Each and every one of us have relationships with other people. Inherent in every meaningful, significant relationship whether it be a spouse, children, co-worker, boss, employees, teammates, friend, or neighbor is conflict and disagreement. If a relationship grows and deepens, at some point, there will be conflict and disagreements over one thing or another. What most people do in our day, when conflict and disagreement arise, is simply end the relationship instead of doing the hard work of seeking a compromise that works for both people, resolving conflict, and reconciling the relationship.
Connie and I have been married for 38 years. Our relationship is the deepest, most intimate relationship either of us has ever had in our lives. Because of the depth and intimacy of our relationship, it is also the one relationship that has experienced the most compromise. You can’t stay married for 38 years unless you are willing to compromise, work at resolving conflict when it arises, and commit to reconciliation regardless of the cost.
At the same time both of us have learned and determined that there are some aspects of our relationship that are so vitally important to us as husband and wife, and followers of Jesus, that there can be no compromise. They are our core beliefs as a couple who are committed to Jesus above all else. There will be no negotiation and no compromise. I believe with all of my heart that it is identifying and committing to the non-negotiables, which are based on our relationship first to Jesus and second to one another, that has helped us the most through the past 38 years.
I’ve shared all of this with you this morning because the Apostle was committed to the very same principles of compromise on peripheral, non-essential issues, and absolute commitment to standing his ground on what he determined to be non-negotiables. Let’s read our Scripture for this morning and we’ll discover a non-negotiable that was foundational for Paul and must be for us as well.
14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 Is 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? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. 18 Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? 19 Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You 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. 22 Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he? (1 Corinthians 10:14-22 NIV)
The very first thing I want to point out for us is the way Paul addressed the people in Corinth. He called them his “dear friends.” The word that he used for “friends” is so important because these were not buddies he watched a ballgame with on Saturday afternoon or casual acquaintances that he ran into now and then. Paul used the Greek adjective, “agapetos,” to convey his deep, deep love for those in Corinth.
You’ve probably heard that in the Greek language there are different words to describe the different kinds of love we experience. There’s “eros” to describe the intimate love of a husband and wife. There’s the word “phileo” to describe the love of one friend for another. But, then there is the word “agape” which is used primarily for the love God has for His people. It is a love with no strings attached. This love is a matter of the will and not emotion. God chooses to love you and me. And this is the love Paul had for those in Corinth. I want to point this out for us because what comes next from Paul’s pen is written by a man who has lashed himself to this body of believers. The people of Corinth are a mess, but they are God’s mess, and Paul will not walk away from them.
One more thing that is important to point out before we get to the heart of the matter, and that is verse 15. Read it with me.
15 I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. (1 Corinthians 10:15 NIV)
The Greek word which is translated “sensible” means “intelligent, wise, or prudent.” It is a thinking word. Paul says, “You are wise people, smart people, so listen to what I have to say and judge for yourselves.” Paul believes that the people in Corinth are wise enough to recognize the error of their ways once he lays out his case.
Followers of Jesus have always been called to be thinking people. God has given us His Word and urged us to learn it, know it, apply it, and share it. This has been true throughout history, but today, in America, we are experiencing something that is truly mind boggling to me. Let’s narrow our view just for a moment. You and I live in a city which is filled with Bibles. If there is anyone in Oklahoma City who doesn’t have a Bible they can get one in a moment’s notice. Most homes have multiple copies of the Bible. Yet, the people of our city are mostly illiterate when it comes to Bible knowledge. When I say this you need to know that I’m thinking about those who call themselves followers of Jesus and go to church two Sundays out of four. What I find is that many Christians read books by Christians, but they don’t read the Bible.
