three big issues related to the question of meat offered to idols. First, he agreed with the knowledgeable at Corinth that idols are not truly divine and therefore should not be treated with pagan superstition (8:1-8). Second, he argued that because idolatrous practices involve demons, Christians should never participate in such religious practices (10:1-10:22). Third, he emphasized that the guiding moral imperative in all of these matters is love for others, not asserting one’s own rights (8:9-9:27). At this point, he tied all of these principles together into practical guidelines for the Corinthians to follow.
10:23-24. This section begins with a slogan that Paul had already mentioned: everything is permissible (see 6:12). There is a measure of truth in the slogan; Christians have much freedom in Christ. Yet, Paul argued that the slogan must be balanced for practical implementation. He countered the slogan with two similar qualifications: not everything is beneficial (“profitable” NASB; “helpful” NKJV); and not everything is constructive (“edify” NASB, NKJV; “build up” NRSV).
The meanings of beneficial and constructive are ambiguous at first glance. Did Paul mean beneficial for the person himself or herself? Or did he have in mind the benefit of others? In line with his previous discussion on the importance of love and humility toward others, Paul made the meaning of these terms clear: nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. In all matters the question of edification of others in Christ must be a constant consideration. As the apostle said before, there should be no doubt that in one sense Christians are free to eat meat offered to idols. Still, such freedom is not always conducive to the edification others. Freedom in Christ must be balanced by a desire to build up and benefit Christians (see 1 Cor. 8:1; compare Matt 22:39; Rom 14:19).
10:25-26. With this qualification in mind, Paul described two real-life circumstances that fleshed out these principles (10:25-31). In short, Paul’s directions may be summarized in this way: Christians may eat any meat they buy in the market so long as the issue of idolatry does not come up. Yet, if the matter of sacrifice to idols is mentioned, then believers should refrain from eating for the sake of others.
In the meat markets of the Greece, some meat was sold after being dedicated to an idol, while other meat had never been so dedicated. Apparently, shopkeepers did not always make the distinction evident.
The rabbis placed many restrictions on Jews who lived in pagan cities like Corinth. Jews had to be sure that shops were entirely kosher, and they had to refrain from purchasing meat in shops that did not meet this standard.
But this was not Paul’s policy. Believers could eat anything sold . . . without raising questions about whether or not the meat had been sacrificed to an idol. Why were Christians able to do this? Paul supported his counsel (for) by quoting Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” Jews often used this particular line from Psalm 24 in mealtime prayers. Paul used this well-known prayer to assert that the Lord is the only true God of all things (compare 1 Tim. 4:3-5), and that idols truly are insignificant from a Christian perspective (1 Cor. 8:4). For this reason, followers of Christ did not have to go about asking each shop keeper if the meats they sold had been offered to idols. They could eat without raising questions of conscience, that is, without raising issues about the meat’s history that might trouble others’ consciences. Of course, Paul did not encourage weak Christians to eat against their consciences (8:1). Rather, he spoke to those who understood the true nature of idols and of the meat offered to them.
10:27-29a. After speaking of the marketplace, Paul turned to the situations in which believers were guests in unbelievers’ homes (10:27-30). His first statement was similar to the marketplace advice. Christians may eat whatever they receive without raising questions of conscience. Even so, the policy changes if someone says that the meat has been offered in sacrifice to an idol. When this fact is known, the situation becomes more complex. Followers of Christ are not to eat under these circumstances for the sake of the man who told you. Paul’s outlook is clear. Knowing that meat has been sacrificed to idols raises issues of the other man’s conscience, perhaps by offending him, but more likely by encouraging him to participate fully in the sinful practices of idolatry.
It is significant that Paul offered instructions on dining with unbelievers. Apparently, this was not a scenario he imagined would be played out in a believer’s home. Probably this stems from the fact that, for Paul, there was no doctrinal reason for Christians to abstain from buying and eating sacrificed food in their own homes. Dining in pagan temples was wrong, not because the meat was tainted, but because the act of sharing in the demon’s tables — not the simple act of eating — was idolatrous. If the Corinthians followed Paul’s advice, they never would have known whether or not the meat they purchased had been sacrificed to idols, and thus would not be in a position to tell their guests the meat’s history. Further, Christian guests should not have suffered a moral quandary on this issue.
