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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 10 - Verse 1
1st Corinthians CHAPTER 10
IN regard to the design of this chapter commentators have not been agreed. Some have supposed that there is no connexion with the preceding, but that this is a digression. The ancient Greek expositors generally, and some of the moderns, as Grotius, supposed that the connexion was this: Paul had in the previous chapter described himself as mortifying his flesh, and keeping his body under, that he might gain the prize. In this chapter they suppose that his object is to exhort the Corinthians to do the same; and that in order to do this, he admonishes them not to be lulled into security by the idea of the many spiritual gifts which had been conferred upon them. This admonition he enforces by the example of the Jews, who had been highly favoured also, but who had nevertheless been led into idolatry. This is also the view of Doddridge, Calvin, and others. Macknight regards the chapter as an independent discussion of the three questions, which he supposes had been submitted to Paul:
(1.) Whether they might innocently go with their friends into the heathen temples, and partake of the feasts which were there made in honour of the idol.
(2.) Whether they might buy and eat meat sold in the markets which had been sacrificed to idols.
(3.) Whether, when invited to the houses of the heathens, they might partake of the meat sacrificed to idols, and which was set before them as a common meal. I regard this chapter as having a very close connexion with
In the close of chapter 8, (1 Co 9:13,) Paul had stated, when examining the question whether it was right to eat meat offered in sacrifice to idols, that the grand principle on which he acted, and on which they should act, was that of self-denial. To illustrate this he employs the ninth chapter, by showing how he acted on it in reference to a maintenance; showing that it was this principle that led him to decline a support to which he was really entitled. Having illustrated that, he returns in this chapter to the subject which he was discussing in chapter 8; and the design of this chapter is further to explain and enforce the sentiments advanced there, and to settle some other inquiries pertaining to the same general subject. The first point, therefore, on which he insists is, the danger of relapsing into idolatry—a danger which would arise, should they be in the habit of frequenting the temples of idols, and of partaking of the meats offered in sacrifice, 1 Co 10:1-24. Against this he had cautioned them in general, in 1 Co 8:7,9-12.
This danger he now sets forth by a variety of illustrations. He first shows them that the Jews had been highly favoured, had been solemnly consecrated to Moses and to God, and had been under the Divine protection and guidance, (1 Co 10:1-4;) yet that this had not kept them from the displeasure of God when they sinned, 1 Co 10:5. He shows that, notwithstanding their privileges, they had indulged in inordinate desires, 1 Co 10:6; that they had become idolaters, 1 Co 10:7; that they had been guilty of licentiousness, 1 Co 10:8; that they had tempted their leader and guide, 1 Co 10:9; that they had murmured, 1 Co 10:10; and that, as a consequence of this, many of them had been destroyed. In view of all this, Paul cautions the Corinthians not to be self-confident, or to feel secure; and not to throw themselves in the way of temptation by partaking of the feasts of idolatry, 1 Co 10:12-14. This danger he further illustrates (1 Co 10:15-24) by showing that if they partook of those sacrifices, they in fact became identified with the worshippers of idols. This he proved by showing that in the Christian communion, those who partook of the Lord's Supper were identified with Christians, 1 Co 10:16,17; that in the Jewish sacrifices the same thing occurred, and those who partook of them were regarded as Jews, and as worshippers of the same God with them, 1 Co 10:18; and that the same thing must occur, in the nature of the case, by partaking of the sacrifices offered to idols. They were really partaking of that which had been offered to devils; and against any such participation Paul would solemnly admonish them, 1 Co 10:19-22. Going on the supposition, therefore, that there was nothing wrong in itself in partaking of the meat that had been thus killed in sacrifice, yet Paul says (1 Co 10:23) that it was not expedient thus to expose themselves to danger; and that the grand principle should be to seek the comfort and edification of others, 1 Co 10:24. Paul thus strongly and decisively admonishes them not to enter the temples of idols to partake of those feasts; not to unite with idolaters in their celebration; not to endanger their piety by these temptations.
