Exposition of 1 Corinthians 10:27-30 Will the strong risk shame?

1 Corinthians 10:27-30

27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

In keeping with Paul’s long-running theme in chapters 8-10, the controlling verse for what follows is verse 24: No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

Though the section from verse 25 through verse 31 is complex due to if statements and rhetorical questions, Kenneth Bailey shows that it has a simple underlying structure:

Eat (verses 25-26) — shopping in the meat market; all belongs to God

Eat (verse 27) — dining with unbelievers and believers

Do Not Eat (verses 28-29a) — food is declared dedicated to an idol

Eat (verse 29b-30) — eating freely, without regard for others, defames you

Eat (verse 31) — eating in a way that honors God[1]

We have already addressed 1 Cor. 10:25-26 in the previous lesson. Paul switches to another common situation, being invited to a meal with an unbeliever (1 Cor. 10:27). There again the Corinthian believers may eat whatever is offered without raising questions; issues of conscience are not involved. Garland explains, In this instance, Paul makes a concession to the reality that social connections were absolutely necessary to survive in the ancient world. In his day, intrepid mavericks could not strike off on their own and expect to manage. One needed relationships with others for services and protection.[2]

In 1 Cor. 10:28, there are various possible scenarios about the possible identity of someone who says, This has been offered in sacrifice [to an idol], but choosing among them does not really matter. As soon as the statement is made, the invited Christian cannot eat, both as a matter of covenant loyalty to Christ and as a consistent witness to others. His choice is determined for the good of the others, or, you might say, for the good of the gospel. The focus on others is made explicit in verse 29a: I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours.

The interpretation of 1 Cor. 10:29b-30 is disputed. Keep in mind that the Greco-Roman world was far more focused on public honor and shame than we are today. We next present Thiseltons views[3] in simplified form. Paul has dealt with some common situations in the previous verses. but now he imagines the strong to be dissatisfied with having their freedom limited by the opinions of others. After all, the strong know that idols are nothing and feel they should be able to eat meat in a neutral setting, such as a home, even though someone says, This has been offered in sacrifice. With this background in mind, the strong are saying inwardly, Why is my freedom being judged by anothers conscience? (1 Cor. 10:29b). Paul intends this rhetorical question to force the strong to rethink their position in light of what comes next.

Thiseltons translation of 1 Cor. 10:30 reveals the thorns hidden in the green grass of the strongs freedom-from-concern-for-others: Well, if I take part in a meal with thanksgiving, why should I suffer defamation of character over that for which I, at least, give thanks?[4] When the strong plunge ahead and eat the meat sacrificed in the idol temple, both unbelievers and other Christians will shame them with their inconsistent behavior; they claim faith in Christ but then behave with disloyalty in eating food sacrificed to an idol. As a result, the strong will experience defamation of character when others revile them.

For these reasons, Thiselton sums up in the following way:

Pauls meaning on this basis would be: what would be the advantage of my exercising my freedom if I thereby suffer defamation of character? If it genuinely does not matter whether I eat or not, why choose the path that raises unnecessary difficulties? What is the point of freedom if I cannot choose not to cause problems?[5]

In my next post, Paul will provide a fitting conclusion to the argument he has developed in chapters 8-10. You can be certain it will involve the Man for Others, Jesus Christ.

Copyright 2013 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Adapted from Kenneth E. Bailey, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 2011) 283284.

[2] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 493.

[3] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 790-92.

[4] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 779.

[5] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 790.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 10:23-26, Getting things in perspective

1 Corinthians 10:23-26

23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say — but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” — but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

Because covenant loyalty to Christ is so critical to the believers in Roman Corinth, Paul wraps up his long argument (chapters 8-10) about Corinthian participation in contexts involving idols — and often sexuality as well — by talking about guiding principles. Garland ably summarizes: He gives the go-ahead on everything that is beyond an idols orbit. It is not permanently poisoned. . . . He clarifies that food is food, and it is permissible to eat unless it is specifically identified as idol food, which puts it in a special category that is always forbidden to Christians.[1] Undergirding these practical principles is the self-sacrificing love exhibited by Christ and expected of all his own.

Paul returns to the theme of personal freedom ( as in 1 Cor. 6:12) by quoting the Corinthian slogan I have the right to do anything (1 Cor. 10:23). While many Americans like the sound of that slogan, Paul considers it fatally deficient because it shows no consideration of what is beneficial and constructive (1 Cor. 10:23). Verse 24 puts this deficiency beyond question. Paul says our freedom should be used in the service of others. Paul gave his own example of surrendering his rights in chapter 9, and he is imitating Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). Put in other words, Christian freedom should lead to love for others. When you think about it, Jesus voluntary self-sacrifice was an act of love he freely chose.

