ST. PAUL'S FIRST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS
Part II: Answers to the Corinthians' Questions Continued
Holy and Eternal Lord,
Your servant, St. Francis of Assisi, advised the faithful to preach the Gospel of salvation always, and to use words when necessary. Help us, Lord, in our daily interactions, to present ourselves in the image of Christ. Help us to live for Christ in what we say, in what we do, and in what we infer. Help us to present a holy life and a faithful witness to the teachings of Christ our Savior and His Church. We know that we cannot achieve this perfection of holiness on our own. Give us, Lord, the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit so that we can live the Christian witness joyfully and successfully according to Your good pleasure and for the greater glory of Jesus Christ in time and eternity. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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When people were forbidden to touch idols they would suspect that it was because they had power to do them harm. Paul therefore makes his position clear. He says categorically that there is no such thing as an idol but that it is necessary to avoid them so as not to give cause for scandal to those who are weak in the faith.
St. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, 20.8
Deep within his
conscience, man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he
must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to
avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment.... For man has in his heart
a law inscribed by God. His conscience is man's most secret core and his
sanctuary. There he is alone with God, whose voice echoes in his depths.
Pope Paul VI, Gaudium et Spes
St. Paul and the Apostles Sts. Peter and John remind us in their letters that life is short (cf. Rom 13:11-14; 1 Cor 7:29; 2 Pt 3:8; 1 Jn 2:15-17). They do this to encourage us to make the best use of our time to serve Jesus Christ and others for His sake. It is for this reason that a Christian should be detached from material things and never become a servant of the world (cf. 1 Cor 7:23; Lumen gentium, 42). Instead, the Christian must always have the goal of eternal life as his focus. St. Teresa of Avila wrote it will help us if: "... we keep a very constant care of the vanity of all things, and the rapidity with which they pass away, so that we may withdraw our affections from everything and fix them on what will last forever. This may seem to be a poor kind of help, but it will have the effect of greatly fortifying the soul" (Way of Perfection, Chapter 10).
St. Paul warned the Corinthian church in 7:31: "the world in its present form is passing away." It was Paul's point that we do not know when Christ will return to judge the world. Therefore, we should not waste any time in selfish, worldly pursuits but must take up the mission Jesus gave every Christian. In the next three chapters, St. Paul writes that we must not compromise our Christian witness by behaving in a way that causes weak Christians or non-believers to accuse us of hypocrisy or bad behavior. We must live a holy life that demonstrates Christ's charity and love, and we must strive share Jesus' Gospel of salvation while there is still time (Mt 28:19-20; Lk 24:47; Acts 1:8).
In Chapters 8-10, Paul continues to address the Corinthian church's questions, focusing on right Christian behavior:
Chapters 8:1-10:13 ~ To Eat or Not to Eat Meat Sacrificed to Idols
In Part II, Section 2 of his letter, Paul answers questions concerning eating sacrifices offered to idols (8:1-10:13):
In Part II, Section 3, Paul gives warnings about idol worship (10:14-11:1).
1 Corinthians 8:1-6 ~ Concerning Meat Sacrificed to
1 Now in regard to meat sacrificed to idols: we realize that "all of us have knowledge"; knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up. 2 If anyone supposes he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if one loves God, one is known by him. 4 So about the eating of meat sacrificed to idols: we know that "there is no idol in the world," and that "there is no God but one." 5 Indeed, even though there are so-called gods in heaven and on earth (there are, to be sure, many "gods" and many "lords). 6 Yet for us there is one God the Father, from whom all things are and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are and through whom we exist.
In continuing to answer the questions he received from the Corinthian Christians, St. Paul addresses the question of Christians eating meat sacrificed to idols. It was likely that there were several different attitudes among the Corinthians concerning this issue:
In the pagan temples, worshipers brought food items including different kinds of animals, grains/bread, and wine that they offered to the Greek and Roman gods. It was the practice to divide some of the meat from the sacrifices between the pagan priests and the offerer who then ate the meat in a banquet in communion with the pagan god. What remained, especially the meat on festival days where there were many sacrifices, was usually offered for sale in the Corinthian markets with the proceeds added to the treasuries of the various temples.
