11 September 2010

1 Corinthians 10:14-22

"The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is in not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread." (v.16-17)


In this passage Paul finally reaches a conclusion to a question the Corinthian church has written to him about, which he began to address in chapter 8 verse 1, namely whether Christians are free to participate in community meals in pagan idol temples, since idols are not real gods. The categorical response, "flee from the worship of idols" in verse 14 is specifically spelt out in the context of this issue in the rest of the passage.

Paul suggests there are two reasons, the validity of which his readers can judge for themselves, for not sharing in meals in the temples:

  • eating together expresses and creates fellowship
  • although idols are not gods, nevertheless demons use them to influence those who worship them.

On the matter of fellowship Paul refers to the Lord's Supper, describing both the cup for which God is blessed or thanked, and the bread which is broken, as a "sharing" (the word may also be translated as "fellowship" or "participation") in Christ's body and blood. The emphasis is on the bonding of the participants with each other in this meal based around Christ's death and resurrection. Both the offering of blessings and the breaking of bread were part of normal Jewish meals, so this passage does not establish any sacramental understanding of the Lord's Supper in terms of how we feed on Christ; instead, as verse 17 makes clear, the focus is on community with each other. The historical reference in verse 18 refers to  Deuteronomy 14:22-27 - food is offered in sacrifice on the altar and then shared in a meal by worshippers. Christians do not want to be expressing similar fellowship with idol-worshippers.

The idea that demons - spiritual beings that do not honour God - appropriate for themselves the worship offered to idols, and that this makes God jealous, is found in  Deuteronomy 32:17-21. So both because of the value of Holy Communion, and because of the danger of being caught unawares in demonic worship, the feasts in the idol temples are not events Christians should attend.


To Ponder

What are today's 'idol temples' - places or events where Christians ought not go because of the compromises or dangers involved?

What examples can you think of, other than the Lord's Supper, where meals are used to create bonding or fellowship between those who eat together? How do they achieve this?

To what extent do you believe that demonic powers are involved in encouraging the worship of modern idols in place of God?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Stephen Mosedale

Stephen Mosedale is a recently retired Methodist minister now living in Devon. He is enjoying the freedom that gives, whenever mood and weather dictsate, to walk on Dartmoor, photograph varied and ever-changing seascapes, or grow vegetables in the garden.