Warnings Against Idolatry (Day 14)

Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-33
   The cloud and the sea mentioned here refer to Israel’s escape from slavery in Egypt when God led them by a cloud and brought them safely through the Red Sea (Exodus 14). The miraculous food and water are the provisions God gave as they traveled through the wilderness (Exodus 15 and 16). They were all baptized in the cloud and the sea means that just as we are united in Christ by baptism, so the Israelites were united under Moses’ leadership and through the events of the Exodus. 
    The three incidents referred to in verses 7 – 10 is 1) when the Israelites made a gold calf and worshiped it in the wilderness (Exodus 32). 2) When the Israelites worshiped Baal of Peor and engaged in sexual immorality with Moabite women (Numbers25. 3) When the Israelites complained about their food (Numbers 21). They put the Lord to the test by seeing how far they could go. Paul refers to when the people complained against Moses and Aaron, and the plague that resulted (Numbers 14 – 16). The angel of death is also referred to in Exodus 12. 
   Today’s pressures make it easy to ignore or forget the lessons of the past. But Paul cautions us to remember the lessons the Israelites learned about God so we can avoid repeating their errors. The key to remembering is to study the Bible regularly so that these lessons remind us of how God wants us to live. We need not repeat their mistakes. 
   In a culture filled with moral depravity and sin-inducing pressures, Paul encouraged the Corinthians about temptation. He said that 1) temptations happen to everyone, so don’t feel you’ve been singled out; 2) others have resisted temptation, and so can you; 3) any temptation can be resisted because God will show you a way out. God will help you in resisting temptation by helping you 1) recognize those people and situations that give you trouble, 2) run from anything you know is wrong, 3) choose to do only what is right, 4) pray for God’s help, and 5) seek friends who love God and can offer help when you are tempted. Running from a tempting situation is your first step on the way to victory (2 Timothy 2). 
   Idol worship was the major expression of religion in Corinth. There were several pagan temples in the city, and they were very popular. The statues of wood or stone were not evil in themselves, but people gave them credit for what only God could do, such as provide good weather, crops, and children. Idolatry is still a serious problem today, but it takes a different form. We don’t put our trust in statues of wood and stone but in paper money and plastic cards. Putting our trust in anything but God is idolatry. Our modern idols are those symbols of power, pleasure, or prestige that we so highly regard. When we understand contemporary parallels to idolatry, Paul’s words to flee from the worship of idols become more meaningful. 
    As followers of Christ we must give Him our total allegiance. We cannot, as Paul explains, have a part in the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. Eating at the Lord’s table means communing with Christ and identifying with His death. Drinking from the cup of demons means identifying with Satan by worshiping or promoting pagan, or evil, activities. Are you leading two lives, trying to follow both Christ and the crowd? The Bible says that you can’t do both at the same time.
The idea of unity and fellowship with God through eating a sacrifice was strong in Judaism and Christianity as well as in paganism. In Old Testament days, when a Israelite offered a sacrifice, he ate a part of that sacrifice as a way of restoring his unity with God, against whom he had sinned (Deuteronomy 12). Similarly, Christians participate in Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice at the Lord’s Table when they eat the bread and drink from the cup, symbolizing His body and blood. Recent converts from paganism could not help being affected if they knowingly ate with pagans in their feasts the meat offered to idols. 
   Sometimes it’s hard to know when to defer to the weak believer. Paul gives a simple rule of thumb to help in making the decision: We should be sensitive and gracious. While some actions may not be wrong, they may not be in the best interest of others. While we have freedom in Christ, we shouldn’t exercise our freedom at the cost of hurting a Christian brother or sister. We are not to consider only ourselves; we must be sensitive to others. 
   Paul gave one answer to the dilemma: Buy whatever meat is sold at the market without asking whether or not is was offered to idols. It doesn’t matter anyway, and no one’s conscience would be bothered. When we become too worried about our every action, we become legalistic and cannot enjoy life. Everything belongs to God, and He has given us all things to enjoy. If we know something is a problem, then we can deal with it, but we don’t need to go looking for problems. 
   Our actions must be motivated by God’s love so that all we do will be for His glory. Keep this as a guiding principle by asking, Is this action glorifying God? or How can I honor God through this action? 
   Paul’s criterion for all his actions was not what he liked best but what was best for those around him. The opposite approach would be 1) being insensitive and doing what we want, no matter who is hurt by it; 2) being oversensitive and doing nothing, for fear that someone may be displeased; 3) being a “yes person” by going along with everything, trying to gain the approval from people rather than from God. In this age of me first and looking out for number one, Paul’s startling statement is a good standard. If we make the good of others one of our primary goals, we will develop a serving attitude that pleases God. 
   Why should we be limited by another person’s conscience? Simply because we are to do all things for God’s glory, even our eating and drinking. Nothing we do should cause another believer to stumble. We do what is best for others, so that they might be saved. On the other hand, Christians should be careful not to have oversensitive consciences. Christian leaders and teachers should teach about the freedom we have in matters not expressly forbidden by Scripture.