First Corinthians 10:14 to 22. Going through the book of 1 Corinthians has been a tremendous blessing to me. We have covered so many very practical and basic truths that I feel that are going to be in demand through the years of this church because of our tape ministry. I just would encourage you folks to really be sensitive to what God is saying to us in this book because it is so very vital to the church and the life of the believer within the church.
Now, we’re looking at chapter 10, verses 14 to 22 under the subject “The Truth about Idolatry.” The subject of idolatry has arisen in 1 Corinthian because of the fact that some of the Corinthian Christians, in the name of Christian liberty, in the name of their so-called freedom in Christ, we’re attending idolatrous activities. They had decided that an idol is nothing, and they were right; an idol isn’t anything. The idol certainly isn’t the god they think it is, and that God really isn’t too concerned about those forms of ritual that people carry on, and that isn’t really what it appears to be.
And so, consequently, it’s kind of insignificant, and it wouldn’t hurt if the Christians kind of got involved. They first of all had asked the question about meat offered to idols. Is it wrong to eat meat offered to idols? In their society, a lot of offerings were made continuously to the literally hundreds of gods that were around. And they had decided that since the idol wasn’t anything, and that God wasn’t too concerned about what we eat, that it wasn’t a problem. And if it wasn’t a problem to eat idol meats, they figured, it certainly wouldn’t be a problem to go to idol festivals. And so, some of the Corinthian believers were beginning to get back into the swing of things socially, economically, politically, and culturally, and attending idol feasts. That is feasts that were built around the worship of an idol.
And Paul writes to that very issue here in 1 Corinthians, and his word to them in verse 14 is very clear, “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” In the name of Christian liberty, don’t pursue idolatry. It’s one thing perhaps to eat a piece of meat that you bought in a butcher shop, meat that had once, at one point, might have been offered to an idol; it’s one thing to go to somebody’s house for dinner and eat something that they give you that may have personally and privately been dedicated to an idol, but it’s something else to push that to the point where you’re attending idol festivals, idol celebrations, pagan feasts and so forth. And that then becomes the theme of what he is saying in 14 to 22, why a believer should avoid the idolatry of the world, if you will.
Now, as a basis of is argument, to make his point here, he uses the Lord’s Supper. Jack mentioned that this coming Wednesday night we’ll be sharing in the Lord’s Table. This is a very vital aspect of the life of the community of believers. This is very, very important. This is something that should not be missed, should not be avoided, should not be neglected, because it is a very important thing.
And we’re going to see, in the next several weeks, just how important the Lord’s Table is. In fact, it’s rather the theme from chapter 10:14 through chapter 11. He covers a lot of ground about the Lord’s Table, and we’re going to get into much detail as we go along.
Just remember, to begin with, that the night before our Lord was crucified, in Matthew chapter 26 – we also have it in other portions – we find Him instituting this celebration. Matthew 26, verse 26, “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, ‘Drink ye all of it, for this is My blood of the new testatment’” – or blood of the new covenant – “‘which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins. And I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.’”
Here is the institution of the Lord’s Table. The Lord is having the Passover meal with his disciples. Somewhere in the midst of the Passover meal, perhaps at the point of the third cup of the Passover, he translates it into His Supper, and it becomes rather than a memorial of the exodus from Egypt, a memorial of the death of Christ, a memorial of the life of Christ given for men. And that becomes the institution of the Lord’s Table, something which is basic to the Church throughout all of its history.
In fact, in the beginning days of the Church, the birth of the Church occurred on the Day of Pentecost. In Acts chapter 2, verse 41, “They that gladly received his word were baptized. The same day there were added three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in” – and here you have the four features of the life of the Church – “the apostles’ doctrine” – that’s teaching – “and fellowship” – that refers to ministering to one another – “and in breaking of bread” – that’s communion – “and prayers.” Those four things; and one of the four, the breaking of bread. Verse 46 says, “They did it from house to house daily.”
In the early years of the Church then, this vital ceremony, this vital celebration was a daily act on the part of believers. I’m sure they did it many times a day, and it continues throughout the history of the Church to be a vital point of union between the Church and the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, this service – go back to 1 Corinthians – this service becomes the basis of Paul’s entire argument in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 when he argues that a believer should avoid idolatry. He argues that it should be avoided because of the meaning of the communion, the meaning of the Lord’s Table. And it is a very interesting argument. It is not an easy argument to understand; you have to dig into it, and that’s precisely what we’re going to do this morning.
Let’s look at it. Verse 14 gives us the word “idolatry.” Now, last time we spent some time talking about that. Paul is saying to the Corinthian Christians, “Your liberty is running you to the unnecessary danger of idolatry. In the name of liberty, you’ve gone so far as to expose yourself to idol worship. That’s dangerous, and you will fall into sin.” Verse 12, “You think you stand, and when you do, you’re in danger of falling.”
