1 Corinthians 10
Learn from Israel’s mistakes
Exodus Jews got into idols1Dear family, I want to jog your memory about our ancestors. I’m talking about the ones who followed a cloud that hovered above them. They walked into water that parted so they could cross to the other side. 2Walking into the water like that, beneath the cloud, was like going under the water in a baptism. They were baptized in Moses, and followed him. 3They ate spiritual food, like we do. 4They drank a spiritual drink like we do, too. They drank from a rock that followed them. That rock was Christ.
5Yet God wasn’t happy with most of them. That’s easy to tell because their corpses littered the badlands. 6We need to take this as a warning not to do what they did by feeding desires that we know are wrong. 
7Don’t worship idols. That’s what they did. The Bible says so: “The people sat down and ate. They drank. Then they got up and acted like pagan fools.” 8We can’t get involved in sex sins like they did. They lost 23,000 people in a day, killed because of their sins. 9Don’t put the Lord to the test. That’s the mistake they made. Snakes killed them. 10Don’t go around griping all the time. That’s another mistake they made. The angel of death  shut them up.
See an idol? Run.11God made an example of these people, as a warning for the others. But these stories were written as a warning for us, in these last days. 12So be warned. Those of you who think you can stand firm, try not to end up flat on your face. 13We all have to deal with hard times that test what we’re made of. Don’t worry, you can count on God. He’s going to make sure you can handle whatever comes your way. You’re going to get through it.
14So I’m telling you, dear friends, when it comes time to worship idols, turn and run in the opposite direction. 15You’ve got enough going on inside your head to understand what I’m telling you, I hope.
16When we pray a blessing over the cup during the Lord’s Supper, aren’t we linking ourselves to the Messiah and experiencing the blood he shed for us? Aren’t we doing much the same with the bread we eat, experiencing the broken body of the Messiah? 17There are many of us around the Lord’s Table. But because there’s just one loaf of bread that we all share, we are one people.
18Think about the people of Israel for a moment. When they share a meal together around the fire of a sacrificial altar, aren’t they united?
19Okay, what am I getting at? Am I saying there’s anything to idols or to the sacrificed food people give them? 20No I am not. I’m saying that those sacrifices are to demons, not to God. I don’t want you linking yourself up with demons. 21Don’t be drinking from the Lord’s cup and then going off to drink from a demon’s cup. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t reserve a seat at the Lord’s table and reserve a seat at the table of demons. 22I mean, come on. Do we really want to provoke the Lord? Are we stronger than he is?
How to pass time with pagans23
“I’m allowed to do whatever I want.”
Not everything we want is going to help us.
“I’m allowed to do whatever I want.”
Not everything we want is going to make us a better person.
25When it comes time to buy meat at the marketplace, don’t ask where it came from. Then go ahead and eat it with a clear conscience. 26After all, the Bible says “The earth and everything in it belongs to the Lord.” 27If an unbeliever invites you to share a meal, and you decide to take him up on it, eat whatever is set in front of you. Don’t let your conscience talk you into asking questions about it. 28However, if someone just happens to volunteer the information, “Oh, by the way, this food was offered in a sacrifice to a different god than yours,” don’t take another bite. Just push away from the plate. Do it for the sake of the one who spoke up, to show some respect for the conscience.
29I’m not talking about your conscience. I’m talking about the conscience of the other person. What does their conscience have to do with me, and with my freedom to do what I think best? 30I mean if I can eat the food and be grateful for it, why should anybody blame me for that? 31So when you eat or drink—or whatever else you do—do it in a way that honors God. Don’t make him look bad.
32Don’t stir up trouble. Not among Jews. Not among non-Jews. Not among the church of God’s people. 33I do the best I can to please everyone. I put others first in the hope that many of them will be saved.
Some Bible experts say Paul coined the phrase “baptized in Moses” as a way of comparing Jewish ancestors to believers in his day who were baptized in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:13; Acts 8:16), marking them as followers of Jesus.
Bible experts say Paul seems to be comparing the flakelike manna they received (Exodus 16:31) to the bread Christians eat when they celebrate the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The food isn’t “spiritual” in the sense that’s it’s invisible or not part of the physical dimension, some explain. It’s spiritual because of where it comes from. It comes from God. It links us to God. Somehow it connects those of us in the physical world to God and his spiritual kingdom, which we have yet to fully experience.
Again, many scholars say this is probably a reference to the wine Christians drink in the Communion ritual that reminds us of the blood Jesus shed when he died on the cross.
