1 CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 10.
A Warning against Carnal Security. 1 Cor. 10, 1—13.
The backsliding of Israel: V.1. Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, v. 2. and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea, v. 3. and did all eat the same spiritual meat, v. 4. and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of the spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ. V. 5. But with many of them God was not well pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness. In this passage the apostle offers a few pages from the history of ancient Israel as a warning example for those that are in danger of yielding to carnal security. Out of the entire number of adult Israelites that left the land of Egypt only two, Joshua and Caleb, entered the Promised Land. Therefore the lesson should be heeded: For I do not want you to remain in ignorance, brethren, that our fathers all were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea. Paul openly speaks of "our fathers," thus identifying the New Testament Church with the true Israel, Rom. 4, 1. 11; 11, 17. 18. When the children of Israel left Egypt, the land of their bondage, the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to show them the way, Ex. 13, 21. And the entire congregation also passed through the Red Sea as on dry ground, the Lord Himself causing the water to stand like a wall on either side, Ex. 14, 22. The merciful presence of God surrounded and accompanied them at every step of their journey. Note that all the Israelites, without exception, escaped from the house of bondage, that they all were included in the miraculous deliverance in the Red Sea; and yet most of them afterward perished! Paul states; furthermore, that they all received their baptism unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea. The cloud and the sea together became the elements by which the children of Israel were cleansed to the Lord, separated as the people of the covenant. Thus the cloud and the sea were types of the New Testament sacrament of Baptism; they were God's seals and pledges of His merciful promises, just as the Sacraments are in truth to-day. Through the cloud and through the sea God saved His people from the tyranny of Pharaoh and led them forth to freedom. And thus God, through Baptism, delivers us from the power of Satan and transfers us into His kingdom, to be His free, blessed children forever. In saying that the children of Israel were baptized unto Moses, the apostle means that they entered into intimate relationship or fellowship with Moses, as the mediator of the divine manifestations ; they took upon themselves the obligation to follow him faithfully as the leader given them by God, Ex. 14, 31, even as a believer baptized unto Christ makes Him the great Leader of his life, Gal. 3, 27.
But the recital of God's mercies to the Israelites is by no means exhausted: And all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. That was the way in which their life was sustained. They all ate spiritual food, food from heaven, manna given by God for this exclusive purpose, Ex. 16, 13 ff. Not once, but twice, they were given water to drink out of a rock, by an obvious miracle of the Lord, Ex. 17, 1 ff.; Num. 20, 2ff. Both food and drink, however, were not intended merely for the maintenance of the physical life, but also for the sustenance of the spiritual life. In this respect the food and drink of the Eucharist are fitting, and likewise surpassing, antitypes of the miraculous food and drink of Israel in the wilderness. Now as then it is the Word of God which gives effectiveness to the meal, but with varying success in believers and unbelievers. The miraculous water is further explained by Moses: For they were drinking, during the entire course of their wilderness journey, from the spiritual Rock accompanying them; but that Rock was Christ. While their mouths partook of the water flowing at their feet, their spirits were refreshed through faith in Christ, present with them as the Rock of their salvation. "That is, they believed in that same Christ, although He had not yet appeared in the flesh, but was to come later: and the sign of such their faith was the physical rock, from which they drank water, just as we in the physical bread and wine upon the altar eat and drink the true Christ spiritually, that is, in eating and drinking externally we exercise our faith internally. For if those had not had God's Word and faith while they were drinking water out of the rock, it would have had no value for their souls." 51)
But how did the people repay the wonderful kindness of God? But not was God well pleased with the majority of them, for they were laid prostrate in the wilderness. On account of their unbelief and hard-heartedness, Heb. 3, 19, God's ill-pleasure, His wrath and indignation, were provoked. He had patience, He turned to them again and again, but they would not give Him the whole-hearted obedience which He demanded, and so His punishment descended upon them. By various particular judgments, of which Paul speaks afterward, the entire older generation was destroyed, failing to reach the Promised Land, with the exception of only Joshua and Caleb. "What a spectacle for the eyes of the self-satisfied Corinthians: all these bodies, full-fed with miraculous nourishment, strewing the soil of the desert!" (Godet.)
