We Must Heed the Vital Message of 1 Corinthians 10:18-20

1 Corinthians 10:18-20 provides vital instruction that every believer must heed:

1 Corinthians 10:18 Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? 19 What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? 20 But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.

To eat in a worship context of what has been sacrificed on an altar to an idol is to be a partaker of the altar. To do so is also to have fellowship with demons!

Such fellowship with demons is not contingent upon a person's having to offer the sacrifices himself. Anyone who eats of such sacrifices comes into fellowship with demons.

The passage also does not provide any basis to say or to hold that this only happens sometimes--in a worship context, anyone who eats what has been sacrificed to an idol has fellowship with demons. God does not want any humans to have fellowship with demons!

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RajeshG's picture

Scripture presents key passages warning us about eating things sacrificed to idols from nearly its beginning to its ending:

Exodus 32:6 And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play. 7 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

Acts 15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

Revelation 2:14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.

Revelation 2:20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

Applying what 1 Corinthians 10:18-20 reveals to us to these passages illumines them and underscores God's emphatic and pervasive instruction throughout Scripture so that people will not have fellowship with demons through eating in a worship context what has been sacrificed to an idol.

RajeshG's picture

Comparing 1 Cor. 10:18-20 with Ephesians 5:11 in the original shows that the passages are closely related:

1 Corinthians 10:18 Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? 19 What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? 20 But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.

1 Corinthians 10:18 βλέπετε τὸν Ἰσραὴλ κατὰ σάρκα· οὐχὶ οἱ ἐσθίοντες τὰς θυσίας κοινωνοὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου εἰσί; 19  τί οὖν φημι; ὅτι εἴδωλόν τί ἐστιν; ἢ ὅτι εἰδωλόθυτόν τί ἐστιν; 20  ἀλλ᾽ ὅτι ἃ θύει τὰ ἔθνη, δαιμονίοις θύει, καὶ οὐ Θεῷ· οὐ θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς κοινωνοὺς τῶν δαιμονίων γίνεσθαι.

Ephesians 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Ephesians 5:11 καὶ μὴ συγκοινωνεῖτε τοῖς ἔργοις τοῖς ἀκάρποις τοῦ σκότους, μᾶλλον δὲ καὶ ἐλέγχετε·

The imperative in Ephesians 5:11 (συγκοινωνεῖτε) is a compound verb that is related to the noun κοινωνος in 1 Cor. 10:18 (κοινωνοὶ) and 10:20 (κοινωνοὺς). Moreover, both passages concern divine instruction not to have fellowship with things/anything connected to supernatural evil spirits. 

From how Ephesians 5:11 illumines 1 Corinthians 10:18-20, we know that these passages together authoritatively direct us as NT believers that we must reject categorically all the unfruitful works of darkness, especially anything closely connected to the consumption of things sacrificed to idols in a worship context.

RajeshG's picture

The Spirit revealed 1 Cor. 10:18-20 to profit us concerning the demonic fellowship that humans come into whenever in a worship context they eat what has been sacrificed to idols. To understand further how God wants us to profit from this revelation and heed its vital message, we must examine carefully the Spirit's perfect wisdom in how He has crafted the surrounding context of this passage.

Although there are many biblical accounts of humans eating what has been sacrificed to idols, the Spirit chose to direct our attention to one specific account earlier in this passage and use that passage to issue a categorical demand for us not to engage in idolatry:

1 Corinthians 10:7 Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

We can be certain, therefore, that He wants us to use 1 Cor. 10:18-20 to understand properly the significance of the event that 10:7 directs our attention to. In 10:7, Paul quotes from Exodus 32:6, which is part of the inspired record of the Golden Calf Incident (GCI). 

Applying 1 Cor. 10:18-20 to 10:7 reveals to us therefore that the people who ate and drank what was sacrificed to the idol in the GCI were all people who came into fellowship with demons by their doing so!

