Striving for Unity – 1 Corinthians Chapter 10: Take Heed How You Live

By Jenny Fulton

Isn’t it great that because of God’s grace, it doesn’t matter what I do or how I live? After all, His grace means that as long as I believe in Him, He has to bless me and let me into Heaven, no matter what, right?

I mean, we’re all sinners. We can’t help it. And since we can’t help but to sin, we might as well go all out in the sin department, because as long as we profess His name and go to church, He has to bless us and let us into Heaven, right?

Because, really, this life is all about me. I need to focus on what’s good and what’s right for me. This faith thing is a personal deal, anyway, so why should I be concerned about anyone else’s faith?

What do you think? Yay or nay on these questions and conclusion?

I’m pretty sure Paul would have something to say about them. In fact, he did say a lot about it – in 1 Corinthians 10.

To Review

In chapter 9, Paul defended his position as an apostle, described his commitment to preaching the Gospel without hindering it, and encouraged the church to live the Christian life with the same amount of intentionality and discipline as they would exercise if they were competing in their version of the Olympic games.

Moving Forward

In chapter 10, Paul compares the Christians of that time with the Israelites who were coming out of Egypt; explains the significance of the Lord’s supper and discourages members of the church from participating in the Pagan feasts; and ends with again encouraging the Christians to look out for the good of one another.

Verses 1-13: The Israelites and the Christians

Have you ever wondered how the Israelites who saw all of God’s plagues and miracles in Egypt and who walked through the Red Sea when it parted could have complained against God and turned away from Him? Well, apparently, we have more in common with these people than we realize. In the first 13 verses of 1 Corinthians 10, Paul compares the Israelites who were led out of Egypt by Moses to the Christians in Corinth.

Them: God led the Israelites out of bondage from a place of darkness to a place of light where they could follow and worship Him in freedom.

Us: Through Christ’s death and resurrection, God has led Christians out of the bondage of sin and death to newness of life in Him.

Them: The Israelites were under the cloud – a symbol of God’s presence. It went before them and covered them.

Us: We are also in God’s presence today. He covers us, goes before us, is always with us.

Them: The Israelites passed through the sea – the event that saved and protected them wreaked destruction on God’s enemies.

Us: Jesus’ death and resurrection serves that role for us. It saves and protects us from the destruction of sin and death. At the same time, Christ’s victory and salvation for us has obliterated the power of God’s enemy, the devil.

Them: They were baptized – immersed – into the teachings of Moses who had been chosen/anointed by God to lead, teach, and speak to the people on His behalf.

Us: Christians are called to be immersed into the teachings and life example of Jesus Christ.

Them: The Israelites were given spiritual, life-giving teaching and nourishment from God through Christ.

Us: Christians are offered this same spiritual nourishment from the same source.

Sadly, even though the Israelites had been saved from evil and slavery, had access to God, and possessed everything they needed to follow and obey Him, they craved evil things, engaged in idol worship, focused solely on the physical acts of eating and drinking (rather than their spiritual nourishment), and engaged in the evil practices associated with idol worship. They practiced sexual immorality, accused God of doing evil rather than good, and grumbled against Him. For these reasons, God wasn’t pleased with the first generation who came out of Egypt. Because of their behavior and lack of faith, even though they’d been saved by God, that generation never saw the fulfillment of God’s promises to them. 

“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.[1]

What is the example? What are we to learn from it?

To the best of my understanding, this seems to be a warning to the Corinthians, and to Christians today. The warning: beware of thinking that because you have been saved you are guaranteed access to God’s promises no matter what. Being saved, being a Christian, and going to church doesn’t mean you can live like the devil and still be assured of entrance into God’s promised land. This idea seems to be supported in the following verse.

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.[2]

Being a Christian doesn’t mean we won’t struggle with the temptation to sin and it doesn’t mean we won’t fall into the temptation. It does mean we can choose how to live. It means there is hope when we face these temptations.

