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Warnings from Israel’s History


I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3and all ate the same spiritual food, 4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. 5Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.

6 Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. 7Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.” 8We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. 10And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. 12So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. 13No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols. 15I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? 17Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? 19What do I imply then? That food sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. 21You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22Or are we provoking the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

Do All to the Glory of God

23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24Do not seek your own advantage, but that of the other. 25Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience, 26for “the earth and its fullness are the Lord’s.” 27If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, out of consideration for the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29I mean the other’s conscience, not your own. For why should my liberty be subject to the judgment of someone else’s conscience? 30If I partake with thankfulness, why should I be denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 32Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved.

14. Wherefore, my beloved, flee, etc. The Apostle now returns to the particular question, from which he had for a little digressed, for, lest bare doctrine should have little effect among them, he has introduced those general exhortations that we have read, but now he pursues the discussion on which he had entered — that it is not allowable for a Christian man to connect himself with the superstitions of the wicked, so as to take part in them. Flee, says he, from idolatry In the first place, let us observe what meaning he attaches to the term Idolatry He certainly did not suspect the Corinthians of such a degree of ignorance or carelessness 570570     “Tant despourueus de sens et cognoissance de Dieu;” — “So devoid of judgment and knowledge of God.” as to think, that they worshipped idols in their heart. But as they made no scruple of frequenting the assemblies of the wicked, and observing along with them certain rites instituted in honor of idols, he condemns this liberty taken by them, as being a very bad example. It is certain, then, that when he here makes mention of idolatry, he, speaks of what is outward, or, if you prefer it, of the profession 571571     “La profession et demonstrance;” — “The profession and display.” of idolatry. For as God is said to be worshipped by the bending of the knee, and other tokens of reverence, while the principal and genuine worship of him is inward, so is it also as to idols, for the case holds the same in things opposite. It is to no purpose that very many in the present day endeavor to excuse outward actions 572572     “Les actes ou gestes externes d’idolatrie;” — “The outward acts or gestures of idolatry.’ on this pretext, that the heart is not in them, while Paul convicts of idolatry those very acts, and assuredly with good reason. For, as we owe to God not merely the secret affection of the heart, but also outward adoration, the man who offers to an idol an appearance of adoration takes away so much of the honor due to God. Let him allege as he may that his heart is quite away from it. The action itself is to be seen, in which the honor that is due to God is transferred to an idol.

15. I speak as to wise men. As he was about to take his argument from the mystery of the Supper, he arouses them by this little preface, that they may consider more attentively the magnitude of the thing. 573573     “L’excellence de ce mystere;” — “The excellence of this mystery.” “I do not address mere novices. You understand the efficacy of the sacred Supper in it we are ingrafted into the Lord’s body. How unseemly a thing is it then, that you should enter into fellowship with the wicked, so as to be united in one body. At the same time, he tacitly reproves their want of consideration in this respect, that, while accurately instructed in the school of Christ, they allowed themselves in gross vice, as to which there was no difficulty in forming an opinion.

16. The cup of blessing While the sacred Supper of Christ has two elements — bread and wine — he begins with the second. He calls it, the cup of blessing, as having been set apart for a mystical benediction. 574574     “A la consecration mystique“ — “For a mystical consecration.” For I do not agree with those who understand blessing to mean thanksgiving, and interpret the verb to bless, as meaning to give thanks I acknowledge, indeed, that it is sometimes employed in this sense, but never in the construction that Paul has here made use of, for the idea of Erasmus, as to supplying a preposition, 575575     “Qu’on supplee Pour;” — “That for should be supplied.” The original words ὅ εὐλογοῦμεν, are supposed by many eminent interpreters to be instead of καθ ᾿ ὅ εὐλογοῦμεν τὸν Θεὸνfor which we give thanks to God. — Ed is exceedingly forced. On the other hand, the meaning that I adopt is easy, and has nothing of intricacy.

