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Jamieson, Fausset & Brown :: Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10

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The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians

Commentary by A. R. FAUSSET

CHAPTER 10

1Cr 10:1-33. DANGER OF FELLOWSHIP WITH IDOLATRY ILLUSTRATED IN THE HISTORY OF ISRAEL: SUCH FELLOWSHIP INCOMPATIBLE WITH FELLOWSHIP IN THE LORD'S SUPPER. EVEN LAWFUL THINGS ARE TO BE FORBORNE, SO AS NOT TO HURT WEAK BRETHREN.

      1. Moreover--The oldest manuscripts read "for." Thus the connection with the foregoing chapter is expressed. Ye need to exercise self-denying watchfulness notwithstanding all your privileges, lest ye be castaways. For the Israelites with all their privileges were most of them castaways through want of it.
      ignorant--with all your boasted "knowledge."
      our fathers--The Jewish Church stands in the relation of parent to the Christian Church.
      all--Arrange as the Greek, "Our fathers were all under the cloud"; giving the "all" its proper emphasis. Not so much as one of so great a multitude was detained by force or disease ( Psa 105:37 ) [BENGEL]. Five times the "all" is repeated, in the enumeration of the five favors which God bestowed on Israel ( 1Cr 10:1-4 ). Five times, correspondingly, they sinned ( 1Cr 10:6-10 ). In contrast to the "all" stands "many (rather, 'the most') of them" ( 1Cr 10:5 ). All of them had great privileges, yet most of them were castaways through lust. Beware you, having greater privileges, of sharing the same doom through a similar sin. Continuing the reasoning ( 1Cr 9:24 ), "They which run in a race, run all, but one receiveth the prize."
      under the cloud--were continually under the defense of the pillar of cloud, the symbol of the divine presence ( Exd 13:21, 22 Psa 105:39; compare Isa 4:5 ).
      passed through the sea--by God's miraculous interposition for them ( Exd 14:29 ).

      2. And--"And so" [BENGEL].
      baptized unto Moses--the servant of God and representative of the Old Testament covenant of the law: as Jesus, the Son of God, is of the Gospel covenant ( Jhn 1:17 Hbr 3:5, 6 ). The people were led to believe in Moses as God's servant by the miracle of the cloud protecting them, and by their being conducted under him safely through the Red Sea; therefore they are said to be "baptized unto" him ( Exd 14:31 ). "Baptized" is here equivalent to "initiated": it is used in accommodation to Paul's argument to the Corinthians; they, it is true, have been "baptized," but so also virtually were the Israelites of old; if the virtual baptism of the latter availed not to save them from the doom of lust, neither will the actual baptism of the former save them. There is a resemblance between the symbols also: for the cloud and sea consist of water, and as these took the Israelites out of sight, and then restored them again to view, so the water does to the baptized [BENGEL]. OLSHAUSEN understands "the cloud" and "the sea" as symbolizing the Spirit and water respectively ( Jhn 3:5 Act 10:44-47 ). Christ is the pillar cloud that screens us from the heat of God's wrath. Christ as "the light of the world" is our "pillar of fire" to guide us in the darkness of the world. As the rock when smitten sent forth the waters, so Christ, having been once for all smitten, sends forth the waters of the Spirit. As the manna bruised in mills fed Israel, so Christ, when "it pleased the Lord to bruise Him," has become our spiritual food. A strong proof of inspiration is given in this fact, that the historical parts of Scripture, without the consciousness even of the authors, are covert prophecies of the future.

