1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 67
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|Peter said of Paul, “You know, he says some things sometimes that are over our heads. They are hard to understand.” I like that, because Peter was a fisherman. What did he know about what Paul was talking about? Thank God, we have the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to us today.|
1 Corinthians 10:15
A Word to the Wise – Part 1
I hope we will understand what the apostle Paul is doing here. I love him. Peter said of Paul, “You know, he says some things sometimes that are over our heads. They are hard to understand.” I like that, because Peter was a fisherman. What did he know about what Paul was talking about? Thank God, we have the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to us today.
One of the things that convicting me as I study 1 Corinthians is the fact that all sin is idolatry. Now that is a perspective that has not been very clear in my life. First Corinthians makes it very clear. All of sin is idolatry. We choose to obey our flesh. Everybody does it, from the small to the very big. When we choose to do that, to attach ourselves to anything other than Christ, it is an act of idolatry.
In 1 Corinthians 1:12, Paul says, “Some of you are of Paul, some of you are of Apollos, and some of you are of Cephas.” Then again over in chapter 3 he talks about how immature they had become, intentionally. He says, “You won’t grow up. You won’t come out of the nursery, and as a result of that, you are still attached to Paul, you are still attached to Apollos.”
So Corinth was the epitome of a church living chasing after idolatry. They were not embracing Christ. They were not embracing His Word. They were embracing the flesh and anything that pampered or made the flesh feel better. Paul has shown the Corinthian believers that it is this sin of idolatry that disqualified Israel.
Remember as we come into chapter 10 he mentions Israel as his example. The disqualifying doesn’t mean losing something in the sense of they had already experienced His deliverance, His protection, His presence, His power. But they did miss out on all the blessings that God wanted to give to them. They chose to adulterate their faith. Very skillfully, in verses 710 of chapter 10, the apostle Paul takes four sins of Israel and weaves them together to paint a picture that nobody can miss.
He mentions idolatry in verse 7. In verse 8 there is immorality. Immorality was certainly involved in a physical, sexual sense, but that is not really the meaning here. The meaning is more of spiritual immorality. When you or I choose to embrace our flesh rather than embrace Christ, what happens is, we have adulterated our faith. Now I want to tell you something, folks, that will make you go home and think about sin in a way that perhaps you hadn’t thought about it before. We adulterate, we prostitute our faith because we are no longer trusting God. We put our trust into our own flesh. That is a spiritual act of immorality. And of course, in Israel it did involve the physical but the spiritual is what he is talking about.
Then he mentions tempting God in verse 9. The word “tempt” has the idea of putting something to the test in order to tear the character down, to disprove them. In other words, the lifestyle of Israel, by flirting with idolatry and by adulterating their faith, tore down any witness that God was the one true God. They eroded people’s idea of who God was to Israel.
Then finally, in verse 10 he mentions murmuring. That is interesting. They murmured against the very leadership that God had appointed over them. They complained because, you see, what they were reflecting was, since they couldn’t trust God, they certainly could not trust the leaders God had appointed. It is an interesting way in which Paul brings that to the surface. He tells them in verse 13 that there is never an excuse to fold in the midst of a trial. Listen, a trial is any situation where you and I have to make a choice between obeying our flesh and obeying Christ. To obey flesh is to embrace an idolatrous act and to adulterate our faith. To embrace Christ, of course, is what produces righteousness in our life. Paul says there is always a way of escape so that God will give you the ability to bear up under whatever pressure is on you. So there is no circumstance that will ever come your way forcing you to make a decision that God does not give you the grace and the enablement to bear up under it. And the escape is not from the problem. The escape is from our inability into His ability.
Paul says in verse 14, as we review, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” And the word “flee” means to avoid it at all costs. Whatever you do, avoid letting the flesh rule in your life. This will disqualify you. This will take you out of the race. This will cause you to be benched and you will watch others be used when you yourself are not going to be in the game. Avoid it at all costs. Again, to attach yourself to anything other than God is the sin of idolatry.
It is amazing how many people cannot see this. I want to ask you a question. What are you attached to? Are you attached to a church? Are you attached to a job? Are you attached to a family? A mate? Whatever. You can be attached to a church. You can be attached to a lot of good things, but if we are not attached to Christ, then whatever else it is, that is what idolatry is all about. It is amazing how subtle this is. Many times people are not finding their joy in Jesus. They are finding their joy in something else.
