August 10, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (1 Corinthians 10)

Submitted by Susan I. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

1 Corinthians 10:18-22

“As we have seen, when sacrifice was offered, part of the meat was given back to the worshipper to hold a feast. [Often, the temples had large dining rooms for banquets of this sort.]  At such a feast it was always held that the god himself was a guest.  More, it was often held that, after the meat had been sacrificed, the god himself was in it and that at the banquet he entered into the very bodies and spirits of those who ate.  Just as an unbreakable bond was forged between two men if they ate each other’s bread and salt, so a sacrificial meal formed a real communion between the god and his worshipper.” [William Barclay, Letters to the Corinthians, The Daily Study Bible Series (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975) 91.]

  • Apostle Paul’s stance about eating food offered to idols in this chapter seems to be different from chapter 8.  Is he contradicting himself?  What is the social setting being addressed here in vv. 18-22, and how is it different from, for example, the situation described in v. 27?

Apostle Paul is addressing a specific social setting here in chapter 10 so he seems to give different guidelines from the stance he took earlier in chapter 8. In chapter 8, he was talking about the general issue of food offered to idols and spells out in 1 Corinthians 8:8 “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.” But in chapter 10, Apostle Paul is addressing the social setting of feasts at the temples of idols and the significance of the meat eaten at these feasts since they were part of the sacrifices to the idols. Food eaten at these temple feasts had religious significance because the people saw it as offered to an idol and the idol entering the sacrifice, as opposed to the situation described in verse 27, where an unbeliever might be serving meat that was sacrificed to an idol, but they are not approaching the meal with that same religious perspective as the temple feasts. Apostle Paul discusses these different social settings but the same principle applies of considering the context and considering the faith/conscience of fellow believers who might be stumbled by the actions we take.

  • What might have been the Corinthian Christians’ justification regarding their involvement in idol feasts held in the banquet halls of idol temples, given that these temple banquet facilities were the main venues for socially important banquets and meetings?

Given that these temple banquet facilities were the main venues for socially important banquets and meetings, the Corinthian Christians might have justified their involvement in idol feasts held in the banquet halls of idol temples saying that they had to participate in these feasts to keep up socially or economically, for business purposes or for keeping up relationships with people. They also might have justified it by saying they didn’t believe in idols, and they weren’t sacrificing to idols, so it didn’t have any significance for them if the meat was sacrificed to idols and they can just ignore what their hosts or the other guests thought about the meat and the idols.

  • What would have been Apostle Paul’s response?

Apostle Paul’s response would have been that participating in these temple feasts is to participate in a religious and spiritual activity that had great significance to pagans, to those who actually believed in these idols. But for the Corinthians to participate in these temple feasts, they aren’t differentiating themselves in any way as Christians, and they are, in a sense, endorsing the worship of idols. The Corinthian Christians are also being foolish by thinking they are not affected by participating in idolatrous activity that goes directly against their claim to be Christ-followers and devoted only to God. They are opening themselves up to supernatural influences, but acting as if it is a harmless activity. They are participating in activities they most likely participated in before they became Christian, when it probably did have significance to them before even if it doesn’t have significance for them any more.

  • List examples of modern day Christians partaking in “the table of the Lord and the table of demons.”  Are there such compromises in my life?

Examples of modern-day Christians partaking in “the table of the Lord and the table of demons” is to claim to be Christian and to have Christ as Lord in our lives, but to pursue money or career or pleasure in the same way that the world does–to look to money or career for significance, to look to pleasure as the main goal in life. Another way modern-day Christians partake in “the table of the Lord and the table of demons” is by living in their old lifestyle with their old values, habits, entertainment, views towards money and relationships and purity, etc. They say they are different and have a different Lord now, but they live the same way, their values are the same and they don’t have a problem with that.

One area in which I need to be wary and careful regarding the table of demons is regarding the mantra that the good life is an easy, pleasant, worry-free life. Growing up, and even after I became a Christian, I sought an easy, comfortable life. I claimed devotion and commitment with my words, but I lived a life where I wanted things to go easy for me. But that kind of life goes against the table of the Lord, goes against the call of discipleship to carry my cross daily and follow Him. I cannot do both, and to entertain the thought, to try to squeeze in this false idea of “an easy life” is like trying to eat at the table of the Lord and the table of demons at the same time.

1 Corinthians 10:23-24

  • How does Paul’s response to those who are saying, “all things are lawful,” show the proper basis for decision making in Christian life?  What are some examples of modern day people who still seek to experience maximum license in their behavior by considering everything “lawful” which has not been expressly prohibited by Scripture?

Paul’s response to those who are saying, “all things are lawful,” shows that the proper basis for decision-making in Christian life is not myself and what benefits me, but the proper basis is my relationship with God and my relationship with others. The basis for decision-making isn’t “can I get away with it” but rather, it’s asking myself if this helps my relationship with God, if this builds up my neighbor, and wondering how this will affect my spiritual life and how this will affect the church.