Warning against the corruption of idolatry and related sins: V. 6. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. V. 7. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play. V. 8. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. V. 1). Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. V. 10. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. The apostle substantiates his warning by referring to a number of incidents that happened in the wilderness, showing why the displeasure of God struck the children of Israel: Now these things, these judgments, are recorded in Scriptures as types or examples of warning; they represent to us our lot if we do not heed the voice of God in the history of the wilderness. We should not be lusters after evil things, we should not be eager to perform that which displeases the Lord, as they also lusted. Hardly had the Israelites been saved from the hands of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, when they were dissatisfied with their journey in the desert and longed after the flesh-pots of Egypt, Ex. 16, 3. Ever and again, as they continued their journey, they would raise their voices in rebellious murmurings and demand further gifts from the kindness and goodness of the Lord, Num. 11, 5—20. And ever and again their revolt took the form of special sins of unfaithfulness, of offenses peculiarly hateful in the eyes of God.
A few of the occasions coming under this heading are now enumerated: And do not become idolaters as some of them, as it is written, The people sat down to eat and to drink and arose to sport in dancing. This behavior was but an outward manifestation of the apostasy of their hearts, Ex. 32, 18. 19. They deliberately prepared a sacrificial meal for the golden calf which Aaron had made upon their demand, and they gave expression to their idolatrous feelings by their singing and dancing around the idol fashioned by a man's hands. "It was a scene of wild, careless merriment, shocking under the circumstances and most perilous, that Moses witnessed as he descended, bearing the tables of the Law." 52) Undoubtedly there were such also in the Corinthian congregation as tried to excuse their partaking of banquets in the heathen temples with the plea that they had in mind only the honor of God; but by the very fact that they placed themselves on a level with the idolatrous enjoyments, they had become guilty of idolatry. A second offense: Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed fornication, and fell in one day twenty-three thousand, Num. 25. In accordance with the malicious advice of Balaam, Num. 31, 16, the Moabites and Midianites invited the Israelites to their festivals, at which the most shameless immorality was practiced in honor of their gods. The result was a corruption and pollution which spread throughout the children of Israel and resulted in God's punishment upon them, with twenty-three thousand slain in one day. Note: There is no discrepancy between this passage and the text in Numbers, since Paul expressly gives the figures for one day, while the historical account mentions the total number of dead. The warning was especially appropriate in the case of the Corinthians, who were exposed to the shameless practices connected with the cult of Venus in their city. Let none of them think that he was immune against such immoral vices, if he deliberately joined the heathen in their festivals. And let none of the Christians of the present time think himself secure against the blandishments and wiles of the world, if he makes it a practice to sit in the places where the sins of immorality are presented in a more or less hidden form.
A third offense: Neither let us tempt the Lord, as some of them tempted and were destroyed by the serpents, Num. 21, 5. 6. By saying of the bread which the Lord gave them daily from heaven that their soul loathed that light bread, they dared God, they committed the sin of presumption, they challenged His judgments. Their dissatisfaction with the food furnished by God was due to their unbelief, and this unbelief was punished through the fiery serpents sent by God. The same sin, that of presuming upon the divine forbearance and patience, is committed by Christians that are not satisfied with the solid and nourishing food given them in Gospel-preaching, but insist upon frequenting the places of the world's idolatry in the hope of obtaining food which suits their jaded appetites better. Such a conduct is tempting Christ and will be punished accordingly. A fourth offense: Neither indulge in murmuring, even as some of them murmured, and perished by the destroyer, by the angel of God that executes the commands of God, 2 Sam. 24, 16; Is. 37, 36. The entire history of the journey in the wilderness is one of murmurings, but several occasions stand out most prominently, notably the revolt of Korah and his friends, and the subsequent uprising of the entire congregation, Num. 16. If it had not been for the standing of Moses between the dead and the living at that time, the entire people might have been wiped out. The lesson should be applied by the Corinthians in time, for they were disposed to manifest opposition against the teachers given them by God, an opposition which struck directly at the Lord Himself. And in our days we need but refer to the general discontent and dissatisfaction with God's ways and government in both Church and State. It is time that we recall what the Lord says Lam. 3, 39.