Now, Paul is going to speak to the seriousness of idolatry. Remember the context, starting in 8:1. From there all the way to chapter 10, where we are now, has dealt with people eating meat sacrificed to idols. It is very significant that we pay attention to context when we get into these passages. He is going to deal with it again now. He is going to bring it back to the surface and show us how bad it is to ever embrace the flesh.
Look at verse 15 of chapter 10. He says, “I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say.” Now a better translation of that is, “I speak assuming you to be sensible.” The word “wise” is not the normal word for wise men. It is the word phronimos. It means people who are sensible in the sense that they can hear what you say. They can make a choice based on what you said and be totally affected by the truth that you are giving to them. So he says, “I speak to you as if you are sensible.”
Then he tells them to do something. He says in the last part of verse 15, “you judge what I say.” In other words, you take what I say, you pull it into your life and make some concrete decisions that will radically affect your witness to other people. “I have something to say,” he says. Then he begins to explore what he is about to bring out.
Paul is doing something here. He is going to mention the Lord’s Supper as an example. He is going to mention Israel and the partaking of the sacrifices to the altars as an example. Then he is going to use those two examples to point to eating meat sacrificed to idols. You are going to think, “Where in the world are you going?” Well, I promise you, Paul knew where he was going and I think I know where Paul was going, so if you will stay with me, we will get somewhere. So don’t go to sleep, we are going to do a little spade work here, but if you will pay attention to what we are saying, it is going to make the point just crystal clear to you in just a moment. It will take a few minutes to do it.
Eating meat sacrificed to idols denounces God
First of all, Paul tells them that eating meat sacrificed to idols denounces God in a person’s life. Now the whole reason he is dealing with this is to show how careful we need to be by presenting to others the image that we worship anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ.
Are there any questions about who you love in your life as far as your relationship with God? Paul wants to make sure that our witness is crystal clear, that the witness of the Corinthians is clear. Obviously it is upside down. He is trying to put them right side up. He is going to use the illustration of the Lord’s Supper to start off with. This is not a definition; this is not an exposition; but it is simply an illustration of the Lord’s Supper and how it is going to fit in what he is about to say.
Verse 16 reads, “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?” Now, the cup of blessing to the Jewish person would be the last cup drunk after a meal. It was then that a prayer of thanksgiving would be offered. Also, the cup of blessing was the proper name for the third cup that the Lord Jesus partook of the night before He was crucified. It came to be known as the cup of blessing. It was the Last Supper that He had with His disciples.
Turn to Matthew 26:27. Remember that at the end of the meal, the last cup was drunk and then a prayer of thanksgiving was offered. Well, this particular cup that we are speaking of here is that cup that the Lord Jesus took at the end of that meal and blessed. It was very important to see the significance. Matthew 26:27 says, “And when He had taken a cup [or the cup] and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you.’” He took the cup and gave thanks and then said, “Drink from it, all of you.” That is the cup that we are talking about here. It is recorded again in Mark 14:23 and Luke 22:17.
This cup of blessing came to be known in the Christian church as the Holy Eucharist. The verb for giving thanks in the passage that we just read and also cited in the other two gospels is the word eucharisteo. It comes from eu, which means good or well, and then the word “grace,” charisteo; good grace. It has the idea of giving thanks now for the grace that God has given to us, this grace that comes from God and completely changes the heart and life of the individual.
Now here is where you begin to realize that, when you partake of the cup of blessing, you have to be a believer. It makes no sense to the world to partake of the cup of blessing because it is the cup of blessing by which we give thanks for the grace that we have received from the Lord Jesus Christ. It became known as the Lord’s Supper. It was and is an institution of thanksgiving. It was and is the celebration of the death and the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism pictures His death, His burial and His resurrection. But the Lord’s Supper points to His death, it points to the price, the suffering that He paid for you and me.