Paul gives a warning concerning "knowledge" and being overly prideful in what we think we know. Our first parents thought it was beneficial to have the kind of "knowledge" Satan was offering them (Gen 3:4-5), but that knowledge was not beneficial and only led to their expulsion from the Garden Sanctuary that was Eden (Gen 3:22-23).
3 But if one
loves God, one is known by him.
There are two common themes in all Paul's letters: Glorify God, and love one another. Obviously, God knows everything, but the knowledge Paul refers is the knowledge of a loving intimacy that comes from a relationship with God. Notice that Paul does not say if one loves God that one knows God. Instead, he says if one loves God then God knows that person. When one loves God, God "knows" that person in the context of the intimacy of a covenant relationship. It is Jesus Christ who revealed God to us who "knows" us in the New Covenant in His Blood.
At the Council of Jerusalem (49/50 AD), the Apostles addressed the question of what was the appropriate requirements for Gentile converts. The Apostles sent letters to the mixed Jewish and Gentile Christian communities with the message: It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to impose on you any burden beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from illicit marriages. Avoid these and you will do what is right. Farewell (Acts 15:28).
Question: Why was the prohibition against
strangled animals or drinking blood included in the letter? See Gen 9:3-5;
Ex 23:5; Dt 22:4;
Lev 3:17; 17:11-12, 14;
Answer: According to the Law, consuming blood was forbidden since the time of Noah, and a strangled animal was not drained of its blood. Blood was holy since it was a means of atoning for sins, and the punishment for violation of the prohibition under the Sinai Covenant was excommunication. Eating the flesh of animals that violated the Law of Moses would deeply offend Jewish-Christians and cause divisions in a mixed Jewish/Gentile Christian community.
God commanded the humane treatment of animals (Ex 23:5 and Dt 22:4). Under the old law, Jews were only allowed to kill animals by humanely cutting the throat of the victim in one swift motion with a ritual knife and then draining the blood from the animals to avoid the prohibition against consuming blood (Lev 3:17; 17:11-12, 14; Dt 13:22-25; etc.). When slaughtering an animal according to Jewish law, the jugular vein is severed, and the animal dies instantly with the maximum amount of blood leaving the body. Pagans not only ate animals without draining the blood, but they also drank blood as part of their rituals.
St. James, the first Christian bishop of Jerusalem, brought up the issue of eating meat offered to idols at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:13-21). The Jerusalem church was largely Jewish, and there were Jewish Christians who resisted admitting Gentiles unless they observed the Law of Moses (Acts 15:1, 5). The Apostles agreed in their first Apostolic Decree to forbid eating the meat of animals offered to idols or strangled animals whose bodies still contained blood for Gentiles who wanted to convert. They knew these were practices that deeply offend Jews who converted to Christianity, and it was their intent to not scandalize Jewish-Christians to avoid a division in churches. There was also probably the consideration that the practice of eating meat offered to pagan idols might mislead a new Gentile Christians since eating idol-meat implies sharing in the sacrilegious worship of those idols (1 Cor 8:7). Later, as the churches became less Jewish, the Church abandoned the restrictions against eating animals sacrificed to idols or animals not killed according to kosher laws.
The issue of Corinthian Christians purchasing and eating meat offered to idols that was important to Paul may appear to be of little consequence to Christian's today. However, the "meat" of the issue Paul raises is important to Christians of every generation: "What do we need to do to maintain our authentic Christian identity and how do we present that identity to each other and to the secular world?"
5 Indeed, even
though there are so-called gods in heaven and on earth (there are, to be sure,
many "gods" and many "lords).
Paul points out that for the pagans, "there are many gods and many lords." The "gods" are the many Greek and Roman gods, and the "lords" are probably divinized human beings like the Roman Emperor Augustus.