The application of the lesson: V. 11. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. V. 12. Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. V. 13. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Just as all the other matters related in Scriptures have more than a mere archeological or historical interest for us, so these incidents from the journey in the wilderness befell the Israelites by way of example; their story serves as a lesson for all time. And the accounts were written with a view to our admonition, lest we yield to the sins of which they became guilty. For to us the ends of the ages have come; we are living in the time just preceding the judicial crisis. Cp. Heb. 9, 26; 1 Pet. 1, 20; 1 John 2, 18. Now is the time of severe trials and therefore also of general apostasy; it is at this time, therefore, that we must be on our guard against the perils surrounding us, and not permit familiarity with them to blind us against their insidiousness. "Of this St. Paul also reminds us and points this out, when he says that it is written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. That is, we are now in the last and most evil time, which brings much greater and more grievous peril, and much more horrible punishment; for it is announced in the Scriptures in advance and prophesied by Christ and the apostles that horrible, grievous times would come, wherein there would happen a great apostasy from the true doctrine and a terrible desolation of the Church, as now, unfortunately, is before our eyes, that both through much heresy and through Mohammed and the papacy has been fulfilled in a manner altogether too horrible."53) From these facts Paul concludes: So, then, he that thinks he is standing, let him take heed, let him watch out, lest he fall. The Corinthians were indeed standing in faith, by the grace of God; they were built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ and the apostles. Just as soon, however, as vanity takes hold of a person's heart because of such grace, there results a false security, which deliberately ignores the perils and temptations and thus commonly precedes the fall. The brave certainty of his salvation which must characterize a Christian is nevertheless closely connected with a humble carefulness and vigilance, after the example of Paul, lest a carnal overestimation of his own strength give the enemies the opening which they have been seeking. But for the consolation of the earnest and humble readers the apostle adds: Temptation has not taken hold of you otherwise than human; the enticements to sin which have come to them have been such as proceed from men, from the surrounding heathen life. But God is faithful in that He does not permit you to be tempted beyond your ability, but will give with the temptation also a way of escape, of egress, that one may be able to bear. If we Christians but trust in the almighty power of the faithful God, then there is no temptation which can fully overcome us, for He will not permit the temptation to assume such proportions as to leave us no way out. We are able to hold up under the strain, because there is the certain promise that we shall finally get clear away from the struggle. But we, on our part, must set our eyes steadily upon Him for help. "For these two things St. Paul means here: in the first place, that God, our dear Lord, in the midst of temptation wants to help us bear it: in the second place, that there also will be an end to the temptation, that we do not remain in it: truly He is a faithful God." 54)
Conduct toward the Weak. 1 Cor. 10, 14—33:.
A reference to the Lord's Supper: V. 14. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. V. 15. I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. V. 16. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? V. 17. For we being many are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread. The first sentences are in the nature of a transition between the two sections of the chapter. The sad fate of the Israelites in the wilderness, the resemblance between their trials and those of the Corinthian Christians, the possibility of offering effective resistance to all temptations, and the certain relief which we may expect from our faithful God: all these facts combine to give weight and emphasis to the appeal to flee from idolatry, which is at the basis of all sinning. Paul is deeply moved, and he intends his appeal to make a deep impression upon his readers since he addresses them as his "beloved." But he now leads over to the other thought, that of the necessity of keeping the Holy Communion unpolluted. Like a challenge his words ring out: As to men of sense I speak; judge yourselves what I say. He has warned them against a security based upon false knowledge; he here asks them to apply their spiritual wisdom in the proper way, since the matter which he is about to broach pertains to those things which the spiritual person may well judge, chap. 2, 15. They are intelligent, they are clever, they are shrewd: therefore he has unlimited faith in his being able to entrust such a palpable truth to their decision.
The mystery of the Eucharist: The cup of blessing which we bless, which we, in the Holy Communion, set apart by prayer for a holy use, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break (after likewise pronouncing the prayer of praise and thanksgiving over it), is it not the communion of the body of Christ ? The entire passage breathes the consciousness, the certainty, of Christian fellowship, first with Christ, in whom they participate through the wine and the bread, and secondly with the other communicants, who partake of the same bread and of the same cup. We have here the essence of the Lord's Supper in one sentence: There are the earthly, visible elements, bread and wine; there are the invisible blessings, the real presence of the body and blood of Christ; the heavenly gifts are present in, with, and under the earthly elements, for there is a communion of the two, in either case, and nothing is said of a change or transubstantiation; the communion is with Christ, as the Author and Finisher of our salvation. There is no sacramental presence outside of the Sacrament; it is necessary that bread and wine be blessed and then partaken of in accordance with Christ's institution in order that the real presence be effective; he that partakes of the bread partakes of the body of Christ; and he that partakes of the cup partakes of the blood of Christ. "As regards transubstantiation, we care nothing about the sophistical subtlety by which they teach that bread and wine leave or lose their own natural substance, and that there remain only the appearance and color of bread, and not true bread. For it is in perfect agreement with Holy Scriptures that there is, and remains, bread. . . . We believe, teach, and confess that the body and blood of Christ are received with the bread and wine, not only spiritually by faith, but also orally; yet not in a Capernaitic, but in a supernatural, heavenly mode, by reason of the sacramental union; as the words of Christ clearly show." 55)
The communion, the oneness, of the believers with Christ, through the Eucharist, is brought out: For one bread, one body, we many are, for of the one bread we partake. It is the very closest relationship, the most vital fellowship which Paul here states to be existing. All communicants partake of that one bread which is the communion of the body of Christ, and therefore they are most intimately united, not only with Christ, but also with one another; the fellowship of the believers is brought out with the greatest emphasis by the words of Paul. At the same time it may be noted that the hypocrites and unbelievers that come to the table of the Lord, unknown to the congregation as such, partake of the body and blood of Christ in and with the bread and wine, but they do not really partake of the Holy Communion, for their unbelief excludes them from the communion of saints, and they receive the body of Christ as their Judge and the Sacrament unto their damnation, chap. 11, 29.