The term “blessing” in the little phrase “cup of blessing” is the word eulogia. It comes from eulogeo, which means to speak well of. In other words, to give thanks as in giving thanksgiving. We get the word “eulogy” from it. You know, sometimes you go to a funeral and somebody gives a eulogy of somebody. That is where the word comes from. When the cup of blessing was taken by the believer, the one holding that cup with the wine or the juice in it, he would hold it there and would be overwhelmed in the remembrance of what Jesus Christ had done for him. He would be overwhelmed that God would so love the world that He would send His only Son into this world to die for us so that whoever believes would not perish. That gratitude, that overwhelming awe that he would have, by holding that cup and remembering what it represented, what it symbolized, would emanate into a prayer of thanksgiving.
Hopefully when we have the Lord’s Supper, that is what each of us goes through. That is what we set it up for, but you cannot determine how an individual either thanks or gives gratitude or what he does when he receives that cup. But that is the idea, a remembrance. It is a very significant thing.
Paul says in verse 16, “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless.” You see, the whole idea is for the blessed to say good things. We want to be thankful, we want to say great things and wonderful things about Christ who shed His blood for us.
Then he says, “a sharing in the blood of Christ?” Now the term for “sharing” has got to be understood because he is going to come back to this three times. The term “sharing” is the word koinonia. It has several ideas. It means to have in common with somebody else. It means to participate in. It means to have partnership with others. It is the same word used in 1 Corinthians 1:9 when it talks about we are called into fellowship with His Son. It says, “God is faithful through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” It is the same word used when we participate in [[the fellowship of His suffering]]. Remember what Paul said in Philippians 3:10, “That I may know Him and the powerful of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings being conformed to His death.” It is the same word used in 2 Corinthians 8:4, to speak of the support that the people gave toward the saints; whenever you give, you participate in something. It says, “Begging us with much entreaty [speaking of the church in Macedonia], for the favor of participation in the support of the saints.”
You see, when you are properly sharing in the cup of blessing, we spiritually identify not only with Christ but with one another. There is also a participating together. You see, this is one of the ways that you know believers. They partake of the cup of blessing. They have the Lord’s Supper. They come together. This identifies us as people who have been blood bought, who are grateful for the work of grace that God has done in our life. All of it is due to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. It is more than just a symbol, but it is a profound celebration, a profound communion, a sharing, a spiritual experience when Christians partake of the cup of blessing.
Now, in no way does it mean to literally partake, and that is important to the context. It does not mean literally to partake. This is the doctrine of transubstantiation and consubstantiation. That is the Roman Catholic Church’s belief. They say that when you partake of communion, you partake of the wine, you literally partake of the actual blood of Christ, as if He is being crucified all over again. They say when you partake of the bread, you literally partake of the body of Christ. But in no way can this be true. You say, “How do you know that?” Because when Jesus blessed the cup on the night before His crucifixion, He had not yet shed His blood. He blessed the cup anyway. The cup became a memorial, a symbol of His death and of His crucifixion that was impending upon Him. So how could it become the blood of Christ, when it was never meant to be the literal blood of Christ but symbolic of what He was about to do?
That is what the Lord’s Supper is. In no way does it mean to literally share in the blood. You have already shared in that when you were saved. You were cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. So by sharing in, he has the idea of identifying with, he has the idea of the fellowship, the commonality of believers when they partake of the cup of blessing. That is the meaning and it also holds true for the rest of the verse.
He says in the last part of verse 16, “Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?” The breaking of bread is, of course, the act performed during communion. There was one loaf, and all members partook of that one loaf. The bread is the picture of Christ’s body, a body that was made up of real flesh and real blood. He lived on this earth as the God/man. We celebrate His death and the shedding of His blood when we partake of the bread and when we partake of the cup.
Some people say the shedding of the blood is just symbolic. Well, now wait a minute. It was the shedding of the blood that satisfied the justice of God. It was the dying of the body that satisfied the love of God. And so when we take this ordinance, when we come together, we identify ourselves to the world as believers. We are giving thanks to God. Through His grace He has completely saved us, and we want to give our thanksgiving unto Him. We celebrate the cup, and we celebrate the bread.
This is important and very germane to what Paul is about to say. As Christians we partake of this Lord’s Supper. Paul was not crucified for us, so we are not attached to him as he said in chapter 1. Jesus was crucified for us, and we are attached to Him. When we celebrate, this forms a bond, this binds us together for we are one.
