So last week we started Chapter 10 and we were looking at how we deal with sin and temptation. Paul explained to us that we all deal with temptation, that God won’t tempt us beyond what we can handle…and maybe the most encouraging point of that talk was Paul letting us know that we are not stuck! There is a way out which I think is just an awesome thing to hear, because for a lot of us, we have a “thing.” You know that “thing” that tempts us more than other “things” do. It’s the “thing” that we want to get rid of but can often feel like it will always be there. That “thing” isn’t something we are proud of, and often isn’t something we want to talk about, but Paul let us know something really important here. That “thing” isn’t bigger than what God can do in our lives and it really was my prayer heading into last week, that those of us dealing with our own “thing” wouldn’t just have practical handles to deal with our “thing” but that we could kill it, and leave it here last week…and finally walk with a different kind of freedom…from that “thing.” So I told you going in just how important Chapter 10 of 1st Corinthians is…and today we are going to finish Chapter 10 by looking at verses 14-33. In this section of scripture I really see 3 parts.
Paul warning about idol worship but then talking about coming to the Lord’s Table. He is trying to teach them something very important about Communion, it’s a depth to it that they are missing. It’s the very heart of it that really matters.
Paul talking about the abuse of Grace.(This is one of my favorite lines in the Bible…I know, I know you hear that a lot!)
Paul reminding them that their actions are actually effecting others. As we grow we start to realize there are other people on this planet beside us, and Paul is once again having to remind these young Christians…that it just isn’t about them, and that their actions are hurting people or have the potential to hurt people!
So these are the three sections that I see in this section of the letter and I can’t wait to get to dive into them. But before I do, I would like to have Kim come and talk to us about what Jesus would say is the most important of all God’s commands. This is a very important building block for today.
Matthew 22:35 One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: 36 “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?” 37 Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ 38 This is the most important, the first on any list. 39 But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ 40 These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” MSG
So to give you an idea of what is happening here, the religious scholars and teachers of the law are coming at Jesus, in every way possible to try to jam Him up and catch Him in sin to get rid of Him. Now first things first, I don’t think battling Jesus in a philosophy contest is going to end well…you know with Him being God in skin and all…but they slam their heads against this wall often. But here’s what I want you to see, Jesus is trying to lead them into the beautiful simplicity and freedom of a relationship with Him and all they see is more and more complexities. They see lists of things to do, and want to know what all needs to be done. Jesus continues to try to get their attention off of the religious activity and onto relationship. This will become a theme for today’s message. Frankly it’s something we try to do with people around our community all the time. People get so worried about sins, and trying to move towards holiness, and when someone is stressed on that and all they need to do for their faith, I always try to bring them back to what Jesus said here about these two pegs. Just try to focus on loving God and loving people and it will all come into place. Here’s what is funny, even that sounds hard at times doesn’t it? I mean I can probably handle the loving God part, but the loving others part…has Jesus ever met people? They aren’t exactly easy to love at times! Yeah, Jesus gets that too…my answer to that, to the holiness issue, to the temptations, to the loving people challenge is this…just focus on loving God. When you love God all these other things start to happen. You start to love others. You start to be drawn towards holiness. All the idols start to fade away. All the temptations you have been stuck in start to fade away…why? It’s because through your relationship with God your heart is being changed. You are being changed from the inside out. There just is no replacement for intimacy with God. It’s through relationship not religious activity that we see our lives change. Just focus on loving God and see what happens.
So, why have Kim come up here in a study of 1 Corinthians 10 and talk to you about loving God and loving others. Because everything you and I are going to talk about, is found with that as the foundation. It’s all about a close relationship with God. It isn’t about the things you do. There simply is no replacement for intimacy with God, but boy oh boy do we try. So with that said, let’s look at these three sections of scripture and break them down, because there are some big time lessons for us found in each section.
- I see Paul warning about idol worship but then talking about coming to the Lord’s Table. He is trying to teach them something very important about Communion, it’s a depth to it that they are missing. It’s the very heart of it that really matters.