The application of these truths to idolatrous practices: V. 18. Behold Israel after the flesh; are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? V. 19. What say I, then? That the idol is anything, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is anything? V. 20. But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to devils and not to God; and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. V. 21. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils; ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's Table and of the table of devils. In his effort to impress upon the Corinthians the fact that participation in idolatrous feasts was equivalent to idol worship, the apostle now introduces the analogy of the Jewish form of worship: Note the people of Israel as a nation. Are not those that eat the sacrifices partakers of the altar; do they not enter into communion with the altar? This fact was brought out particularly strongly on the great festivals, such as the Passover Feast, when the entire congregation of Israel demonstrated its communion by combining in the sacrifice of Passover, and joining, at the same time and in the same manner, in the meal which was connected with it. It was probable that the readers, at this point, would gather the trend of the apostle's remarks, that he was about to refer to their taking part in heathen feasts. But before they can offer the objection which they are likely to make, the apostle disarms them: What am I saying now ? Am I contradicting myself (cp. chap. 8, 4—6), that idol sacrifice is anything, or that an idol is anything? He had denied the actual existence, the personality of idols, and thus had also decried the rites connected with their worship as meaningless observances. This position he held just as strongly as ever.
But there was another feature to which he wanted to call the attention of his readers: Rather, that which they sacrifice they sacrifice to demons, and not to God. Devils are virtually worshiped at the idol feast, and thus, by partaking in heathenish festivals, they come into communion with devils, and he does not want them to enter into fellowship with devils. The riot and debauch attending heathen festivals, not to speak of worse things, showed that foul spirits of evil presided over them. And so Paul makes his application of the truth which their cleverness must surely have shown them to be correct: You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot be partakers of the Lord's Table and of the table of demons. The Lord's cup in the celebration of the Eucharist is the communion with the Lord and therefore demands the closest allegiance to Him; the attendance at the idol festivals, therefore, where the cup of devils was in use and the fellowship with devils was celebrated, must break the tie that binds to the Lord. And in the same way the fellowship with the Lord established at the table of the Holy Communion could not be maintained if a Christian took part in heathen festivals; it was a moral impossibility. Every fiber of a Christian's regenerated being must cry out against such blasphemous confusion. Note: The words of the apostle find their application to-day as well as in Corinth at that time. If Christians join in the wild and profligate revelings and debaucheries of the world, particularly such as are arranged in honor of antichristian persons or principles, they are no less guilty than the boastful Corinthians were in their day.
The Christian principles involved: V. 22. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He? V. 23. All things are lawful for me, but all thing's are not expedient; all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. V. 24. Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth. The apostle here mentions a thought that may have been found in the hearts of some of the Corinthians: Is it that we want to provoke the Lord to jealousy? Was that the idea which made them partake at both tables? Should Christians venture upon such a course? Cp. Deut. 32, 21. They may be assured that the Lord would be apt to feel the most intense displeasure at such an evidence of adulterous love on their part. And: Are we stronger than He ? Shall we presume to risk His displeasure to that extent? Can we avert the power of His wrath? The very fact that Paul included himself in the question was to encourage and admonish his readers to stand on his side and answer with an emphatic: Nevermore! But he also urges a consideration which he has brought once before: All things are in my power, but all things are not expedient, not advantageous, if the welfare of my neighbor is taken into account. Between having the right to do a certain thing and insisting upon making use of this right at all times and under all circumstances there is a great difference. And again: All things are in my power, but not do they all edify. An act which I know to be right and good may be considered highly improper by a weak brother, and therefore my doing it will result in his being offended instead of his being furthered in piety and righteous living. Cp. chap. 6, 12. To go ahead at all times without exercising charitable care, in conceited security, may result in endangering a fellow-Christian's immortal soul. But a basic principle of Christian love is: Let no one seek his own interest or benefit, but rather that of the other, of his neighbor, of his Christian brother. To make one's own enjoyment, one's own rights, one's own liberty the sole and paramount consideration, regardless of the good of others, is the essence of selfishness, a violation of the great law of love. Even things indifferent become sinful when they result in detriment to one's neighbor.