“So” - he says – “there’s only one response to idolatry: run from it” – present tense, present imperative – “continually flee from idolatry.” Continually be running away from it.
Now, what is idolatry? Well, last time we spent the whole time talking about that. So, we don’t want to do that again. But let’s just define it very briefly by way of a summary. I’ll just summarize with six basic things. Idolatry is slandering God’s character. Idolatry is slandering God’s character. That is idolatry is assuming God to be something other than he is. It’s an erroneous or an unworthy thought about God. That’s idolatry. Anything that is less than true about God, anything that is more than true about God, anything that is false about God is idolatry.
When you doubt God, that’s idolatry. When you disbelieve God, that’s idolatry. When you’re not sure God can come through and solve your problem, that’s idolatry because you have manufactured a god who can’t be trusted, and that is not the true God, because the true God can be trusted. Idolatry is to think anything less or more or other about God than what is true.
Secondly, idolatry is not only slandering God’s character but worshipping the true God in the wrong way. And we saw this last time as well, how that Israel made a golden calf, which was to be a representative of Jehovah God. They worshipped the true God in the wrong way. And we talked about the fact that it’s easy to worship the true God strictly in forms and rituals and routines and so forth, and that’s the wrong way, because Jesus said, “You are to worship God in Spirit and in truth.” John 4:24.
Thirdly, idolatry is not only slandering God’s character, not only worshipping the true God in the wrong way, but it is worshipping other things than God. Worshipping other things than God, such as images, angels, devils, or dead men. And we went into all of those.
Then again, idolatry is also having, according to Ezekiel 14, any idol in the heart, anything that you set up as a god you bow down to is idolatry: money, fame, prestige, whatever. And we also said that idolatry is covetousness, and idolatry is lust. Worshipping the god of materialism in the case of covetousness; worshipping the god of desire in the case of lust.
So, what is idolatry? Slandering God’s character; worshipping the true God in the wrong way; worshipping images, angels, devils, or dead men; having any idol in your heart – covetousness and lust. And there’s only one response to all of it, and that’s to run.
So, Paul says here, “Flee from idolatry.” Now, here’s why. In verse 15, “I’m speaking to intelligent people; so, you judge what I say.” Now, you listen to this argument and see if it isn’t conclusive. You’re intelligent, now you figure it out.
Now, Paul says, “I’m going to give you three reasons to run from idolatry.” And you have them on that outline in your bulletin there, along with all those other inserts. That outline will give you what we’re going to talk about today. There are three reasons to run from idolatry. One, it is inconsistent; two, it is demonic; three, it is offensive to the Lord. It is inconsistent; it is demonic; it is offensive to the Lord.
Let’s look first of all at point one. Flee from idolatry because it is inconsistent. Verse 16, it is inconsistent, “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?”
Now, we’ll stop there for a minute, and I want to just mention some things about this verse that are going to make it make sense. A simple thought, really, is in Paul’s mind. Now, here it comes. The thought is this: when a Christian goes to the Lord’s Table, which incidentally he does regularly – that’s the assumption that Paul makes because that is so vital in the life of the Christian. It is continually focusing on the issue of the union of a believer with his Lord and a believer with everybody else. It is absolutely vital that a believer do this. The apostle doesn’t even entertain the thought that a Christian wouldn’t do this. It’s just too vital to be ignored.
Now, you say, “Well, I can’t come on Wednesday night when you do it.”
Fine, you can do it in your home, or you can do it sometime, someplace. It’s a vital thing to be done. And Paul doesn’t even assume that someone wouldn’t do it. Not in those days of the Church, when it was done so regularly.
And Paul’s thought is this, “When you take the cup, and when you take the bread, you are communing with Christ in a very real way, in a very genuine way.” That feast, that celebration involves you in a participation with Christ. And it involves you, according to verse 17, in a participation with everybody else who’s with you in it. And that’s his point.
He is saying religious feasts, religious celebrations involve the worshipper with all other worshippers, and the one being worshipped. And he’s saying that’s precisely why a Christian can’t go to an idol feast, because an idol feast means he is involved with the worshippers and the one being worshipped, whether he likes it or not. And how can a Christian involve himself at the Lord’s Table, turn right around and involve himself at an idol feast when they constitute real communion?
