Don’t Mess With False Religions – 1 Corinthians 10:14-22

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Paul continues his general discussion about the propriety of believers eating meats offered to idols. This was the subject introduced back in 8:1 “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols.” The context in this paragraph (10:14-21) relates to participation or at the least association with the culture of false, man-made worship. Instead of actively confronting the evil and the contradictions to biblical truth and practice, the individual adopts a very careless and ecumenical spirit of indifference towards the upholding of truth regarding the One True God. Christianity is a narrow, exclusivistic approach to the worship of God. We need Paul’s strong admonition here to “Flee from idolatry.” Once we understand the danger of the demonic activity behind false religions and the jealousy we will provoke from a holy and powerful God we should act sensibly in this area.

All of the attention surrounding the visit of the Pope to the United States this past week causes me to address the elephant in the room (No, I am not calling the Pope an elephant.) There are definite aspects of idolatrous worship wrapped up in the formal Roman Catholic system that would fall under Paul’s condemnation in this passage. (See J. C. Ryle’s notes below that address some of these details.) That does not mean that Catholics cannot be saved and sincerely worship the Lord Jesus in spirit and truth. But their formal catechized system contains numerous elements that seriously deviate from the system of faith and worship taught in the Scriptures. Should genuine believers remain in the Roman Catholic Church despite their recognition of some of its false teachings? The Apostle Paul would argue an emphatic “No” from this text.

BIG IDEA:
MEMBERS OF THE ONE BODY OF CHRIST CAN HAVE NO ASSOCIATION WITH IDOLATRY (FALSE RELIGION)

I. (:14-15) THE COMMAND – PADDLE THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION — KEEP YOUR DISTANCE FROM FALSE RELIGIONS

Picture getting sucked into the fast-flowing current and tumbling over a waterfall

  1. (:14) Separation from Idolatry Must be a Top Priority
    1. Separation from Idolatry is Essential to our Faith and our Testimony – "Therefore" — connective to previous sections in chaps. 9-10
      1. Connection to our own endurance in the faith
      2. Connection to our testimony to win many to Christ
    2. Separation from Idolatry Presupposes a Loving Family Connection: Within the Body of Christ – "my beloved"

Hodge: Paul addresses them in terms of affection, although his epistle is so full of serious admonition and warning.

    1. Separation from Idolatry Involves Immediate and Drastic Action: "flee from idolatry"
      1. Must be able to Identify False Religions
      2. Must Respond Aggressively and Urgently
  1. (:15) Separation from Idolatry Should Make Sense to Believers
    1. Separation from Idolatry is the Path of Wisdom: "I speak as to wise men"
      1. This issue is not an easy one; not for the immature; requires great wisdom to sort out how to conduct oneself
    2. Separation from Idolatry is the Path of Discernment: "you judge what I say."

Where are the people of discernment today? Believers are so easily duped. Have we developed our critical thinking skills under the guidance of the Holy Spirit?

Lenski: The questions which Paul now asks bring out the vital facts. All of them are plain, and all of them are undisputed. On the basis of these Paul wants the Corinthians to make a definite decision on their own account. Sensible Christian people will not only at once give the self-evident answers to these questions but will also perceive the force of these answers as far as conduct is concerned.

II. (:16-21) THE CONTRAST — UNDERSTAND THAT PARTICIPATION INVOLVES IDENTIFICATION

  1. (:16-18) Positive Example of Identification with the True God
    1. (:16-17) NT Example – Centering around the Lord’s Supper
      1. Sharing in the Blood of Christ: "Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ?"
      2. Sharing in the Body of Christ: "Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?"
      3. Unity in One Body: "Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread."
    2. (:18) OT Example – Centering around the sacrifices: "Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar?"
  2. (:19-21) Negative Example of Identification with the Demons Behind False Religions
    1. (:19) Don’t Miss the Point of the Contrast – Not talking about Inanimate Objects: "What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?"
    2. (:20) Participation in False Religion Involves Identification with the Demons Behind the Idols – Talking about very real and very powerful evil spirits: "No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons."