To bless the cup, then, is to set it apart for this purpose, that it may be to us an emblem of the blood of Christ. This is done by the word of promise, when believers meet together according to Christ’s appointment to celebrate the remembrance of his death in this Sacrament. The consecration, however, which the Papists make use of, is a kind of sorcery derived from heathens, 576576     The reader will find this subject more largely dwelt upon in the Harmony, vol. 3, p. 206. — Ed. which has nothing in common with the pure rite observed by Christians. Everything, it is true, that we eat is sanctified by the word of God, as Paul himself elsewhere bears witness, (1 Timothy 4:5;) but that blessing is for a different purpose — that our use of the gifts of God may be pure, and may tend to the glory of their Author, and to our advantage. On the other hand, the design of the mystical blessing in the Supper is, that the wine may be no longer a common beverage, but set apart for the spiritual nourishment of the soul, while it is an emblem of the blood of Christ.

Paul says, that the cup which has been in this manner blessed is κοινωνίαν — the comnunion of the blood of the Lord. It is asked, in what sense? Let contention be avoided, and there will be nothing of obscurity. It is true, that believers are united together by Christ’s blood, so as to become one body. It is also true, that a unity of this kind is with propriety termed κοινωνία (communion.) I make the same acknowledgment as to the bread Farther, I observe what Paul immediately adds, as it were, by way of explanation — that we all become one body, because we are together partakers of the same bread But whence, I pray you, comes that κοινωνία (communion) between us, but from this, that we are united to Christ in such a way, that

we are flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bones?
(Ephesians 5:30.)

For we must first of all be incorporated (so to speak) into Christ, that we may be united to each other. In addition to this, Paul is not disputing at present merely in reference to a mutual fellowship among men, but as to the spiritual union between Christ and believers, with the view of drawing from this, that it is an intolerable sacrilege for them to be polluted by fellowship with idols. From the connection of the passage, therefore, we may conclude, that (κοινωνίαν) the communion of the blood is that connection which we have with the blood of Christ, when he engrafts all of us together into his body, that he may live in us, and we in him.

Now, when the cup is called a participation, the expression, I acknowledge, is figurative, provided that the truth held forth in the figure is not taken away, or, in other words, provided that the reality itself is also present, and that the soul has as truly communion in the blood, as we drink wine with the mouth. But Papists could not say this, that the cup of blessing is a participation in the blood of Christ, for the Supper that they observe is mutilated and torn: if indeed we can give the name of the Supper to that strange ceremony which is a patchwork of various human contrivances, and scarcely retains the slightest vestige of the institution of our Lord. But, supposing that everything else were as it ought to be, this one thing is at variance with the right use of the Supper — the keeping back of the whole of the people from partaking of the cup, which is the half of the Sacrament.

The bread which we break From this it appears, that it was the custom of the ancient Church to break one loaf, and distribute to every one his own morsel, in order that there might be presented more clearly to the view of all believers their union to the one body of Christ. And that this custom was long kept up appears from the testimony of those who flourished in the three centuries that succeeded the age of the Apostles. Hence arose the superstition, that no one dared to touch the bread with his hand, but each one had it put into his mouth by the priest.

17. For we are one bread. I have already stated above, that it was not Paul’s particular design here to exhort us to love, but he mentions this by the way, that the Corinthians may understand that we must, even by external profession, maintain that unity which subsists between us and Christ, inasmuch as we all assemble together to receive the symbol of that sacred unity. In this second part of the statement, he makes mention only of the one part of the Sacrament, and it is the manner of Scripture to describe by Synecdoche 577577     A figure of speech in which a part is put for the whole. — Ed. the entire Supper by the breaking of bread It is necessary to warn my readers, in passing, as to this, lest any less experienced person should be put off his guard by the foolish cavil that is brought forward by certain sycophants — as if Paul, by mentioning merely the bread, had it in view to deprive the people of the one half of the Sacrament.

18. Behold Israel after the flesh He establishes it by another example, that such is the nature of all sacred observances, that they bind us in a kind of fellowship with God. For the law of Moses admits no one to a feast upon a sacrifice, but the man who has duly prepared himself. I speak not of priests merely, but of those among the common people who eat of the remains of the sacrifice. Hence it follows, that all who eat of the flesh of the sacrificed victim, are partakers with the altar, that is, of the sanctification, with which God has set apart his Temple, and the sacred rites that are performed in it.