      3. same spiritual meat--As the Israelites had the water from the rock, which answered to baptism, so they had the manna which corresponded to the other of the two Christian sacraments, the Lord's Supper. Paul plainly implies the importance which was attached to these two sacraments by all Christians in those days: "an inspired protest against those who lower their dignity, or deny their necessity" [ALFORD]. Still he guards against the other extreme of thinking the mere external possession of such privileges will ensure salvation. Moreover, had there been seven sacraments, as Rome teaches, Paul would have alluded to them, whereas he refers to only the two. He does not mean by "the same" that the Israelites and we Christians have the "same" sacrament; but that believing and unbelieving Israelites alike had "the same" spiritual privilege of the manna (compare 1Cr 10:17 ). It was "spiritual meat" or food; because given by the power of God's spirit, not by human labor [GROTIUS and ALFORD] Gal 4:29, "born after the Spirit," that is, supernaturally. Psa 78:24, "corn of heaven" ( Psa 105:40 ). Rather, "spiritual" in its typical signification, Christ, the true Bread of heaven, being signified ( Jhn 6:32 ). Not that the Israelites clearly understood the signification; but believers among them would feel that in the type something more was meant; and their implicit and reverent, though indistinct, faith was counted to them for justification, of which the manna was a kind of sacramental seal. "They are not to be heard which feign that the old fathers did look only for transitory promises" [Article VII, Church of England], as appears from this passage (compare Hbr 4:2 ).

      4. drink-- ( Exd 17:6 ). In Num 20:8, "the beasts" also are mentioned as having drunk. The literal water typified "spiritual drink," and is therefore so called.
      spiritual Rock that followed them--rather, "accompanied them." Not the literal rock (or its water) "followed" them, as ALFORD explains, as if Paul sanctioned the Jews' tradition (Rabbi Solomon on Num 20:2 ) that the rock itself, or at least the stream from it, followed the Israelites from place to place (compare Deu 9:21 ). But Christ, the "Spiritual Rock" ( Psa 78:20, 35 Deu 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31, 37 Isa 28:16 1Pe 2:6 ), accompanied them ( Exd 33:15 ). "Followed" implies His attending on them to minister to them; thus, though mostly going before them, He, when occasion required it, followed "behind" ( Exd 14:19 ). He satisfied all alike as to their bodily thirst whenever they needed it; as on three occasions is expressly recorded ( Exd 15:24, 25 17:6 Num 20:8 ); and this drink for the body symbolized the spiritual drink from the Spiritual Rock (compare Jhn 4:13, 14; see on JF & B for 1Co 10:3).

      5. But--though they had so many tokens of God's presence.
      many of them--rather, "the majority of them"; "the whole part." All except Joshua and Caleb of the first generation.
      not--in the Greek emphatically standing in the beginning of the sentence: "Not," as one might have naturally expected, "with the more part of them was," &c.
      God--whose judgment alone is valid.
      for--the event showed, they had not pleased God.
      overthrown--literally, "strewn in heaps."
      in the wilderness--far from the land of promise.

      6. were--Greek, "came to pass as."
      our examples--samples to us of what will befall us, if we also with all our privileges walk carelessly.
      lust--the fountain of all the four other offenses enumerated, and therefore put first ( Jam 1:14, 15; compare Psa 106:14 ). A particular case of lust was that after flesh, when they pined for the fish, leeks, &c., of Egypt, which they had left ( Num 11:4, 33, 34 ). These are included in the "evil things," not that they are so in themselves, but they became so to the Israelites when they lusted after what God withheld, and were discontented with what God provided.

      7. idolaters--A case in point. As the Israelites sat down (a deliberate act), ate, and drank at the idol feast to the calves in Horeb, so the Corinthians were in danger of idolatry by a like act, though not professedly worshipping an idol as the Israelites ( 1Cr 8:10, 11 10:14, 20, 21 Exd 32:6 ). He passes here from the first to the second person, as they alone (not he also) were in danger of idolatry, &c. He resumes the first person appropriately at 1Cr 10:16.
      some--The multitude follow the lead of some bad men.
      play--with lascivious dancing, singing, and drumming round the calf (compare "rejoiced," Act 7:41 ).