1 Corinthians 10:14 So, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols. 15 You are reasonable people. Decide for yourselves if what I am about to say is true. 16 When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the benefits of the blood of Christ? And when we break the loaf of bread, aren’t we sharing in the benefits of the body of Christ? 17 And we all eat from one loaf, showing that we are one body. 18 And think about the nation of Israel; all who eat the sacrifices are united by that act. 19 What am I trying to say? Am I saying that the idols to whom the pagans bring sacrifices are real gods and that these sacrifices are of some value? 20 No, not at all. What I am saying is that these sacrifices are offered to demons, not to God. And I don’t want any of you to be partners with demons. 21 You cannot drink from the cup of the Lord and from the cup of demons, too. You cannot eat at the Lord’s Table and at the table of demons, too. 22 What? Do you dare to rouse the Lord’s jealousy as Israel did? Do you think we are stronger than he is? NLT
So the first thing I really want you to see is the strong warning about idol worship. Do you see it?
Vs 14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. NIV
FLEE! Run away from idol worship! Don’t play around with it, don’t even stick around to see what it is all about…GET AWAY! This is really important because the people of Corinth struggled mightily with idol worship. They worshiped all kinds of idols before Paul introduced them to Jesus, and while they now follow Jesus…they haven’t put too much distance between themselves and all the idols they worshiped before. They aren’t fleeing…in fact for many of them, they are still worshiping those idols. While the idols are different today, I really see this as something we all deal in our culture today. Jesus enters our lives, but we had a way of living. We had priorities, things that mattered, and patterns that we all lived in…and just because we have asked Jesus into our lives doesn’t mean we don’t still deal with those things right? I mean, that was what we were hitting on last week, we all deal with temptation. Think about the different idols of today, and how easily they slide into God’s place in our lives…we are to FLEE from them. RUN AWAY and put distance between those idols and our own lives. Idol worship is such a problem…it was in Corinth and still is today. So this is a very intense warning about idolatry, and then Paul goes into a whole thing about Communion.
1 Corinthians 10:16 When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life, of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the loaf of bread we break and eat? Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, our many-ness becomes one-ness — Christ doesn’t become fragmented in us. Rather, we become unified in him. We don’t reduce Christ to what we are; he raises us to what he is. 18 That’s basically what happened even in old Israel — those who ate the sacrifices offered on God’s altar entered into God’s action at the altar. 19 Do you see the difference? Sacrifices offered to idols are offered to nothing, for what’s the idol but a nothing? 20 Or worse than nothing, a minus, a demon! I don’t want you to become part of something that reduces you to less than yourself. 21 And you can’t have it both ways, banqueting with the Master one day and slumming with demons the next. 22 Besides, the Master won’t put up with it. He wants us — all or nothing. Do you think you can get off with anything less? MSG
Ok, so when we read this, I think it can seem like a strange transition…to say flee from idol worship and then go right into this whole thing about Communion, and engaging into the Lord’s Supper. But we need to really see what is happening. These young Christians in Corinth, were really continuing to live the way they used too. We see this all through 1 Corinthians. Paul pushing in on how they are living. So their actions aren’t always lining up with their new beliefs…and life change is such an important part of our faith! They are doing all the good religious things, like taking part in communion at church but they are still worshiping idols and still doing whatever they feel like doing…and they see religious moments like Communion as a magical eraser for their sin. Basically they were doing whatever they wanted to do then taking communion and thinking that because they took part in communion it made everything ok. After all, they are doing all the good Christian things!
They don’t understand just how profoundly personal, and spiritual participating in the Lord’s Supper really is. They don’t understand that it is a beautiful way to draw closer to Jesus. Instead they have made communion a cure all for their willful sinning ways. This is what Paul is getting at…Communion is about fellowship with Jesus. It is profoundly personal. When we eat the bread and drink the wine/juice we are sharing in the very sacrifice of Christ…we reflect, and draw closer to Jesus in this beautiful ceremonial act of worship. They are missing it and Paul is helping them see that communion isn’t a religious activity that erases sin, but a profoundly personal way to draw into deeper and more intimate relationship with Jesus. Listen to this again, and see if you can pick up on the depth of relationship we enter as we enter in communion…
Vs 16 When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life, of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the loaf of bread we break and eat? Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, our many-ness becomes one-ness — Christ doesn’t become fragmented in us. Rather, we become unified in him. We don’t reduce Christ to what we are; he raises us to what he is. MSG
Listen to those words from Paul…we are taking into ourselves the very life of Christ. We become unified in Him. This is what taking part in communion is all about, drawing into that union with Jesus. Paul is trying to pull them out of religion and into relationship, because the life change comes from relationship. Religion always takes spirituality and pulls the focus off of Jesus and onto ourselves. This is why I wanted Kim to work through loving God with you all before we even jumped into this today…it’s because intimacy with God, leads to life change…which is exactly what Paul wants for these young Christians in Corinth. They were taking something as beautiful as communion and making it about themselves rather than about Jesus. They wanted it to do something for them, mainly wipe out all their sins for that particular week, rather than being a time to reflect on Jesus and all He has already done for them. It’s always about intimacy with God, which we can all have because of Jesus.
