Message # 32 | 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 | February 5, 2017

This Sunday we come to the third question of a series of three questions we’ve asked of this text. (1) What are we commanded to do? Flee. We are to continually, aggressively, and dramatically flee.  (2) What are we to flee from? Idolatry. While this obviously includes literal or physical idols, more likely the command applies to the areas in our lives in which our attention, desire, devotion, and choices have been made equal to or more important than God. And to our third question. (3) Why are we to flee from idolatry? The simple answer is because idolatry doesn’t make any sense. The intent for the message this morning is to look into why it doesn’t make any sense.

Christ or demons? These verses carry some challenging concepts, concepts of which we are going to try to jump into a bit this morning. There is one concept, though, that is really not very hard to understand, and it so happens to be the primary logical argument Paul is trying to make. Someone who claims to be connected with or attached to Christ cannot logically participate in idolatry, specifically because idolatry is connection to and attachment with demons.

Consider with me. Would someone identify with the Packers one week, purchase all their paraphernalia, make a Packer room in their house, get season tickets, and then the next week walk into church with a Bear’s jersey on? I think not!  Do you see many people swap between PETA and NRA stickers on the back of their car? Do people flop back and forth between Democrat and Republican? Give money to Planned Parenthood and then picket with the National Right to Life Committee? Of course not. That wouldn’t make any sense would it? In the same way, identifying and participating with Christ, benefiting from the blessings that accompany that relationship, and then publicly worshipping with demons wouldn’t make any sense. No one would think that makes sense.  And that is Paul’s argument. It’s not terribly complicated.

Paul appeals to sensible people (10:15).

“I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say” (1 Cor 10:15). It is possible that Paul makes this statement sarcastically. In 3:1 he establishes that these believers are not spiritual people, and he needs to speak to them as “infants in Christ. He’s already established that they have not been living wisely. How could he then turn around and appeal to them as sensible people, sensible referring to one who possesses wisdom and insight. [1]  As well, he clearly uses sarcasm in 4:10 when he writes, “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.” So you may wonder if he is once again using sarcasm to grab their attention here in chapter 10. [2] It seems less likely, especially since he just addressed them as “beloved” (1 Cor 10:14). Instead he is genuinely appealing to their “sensible nature.” He is appealing to them to take a moment and really think about the inconsistencies in claiming to celebrate their relationship with Christ in communion and then connect themselves to idols moments, days, weeks later in their idolatrous culture. So then, sensible people, let’s consider why idolatry doesn’t make sense. Paul successfully makes his point by first pointing to the serious nature of communion with Christ.

Paul emphasizes the seriousness of the relationship (16-18).

Association with Christ in communion (16, 18). Participation comes from the root word that is more often translated “fellowship.” In what way are we fellowshipping with Christ in communion? In what way are we “sharing something in common” with Christ and others in communion?

GARLAND. The comments of Aelius Aristides (Sarapis 8) reveal that this idea was widespread. He says of his patron god Sarapis, “Men share in a special way the truest communion in the sacrifices to this god alone, as they invite [him] to the altar and appoint him as guest and host.” Paul is leading his readers to see that they can never eat idol food as neutral participants, just as they cannot partake of the Lord’s Supper as detached observers. Partaking of anything offered to a deity makes them accessories to the sacrificial act and creates solidarity with the honored deity, however tenuous their participation in the meal might be.[3]

When we participate in communion we are associating and identifying with Christ. We are proclaiming, “Christ is the one in which I rest my eternal salvation. Christ is the God I worship and to whom I submit my life. We are declaring His lordship in our lives. [4]

But there’s more. Paul offers an example to help us better understand what he mean. He writes in verse 18, “Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?” (1 Cor 10:18). While the sacrifice was offered to God, both the priests and participants shared in the meat of the offering. They benefited from the sacrifice. In the same way, we benefit in Christ sacrifice. We are receiving the benefits that accompany that identification and association. We benefit from Christ’s payment. We benefit from his gracious protection, provision, care, and direction. We benefit from him being our Redeemer! It is his redemption that is revealed in the ‘cup of blessing.’[5]

His redemption revealed in the “Cup of Blessing.” Paul writes, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16). This cup of blessing finds its roots in the Passover celebration, which Jesus and the disciples would have been celebrating when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. [6] During the Passover celebration, the Jewish people would make 4 toast. These four toast were so important that provision was made for every Jew to have enough wine to be able to participate in these four toast.