      8. fornication--literally, Fornication was generally, as in this case ( Num 25:1-18 ), associated at the idol feasts with spiritual fornication, that is, idolatry. This all applied to the Corinthians ( 1Cr 5:1, 9 6:9, 15, 18 1Cr 8:10 ). Balaam tempted Israel to both sins with Midian ( Rev 2:14 ). Compare 1Cr 8:7, 9, "stumbling-block," "eat. . . thing offered unto. . . idol."
      three and twenty thousand--in Num 25:9 "twenty and four thousand." If this were a real discrepancy, it would militate rather against inspiration of the subject matter and thought, than against verbal inspiration. The solution is: Moses in Numbers includes all who died "in the plague"; Paul, all who died "in one day"; one thousand more may have fallen the next day [KITTO, Biblical Cyclopaedia]. Or, the real number may have been between twenty-three thousand and twenty-four thousand, say twenty-three thousand five hundred, or twenty-three thousand six hundred; when writing generally where the exact figures were not needed, one writer might quite veraciously give one of the two round numbers near the exact one, and the other writer the other [BENGEL]. Whichever be the true way of reconciling the seeming discrepant statements, at least the ways given above prove they are not really irreconcilable.

      9. tempt Christ--So the oldest versions, IRENAEUS (264), and good manuscripts read. Some of the oldest manuscripts read "Lord"; and one manuscript only "God." If "Lord" be read, it will mean Christ. As "Christ" was referred to in one of the five privileges of Israel ( 1Cr 10:4 ), so it is natural that He should be mentioned here in one of the five corresponding sins of that people. In Num 21:5 it is "spake against God" (whence probably arose the alteration in the one manuscript, 1Cr 10:9, "God," to harmonize it with Num 21:5 ). As either "Christ" or "Lord" is the genuine reading, "Christ" must be "God." Compare "Why do ye tempt the Lord?" ( Exd 17:2, 7. Compare Rom 14:11, with Isa 45:22, 23 ). Israel's discontented complainings were temptings of Christ especially, the "Angel" of the covenant ( Exd 23:20, 21 32:34 Isa 63:9 ). Though they drank of "that Rock. . . Christ" ( 1Cr 10:4 ), they yet complained for want of water ( Exd 17:2, 7 ). Though also eating the same spiritual meat (Christ, "the true manna," "the bread of life"), they yet murmured, "Our soul loatheth this light bread." In this case, being punished by the fiery serpents, they were saved by the brazen serpent, the emblem of Christ (compare Jhn 8:56 Hbr 11:26 ). The Greek for "tempt" means, tempt or try, so as to wear out the long-suffering of Christ (compare Psa 95:8, 9 Num 14:22 ). The Corinthians were in danger of provoking God's long-suffering by walking on the verge of idolatry, through overweening confidence in their knowledge.

      10. some of them. . . murmured--upon the death of Korah and his company, who themselves were murmurers ( Num 16:41, 49 ). Their murmurs against Moses and Aaron were virtually murmurs against God (compare Exd 16:8, 10 ). Paul herein glances at the Corinthian murmurs against himself, the apostle of Christ.
      destroyed--fourteen thousand seven hundred perished.
      the destroyer--THE same destroying angel sent by God as in Exd 12:23, and 2Sa 24:16.

      11. Now. . . these things. . . ensamples--resuming the thread of 1Cr 10:6. The oldest manuscripts read, "by way of example."
      the ends of the world--literally, "of the ages"; the New Testament dispensation in its successive phases (plural, "ends") being the winding up of all former "ages." No new dispensation shall appear till Christ comes as Avenger and Judge; till then the "ends," being many, include various successive periods (compare Hbr 9:26 ). As we live in the last dispensation, which is the consummation of all that went before, our responsibilities are the greater; and the greater is the guilt, Paul implies, to the Corinthians, which they incur if they fall short of their privileges.

      12. thinketh he standeth--stands and thinks that he stands [BENGEL]; that is, stands "by faith. . . well pleasing" to God; in contrast to 1Cr 10:5, "with many of them God was not well pleased" ( Rom 11:20 ).
      fall--from his place in the Church of God (compare 1Cr 10:8, "fell"). Both temporally and spiritually ( Rom 14:4 ). Our security, so far as relates to God, consists in faith; so far as relates to ourselves, it consists in fear.