So this is a big moment, and I don’t want to just move on without really looking at this. The people of Corinth were thinking this way, “I am doing all the good church things, so I’m fine. I can really do whatever I want, because even if I do something that is a little sinful or immoral or even hurtful to God…I have been baptized and I take part in Communion so it’s fine!” Well that sounds like a really nice way to live right? I mean think about this…I can do whatever I feel like doing whenever I feel like doing it and just walk through a communion service and I am good to go! Umm, no, it doesn’t work that way. Remember the why in which you do things really matters. God cares about your heart, not your actions! But you know this is a very popular way to view spirituality today. Ok so we aren’t going to idol worship ceremonies like these people did, but we sure do like to do life our own way. And we sure don’t want God or anyone getting in the way of what we want to do, when we want to do it. So many people today would say they are a Christian, live however they want to live all week long and just figure it’s ok because we do the church thing on Sunday! Listen to me, going to church, praying, reading your Bible, worship, Baptism, and Communion are all different things we do to draw closer to Jesus. These things aren’t just some religious activity that we can control or do to gain something from God. Remember God’s love is already ours! Everything we do for God spiritually, all of those things I just listed, they are about drawing closer to Him! Listen, these Corinthian people were doing something many of us do…they were taking the things God designed for us to do to draw closer to him and minimizing those things for some sort of religious ceremonial event or activity in an effort to keep living life their way, while trying to gain something from that religious activity. What’s amazing is that they have already been given everything through Jesus. This is what religion really does though, it makes things about us and not Jesus. Religion always keeps things focused on us, it keeps them external. Communion isn’t external, and it isn’t the cure for our sinful way of living…Jesus is. It’s extremely personal and when we engage in all these religious activities with the focus on Jesus we can draw closer and closer to Him…which leads to actual life change. It leads to Holy living, and it’s the only way we will ever grow towards holiness! You can’t get that done in your own strength and here’s why. You are human, and we humans sin. It is amazing to see what happens when our focus leaves us and what we need from God and just becomes about Him. As we draw towards Him real life change comes…which is all Paul would want for any of us!
Are you tracking with me today? This is a really important lesson, but I’m not sure it makes sense to us and our human thought process. Jesus pushes in on this all the time…
Matthew 10:39 If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me. MSG
It’s always opposite. Intimacy with Jesus is the key, not religious activity. You want to see real life change in your life? That will happen as you draw closer and closer to Jesus. You aren’t going to muscle up and achieve holiness in your own strength. Make holiness your focus and you will never grow towards it the way you would like. Make Jesus your focus and you will grow towards holiness. All our spiritual growth and maturity…true life change comes when our focus is on Jesus and not ourselves. I really think this is what Paul was pushing in on here…as he explains that the importance of Communion is that it draws us closer to God which actually pulls us away from sin and idol worship. Then Paul says one of my favorite lines in Scripture which leads us into the second section of this study today.
- Paul talking about the abuse of Grace.