Now, that’s his point, and now we’ll look at these verses in particular and show you how he gets to that place. Let’s look, first of all, at 16, the cup of blessing. What is the cup of blessing? Well, it was the name given to the third cup in the Passover feast. There were a series of cups that were consumed in the Passover feast, and this is the third one, and it is very possible, we don’t know for sure, but it is possible that this may have been the cup with which our Lord instituted communion in the upper room that night before His death. When He turned the Passover into communion, it may have been at the point of the third cup, which was the cup called the cup of blessing.
But what it basically means is the cup which God has blessed, or the cup which Christ has blessed. And you remember that at that last supper that night, Jesus took the cup and He – what? – He blessed it. He blessed it. In to her words, it was just a cup. We don’t know what kind of cup. It was just a whatever kind of cup. But all of a sudden, it became something very sacred, didn’t it? It stopped being something mundane and became something very sacred because Jesus Christ set it apart from mundane use to something very special. He blessed it. He set it apart.
And so, “The cup of blessing” - that is the communion cup that he’s talking about, the cup which Jesus blessed in Matthew 26 – I just read it to you – “which we bless” - the cup of blessing which Jesus blessed, we also bless, don’t we? Before we take the cup or cups, when we partake, we bless; we thank God; we set them apart to a sacred use. The cup was thus set apart to sacred use by Christ, and so it is with us. So, the cup of blessing which we bless is simply the communion cup.
Now, you say, “We don’t have one cup; we have a whole bunch.”
Well, that’s all right. It could be the cups which we bless. We don’t have one cup for obvious reasons. It would be a very, very large cup. So, we don’t do that. But the cup is nevertheless the symbol of the cup that Jesus blessed, and we thank God for it.
Incidentally, the word “bless,” there are several words. One of the words, eucharisteō, from which you get the Eucharist, means to give thanks. It is to thank God for that cup. And so, the cup of blessing, that is the one the Lord blessed and set apart, is the one that we bless and thank God for.
Now, what is it? What is this cup? Verse 16 again, “Is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?” Now, when you drink the cup at the Lord’s Table – listen to this – you are communing with the blood of Christ. Now, we have to understand something, because this is very, very misunderstood. What does this mean? What does it mean to commune? It’s more than a symbol.
We say, “Well, this is a symbol of his blood.”
Well, listen to this. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the symbol of the blood of Christ? Is that what it says? No. It’s more than the symbol. It is the communion; it is the, if you will, in the Greek, participation, or it is the sharing. It’s an actual involvement that’s taking place when we take that cup. There is a spiritual reality going on there, far more than just a symbol.
For example, if you see a picture of somebody you love who has died, it isn’t just a picture. As soon as you look at the picture, the whole of that person is actualized in your mind. Right? All of a sudden, everything about that person is alive to you. I look at pictures of people that have gone on, and I have instant memories. My mind is flooded with reality. They are actualized. And communion is the same thing.
To partake of the elements actualizes Christ’s death; it makes it vivid; it makes it real; it intensifies my sensitivities to the reality of Christ dying for me. You see? It isn’t just a symbol; it is a symbol that is activated by the Spirit of God to make Christ’s death a living reality to me. That’s the idea of communion.
Now, I want you to notice that we are communing with the blood of Christ. Now, I want to make a point here that we could spend a lot of time on, but we’re not going to. Just to make a couple of statements.
There is an English word that you ought to have in your vocabulary, because you may find need to use it, or at least to understand it. It is the word “metonym.” You know what a synonym is? You know what an antonym is. You know what a homonym is.
You say, “No.”
Well, those are all – those are all terms to describe various kinds of words. And so is the term “metonym.” A metonym is a different word that is used for something because it has an actual relationship. It is a different word used for something because it has an actual relationship. Let me see if I can give you an illustration.
You say, “The other day I was reading MacArthur.”
Now, you mean something by that, and we understand you probably were reading one of my books. There is no writing on me; you didn’t come up and say, “May I please read your right arm?” There is no writing on me.
Or you might say, “I was reading Shakespeare.” You were not reading Shakespeare; you would find that a literal impossibility. Shakespeare is not available to be read. You mean you’re reading his writings. That’s a metonym. A word substituting for another word because of an actual relationship.
Now watch. The term “the blood of Christ” is a metonym that is substituted for another term “death.” It is the blood of Christ that simply is a metonym for the death of Christ. But it is used because the Hebrews used such a metonym to speak of violent death. Whenever you talk about the blood of somebody being poured out to the Hebrew, that meant violent death. And when you commune with the blood of Christ, it doesn’t mean the literal blood of Christ; that is a metonym for His death. You commune with His death.
Now, let me say something that might shake some of you up, but I’ll try to qualify it. There is nothing in the actual blood that is efficacious for sin. Did you get that? The Bible does not teach that the blood of Christ itself has any efficacy of – for taking away sin. Not at all. The actual blood of Christ isn’t the issue. The issue is that His poured out blood was symbolic of his violent death. The death was the thing that paid the price. Right? The wages of sin is – what? – death. He died for us. It is His death that is the issue.
