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Warnings Against Idolatry
Summary —Lights from Jewish History. Beware of a Fall. Will Not be Trials Greater than We Can Stand. Beware of the Fellowship of Idols. The Analogy of the Lord's Supper. Ask no Questions at a Feast for Conscience Sake. But Avoid Anything Pointed Out as from an Idol Sacrifice.
1–5. In the preceding chapter Paul warned the Corinthian Christians to avoid all that might cause weaker brethren to fall, pointed to his own example, and showed that he spared no effort to win the crown for himself. He now enforces the lesson of his own example by pointing to the warnings furnished in the journey of Israel from Egypt to Canaan, the type of the Christian's journey to heaven. “It is worthy of note that he selects his examples from that part of Israelitish history which has an analogy in the baptismal commencement, and the eucharistic nourishment of the Christian life.”—Schaff. How that our fathers. The ancient members of the Jewish race; the fleshly fathers of Jewish Christians, and, in a kind of spiritual sense, the fathers of Gentile Christians. See Gal. 3:29, and Eph 2:19. Were all under the cloud. With the walls of the sea on each side, and the cloud over their heads, the Israelites at the Red Sea passage were buried out of sight of the Egyptians. See Exod. 13:21; Num. 10:34; 14:13; Psalm 105:39. 2. Were all baptized unto Moses. “The two phrases, 'Were under the cloud,' and 'Passed through the sea,' seem to prefigure the double process of submersion and emersion in baptism.”—Canon Cook. Observe that the Israelites, by this event, left Egypt, escaped from Pharaoh, and entered upon their march, with Moses as their leader, even as Christians leave the Egypt of sin behind, and start upon the Christian life, when they are “baptized into Christ.” One of the church Fathers, Theodoret, says: “The sea of transition represents the laver of regeneration, Moses foreshadows Christ, Israel the baptized disciples, the pursuing Egyptians are the sins left behind, and Pharaoh is a type of the devil.” 3. And did all eat the same spiritual meat. The manna (Exod. 16:15), called “spiritual,” because supernaturally supplied, and because a type of the spiritual bread of the Christian. 4. Did all drink the same spiritual drink. The water supernaturally supplied (Exod. 17:6; Num. 20:11) called “spiritual,” for the same reason. That spiritual Rock that followed them. The waters at Rephidim and Kadesh gushed from a rock. The rock did not itself supply them, but the Power behind, the “spiritual Rock,” even Christ. The rock of Rephidim did not follow them, but the “spiritual Rock” did, and supplied their necessities whenever they were in need. As the rock of Rephidim became a fountain, so Christ is the fountain of living waters to the world. 5. But with many of them God was not well pleased. “All” were baptized, “all” were fed, “all” did drink, but notwithstanding God had done so much for them “all” without exception, many fell in the wilderness because of their sins; a startling warning to Christians on the journey.
6–10. Now these things were our examples. Beacon lights to Christians. The Israelites were led astray by “lusting after evil things.” Let all beware of this source of destruction. 7. Neither 104be ye idolaters. As many had been idolaters, and idolatry was so prevalent in Corinth, this was a great danger. As it is written (Exod. 32:6). The Israelites fell into idolatry at Sinai during the absence of Moses. They sat down to eat. At a feast in honor of the golden calf. Rose up to play. To dance religiously around their idol. Such is the meaning. Of course such an example was a pertinent warning to Corinthian brethren to shun the banquets in idol temples and their accompanying festivities. Three thousand Israelites fell on the occasion referred to. 8. Neither let us commit fornication, etc. The fornication with the Midianites (Num. 25:1–9). It is stated that 24,000 lost their lives. Paul names 23,000 as the number who lost their lives by the plague. The number was no doubt between 23,000 and 24,000, and is stated in each place by a round sum, according to Jewish custom, Paul naming the smaller. Fornication was also one of the besetting sins of Corinth. 9. Neither let us tempt Christ, as, etc. The event referred to is narrated in Num. 21:4–6, which see. The application is, that we should not be discontented over hardships or long for the sinful pleasures of a former life from which we have parted. 10. Neither murmur ye. See Num. 14:2.