There were, however, two other questions on the subject which it was important to decide, and which had probably been submitted to him in the letter which they had sent for counsel and advice. The first was, whether it was right to purchase and eat the meat which had been sacrificed, and which was exposed indiscriminately with other meat in the market, 1 Co 10:25. To this Paul replies, that as no evil could result from this, as it could not be alleged that they purchased it as meat sacrificed to idols, and as all that the earth contained belonged to the Lord, it was not wrong to purchase and to use it. Yet if even this was pointed out to them as having been sacrificed to idols, he then cautioned them to abstain from it, 1 Co 10:28. The other question was, whether it was right for them to accept the invitation of a heathen, and to partake of meat then that had been offered in sacrifice, 1 Co 10:27. To this a similar answer was returned. The general principle was, that no questions were to be asked in regard to what was set before them; but if the food was expressly pointed out as having been offered in sacrifice, then to partake of it would be regarded as a public recognition of the idol, 1 Co 10:28-30. Paul then concludes the discussion by stating the noble rule that is to guide in all this: that everything is to be done to the glory of God, 1 Co 10:31; and that the great effort of the Christian should be so to act in all things as to honour his religion, as not to lead others into sin, 1 Co 10:32,33.
Verse 1. Moreover, brethren. But, or now, (de.) This verse, with the following illustrations, (1 Co 10:1-4,) is properly connected in Paul's argument with the statements which he had made in 1 Co 8:8, etc., and is designed to show the danger which would result from their partaking of the feasts that were celebrated in honour of idols. It is not improbable, as Mr. Locke supposes, that the Corinthians might have urged that they were constantly solicited by their heathen friends to attend those feasts; that in their circumstances it was scarcely possible to avoid it; that there could be no danger of their relapsing into idolatry; and their doing so could not be offensive to God, since they were known to be Christians; since they had been baptized, and purified from sin; since they were devoted to his service; since they knew that an idol was nothing in the world; and since they had been so highly favoured, as the people of God, with so many extraordinary endowments, and were so strongly guarded against the possibility of becoming idolaters. To meet these considerations, Paul refers them to the example of the ancient Jews. They also were the people of God. They had been solemnly dedicated to Moses and to God. They had been peculiarly favoured with spiritual food from heaven, and with drink miraculously poured from the rock. Yet, notwithstanding this, they had forgotten God, had become idolaters, and had been destroyed. By their example, therefore, Paul would warn the Corinthians against a similar danger.
I would not that ye should be ignorant. A large part of the church at Corinth were Gentiles. It could hardly be supposed that they were well informed respecting the ancient history of the Jews. Probably they had read these things in the Old Testament; but they might not have them distinctly in their recollection. Paul brings them distinctly before their minds, as an illustration and an admonition. The sense is, "I would not have you unmindful or forgetful of these things; I would have you recollect this case, and suffer their example to influence your conduct. I would not have you suppose that even a solemn consecration to God and the possession of distinguished tokens of Divine favour are a security against the danger of sin, and even apostasy; since the example of the favoured Jews shows that even in such circumstances there is danger."
How that all our fathers. That is, the fathers of the Jewish community; the fathers of us who are Jews. Paul speaks here as being himself a Jew, and refers to his own ancestors as such. The word "all" here seems to be introduced to give emphasis to the fact that even those who were destroyed (1 Co 10:5) also had this privilege. It could not be pretended that they had not been devoted to God, since all of them had been thus consecrated professedly to his service. The entire Jewish community which Moses led forth from Egypt had thus been devoted to him.
Were under the cloud. The cloud—the Shechinah—the visible symbol of the Divine presence and protection that attended them out of Egypt. This went before them by day as a cloud to guide them, and by night it became a pillar of fire to give them light, Ex 13:21,22. In the dangers of the Jews, when closely pressed by the Egyptians, it went behind them, and became dark to the Egyptians, but light to the Israelites, thus constituting a defence, Ex 14:20. In the wilderness, when travelling through the burning desert, it seems to have been expanded over the camp as a covering, and a defence from the intense rays of a burning sun. Nu 10:34, "And the cloud of JEHOVAH was upon them by day." Nu 14:14, "Thy cloud standeth over them." To this fact the apostle refers here. It was a symbol of the Divine favour and protection. Comp. Isa 4:5§. It was a guide, a shelter, and a defence. The Jewish rabbins say that "the cloud encompassed the camp of the Israelites as a wall encompasses a city, nor could the enemy come near them."—Pirke Eleazar, c. 44, as quoted by Gill. The probability is, that the cloud extended over the whole camp of Israel, and that to those at a distance it appeared as a pillar.
And all passed through the sea. The Red Sea, under the guidance of Moses, and by the miraculous interposition of God, Ex 14:21,22. This was also a proof of the Divine protection and favour, and is so adduced by the apostle. His object is to accumulate the evidences of the Divine favour to them, and to show that they had as many securities against apostasy as the Corinthians had, on which they so much relied.
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