The Hebrews spoke of it as His outpoured blood because that was something that expressed violent death. And they believed, for example, in the Old Testament. It said, “The life of the flesh is in the blood.” And so, the pouring out of blood was the significance of death. And so, when it says here, “We are communing with the blood of Christ,” it does not mean the literal blood of Christ is efficacious. It does not mean the literal blood of Christ is involved. It means we enter into a genuine, vital participation in His death. But it is not the blood; the blood is only the symbol of the poured-out life.
So, taking the cup, which Jesus blessed, and in turn blessing it, setting it apart for sacred use, and then participating in it is an act of communion with the death of Christ.
Now, let’s go a step further, verse 16, “The bread” – or literally the loaf, to correspond more with cup – “The loaf which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”
Now, our Lord said of the bread, that last night, “This is My body, given for you.” Now body – now, I want to say something, too, that may be new to you – “body” in Hebrew thought refers to the totality of earthy life, earthiness, humanness. For example, the word for earth is adamah. The word for man is adam. It’s a form of adamah, because man was taken from the dirt. He is earthy. “And God took the dirt and formed a body.” Adam from adamah.
And that is the point that connects man to the ground, to the earth, to earthiness. We are human, and that is the significance of the body. When a Hebrew thought of the body, he thought of earthiness; he thought of man’s connection to the ground, to his humanness.
Now, note; when we commune with the bread, it is the body of Christ. This is not primarily a reference to the cross. Stick with me on it. It is not primarily a reference to the cross. By the bread we remember and commune with our Lord’s incarnation, His human life, his humanness. We remember that which makes Him a sympathetic High Priest, as well as a bleeding, dying Savior.
The communion, then, relates us to the living Christ who came and suffered and thought it not something to hold onto, to be equal with God, but found Himself in the fashion of a man, humbled Himself, and so forth. And He did it in order that He might become a sympathetic High Priest in all points, tempted like as – what? – we are. The bread reminds us of His life. The bread reminds us of His body, reminds us of His humanness.
God gave Himself to us as a human being in order that He might suffer what we suffer, in order that He might hurt where we hurt, in order that He might be tempted where we’re tempted, in order that He might succor us, in order that He might be our faithful, sympathetic, and Great High Priest.
And so, the breaking of the loaf does not refer to the cross primarily, although that was part of his human suffering and certainly is included. The breaking of the loaf is simply a symbol of his humanness. And the breaking of it has no symbolic connection to the cross.
People say, “The Lord’s body was broken on the cross.”
It was not broken. The Bible makes a specific point of that. In John 19:36, it says, “And not a bone of Him was broken, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” The only reason that Jesus took the loaf and broke it was to give everybody a piece of the same loaf. Do you see? We are all partakers of one bread who is Christ. And it has to be broken to be passed out to us. The symbolism is only that in distribution, not in death. His body was never broken.
So, what do we have, then? Let me summarize this thought. Now hang on. The breaking refers only to the distribution of the one loaf. It relates to the fact that all believers share in that one life. We not only commune, beloved, we not only commune with Christ’s death, we commune with His life.
Paul said in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Him, the power of His resurrection” – that’s related to His death – “and the fellowship of His” – what? – “suffering” - that’s related to His life – “being made conformable to His death.”
Paul says, “I want to be able to suffer for Him. I want to be able to have the humanity of Jesus, as it were, relived in me. I want to bear the marks of Jesus in this body. I want to fill up in my body the sufferings that are meant for Jesus Christ. I want to commune with this humanness. I want to commune with his suffering. I want to be persecuted for righteousness sake as He was persecuted for righteousness sake. I want to be able to go to Him and find in Him a sympathetic High Priest who knows everything that I suffer because He suffered it Himself.”
So, when you come to the Table of the Lord, beloved, the bread represents the humanity of Jesus. It represents His humiliation. It represents His humanness, His human suffering as a man for us, something we definitely commune in, something we definitely relate to as He is our sympathetic High Priest, and we carry our cares to Him, knowing He’s been there, and He knows. And the cup represents His violent death for the forgiveness of sins; something we also commune with. We also are actualized into being identified in His death for sin.
So, we are literally communing with Him in that cup. Now, I want you to see something. When we take those things, they’re not just symbols. There is an actual communion that occurs. Let me show you what I mean. There is confusion about that, and there are different views of how that works. The word koinōnia there, communion in verse 16, is the word to participate. The verb means to share, or to partake of, or to participate, or to be a partner in. The noun koinōnia means participation, partnership, fellowship, communion.