Rules of conduct: V. 25. Whatsoever is sold in the shambles that eat, asking1 no question for conscience' sake; v. 26. for the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof. V. 27. If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast and ye be disposed to go, whatsoever is set before you eat, asking no question for conscience' sake. V. 28. But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that showed it, and for conscience' sake; for the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof; v. 29. conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other; for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience? V. 30. For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? The application of the principles of Christian love to the situation at Corinth was not very difficult. Everything, all the meat that was offered for sale in the meat-market, they might eat. But in doing so, for the sake of their weak brothers, they should not ask questions as to where the meat came from, whether or not it had been sent down from the temple. In this way they would avoid embarrassment in case they, in turn, should be interrogated. This latitude of action Paul substantiates with a passage from Scriptures: For the Lord's is the earth and its fullness, everything that is found in it, all it contains, Ps. 24, 1. Christians may therefore use all the gifts of God as found in the world without the slightest hesitation, provided that no hindrance exists such as is referred to here. The apostle intimates, also, that the anxious search for scruples of conscience which some people regard as the essence of Christianity is not founded upon the will of God.
In case a Christian was invited by some unbeliever and thought it best to go, to accept the invitation, the same general rule should be applied. He should eat everything that was served, but again not ask any questions. The chances are that he would be narrowly watched not only by the non-Christian, who would probably use sacrificial meat, but also by any weak Christian that might be present at the same time. But if some one should then remark that sacrificial meat was being served, the Christian should no longer eat of it. Whether the information would be volunteered in a spirit of civility and by the desire to be of service to the Christian's scruples or in a spirit of mockery, to embarrass him; whatever the occasion or motive, it changes the situation and causes the believer to decline the meat, not for the sake of his own conscience, but for the sake of his weak brother's. Out of consideration for the scruples of his fellow-Christian the believer will abstain from eating meat under those circumstances. And if the objection is made that the decision concerning what is good and not good must rest with the individual Christian, the apostle would have him remember: For to what end is my liberty judged by another conscience; what advantage will I get out of it if I insist upon eating under these circumstances and then must expect the censure of another man's scruples who simply cannot see that my course is altogether in accordance with the Word of God? Instead of receiving benefit from his inconsiderate use of his liberty, positive harm may result: If I with thanksgiving partake, why am I blasphemed and condemned on account of that for which I gave thanks? It will be regarded as an act of hypocrisy by the heathen and brothers that have not the right knowledge if a Christian, in such a situation, not only eats, but also offers thanks to God for the food. That is the reason why a Christian, out of deference to the conscience of the weaker brother, and in order to avoid giving offense, will decline to partake of sacrificial meat.
The conclusion: V. 31. Whether, therefore, ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. V. 32. Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God; v. 33. even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. In applying the principle of Christian love, the apostle states a general maxim of Christian duty. No matter in what particular situation of everyday life a believer may find himself, no matter how he may be engaged, whether it be in eating or in drinking or in any other work, the glory of God must be his object. "Let self be forgotten. Let your eye be fixed on God. Let the promotion of His glory be your object in all you do. Strive in everything to act in such a way that men may praise that God whom you profess to serve." (Hodge.) And the second general rule is: Without offense be to the Jews as well as to the Gentiles as well as to the Church of God. Give no one occasion to be offended against the Christian religion; in all things comport yourself so as not to cause blasphemy against the holy name of God. To make a reckless use of Christian liberty may become the acme of foolishness and result in serious harm to the cause of the Lord. Whether the persons in question are Jews, with their legalistic standpoint, or Gentiles, with their idolatrous practises, or weaker brethren, with their peculiar scruples, act so that the welfare of your neighbor may not be endangered, and, above all, that the glory of the Lord does not suffer at your instigation. And herein Paul again cites his own example: Just as I also in all things please all, not seeking my own advantage, but that of the many, of as large a number as possible, in order that they might be saved. Cp. chap. 9, 22. From the standpoint of man, Paul gave up everything, honor, position, wealth, all advantages of this world, in order to give himself entirely to the service of his Lord and of his fellow-men, no matter under what conditions he met them. And he did not worry about the fact that many misjudged him in this attitude, but kept right on working in their interest. "Therefore; when St. Paul says, Let every one please his neighbor for good, he does not want us to bring it about that it shall please our neighbor, for that is not our concern ; but that we should do so much, according to love, that in justice it ought to please him, and it is not our fault if it does not please him." 56) The fine, tactful decorum of Paul in every conceivable situation obliged people to respect him and in many cases opened the way for the work of the Gospel.
Summary. Paul warns the Corinthians against false security and participation in idolatrous feasts, showing that the glory of God and the welfare of his neighbor must be the motives actuating the believer at all times.