In answering questions about food offered to idols, Paul has spoken about the importance of surrendering our personal rights for the sake of our brethren. The passage of this lesson continues to address the same topic and warns us at the same time against eating food offered to idols.
Did You Know...?
- “The people sat down to eat and drink… ” (7): Paul is citing Exodus 32:6.
- “Destroyed by serpents” (9): The reference is to the event recorded in Numbers 21:4–9.
- “Were destroyed by the Destroyer” (10): The Scripture does not mention a destroyer that struck down the Israelites’ wilderness journey. But Paul may have in mind the incident recorded in Numbers 14:1–38.
- Participation (16): The Greek word is also translated “fellowship” or “partnership”
The word “all” stands out in this chapter because of its repeated use. Why do you think this word is important in vv. 1–5?Hide Answer
Even though all the Israelites went through the same spiritual journey, most of them failed to complete the journey. The word “all” underscores the fact that God’s grace was given to every one of them equally. Unfortunately, not everyone lived up to God’s calling. The problem with those who were rejected in the end was not that they had somehow received less of God’s grace, but that they were in contempt of God’s grace and chose to disobey Him.
Paul mentions the presence of Christ among the Israelites in their wilderness journey. Why is this significant in light of the entire segment?Hide Answer
The mention of the pre-incarnate Christ among the Israelites is striking. It draws a direct parallel between the Israelites in the wilderness and Christians today.
What is Paul’s point in recalling the spiritual experience of the Israelites?Hide Answer
Paul reinterprets the historical accounts found in the Old Testament and casts them in a spiritual light. Although the Old Testament makes no mention of a rock that followed the Israelites, according to Paul, the rock from which the Israelites drank was a spiritual rock. This spiritual Rock followed the Israelites, and that Rock was Christ (v. 4). Similarly, Paul also placed Christ in the context of the Israelites’ complaint against God and Moses. According to Paul, when the Israelites tested God, they were in fact putting Christ to the test (v. 9).
In view of the entire segment (10:1–22), it is apparent that Paul is drawing a connection between the Israelites and Christians. The Israelites’ had a spiritual relationship with Christ just as Christians have a spiritual relationship with Christ. This commonality makes the failure of the Israelites all the more pertinent to Christians. If the Israelites, who had received the grace of Christ, fell in the wilderness because of their sins, Christians must take the examples of the Israelites as a very real warning. Just as idolatry led to the downfall of the Israelites in the wilderness, it can also make a believer today fall (cf. v. 12, 14).
What four sins of the Israelites does Paul cite for our warning?Hide Answer
1. Idolatry (v. 7)
2. Sexual immorality (v. 8)
3. Testing Christ (v. 9)
4. Grumbling (v. 10)
How does the message of verse 12 relate to the issue Paul is addressing?Hide Answer
After citing the examples of the Israelites, Paul concludes with a warning to believers against complacency: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Complacency results from pride, an attitude commonly found among those with knowledge (cf.
1 Cor 8:1–2). A believer who thinks that he is knowledgeable must be careful to also exercise love toward God and others. Otherwise, he can be blinded by his own pride. Thinking that he has the freedom to choose because of his knowledge, he may actually be sinning against Christ (cf. 8:11–12; 10:21–22).
How do we act upon the truth of verse 13?Hide Answer
As believers, we are not immune to temptations. God permits temptations in our lives. But God is faithful. He will not let us be tempted beyond our ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that we may be able to endure it. This truth teaches us to turn to God for help when we are tempted. He will give us the strength we need to endure the temptation. The process of resisting our own desires or withstanding the pressures of our situation is difficult, but we can be confident that we can pass the test with God’s help. No temptation is too great for the believer.
According to this passage, what is one concrete way for us to flee idolatry?Hide Answer
The concrete instruction Paul gives concerning fleeing idolatry is to refrain from food offered to idols.