Rugh: "Gentiles" not in the earlier texts

Piper: So here is the key word again: sharers. What does it mean? Again it does not mean that we eat demons when we eat meat offered to idols. It means that we get entangled in their power. We submit to them. We become vulnerable to them. We enter into some kind of fellowship. We affirm them in some way and give them leeway in our lives.

    1. (:21) Identification with the Lord is Mutually Exclusive from Idolatry
      1. The Cup of the Lord vs. the Cup of Demons: "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons"
      2. The Table of the Lord vs the Table of Demons: "You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons."

III. (:22) THE CAVEAT – PROVOKING GOD WOULD BE A SERIOUS MISTAKE — FEAR THE JEALOUS, OMNIPOTENT GOD

Very solemn warning – Don’t mess with God – He is extremely jealous and powerful

  1. Don’t Mess with a God Who is Extremely Jealous: "Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?"
  2. Don’t Mess with a God Who is Extremely Powerful: "We are not stronger than He, are we?"

DEVOTIONAL QUESTIONS:

  1. What is the relationship between verse 13 and this paragraph?
  2. Where is an ecumenical spirit creeping into our thinking and compromising our loyalty to God’s narrow truth?
  3. In what ways do we act as if we think that we are stronger than the Lord?
  4. Do believers today take the threat of demonic activity seriously?

QUOTES FOR REFLECTION:

Stedman: What he has in mind is not bowing and scraping before an image, but succumbing to the temptation to enjoy again the atmosphere found at the idol temple. There were a lot of fun things going on with regard to idolatry that some of the Corinthians, at least, were hoping to be able to hang on to. If you had lived in Corinth in that 1st century you would have recognized that the whole Roman and Greek citizenry of the city regarded the temple as the most exciting place in town. There you could get the best food, served up in the open-air restaurant. There they had the wildest music and all the seductive pleasures of wine, women and song. If you wanted to enjoy yourself in Corinth, therefore, you went out to the temple.

I believe the apostle is concerned lest these Corinthians, in seeking to enjoy what would be normal pleasures of life, would be tempted to go back into it to such a degree that, ultimately, they would find themselves lured back into belief in these idols and their power. Idolatry is not something you do outwardly with your body. Idolatry basically occurs whenever anyone or anything becomes more important to you than the living God. . .

Any form of idolatry awakens the jealousy of God. All through the Old Testament we are told that God is "a jealous God," {Exod 20:5, 34:14, Deut 4:24, 5:9, 6:15, Josh 24:19}. What does Paul mean by that? Is God subject to capricious whims in which he gets angry if anybody looks at anything else? No, God’s jealousy is a proper jealousy; it is a love so intense for the object of his love that he is angry when something threatens it, and he will act. He will not stand idly by and let you drift away into some idolatrous preoccupation with something of the world. He will strike at it; he will destroy it. And if your affections are so entwined with it, you are going to get hurt in the process; you will find yourself crushed and hurt and crying out to God, "Why do you do this to me?" But it is an act of love from a jealous God who will not allow you to drift into that kind of preoccupation.

Boyer: Paul appeals to them as sensible, reasonable men to draw their own conclusions (v. 15). The communion of the bread and the cup, instituted by our Lord on the eve of His sacrificial death, was a familiar practice to them. They understood well that the partaking of the communion elements was a communing with, a partaking of, Christ. So also it was in Israel. Those who ate of the sacrifices were partakers of the altar. So also, Paul reasons, is it in paganism. Those who partook of the idol sacrifices were communing with the idols. Not that the stone or wood image was anything, but it represented a false religious system which was in actuality the worship of demons (vv. 19, 20). Such a mixing of the table of the Lord with the table of demons was a monstrous thought and a moral impossibility. God is a jealous God, and to provoke His jealousy by playing around with idolatry is the utmost in foolishness; unless, of course, you are greater than He is! (v. 22)

Piper: Idolatry, The Lord’s Supper and the Body of Christ

What 1 Corinthians 10 is about is the way the Corinthians had overestimated the power of the Lord’s Supper as sacramental food, and had underestimated the purpose of the Lord’s Supper as spiritual fellowship with Christ.

