First Corinthians 10:14–22; 11:17–34 . . .

The Lord’s Supper —  This is the first of a two-part study.

Week One: 1 Corinthians 10:14–22

Let's face it! Instead of working to bless God by giving him the worship that he alone deserves, we often worship ourselves. Instead of serving others, we seek our own good. In these two weeks' passages, Apostle Paul will document how true freedom occurs when we put God and others first. He first supplements this documentation by giving us a warning.

Flee idolatry or fight God  Paul informs us that idolatry is sin, because God is the only true God and that he's a jealous lover who won't share our affections with anyone or anything else. In v. 10:14, Paul begins with a straightforward command: "Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry." In the Old Testament, "idolatry" was the worship of pagan gods. In the 21st century, we're still idolaters, however, we've become sophisticated idolaters; our idols appear more innocent since they are people, possessions, work, and leisure. Nevertheless, if anyone or anything — besides God — gets our best thoughts, feelings, and energy, in reality we've become idolaters.

In vv. 16–22 (see this passage below), Paul asks seven rhetorical questions in seven verses, inviting the Corinthians and us to carefully consider his words. First, Paul uses the Lord's Supper and Israel's sacrificial meals as an analogy to demonstrate that God's people have always had one God. Second, he warns Israel and us against idolatry, informing us that any kind of idolatrous involvement contradicts our identity in Jesus Christ. Here, he shows how the communion table is a symbol of our relationship with Christ, the very source of our spiritual life. He's also the source of the unity that we have as brothers and sisters in his church body. So when we partake together of the elements at the communion table, Paul says it involves a sharing (koinonia) with the Lord Jesus and fellow believers. In v. 18, he furthers his analogy, saying that the same dynamic was at work in ancient Israel as worshipers ate sacrificial meals in the temple in Jerusalem (see Deuteronomy 14:22–27).

So, by proclamation, when we come to the Lord's table, in essence, we eat the elements just as we live by them; Jesus is our source of life and strength. That sacred meal defines who we are in Jesus Christ. We've died to sin with him and we've been resurrected to new life because of his resurrection life.

The natural response to our oneness with Christ and each other should be to avoid idolatry at any cost. Paul, in vv. 19–22, explains that mixing drinks is of the devil! He contrasts eating at the Lord's table with eating meals in the pagan temples. It's a frightening reality that idolatry is driven by demonic evil. The point Paul makes is that, while the meat that was partaken of in pagan sacrificial meals had no spiritual power, the meal did represent satanic evil. He warns Christians that even innocent involvement in pagan idolatry can draw a believer into participation with Satan and his demons.

People say, "You are what you eat." The Christian counterpart to that is, "You are what you believe."

The final verse in this first study (v. 22) is particularly interesting: "Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy? Are we stronger than he?" In the Old Testament, the metaphor of marriage was often used to describe the Israelites' relationship with the Lord in the context of their flirting with idols. Idolatry was equivalent to the Israelites' prostituting themselves to a foreign lover, and, as a result, the Lord became jealous, which is to be expected; any form of idolatry provokes the jealousy of God. All through the Old Testament, God identifies himself as a "jealous God." But his jealousy isn't like ours; it's totally consistent with his character and totally committed to what's best for us. God's jealousy comes from his loving ownership of us. He loves us too much for us to get away with whatever rebellion or idolatry we're pursuing. He'll do whatever it takes to get our attention, because, to answer the question, we aren't stronger than he is. He's most powerful!

It Makes You Wonder . . .
  • Q. 1  How are you presently guilty of idolatry (v. 14)? Who or what receives the best of your thoughts, energies, and feelings?
  • Q. 2  What or who would you identify as idols in your life. What's Paul's instruction to us concerning them? How's that working for you?
  • Q. 3  Four times in this passage's two paragraphs Paul references experiences of "participation." In what way is your observing the Lord's Supper a "participation" in the body of Christ? Is this what you sense when you take communion?

First Week's Passage
1 Corinthians 10:14–22

New International Version (NIV)
[You can view it in a different version by clicking here; and listen to chapter 10.]

Idol Feasts and the Lord's Supper

14Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 15I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.

18Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? 19Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons. 22Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy? Are we stronger than he?