Last week I met with a couple who doesn’t attend BCC. During our conversation I asked them about their relationship with the Lord. After listening to them talk I’m convinced they love Jesus. When I asked them, “How often do you read God’s Word?” Both of them told me they listen to sermons by preachers and they read books by Christians, but they don’t spend much time reading the Bible for themselves. It’s fine to listen to sermons. I’m so glad you’ve come to listen to me this morning, but listening to what God has taught me this week cannot even begin to compare to what God wants to share with you, if you will only take time to get alone with Him and His Word.
The people of Corinth, regardless of how smart they were, they could not know the error of their ways if Paul had not discipled them in God’s Word for 18 months while he was with them. Paul laid a solid foundation for them in God’s Word and you and I need that solid foundation of discipleship as well. Only then will we be able to know the error of our ways when we get off track.
Where had the people of Corinth gotten off track? They were making compromises in a non-negotiable area of their lives. I find this so fascinating and relevant for you and me today. The followers of Jesus in Corinth lived in a pluralistic city which was part of a pluralistic culture. The city and culture that surrounds us can be described in exactly the same way. Vocabulary.com defines “pluralistic” this way:
Anything pluralistic involves a diversity of different ideas or people. A pluralistic society is a diverse one, where the people in it believe all kinds of different things and tolerate each other’s beliefs even when they don’t match their own. (Vocabulary.com)
We live in a city filled with people who believe different things and hold different ideas about much of life. I don’t have any problem living in a city like Oklahoma City where people believe everything under the sun. As a matter of fact, I love it and find it really exciting because I know that much of what our society teaches people is fool’s gold–it looks good initially, sounds exciting, but it will fail to satisfy over the long haul. You and I know the One who is the Living Water, the Bread of Life, and we have so many opportunities to share Him with those who are and will become casualties of their own beliefs and lifestyles. That is, if we don’t get sucked into the pluralistic mindset and lifestyle like those in Corinth. For those of us who have bought into the pluralism of our day and have begun to believe that we each have our own truth and that all truth is equal, then I pray you will listen to what Paul has to say. What does Paul say? In verse 14, he writes, “Flee from idolatry.” Os Guinness writes,
Idolatry is the most discussed problem in the Bible. Yet for Christians today it is one of the least meaningful notions, Idols are not just on pagan altars, but in well-educated hearts and minds. An idol is something within creation that is inflated to function as God. All sorts of things are potential idols, depending only on our attitudes and actions towards them…It may well come up in the form of an over-attachment to something that is in itself perfectly good… An idol can be a physical object, a property, a person, an activity, a role, an institution, a hope, an image, an idea, a pleasure, a hero, anything that can substitute for God.” (Os Guinness. No God But God)
Dr. Guinness is so right. There is no sin discussed more in the Bible than idolatry and there is no sin more prevalent in our own society today than idolatry. Idolatry is the sin of placing an inflated value on something or someone. Jesus, in Matthew 6:24, said,
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Matthew 6:24 NIV)
You and I can replace the word “money” with many other words that describe “who” or “what” we love and enjoy, that which gives us a sense of value and meaning in life, and which seeks to move the Lord off of the throne of our hearts.
This crossroads, the crossroads of commitment, that we find ourselves standing before each and every day, has been faced by people throughout history. God’s wise counsel has echoed throughout the ages and today it comes to you and me again and again, “Don’t do it!” In Deuteronomy 4, Moses was preparing the people to enter the Promised Land after 40 years in the Wilderness. His first priority for them was to keep the commandments of God. Second, he reminded them of the faithfulness of God from Egypt to the present day. Then, Moses says,
15 You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, 16 so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, 17 or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, 18 or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below. 19 And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars– all the heavenly array– do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven. (Deuteronomy 4:15-19 NIV)
When Moses says, “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully…” Literally, it means “guard your souls.” “Guard your souls so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol.” Idolatry has been around since the Fall in Genesis 3. Idolatry was present in Corinth. Idolatry is alive and well in our nation and world today.
The people of Corinth weren’t technically worshiping false gods and setting up idols in their homes, but they were fully participating in everything going on that was being offered at the temples around town, short of bowing down and worshiping the false gods of Corinth. Paul says, “Don’t flirt, but flee!”