Look at what he says in verse 17, speaking of that unity. He says, “Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.” In other words, all believers stand on the same ground. There is only one loaf and that is the Lord Jesus Christ, and we must partake of Him. All of us are unified in that fact. You know, there are no big “I’s” and little “you’s” in the family of God. Now sometimes people have more gifts than others, or privileges, etc. But I am talking about all of us came in the same way. We came in by grace, not deserving anything that God did. We came in the same way. The ground is level at the cross and there is unity in that fact. All of us came in one way and that was by partaking of the bread which was the Lord Jesus Christ. So when we partake of the Lord’s Supper, that just simply strengthens that bond. When we partake of the blood, every one of us were saved and cleansed by that blood. When we partake of the bread, every one of us were affected by the giving of the body of Christ upon that cross. Our sins were put upon Him on the cross.
Now, Paul continues to clear up what he is saying. What is he doing here? Christians celebrate Christ. They celebrate Him by the cup, and they celebrate Him by the bread. They are unified together. They are identified together. They point a specific direction. Everything they do points to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now look at verse 18. He changes gears. He said, “Look at the nation of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar?” You see, he talks about Christians sharing in the blood, sharing in the body, and now he shifts gears and goes to Israel sharing in the sacrifices of the altar. He says, “Look at the nation of Israel.” Now literally that should be translated, “Behold, Israel after the flesh.” Paul refers to the physical descendants of Israel, the physical nation of Israel. He does not speak to the spiritual descendants, and I will tell you why. In Romans 9:6 we read, “But it is not as though the Word of God has failed, but they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.” In other words, spiritual Israel would never be partaking of the sacrifices given at the altar. They would be with the Christians over here partaking of the cup of blessing and of the bread which would signify their thanksgiving for what Christ had done in their life.
But here is his point. When the Israelites sacrificed an animal to the Lord, the animal or the sacrifice was divided in three ways. First of all was the sacrifice itself. Secondly, there was a portion given to the priest. Thirdly, the one doing the sacrificing and bringing the animal would partake of the very animal that had been sacrificed. When the physical descendant of Israel—now understand what I am saying here—ate of the sacrifice, he was confirming his descent. In this way he expressed agreement with the whole system. He was saying, “I am a descendant of Israel. I am confirming the whole system.” This, like the partaking of the Lord’s Supper, was a symbolic act of acceptance of the traditional meaning of the altar in the Temple. This is what Paul is doing here.
He says an Israelite who has never been saved, will go to the altar. He will take the sacrifice. And when he partakes of that sacrifice, he identifies himself with Israel. He partakes with other Israelites. He partakes of that sacrifice. And so there is a oneness and bond of all those Israelites. There is an identification: You are of Israel. There is an identification with people who take the Lord’s Supper: You are of Christ. Two distinct, different groups here. Both identified; both, when they partake, they are in fellowship with others of like mind.
Now what in the world is Paul doing here? His teaching is that the partaking of the Lord’s Supper never makes one a Christian, but one partakes because he is a Christian. The partaking of the sacrifice of the altar never makes one a Jew, but a Jew will go and partake of that sacrifice. Why? To identify himself and to fellowship with the nation of Israel who also, likewise, does the same things. Both are illustrations of the Lord’s Supper.
In the illustration of the sacrifices offered by Israel, two things are there: one is identification with others of like mind, and two, a participation with them and a sharing in that observance that took place.
Where is Paul going with all this? Look at verse 19. He says, “Who do I mean then?” When I was studying, I was thinking, “Thank you, Paul, I am kind of wondering myself.” He says, “That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?” The first word of the next verse is, “No,” that is not what I am saying. In other words, the first thing he wants them to know is that meat sacrificed to idols is nothing. It is nothing. We are in Christ. Romans 8:1 says there is absolutely “no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” He has already covered this back in chapter 8.
Then the second thing he wants them to know, “Is an idol anything?” No. We know that there is only one true God. You can hear somebody say, “Well, Paul, why do you go to all this trouble talking about Christians observing the Lord’s Supper and Israel observing the sacrifices if eating meat sacrificed to idols means nothing and if the idol means nothing?” Here comes his answer. You see, it is a very serious matter to step outside the bounds of attaching yourself to Christ. You send a signal that is the wrong signal to the rest of the world. Paul wants them to know that the idol that is sacrificed to is nothing and the sacrifice is nothing. But there is something more serious.