      13. Consolation to them, under their temptation; it is none but such as is "common to man," or "such as man can bear," "adapted to man's powers of endurance" [WAHL].
      faithful-- ( Psa 125:3 Isa 27:3, 8 Rev 3:10 ). "God is faithful" to the covenant which He made with you in calling you ( 1Th 5:24 ). To be led into temptation is distinct from running into it, which would be "tempting God" ( 1Cr 10:9 Mat 4:7 ).
      way to escape-- ( Jer 29:11 2Pe 2:9 ). The Greek is, "the way of escape"; the appropriate way of escape in each particular temptation; not an immediate escape, but one in due time, after patience has had her perfect work ( Jam 1:2-4, 12 ). He "makes" the way of escape simultaneously with the temptation which His providence permissively arranges for His people.
      to bear it--Greek, "to bear up under it," or "against it." Not, He will take it away ( 2Cr 12:7-9 ).

      14. Resuming the argument, 1Cr 10:7 1Cr 8:9, 10.
      flee--Do not tamper with it by doubtful acts, such as eating idol meats on the plea of Christian liberty. The only safety is in wholly shunning whatever borders on idolatry ( 2Cr 6:16, 17 ). The Holy Spirit herein also presciently warned the Church against the idolatry, subsequently transferred from the idol feast to the Lord's Supper itself, in the figment of transubstantiation.

      15. Appeal to their own powers of judgment to weigh the force of the argument that follows: namely, that as the partaking of the Lord's Supper involves a partaking of the Lord Himself, and the partaking of the Jewish sacrificial meats involved a partaking of the altar of God, and, as the heathens sacrifice to devils, to partake of an idol feast is to have fellowship with devils. We cannot divest ourselves of the responsibility of "judging" for ourselves. The weakness of private judgment is not an argument against its use, but its abuse. We should the more take pains in searching the infallible word, with every aid within our reach, and above all with humble prayer for the Spirit's teaching ( Act 17:11 ). If Paul, an inspired apostle, not only permits, but urges, men to judge his sayings by Scripture, much more should the fallible ministers of the present visible Church do so.
      To wise men--refers with a mixture of irony to the Corinthian boast of "wisdom" ( 1Cr 4:10 2Cr 11:19 ). Here you have an opportunity of exercising your "wisdom" in judging "what I say."

      16. The cup of blessing--answering to the Jewish "cup of blessing," over which thanks were offered in the Passover. It was in doing so that Christ instituted this part of the Lord's Supper ( Mat 26:27 Luk 22:17, 20 ).
      we bless--"we," not merely ministers, but also the congregation. The minister "blesses" (that is, consecrates with blessing) the cup, not by any priestly transmitted authority of his own, but as representative of the congregation, who virtually through him bless the cup. The consecration is the corporate act of the whole Church. The act of joint blessing by him and them (not "the cup" itself, which, as also "the bread," in the Greek is in the accusative), and the consequent drinking of it together, constitute the communion, that is, the joint participation "of the blood of Christ." Compare 1Cr 10:18, "They who eat. . . are partakers" (joint communicants). "Is" in both cases in this verse is literal, not represents. He who with faith partakes of the cup and the bread, partakes really but spiritually of the blood and body of Christ ( Eph 5:30, 32 ), and of the benefits of His sacrifice on the cross (compare 1Cr 10:18 ). In contrast to this is to have "fellowship with devils" ( 1Cr 10:20 ). ALFORD explains, "The cup. . . is the [joint] participation (that is, that whereby the act of participation takes place) of the blood," &c. It is the seal of our living union with, and a means of our partaking of, Christ as our Saviour ( Jhn 6:53-57 ). It is not said, "The cup. . . is the blood," or "the bread. . . is the body," but "is the communion [joint-participation] of the blood. . . body." If the bread be changed into the literal body of Christ, where is the sign of the sacrament? Romanists eat Christ "in remembrance of Himself." To drink literal blood would have been an abomination to Jews, which the first Christians were ( Lev 17:11, 12 ). Breaking the bread was part of the act of consecrating it, for thus was represented the crucifixion of Christ's body ( 1Cr 11:24 ). The distinct specification of the bread and the wine disproves the Romish doctrine of concomitancy, and exclusion of the laity from the cup.