In other words, they saw eating the bread and drinking the cup as a kind of sacramental antidote to any ill effects that might come from tasting the poison of idolatry. And so they overestimated the power of the Lord’s Supper.

And they failed to see that the purpose of eating the bread and drinking the cup was to share in the life of Christ and to fellowship with him as one body. And so they underestimated the purpose of the Lord’s Supper, and thus its true power in the fight against idolatry and sin.

And both their overestimation of its power to immunize, and their underestimation of its purpose to nourish fellowship with Christ, made them vulnerable to sin. And not only to sin, but to entanglement with demons . . .

In verse 18 Paul says, "Look at the nation of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar?" Now this does not mean that they eat the altar. It means that they share in the benefits of what happens on the altar. On the altar God removes guilt and forgives sin and makes peace and establishes a fellowship of thanksgiving and love. So to be a sharer in the altar is to share in all those things that God is doing at the altar.

This is probably what Paul means in verse 16 when he says that the bread is a sharing in the body of Christ and the cup is a sharing in the blood of Christ. When Christ was sacrificed on the cross and shed his blood and gave his body for us, God was removing guilt and forgiving sin and making peace and establishing fellowship with all who believe. And the purpose of the Lord’s Supper is to receive from Christ the nourishment and strength and hope and joy that come from feasting our souls on all that he purchased for us on the cross, especially his own fellowship. We share in the body and the blood by sharing in the benefits that they bought—including, as verse 17 says, our unity in the body of Christ.

Gil Rugh: Flee From Idolatry

Introduction: We live in a pluralistic society. Christianity claims to be an exclusive religion; the only way to heaven; the only way to know God. This passage still has great relevance. The Hellenistic world was a great religious melting pot; tolerant of other beliefs as long as they didn’t claim to be the only way. We are charged with being narrow, self-righteous, arrogant. Don’t soften our message of narrowness.

Paul is concerned that the Corinthians may be indulging in things that would exclude them from saving faith and ultimate salvation. You can have a false sense of security and be lost. Your faith must be in Christ. That will manifest itself in a life that evidences you have become partaker of the divine nature.

Corinthians were thinking they could dabble in parts of false worship – eating meat offered to false idols, etc. 1 John 5:21 "Guard yourselves from idols" – all kind of false worship of every kind must be avoided. Don’t tolerate things that are unbiblical and untrue. Paul believes they have the wisdom to sort through what he says and respond to his corrections. Paul not being sarcastic in vs. 15.

We become sharers in Christ; partakers of Christ in the communion service. 1 John 1:1-4 – the fellowship goes both ways – with Christ and with fellow believers. In OT a portion of what was sacrificed was given back to the people bringing the offering and they would make a meal together out of that. What’s the point? Cf. 8:4 An idol is just a block of wood or a piece of stone; there is only one God. Then food offered to nothing is still just plain food. But there is more to the picture than that.

There are evil spirit beings operating in the world that stand in opposition to God. They attempt to lure the people of world to worship them in contrast to the living God. I don’t want you to become sharers in demons. What would you think of someone who was baptized one day in the name of Christ and then a week later in the name of Mohammed or another god? There can be no mixing. Deut. 32:15ff Israel became prosperous and would then forsake their God; sacrificed to demons… Johnny-come-lately gods; Matt. 4:9 What did the devil offer Christ when he tempted Him? All about falling down and worshipping Satan instead of the true God. 1 Tim. 3:15; 4:1ff "some will fall away from the faith"… "doctrines of demons" – some people who had professed faith in Christ will now follow demons; We don’t take this seriously today. Is. 8 – if they don’t speak in accordance with this book, they have no truth in them. We want to be as narrow-minded as God is. James 3:14 "demonic wisdom" Rev. 2:14,20 – 2 churches condemned for tolerating idolatrous teachings in the church; What do we tolerate? You can’t be broad and open to everything. Same types of issues in view here. Rev. 9:20 worshiping demons in the tribulation period; refused to repent; "If I get saved, do I have to leave the Roman Catholic Church? Yes!" You cannot be a Roman Catholic and be joined in demonic worship and be a child of God. We cannot tolerate teaching that we know to be false. Is. 45:9