Some examples of modern day people who still seek to experience maximum license in their behavior by considering everything “lawful” which has not been expressly prohibited by Scripture are the views people have regarding dating and how dating around is harmless, it’s fun, it’s the best way to get to know people and to find out who is the best person for you, and point out that the Bible doesn’t say anything about dating. Or people who look for fun, entertainment, or relaxation in going out dancing at clubs or parties, or watching a lot of movies, or spending a lot of time on the internet.

  • By what criterion do I decide what is permissible in my life?

There are times when I take a bare minimum approach in deciding what is permissible in my life–is it “wrong” to do x, y or z, is it really a big deal? One example of this is how I used to watch a lot of movies when I was younger and just saw it as entertainment or a way to relax. I thought it was harmless, though I wouldn’t admit to myself that I felt bad for wasting time or for watching material that wasn’t edifying or beneficial to me in any way. But in recent years, I have grown more aware of my actions and my motives, and also have come to appreciate how I am connected to others within the church, especially through being in a small church setting at Gracepoint Hsinchu and out here in Minneapolis. There isn’t anything “wrong” with watching movies, but I came to see how it was a way I distracted myself and kept myself from thinking. I also saw how my actions contribute to an overall culture in our church by the example I set, by my level of spiritual alertness or by my complacency and dullness.

Personal Prayer

Dear God, I confess that many times, I want to justify myself and my actions rather than face the truth of how I am toying with sin or how I am being mindless in my decisions or how I am seeking a comfortable, easy life even as I claim to be a disciple of Christ. When I’m focused on myself and my desires, I can always find a way to explain my self and to make myself feel okay about what I am doing. But through today’s text, you remind me that I need to have a sober and serious attitude towards sin, towards my old nature, towards the old mantras that I used to live by. Especially as we prepare for fall semester and outreach on campus at the U, I commit to being vigilant in these areas, and to be watchful of the ways the temperature of my heart changes and shifts. As I co-labor with my fellow brothers and sisters, as I share the gospel with the students who bring to our group, please help me to be mindful of how my life affects each person around me, and how my actions affects my heart and my devotion to you. Please help me to take myself and my actions seriously, and to have an attitude of wanting to be pure in my commitment to you.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Submitted by Roy L. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

1 Corinthians 10:18-22

“As we have seen, when sacrifice was offered, part of the meat was given back to the worshipper to hold a feast. [Often, the temples had large dining rooms for banquets of this sort.]  At such a feast it was always held that the god himself was a guest.  More, it was often held that, after the meat had been sacrificed, the god himself was in it and that at the banquet he entered into the very bodies and spirits of those who ate.  Just as an unbreakable bond was forged between two men if they ate each other’s bread and salt, so a sacrificial meal formed a real communion between the god and his worshipper.”[William Barclay, Letters to the Corinthians, The Daily Study Bible Series (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975) 91.]

  • Apostle Paul’s stance about eating food offered to idols in this chapter seems to be different from chapter 8.  Is he contradicting himself?  What is the social setting being addressed here in vv. 18-22, and how is it different from, for example, the situation described in v. 27?

Apostle Paul’s standards did not change.  Rather, his advice is consistent.  In chapter 8, Apostle Paul said that food sacrificed to idols, in and of itself, is nothing.  “Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘an idol has no real existence,’ and that ‘there is no God but one (8:4).’”  “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do (8:8).”  Similarly, in verses 19-20, Apostle Paul says food sacrificed to idols, along with the idols themselves, is nothing.  But in both chapters, Apostle Paul counsels against eating such food under certain situations.

For example, in verses 18-22, Apostle Paul talks about something that regularly took place in Corinth—idol feasts.  And these regular social gatherings were commonly believed to have spiritual significance; those who participated in the feasts were honoring idols, and even entering into fellowship and communion with them.  Thus, for this reason, Apostle Paul says that the Corinthians should not show up to these idol feasts and be “participants with demons.”

In chapter 8, Apostle Paul talks about another situation in which believers should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols—if it would stumble a brother who has weaker faith.  The Corinthian church probably had old as well as new believers, and they probably saw each other a lot, not just at official church gatherings.  So if a young believer who has a “weak” conscience saw another believer who had “strong” faith eat meat sacrificed to idols, and is thus led to think that it’s ok to honor idols in this way, then the believer who exercised his “right” to eat meat would be in the wrong.

In verse 27, however, Apostle Paul discusses yet another common situation where his advice against eating the sacrificed meat would not apply—being invited by a non-believer to his home to eat a meal that probably contains meat sacrificed to idols.  Apostle Paul says in this situation, you should eat whatever your host sets before you without making a big deal, since the host is not a Christian and would not be stumbled by your eating of the meat, and you as a Christian who understands that idols are nothing would also not be stumbled.