      17. one bread--rather, "loaf." One loaf alone seems to have been used in each celebration.
      and one body--Omit "and"; "one loaf [that is], one body." "We, the many (namely, believers assembled; so the Greek), are one bread (by our partaking of the same loaf, which becomes assimilated to the substance of all our bodies; and so we become), one body" (with Christ, and so with one another).
      we. . . all--Greek, "the whole of us."

      18. Israel after the flesh--the literal, as distinguished from the spiritual, Israel ( Rom 2:29 4:1 9:3 Gal 4:29 ).
      partakers of the altar--and so of God, whose is the altar; they have fellowship in God and His worship, of which the altar is the symbol.

      19, 20. What say I then?--The inference might be drawn from the analogies of the Lord's Supper and Jewish sacrifices, that an idol is really what the heathen thought it to be, a god, and that in eating idol-meats they had fellowship with the god. This verse guards against such an inference: "What would I say then? that a thing sacrificed to an idol is any real thing (in the sense that the heathen regard it), or that an idol is any real thing?" (The oldest manuscripts read the words in this order. Supply "Nay") "But [I say] that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils (demons)." Paul here introduces a new fact. It is true that, as I said, an idol has no reality in the sense that the heathen regard it, but it has a reality in another sense; heathendom being under Satan's dominion as "prince of this world," he and his demons are in fact the powers worshipped by the heathen, whether they are or are not conscious of it ( Deu 32:17 Lev 17:7 2Ch 11:15 Psa 106:37 Rev 9:20 ). "Devil" is in the Greek restricted to Satan; "demons" is the term applied to his subordinate evil spirits. Fear, rather than love, is the motive of heathen worship (compare the English word "panic," from PAN, whose human form with horns and cloven hoofs gave rise to the vulgar representations of Satan which prevail now); just as fear is the spirit of Satan and his demons ( Jam 2:19 ).

      20. I would not that ye. . . have fellowship with devils--by partaking of idol feasts ( 1Cr 8:10 ).

      21. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord--really and spiritually; though ye may outwardly ( 1Ki 18:21 ).
      cup of devils--in contrast to the cup of the Lord. At idol feasts libations were usually made from the cup to the idol first, and then the guests drank; so that in drinking they had fellowship with the idol.
      the Lord's table--The Lord's Supper is a feast on a table, not a sacrifice on an altar. Our only altar is the cross, our only sacrifice that of Christ once for all. The Lord's Supper stands, however, in the same relation, analogically, to Christ's sacrifice, as the Jews' sacrificial feasts did to their sacrifices (compare Mal 1:7, "altar. . . table of the Lord"), and the heathen idol feasts to their idolatrous sacrifices ( Isa 65:11 ). The heathen sacrifices were offered to idol nonentities, behind which Satan lurked. The Jews' sacrifice was but a shadow of the substance which was to come. Our one sacrifice of Christ is the only substantial reality; therefore, while the partaker of the Jew's sacrificial feast partook rather "of the altar" ( 1Cr 10:18 ) than of GOD manifested fully, and the heathen idol-feaster had fellowship really with demons, the communicant in the Lord's Supper has in it a real communion of, or fellowship in, the body of Christ once sacrificed, and now exalted as the Head of redeemed humanity.

      22. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?--by dividing our fellowship between Him and idols ( Eze 20:39 ). Is it our wish to provoke Him to assert His power? Deu 32:21 is before the apostle's mind [ALFORD], ( Exd 20:5 ).
      are we stronger?--that we can risk a contest with Him.

      23. All things are lawful for me, &c.--Recurring to the Corinthian plea ( 1Cr 6:12 ), he repeats his qualification of it. The oldest manuscripts omit both times "for me."
      edify not--tend not to build up the spiritual temple, the Church, in faith and love. Paul does not appeal to the apostolic decision ( Act 15:1-29 ), which seems to have been not so much regarded outside of Palestine, but rather to the broad principle of true Christian freedom, which does not allow us to be governed by external things, as though, because we can use them, we must use them ( 1Cr 6:12 ). Their use or non-use is to be regulated by regard to edification.