Deffinbaugh: Verses 14-33 spell out Paul’s bottom line in the matter of idol-meats. In these closing words of instruction and counsel, Paul practically applies what he has been teaching in principle by addressing three situations which the Corinthians would face: (1) The question of whether a Corinthian Christian should eat idol-meat at a meal that is a part of a heathen worship ritual (verses 14-22). (2) The question of whether a Corinthian should eat meat purchased at the meat market, the origins of which are not known (verses 25-26). (3) The question of whether a Corinthian Christian should accept a dinner invitation from an unbeliever (verses 27-28). . .

(1) To partake of the cup at the Lord’s table is to symbolically partake of what the cup represents. To partake of the cup is to symbolically commemorate the fact that we have become partakers in the shed blood of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins which it accomplished, through faith in His atoning death on the cross of Calvary. This is what Jesus taught before His death.

(2) To partake of the bread at communion is to symbolically proclaim that we have identified with our Lord’s body. We have identified with Christ, not only in His incarnation, and in His bodily death, burial, and resurrection, but we have identified ourselves with His "body," the church. The one loaf symbolizes one body, of which all Christians have partaken and are thus a part. When we partake of the bread, we remind ourselves of our union with His body, but also in His incarnation, and in His spiritual presence now, through the church.

(3) Communion commemorates our union with the person and work of Jesus Christ. It commemorates our union with Christ by faith at the time of our salvation and for all eternity. It commemorates our union with Him in His bodily death, burial, and resurrection. It signifies our union with the church, His body. Communion symbolizes our union with Christ, then (at the cross of Calvary) and now (in His body, the church).

(4) There is more than one "communion." The Old Testament saints had communion, too. Eating of what has been sacrificed on the altar not only unites the one eating with the sacrifice, it unites him with those who share in the meal with him. The Old Testament saints had their own form of communion at which they ate a portion of what had been sacrificed. The sacrificial meal joined the participant to the sacrifice and to those who shared with him in eating of it.

(5) The pagan ritual of eating a meal, of which a portion is that which was sacrificed in heathen worship, was a "communion service" as well. The heathen worshipper is celebrating a communion service when he eats of what was sacrificed to an idol. In eating the things sacrificed to the idol, he is identifying himself with the pagan sacrifice and all that it means. Those who eat the meal together identify not only with the pagan sacrifice, but also identify themselves with all those sitting at the table with them.

(6) When the pagans worship idols by sacrificing to them, they are worshipping demons. Here is an amazing fact, which the Corinthians had overlooked. There are no other gods. Idols are nothing, because they represent gods which don’t exist. But false worship is not thereby rendered harmless and insignificant. This is where the Corinthians went wrong. Paul says that the worship of idols is the worship of demons. Is this some new truth, a mystery not revealed until Paul’s writing? Far from it! "And they shall no longer sacrifice their sacrifices to the goat demons with which they play the harlot. This shall be a permanent statute to them throughout their generations" (Leviticus 17:7).

7) When Christians participate in the pagan sacrificial meal by eating the idol-meats, they unite themselves with the pagan sacrifice and with the heathen with whom they are eating. Just as biblical communion unites the meal-sharer with the sacrifice, and with those sharing in the meal, so the one who participates in a pagan festive meal becomes a sharer in the heathen sacrificial altar, and a co-participant with those eating the meal. One does far more than have dinner when one attends a pagan sacrificial meal.