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.[3]

God is faithful. He is always there to offer a way out of the temptation and a way to escape the sin after we’ve fallen into it. There is always a way to resist, repent, and return to His freedom, if we truly want to. The choice is always ours.

Take-Away: How we live – what we say and do – is always important.

How we live – what we say and do – is always important. #Christianliving

Take-Away: God offers us spiritual, life-giving nourishment that is able to strengthen and sustain us in good times and bad.

Take-Away: Although we struggle, God is always there. When we sin and then repent of our sin, He is there to pick us up and renew our strength.

Verses 14-22: The Significance of the Feast

After describing these parallels and their significance, Paul turns his attention to a specific struggle being faced by the Corinthians: should you or should you not eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols. Although he discussed this issue before, in chapter 8, Paul brings it up again in chapter 10 and compares the practices of pagan sacrifices and feasts to the Lord’s Supper and the Israelite’s sacrifices to God.

The Lord’s Supper is a way in which Christians can gather, remember, and join together in worship of God, His teachings, and the spiritual life and salvation He offers through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

In a similar fashion, Israelite sacrifices at the alter included an element of fellowship, as those who participated in the sacrifice would afterward sit down to eat together of the portion that hadn’t been burned up. Pagan sacrifices followed this pattern as well.

“What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 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.[4]

In other words, to partake of the feast that immediately followed the sacrifice was an act of participation in the sacrifice and a means of spiritual connection and unity with the one to whom the sacrifice was offered. This connection with demonic forces was definitely not helpful to the Christian striving to live in freedom and obedience to God. In addition, it provoked the Lord to jealousy (verse 22).

Take-Away: Physically partaking of the Lord’s Supper is a spiritual act that joins us closer to God and should also bring us into greater unity with the others who are partaking of it.

Physically partaking of the Lord’s Supper is a spiritual act that joins us closer to God and should also bring us into greater unity with the others who are partaking of it. #Christian #unity

Verses 23-33: “Not All Things Edify”

Paul begins this final section of chapter 10 by echoing his words in chapter 6.

“All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.[5]

Just because we’re allowed to do something doesn’t mean it’s good for us or that we should do it. Paul takes this a step further. Not only should we evaluate our actions based on whether or not they are beneficial for us as individuals and our walk with God, but we should also consider what would be beneficial for someone else and their walk with God (verse 24).

Having established these two overarching guidelines, Paul offered more specific advice concerning the question at hand (whether or not it was OK to eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols). This advice centered around consideration of one’s own conscience and that of others.

And then Paul made some comments that had me completely confused.

“But if anyone says to you, ‘This is meat sacrificed to idols,’ do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience’ sake; I mean not your own conscience, but the other man’s; for why is my freedom judged by another’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks? Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.[6]

Here was my confusion. Why, after spending time describing the need to give up freedoms for the sake of the one with the weaker conscience, does Paul say, “for why is my freedom judged by another’s conscience?… why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks?”  In those words, it seems Paul is defending the right of the one with the stronger conscience to live in the freedom of his security. 

Let me know what you think, but after praying and meditating on this for a while, this is what I believe Paul means. One of the reasons for giving up our freedom in the presence of someone with a weaker conscience is so they won’t stumble by improperly judging us for our freedoms. To prevent that tension and inaccurate judgment from occurring, Paul urges the believer with the stronger conscience to withhold, in that moment, from exercising their freedoms. Whether right or not, it seems to be true that when you believe a behavior is sinful, it is incredibly hard to not condemn those who engage in such behavior.

One of the reasons for giving up our freedom in the presence of someone with a weaker conscience is so they won’t stumble by improperly judging us for our freedoms. #Christianliving #freedoms #conscience

Paul ends this section by urging the believers to live in such a way that they don’t cause other believers from different backgrounds to stumble but instead to interact with one another in a way that profits one another and leads to salvation.