Question: What contrast is Paul making between
Gentile pagans and Christians?
Answer: Pagans have many "gods" that they worship and many "lords" to whom they give their allegiance, but Christians have One God they worship, and they have one Lord, Jesus Christ, to whom they give their undivided loyalty.
6 Yet for us
there is one God the Father, from whom all things are and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are and through whom we
This verse is the earliest written affirmation of the pre-existence of Jesus Christ and his role in Creation. It is an affirmation that the Church's Ecumenical Councils will later theologically define (i.e., Nicene-Constantinople Creed). Paul may be quoting from an early creed; see a similar affirmation in Colossians 1:15-19.
Paul's point in verses 5-6 is simple: Christians did not invent God like the pagan Gentiles invented the idols of false gods; God created us, and He loves us and knows us! Therefore, meat sacrificed to pagan idols has no meaning for Christians who belong to the one God and one Lord, Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 8:7-13 ~ Practical Rules Concerning Meat
Sacrificed to Idols
7 But not all have this knowledge. There are some who have been so used to idolatry up until now that, when they eat meat sacrificed to idols, their conscience, which is weak, is defiled. 8 Now food will not bring us closer to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, nor are we better off if we do. 9 But make sure that this liberty of yours in no way becomes a stumbling block to the weak. 10 If someone sees you, with your knowledge, reclining at table in the temple of an idol, may not his conscience too, weak as it is, be built up" to eat the meat sacrificed to idols? 11 Thus through your knowledge, the weak person is brought to destruction, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 When you sin in this way against your brothers and wound their consciences, weak as they are, you are sinning against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food causes my brother to sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I may not cause my brother to sin.
The Corinthian Christians were probably asking Paul,
"Could one eat food sacrificed to idols without compromising with idolatry?"
Question: What is Paul's answer? See 1 Cor 8:4, 7-8.
Answer: Paul wrote that the Christian is free to eat meat sacrificed to idols with a clear conscience since an idol is a meaningless object. However, love requires a Christian to respect the feelings of Jewish-Christians who have scruples regarding the practice or Gentile-Christians who might be susceptible to vestiges of pagan superstitions.
Paul's point is that food is morally neutral and does not change our standing with God. Christians have the knowledge that false gods have no power and the food sacrificed to them is without any value other than for food. However, the question is, as stated in 6:12, not everything that is permitted or "lawful" is beneficial.
Question: When a Christian dines with someone who
has the same understanding, eating meat that is from an animal sacrificed in a
pagan temple is not a problem. However, when might that practice become a
Answer: For a recent convert who is still attached to their former pagan lifestyle or a recent Jewish convert, it could scandalize the Jew and cause the former pagan to feel uncomfortably drawn to former pagan practices and beliefs.
Question: In verses 12-13, what does Paul say
about knowingly doing anything that causes a "stumbling block" to another
Answer: Paul goes so far as to say that willingly causing discomfort or loss of faith to a brother or sister Christian is not only a sin against that fellow Christian but is a sin against Christ. He makes a vow to never do anything, even if it is lawful, that might compromise the faith of a fellow Christian.
Jesus made a similar statement referring to immature Christians as "little ones" when He said, Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea (Mt 18:6; also Mk 9:42).
Chapter 9:1-10:13 ~ Do not Place any Obstacle to the Gospel
1 Corinthians 9:1-12 ~ Paul's Rights as an Apostle
1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? 2 Although I may not be an apostle for others, certainly I am for you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 My defense against those who would pass judgment on me is this. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Kephas? 6 Or is it only myself and Barnabas who do not have the right not to work? 7 Whoever serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating its produce? Or who shepherds a flock without using some of the milk from the flock? 8 Am I saying this on human authority, or does not the law also speak of these things? 9 It is written in the Law of Moses, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is God concerned about oxen, 10 or is he not really speaking for our sake? 11 It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope, and the thresher in hope of receiving a share. If we have sown spiritual seed for you, is it a great thing that we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we still more? Yet we have not used this right. On the contrary, we endure everything so as not to place an obstacle to the Gospel of Christ.