(8) Christians cannot become partakers of two tables, for one is the table of the Lord and the other is the table of demons. Just as no man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24), neither can a Christian participate at two religious tables or partake of two sacrificial meals. The Lord’s Supper, and all that it symbolizes, is diametrically opposed to the "table of demons." It is amazing that some Corinthians could so casually explain away their presence at the table of demons, while at the same time regularly observing the Lord’s table. The inconsistency is intolerable.

(9) When the Corinthians eat idol-meats while participating in pagan idol worship, they provoke the Lord to jealousy. Paul has instructed the Corinthians to "flee idolatry" in verse 14. Now we know exactly what he means. To sit at the table of demons and to participate in this pagan worship by eating idol-meats is to practice idolatry. This is exactly the way the ancient Israelites fell into idolatry, by joining themselves with the pagans at their "table." No wonder God gave the Israelites such strict food laws; this kept the Jews from eating with the Gentiles, and thus from participating in their idolatry.

J. C. Ryle: Idolatry

I say then, that Idolatry is a worship, in which the honor due to the Triune God, and to God only, is given to some of His creatures, or to some invention of His creatures.

It may vary. It may assume different forms, according to the ignorance or the knowledge—the civilization or the barbarism, of those who offer it. It may be grossly absurd and ludicrous, or it may closely border on truth, and being most superficially defended. But whether in the adoration of the idol of Juggernaut, or in the adoration of the Pope in St. Peter’s at Rome, the principle of idolatry is in reality the same. In either case the honor due to God is turned aside from Him, and bestowed on that which is not God. And whenever this is done, whether in heathen temples or in professedly Christian Churches, there is an act of idolatry…

No man, I think, need wonder at the rise of idolatry in the Early Church who considers calmly the excessive reverence which it paid, from the very first, to the visible parts of religion. I believe that no impartial man can read the language used by nearly all the Fathers about the Church, the bishops, the ministry, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the martyrs, and the dead saints, generally—no man can read it without being struck with the wide difference between their language and the language of Scripture on such subjects. You seem at once to be in a new atmosphere. You feel that you are no longer treading on holy ground. You find that things, which in the Bible are evidently of second-rate importance, are here made of first-rate importance.

I feel no hesitation in affirming that idolatry never yet assumed a more glaring form than it does in the Roman Catholic Church in this present day.

And here I come to a subject on which it is hard to speak, because of the times we live in. But the whole truth ought to be spoken by ministers of Christ, without respect of times and prejudices. And I could not lie down in peace, after preaching on idolatry, if I did not declare my solemn conviction that idolatry is one of the crying sins of which the Roman Catholic Church is guilty. I say this in all sadness. I say it, acknowledging fully that we have our faults in the Protestant Church; and practically, perhaps, in some quarters, a little idolatry. But from formal, recognized, systematic idolatry, I believe we are almost entirely free. While, as for the Roman Catholic Church, if there is not in her worship, an enormous quantity of systematic, organized idolatry, I frankly confess then I do not know what idolatry is.

(a) To my mind, it is idolatry to have images and pictures of saints in churches, and to give them a reverence for which there is no warrant or precedent in Scripture. And if this is so, I say there is idolatry in the Roman Catholic Church.

(b) To my mind, it is idolatry to invoke the Virgin Mary and the saints in glory, and to address them in language never addressed in Scripture except to the Holy Trinity. And if this be so, I say there is idolatry in the Roman Catholic Church.

(c) To my mind, it is idolatry to bow down to mere material things, and attribute to them a power and sanctity far exceeding that attached to the ark or altar of the Old Testament dispensation; and a power and sanctity, too, for which there is not a speck of foundation in the Word of God. And if this be so, with the holy coat of Treves, and the wonderfully-multiplied wood of the true cross, and a thousand other so-called relics in my mind’s eye, I say there is idolatry in the Roman Catholic Church.