MISHNAH. And even the poorest Israelite should not eat until he reclines at his table. And they should provide him with no fewer than four cups of wine, and even if [the funds] come from public charity.[7]

These four toast were to be done in remembrance of the 4 statements made in Exodus 6:6-7.

Exodus 6:6–7 (ESV) Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and

I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and

I will deliver you from slavery to them, and

I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.

I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God,

and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

These four promises are symbolized by four cups, traditionally referred to as the following:

The cup of sanctification. “I will bring you out from Egypt.”

The cup of deliverance. “I will deliver you from Egyptian bondage.”

The cup of redemption. “I will redeem you with My power.”

The cup of restoration. “I will acquire you as My people.”

There is a little bit of debate and a bit of speculation in this discussion, but many scholars have come to conclude that it is very likely that Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper as he stood to bless the third cup in the Passover meal. He would have stood, and instead of offering the typical blessing for the cup of redemption, he said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” How amazingly profound and probably quite surprising. No longer is the third cup meant to be a remembrance of the redemption of Israel from Egypt, but instead we are to remember the redemption we have in Christ. We are redeemed from slavery to sin and the wrath of God. Jesus boldly changes the entire celebration format and declares, “I am your redemption. From now on, do this in remembrance of me.”

The fourth cup, which symbolized a cup of restoration, a cup that promised the future kingdom, Christ declined to drink with his disciples. He says, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matt 26:29).[8]

Unity with others (10:17). Paul adds an additional emphasis. Not only are you associated with Christ and his death in communion, you are as well united with others. He writes in verse 17, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10:17). This is a challenging passage to interpret. This reality is displayed in the many different translations of this verse. They do all have one thing in common, and that one main point seems quite clear. Unity within the church body is extremely important.

Chrysostom: The body of Christ is not many bodies but one body. For just as the bread, which consists of many grains, is made one to the point that the separate grains are no longer visible, even though they are still there, so we are joined to each other and to Christ. But if we are all nourished by the same source and become one with him, why do we not also show forth the same love and become one in this respect too? This was what it was like in ancient times, as we see in Acts [4:32]: “For the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul.”[9]

There are a few principles that come through quite clear. (1) We may be many, but we should be one. In the same way that Democrats set aside their differences to vote in a united fashion, in the same way that Wisconsinites set aside their various differences and cheer in united fashion at Lambeau Field, we are to come to Christ and be characterized by unity, not the things that distinguish us. What we are united around, that being Christ, is of so much more significance than any other earthly disagreement. This was part of Christ’ prayer in John 17.

John 17:20–23 (ESV) I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Additionally, (2) Our unity is in Christ, “we, who are many, partake in one bread.”

Paul reveals the true nature of idolatry (10:19-21).

Paul acknowledges that his emphasis in this passage could inadvertently communicate that there was some kind of reality to or significance in the actual food offered to idols or the idol itself. He wants to be really clear in communicating that that is not the case. Nothing actually happens to the food that is offered to idols. There is no reality to the idol itself.  There is, however, a real power behind idolatry.  When one is involved with idolatry, they are operating under the control and manipulation of demonic forces. There is no god behind an idol. No god is satisfied by the sacrifice of food offered. “There is always a spiritual force; and that force is always evil, always demonic.”[10]

Therefore, in the same way that you identify with Christ in communion and receive the blessings of being joined with him, when you are idolatrous you are identifying with demonic forces and you are receiving the “benefits” or consequences of being joined with them. You can’t identify with Christ and identify with demons.