This expression after the flesh, may seem to be added in order that the Corinthians, on comparing the two, might set a higher value on the efficacy of our Supper. “If there was so much virtue in the ancient figures and in those rudiments of youthful education, how much more must we reckon that there is in our mysteries, in which God shines forth much more fully upon us!” At the same time, it is more simple, in my opinion, to say that Paul intended merely by this mark to distinguish the Jews that were still under the law from those that had been converted to Christ. Now there was a contrast that remained to be made — that if the sacred rites appointed by God sanctify those who observe them, pollution, on the other hand, is contracted from the sacred rites rendered to idols. 578578     “Des saerifiees et autres eeremonies des idoles;” — “Sacrifices and other ceremonies rendered to idols.” For it is God alone that sanctifies, and hence all strange gods pollute. 579579     “Rendent profanes ceux qui les seruent;” — “Render profane those who serve them.” Again, if mysteries 580580     “Les sacremens;” — “The sacraments.” unite and connect believers with God, it follows, that the wicked are in like manner introduced by their superstitious rites into fellowship 581581     “Vne conionetion et union auec leurs idoles;” — “A connection and union with their idols.” with idols. But the Apostle, before proceeding to this, answers by an anthypophora 582582     Anthypophora (ἀνθυποφορα) is a figure of speech, by which a speaker anticipates the objections of his opponent, and answers them. — Ed (anticipation) a question that might be proposed by way of objection.

19. What do I say then? It might seem at first view as if the Apostle either argued inconclusively, or ascribed to idols something of existence and of power. Now it might readily be objected — “What comparison is there between the living God and idols? God connects us with himself by the sacraments. Be it so. How comes it that idols, which are nothing, (1 Corinthians 8:4,) have so much power, as to be able to do the like? Do you think that idols are anything, or can do anything?” He answers, that he does not look to the idols themselves; 583583     “Simplement, et en soy;” — “Simply, and in themselves.” but rather has in view the intention of those who sacrifice to idols. For that was the source of the pollution that he had indirectly pointed out. He confesses, therefore, that an idol is nothing. He confesses that it is a mere delusion when the Gentiles take it upon them to go through solemn rites of dedication, 584584     “Les ceremonies des dedicaces et consecrations solemlelles desquelles les Gentils vsent, ne sont que vent, et n’emportent rien;” — “The ceremonies of solemn dedications and consecrations, which the Gentiles make use of, are mere wind, and signify nothing.” and that the creatures of God are not polluted by such fooleries. But as the design of them is superstitious and condemnable, and as the work is base, he infers, that all who connect themselves with them as associates, are involved in pollution.

20. But the things 585585     “Mais ie di, que les choses;” — “But I say, that the things.” that the Gentiles sacrifice. To complete the answer, a negative must be understood in this way: “I do not say that an idol is anything, nor do I imagine it to be endued with any virtue, but I say that the Gentiles sacrifice to the devil and not to gods those things which they do sacrifice, and hence I estimate the work by their wicked and impious superstition. For we must always look to the intention with which a thing is done. He, then, who connects himself with them, declares that he has fellowship with them in the same impiety.” He proceeds accordingly with what he had commenced: “If we had to do with God only, those things would be nothing, but, in relation to men, they become faulty; because no one sits down to an idol feast, who does not declare himself to be a worshipper of the idol.”

Some, however, understand the term demons here as meaning the imaginary deities of the Gentiles, agreeably to their common way of speaking of them; for when they speak of demons they meant inferior deities, as, for example, heroes, 586586     “Ils entcndoyent ceux qui estans hornroes de grand renom, auoyent este faits dieux;” — “They meant those, who, being men of great renown, had been made gods.” and thus the term was taken in a good sense. Plato, in a variety of instances, employs the term to denote genii, or angels. 587587     The following instances may be adduced from Plato (in Sympos.): — Παν το δαιμονιον μεταξυ εστι θεου τε και θνητου — Every demon holds a middle place between God and mortal man; Θεος ανθρωπῳ ου μιγνυται, αλλα δια δαιμονιων πασα εστιν ἡ ὁμιλια και ἡ διαλεκτος θεοις προς ανθρωπους — God does not hold direct converse with man, but all intercourse and communication is carried on between gods and men by means of demons; Το Δαιμονιον εστιν ερμηνευον και διαπορθμενον θειος τα παρ ανθρωπων, και ανθρωποις τα παρα θεων, των μεν τας δεησεις και θυσιας, των δε τας επιταξεις και αμοιβας των θυσιων — a demon is an interpreter and reporter from men to the gods, and from the gods to men — of the prayers and the sacrifices of the one, and the injunctions and rewards of devotion on the part of the other. — Ed That meaning, however, would be quite foreign to Paul’s design, for his object is to show that it is no light offense to have to do with actions that have any appearance of putting honor upon idols. Hence it suited his purpose, not to extenuate, but rather to magnify the impiety that is involved in it. How absurd, then, it would have been to select an honorable term to denote the most heinous wickedness! It is certain from the Prophet Baruch, (4:7,) that those things that are sacrificed to idols are sacrificed to devils (Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalm 96:5.) In that passage in the writings of the Prophet, the Greek translation, which was at that time in common use, has δαιμόνιαdemons, and this is its common use in Scripture. How much more likely is it then, that Paul borrowed what he says from the Prophet, to express the enormity of the evil, than that, speaking after the manner of the heathen, he extenuated what he was desirous to hold up to utter execration!