As a Christian, we literally participate in Christ. First Corinthians 1:9 says we participate with the Son; 2 Corinthians 13, we participate with the Spirit; Philippians 2:1, we participate in the ministry; 2 Corinthians 8:4, we participate in the Gospel; Philippians 3, we participate in suffering. We are fellowshipping all the time with Christ, sharing Him, His Spirit, His ministry, His Gospel, His sufferings. And when we come to the Table, we participate in His death. We are sharing the benefits of His death. That’s what it means. We are sharing in the meaning of His death, the purpose of it, the point of it.
So, it’s more than just remembering; it’s sharing, fellowshipping, participating, partaking, communing. It’s like that picture I mentioned. We come to that, and you look at the cup, and you look at the bread, and they aren’t just a cup and bread. They aren’t even just symbols. All of a sudden, Christ is alive. All of a sudden, you are sensitized. And the reality of Christ is actualized in your mind, and you see His cross, and you see your union with Him, and you see His body, and you see it given in your behalf. And you see the fact that He lived, and He suffered, and He’s a sympathetic high priest. All of that is actualized.
It’s like reading the Bible. You can spend your day just – Christ is with you, where two or three are gathered. If you may have been with Christians, He was there actively. But He’s there anyway in your life. And all day long you kind of go along, and He’s there, and He’s there, but you really aren’t aware of it. And then, in the evening, you sit down, and you open the Bible, and you begin to read, and what happens? Hebrews 4:12 says, “The Word of God is” – what? – “alive.” And all of a sudden, you pick up the pages, and things begin to come alive, and Christ becomes real to you, and he’s actualized, and your mind is sensitized. And in an intense kind of way – in an intense kind of way, Christ becomes very real, and you’re consciousness is made aware of the fact that He’s there; where He’s been there all the time, but you weren’t really sensitized to that.
Or maybe you came home, and you had been buy with the things of the world, and you got down, and you sat in a chair, and you began to pray. And you talked to the Lord, and all of a sudden, the Lord had been there all the time and became very, very real to you. And you were very, very aware.
Or maybe all day yesterday, you were out piddling in your garden, or hauling your kids from one place to the next, or fooling around, doing what you normally do on Saturday, and it was a pretty swirly deal, and you came to the end of the day, and you plopped your head on a pillow, woke up this morning – bang – you arrived at Grace Church. And Christ hadn’t been anywhere but with you all day yesterday, but it wasn’t until this morning that you were sensitized to His reality, because worship does that. It actualizes Christ.
Well, that is exactly what the communion does. It is not just a symbol, but it is to see a symbol and have your mind sensitized to an actuality that He’s alive and He’s there, and He lived for you, and He carried His cares through this world, that He might carry yours later. And He died on the cross for your sins, that you might not have to bear the penalty. And all of the things about Christ that are always true all the time become sensitively brought to your mind in the communion. That’s the meaning.
Oh, I think the Roman Catholic Church has a different meaning to it. They look at this verse, and they say that the cup becomes the actual blood of Christ. And the Catholic mass teaches that the priest is able to turn that wine into actual blood so that a person drinks the blood of Christ, turn that bread into actual flesh, so that a person consumes the flesh of Christ. So, you’re literally drinking the blood and eating the flesh of Christ in a literal way. And that, they say, is how you receive Christ.
You receive Christ by drinking His blood and eating His flesh in the mass, and that’s why week, after week, after week they always recrucify Christ and redistribute His blood and His flesh in order that people might receive Christ. They think - essentially, theologically, they’re saying, “For by grace are you saved through the mouth.” That’s essentially what they’re saying. And that – they say you can be a believer or an unbeliever, either one, who can partake of Christ. And that’s why the Catholic Church has the mass, because that’s how you receive Christ. That’s called transubstantiation. That’s the meaning of the changing of the elements into the actual. They call it transubstantiation.
Well, Martin Luther didn’t like that very well, so he came up with another idea, consubstantiation. And what he said is, “You can’t really do that,” and that wouldn’t be hard to prove. I mean it would be very easy to prove that that didn’t turn into the actual blood and body of Christ. Martin Luther backed off a little bit, and his statement was that the actual blood and body are there in, under, around, and with the elements so that when you partake of the elements in consubstantiation view, you are actually taking the wine and the bread, but around it sort of spiritually speaking, comes the actual presence.
Now, that’s confusing to me, too. I don’t know how you would defend that. The thing that’s wrong with those views is very simple. You can’t be consuming Christ. Incidentally, that’s why historically Lutheran churches have the same communion service week after week after week after week, because they’re doing the same thing essentially with a slight modification. And I do think that they look to the Lord in faith rather than the same way that the Roman church does. And there are many in the Roman church who, too, look to Christ in faith rather than receiving Him by mouth. But that’s essentially what they’ve taught.