Look in verse 20. “No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons.” Here is why it is such a serious matter. You see, he is speaking to the knowledgeable, he is speaking to the arrogant people, as he talked about in chapter 8. They understood grace. They had no love mixed with their understanding, so therefore, they just flaunted their liberty over everybody and broke their brother. What he is saying to them is, “Hey, guys, you might be in standing with God—that is right, it didn’t hurt your standing with God at all, you are in Christ Jesus—but there is a much more serious matter that you didn’t look at. You were eating meat that was sacrificed to a demon and God says, ‘I don’t want you identified with or participating with those who do these kinds of things.’”
You see, “demons” here is in the plural. Every time you find them in the New Testament, in the epistles, they are always in the plural, not in the singular, as they are sometimes in the Gospels. That means you cannot identify them, and they are plural in number. It is amazing to me how many people go to great expense trying to identify a singular demon when in the epistles they are never in the singular, they are always in the plural. They are just simply unidentifiable demon spirits.
Let me show you what happens. When you worship an idol, when a person worships an idol, he is literally worshiping a demon. Go over to Acts 17:22. Paul was in Athens. This is a very important verse to understand. Acts 17:22 is better translated in the King James than it is in the New American Standard. Paul is over in Athens. He is waiting on his buddies to come over and he is bored to tears and looks around and sees all these false gods and he cannot keep his mouth shut. Paul was like Peter in a way. Every time he opened his mouth, he put his foot in it. He just has to take them all on.
Look at what he says in verse 22. “And Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects.’” Now that word “religious” is not a good translation. The word comes from two words. It is a great big long word, deisidaimonesteros. The first part of the word is the word deilos, and it means to fear. The second part of the word is the word for demon, to fear demons. Now, it was translated “superstitious” in the King James Version which is a good translation. They so feared the gods and the demonic of that day that they went to great expense and got over into superstition.
Do you realize some people can fear our God in an unjust way and as a result of that, end up in superstition? It is the same idea. The Athenians were fearful of the demonic, and in order to pacify the evil spirits, they built altars to worship them. Paul is saying, even though there is an idol sitting there, that they are literally worshiping demons. He is showing how the fact that they eat meat sacrificed to idols is to identify yourself with and to participate with, to share in those who worship the very things that are opposed to anything that God represents.
So Paul says in verse 20, “No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons.” Now that is interesting, “sharers in demons.” How can some people say “sharers in demons” has a literal meaning when the other two illustrations did not? You have to take it in the context it is in. He means in the very same way Israel shared in with other Israelites and partook with as they took the sacrifices, the same way that when a person takes the Lord’s Supper, they share in something together. It is symbolic. Here again is the symbolism.
He said you are making your identity with those who serve the very things that are opposed to God. It is not a literal sharing, but a sharing nonetheless. You see, when a believer takes the Lord’s Supper, he sends a message and his message is, “I am under grace. I am overwhelmed by grace. I am amazed at the love that Christ showed to me by the shedding of His blood as I take the cup of blessing, by the giving of His life as I partake of the bread. I am overwhelmed. I am attached to Him and my identity and my focus is Christ all of my life.”
When you point in one way, your message is clear. But, you see, when you go and eat meat sacrificed to idols, Paul would be saying to the Corinthian church, you are sending a mixed signal. You are participating and identifying with people who worship demons and there is no way that you can do that. You end up participating in their evil deeds.
In 2 John 1:10 it says, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house and do not give him a greeting.” It is talking about the gospel message. Isn’t it amazing how many times we do that, though, without realizing it? Verse 11 goes on, “For the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.” And that is the same exact thing Paul is saying. He went all the way around the block to come to the simplicity of the statement, “You cannot do this because you are sending a mixed signal. You are ruining your witness. You are causing the unbeliever to be confused, and you are causing the weaker brother to be confused as to who is the focus of your life. If you are going to line up with people who worship demons, how can you at the same time worship the Lord Jesus? In fact, it is an impossibility.”
Look at verse 21. “You 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.” That word “cannot” is the word ou. It means absolutely in no way, shape or form. You cannot do it. It is kind of like what Jesus said in Matthew 6, “You cannot serve two masters. You will love one, you will hate the other one.” In other words, you cannot continue to do this over here and confuse your message. Over here is your identity, loving Christ and being overwhelmed by the grace that He has shown to you.