It may seem, however, as if these things were somewhat at variance with what I stated a little ago — that Paul had an eye to the intention of idolaters, for it is not their intention to worship devils, but imaginary deities of their own framing. I answer, that the two things are quite in harmony, for when men become so vain in their imaginations (Romans 1:21) as to render divine honor to creatures, rather than to the one God, this punishment is in readiness for them — that they serve Satan. For they do not find that “middle place” 588588     Calvin has very probably in his eye here the sentiment of Plato already quoted — that “every demon holds a middle place between God and mortal man.” — Ed. that they are in search of, but Satan straightway presents himself to them, as an object of adoration, whenever they have turned their back upon the true God.

I would not that ye. If the term demon were used in an indifferent sense, how spiritless were Paul’s statement here, while, instead of this, it has the greatest weight and severity against idolaters! He subjoins the reason — because no one can have fellowship at the same time with God and with idols. Now, in all sacred observances, there is a profession of fellowship. Let us know, therefore, that we are then, and then only, admitted by Christ to the sacred feast of his body and blood, when we have first of all bid farewell to every thing sacrilegious. 589589     “Quand auant que nous y presenter, nous auons renonce a tous sacrileges, c’est a dire a toute impiete et idolatrie;” — “When, before approaching it, we have renounced everything sacrilegious, that is to say, all impiety and idolatry.” For the man who would enjoy the one, must renounce the other. O thrice miserable the condition of those 590590     “O plus que miserable la condition de ceux;” — “O more than miserable the condition of those.” who, from fear of displeasing men, do not hesitate to pollute themselves with unlawful superstitions! For, by acting in this way, they voluntarily renounce fellowship with Christ, and obstruct their approach to his health-giving table.

22. Do we provoke the Lord? Having laid down the doctrine, he assumes a more vehement tone, from observing, that what was a most atrocious offense against God was regarded as nothing, or, at least, was looked upon as a very trivial error. The Corinthians wished the liberty that they took to be reckoned excusable, as there is not one of us that willingly allows himself to be found fault with, but, on the contrary, we seek one subterfuge after another, under which to shelter ourselves. Now Paul says, and not without reason, that in this way we wage war against God; for nothing does God more require from us than this — that we adhere strictly to everything that he declares in his word. Do not those, then, who use subterfuges, 591591     “Qui ne veulent point venir au poinet;” — “Who are not willing to come to the point.” in order that they may be at liberty to transgress the commandment of God, arm themselves openly against God? Hence that curse which the Prophet denounces against all those who call evil, good, and darkness, light (Isaiah 5:20.)

Are we stronger? He warns them how dangerous a thing it is to provoke God — because no one can do this but to his own ruin. 592592     “Ruine et condemnation;” — “Ruin and condemnation.” Among men the chance of war, as they speak, is doubtful, but to contend with God is nothing short of voluntarily courting destruction. Accordingly, if we fear to have God as an enemy, let us shudder at the thought of framing excuses for manifest sins, that is, whatever stand opposed to his word. Let us, also, shudder at the thought of calling in question those things that he has himself pronounced upon — for this is nothing less than to rise up against heaven after the manner of the giants. 593593     The reader will find the same incident in Sacred History referred to by our Author, and dwelt upon at considerable length, in the Harmony, vol. 1, p. 58. See also Calvin on Genesis, vol. 1, p. 328. — Ed. (Genesis 11:4.)

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