I love how Paul works to lay out his case, to try and open their eyes and help them see that they need to stop what they’ve been doing. How does he do it? Well, he takes them back to the cross and to the table. Turn with me to verses 16-17.
16 Is 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? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 NIV)
Paul uses the fellowship meal of the followers of Jesus, the Lord’s table, because it is the fellowship meal of the pagan temples that they had been drawn to in Corinth. In taking them back to the Lord’s table, Paul wants to remind them of what Jesus has done for them. Paul specifically mentioned the “blood of Christ” and the “body of Christ.” These two phrases were so important to the early Church because of the meaning attached to the phrases. Where did the meaning come from? It came from Jesus Himself. Turn with me to Matthew 26:26-29 and let’s read together about Jesus’ final meal with His disciples.
26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:26-29 NIV)
We have to remember that the cup and the unleavened bread were elements of the Passover meal. Jesus used what was already in place and reinterpreted them in light of the sacrifice He was about to make on the cross. Leaven came to be recognized as a symbol for sin and Jesus was the unleavened Bread, the Sinless One, who came to give His life for sinners. Jesus took the unleavened bread and said, “This is My body.” Jesus took the cup of wine, what many believe to have been the third cup of the Passover celebration, and He declared to His disciples that the promise of God found in Jeremiah 31 to “make a new covenant” would be fulfilled in His death and resurrection. Did you notice that Jesus said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The writer of Hebrews tells us, “…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” We have to be taught this truth, but the Jews saw it taking place before their eyes every day as animal sacrifices were made at the temple. The shedding of the blood of a spotless lamb was a focal point of Passover. When Jesus arrived on the scene and John the Baptist announced, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29), no one had to guess what he was talking about. You and I will never be able to adequately plumb the depth of the richness of the meaning of the cross and the Lord’s table, but that is why coming to the Lord’s table is central for us each week here at Britton Christian Church.
In the very next chapter, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Paul walks the church through what was passed on to him by the Lord. Let’s read it together.
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26 NIV)
In coming to the table we are proclaiming what Jesus has done for each of us on the cross until He comes for us. It is the good news that this world so desperately needs to hear and it provides for us, the followers of Jesus, the hope that He is coming for us.
There is another important reality that is highlighted when we gather at the Lord’s Table and Paul wants the brothers and sisters in Corinth to recognize it. Take a look at verse 17 with me once again. Paul writes,
17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. (1 Corinthians 10:17 NIV)
In our society today there is so much division, dissension, and animosity as people are willing to die on a thousand hills. Just name a topic of discussion, a current event, a political issue, or social ill–if you don’t have the right opinion then you are very likely to be castigated or even cut off by some of your friends. This table and what it represents reminds you and me, the followers of Jesus, that we are brothers and sisters in Christ above all else, that Jesus showed us grace even though we were undeserving, and that grace, His grace, is not to be kept to ourselves–it is to be given to others.
I was talking to a friend this past week who was going to interview me for his podcast. He asked me, “As diverse of a body as BCC is, how do you keep everyone together?” I told Wes, “The ground at the foot of the cross is level–the congregation at the foot of the cross is made up only of sinners who have been saved by God’s glorious gift of grace. The more we understand the grace we have received the more willing we will be to offer that grace to another who is different from us.” When we come to the Lord’s table each Sunday we are reminded that we are more than our political affiliation, more than our title at work, more than our vaccination status, more than our financial spreadsheet–we are sinners who have been saved by grace and part of the beautiful, diverse family of God’s redeemed.
Paul contrasts everything we’ve just been talking about, the benefits and blessings of sharing in the Body of Christ at the Lord’s table with the table fellowship many of those at Corinth had been sharing in at the pagan temples. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 10:19-21 with me.
