Sharing the Lord’s Supper (I Corinthians 10:15-17)

            Paul complained earlier that he could not speak to the Corinthians as spiritually mature people (I Corinthians 3:1-3), but here he appeals to them to judge as wise men what he is about to say. It is uncertain whether Paul is speaking sarcastically here or he is stating that they will be able to see the reasonableness of his argument.

            When Christians partake of the Lord’s Supper it joins the participants in a sharing of what the memorial meal represents. Partaking of the fruit of the vine is a sharing in the blood of Christ and the bread is a sharing in Christ’s body. In partaking of the Lord’s Supper, the Christian is united with the Lord. It harkens back to the covenant meals where those who entered a covenant shared a meal together to show they were at peace with each other (Genesis 31:51-54; Exodus 24:9-11).

            It is also a sharing between all Christians as we all partake. Thus the Lord’s supper is a representation of the unity of Christians in Christ (Romans 12:5). Though we are many separate individuals, yet at the same time we are joined together as one.

Sharing in other religions (I Corinthians 10:18-22)

            The concept should not be surprising. Israel practiced a joining to both God and to each other through the sacrifices made to God at the alter. The one bringing the sacrifice offered it to God, but it was also shared with the priests (Leviticus 7:11-17).

            If we understand this, then we must understand that the same thing occurs in idolatry. Paul is not contradicting his earlier point that an idol is nothing (I Corinthians 8:4). An idol remains an object of human imagination. However, the worship of idols does do something to the worshipers. It forms a bond between them and the forces of evil behind the idolatry (Deuteronomy 32:17; Leviticus 17:7; Revelation 9:20).

            Most critical is that Paul does not want Christians joining with the forces of evil. It is the same argument he made against sexual immorality (I Corinthians 6:15-17). Even though an idol and the god it represents are nothing, a Christian cannot join himself in its worship because it is contrary to his bonding with the Lord. Physically a person might do this, but spiritually it cannot work (Matthew 6:24). Thus, Paul distinguishes incidental contact with idolatry through the purchase of meat in a market and the purposeful contact with idolatry through the attendance of a sacrifice to an idol.

            Any attempt to play both sides will stir up the jealousy of God (Deuteronomy 32:21; I Kings 14:22; Psalms 78:58). Jealousy is wanting to hold on to what you believe belongs to you. In this case it would be righteous jealousy because we are God’s children. It is what God warned the children of Israel against in Exodus 20:5 and we should not think that Christians are exempt. We certainly don’t want to face God’s anger because we cannot stand before it.

Concern for those with whom you share (I Corinthians 10:23-11:1)

            Paul again returns to a point he made in I Corinthians 6: Everything that is lawful to do is not necessarily the best thing to do or a thing that leads to the ultimate good of those involved. In I Corinthians 6, Paul applied this to personal good, but here he applies it to the good of those you know. The life of a Christian revolves around his concern for other people. It is the example Christ laid down for us to follow (Philippians 2:3-8). It is worldly-minded people who are focused on themselves (Philippians 2:21).

            Applying this principle, Paul tells the Corinthians that when they are making purchases in the meat market, simply don’t ask questions about the origin of the meat being sold and there won’t be an occasion to offend your conscience or the conscience of another.

Class Discussion:

1.         Is it possible to become too scrupulous in attempting not to sin?

2.         How do we determine that some event is an occasion not to ask too many questions?

3.         What are some examples of times it is best not to ask too many questions?

            In general, Paul points out that food is food. All comes from God and is a blessing of God (Psalm 24:1; I Timothy 4:4-5). Making distinctions between foods based on its source isn’t a change in the food, but in our attitude toward the food. Making something right or wrong based on our personal attitude and not on what God said, places the individual in the driver seat of morality.

            When you are invited to eat at another person’s house, again eat what is placed before you without asking questions of its origins. However, if someone points out that the food served was a part of a idol sacrifice, then you are not to eat.

Class Discussion:

1.         Why might a person point out that the meat at a meal was sacrificed to an idol?

2.         Does the rule to not eat differ if the person is a supporter of idolatry or opposes idolatry?

            Clearly the fact that the meat was sacrificed to an idol matters to the person bringing up the topic. If he supports idolatry, then he will see that your eating as an agreement with his belief. If he opposes idolatry, then it is clear that his conscience is bothered by the eating (Romans 14:13-21). Everything in the world belongs to God and is a blessing from God. Blessings should not be spoken ill of.

            It doesn’t matter if knowing a cut of meat offends your own conscience or not, it is concern for the other person’s conscience that comes first. This sounds offensive to most people. Most people put their own desires first and possibly fit the concerns of others around those. To give up personal rights because of another person’s ill-informed concerns seems absurd. Why should something I have the right to do be judged by another person’s conscience? Why should something I enjoy be condemned by someone else? Both questions are rhetorical. The answer to both is that these judgments should not happen. Therefore, the conclusion is not to create a situation where the problem would arise. All that a Christian does, even in minor matters of eating and drinking ought to lead to the glorification of God (Colossians 3:17; I Peter 4:11) – not just his own glory to God, but actions which leads others to give God glory.

            As much as possible the Christian should not purposely give offense to any group of people: Christian or non-Christian. This is not to say that Paul compromised on the truth (Galatians 1:10). The three groups cover all three positions in regards to idolatry. The Jews oppose idolatry or any remote connection to idols no matter how obscure. Gentiles support idolatry and are offended that their gods are being condemned. Christians oppose idolatry but realize they are nothing and are not offended by indirect connections to idolatry. Still Christians came out of Judaism and idolatry and might carry past prejudice with them. Our goal is the spread of the gospel, to encourage people to reach heaven. We cannot accomplish such by focusing on our personal rights. Thus, Paul ties his point back to one he made at the end of I Corinthians 9 (I Corinthians 9:19-22; Romans 15:2). And he encourages all Christians to imitate his example, just as he in turn imitates Christís example (I Thessalonians 1:6).

Literary Style: Hypophora and Procatalepsis

            One way to involve a reader to anticipate the questions the reader might ask, objecting to a position taken, and ask them. The reader’s agreement and sympathy is then gained. When the solution is given, they will be more inclined to accept it. Handling questions in this manner allows better control over the flow of the presentation.

            By addressing the possible objections, the writer is seen as being able to handle a subject in an objective and even-handed manner. It shows that he has taken time to consider another person’s point of view and, thus, is not speaking from ignorance of a possibly better position. In the end it keeps the discussion advancing, not getting bogged down in objections which have already been considered.

            There is a danger in this type of argumentation. It is tempting to set up a straw-man position to argue against. A straw-man position is one that no one truly supports because important facts are left out and the position isn’t believable. This doesn’t bring the reader in sympathy with your position because you aren’t expressing his position.