Now, the thing that’s wrong with that is, for one thing, you don’t need to keep killing Christ and consuming Him all the time. “For by one offering He sanctified forever them that are” – or – “He offered Himself forever to them that are sanctified.”
And, of course, when – this is the thing that always gets me, when Christ was in the upper room, and He said, “Take and drink, this is My blood,” you don’t think that the disciples thought it was really His blood; He was sitting there. And, “This is My body.” They had no problem understanding what He was saying, “This is a symbol of My life lived for you, of My death died for you.” I mean Jesus also said, “I am the door,” but He wasn’t three foot by six foot and made out of wood. And certainly the concept of drinking blood would have been so repulsive to the Jews that the disciples never would have done it. Leviticus 17:10 to 14 would have come into their minds.
So, neither one of those view make it. The only right view you can have is this: there is no actual presence of Christ in those elements; Christ is in the believer anyway. That is not His flesh, either in a transubstantiation view or a consubstantiation view. That is not His blood. It isn’t in any of those two ways that it works. It is simply the fact that the elements are only symbols of His life and death. But as we partake of those symbols, our sensitivity is hit by the Holy Spirit. Our little sense – spiritual sense fibers are turned on, and we become alive to the fact that Christ is a reality to us. It’s a sensitizer. It’s a divine zapper. It hits us and awakes us. It’s a spiritual alarm clock that turns us on to God’s presence. Christ is not in the elements; He is in the believer. But the believer is awakened to His reality in the symbols. And it’s just like I said, reading the Scripture, coming to worship, praying, any of those things, this is communion with Him. This is what Paul is saying.
Now watch; all of that I’m telling you to give you an understanding of this whole passage, and the rest is just going to run right down. He’s saying, “Look, people, when you come to the Lord’s Table, you are communing with Christ. You are actively involved in a partaking of all that He is and all that He has done. You are fellowshipping, participating in His reality. That’s what that service means. And when you go over to an idol festival, and you eat that idol offering of drink and meat, and you fellowship with those idol worshippers, you are, in a sense, identifying with that idol, whether you like it or not. So, at one point, you are communing with Christ, and at the next turn you’re communing with idols, and that is hopelessly inconsistent.
What He’s saying is drawing this: he is saying a religious service, a religious feast constitutes communion with the one being worshipped. If it’s Christ, it’s communion with Him; if it’s an idol, it’s communion with him. You can’t do both. Inconsistent.
Verse 17, he goes further. This is best translated by the New American, “Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of that one bread.” There’s only one bread, and it’s Christ. And so, everybody who partakes of that one bread is one with everybody else. And this is the second great point of communion. We are all one body; we all partake of one loaf; we are all joined to Christ. So, we are inseparably joined to each other.
Now watch. Everybody who comes to the Lord’s Table – now watch this – not only enters into communion with Christ, but He enters into communion with everybody else who’s also at the Lord’s Table. Do you see what he’s saying? We all come to that one bread; we all partake of that one bread, so we all constitute one body. Communion then means we are actually communing with Christ and actually communing with everybody else who’s there.
In a religious festival, in a religious feast, the worship, the worshipper, the worshippers, and the one being worshipped are all one. Now, when you go to an idol feast, you may say, “I’m not going to get involved.” If you take place, you are a worshipper, involved with worshippers, involved with the one being worshipped, whatever your intention might be. That’s his point.
And he uses illustration – an illustration from Israel in verse 18, “Behold Israel after the flesh. Are not they who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?” Look at the history of Israel. The altar there refers to God. When they came to their sacrifices, didn’t they all partake? Didn’t they give some of the food to the priests, partake of some of it? Some of it was burned up by God – to God. So, part of the sacrifice went to God, part of it went to the priests, and the other worshippers were involved as well, and part of it was kept. There was an involvement.
Israel was involved in sacrificing. They were involved with each other, and they were involved with God. So, what is he saying then? Participation in religious rights has deep, spiritual meaning. It implies a real union between the worshippers and the one being worshipped. That’s what he’s saying. So, you can’t do this with idols without having that reality take place.
Israel brought sacrifices, a portion of which were consumed by the priests, a portion of which were burned on the altar. The rest were divided between the priest and the worshipping Jew. And there was a communion between the Jew, the priest, and God as they partook of the altar. Now, that’s Paul’s point. Worship is identification, communion with whoever’s being worshipped.