St. Paul appeals to the Corinthian Christians to follow his example of concern for others, even when it means letting go of one's rights. In the previous verse, Paul wrote that eating meat is a natural right, but he will willingly give up that right and never eat meat again if it causes a fellow Christian to sin (8:13).
In chapter 9 Paul defends himself against his accusers and bases his defense on two points:
In 9:1-12 Paul asks a series of fourteen rhetorical questions in defending his actions. Eating meat is only one of the rights he is entitled to as an apostle of Jesus Christ. In verses 1-3, Paul again makes the claim that his vision and his commissioning by Christ makes him equal to the other Apostles. He reminds them that he is also the founder of their community saying, Are you not my work in the Lord?, and he tells them that they are the seal of my apostleship. In the same way that a seal testifies to the authenticity of a document, their very existence as a Christian community confirms the divine origins of Paul's preaching that led them to salvation.
Marriage is the first right Paul mentions that he gave up. Peter, the other Apostles, missionaries and "brothers of the Lord," used the right to bring their wives with them, but Paul denied himself that right by remaining celibate.(1)
The second right he gave up was the material support of the community he founded (verses 6-12). Paul and Barnabas, in their missionary work, had the right to receive material support, but they did not claim that right. Paul supported himself as a tentmaker. They did not want to be accused of preaching the Gospel for material gain.
In verses 7-12, Paul makes his claim to just compensation
for his labors by using three arguments.
Question: For the first argument, he uses what common sense examples and makes what comparison?
Answer: He writes that the soldier receives pay for his military service, and the planter and the shepherd have the right to be compensated for their labors. In the same way, he writes, those who "fight" for Christ in the battlefield of the world deserve a reward just as those who "plant" the Gospel of salvation and "shepherd" Christ's people deserve the fruits of their labors.
For the second argument, Paul quotes from the Law of
Moses in Deuteronomy 25:4 and cites Divine authority, 8 Am I saying this on human authority, or does
not the law also speak of these things? 9
It is written in the Law of Moses, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it
is treading out the grain." Is God concerned about oxen, 10 or is he not really speaking for our sake? 11 It was written for our sake, because the
plowman should plow in hope, and the thresher in hope of receiving a share.
Question: What is Paul's point?
Answer: If God commands that an ox treading the grain for a farmer must be permitted to eat from the grain it is treading, then is it also just for the one who works for the Lord to be permitted to share in the resources that his work produces. After all, if God is concerned about oxen, isn't He even more concerned about His human laborer receiving his just wage?
As the "laborer" for the Lord who first sowed the "seed of faith" in Corinth, Paul has the right to receive material support from them. And as the first who "planted" the faith among them, he has a greater claim than others who preached there and have probably received the reward of the community's support (1 Cor 1:12; 3:5).
1 Corinthians 9:13-18 ~ Preaching the Gospel and
Living the Gospel Message
13 Do you not know that those who perform the Temple services eat what belongs to the Temple, and those who minister at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Gospel should live by the Gospel. 15 I have not used any of these rights, however, nor do I write this that it be done so in my case. I would rather die. Certainly no one is going to nullify my boast. 16 If I preach the Gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it! 17 If I do so willingly, I have a recompense, but if unwillingly, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What then is my recompense? That, when I preach, I offer the Gospel free of charge so as not to make full use of my right in the Gospel.
Question: What is Paul's third argument concerning
just compensation for his labors for the community and what comparison does he
Answer: Paul makes an analogy between the Jewish priest's Temple service and his liturgical service. The Jewish priests who serve in God's Temple and at His sacrificial altar are awarded a share in certain sacrifices according to the law. In the same way, Jesus ordered that His ministers should make a living by preaching the Gospel.
