When The Local Church Drinks the Cup of Demons Instead of Christ

Paul has been admonishing the local church at Corinth toward unity through maturity. He has explained Christian liberty now explicitly and by way of illustration. Idolatry has less to do with what goes into the body and more to do with what flows from the heart, evidenced not in consumption of certain foods or drinks but in the way we treat others—particularly those outside the church. We can see whether or not we are in Christ by observing whether or not we identify with those outside the church walls. If we do not, we are merely a social group or cult rather than the church. Paul continues to explain his thoughts in the present pericope.

1 Corinthians 10:15-11:1

15 ὡς φρονίμοις λέγω· κρίνατε ὑμεῖς ὅ φημι.  16 τὸ ποτήριον τῆς εὐλογίας ὃ εὐλογοῦμεν, οὐχὶ κοινωνία ἐστὶν τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ; τὸν ἄρτον ὃν κλῶμεν, οὐχὶ κοινωνία τοῦ σώματος τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐστιν;  17 ὅτι εἷς ἄρτος, ἓν σῶμα οἱ πολλοί ἐσμεν, οἱ γὰρ πάντες ἐκ τοῦ ἑνὸς ἄρτου μετέχομεν.  18 βλέπετε τὸν Ἰσραὴλ κατὰ σάρκα· οὐχ οἱ ἐσθίοντες τὰς θυσίας κοινωνοὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου εἰσίν;  19 τί οὖν φημι; ὅτι εἰδωλόθυτόν τί ἐστιν, ἢ ὅτι εἴδωλόν τί ἐστιν;  20 ἀλλʼ ὅτι ἃ θύουσιν, δαιμονίοις καὶ οὐ θεῷ θύουσιν, οὐ θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς κοινωνοὺς τῶν δαιμονίων γίνεσθαι.  21 οὐ δύνασθε ποτήριον κυρίου πίνειν καὶ ποτήριον δαιμονίων· οὐ δύνασθε τραπέζης κυρίου μετέχειν καὶ τραπέζης δαιμονίων.  22 ἢ παραζηλοῦμεν τὸν κύριον; μὴ ἰσχυρότεροι αὐτοῦ ἐσμεν;  

23 Πάντα ἔξεστιν· ἀλλʼ οὐ πάντα συμφέρει. πάντα ἔξεστιν· ἀλλʼ οὐ πάντα οἰκοδομεῖ.  24 μηδεὶς τὸ ἑαυτοῦ ζητείτω ἀλλὰ τὸ τοῦ ἑτέρου.  25 πᾶν τὸ ἐν μακέλλῳ πωλούμενον ἐσθίετε μηδὲν ἀνακρίνοντες διὰ τὴν συνείδησιν,  26 τοῦ κυρίου γὰρ ἡ γῆ καὶ τὸ πλήρωμα αὐτῆς.  27 εἴ τις καλεῖ ὑμᾶς τῶν ἀπίστων καὶ θέλετε πορεύεσθαι, πᾶν τὸ παρατιθέμενον ὑμῖν ἐσθίετε μηδὲν ἀνακρίνοντες διὰ τὴν συνείδησιν·  28 ἐὰν δέ τις ὑμῖν εἴπῃ· Τοῦτο ἱερόθυτόν ἐστιν, μὴ ἐσθίετε διʼ ἐκεῖνον τὸν μηνύσαντα καὶ τὴν συνείδησιν·  29 συνείδησιν δὲ λέγω οὐχὶ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ἀλλὰ τὴν τοῦ ἑτέρου· ἱνατί γὰρ ἡ ἐλευθερία μου κρίνεται ὑπὸ ἄλλης συνειδήσεως;  30 εἰ ἐγὼ χάριτι μετέχω, τί βλασφημοῦμαι ὑπὲρ οὗ ἐγὼ εὐχαριστῶ;  

31 Εἴτε οὖν ἐσθίετε εἴτε πίνετε εἴτε τι ποιεῖτε, πάντα εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ ποιεῖτε.  32 ἀπρόσκοποι καὶ Ἰουδαίοις γίνεσθε καὶ Ἕλλησιν καὶ τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ,  33 καθὼς κἀγὼ πάντα πᾶσιν ἀρέσκω, μὴ ζητῶν τὸ ἐμαυτοῦ σύμφορον ἀλλὰ τὸ τῶν πολλῶν, ἵνα σωθῶσιν.  