      24. ( 1Cr 10:33 1Cr 13:5 Rom 15:1, 2 ).

      25. shambles--butchers' stalls; the flesh market.
      asking no question--whether it has been offered to an idol or not.
      for conscience' sake--If on asking you should hear it had been offered to idols, a scruple would arise in your conscience which was needless, and never would have arisen had you asked no questions.

      26. The ground on which such eating without questioning is justified is, the earth and all its contents ("the fulness thereof," Psa 20:1 50:12 ), including all meats, belong to the Lord, and are appointed for our use; and where conscience suggests no scruple, all are to be eaten ( Rom 14:14, 20 1Ti 4:4, 5; compare Act 10:15 ).

      27. ye be disposed to go--tacitly implying, they would be as well not to go, but yet not forbidding them to go ( 1Cr 10:9 ) [GROTIUS]. The feast is not an idol feast, but a general entertainment, at which, however, there might be meat that had been offered to an idol.
      for conscience' sake--(See on JF & B for 1Co 10:25).

      28. if any man--a weak Christian at table, wishing to warn his brother.
      offered in sacrifice unto idols--The oldest manuscripts omit "unto idols." At a heathen's table the expression, offensive to him, would naturally be avoided.
      for conscience' sake--not to cause a stumbling-block to the conscience of thy weak brother ( 1Cr 8:10-12 ).
      for the earth is the Lord's, &c.--not in the oldest manuscripts.

      29. Conscience. . . of the other--the weak brother introduced in 1Cr 10:28.
      for why is my liberty judged off another man's conscience?--Paul passes to the first person, to teach his converts by putting himself as it were in their position. The Greek terms for "the other" and "another" are distinct. "The other" is the one with whom Paul's and his Corinthian converts' concern is; "another" is any other with whom he and they have no concern. If a guest know the meat to be idol meat while I know it not, I have "liberty" to eat without being condemned by his "conscience" [GROTIUS]. Thus the "for," &c., is an argument for 1Cr 10:27, "Eat, asking no questions." Or, Why should I give occasion by the rash use of my liberty that another should condemn it [ESTIUS], or that my liberty should cause the destruction of my weak brother?" [MENOCHIUS]. Or, the words are those of the Corinthian objector (perhaps used in their letter, and so quoted by Paul), "Why is my liberty judged by another's conscience?" Why should not I be judged only by my own, and have liberty to do whatever it sanctions? Paul replies in 1Cr 10:31, Your doing so ought always to be limited by regard to what most tends "to the glory of God" [VATABLUS, CONYBEARE and HOWSON]. The first explanation is simplest; the "for," &c., in it refers to "not thine own" (that is, "not my own," in Paul's change to the first person); I am to abstain only in the case of liability to offend another's conscience; in cases where my own has no scruple, I am not bound, in God's judgment, by any other conscience than my own.

      30. For--The oldest manuscripts omit "For."
      by grace--rather, "thankfully" [ALFORD].
      I. . . be partaker--I partake of the food set before me.
      evil spoken of--by him who does not use his liberty, but will eat nothing without scrupulosity and questioning whence the meat comes.
      give thanks--which consecrates all the Christian's acts ( Rom 14:6 1Ti 4:3, 4 ).

      31. Contrast Zec 7:6; the picture of worldly men. The godly may "eat and drink," and it shall be well with him ( Jer 22:15, 16 ).
      to the glory of God-- ( Col 3:17 1Pe 4:11 ) --which involves our having regard to the edification of our neighbor.

      32. Give none offence--in things indifferent ( 1Cr 8:13 Rom 14:13 2Cr 6:3 ); for in all essential things affecting Christian doctrine and practice, even in the smallest detail, we must not swerve from principle, whatever offense may be the result ( 1Cr 1:23 ). Giving offense is unnecessary, if our own spirit cause it; necessary, if it be caused by the truth.

      33. I please--I try to please ( 1Cr 9:19, 22 Rom 15:2 ).
      not seeking mine own-- ( 1Cr 10:24 ).
      many--rather as Greek, "THE many."

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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