19 Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You 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. (1 Corinthians 10:19-21 NIV)
There were those in Corinth who believed that since there is only one God and that an idol is nothing, therefore they could participate in the activities taking place at the pagan temples. Paul agreed with them that there is no God but one, back in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6. Paul wanted the people to know that even though idols are empty and hold no power in and of themselves, there is a power behind the idols and that power is demonic. David Garland writes,
Paul assumes that idols are more than simply foolish human inventions, sordid parodies of the one true God. They represent something demonic so that any sacrifice to an idol is a sacrifice to demons. While denying the existence of pagan gods, he affirms the reality of virulent spiritual powers that are enemies of God. (Garland, David. 1 Corinthians. pg. 480)
Once again, let’s modernize what Paul is teaching and think about the powers that are at work to lure us away from God. Is there a power behind addiction? How about greed? What about hobbies that become all consuming? Sex is a good gift, given by God to husbands and wives, but you have to know that sex can be misused, perverted, and become demonic. You better believe there is a power at work behind all of these and more.
Let me illustrate by taking you to the wilderness where Jesus spent 40 days fasting and praying. You can read about it in Matthew 4. After fasting and praying for 40 days, Satan came to Jesus and do you know the first temptation he put before Jesus? He said, “If you are the Son of God tell these stones to turn into bread.” Now, I think we can all agree that there is nothing sinful about bread. But, Jesus didn’t spend those 40 days in the wilderness to learn to turn stones into bread whenever He became hungry. God had called Him to fast, to do without food so that He could learn to depend on God. When Satan tempted Jesus, Jesus answered the temptation with Scripture, by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3.
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:4 NIV)
There is a power at work that would desire nothing more than to lure you and me away from God. To turn our affection and passion away from the One who loves us. Oh, but the attraction is so strong isn’t it?! What are we to do? We put on the full armor of God that we read about in Ephesians 6. We recognize that the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world (2 Corinthians 10:4). We recognize and then flee from those things that are drawing us away from God.
Before we leave here I do want to read together what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:22. Paul writes,
22 Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he? (1 Corinthians 10:22 NIV)
The word jealous stirs up negative thoughts and feelings, but the jealousy of God is altogether different. Six times in the Old Testament the Hebrew word for “jealous,” (qanna) is used to describe God. Is God like a teenage boyfriend who gets mad if His girlfriend even talks to another guy? Is that what Paul means when he asks, “Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy?” God’s jealousy is a protective jealousy. It is more like the parent who identifies a threat to the life of his child and acts to intervene in the situation for the protection of the one he loves. Ray Stedman describes God’s jealousy for His people this way:
…God’s jealousy is a proper jealousy; it is a love so intense for the object of his love that he is angry when something threatens it, and he will act. He will not stand idly by and let you drift away into some idolatrous preoccupation with something of the world. He will strike at it; he will destroy it. And if your affections are so entwined with it, you are going to get hurt in the process; you will find yourself crushed and hurt and crying out to God, “Why do you do this to me?” But it is an act of love from a jealous God who will not allow you to drift into that kind of preoccupation. (Ray Stedman)
Every parent who has ever had a child who got entangled in a destructive, abusive relationship or succumbed to addiction knows this type of jealous love. We don’t want to see our kids destroyed by that which they are convinced they love.
There is no parent on the planet who loves his or her kids more than the Lord loves you my friend. He loves you with an everlasting love. Before you ever even gave Him a thought, He already loved you. He’s been pursuing you, inviting you, drawing you to Himself, all the days of your life. Like the child who strayed and got involved in things that looked fun and exciting, those things that promised to make us happy and give us meaning in life–we have chased after those things that at the very least will leave us empty and could ultimately destroy us.
Won’t you hear the wisdom of the Apostle Paul this morning and turn away from those things or people you’ve made more than they were created to be and turn to the Lord? If you’ve never received Jesus, publicly announced that you want to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life–won’t you do that this morning?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
August 8, 2021
1 Corinthians 10:14-22