Even though the decision to eat meat or not will hinge on the circumstances, the same underlying principle applies—seeking to please God and benefit others.

  • What might have been the Corinthian Christians’ justification regarding their involvement in idol feasts held in the banquet halls of idol temples, given that these temple banquet facilities were the main venues for socially important banquets and meetings?

The Corinthians might have wanted to go to these idol feasts because that’s where a lot of the movers and shakers of their society hung out.  Today, it might be the equivalent of networking events or happy hours at bars and clubs.  These aren’t mandatory, but everyone knows that if you want to get ahead in your workplace or social standing, you have to go to these functions and impress the right people.  So they might have mentioned these things, as if to ask Apostle Paul to cut them some slack.

  • What would have been Apostle Paul’s response?

Apostle Paul’s advice would probably not change—they should sit these things out.  Considering the fact that even being at these feasts was the spiritual equivalent of being “participants with demons” and displeasing to God, who is jealous for our exclusive devotion, no amount of personal benefit was worth that kind of cost.

  • List examples of modern day Christians partaking in “the table of the Lord and the table of demons.”  Are there such compromises in my life?

One way Christians today partake in the table of the Lord and the table of demons is by living a compartmentalized life and wanting to pursue other things in addition to the kingdom of God.  For example, many people believe it is fine to go to church, and even serve in ministry, but at the same time amass wealth, accrue a lot of nice things, and invest themselves in their careers for advancement regardless of the high costs involved.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with money, gadgets, and promotions, just like there’s nothing wrong with meat sacrificed to idols.  But today those things are also associated with the idols of materialism and careerism, and participating in those pursuits is the same as partaking in the table of these modern-day, well-disguised demons.  These things, while “lawful,” are nonetheless off limits for me, since I am to be set apart for pleasing and serving God, and I can only serve one Master.

1 Corinthians 10:23-24

  • How does Paul’s response to those who are saying, “all things are lawful,” show the proper basis for decision making in Christian life?  What are some examples of modern day people who still seek to experience maximum license in their behavior by considering everything “lawful” which has not been expressly prohibited by Scripture?

Apostle Paul shows that these people were asking the wrong questions.  Instead of asking, “What can I get away with?” they really ought to be asking “what should I do that would please God and benefit others?”  Common examples are things like alcohol or video games.  These things are, for the most part, not harmful in and of themselves (although excessive drinking or gaming is demonstrably harmful).  But some Christians believe that since these things are not called out in the Bible as “sinful,” they are free to enjoy them in moderation.  But if applying Apostle Paul’s criteria, we ought to abstain from these things, for at least the reason that drinking or gaming can cause other Christians to stumble, especially if they already struggle in this area, having abused them or been addicted to them in the past.  They definitely do not build up anyone else, or provide any other unique benefit, since people can have just as much fun and fellowship without drinking or gaming.  Thus, even though these and other activities are not “sinful,” there’s no reason to engage in them because they do not help or build up others.  Rather, my life, with my limited resources, should be focused on doing the many things that do build up and benefit others, not just doing what I want because it’s “lawful.”

  • By what criterion do I decide what is permissible in my life?

A lot of times, I do apply the wrong criteria to decide what is permissible in my life.  I like following hard and fast rules, so I often just think about what I’m going to do in terms of whether or not it’s prohibited by some rule, and if it’s not, then it’s just up to me whether or not I want to do it.  Or, I look at what other people have done before, and I think that if they did it and it’s permissible for them, then it’s permissible for me, too.  But these are not the right criteria to apply, and all too often these standards are conveniently low enough for me to do whatever I want, such as being lazy or selfish with my time or money.  And when I look at how other people in the world live, it’s clear that they apply the same standards; as long as it’s not “breaking the law” people do whatever they want.

But it’s clear from this passage and others that as a follow of Christ, I am not to use the same standards as others, which is to seek their own good.  Instead, I need to think about every decision from the perspective of whether or not what I want to do would please God or bless others.  I have a duty and an outstanding debt to love people, after all, and my life is not my own.

Personal Prayer

Lord, thank you for reminding me again that you’ve called me to live a much bigger life than just one concerned with my own good, my own desires.  Instead, you call me to live for others, and this is not a burden or a chore, but life as you meant for me to live so that I can experience its blessings.  I confess that I continue to live in such a self-centered and selfish way, often choosing to be passive, thinking that doing so is within my rights and not breaking any rules, but really it’s a decision to be uninvolved and unloving towards others.  I’m sorry for the many times I’ve done this, often without even knowing that I my passivity, though “lawful,” is breaking the law of Christ, and for neglecting opportunities to love others or bring honor and glory to your name.  Please help me repent of this and break out of my deeply entrenched, default view of seeing my life and making decisions, which is to do whatever I want to do that is “lawful” or not “breaking the rules.”  Please help me embrace this other-centered way of living, so that my mind may be renewed and transformed.

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