1 Corinthians 10:11-22 NKJV
11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.
18 Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? 19 What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? 20 Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. 22 Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?
Everything that the Holy Spirit caused to be written is for our admonition. The examples of Old Testament Israel admonish us in two ways. The first is warning. We can fall from faith and fail to attain what God has promised, and that fall occurs through deliberate sinning. The second admonition is encouragement. Although everyone’s temptations may seem especially difficult or grueling, our temptations are common to mankind. In His mercy, God does not allow the devil, the world, and our flesh to tempt us beyond what we are able. “With the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (13). God will bring a good outcome from our temptations if we fight them by clinging to God’s promises and the identity that He gives us in baptism.
The Corinthians to whom Paul wrote were especially tempted to partake in the pagan sacrifices that were part of their culture. Paul reminds them that “those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar” (18). To eat the sacrifice at an idol’s altar is to commune with that idol and partake of all that is taught and confessed at that altar. The Corinthians were to flee this idolatry not only because God threatens to punish it, but also because they already had communion with Him in the cup and the bread of the Lord’s Supper. The cup in the Lord’s Supper is “the communion of the blood of Christ” and the bread is “the communion of the body of Christ” (16). They partook in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross by eating His flesh and drinking His blood which are given in, with, and under the bread and wine. They commune with Christ Jesus and receive the blessings He won for them at the cross.
We are not tempted to worship at pagan altars as the Corinthians were. Our temptations to idolatry are more subtle. The world entices us to fear, love, and trust in the things it offers instead of fearing, loving, and trusting in the Triune God. Armed with God’s promises and having communion with Christ’s very body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, we are strengthened to endure every temptation and flee idolatry.
Let us pray: Strengthen us with Your Word and Sacrament, O Lord, so that we may overcome every temptation. Amen.