Furthermore, we must not fail to pay attention to the fact that the Spirit does not just direct our attention to their eating and drinking what was sacrificed to the idol--He also directs our attention to their idolatrous playing! Because their idolatrous playing only took place after they had consumed what was offered to the idol, we know for certain that their playing was the playing of humans who were in fellowship with demons and influenced by them.

Because the Spirit chose in 1 Corinthians 10 to quote directly from Exodus 32, we know for certain that the GCI is a passage of premier importance for us to know more about the unfruitful works of darkness with which we are commanded not to have any fellowship. Therefore, for us to profit fully from 1 Cor. 10:18-20 we must use what it reveals to illumine what God has revealed to us about what took place in the GCI after the people had eaten and drunk what had been offered to the idol.

Dan Miller's picture

I appreciate this thread. The anti-idol-meat position gets little attention, so it’s a good thing. 

Not much to add, except that the word “play” seems to mean something close our “party.”

RajeshG's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

I appreciate this thread. The anti-idol-meat position gets little attention, so it’s a good thing. 

Not much to add, except that the word “play” seems to mean something close our “party.”

Thanks for the encouraging feedback. There is much more to bring out about the importance of how 1 Cor. 10 illumines the GCI.

RajeshG's picture

Based on how 1 Corinthians 10:18-20 illumines 1 Cor. 10:7 and Exodus 32, we must consider thoroughly what Exodus 32 reveals about the activities of the people who came into fellowship with demons through their eating and drinking in a worship context what was sacrificed to an idol.

Exodus 32:6 (part of which is quoted in 1 Cor. 10:7) records that the people rose up to play after they had sat down to eat and drink what had been offered to the idol.

Everything that Exodus 32 records that these people did after they had partaken of those sacrifices is a record of the actions of people who came into fellowship with demons and thereby were influenced by them.

After Exodus 32:6, the next information in Exodus 32 about the activities of these demonically influenced people is recorded in what transpired between Moses and Joshua as they were coming down to the camp:

Exodus 32:17 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. 18 And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear.

From this passage, we know that these people shouted (32:17) in producing a very loud sound that Moses discerned to be the noise of their singing (32:18). We know, therefore, that these demonically influenced people were producing music.

Exodus 32:17-18 is an inspired record of demonically influenced music! God wants us to know that there is such a thing as demonically influenced music produced by human beings.

RajeshG's picture

Following the revelation about the people's producing music under demonic influence (Exod. 32:17-18), we read that they were also engaging in another activity under demonic influence:

Exodus 32:19 And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.

Moses, the God-appointed leader of the Israelites at this time, exploded with anger on seeing the idol and their demonically influenced dancing. Moses was not angry with them simply because they had made an idol--their dancing was of such a perverse nature that it also served to elicit his fiery response.

Later, we are given further information about their demonically influenced activities on this occasion that confirms the perverse character of those activities:

Exodus 32:25 And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:

NET Exodus 32:25 Moses saw that the people were running wild, for Aaron had let them get completely out of control, causing derision from their enemies.

NKJ Exodus 32:25 Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies),

CSB Exodus 32:25 Moses saw that the people were out of control, for Aaron had let them get out of control, resulting in weakness before their enemies.

ESV Exodus 32:25 And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies),

NIV Exodus 32:25 Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies.

NLT Exodus 32:25 Moses saw that Aaron had let the people get completely out of control, much to the amusement of their enemies.

This statement informs us that these demonically influenced people who were producing music and were dancing were doing so in such a wild, totally-out-of-control manner as to bring them into open shame with their enemies.

The passage therefore explicitly relates that their demonically influenced activities on this occasion were of such a perverse nature that both the godly leader of the people and the ungodly enemies of the people judged what they were doing to be completely unfitting for those who were supposed to be the people of the one true God.

This passage thus provides an inspired record of unbelievers who validly criticized the ungodly worship activities of those who professed to be among the people of God.