(d) To my mind, it is idolatry to worship that which man’s hands have made—to call it God, and adore it when lifted up before our eyes. And if this be so, with the notorious doctrine of transubstantiation, and the elevation of the host in my recollection, I say there is idolatry in the Roman Catholic Church.

(e) To my mind, it is idolatry to make ordained men mediators between ourselves and God, robbing, as it were, our Lord Jesus Christ of His office, and giving them an honor which even Apostles and angels in Scripture flatly repudiate. And if this is so, with the honor paid to Popes and Priests before my eyes, I say there is idolatry in the Roman Catholic Church.

I know well that language like this jars the minds of many. Men love to shut their eyes against evils which is disagreeable. They will not see things which involve unpleasant consequences. That the Roman Catholic Church is an erring church, they will acknowledge. That she is idolatrous, they will deny.

They tell us that the reverence which the Roman Catholic Church gives to saints and images does not amount to idolatry. They inform us that there are distinctions between the kinds of worship—that God deserves the "strong worship" and the saints and images get a lesser worship. That there is a distinction between a mediator of redemption, and a mediator of intercession, which clear the church of the charge of idolatry. My answer is, that the Bible knows nothing of such distinctions; and that, in the actual practice of the great bulk of Roman Catholics, there is no distinction at all.

They tell us, that it is a mistake to suppose that Roman Catholics really worship the images and pictures before which they perform acts of adoration; that they only use them as helps to devotion, and in reality look far beyond them. My answer is, that many a heathen could say just as much for his idolatry—that it is well-known, in former days, they did say so—and that in Hindu religion many idol-worshippers do say the same even in the present day. But the apology does not help. The terms of the second commandment are too stringent. It prohibits "bowing down," as well as worshipping. And the very anxiety which the Roman Catholic Church has often displayed to exclude that second commandment from her catechisms, is of itself a great fact which speaks volumes to a candid observer.

They tell us that we have no evidence for the assertions we make on this subject; that we found our charges on the abuses which prevail among the ignorant members of the Roman Catholic Church; and that it is absurd to say that a Church containing so many wise and learned men, is guilty of idolatry. My answer is, that the devotional books in common use among Roman Catholics supply us with unmistakable evidence. Let any one examine that well known Catholic book, "The Garden of the Soul," if he doubts my assertion, and read the language there addressed to the Virgin Mary. Let him remember that this language is addressed to a woman, who, though highly favored, and the mother of our Lord, was yet one of our fellow-sinners—to a woman, who actually confesses her need of a Savior for herself. She says, "My spirit rejoices in God my Savior" (Luke 1:47).

Let him examine this language in the light of the New Testament, and then let him tell us fairly, whether the charge of idolatry is not correctly made. But I answer, beside this, that we need no better evidence than that which is supplied in the city of Rome itself. What do men and women do under the light of the Pope’s own countenance? What is the religion that prevails around St. Peter’s and under the walls of the Vatican? What is Romanism at Rome, unfettered, unshackled, and free to develop itself in full perfection? Let a man honestly answer these questions, and I ask no more. Let him read such a book as Seymour’s "Pilgrimage to Rome," or "Alford’s Letters," and ask any visitor to Rome if the picture is too highly colored. Let him do this, I say, and I believe he cannot avoid the conclusion, that Romanism in perfection is a gigantic system of Church-worship, Sacrament-worship, Mary-worship, saint-worship, image-worship, relic-worship, and priest-worship—that it is, in one word, a huge organized idolatry.

I know how painful these things sound to many ears. To me it is no pleasure to dwell on the shortcomings of any who profess and call themselves Christians. I can truly say, that I have said what I have said with pain and sorrow.