11–15. Now these things happened to them for ensamples. They are historical facts designed to teach great lessons, since God still deals on the same principles. Upon whom the ends of the world are come. The last of God's dispensations. 12. Let him that thinketh he standeth, etc. Presumption is the greatest of all dangers. He who realizes his danger will be on his guard. See the case of Peter's fall, for an illustration. The safe way is, conscious of weakness, not to dally with temptation. 13. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common. Perhaps the Corinthians thought their temptations were usually severe, but these were only what human nature is exposed to. But God is faithful. Will keep every promise, and hence will give them strength and deliverance in every temptation if they trust in him. None who devoutly follow Christ, who pray constantly for strength, and trust God, will fall. 14. Flee from idolatry. In idolatry, the greatest temptations at Corinth were combined, lust, drinking, reveling, etc. The way to avoid all these was to flee it. Sin must not be dallied with, but shunned.
16–22. The cup of blessing which we bless. A name applied to the cup used in the Lord's 105Supper. Paul shows, from the nature of the Lord's Supper, and of the Jewish sacrificial feasts, that to eat in an idol feast is an idol communion. Is it not the communion of the blood? etc. The symbol of joint participation or fellowship of the blood of Christ. The bread which we break. Is not this symbol of joint participation of Christ's body? 17. For we being many are one bread. One loaf. There being one loaf implies that we Christians, though many, are all one body, and joint participators of the one body of Christ. Paul had no conception of a divided church. 18. Behold Israel after the flesh. The natural Israel, in contrast with the spiritual Israel, the church. Are not they … partakers of the altar? A part of the sacrifice was eaten by the offerers and their friends, and as a part was burnt on the altar, as an offering to God, they were supposed to be partakers with God in the feast. So, too, those who partook of an idol feast, would be worshipers of the idol. 19. What say I then? He had said an idol was nothing (8:4). Does he not now imply an idol is something? 20. He affirms nothing of the kind, but he does say that the sacrifices which the Gentiles sacrifice are to devils. The idol is nothing, but to the worshiper it is a reality. That reality is not God, but really a demon. The gods were mainly dead kings and heroes who had been deified. The diamonia, or demons, were the spirits of dead men. The worship was really demon worship. Fellowship with devils. Demons. If the feast of the Lord's Supper is communion with Christ, the feast of the altar sacrifice communion with God, who is worshiped, the feast of the idol is communion with the idol. Yet this idol in the mind of the worshiper is a diamonion, a demon. 21. Ye cannot drink, etc. So inconsistent are the two with each other that no man can commune with Christ who partakes of the feast of the demon. Cup of devils. The libations offered at the idol sacrifices. A part of the cup was poured on the altar, and a part drunk by the offerers. See Æneid 8:273. Table of devils. The table in the idol temple where a feast was spread. 22. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Such acts in an idol temple would be worship of the idol. Yet Jehovah says that he is “a jealous God” (Exod. 20:5).
23–26. All things are lawful for me. All meats are especially referred to. See note on chapter 6:12, and chapter 8. But things that are lawful, i. e., not sinful in themselves, are often not expedient. 24. Let no man seek his own. In asserting rights, consider the interests of others. 106 25. Whatsoever is sold in the shambles. In the butcher's stalls. This one might eat without question as to whether it had been part of an idol sacrifice or not. 26. For the earth is the Lord's. All that is offered for sale is the Lord's bounty.
27–33. If any of them that believe not, etc. If invited to an unbeliever's house, go, if you wish, and eat what is set before you without question on account of conscience. 28. But if any man say unto you, etc. If some one points out that a part is from an idol's sacrifice, then it is not to be eaten; not because the food is sinful, but because the conscience of others might be offended. 29. Conscience … not thine own, but of the other. When one eats what he knows to be simply wholesome food, his own conscience is not offended, but that of another man. His liberty of conscience is not abridged by another man's want of knowledge. 30. For, if I by grace be a partaker, etc. If by God's gift I partake with thanksgiving to him, there should be no reproach. 31. Whether therefore ye eat or drink. The rule for eating and drinking is now given. It must be done all to the glory of God. This implies, (1) Thanksgiving to God. (2) Not doing what would put a stumbling-block in the way of weak brethren. 32. Give none offence. The rule just given implies this. Do nothing that would produce a scandal, or arouse prejudice, whether they be Jews, or Gentiles, or brethren. 33. Even as I please all men in all things. See notes on 9:20–23. 106
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