“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the CORINTHIANS – Chapter 10

1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,
2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,
3 and all ate the same spiritual food,
4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.
5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. – 1 Corinthians 10:1-5

Paul continues his letter with warnings and exhortations. He uses this illustration form the Old Testament which must have blown the minds of traditional Jewish believers. They all knew the story of God providing miraculously for the Children of Israel but here Paul is revealing that Jesus Christ was the Rock. The New in the Old revealed. It makes sense to us but just imagine a first century Jew hearing that revelation. Paul is warning the Corinthians that even though they have been blessed they must remain faithful. The Israelite’s perished in the wilderness because of their unbelief. We to need to beware. Sin and unbelief will cause us to stumble. We need to continually embrace the Holy Spirit in our lives who leads, protects and feeds us.

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground! – Psalm 143:10

6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.
7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” – 1 Corinthians 10:6-7

Paul is now giving a list of sins that were committed by the Children of Israel as an example to avoid: idolatry, sexual immorality, testing God and murmuring. First idolatry. When the Children of Israel arrived at Mount Sinai the Lord commanded them to keep His Word and the people said “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” (Exodus 19:8). Moses then went up Mount Sinai and received the Law. But when Moses was delayed on the Mount the people persuaded Aaron to make them a golden calf. They all gave earrings of gold and from these Aaron cast the golden idol. They did what was right in their own eyes. In the book of Judges the Children of Israel repeatedly fell into idolatry when they did what was right in their own eyes. When Solomon built the most splendid temple, the Lord came to him as said if you will walk before me with integrity of heart I will establish the throne of David forever. But Solomon was turned aside by his many wives and built shrines to other gods. He did what was right in his own eyes. In all these cases the people did what was right in their own eyes. This is the heart of idolatry. We form a concept of God in our mind that is not God but another god and we worship that idea of god. We form an idea, an idol and worship it. O that we might worship and give glory to the Living God who has revealed Himself through the scriptures by the power of the Holy Spirit. Flee idolatry. Run from false concepts of God. Live by the truth – as revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord.

8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.
9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents,
10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. – 1 Corinthians 10:8-10

Israel went after women of Moab who led them to worship Baal. The Lord was angry and over twenty thousand men died of a plague. Israel tested God by despising the provision of manner and blaming God that they were going to die. The Lord sent fiery serpents that caused many to die until the Lord showed grace and provided a saviour in the form of the brass serpent on the pole that anyone could look at and be healed. We were reading yesterday how in the book of Judges God showed His grace by providing a saviour, a deliverer to an unrepentant nation. His grace was shown to us by sending Jesus while we were yet sinners. He took God’s judgment on the cross before we repented. God’s glory was manifested through His Son. As we look to the Son who is high and lifted up,as the bronze serpent foreshadowed, we will be healed of the devil’s deadly bites.

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.
12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:11-13

This passage contains one of the most precious promises in the bible. Our way of escape- Jesus Christ, our deliverer. In all the previous examples God provided a way of escape: repentance, looking into Jesus, crying out to our Lord who will deliver us. Paul warns us to take heed lest we fall. Beware, pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (Pro 16:18). We stand because of Jesus:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. – Ephesians 6:11

14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. – 1 Corinthians 10:14-15

Flee idolatry. Sensible advice.

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. – 1 John 5:21

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. – Colossians 3:5

What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. – 2 Corinthians 6:16

Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. – Jonah 2:8

2 And now they sin more and more, and make for themselves metal images, idols skillfully made of their silver, all of them the work of craftsmen. It is said of them, “Those who offer human sacrifice kiss calves!”
3 Therefore they shall be like the morning mist or like the dew that goes early away, like the chaff that swirls from the threshing floor or like smoke from a window.
4 But I am the LORD your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior. – Hosea 13:2-4

4 Your altars shall become desolate, and your incense altars shall be broken, and I will cast down your slain before your idols.
5 And I will lay the dead bodies of the people of Israel before their idols, and I will scatter your bones around your altars.
6 Wherever you dwell, the cities shall be waste and the high places ruined, so that your altars will be waste and ruined, your idols broken and destroyed, your incense altars cut down, and your works wiped out.
7 And the slain shall fall in your midst, and you shall know that I am the LORD. – Ezekiel 6:4-7

I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the LORD. – Psalm 31:6


2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, – Psalm 103:2-4

8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. – Psalm 103:8-10

Praise the Lord!