What reasons does Paul give for refraining from food offered to idols?Hide Answer
1. Through their sacrifice the pagans are offering to demons (v. 20).
2. Just as eating the sacrifices in the Old Testament was participating in the altar, eating food offered to idols is participating with demons (vv. 18, 21).
3. We who have participated in the blood and body of Christ through the Holy Communion cannot also participate with demons. Doing so provokes the Lord to jealousy (vv. 21, 22).
Why is the cup of blessing a participation in the blood of Christ and the bread we break a participation in the body of Christ?Hide Answer
When the Lord Jesus instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion, He called the bread “My body” and the cup “My blood” (cf. Mt 26:26–28; Mk 14:22–24; Lk 22:19–20). As such, “the cup of blessing” and “the bread we break” are a reference to the sacrament.
The Lord Jesus said, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (Jn 6:56). Through the flesh and the blood of the Lord, we have the Lord’s eternal life in us, and He will raise us up on the last day (Jn 6:54). Therefore, taking part in the Holy Communion is a spiritual union and fellowship with the Lord.
Explain the meaning of the Lord’s jealousy.Hide Answer
The word “jealous” and and other related words of the same root are associated with God’s fierce anger against His people when they disobeyed Him, especially when they went after other gods. God calls Himself a jealous God (Ex 20:5, 34:14; Deut 4:24, 5:9, 6:15). He would not tolerate idolatry. Using the analogy of a jealous husband who has an unfaithful wife, God pronounced judgment on unfaithful Israel (Ezek 16:38). When our hearts turn from God to other gods, or if we take part in pagan sacrifices, we provoke the Lord’s jealous anger.
How does not wanting to provoke the Lord to jealousy guide us in making choices?Hide Answer
Although one may argue that idols are nothing and that there is only one God, we must still flee from idolatry, knowing that God is a jealous God. We need to be wary of all pagan practices that are associated with idolatry because being involved in such practices is a spiritual affiliation with demons and it is detestable in God’s eyes.
James also mentions God’s jealousy in connection with indulging in our passions (Jas 4:1–5; cf
1 Jn 2:15–17). When we choose to obey our desires rather than God, we become enemies of God and arouse His jealousy. Hence, it is essential for us to know the Lord’s will and put the Lord first in all the choices we make.
What is the message of verses 23 and 24?Hide Answer
Just because an action may be permissible does not mean that it is good for us or for others. Using the issue Paul is discussing in chapter 8 as an example, even though eating in an idol’s temple is permissible, such an action may encourage a weaker brother to eat food offered to idols against his own conscience. When making a choice, we need to take into consideration whether our action will build up others.
What does Paul mean by raising a question on the ground of conscience (vv. 25–26)?Hide Answer
To raise a question on the ground of conscience means to make a moral judgment. Paul is saying that since all things belong to God, no food is inherently impure. When we purchase food from a vendor, there is no need to question whether it has been offered to idols and let our conscience judge us (cf. Rom 14:22;
1 Tim 4:4–5).
Why should we act for the sake of another person’s conscience?Hide Answer
As Paul has been teaching in
1 Corinthians chapters 8 through 10, we need to do all things out of love for others. If eating something makes another person act against his conscience, we should not eat it for that person’s sake (cf. Rom 14:20–21). By relinquishing our rights for the good of others, we are fulfilling the commandment of love.
How do we do all things for the glory of God?Hide Answer
To do all things for the glory of God means to do all things in such a way that others may honor God as a result of seeing our conduct (cf. Mt 5:14–16). Our actions and our lives are a direct testimony to the faith we uphold. When we do all things in obedience to God’s word and live godly lives in the family, at school, and at work, we are adorning the doctrine of God our Savior (Tit 2:1–10).
In what sense does Paul want believers to imitate him?Hide Answer
Paul would like believers to imitate him in seeking not his own good but that of many in order to save others (vv. 32–33). Our Lord Jesus, whom Paul imitated, had the same mindset (cf. Rom 15:1–3).