He said, “You 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.” He is telling them if you partake of meat sacrificed to idols, you are denouncing God in your life. He is going to go on later on to say if you are aware that the meat has been sacrificed to idols. There are times when it wasn’t and he is going to cover that ground, but I will not cover it in this message.
Have you ever tried to mix oil with water? Isn’t that fun? You know what happens when you try to mix oil and water. They don’t mix. I think Paul is saying, “Make sure your direction is in a way that is clear, that people know who you are and who you are identified with, who you are grateful to and who you serve.” If you try to flirt with idolatry—and in this case, eating meat sacrificed to idols—what happens is, you confuse others and you have announced that you don’t trust Christ, that you have embraced your own flesh. That sends a signal that kills the witness that you could have had. So eating meat sacrificed to idols denounces God in one’s life.
Eating meat sacrificed to idols provokes God to anger
The second thing Paul brings out is that eating meat sacrificed to idols provokes God to anger. You know, sometimes we just do stupid things. Now dumb things are when you don’t know any better. Stupid is when you know better, but you do it anyway. That is my definition of stupid. Why in the world would we agreeably provoke God to anger? I don’t understand why we do that.
Hebrews 12:6, “He chastens, He disciplines and He scourges those whom He loves.” Do you know what scourge means? It means to whip severely. He will take you right down to the very end. Now why would I invoke that upon myself? If I embrace my flesh, in this case eating meat sacrificed to idols, what I have just done is put my hands into the hands of a living God, and provoke Him to anger because He is going to chasten me, He is going to discipline me and He is going to scourge me.
Well, 1 Corinthians 10:22 reads, “Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?” The word “provoke” there is parazeloo. Para means the idea, to the point of, zeloo is the desire to be zealous, to make one jealous, to provoke unto jealousy. Idolatry provokes the Lord to a jealous anger.
Look back in Deuteronomy 32:17. Let’s look at Israel just for a second. This is exactly what Israel did. It is what the Corinthians were doing, and it is what none of us are supposed to do. Deuteronomy 32:17 is a very good verse to remember that God’s people can do this kind of thing. When you embrace flesh, you have just embraced idolatry. Deuteronomy 32:17 says, “They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known, new gods who came lately, whom your fathers did not dread.” So here is the same picture of what Israel did. Then in verse 21 of chapter 32 we read, “They have made Me jealous with what is not God; they have provoked Me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.” God said, “Hey, you are going to provoke me? Buddy, I’ll turn right around and provoke you.” He would raise up a pagan nation and bring them to the very point of crying out to God. He says, “Alright, do you understand now? I am the only one you are to serve. You are never to serve your flesh.”
First Kings 14:22 says, “And Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord and they provoke Him to jealousy, more than all their fathers had done with the sins which they committed.” Here is the point, when we associate with anything other than Christ, this is idolatry. That idolatry denounces God in our life, kills our testimony and provokes God to anger.
Paul says in the last part of 1 Corinthians 10:22, “We are not stronger than He, are we?” And that word “strong” is the word ischus. It means inherent strength, the kind of strength where you can do whatever you want to do because you are who you are. There is an arrogance and insolent attitude when somebody says, “I know, God, what you want me to do but I will not do it because I can do what I want to do.” An ischus person is a person who is inherently strong and inherently has the right to do as he pleases because he has been proven to be who he is. So in other words, this person says, “I have got the right to do whatever I want to do.”
I wish I could point a finger at somebody, but it would come right back between my eyes. How many times I have done that in my life just out of pure arrogance. I knew what God wanted me to do, and I chose rather to embrace my flesh. I chose to adulterate my faith. I chose to completely ruin my testimony with people, unbelievers, and even believers who are weak in the faith who are watching me.
How many of us have done the same thing in our life? We all have done that, haven’t we? And that is what sin is. Folks, listen to me, we are talking about eating meat sacrificed to idols. I don’t think that is going to be a problem to most of us before the week is out. But it was a problem to the Corinthians. But let me ask you a question, what sin is a problem to you? What is it that you are so quickly defeated by, how quickly you will embrace the flesh and how quickly you embrace idolatry? That is the point that Paul is trying to make. You can’t associate here and expect to associate over here. You can’t do it. You are going to love one and hate the other. And idolatry is the same thing as immorality, the same thing as tempting God. It is the same thing as showing that you don’t trust who He is.
