27 February 2015

1 Corinthians 10:14-25

“‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are beneficial. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up.” (v. 23)

Psalm: Psalm 118:19-29


Paul has already established (link to Monday's Word in Time) that some knowledgeable and faithful Christians participated in controversial social gestures because they believed that they caused little real harm. They knew that idols were not real and therefore they were happy to share in banquets with idol worshippers. The strong knew that they had no intention of worshipping idols, and yet Paul still warns them against doing so. Although they may understand and intend the gesture to be empty, their actions could have a wider meaning and interpretation.

Paul is drawing attention to the fact that some social gestures may have a significance that is independent of the intentions of individuals. He appeals to reason, but his argument is essentially one of faith. By referring to the Eucharist, and particularly the sharing of the bread of Christ, he describes how diverse believers find their unity in one source (Jesus). Such sharing creates a bond between all involved. He therefore argues that the absence of belief in idols does not negate the bond created between those who are sharing together. Thus by participating in such occasions the strong were entering into union with idol-worshippers. They were binding themselves to relationships in very different communities. Where, then, did they belong?

Paul highlights how sometimes our actions and choices may have wider implications and meaning than we intend. He returns again to the principle that living faithfully it is not just about what is good for the individual, but about what is for the benefit and wellbeing of others.

To Ponder

  • Are there times when others may have understood your actions in ways very differently from what you intended? What happened?
  • In what ways do you belong to different communities, and how do these impact on your belonging to the Body of Christ?

Bible notes author

The Revd Nicola Price-Tebbutt

Nicola Price-Tebbutt is a presbyter in the Methodist Church. She has previously served in circuit in Sheffield and as a tutor at Hartley Victoria College in Manchester.