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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.

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.

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