11.1 μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε, καθὼς κἀγὼ Χριστοῦ.  

Unity in Christ (10:15-18)

I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say. Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar?

Paul makes known that he writes to the believers in Corinth, an immature church, as if to wise men. Indeed, the Corinthians are puffed up in their knowledge (cf. 8:1). Since they are so puffed up in their knowledge, they should be able to understand what Paul is explaining. So, Paul instructs them to judge what he says as if in a law-court. He instructs those who are judging him (cf. 9:3) to listen and judge more closely, or righteously—not based on what goes into his body but what comes out, his words. Here, we see a continuing theme present. It is not what goes into a person’s mouth that defiles him but what flows out of his mouth (cf. Matthew 15:11). So, we do not judge others based on what they eat and drink but by the words they speak. Paul wants to be judged by his teaching. He judges the Corinthians by their speech about others, particularly those outside the proverbial, or literal, church walls.

Paul references the communion meal. When one partakes of the wine and bread, they are sharing in the blood and body of Christ. Since Christ only has one body, those who share do so together. There is a certain unity in Christ among the brethren. What does it mean to share in the blood and body of Christ through the drinking of wine and eating of bread? It means that, in communion there is actually a transaction taking place. It is a means of grace, though I wouldn’t go as far as transubstantiation. Yet, there is a real presence, so we cannot relax communion to the memorial view. It seems to me that Christ is present, and we share in Him. Communion is at least consubstantial, for there is a real sharing in the blood and body of Christ each time we observe the meal. It is for us what the sacrifices were to Israel before the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. The partaking of the sacrificial meal was the continual, symbolic application of God’s grace upon sinners. The sacrifices never saved anyone. The partaking of communion is the continual, symbolic application of God’s grace upon sinners. Communion never saves anyone nor maintains their salvation. Yet, as with God’s presence that rested on the Temple (cf. 1 Kings 8:22-61), there is a real presence of Christ with the communion elements. Just as the Temple could not contain God, neither can the elements—but God’s presence can abide with them both. Transubstantiation is impossible if God cannot be contained. Consubstantiation is desirable and much more consistent with the way God has always been. Christ is drinking the fruit of the vine with us in the Father’s kingdom (cf. Matthew 26:29). This means that each time we observe communion, we are declaring the expansion of the kingdom of heaven on the earth according to Christ’s promise. His kingdom is here. That is why we observe the meal. If His kingdom had not yet come, we would be abstaining from the meal with our Lord. But, His kingdom has come, so we eat and drink. Such is the unity of the church in Christ. The only reason to abstain from the meal as a local church any one week is that we disbelieve in the real presence of Christ’s dominating kingdom—which is why so many dispensationals have moved away from a weekly communion observance and why we are seeing a revival of weekly communion observance among modern-day reformers. Communion is a picture of Christ’s dominating kingdom over this earth.

Exclusivity of Christ (10:19-22)

What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in 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. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?

Paul repeats his clarification about things sacrificed to idols (cf. 8:4). There is no such thing as real idols; therefore, it is impossible to eat meat sacrificed to them. Those who do sacrifice to so-called idols are actually sacrificing to demons. Paul does not desire the church become sharers in demons. How does one become a sharer in demons? It is not by eating the meat or drinking the wine that has been sacrificed but by the sacrifice itself. So, while we do not worship the false gods of the world, including the god of self (cf. 10:1-14), we are free to partake in the things of the world. We do not commune with demons but with Christ. All things, even the things of the world, belong to Christ and are His inheritance (cf. 10:26). If we are in Him, they are our inheritance as well. Though all things belong to us, we cannot worship both the Lord and other things. All things belong to us in Christ not us to all things. There is a difference.