Notice that at this time the Jerusalem Temple still stands and functions. In a little more than a decade, the Romans will destroy Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD.
Question: In verses 15-18, what personal reason does
Paul give for not taking advantage of his right to material support for his
labors for the Lord?
Answer: His preaching of the Gospel isn't a personal choice for which he could receive recompense. His preaching is a divine compulsion, and it is for that reason that Paul preaches the Gospel free of charge.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ~ All Things to All
19 Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew to win over Jews; to those under the law I became like one under the law, though I myself am not under the law, to win over those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became like one outside the law, though I myself am not outside God's law but within the law of Christ, to win over those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some. 23 All this I do for the sake of the Gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.
Paul expands on the reason for his behavior. He explains the paradox of Christian freedom that is not freedom from unrestrained behavior but freedom for service to Christ in his Christian witness.
Question: To reach as many people as possible with
the Gospel of salvation, Paul explains his strategy by listing a series of what
Answer: Paul writes that:
The Jews under the law refers to Jews that still practice the Mosaic Laws of the Sinai Covenant. When Paul is with Jews, he identifies with them by pointing out that he is a Jew who was raised observing Jewish customs so he can connect with them and avoid offending them. To Gentiles, Paul appeals to them not as a Jew but as one Christ sent to call Gentiles to salvation (Acts 9:15). He follows Gentile customs when with them. However, Paul qualifies his strategy by writing that he is not outside God's law that is the moral law of the Ten Commandments, but he is within Christ's law, the law of love of God and neighbor that defines the Ten Commandments (Mk 12:28-34).
The weak to which Paul refers brings them back to their question concerning eating meat sacrificed to idols. The practice might have a negative influence on Jews who are still attached to the Jewish ritual food laws or Gentiles who are not completely separated from their pagan roots. And, therefore, Paul writes, he accommodates himself to those with whom he shares the Gospel so he can gain the most influence with them.
23 All this I do
for the sake of the Gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.
It is not the material resources that Paul could avail himself that counts but the spiritual fruits. Not only does his preaching bring others to salvation, but, in sharing the Gospel, Christ will increase Paul's spiritual gifts. The source of the Jordan River supplies water to both the fresh water Sea of Galilee with its abundance of fish but also to the Dead Sea where there is an absence of life. The difference is that water not only flows into the Sea of Galilee from its source, but flows out in a continuous giving of water. The Dead Sea, however, is a "dead-end." It does not have an outlet; it only receives without giving. The soul that only receives without giving becomes stagnant like the Dead Sea. God rewards the person who continually shares the gift of the Gospel of salvation by a continually renewed life in the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ~ Preaching the Gospel to Win
Souls for Christ
24 Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. 25 Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. 26 Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. 27 No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.
Paul must have been a sports fan because he likes using
sports metaphors (Gal 5:7; Phil 2:16; 2 Tim 4:7-8; Heb 12:1). In a series of
sayings from sports, Paul appeals to an audience that is familiar with
Hellenistic culture sporting events, including the Isthmian games hosted by the
city of Corinth.
Question: What sporting examples does Paul use to compare with a Christian preaching the Gospel?
In St. John's vision in the Book of Revelation, Jesus sent a letter to the church at Smyrna promising, Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life (Rev 2:10c). Paul intends to stay in his race to the end when he wins the "victor's crown" that is the gift of eternal salvation.
26 Thus I do not
run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. 27 No, I drive my body and train it, for fear
that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.
Paul is convinced that he must reach his hearers wherever they are in their lives (verses 19-22) and that he must do this is necessary for his salvation (verses 23-27). Paul's fear in verse 27 is another denial of the false doctrine of eternal security or "once saved always saved."
1 Corinthians 10:1-5 ~ Do not be Overconfident like
1 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, 2 and all of them were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 All ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was the Christ. 5 Yet God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the desert.
