1 Corinthians 10

1 Corinthians 10:8

Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.

Paul is not laying law on the Corinthians. He’s reminding them of what happened to the unbelieving children of Israel in the wilderness. His purpose is explained in verse 6: “These things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.” Paul is not saying, “Sin and you’re out of the kingdom.” He’s saying, “Have nothing to do with sin.” In context, he’s warning them to beware the temptations associated with pagan temples (see 1 Cor. 10:14).

1 Corinthians 10:11

Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

(a) These things happened to them as an example. The children of Israel allowed themselves to be seduced by idolatry and the consequences were awful. Corinth was an idol-worshipping city. Similar temptations were everywhere. “Learn from the mistakes of the Israelites and flee from idolatry” (see 1 Cor. 10:14).

(b) The ends of the ages. The age of temple-based worship was coming to an end.

There are different kinds of ending in scripture and different words to describe them. An ordinary sort of ending is a telos-ending, while the culmination of a grand plan is a sunteleia-ending (e.g., Heb. 9:26). Paul uses the former word here. The age of the temple-based worship was coming to a conclusion. Paul is not discussing the old covenant, which was rendered obsolete and concluded at the cross. He is referring to the end of an era.

For fourteen-centuries the Jews had worshipped at the temple. The temple had been the very heart of their religion. But not for much longer.

1 Corinthians 10:12

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.

The attractions of sin are sometimes hard to resist. If we’re relying on our own strength and resolve to keep us pure, there’s a chance we will stumble. As the old proverb says, pride goes before a fall (see Pro. 16:18). Only the grace of God can empower us to say no to ungodliness and live righteously (Tit. 2:12).

1 Corinthians 10:14

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

(a) My beloved. Like the other epistle writers, Paul often referred to his Christian readers as beloved. The original word (agapētos) means dearly loved, esteemed, favorite and is closely related to a verb (agapaō) that means to be well pleased or fond of or contented. This word captures God’s heart for you. Your heavenly Father is fond of you. You are his esteemed favorite and he is well pleased with you. He looks at you with a feeling of deep contentment knowing that you are his dearly loved child.

(b) Flee from idolatry. When it came to idolatry, a Corinthian Christian would have two questions. First, is it okay to purchase meat from the market given that meat had probably been offered to idols? Paul’s answer was, “it depends” (see entry for 1 Cor. 8:9). Second, is it okay to attend idol festivals? Here Paul drew a firm line: flee from idolatry.

We don’t flee from idolatry because Paul said so or because it upsets God. We flee because idolatry is an inferior and destructive way to live. In many societies even today, idol feasts are a cultural tradition. In reality, they are a form of devil worship (1 Cor. 10:20). The children of the light have no business engaging in deeds of darkness (1 Cor. 1:21). We’re supposed to demolish demonic strongholds, not endorse them.

1 Corinthians 10:17

Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.

The body; see entry for 1 Cor. 12:27.

1 Corinthians 10:19

What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?

An idol is a thing of stone and wood that can’t see, hear or breathe (see entry for 1 Cor. 8:4). But behind these idols and temples are demonic powers (see next verse).

1 Corinthians 10:20

No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons.

Idol festivals are a form of devil worship. What does a child of the Most High have in common with low-life demons? (2 Cor. 6:15–18)?

God’s plan is for the church to be a beacon in a dark world, but how can we shine if we’re hiding in the dark? Since we are children of the light, we should not act as though we belong to the darkness (1 Th. 5:5).

1 Corinthians 10:21

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

What fellowship does light have with darkness? What agreement has the temple of God with idols (2 Cor. 6:16)? Grace is not a license to sin and sup with demons. Grace is the power of God to say no to superstition and bondage.

1 Corinthians 10:25

Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience’ sake;

(a) The meat market. The idol temples of first-century Greece routinely sold the animals that had been offered as sacrifices. Was it okay for a Christian to eat such meat? Paul addressed this question in 1 Cor. 8, but he returns to it briefly here.

(b) Without asking questions for conscience’ sake. Since you wouldn’t buy meat if it troubled your conscience, he is talking about the conscience of others. Say you throw a dinner party and one of your guests asks about the origin of the meat. “Was this meat offered to idols?” For you, this is a non-issue, but for them it’s a biggie. In this instance, ignorance is the best policy. Conversely, when you go out to eat, perhaps at the house of an unbeliever, you would be wise to avoid asking questions too (1 Cor. 10:27).

1 Corinthians 10:26


The meat from the market may have been offered to idols, but everything belongs to the Lord. Whatever you eat, give thanks to the Lord who owns the earth and all the meat on it (1 Cor. 10:30).

1 Corinthians 10:33

just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.

They may be saved. The apostles preached for a verdict. Like Jesus who encouraged people to repent and believe the good news (Mark 1:15), the apostles encouraged their listeners to repent, believe the good news, and be saved (Acts 4:12, 11:14, 17:30, 1 Th. 2:16, 1 Tim. 2:4, 1 John 3:23).

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