The same demonic forces behind the sacrifices to idols in the time of the Corinthians are the same demonic forces now at work encouraging our greed, lusts, pride, and selfishness. In the same way that the Corinthians couldn’t identify with Christ and receive all the blessing of being joint with Christ and then identify with idolatry and demons, we can’t come to communion and identify with Christ and receive the blessings of his care, love, grace, provision, direction, and redemption and then leave and give ourselves over to our own lusts, pride, and desires. Jesus exhorts his disciples with a similar thought.

Matthew 6:24 (ESV) No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.


Paul has appealed to the sensibilities of the Corinthians believers, and he has appealed as well to us. We must flee from idolatry, any form of idolatry. Whatever form idolatry takes in your life, whatever form the temptation towards idolatry takes in your life, flee from it. Take drastic, active, ongoing measures to flee from idolatry in your life.

To conclude, Paul asked the church two more pressing questions. “Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?” (1 Cor 10:22). God’s passion that his people only worship him remains unchanged throughout time. His command to worship no other idols is still securely established in the expectations of his people. He won’t put up with idolatry. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal 6:7).

This can and ought to produce in us a few things. (1) Fear. Don’t mess around with the idols of your life. God isn’t going to let you get away with it. He’s going to deal with you. (2) He is jealous and he desires our sole love and attention not because he is some insecure and needy god, but because he knows that within him all happiness and satisfaction are found.



[1] Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, 402.  φρόνιμος, ον    as relating to the quality of one’s thinking resulting from insight wise, intelligent, sensible (MT 7.24), opposite μωρός (foolish, stupid) and ἄφρων (foolish, senseless); substantivally φρόνιμοι people with understanding (MT 25.4); comparative φρονιμώτερος, τέρα, ον more intelligent, shrewder (LU 16.8)

[2] “Much debate surrounds the force of ὡς φρονίμοις, often translated as to people of discernment. Parallels with 3:1 and with 4:10 raise the question of whether Paul uses a degree of irony. But Meyer, Edwards, Conzelmann, and others interpret this as a straightforward appeal to the readers to use their natural intelligence, and Barrett and Schrage appropriately conclude that Paul appeals to their common sense.”  Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 755.

[3] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 477.

[4] “it denotes having an active common share in the life, death, resurrection, and presence of Jesus Christ as the Lord who determines the identity and lifestyle of that in which Christians share.” (Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 761.)

[5] “The meaning of this passage however appears to be that God the bountiful benefactor shares with his worshippers the good gift that they have offered him, by inviting them, as it were, to sit down at table with him. They thus have fellowship with him, and derive benefit from their meal.” (Barrett, The First Epistle to the Corinthians., 235.)

[6] “‘The cup of blessing’ . . . is the name the Jews gave the cup at the end of a meal, over which a thanksgiving was said; it was also used of the third cup at the Passover feast. It is possibly this cup with which Jesus instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion . . . ‘Bless’ does not mean that a blessing was somehow attached to the cup; it means that a prayer of thanksgiving was said over it . . .” Leon Morris, 1 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary, 143.

[7] Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah : A New Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 249.

[8] “Which cups did Yeshua drink during his Passover Seder with his disciples? He apparently drank the first two cups in the traditional way. At the third cup, the cup of redemption, he said, “This is my blood of the New Covenant” (Matt 26:27-39). Yeshua told his disciples that He would not drink the fourth cup (the Cup of Restoration), but promised to do so with them in the coming Kingdom (Matt 26:29).”  (John Parsons, “Worthy Is the Lamb: A Messianic Passover Haggadah” (Hebrew 4 Christians, n.d.), Accessed January 25, 2017.

“Probably the majority of scholars associate the cup of blessing in this verse with the third cup of the Passover seder which now follows. Sharing this cup represents a participation (κοινωνία) in the redemption achieved in this context not by liberation from the oppression of Egypt but the costly purchase of freedom from sin (1 Cor 6:19) won through the “body and blood” of Christ.” (Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 758.)

[9] Gerald Lewis Bray, 1-2 Corinthians: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 97. Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians 24.4

[10] John F. MacArthur Jr., 1 Corinthians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 239.

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