Text: 1 Corinthians 10:14-22
We're still talking "meaty" issues and let's sum up where we've been. Paul is the master of the "Yes-but". Do you know people like this? they answer everything "Yes, but . . . " Some of you hate people like this. Paul does this again and again in this section:
Question: Can we eat idol meat? There’s nothing wrong with the meat itself; so yes, theoretically you could. BUT you shouldn’t if eating it causes others to stumble.
Question: Don’t we have the right to exercise our freedom in Christ? Yes, you do have that right. BUT sometimes the gospel calls us to willingly give up our rights for others. Particularly if it will advance the mission of the gospel. This is where we talked about the necessity to to be all things to all people Some people have called this being missional.
Question: So our practice as Christians is to be culturally determined? Some people are really concerned about this, but think of it is really naïve to say that we don’t practice our Christianity using cultural forms. So Yes, because we take the truth of God into culture to win people without putting up barriers. BUT there are limits as to how far we go.
Today we are going to talk about those limits and the idea of allegiance.
Here’s Paul’s bottom line in this issue: Flee from Idolatry. If something weakens your allegiance to Jesus Christ, either because it captures your soul and turns it away from him, or it seems to bestow His approval on things he would never approve, then you must flee from it. Later in the message we are going to get back to some of the idols that our culture sets up for us to worship, but let’s follow Paul’s argument through first.
Paul’s reason is this: certain practices actually demonstrate allegiance to someone or something other than Christ.
Paul says, you’re sensible people, think it through. Religious practices mean something. When we have communion, we all drink the cup, and when we see the red juice or wine we are reminded of the new covenant that we are all now partners in. Then we all eat the bread and we are reminded of Jesus’ broken body, the body that he gave for us all and now he gathers us into his body, the church. We says that “because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” Again, he uses the word participation, or partnership. The word is koinonia, fellowship. And the idea is this. Communion is more than just the eating of a cracker and the drinking of a thimble of juice. It is a ongoing declaration of our participation in Christ and in his body, the church. We declare our allegiance to Christ and to each other. Yes it just an act of eating and drinking, something that you do every day, but it is so much more because of what it means when you eat it together with these certain people in a certain place for a certain reason. Think of it in this way, what if a person came into our service and made no attempt to hide the fact that he hated Christ, but at the end of the service came up for communion. You’d be like no, stop you can’t do that. And he’d be like what do you mean, I’m hungry and it’s just a cracker and juice. You Christians are so uppity about stuff. You’d have to answer. It’s not that you can’t eat crackers and juice – go home take a box of saltines and Welches and go at it, God bless you. But eating this here, with these people, means something. And if you’re not willing to share in the meaning of what we are doing, we’ve got to ask you to not share in it at all. Hopefully they’d get it, but that idea serves a point. Communion is an act that carries within it a demonstration of allegiance that cannot be separated from the act itself.
So if this is true for a Christian practice like communion, does it hold true that other practices of other religions have practices that also proclaim allegiance? You bet! Paul extends his point in regards to the Jews. 1 Corinthians 10:18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? Paul’s point is this: you don’t have even necessarily be part of the ceremony itself to participate in the act. The Jewish person would give his sacrifice to the priest, who would perform the ceremony and keep some of the meat for himself. Afterward the person would take home the rest of the meat and eat it. Even though these people had no role in the ceremony itself, Paul still understands them to be participants in the worship as they have benefited from the ritual.
Now again Paul clarifies in 1 Cor 10:19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? Is there something magical about the food or the block of wood? Of course not! 1 Cor 10:20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. Here’s what Paul is saying: even though there is no such thing as a false god, and even though nothing inherently changes about the meat itself, there are real spiritual forces at work behind these religious practices of which a Christian cannot be ignorant or nor participate in. The entire practice of offering sacrifices to false gods is demonically inspired, Paul says. So let’s take the same situation. You go into the pagan temple and say you’re hungry and want to eat. They say, “O do you worship Diana?” And you say, “No I worship Jesus. This whole Diana business is a bunch of crock.” Wouldn’t the priest say, “What are you doing here then? This isn’t for you! get outta here?” And you say, “but it’s just meat!” No it’s not. You’ve stepped into a practice which is intended to demonstrate allegiance.
Now, I don’t think people from the Corinthian Church were enthusiastically going off to the pagan temple. But here’s what was happening and I want to ask you what you would do. This is where allegiance was tested.