Considering the claim that people can fall from grace by what they consume, Paul poses an interesting question. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Removing this question from its context and the intricacy of Paul’s philosophical language may cause us to think that God is mutable or changeable—able to be provoked. Consequently, many teach a form of religion by which so-called Christians are constantly backsliding into idolatry, provoking God, and earning his wrath. Look, though, at how Paul answers his own rhetorical question with another question, “We are not stronger than He, are we?” We cannot provoke God because we are not stronger than Him. This seems common sensical. Instead, our worship either of idols (including self) or God reveals whether or not we are in Christ. In context, our treatment of others, particularly those outside the church walls, reveals the worship of our hearts. Have we identified with wretches or are we holier than thou? Is our kindness a means of manipulation to keep people following us? Do we identify with others even if we gain nothing directly or indirectly? Do we identify with those outside the church? God is a jealous God (cf. Exodus 34:14), but He is not provoked. His jealousy is a matter of attribution, not a reaction. Those who are in Christ will not commune with demons by worshipping any manner of false gods, including self, because God cannot be provoked. He will hold His people fast. If we are not held fast, we are not His chosen people. This is the perseverance of the saints.

Call to be with unbelievers (10:23-11:1)

All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience’ sake; for the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains. If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience’ sake. But if anyone says to you, “This is meat sacrificed to idols,” do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience’ sake; I mean not your own conscience, but the other man’s; for why is my freedom judged by another’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks? Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

Paul closes his section on Christian liberty and the conscience by reaffirming his previous instruction (cf. 8:1ff). The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains (cf. Psalms 24:1; 50:12; 1 Timothy 4:4). Therefore, all things are lawful. We can partake of all things. Yet, not all things are beneficial. We learn, here, about the difference in living as Christians rather than as heathens. The world wonders what is okay to do, and draws a moral line in order to keep from going too far. True Christians, on the other hand, seek what is profitable to others. We do not draw moral lines as some do because all things belong to Christ. Instead, our hearts have been so changed by the Holy Spirit that we seek to be profitable to others in all things. That is our primary consideration when we do the things we do, not whether or not we will provoke the Lord—who cannot be provoked anyway. We identify with unbelievers, even going to where they are and partaking with them in their food and drink without question. If there is reason to abstain for the sake of their conscience, we do so.

When it comes, then, to honoring the consciences of others, we know that this instruction is meant for our relationships with unbelievers. We desire believers’ consciences to be strengthened (cf. 8:1ff). Why is the liberty we experience in Christ judged by the consciences of others? It is not, but we live to profit them—yes, even unbelievers. We can enjoy what God has given and what belongs to Christ with thankfulness without being slandered. Those who do slander because we partake in what belongs to God and is received with thanksgiving reveal that they are actually unbelievers no matter how they self-identify.

The tendency in our time for worldly people to self-identify regarding their gender or sexuality is a vivid picture of what we often see in the church walls. People are quick to self-identify as Christians but reveal their true wretched nature as they slander those who enjoy Christ and the things of Christ. So, much of the “church” is guilty of the thing it condemns in others.

Paul closes his present admonition not by telling anyone to abstain from anything but, instead, instructing them to eat and drink and do everything they choose to do to the glory of God while giving no offense to Jew or Greeks or the church. Love God and enjoy Him forever. Profit others so they may be saved and come to love God and enjoy Him forever.

In this way, Paul admonishes the local church to imitate Him as He also is of Christ. Submit to God. Identify with wretches. Do all things to see others come to salvation. Pleasing all men in all things means honoring their consciences in order to edify them—which may not please them in such a way as to bring them pleasure. For, sometimes being edified offends our pleasures and sensibilities. So, I ask: Do you eat and drink? Do you labor? Do you rest? Do you have others over? Do you gather with the body of Christ? Do you go to the marketplace? Do you social media? Do you go out to eat? Do you take your family to do all sorts of things? Do you do all things things to the glory of God? Do you do all these things for the sake of the Gospel? If the Gospel is absent anything you do and if you are not identifying with wretches in everything you do, you should question as to whether or not you have the Spirit of Christ—who compels us to live like Christ.

In all things, Soli Deo Gloria.


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