I draw a wide distinction between the accredited dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church and the private opinions of many of her members. I believe and hope that many a Roman Catholic is in his heart inconsistent with his profession, and is better than the Church to which he belongs. I believe that many a poor Italian at this day is worshipping with an idolatrous worship, simply because he knows no better. He has no Bible to instruct him. He has no faithful minister to teach him. He has the fear of the priest before his eyes, if he dares to think for himself. He has no money to enable him to get away from the bondage he lives under, even if he feels a desire. I remember all this, and I say that the Italian eminently deserves our sympathy and compassion. But all this must not prevent my saying that the Roman Catholic Church is an idolatrous Church.

MacArthur: Idolatry includes much more than bowing down or burning incense to a physical image. Idolatry is having any false god – any object, idea, philosophy, habit, occupation, sport, or whatever that has one’s primary concern and loyalty or that to any degree decreases one’s trust in and loyalty to the Lord. . .

False gods may be either material objects or mythical, supernatural beings. Material gods may be worshiped even without the conscious thought that they are deities. Job wrote:

If I have put my confidence in gold,
And called fine gold my trust,
If I have gloated because my wealth was great,
And because my hand had secured so much;
If I have looked at the sun when it shone,
Or the moon going in splendor,
And my heart become secretly enticed,
And my hand threw a kiss from my mouth,
That too would have been an iniquity calling for judgment,
For I would have denied God above.
(Job 31:24-28)

Idolatry has many forms . . .

– Libeling the character of God is idolatry
– Worshiping the true God in the wrong way is idolatry (Ex. 32:7-9)
– Worshiping any image is idolatry (Is. 44:17; John 4:24)
– Worshiping angels is idolatry (Col. 2:18)
– Worshiping demons is idolatry (Rev. 9:20)
– Worshiping dead men is idolatry (Ps. 106:28-29)
– Supreme loyalty in our heart to anything other than God is idolatry (Matt. 6:21)
– Covetousness is idolatry (Eph. 5:5)
– Inordinate desire or lust is idolatry (Phil. 3:18-19)

In verses 16-22 Paul gives three reasons for fleeing from idolatry: it is inconsistent; it is demonic; and it is offensive to God.

Hodge: The heathen certainly did not intend to worship evil spirits. Nevertheless they did it. Men of the world do not intend to serve Satan, when they break the laws of God in the pursuit of their objects of desire. Still in so doing they are really obeying the will of the great adversary, yielding to his impulses, and fulfilling his designs. He is therefore said to be the god of this world. To him all sin is an offering and an homage. We are shut up to the necessity of worshipping God or Satan; for all refusing or neglecting to worship the true God, or giving to any other the worship which is due to him alone, is the worshipping of Satan and his angels. It is true therefore, in the highest sense, that what the heathen offer they offer to devils. Although their gods have not existence, yet there are real beings, the rulers of the darkness of this world, wicked spirits in heavenly places (Eph. 6, 12), on whom their worship terminates.

Pastor Thomas Leake: (10:14 – 11:1) What God Thinks of Man’s Religion

Introduction: There are 2 main approaches to how people view the other religions of the world:

1) Historical approach for evangelical Christianity: View Christianity as exclusive truth; one must hear the gospel about Christ and personally put their faith in Christ; no other way to approach God; other religions have nothing to offer

2) Newer and growing view – even among some evangelicals: Other religions can be viewed as lesser lights with Christianity being the brightest light; thus you can gain some insight and value from other religions; this is the path of pluralism and religious syncretism; you can somehow learn something of Christ from religions that don’t even talk about Christ

Context: Paul still talking about overall subject of a Christian’s boundaries for liberties and freedoms in Christ

5 Instructions About a Christian’s Relationship to Other Religions

I. (:14-15) Flee Idolatry

Strong connective used to point back to the overall context; strong warning that Paul gave earlier in chap. 10;
The faster and farther you flee from idolatry, the better; cf. similar command to Flee Immorality;
Don’t wrestle with either Idolatry or Immorality or spend any time contemplating the; Guard yourselves from idols (1 John 5:21);
Situation = being invited to pagan idol feasts; a believer might reason: "Idols don’t exist; I am free in Christ; I don’t want to offend my friends; I want to win others to Christ; so I should just participate with them"
Participation crossed the line; believers need to use their Spirit-guided mind