23 You say, “I am allowed to do anything” — but not everything is helpful. You say, “I am allowed to do anything” — but not everything is beneficial. NLT
I absolutely love this! Everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial! What a great statement. Now if you think about this, what a simple statement…but so, so true. Often times in a grace based church like MRC, good church folk can get really nervous when we talk about grace a little too much. They don’t want us to go crazy talking about grace too much because they think this will cause an absolute free for all in Dillsburg! Like if we tell Christians that grace abounds, the Wild West or martial law will break out right her in our community! It unnerves some people to hear us teach on grace, they don’t really want to hear scripture like this…
Romans 7:4 So, my friends, this is something like what has taken place with you. When Christ died he took that entire rule-dominated way of life down with him and left it in the tomb, leaving you free to “marry” a resurrection life and bear “offspring” of faith for God. MSG
I have gotten the concerned emails after talks about grace, and they often have something a long this line worded very nicely… “We need to be careful Sam, because you know Sam, there are rules.” So here’s what people are missing. Yes there are rules, but we want people focused on building a free and deep and intimate relationship with God because if we truly love Jesus and grasp grace, we would never abuse it! Do you see it? Religion always keeps the focus on the law, or the rules, or the religious ceremony. Freedom and life change are not found in the ceremony they are found in Jesus. The deeper we go into a relationship with Him, the more we move towards holiness…if your focus is on all the do’s and don’t do’s of the Bible and life…well, good luck with that. So in this one verse we see so much…
1 Corinthians 10:23 “Everything is permissible”-but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”-but not everything is constructive. NIV
So many people point to grace and try to turn that into something that allows them to live however they want to live. This is really what the people of Corinth were doing and we see this all the time today and I just love the statement and often bring people to this scripture when they ask me different questions about what they can or can’t do as a Christian. There are so many examples of this, but this is one I get the most.
Can I drink alcohol? Paul will tell you there is nothing sinful about beer or wine, but we people sure can turn it into something sinful pretty quickly can’t we? Yes it’s permissible but ask yourself is it constructive or beneficial and frankly this answer may be different for everyone. Often times I like to pick at people who ask these questions because if you are asking them, it may be because you don’t think they are good to do already, but you want to keep doing them. This is an important way to think through how we make decisions. After all in verse 15 Paul said this…
15 You are reasonable people. Decide for yourselves if what I am about to say is true. NLT
When we are drawing closer to Jesus, these decisions really aren’t that hard to make over what we should or shouldn’t do. The key is intimacy with Jesus, which moves us towards holiness.
Paul then ends this Chapter with what I see as the last section…
- I see Paul reminding them that their actions are actually effecting others. As we grow we start to realize there are other people on this planet beside us, and Paul is once again having to remind these young Christians…that it just isn’t about them, and that their actions are hurting people!
24 Don’t think only of your own good. Think of other Christians and what is best for them. 25 Here’s what you should do. You may eat any meat that is sold in the marketplace. Don’t ask whether or not it was offered to idols, and then your conscience won’t be bothered. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” 27 If someone who isn’t a Christian asks you home for dinner, go ahead; accept the invitation if you want to. Eat whatever is offered to you and don’t ask any questions about it. Your conscience should not be bothered by this. 28 But suppose someone warns you that this meat has been offered to an idol. Don’t eat it, out of consideration for the conscience of the one who told you. 29 It might not be a matter of conscience for you, but it is for the other person. Now, why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? 30 If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it? 31 Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, you must do all for the glory of God. 32 Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. 33 That is the plan I follow, too. I try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what I like or what is best for me, but what is best for them so they may be saved. NLT
I love this…and will leave you with this thought today. Maybe more than anything we can pull out of the details of this section of the letter we need to grasp, that in the end, it may just not be about you! This is something you hear about often at MRC, that we are all about others who need to know Jesus too. And Paul here is reminding these young Christians that their actions matter and can affect others who don’t yet know Jesus! So can yours and so can mine! So again Paul is driving home this idea you words don’t matter as much as your actions. Tell everyone what an amazing Christian you are, but in the end your actions and how you live is what really matters. You have freedom in Christ! Yes He took that whole rule dominated life down into the tomb and left it there but please remember that you just aren’t the only person on the planet. And again this awareness of others doesn’t come from us being focused on us, but us being focused on God. This is why we really encourage you to stop focusing on the rules, and the religious activities, and begin to focus on your relationship with Jesus. The more that becomes your focus, the less complicated life becomes.
I would like today with Communion so that we can reflect on Jesus and draw closer to Him because there just is no replacement for intimacy with God.