In the workplace: First, their bosses would hold business parties in the temple. So your boss calls you up and says we’re having the company picnic at the temple. And then he says, this year it is going to be great, instead of the normal potluck and playing the three-legged race, they are going to go inside and the priest is going to slaughter a cow to the goddess of the Temple, and then your all going to eat it together. It’ll be a great team-building experience. What do you do? If you tell your boss you’re not comfortable with that and you’d like to sit out that part of the picnic, he might take offense and you might be fired. Where is your allegiance, to your boss and your paycheck or to your God? This type of thing could very well happen today. Imagine if your employer had you sign a statement of tolerance affirming certain lifestyles that you disagree with. What if your job required you to attend a workshop on Eastern Meditation? What if your professor or teacher demanded you rewrite a paper because he objected you writing it from your Christian worldview? What if you got reprimanded for sending out Christmas cards in your office and your boss threatened with disciplinary action unless you sent a follow-up note which validated other religious experiences as well. These are allegiance issues, and are you going to forsake Jesus for job security?
In the home: Second, imagine you’re a member of the Corinthian Church and you’re invited over to your rich cousins to eat. You sit down at the table and it looks good, and in the middle of the table is a deliciously dressed leg of mutton, your favorite. Your mouth starts watering and can’t wait for the meal to begin. Suddenly, right before the meal starts, you’ve already got your fork almost to you lips when your aunt, who has not yet come to terms with your having become a Christian, spots you about to eat and declares to the table, Isn’t the goddess Diana wonderful who provided this meat for us? The temple priest told me that she was particularly pleased with this sacrifice and her blessing will be on all who eat it in thanksgiving to the Great Goddess. Immediately every eye is on you. They know you’re a Christian. Are you going to eat? Where is your allegiance? To Jesus, or to pleasing your family and not ruffling feathers? You’re probably not going to be asked to eat idol meat, but what if someone in your family adopts and alternative lifestyle or religion and asks you why you can’t accept it and support it, like he or she supports your religious beliefs? What if a friend asks you to support a cause that you believe is contrary to the will of God? What if your divorced friend asks you to stand up in support of her second marriage even if you believe that she is going against the will of God in remarrying? All of these scenarios concern your standing up for Jesus as Lord in the midst of social consequences. It is hard. People will not understand. They will say you’re narrow-minded, legalistic, bigoted, disrespectful; because you will not forsake your allegiance to Christ to serve the God of tolerance and religious pluralism. For this is the name of the God that is served in Canada.
Paul continues on, making it very clear that this is indeed a test of allegiance. 1 Cor 10:21-22 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? We don’t often confront issues of clear and blatant idolatry that faced the Corinthian church, but we face tests of allegiance all the time. You cannot serve God and anything else. Maybe you serve the Idol of Tolerance like we talked about above. Maybe your idol is Achievement. Maybe your Idol is Security. Maybe its entertainment. Whatever it is it controls you and enslaves you as you are consumed by it. God is a jealous God.
Some people have a real problem with understanding God as a Jealous God. Isn’t Jealousy a sin? Answer: It is important here to understand how the word jealous is used. How it used in in verses like Exodus 20:5 to describe God is different from how it is used to describe the sin of jealousy. When we use the word jealous, we use it in the sense of being envious of someone who has something we don't have. A person might be jealous or envious of another person because he or she has a nice car or home (possessions). Or a person might be jealous or envious of another person because of some ability or skill that other person has (such as athletic ability). Another example would be that one person might be jealous or envious of another because of his or her beauty.
When we look at this verse, we find that it is not that God is jealous or envious because someone has something He wants that He does not possess. Exodus 20:4-5 says, "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God..." Notice that in this verse God is talking about being jealous if someone gives something that belongs to Him to another.
In these verses, God is speaking of people making idols and bowing down and worshiping those idols instead of giving God the worship that belongs to Him alone. God is possessive of the worship and service that belong to Him. It is a sin (as God points out in this commandment) to worship or serve anything other than Him. So, in summary, it is a sin when we desire, or we are envious, or we are jealous of someone because he has something that we do not have. It is a different use of the word jealous when God says He is jealous. What He is jealous for belongs to Him; worship and service belong to Him alone, and are to be given to Him alone.
Perhaps a practical example will help us to understand the difference. If a husband sees another man flirting with his wife, he is right to be jealous, for only he has the right to flirt with his wife. This type of jealousy is not sinful. Rather, it is entirely appropriate. Being jealous for something that belongs to you is good and appropriate. Jealousy is a sin when it is a desire for something that does not belong to you. Worship, praise, honor, and adoration belong to God alone, for only He is truly worthy of it. Therefore, God is rightly jealous when worship, praise, honor, or adoration is given to idols.
So this is the question before us as we partner together in the Lord’s supper today. Have I given what belongs to God, my heart, my allegiance, my all to another cause, object, or person?