II. (:16-21) Christ Can’t Be Mixed with Other Gods

  1. 2 Illustrations of Religious Communion
    1. Communion / Lord’s Supper – understand the different views:
      1. Roman Catholic = transubstantiation
      2. Lutheran = consubstantiation
      3. Reformed = spiritual participation with Christ present
      4. Symbolic = the elements are only symbols

This text does not argue for or against any of these views; you must go to other passages to decide.

Point: in partaking we share with Christ; the kind or type of communion is not taught here; we are sharing with Christ; But a few points to argue for the Symbolic view:

  • At the institution of the Lord’s Supper, His blood had not even been shed yet
  • Christ still refers to the cup as wine
  • Christ’s presence is mediated via the indwelling Holy Spirit
  • Nothing special about the elements

But: don’t take communion lightly either

    1. 2nd Illustration = OT Levitical System
      1. Priest and those who brought the offering might share in a meal from the meat of that offering;
  1. Idols vs. Demons

cf. 8:4 – No such thing as an idol really exists in the world; e.g. gods like Zeus do not actually exist; so it is impossible to fellowship with a non-existent deity; But Demons (fallen angels) are real; the strictly materialistic view of the universe is wrong; Demons are behind all of the worship of false idols and false gods; Deut. 32:16-17; Ps. 106:36-37

Application: Don’t synchronize our beliefs with any false views of gods or false religious systems; 2 Cor. 6:14-17; No room for compromise here

We should have no visual conception of God; idolatry starts in the mind with a wrong concept of God; Rev. 9:20-21 – not just incomplete ways of worshipping the true Christ; God hates idolatry; Rom. 1: 20-23; idolatry can never be a pathway to God; 2 Cor. 4:4;

1 Cor. 10:21 is key verse – You are not able to partake from both tables; God will not commune with anyone who communes with idols

III. (:22) Idolatry Provokes God’s Jealousy

You have to choose sides; no middle ground

Ex. 34:12 ff.; Is. 48:11; Don’t incite God to Jealousy (zealous for the relationship) unless you are stronger than God

IV. (:23-30) 2 Principles About How to Use Our Christian Liberties

  1. Principle of Expediency (:23)
    1. Only make the better decisions; those that are helpful and profitable
  2. Principle of Edification
    1. Love should control all of your decisions; Will this decision help my brother in Christ? You restrict yourself by your love for others
    2. Paul looks at 2 very specific situations and how these principles apply:
      1. You can eat any meat that is sold in the meat market – just don’t ask questions; the Jews had been very scrupulous in investigating the source of the meat; Paul takes the opposite approach – just don’t ask; all meat ultimately comes from God and can be received with thanksgiving; source of the meat is an irrelevant question
      2. When invited into someone’s house for dinner – 2 possibilities
        1. If the issue is not raised, go ahead and eat
        2. If someone makes a point that the meat comes from idol worship, then refrain – don’t cause your weaker brother to stumble or give occasion for the unsaved to have accusations against you; Be careful and sensitive of the conscience of others

V. (10:31 – 11:1) 3 Commands for Believers Living in This Pluralistic Culture

  1. Live for the Glory of God
    1. You have one life; make it count by making it always your one ambition to live in such a way as to glorify God
    2. 1st Commandment = Love God supremely
  2. Give No Offense
    1. Paul was not a man-pleaser in the wrong sense; but he was flexible in the non-essentials so as to accommodate others and win as many as possible to Christ;
    2. 2nd Commandment = Love your neighbor as yourself
  3. Imitate Godly Examples – like that of the Apostle Paul who was imitating Christ

1 Comment

  1. Wow, that is a lot…but it is really good.