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

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.

Join me in focusing on the truths Paul revealed to the Christians of Corinth nearly two millennia past. Our purpose is to discover the will of God given through Paul’s instruction and to apply in our own lives what we discover. The passage is 1 CORINTHIANS 10:18-21, and the subject under consideration is whether we can be guests at the devil’s table.

PARTICIPATION AS WORSHIP —Paul’s argument points up the necessary relationship between participation and worship. Participating in a religious ritual implies worship of the one behind the rite. Refresh your memory of the problem Paul was confronting among the Corinthians. Some Corinthian Christians had concluded that since they were free, they could participate in feasts honouring idols. However, in drawing this conclusion, they failed to consider the impact of their choice on the lives either of other Christians or even on those outside the Faith. It was a systemic problem running throughout the congregation as the people focused on their own comfort without thinking of the impact of their choice on others.

In the ancient world, meat was sold in the Agora—the marketplace. Meat cutters were members of a guild, which though having similarities to a modern union was actually a religious organisation. Those belonging to a particular guild would be expected to acknowledge the patron god or goddess of the guild. Thus, in the meat cutters guild, all the meat would be offered to the patron deity, though only a portion would remain on the altar. The meat that was not actually left before the deity (usually the better cuts) was sold in the Agora. Accordingly, those who ate of the meat were said actually to be dining with the deity to whom the meat was offered—that deity was considered a guest at any meal where the meat was served.

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