1 Corinthians 10:18 "Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? 19What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? 20Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. 21You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. 22Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?"
The first warning had to do with the inconsistency of idol worship and worship of God. Verses 19 to 22 make up the second warning of this chapter – a warning about participating in temple feasts of pagans. Demons are behind all pagan religious feasts.
18Observe Israel after the flesh:
Paul wanted the Corinthians to look at “Israel after the flesh,” that is, the physical nation Israel.
Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?
Those Israelites who ate sacrifices of the altar were in solidarity or in identity with the altar by eating the sacrifices. Jews who ate sacrifices off the altar were one with the altar. Christians who eat of the altar express unity with Christ and each other. Christians who eat sacrifices offered to pagan gods are one with those gods. There is an intimate relationship between us and the food we eat because the food becomes part of us. The altar in the Old Testament speaks of the cross in the New Testament.
Anyone who partakes of the altar shares in the results of the cross – eternal salvation. There is only one altar or one way of salvation. Those who participate in other religions violate the object of their faith – the slain Lord Jesus Christ. The glory always goes to Jesus Christ in Christianity. Eating is a non-meritorious system of appropriation because there is no merit in faith itself. There is no value of faith in itself; the value lives in the object of our faith. The Lord’s supper/table is a memorial to our salvation. In the Old Testament there was a lamb slain, and in the New Testament the Lamb of God was slain.
19What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything?
The Corinthians argued for going to pagan feasts, so Paul now gives his arguments against implied worship of idols this involves. Sacrifice to idols was not worship of genuine gods, because they were just material objects of wood or stone. Pagan gods have no supernatural power, but they represent supernatural powers. Whatever is offered to idols represents something symbolically.
The word “rather” is strong adversative. It is a denial of the thesis of verse 19. It is true that idols do not exist, but what they represent does exist.
that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God,
Idols represent the demonic. There is only one Devil but many demons. Demons operate under the authority of the Devil. When Gentile pagans sacrifice to demonic idols, they show their solidarity with those idols. Satan is always behind false religion. Although idols are not real, they do represent satanic evil.
and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.
If a Christian worships in a pagan setting by eating meat offered to idols, he shows solidarity with the demonic realm. The word “fellowship” means congeniality of mind, community of interest, things in common. Fellowship with demons means to have things in common and community. Worship in non-Christian religions is no neutral activity but sacrifice to demons.
21You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons;
Belief in the Lord and belief in other religions are mutually exclusive. The word “cannot” indicates the stark difference. The cup of libation poured out to the gods was a consecration to those gods.
Christians can be influenced by demons but not possessed by demons. However, we are not impervious from demonic power. By participation in religion without the Word of God, we undergo influence of demons.
you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons.
From God’s viewpoint, it is irreconcilable to participate in the Lord’s table and the table of demons (pagan festivals) because Christians would show solidarity with demons by doing so. The “Lord’s table” is the communion service. It denotes all that God provided for believers in Christ on the ground of His death. At the Lord’s table we remember the Lord’s death. People who belong to the Lord commemorate His death. We identify ourselves with the Lord and His people when we participate in communion. God’s people are our crowd in contradistinction to people who do not know Him. There is a unity by virtue of the blood of the Lamb. Partaking of the table of demons is partaking of their sacrifices as a result of influence by demons.
22Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?
The third warning is against provoking the Lord to jealousy by dividing our loyalty between Him and something else. God does not tolerate competition, because He is absolute. Playing around with paganism or demonism or false religion will incur God’s discipline. Idolatry is a rejection of the mutually exclusive truth of Christianity. We cannot two-time God. Legitimate jealousy is a good thing. God is always jealous of people who commit spiritual adultery with false religion.
Are we stronger than He?
Does the Christian think that he can play with the idolatry of religion and not incur the wrath of God? We cannot contest Him. God will not put up with rivals to His glory.
PRINCIPLE: What we believe is what we are.
APPLICATION: People say, “What you eat is what you are.” The Christian counterpart to that is, “What you believe is what you are.” False religion is the Devil’s system for misleading Christians from the truth. There is only one truth, not multiple truths in a pluralistic society that mutually contradict each other. Therefore, we cannot have it both ways. The Devil is a liar and the father of lies (John8:44), and his chief weapon is deception through religion. Behind all false religion is the enemy who will destroy us by religion.
Idolatry conflicts with our identity in Christ and so incurs the wrath of God. We live out our identity in Christ, so if we identify with something other than Him, then we will live that kind of life. The Christian life and the life of demons are mutually exclusive. No Christian can participate in demon activity with impunity. Christianity cannot be a mere religious hobby to us. No Christian can dip his flag or lower his colors by accommodating what he believes to another religion. Christians are all one big loaf of bread in unity with the Lord Jesus. We cannot inject other religious beliefs into that relationship. Compromise of truth and credence to other religions always weakens our faith. If we compromise truth, we had better check our insurance policy to see if it is up to date.