Well, in verse 23 he is talking to the insolent, arrogant person. He says, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” He uses two words here that are key to understanding that verse. First of all, it is “profitable.” That means to benefit other people in a spiritual way. The word “edify” means to build others up in the faith. But here is his point. He says, “All things are lawful.” He doesn’t mean it is lawful to go out and shoot somebody. The word “lawful” means in accordance to and related to your eternal security. There is nothing that can affect our stance in the Lord Jesus Christ, so therefore, all things are lawful. After a person becomes a believer, whatever he does can in no way jeopardize his position in the Lord Jesus Christ.
I have heard people tell me, “Oh, I knew a Christian who committed suicide, and he went straight into hell.” No, he didn’t. If he was saved, he is saved not because of what he did or what he didn’t do. He is saved because of who Christ is. Therefore, in Christ you are secure. Some people don’t believe in that, but I’ll tell you what, you are going to have to cut a lot of verses out of your Bible. You will truly have a holey Bible when you cut out all the assurance verses that are there.
Listen, let’s just take meat sacrificed to idols out of the picture. Let’s get into another grey area. You can go out and have a drink. You can be saved and go out and have a drink. Help yourself, man. All things are lawful. But I want to tell you something, not everything is profitable to your brother and not everything builds your brother up. You are sending a signal to that weaker brother and to the unbeliever that you do not love God because all of his association with that is evil.
That is what Paul is saying. That is what he has been saying since chapter 8. He says, “Come on, man, quit defending your rights under grace. They are all privileges. Be willing to lay them down for the sake of the weaker brother, for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ. And I’ve had people back me up against the wall on those grey areas. Smoking won’t make me go to hell, will it? No, but it will make you smell like you’ve been there. It won’t really bless your reputation to other people around you. But there are people who will stand to the death to defend their right to do what they know cannot affect their standing in Christ. That is the whole point Paul has been trying to make. That kind of arrogant attitude is the arrogant, insolent attitude of a person who says, “I am stronger than God. I can do what I want to do whenever I want to do it.” Paul says, “Okay, everything you do certainly is lawful. You’ve got that down, but it is not profitable to your brother and it is not building him up.”
In fact, Paul would categorize it as an act of idolatry because if it offends the brother, it has got to be a fleshly move. It is what God does that unifies and builds him up.
Well, verse 24 reads, “Let no one, no one, seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.” The word “good” is not in there in the Greek, but it is implied. What he says is, “Don’t ever seek for yourself. Don’t live your life for yourself. Live your life for Christ and for the sake of others. And whatever it is going to cost you to stop doing what you know is offending a brother, be willing to stop doing it. If you don’t, you embrace flesh. That is idolatry and you send a mixed signal to the world as to who your loyalty and your love is really for.”
The word “seek,” zeteo, is in the present tense. It has the idea of seeking with a zealousness and an earnestness. Don’t live a lifestyle seeking things for yourself. Seek after the other’s good. By the way, the word for “another” is heteros. It means another of a different kind. It is one thing for me to seek after the good of my Christian brothers because they are like me. They like me. That is easy. But it becomes tough when it is somebody who is not like you, who is not a believer, who is either weak in the faith or they don’t understand where you are. Therefore, you have got to watch what you do because in any way if you confuse your witness to them, that is what flesh does, it is embracing idolatry. You have identified yourself with those who do not love God. That has been his whole point all along.
Paul is going to qualify it as we continue to go. I can hear somebody saying, “You don’t know where I am. You don’t know how tough it has been for me lately, and if I have done some wrong things, I am justified.” Well, now wait a minute. I don’t know where you are, but I guarantee you, you don’t know where I am either. So let’s both of us get off that little trip of defending ourselves.
There is never a trial that justifies embracing flesh, never. This narrow context is eating meat sacrificed to idols, but you can broaden that to as many applications as you want. Anything that you want to embrace instead of Christ is idolatry. Paul says when you do that, you send mixed signals. You have no more testimony. You have denounced God and you have provoked Him unto anger.