So, if you’re going to be like Israel, in verse 18, communion with the altar for the Jews meant fellowship with God and everybody else at the altar. Communion with Christ at the Lord’s Supper, for the Christian, means fellowship with Christ and everybody else at His Table. Communion with the feast of an idol means fellowship with that idol and everybody else who’s there, too.
Now, listen, Christian, this comes right down to our living. We can’t participate in idol feasts, any of the idolatrous, godless, Christless, activities of our world without becoming identified with them, without becoming one with all the rest of the people that are doing it.
You say, “Well, I’ve been attending lately at the Jehovah’s Witness thing. I’m really not getting involved, but I’m just going.”
You are involved. You are one with what’s going on. You are communing with that whole system.
“Well, you know, I don’t do what the world does. I’ve been attending some of the wild social deals around, but I just kind of stay back.”
You are one with what’s going on. You have identified in that kind of communion with the system. That’s his point. You have liberty, but if you’re liberty takes you out to the places where the world is communing with its own system, which is run by Satan, then you’re a part of that whole fellowship. And that is hopelessly inconsistent. Can’t do it. It’s just inconsistent. It doesn’t make sense. That’s his first point.
Second point, idolatry is not only inconsistent, it’s demonic. Look at verse 19, and this really is easy to see. “What say I then? That the idol is anything, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is anything?” And the answer is no. “Am I saying that that idol is a true god, that there really is a god there, or that some sacrifice offered to him is anything? No, I’m not saying that.”
In chapter 8 he said the opposite. In chapter 8:4, he says, “An idol is nothing.” In chapter 8:8, he says, “And the food offered to an idol is nothing.” “I’m not saying that. I’m not saying that when you go to commune with that idol, you’re really communing with another god. No, you’re not. I’m not saying that you’re really involved in the worship of another god. I got to cover my tracks here,” Paul is saying, “I don’t want you to be confused. I don’t believe in other gods, and that’s not what I’m saying. But I still say a real communion exists.”
You say, “Paul, how could a real communion exist if there isn’t a real god there, if it’s just a rock and there’s nobody there? How could it be a real communion?”
Verse 20, “But I say that the things which the heathen sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and to a no-god. It’s not a god, it’s a no-God, but a demon will be there, and I don’t want you to have fellowship with demons.”
Now, here’s what happen. People worship an idol. And we’ve showed you this before. And there is no god there. But if a person wants to believe there’s a god there, you know what Satan will do? He’ll send one of his demons to impersonate the god that the people think is there, and that demon will do enough supernatural works to keep the people worshipping that idol. I’ve said this to you many times.
Why do you think somebody in some other society will bow down to a rock all his life? Because a demon will impersonate the god he thinks is in the rock and do enough stuff to keep the guy believing the rock is real. Why do you think people follow astrology? Because demons make enough of that stuff come true to hook those people. Why do you think people stay in false systems of religion year after year after year and can’t ever see the light? Because they have seen supernatural revelations in those systems. Not because there is a god there; there is a no-god there, but a demon will impersonate him. That’s what he’s saying.
So, what constitutes - actually a demonic communion is really taking place. And when you go out, and you worship in a false system of religion, or you sit around and be a part of it, you are actually in a communication situation, being identified with the worshippers and the worshipped one who is a demon.
When you go out and do what the rest of the world does, when you participate in the rest of the world’s activities, you are communing with demons. That’s Paul’s whole point here. It’s demonic. Because Satan is the prince of this world, and because he rules in this world by the use of his demons, his demons move around and impersonate all the religious systems of the world. His demons fill and maintain all of the evil systems of this world. No matter what you get into, you’re communing with them, and you can’t avoid it. It’s a serious thing.
In Psalm 96:5, the Greek translation of that verse is this: “All the gods of the heathen are demons” – that’s the Septuagint, the Greek – “All the gods of the nations” – or – “All the God’s of the heathen are demons.” If they worship a false god, a demon will impersonate it. Deuteronomy 32:17 and Psalm 106:37 say the same thing, “They sacrifice to demons.” So, they’re fellowshipping with demons.
So, here you have a Christian. He’s over here, and he’s communing with the Lord, and he’s got the cup and the bread. Then he turns around and goes to an idol feast. And as soon as he enters that idol feast and participates, he becomes a communer with demons. A communer with demons.
Paul says, “I don’t want you” – verse 20 – “to have fellowship in communion with demons.” That’s ridiculous. That is unbelievable. Verse 21, “You cannot” – and that is not the cannot of impossibility, that is the cannot of inconsistency – “You cannot be consistent and drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot be partakers of the Lord’s Table and the table of demons.” Why should a Christian avoid the things of the world? Why should a Christian come out from among them and be separate and never touch the unclean thing? Why should a Christian avoid the fashion of the world and the festivals of the world and the evil systems of the world, whether they’re moral or religious? Because a Christian cannot commune with demons, turn around and commune with Christ and maintain any kind of consistency. That’s clear.