Paul's mention of the possibility of his "disqualification" if he fails in his mission to preach the Gospel successfully provides a transition to the next part of his address in Chapter 10. In this chapter, Paul alludes to several Old Testament events, demonstrating the necessity of studying all of Sacred Scripture in both Testaments or one will not have a full understanding of Divine revelation.
According to tradition, the miracle of the water flowing from the rock did not only occur during the two events recorded in Exodus and Numbers, but the rock followed the Israelites for their forty years in the wilderness. Then, Paul makes a dramatic statement in identifying the rock as the pre-Incarnate Christ!
Question: What comparisons can be made between the
cloud and the sea as a form of baptism (verse 2), the manna, and the water from
the spiritual rock that was Christ?
Answer: God provides the generations of the New Covenant in Christ even greater gifts than the liberated Exodus generation:
5 Yet God was not
pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the desert.
Question: What happened to the first Exodus generation? See Num 14:20-38.
Answer: In judgment for their continuous rebellion and unbelief, God condemned them to death in the desert wilderness. Only faithful and obedient Joshua and Caleb of the Exodus generation would enter the Promised Land.
Question: What lesson is there for us in the fate
of the Exodus generation?
Answer: Rebellion against God and lack of faith could exempt even those of us who have received the baptism of Christ and the gift of the Eucharist from entrance into the Promised Land of Heaven.
1 Corinthians 10:6-13 ~ Old Testament Events are
Examples for Us
6 These things happened as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things, as they did. 7 And do not become idolaters, as some of them did, as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel." 8 Let us not indulge in immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell within a single day. 9 Let us not test Christ as some of them did, and suffered death by serpents. 10 Do not grumble as some of them did, and suffered death by the destroyer. 11 These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us, upon whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall. 13 No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.
Question: What does Paul write is important for us
to understand about the trials and judgments of the people of God in the Old
Testament Scriptures? He mentions this twice in verses 6 and 11.
Answer: What happened to them should be seen as an example for us not to commit the same offenses against God that included idolatry and immorality.
Next, Paul gives two example of bad behavior of the children of Israel from the Old Testament that resulted in divine judgment. 7 And do not become idolaters, as some of them did, as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel." 8 Let us not indulge in immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell within a single day.
The first event of the sin of idol worship for the children of Israel was the creation of the Golden Calf and God's judgment against the Israelites in Exodus 32:1-6, 25-29. However, only three thousand died in that judgment. Paul was probably referring to the event in Numbers 25 on the Plain of Baal of Peor when the new generation men of the children of Israel joined in a pagan Moabite sacrificial banquet: ... the people degraded themselves by having illicit relations with the Moabite women. These then invited the people to the sacrifices of their god, and the people ate of the sacrifices and worshiped their god (Num 25:1-2). It was an event that parallels the situation of some of the New Covenant generation of Christians in Corinth. Paul's mention of "indulging in immorality as some of them did" refers to the fornication and adultery of the Israelite men with Moabite women.(2)
9 Let us not test
Christ as some of them did, and suffered death by serpents. 10 Do not grumble as some of them did, and
suffered death by the destroyer.
The second example is from Numbers 21:4-9 when the Israelites tested God by complaining about the food God provided for them and accusing God of taking them into the desert to die. In punishment, God sent venomous serpents among the people. Paul warns the people not to test Christ as the Israelites of the Exodus generation tested Him; a reference to the Oneness of God and the pre-Incarnation of the Son.
11 These things
happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to
us, upon whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take
care not to fall.
Once again Paul emphasizes the typological value of Old Testament events.(3) The "end of the ages" refers to the Age of the Kingdom of the New Covenant Church that is the last age of humanity before the Final Judgment. The last age began with Christ's Ascension and continues until Christ's Second Coming. The point of Paul's comparisons with old Israel is to caution the Corinthian Christians against overconfidence in a prideful belief in their security (verse 12).
13 No trial has
come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried
beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so
that you may be able to bear it.
