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1 Corinthians 10

No Presumption: Lord's Supper and Ethics

1 Corinthians 10:1-22

Teaching Moments

1. The wider context of chapter 10 is chapters 8-10. The subject is Christian freedom in relation to eating meats offered to idols. Paul offers several scenarios where Christians should give up their rights for the sake of others. In 10:1-22, however, he addresses the arrogant who are puffed up with knowledge. They believed they could participate in idolatrous sacrifices and feasts without impunity because they possessed knowledge (8:1). The immediate connection with 9:24-27 is that strict training involves the discipline of ethics.

2. In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul uses the covenantal character of the Lord's supper to counter the problem of arrogant idolatry among the Corinthians. The "spiritual" of Corinth thought themselves inviolate because of their participation in the spiritual reality of Christ. Paul reminds them of the history of Israel which fell even though they themselves had eaten and drunk from the same spiritual resource--Christ (1 Cor. 10:4). Fellowship with Christ in eating and drinking does not entail a guarantee of relationship regardless of lifestyle (1 Cor. 10:6-10). Lifestyle issues that will detroy our relationship with Christ include: idolatry (10:7), sexual immorality (10:8), testing the Lord (10:9) and grumbling/complaining/rebelling (10:10). Whoever arrogantly thinks he stands is in danger of falling (1 Cor. 10:12).

3. But God is also faithful (1 Cor. 10:13). God knows our trials and he will not permit any trial that is beyond the strength he provides. There is always a way of escape. We will never be hemmed in by a temptation, but God will provide the opportunity and strength to overcome any temptation. While spiritual arrogance is condemned, confidence in God's faithfulness is encouraged.

4. Communion with Christ, participation in the spiritual reality of God, involves covenantal responsibility. Whoever eats the sacrifice participates or communes in the altar (1 Cor. 10:18). To eat the sacrifice is a matter of covenantal commitment. One cannot eat from the table of the Lord (cf. Mal. 1:12) and from the table of demons (idolatry). To do both would provoke the covenant Lord to jealousy for his covenant people (1 Cor. 10:21-22). To eat from the Lord's table means to be committed to the Lord's covenant. To drink the Lord's cup is to renew our covenant with God through Christ. Just as the fellowship offering appeared again and again at key redemptive-historical moments as covenant renewal, so every Lord's day is a covenant renewal for the covenant people through the Lord's supper.

5. The communion of the altar in the new covenant meal is a communion with the body and blood of Christ as well as the communion of the many members as one body (10:16). We commune at the table with what Christ has given at the altar. The covenant meal means to share in the blessings of God's work in Christ, and the meal means that we come before him as the one covenant people of God. Our communion is a participation in the one spiritual reality which was created by the offering of the body and blood of Christ. As the body of Christ, we share that reality with each other--there is only one body. Though there are many members, there is one body of fellowship which is focused on Christ's work rather than the ministry of its diverse members (cf. 1 Cor. 1:13; 3:5,21-23). The covenant meal is a communal meal where the people of God are united to each other by their covenant with the one God. The communal meal has both vertical (relationship with God) and horizontal (relationship with each other) dimensions.

6. The connection between idolatry and jealousy is a strong Old Testament theme (Psalm 78:58; Deuteronomy 4:24; 32:21; Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Joshua 24:19). The dual commitment with which idolaters partake of the Lord's supper draws the anger of God and it points to the seriousness with which the Supper must be taken. It parallels the language of "sickness and death" in chapter 11.

Group Discussion

1. To what does "same spiritual food and drink" point in 10:1-4? Why is this important to say? What is the analogy Paul is drawing here? What is the "spiritual rock"?

2. Why do you think it is important for Paul to draw on the analogy of "baptism and the Lord's Supper"? Do you think some people feel like that because they have been baptized and participate in the Supper regularly that they are somehow in God's good graces? Why do they think this way?

3. What are the sins that disqualified Israel from God's grace even though they had shared in the "spiritual rock"?

4. What is the moral or example of this teaching? How does Paul apply this to the Corinthians in 10:11-12?

5. How does 10:13 encourage us? What practical encouragement do you draw from this text? What does it mean for you when you are struggling against sin?

6. What does it mean to "participate" in the body and blood of Christ? How is the Lord's Supper a communion? With whom do we commune? [Both with Christ and with each other.]

7. If communion is both vertical (with God) and horizontal (with each other), which does our practice of the Supper emphasize? How can we do things differently to emphasize one or the other at different times? What practical suggestions would you make?

8. Why does the Lord's Supper stand so strongly in contrast with idolatry for Paul? What is it about the Supper that means we cannot sit at two different tables? What does this say about the importance and significance of the Supper for the church?

9. What does idolatry represent in our culture? What is idolatry in our culture? What are some idols that are worshipped in our culture?

10. Can you imagine a scenario where we would violate this text even though we do not eat sacrifical meat at the local temple? [For example, can one eat at the Lord's table on Sunday and then visit the "Gentleman's Club" on Monday?] Having identified contemporary idols, what does participating in the Lord's Supper this morning imply about out attitudes toward those contemporary idols?


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