All idolatry, in every form, whether it’s libel against God’s character, whether it’s the worship of an image, or whether it’s covetousness, lust, or idols in the, all of it is demonic.
People say, “Do you think demons bother Christians?”
Yeah, I sure do. When Christians put themselves in a place to get it. Stay away. There’s only two times in the New Testament that I can see where a Christian really got messed up by demons. One was when Ananias and Sapphira willfully sinned against the Holy Spirit and did it without confessing or turning from it. They just opened themselves up, and Satan came in. And the other is right here where Christians hang around the things of the world, the systems of the world, so that they wind up communing with demons. That’s problems.
You can’t do it, he says in verse 21. It is the can’t of spiritual inconsistency. Oh, you can do it. It’s not impossible; it’s just inconsistent. And it’s going to bring about a terrible, terrible result.
This may help you to understand why John says, “If anybody comes to your house” – 2 John – “and teaches any other doctrine than this, don’t bid him good speed and don’t let him in your house or you will become a” – what? – “partaker” - there’s the word again “communer” – “with his evil deed.”
As soon as you let that guy in your house with that false truth, you have communed with him again. There is a spiritual connection made; put him out. You see, there is that tremendous truth that we must maintain separateness in order that our communion might be wholly and purely identifying with Jesus Christ and not with demons.
You say, “Well, I don’t see that that’s that big of an issue. I can commune with Christ over here, and a few of those things I can enjoy; it isn’t going to make that much difference.”
Oh? Verse 22 gives us the third reason not to hang around idols, and that is it is offensive to the Lord. Are you ready for this? “Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?”
Listen, I’ve communed with Christ. What would I do with that? Why would I want to have any part of it? But his third argument is it’s offensive to the Lord. And this is what he says, “Do you provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are you stronger than He?” You know what I’ve learned in my life? Only make enemies of people weaker than you. You ever learn that? Don’t make enemies out of people who can handle you. The only way that I would ever want to make God jealous and get Him upset at me would be if I was tougher than He is. So, you know what? I don’t ever do anything to get Him irritated at me. That’s what he’s saying.
Do you want to make the Lord jealous? And in Deuteronomy 32:21 he said, “They have stirred me to jealousy with what is a no-god. They have provoked me with their idols.” If you want to stir God to jealousy, then you better be stronger than He is or you won’t be able to handle Him, because He deals very strongly with idolatry. All you got to do is read the Bible about that. You just read Deuteronomy 7, Deuteronomy 16, Deuteronomy 17, Jeremiah 25, Jeremiah 44; just read Revelation chapter 14, chapter 21, chapter 22. There are inferences in all of those places about the vengeance of God against idols and idol worshippers. The only way you’ll ever want to provoke God to jealousy is if you’re stronger than He is. It’s offensive to the Lord. He judges idol worshippers, and you won’t escape; no one ever has. It’s a dangerous place to be.
Remember the Scripture, beloved, if you’re a Christian, don’t worship idols. Some of the Corinthians, apparently because they had been doing this, the idols of the world, hanging around communing with those demons, wound up sick and dead, chapter 11, verse 30, and we’ll see that later. They actually were – the Lord just actually chastised them. In some cases he took their lives. And what about an unbeliever? He says again and again in the Bible those who are idolatrous will have no part in His kingdom.
We’re free in Christ, beloved, that’s true. You are; I am. But we have to keep two things in mind. How will my freedom affect others? I don’t want to do anything that will offend them. How will my freedom affect me? I don’t want to do anything in my liberty that’s going to expose me to idolatry in Satan’s system and catch me in sin and then the chastisement of God.
And so, I would say to you what John the beloved said, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” Let’s pray.
Father, thank You this morning for Your love, for Your grace and Your mercy and Your concern about us. A the same time that we see all of those things, Father, and they’re so manifest, as we share in Your Table and Your cup, and even as we read Your Word and know Your truth, we recognize these truths.
But, Father, we also know that You’re a God of vengeance; You’re a God of judgment; You’re a God who chastens; You’re a God who will deal with those who are idolatrous. Help us to have no other gods before You. Help us to worship nowhere but at Your feet. Help us to commune only with Christ and with the believers in the brotherhood, never with any other spirit, any other worshippers. May we realize that we’re to run from anything that even borders on idolatry, because it is inconsistent, demonic, and offensive to You. Give us the sense, as You, through Your apostle Paul, instructed the Corinthians, to judge what Paul has said as intelligent people to make a commitment and a decision about this. We pray in Christ’s name, amen.
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