Summary: Participants at the Lord’s Table cannot participate at the table of demonic powers.

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1 CORINTHIANS 10:18-22


“Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 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. 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. Shall we provoke the Lord to Jealousy? Are we stronger than He?”

Do you sometimes wish that the Apostle Paul was present so you could ask him to clarify what he meant by some of the things he wrote? Some points of contention among Christians could be quickly cleared up if he were present. Though we don’t have the Apostle present, we do have living within us the same Spirit who impelled the Apostle to write the letters that have been written. Moreover, that same Spirit of Christ works among His churches, guiding His people into truth as they submit themselves to Him and seek His guidance. If we do not understand what is written at some particular point, or if we fail to see the applicability of what is written, we need but ask, and God will give the answer we seek.

Ignoring the context of Paul’s words in our text could lead to serious distortion of Scripture. A casual reading could lead an individual to assume that the Lord’s Table is an actual sacrifice—a position advocated by some major Christian denominations. However, that would lead to serious error. Again, ignoring the context of the text could lead an individual to assume that Christians can worship God even while participating in devilish activities. Again, such a conclusion would be a presumptuous error.

In order to understand the importance of this portion of the Word, it will be helpful for us to refresh our memory of Paul’s letter to the Church of God at Corinth, and especially with what he has written immediately preceding the text before us. Paul has been cautioning his readers that they cannot participate in evil without consequences. He uses the example of Israel in the wilderness, who though blessed with great and wondrous blessing nevertheless were not permitted to enter the Promised Land [1 CORINTHIANS 10:1-5].

He then issues a caution, reminding readers of the consequences of idolatry and immorality among the people of Israel. He reminded readers of the crafting of the golden calf [EXODUS 32:1ff.] and the consequences of that sin. Then, he wrote of the sin of grumbling against God by the people of God as recorded in NUMBERS 21:4-9. When the people complained, God sent venomous snakes among them as punishment, though He did provide a means for relief when they were bitten. In short, Paul warned the Corinthian believers against presuming against the Lord. He warned them that sin always has consequences, and however well intentioned an action may be, God nevertheless holds His people accountable.

The Apostle wrote these things because some Corinthian Christians were treating idolatry as a casual matter. Some, only recently delivered from the bondage of idolatry, were being drawn back toward that evil through the actions of others who imagined that their freedom gave them licence to do as they pleased without considering the impact of their actions on others who were more scrupulous about participating in the activities they had only recently shunned.

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