I Corinthians 10:24–11:1. Conclusion of a "Non-problem".

Key Notes: Three rules on doubtful issues. Rules for Christian communities.

In ICor.8–10 Paul gives us an extensive discussion of a doubtful issue—a non-problem to us—eating food offered to an idol. In chapter 8 he considers the weak believer; in chapter 9 he takes up the obligation of God's servants to the non-Christian. Chapter 10 is divided into three parts. In the first thirteen verses, Paul describes four failures of Israel in the wilderness that had fatal consequences. The passage invites comparison with the Corinthian church’s own failings and concludes with a warning to the Corinthians--and a comfort.

The second part of the chapter, from 10:13–22 addresses the strong believer directly and the problem of meat offered to idols. The final section summarizes the entire unit of chapters 8–10 and decisions we must make in ethically ambiguous situations. This lesson covers the final two sections.

10:14–22 The Corinthians must stay away from idols for three reasons.

  1. They are participants in the body and blood of Christ through the Communion service, just as the Israelites were partakers of altar sacrifices.
  2. The idol is nothing in itself (word, stone, metal), but behind it there is demonic power. The believer cannot be in communion with demons by eating in the idol’s temple.
  3. We must not provoke the Lord to jealousy by playing it both ways.

The word “participate” or “commune” is from the Gr. word “koinonia”, and it is used four times in this passage; twice in 10:16, and in 10:18,20. It is often translated “fellowship”.
The communion service is a fellowship with Christ, symbolized by the bread and wine.

We have three words for the Passover which Jesus celebrated with his disciples. (Lk.22:14–18). We call it

*The Lord’s Supper. This suggests a memorial feast, in remembrance of Christ’s death, as Zwingli advocated. “Do this in remembrance of me. “ (ICor.11:24)
*Eucharist. The word means to give thanks, thanks for the celebration and to Christ for his death on our behalf. Christ gave thanks (Gr. "eucharistia") during the Last Supper. (Lk.22:17,19).
*Communion. This word conveys the idea of sharing, or joint ownership. The idea of sharing is mentioned by Paul. When he says “we all partake of one bread”, he is speaking of our bond with each other. But we are also bonded with Christ, sharing in his body and blood—His life. ICor.10:16,17

The three words convey different ideas. The “communion” is the more profound of the expressions. Much controversy has been spent over the two millennia of what exactly happens during the communion service. I suspect that that depends largely on the individual and the moment and should not have been made dogma. However, we will heed Paul’s warning not to eat the supper in an unworthy manner. ICor.11:27

We tend to think of idol-worship itself as a non-problem, but that is naïve. The idols of ancient Greece and Rome are powerful images even today. They command worship. The Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, even Michelangelo’s David strike awe in the observer. Our pinups are only less enduring examples of the same temptation to idolatry. They are closer to us, and more attractive that the invisible God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do they not provoke the Lord to jealousy?

10:23–11:1 In conclusion, Paul repeats his three points.
*On the weak brother: “Let no one seek his own good but the good of his neighbor.” (10:24)

*On the pagan: “If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner…eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if some one says to you ‘This has been offered in sacrifice’…for conscience' sake …do not eat it.” (10:27–29)
“…I try to please all men in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage but that of many, that they may be saved. “(10:33–11:1)

*To the strong: "shun the worship of idols." (10:14)
“Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For ‘the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.’” (10:25–26)

Finally, “Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God.”(10:32)

In doubtful matters,
            Think of the weak Christian. He may stumble watching you.
            Think of the non-Christians. Exert every muscle to win some.
            Think of yourself. You are not invulnerable.

Study a case-problem of group morality.
Some of the typically doubtful practices of modern times were forbidden at my college for many years:
“When you register as a …student, you agree that

you will not smoke or use intoxicating liquors.
You will not play cards.
You will not gamble.
You will not dance.
You will not cheat.
You will not meet with secret societies.
You will not attend the theater. “

In 2003, these rules were abandoned in place of a Community Covenant. (condensed)
“We understand that our calling includes the following:

The call to acknowledge the Lordship of Christ over all of life and thought.
The call to love God with our whole being, including our minds and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
The call to pursue holiness in every aspect of our thought and behavior.
The call to exercise our Christian freedom responsibly within the framework of God’s Word, humbly submitting ourselves to one another.
The call to treat our own bodies and those of others with the honor due the very temple of the Holy spirit.
The call to participate in the worship and activities of the local church.

Followers of Jesus Christ will
*show evidence of the Holy Spirit who lives within them. Gal.5:22
*“put on” compassion, kindness, humility…and supremely, love.
*seek righteousness, mercy and justice, particularly for the helpless and oppressed.
*love and side with what is good in God’s eyes and abhor what is evil in God’s eyes.
*uphold the God-given worth of human being from conception to death.
*uphold chastity among the unmarried and the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman.
*be people of integrity whose word can be fully trusted.
*give faithful witness to the Gospel and practice good works toward all and live lives of prayer and thanksgiving.

By contrast, Scripture condemns the following

*pride, dishonesty, prejudice, immodesty in dress or behavior, slander, gossip, vulgar or obscene language, blasphemy, greed and materialism (e.g.. gambling).
*hypocrisy, self-righteousness and legalism.
*sinful attitudes and behaviors such as “impurity, debauchery, etc.(Gal.5:19–21)
*sexual immorality such as the use of pornography, pre-marital sex, etc.

Responsible freedom also requires thoughtful, biblically-guided choices in matter of behavior, entertainment, interpersonal relationships and observance of the Lord’s Day. All c
ollege-related functions will be alcohol-free and tobacco-free. On-campus dances will take place only with official College sponsorship. All members of the …community will take care to avoid any entertainment or behavior, on or off campus, which may be immodest, sinfully erotic, or harmfully violent. “

This new code of Christian behavior makes the old legalism look easy. We did not really have to think about it. We knew what not to do.

When the lines are sharply drawn, enforcement is easy.
When the lines are not sharply drawn, how will the young Christian respond?
Since 10% of the College student body is not Christian, what of them?
How will the Dean of Students react to the disobedient? Is enforcement possible?
How will the courts rule on “John Doe vs. The College?”

There is no simple solution to the problem of public morality. Pray for our Christian colleges.