The word good in the NIV translation of verse 24 — and in most other English versions — does not represent a Greek word; it is an inference. The New Revised Standard Version tries a different idea: Do not seek your own advantage, but that of the other (emphasis added). Why would Paul leave the word out? Because he wanted to direct attention to the other person, not to the nuances of their condition. Garland adds, Seeking the advantage of others rather than ones own runs counter to the me first sentiment that ruled the Corinthian culture.[2]

Though it should not be necessary to remind Christians of the fact, when Paul gives commands about seeking the good (or advantage or well-being) of others, he is speaking on behalf of Christ! That is what it means to be an apostle of Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:1). As we learned in 1 Cor. 1:2, Paul is speaking to Corinthian Christians and all who trust in Jesus.

The meat market in Roman Corinth was something like a specialty butcher shop, and most of the meat there had likely come from one of the idol temples. Paul tells the Corinthians not to make an investigation at the meant market; just buy the meat and eat it (1 Cor. 10:25). This is not a question of loyalty to Christ, as it would be for meat eaten within an idol temple.

Paul implies but does not say that the demons behind Corinths idols do not have universal jurisdiction. What Paul does say is: The earth is the Lords, and everything in it (1 Cor. 10:26, quoting Psalm 24:1). Garland explains, Idol food loses its character as idol food as soon as it leaves the idols arena and the idolaters purpose.[3] That being so, the Corinthian Christians needed to focus on the rule of God and the grace of his provision rather than being obsessed with idols. We would do well to focus on the same things.

Copyright 2013 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 486.

[2] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 489.

[3] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 492.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 Two kinds of partnership

1 Corinthians 10:14-22

14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.

18 Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? 19 Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. 22 Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

In the previous lesson we spoke of covenant loyalty between Christ and his people. Garland points out how utterly unique that was in Roman Corinth: Pauls insistence on exclusive loyalty to a religion was something uncommon in paganism. People were accustomed to joining in the sacrificial meals of several deities, none of which required an exclusive relationship.[1]

The technical term for mixing parts of a number of religions is syncretism, and it also characterizes many postmodern faith choices. Many contemporary people — even some atheists — blithely chose elements from a smorgasbord of faiths.

To all these pluralistic tendencies, whether ancient or modern, Paul says, Flee from idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14). He has been working toward this conclusion throughout chapters 8-10. In verse 15, Paul appeals, probably without irony, to these sensible people to judge his words carefully.

Paul will demonstrate that the Corinthians have failed to understand the nature of the spiritual community that exists in the sacred meal established by Jesus (i.e. communion) and the religious meals celebrated in idol temples. Obviously, the two questions in verse 16 expect the answer yes. Twice in verse 16 the NIV uses the English word participation to translate the Greek noun koinonia. Thiselton expands that slightly to say communal participation and explains that here it denotes having an active common share in the life, death, resurrection, and presence of Jesus Christ as the Lord who determines the identity and lifestyle of that in which Christians share.[2] That rich meaning is quite different from the mere idea of social fellowship that many evangelical Christians associate with koinonia.

Verse 17 is very difficult because it carries a lot of symbolism. The one loaf is Jesus Christ; recall that Jesus held the bread at the Last Supper and said, “Take and eat; this is my body” (Matt. 26:26). By sharing in the one loaf, we, who are many, are one body (1 Cor. 10:17b). This fact also shows how ridiculous it is for divisions to exist in the Corinthian church.

Even though the final paragraph (verses 18-22) begins with Israel, that is merely a jumping off point to talk about feasts dedicated to idols. Paul begins by establishing that those in Israel who ate the sacrifices were participants (Greek koinonia again) in the altar (1 Cor. 10:18). Some believe verse 18 refers to the God-ordained sacrifices (e.g. Lev. 10:12-15), while others believe this is a description of certain Israelites participating in sacrifices to idols, a practice totally forbidden by God. Either way, the answer to Pauls question is yes; those who eat the sacrifices are participants in the altar.

Verse 19 tells us that idolaters are not actually worshipping a god that exists, so the sacrifices honor no actual god. But at this point, in verse 20, Paul drops the bomb on Corinthian practices! By participating in banquets dedicated to idols, the Corinthians are actually joining themselves to demons; the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons (1 Cor. 10:20). Idols are nothing, but demons are real indeed!

Paul tells the Corinthians they cannot have it both ways. They cannot be partners with demons and united to Christ at the same time! (1 Cor. 10:21). If they continue down that path, the jealousy of the Lord will utterly sweep them away (1 Cor. 10:22).

Copyright 2013 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 472.

[2] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 761.