Among the writings of Paul, 1 Corinthians is the letter which teaches the church what it means to be a Christian community.
The opening verses (ch1 vv1-9) have the effect of defining where the church comes from and what it’s based on, and I will want to show how the rest
of the teaching follows on from that.
I was drawing out a definition of the church in the attached thread;
Defining the church
Part of the definition was that the church has been sanctified, set apart for God.
So the next concern is how this affects their relations with other gods (ch10 vv14-28).
v14 Paul begins with a clear instruction; “Shun the worship of idols”.
If his readers had a Jewish heritage, that would have been enough.
They would have known the first commandment as the starting-point of their faith, the most fundamental teaching of the Old Testament;
“You shall have no other gods but me”.
But most of the Corinthians were probably Gentiles, without the same background.
It seems that they’re taking part in non-Christian ritual meals, and he’s having to exert himself just to convince them that this leads them into
vv15-17 First he reminds them of the nature of the Lord’s Supper, eating at the Lord’s table, drinking “the cup of blessing”.
There is KOINONIA, a shared meal in the presence of their God.
This is germane to his argument, because he wants to show them there’s a direct conflict.
vv18-22 A sacrifice in the ancient world was commonly a meal shared with a god.
This was certainly the case, as Paul reminds them, with many of the sacrifices of the Old Testament.
Then God would have a portion of the beast, instead of the whole beast, while human worshippers or priests would have the rest.
That’s why Paul says the Israelites were “sharing in fellowship (KOINONOI) with the altar”.
They were sharing a meal with their God.
This is leading up to the point that the ritual meals tempting the Corinthians have got the same function.
Anyone who takes part in them is “sharing in fellowship (KOINONOI) with demons”.
They are not just sharing a social occasion with the neighbours, but joining in the worship of the god those neighbours are worshipping.
But this is not compatible with joining in the table of the Lord.
They cannot sit down where the Lord is head of the table and drink from his cup, and do the same thing in the household of a completely different
He anticipates an objection they might bring forward; that since the gods represented by the idols don’t exist, no harm can come from the apparent
He agrees that these gods are not “something”.
In fact he believes them to be something worse; be believes that their worshippers are attaching themselves to demons.
Yet even if they are “nothing at all”, taking part in their worship remains an act of disloyalty.
It is not wise for the Corinthians to divide their loyalties and “provoke the Lord to jealousy”.
“Are we stronger then he?”
He’s already warned them against imitating the misbehaviours of the Israelites, reminding them how God punished their mass idolatry (v6, alluding to
They should learn from the mistakes of “Israel after the flesh”, and shun worship of idols in any form.
vv23-28 He’s explained to them why they should not be eating food which is being sacrificed to idols.
But what about food which has been
sacrificed to idols?
Not all of the meat which was dedicated at these ceremonies would be consumed on the spot, and much of it would be found later in the food-markets.
Paul’s principle is that this meat is harmless, in itself.
If you eat it unconsciously, you won’t be taking part in an act of worship.
You can buy food in the markets without bothering to make anxious inquiries on the subject.
The same holds good if you’re eating in somebody else’s house.
But if you’re eating in somebody else’s house, and somebody warns you that the meat has been sacrificed, that alters the situation.
The meat is still harmless, in itself, but now you have to consider the effect of your eating on the person who told you.
If the informant is supposed to be a fellow- Christian (“Are you sure we should be eating that?”), you might be in danger of leading him astray.
He might follow your example and then take it further, into outright idolatry, if he’s not clear in his mind about the difference.
If he’s a non-believer (“Are you sure you
should be eating that?”), you might be in danger of giving him the wrong impression, that
Christians don’t have a problem with idols.
Either way, Pauls’ advice is that you should hold back from eating- not for the sake of your own conscience, but for the sake of the other
In other words, this is about avoiding even the appearance
Since their calling has called them away from the world, the separation needs to be maintained.