Flee idolatry, sensible advice.

16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. – 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

Interesting that Paul should put this section here. We associate it with the communion celebrated regularly in church. But Paul throuought this section has been talking about the moral dilemma of eating food sacrificed of idols. We have been taught that the Jews believed if you eat with someone you became “one” with them (the shared food becoming part of your physical body). The act of communion was for shadowed by the Passover meal and at this time Jews would be more conscious of the spiritual meaning behind that possibly than the new meaning of the shared body and blood of Jesus. It was the Passover cup that Jesus blessed celebrateing the New Covenant. Paul is going to go on with more graphic logic regarding eating in pagan temples. For us we see the symbolism of the laid down life of Jesus in communion. We need to keep in mind that His body was broken for us and His blood was shed for us and that is the basis for our unity in the Body of Christ. We lay our lives down for our brethren. We allow ourselves to be broken that other may partake of Christ.

Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. – 1 Corinthians 10:17

Reminds me of this section in Ephesians:

4 There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-
5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. – Ephesians 4:4-7

We are called to unity in the Body but not an ecumenically manufactured putting up with one another but being led by one Spirit. Eating of the same manna, the body of Christ, the Word of God.

18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?
19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?
20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.
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.
22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? – 1 Corinthians 10:18-22

Paul seems to contradict himself here. He has already said in 8:4 that an idol does not really have an existence but here he speaks of the demons that are the spiritual power behind idolatry. Pagans worship demons through their sacrifices and eating at their table in the pagan temples was taking part on that worship. So this would provoke the Lord to anger. So to buy meat in the market in ignorance of its source is one thing but to go to the temple and eat at the table of an idol is quite another and is an offence to God. For us this could be likened to fellowshipong at a Christian church then going to a spirituality meeting.

To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. – Titus 1:15

We should protect ourself from spiritual impurities, just as we avoid contaminated food, for our our spiritual health.

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. – 1 Corinthians 10:23

In my early walk as a Christian I took this verse to mean that I could do anything because all things are lawful and I would be forgiven because of the grace of God. The danger of taking verses out of context!!! Here Paul has been talking about eating food sacrificed to idols for the last two chapters and will continue until the end of this chapter. I like the NLT translation:

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is beneficial.

This brings out a tone that “you say…….” but “you are wrong”. This does not come out in the NKJV or the KJV but does also in the NIV. So Paul is suggesting that the Corinthians say “I can do anything” but Paul says not everything is good or beneficial. He is still talking about eating food that could cause others to stumble. My old interpretation was taking the verse out of context and was a prime example of needing the whole council of God. In Romans Paul clearly states twice:

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? – Romans 6:1-2

What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! – Romans 6:15

Grace is the greatest gift God has given us, giving us what we do not deserve.

so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 5:21

So we do not want to despise what the Lord has done for us. This reminds me that we should not grieve the Holy Spirit:

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:30-32

Thank God for His grace. Thank God for His forgiveness. May we never take it for granted.

24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience.
26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” – 1 Corinthians 10:24-26

Paul exhorts us to put other before ourselves. Just because something of fine for me doesn’t mean it is fine for others. With our generation it is drinking alcohol that is more tha issue than eating food sacrificed to idols!!! But it could also relate to something like Yoga: is it just exercise, when for thousands of years it has been used in the Hindu religion as a form of “worship”. Very often an instructor will get the class to say a Sanskrit sentenced before and after the class, which the participants have no idea what the meaning is. Paul goes on to say what I mantionwd yesterday that buy your food on the Market without question or worry because everything is the Lord’s. Implicit is the statement don’t buy from the temple (where it was cheaper) as you know it has been sacraficed to another god. As we said over the last two days let’s guard our hearts.

27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience.
28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience-
29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience?
30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,
33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. – 1 Corinthians 10:27-33

This passage concludes Paul’s large section on the issue of meat sacrificed to idols. In a nut shell you can eat anything but for the sake of others refrain, to show them God has made a substantial difference in our lives and through that witness they might be saved. In all we do give glory to God. Give Him the credit, praise and honour and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. – John 16:13

The Holy Spirit shows the humility of God by always giving the honour to Jesus. We show the humility of God as we count others more important that ourselves.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. – Philippians 2:3

When we put others needs before our own they see the laid down life of Christ manifest by His Spirit through His Body of believers on earth who are here to manifest His glory and lead others to Him.



The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

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