The Jewish Bible doesn’t say anything about a water-loaded rock following the Jews throughout their Exodus from Egypt into what is now Israel and the Palestinian Territories. There were times when water seemed to miraculously burst from the rocks (Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 20:2-13). Perhaps Paul concluded that these were the same rock. Some scholars say Paul may have borrowed the “traveling rock” idea from one of several Jewish writings. One Jewish commentary talked about a well that was “rock-shaped like a beehive, and wherever they journeyed it rolled along” (Numbers Rabbbah 1.5 on 21:17). This book never made it into the Jewish Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament. Other scholars say Paul may have been referring to the fact that whenever the Jews needed water, God somehow gave it to them.
“The rock was Christ.” Some Bible experts say Paul was making the point that Jesus played a part in ancient Jewish history. Others argue that Paul was simply saying the Jews had the same kind of spiritual benefits that Christians have, which is a connection to God. In spite of that connection, they slipped into idolatry—just as the Corinthians might do if they’re not careful.
Literally, “crave evil.”
Paul seems to be referring to Exodus 32:6, when the Exodus Jews worshiped a golden calf. “The people got up early the next morning to sacrifice burnt offerings and peace offerings. After this, they celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry” (New Living Translation).
See Numbers 25:9.
Some ancient manuscripts substitute “Christ” for “Lord.”
There are plenty of examples of the Exodus Jews complaining during the trip. A few examples: Numbers 14:2, 27; 16:11, 41.
More literally “the destroyer.” See Exodus 12:23.
Bible experts say it is hard to know what kind of “hard times” Paul is talking about. Some say that given what Paul has been talking about so far, he’s referring to temptation. But the Greek word he uses, peirasmos, can mean other things as well, including: testing, trial, trouble.
The Greek word expressed here as “linking,” and “experiencing,” is koinonia. It’s a word that can mean to share, fellowship, or participate.
Paul recycles part of what he said in 6:12. Many Bible scholars say Paul probably was quoting a popular saying. It may also may have been a saying that some fake Christian teachers were using to justify their bad behavior.
Paul is paraphrasing Psalm 24:1.
What Paul says in 10:29-30 has produced at least half a dozen theories by notable Bible experts. Some scholars suggest that these verses were inserted by someone else; the words can seem that abruptly out of place. One other approach says that Paul is trying to set the readers up to embrace the idea that we can use the freedom we have in Christ by showing love and respect for the conscience of another person.
In chapter 10, Paul works hard to compare Christians in his day who follow Jesus to the Exodus Jews who followed Moses. He’s trying to make the point that the Jews messed up and got punished for it, and the same will happen to the Christians if they mess up by not doing what Paul says they should do. Which comparisons do you think work nicely, and which seem to be a stretch?
- Jews walking through the water compares to Christians getting baptized (10:2).
- Jews eating manna compares to Christians eating bread during the Communion ritual (10:2-3; 16).
- Jews drinking water that springs from a rock compares to Christians drinking wine during the communion ritual (10:4; 16).
- Jews united around the sacrificial altar when they eat the meat together compares to Christians united around the table for the Lord’s Supper (10:17-18).
“They drank from a rock that followed them. That rock was Christ” (10:4). What’s up with that? The Holy Spirit gets portrayed as a dove, and the best we can do for Jesus is to turn him into a walking rock? What do you think we should do about this verse?
Given the context of this chapter along with some of the quotes of Paul, what do you think are some of the kinds of sins Paul is worried about the Corinthians committing?
Paul encourages the readers to count on God during “hard times,” a phrase some Bibles translate as “temptations.” Paul says God is “going to make sure you can handle whatever comes your way. You’re going to get through it” (10:13). Whether it is a hard time or a temptation, it is sometimes more than people can stand. So how should we take what Paul said, since it doesn’t seem to work in a literal sense?
Paul says that if the Corinthians offer sacrifices to idols they are actually sacrificing “to demons, not to God” (10:20). Where does that come from? Why do you think he would say they are sacrificing to demons when the people are actually sacrificing to idols?
Paul says “don’t ask, don’t tell” when it comes to what was the controversial topic of eating meat bought in the marketplace, but previously offered in pagan temples as sacrifices to other gods. “When it comes time to buy meat at the marketplace, don’t ask where it came from. Then go ahead and eat it with a clear conscience” (10:25). How is that not teaching the flaky idea that ignorance is bliss?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul explains why there are times we should allow the conscience of another person to influence the way we act. If a certain behavior bothers them, we should not engage in that behavior when we are around them. He was talking about eating meat offered to idols in the presence of people who would be offended by that. Paul’s advice: “When you eat or drink—or whatever else you do—do it in a way that honors God. Don’t make him look bad” (10:31). In what kind of situations do we take Paul’s advice?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul tells the Corinthians “Don’t stir up trouble” (10:32). He says he tries to please everyone “in the hope that many of them will be saved” (10:33). How do we Christians sometimes stir up trouble in a way that makes Christianity look repulsive to people outside the faith?