The Sixteenth in a Series of Sermons on 1 Corinthians
The issue facing many in the Corinthian congregation is a serious one. Can we profess our faith in Christ, go to church on Sunday, but still part participate in pagan practices or ceremonies outside of church life? How do we as Christians interact with pagan religions and pagan ceremonies? What are we to learn from the account of Israel’s time in the wilderness, when YHWH was visibly present with his people, provided them with his word and means of grace, and yet the Israelites grumbled about God’s prohibition against their participation in pagan ceremonies? In what way is Israel an example to us?
We now make our way into chapter 10–the heart of Paul’s discussion of idolatry. Paul has already spoken of his great concern for the weak in this congregation, those people who cannot separate the eating of meat from idolatry, and who think that if they eat meat which has been used in a pagan sacrifice, they are somehow endorsing or participating in the same paganism they are striving to leave behind. As we have seen, Paul has gone to great lengths to defend his apostolic office and to make clear that he practices what he preaches. Paul has even voluntarily given up that to which he is entitled for the sake of the gospel. It is Paul’s purpose to become all things to all men for the sake of the gospel, so by all means, some might come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
In typical Pauline fashion, Paul now introduces an illustration from redemptive history to bolster this point about the damage done when the people of God continue to engage in idolatrous practices–turning from the true and living God to worship and serve created things, all the while professing faith in Christ. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel experienced countless blessings from God (including spiritual baptism, spiritual food and drink) only to have fallen into idolatry even when YHWH was visibly present among the people. The result–that generation of Israelites stumbled badly and did not obtain the promised inheritance. Countless Israelites died in the wilderness of the Sinai. Against the backdrop of Israel’s own history, Paul’s point is crystal clear. If, like Israel, the Corinthians continue to make peace with idolatry, they too may suffer the same fate and come under God’s judgment.
To read the rest of this sermon, Click Here