1 Corinthians 10 Commentary

Warnings from history (10:1-13)

Paul now illustrates from the history of Israel that some might join in the fellowship of God’s people, but miss out on the final blessing. All the people of Israel were united with Moses in their escape from Egypt and all enjoyed God’s provision through none other than Christ himself. But only two, Joshua and Caleb, entered into the blessing of the promised land. The rest disobeyed and were punished (10:1-5). (For relevant stories see Exod 13:17-22; 14:21-29; 16:1-17:7; Num 13:1-14:35.)

These events should be a warning to Christians. Idolatry can give a feeling of self-satisfaction that results in moral laziness. This leads to the relaxing of control over sinful desires and finally to sexual immorality. This was what happened to Israel (6-8; see Exod 32:1-6; Num 25:1-9). Christians should not put God to the test by seeing how far they can go without his acting in judgment. The Israelites did and were destroyed (9; see Num 21:5-9). They complained bitterly against him and were punished (10; see Num 16:1-50).

All these things are a warning to the Christians in Corinth not to be too confident in thinking they can join in idol feasts and not be affected by them. Tests and temptations will indeed come, but there will always be a way out. There can be no excuses. They must be loyal to God (11-13).

Avoid idol feasts (10:14-22)

In view of the dangers of idolatry, there is only one wise course to take in relation to idolatrous feasts, and that is to have nothing to do with them (14-15). Those who receive bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper are united with Christ in one body and spiritually share in him (16-17). Likewise in the Israelite sacrificial system those who eat the food of the sacrifices are united with the altar on which the sacrifices are offered (18). Christians cannot say, therefore, that eating food in idolatrous feasts has nothing to do with idolatry. Maybe the idol is only a piece of wood or stone, but the people who make offerings to it do not see it as such. They are, in fact, sacrificing to evil spirits (19-20).

Just as eating food at the Lord’s Supper means having fellowship with the Lord, so eating food at idolatrous feasts means having fellowship with the idol, or worse, with the evil spirits behind the idol. Now that the Corinthians know the true meaning of eating food offered to idols, they must cease the practice at once, otherwise God might act against them in judgment (21-22).

Consideration of fellow believers (10:23-11:1)

Some things that are allowable are not helpful. If Christians think of others before they think of themselves, they will refrain from certain things in case others copy them and are weakened spiritually as a result (23-24).

The Corinthians should understand that the reason why they must not join in idol feasts is that eating involves fellowship with the idol and its demons. It is not that the physical properties of the food are in any way changed. Therefore, when Christians buy food at the market or eat in the house of pagan friends, they must not create unnecessary problems by asking whether the food has been offered to idols. If they do not know, it does not matter. They should eat the food and be thankful to God who gave it (25-27).


If, however, someone tells them the food has been offered to idols, they should not eat it. They do not want others to think they agree with idol worship. Christians do wrong when they use their personal liberty in a way that causes others to sin. If by eating food they harm others, their thanksgiving for the food becomes meaningless (28-30).

To summarize, Christians should be guided in their behaviour not by their knowledge of the rights they have, but by their consideration for the glory of God and the well-being of their fellows (31-32). This is the way Paul lives, and he wants the Corinthians to follow his example, just as he follows Christ’s (33- 11:1).

Privacy Policy