This sounds impossible, doesn’t it? On one hand, it isn’t possible to please everyone all the time, and in today’s world, it seems especially difficult to go through life without accidentally doing or saying something that offends someone somewhere. Is Paul expecting the believers to never say or do something that causes someone to stumble, or is he emphasizing a different mindset that should guide their words and decisions? Personally, I believe it’s the latter. I think Paul is seeking to change their focus from being purely on what they want and what they think is best and most beneficial for themselves to thinking about how they can best serve those around them. In order to know what does and doesn’t cause offense in individuals and in different cultures, you need to take the time to get to know and try to understand both the person and their background. This desire to connect and understand goes a long way to establishing and furthering a spirit of unity among believers with different personalities who come from different cultures and backgrounds.

A desire to connect and understand goes a long way to establishing and furthering a spirit of unity among believers with different personalities who come from different cultures and backgrounds. #Christianliving #unity

 Take-Away: As much as depends on us, we should seek to be aware of the people and cultures we are around so that we can better know how to encourage one another and not unintentionally bring offense and stumbling.

Take-Away: We should be aware of the areas in which our own conscience is strong and weak and if we can, try not to judge others in those areas where our conscience is weaker. A weaker conscience does not equate to a weaker Christian. It is simply a statement of which behaviors we feel benefit or harm our walk with Christ.

A weaker conscience does not equate to a weaker Christian. It is simply a statement of which behaviors we feel benefit or harm our walk with Christ. #Christianliving #conscience #walkwithGod

United or Divided?

In light of the overall theme of 1 Corinthians and Paul’s call to unity, 

Things That Divide Us:

  • Craving evil things
  • Falling into idolatry
  • Engaging in immorality
  • Focusing solely on the physical elements of life
  • Grumbling against God
  • Accusing God of doing evil and not good
  • Doing something that causes another believer to stumble
  • Judging and slandering another believer for their freedoms in Christ

Things that Unite Us:

  • Following and obeying God
  • Participating in the Lord’s Supper with a pure heart
  • Considering the good of many
  • Considering actions based on whether or not they are beneficial for us and others
  • Withholding our freedoms for the sake of others
  • Extending grace to those whose Christian freedoms are different than our own
  • Withholding judgment against those with a stronger conscience

What Do You Think?

  • What stands out to you from this passage?
  • What modern day application do you see from the principles Paul establishes?
  • What do you think Paul meant in verses 28-31?
  • Do you agree there are consequences for not walking in God’s ways, even if you’ve been saved?
  • How does this chapter encourage believers to walk in unity?

In this Series

Introduction

The Church in Acts 18

Overview: A Prominent City

Chapter 1: Where Unity Begins

Chapter 2: In Demonstration of the Spirit

Chapter 3: “Let No One Boast in Men”

Chapter 4: Traits of a Godly Servant Leader

Chapter 5: Addressing Immorality in the Church

Chapter 6: Concerning Lawsuits and the Body

Chapter 7: Married or Single?

Chapter 8: Disagreements, Freedom, and Stumbling

Chapter 9: Equally Allowable Differences

Chapter 10: Take Heed How You Live

Chapter 11: Headship, Coverings, and the Lord’s Supper

Chapter 12: Spiritual Gifts

Women, Join In!

For the last few months, the book of 1 Corinthians has weighed heavy upon my heart. In May, I joined a women’s online fellowship site, Bloom.com, and decided to lead a Bible study on this book. These musings are a summary of my findings and the relevance/application I see surrounding us today. If you’re a woman and would like to participate in the study, head on over to www.Bloom.com and join the 1 Corinthians Bible Study group where you’ll find study guides to follow and discussion threads to participate in. 

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[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Co 10:11.

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Co 10:12.

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Co 10:13.

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Co 10:19–20.

[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Co 10:23.

[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Co 10:28–31.

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* Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

15 comments

  1. An excellent, and well-researched article, Jenny.
    What stands out for me is the need not to cause another believer to stumble.

    I like the green background on the quote you posted : ‘All things are lawful…’
    Thanks for posting this. 🤗

    Like

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