10:29b-30. It is somewhat difficult to know how to understand this portion of Paul’s argument. Was he defending his own actions against those who opposed him in Corinth, or was he speaking hypothetically of himself as if he were in a situation like the one he posited in 10:27-29a? In any event, the two questions in this section seem designed to justify (for) his policy regarding eating in unbelievers’ homes.
First, Paul wondered why he should do anything that would allow his freedom to be judged by another man’s conscience. Christians have freedom to eat meat sacrificed to idols, but they should not exercise that freedom when it threatens the conscience of another. If an unbelieving host does not mention the meat’s history, his conscience evidently is not threatened by that history and Christians are free to eat. If believers ask questions about the meat, however, it indicates to their unbelieving hosts that idols are significant. Thus, when Christians eat such meat after asking its history, their hosts’ consciences may be encouraged toward idolatry (compare 8:7). Alternatively, hosts may consider believers hypocritical if believers eat meat they know to have been sacrificed to idols. This seems to the be point of his second question, “Why am I denounced?” Christians should not ask such questions because questions can only lead to the unnecessary forfeiture of Christian freedom, or to the harm of their hosts’ consciences. For obvious related reasons, Christians should not eat meat when their hosts volunteer the information that the meat has been sacrificed to an idol. Eating under such conditions is just like asking and being told the same information. Eating meat sacrificed to idols is not worth the potential harm it can bring to the cause of Christ and to the mind of the unbeliever. Therefore, when it is known that meat has been offered to idols, it is much better to refrain.
Nevertheless, one should not overlook the fact that Paul also said Christians may legitimately give thanks for and confidently eat meat which has been sacrificed to idols. They may take part in the meal with thankfulness. This is most likely a reference to the prayer of thanks in 10:26. In any case, Paul did not here argue for the forfeiture of Christian freedom, but for the protection and careful exercise of Christian freedom. He suggested abstinence only when such freedom had been compromised by the actions of others.
10:31-32. In a final conclusion (“so” NIV, NRSV; “therefore” NKJV; “then” NASB) Paul summarized his outlook into two principles (10:31-11:1). First, whether or not believers partake, they must do it all for the glory of God. Believers must make choices that will yield honor and praise to God. This general principle applies to every area of life. The chief end of human beings is the glory of God; his honor should be the principle concern in all matters for those who love God (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37).
Second, whether believers partake or not, they should also be concerned about other people. They should not cause anyone to stumble that is, they should not cause anyone to sin, nor hinder their receptivity to the gospel. The principle of love for neighbor goes hand in hand with love for God (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39). Paul insisted that this concern for others applies to Jews, Greeks, and the church of God. He mentioned these groups because each kind of people raised different considerations (compare 9:20-22). Both Jews and Greeks are unbelieving, but each group has different standards and expectations. Moreover, the principle of love for neighbor must also extend to the church because Christians have different issues to be taken into consideration as well. Each situation requires wisdom and care as the principles of love for God and neighbor are applied.
10:33-11:1. Paul closed this section by reminding his readers that he did not requiring of them something he himself was unwilling to do. He reminded them of the practices he described in 8:13-9:23, insisting that he sought to please everybody in every way. Of course, as he had said earlier (9:21), Paul did not carry his service to others to the point of sin. He sought to serve others because he was not seeking his own good but the good of many, or more specifically, he was seeking that they may be saved (see 9:19-22). Paul’s commitment to seeking the salvation of the lost led him to subjugate his personal preferences and freedoms to the good of others. As a result of the consistency with which Paul fulfilled this service, he felt capable of encouraging the Corinthians to follow his example as he followed the example of Christ. As Paul explained in detail in Philippians 2:5-8, Christ gave up all of his freedom and honor, humbling himself to the point of death on a cross, in order to save others. Paul encouraged the Corinthians to remember Christ’s great sacrifice as the perfect model of love and concern for others (compare Rom. 15:1-3; Eph. 4:32-5:1). " - Extracted from Demonic Worship by Richard Pratt Jr. - Download and read the whole article HERE.