However, Paul softens his warning with the assurance that they can persevere in faith since God will not let them be tested beyond their strength. God will provide the means to endure the trial, if we will trust Him. Jesus was tempted by Satan during his forty-day fast in the desert (Mt 4:1-16; Mk 1:12-13; Lk 4:1-13). Jesus shows us how we should react when the devil tries to tempt us with an enticement. Our protection is God's grace that is our strength to conquer the enticement to sin (2 Cor 12:7-9), because His grace is stronger than any temptation. God's grace is the key to resisting temptation and this is what Paul is telling us in verse 13.
Question: What encouragement does Jesus give us in Luke 22:46
and what advice does St. Paul give us in Philippians 4:13, and what is St.
James' encouragement in James 1:12-15? How do we apply their advice?
Answer: Paul says "I can do all things in him who strengthens me." Jesus admonishes us, "Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation." St. James tells us "Blessed is the man who endures trial ..." When tempted to sin we:
Chapter 10:14-11:1 is the third part of Paul's response to the questions of the Corinthian community. In Section III, Paul returns to his warnings about idol worship (10:14-11:1).
1 Corinthians 10:14-22 ~ Avoiding Idolatry and the
Table of the Lord
14 Therefore, my beloved, avoid idolatry. 15 I am speaking as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I am saying. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation [koinonia] in the blood of Christ? 17 The bread that we break, is it not a participation [koinonia] in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. 18 Look at Israel according to the flesh; are not those who eat the sacrifices participants [koinonoi] in the altar? 19 So what am I saying? That meat sacrificed to idols is anything? Or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I mean that what they sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to become participants [koinonoi] with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and also the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of demons. 22 Or are we provoking the Lord to jealous anger? Are we stronger than he? [...] = Greek, IBGE, vol. IV, page 467; koinonia = singular; Strong's G2842, koinonoi = plural; Strong's G2844.
In this passage, Paul makes a distinction between eating the meat of sacrificed animals purchased in the marketplace and the participation in the idolatry of pagan sacred meals. For a Christian to take part in the banquet of a pagan sacrifice to a demon false god is a sacrilege. It is an offense to Christ because Christians have the true sacred meal where they come to the banquet table of the Lord and consume, as one people (koinonia singular), the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, His holy sacrifice offered on the altar of the Cross.
16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation [koinonia] in the blood of Christ? 17 The bread that we break, is it not a participation [koinonia] in the body of Christ?
Paul uses two forms of the Greek word koinonia: in the singular when referring to Christians receiving the sacred meal of the Eucharist and in the plural when referring to pagan sacred meals. Biblical scholars write that this word has a richness of meaning that is difficult to express in a single word. Some Biblical translations render it as "participation," while others as "sharing" or "communion." The use of the word koinonia in secular literature and by Paul:
Question: How does Paul use the word in this
Answer: He uses it in the sense of:
Paul's point is that our union with Christ may begin with our Baptism, but it is in the Eucharist that we become what we eat; we become one Body with Christ.
In verse 16, Paul refers to the chalice of the Precious Blood as the "cup of blessing." It is the term used in the sacred meal of the Passover victim on the first night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It was the third of the four communal cups consumed during the sacred meal of the Passover victim. It is the cup, according to Paul's testimony, that Jesus transformed into His Precious Blood (Mt 26:26-28; Mk 14:22-24; Lk 22:14-20).(4)
It is interesting that Paul mentions the Blood of Christ before he mentions the Body. The same order is in the Church's oldest Catechism, called the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles or simply the "Teaching," in Greek the "Didache." See the Study on the Didache, Lesson Two.
18 Look at Israel according to the flesh; are not those who eat the sacrifices participants [koinonoi plural] in the altar?
The "Israel according to the flesh" is pre-Christian Israel. In the Temple liturgy, a member of the covenant made a communion "peace offering." The priest burned the fat of the animal and its kidneys on the altar and sprinkled the blood of the animal against the altar. The priest retained part of the animal with the rest returned to the offerer who took part in the sacrifice at the altar by eating his part of the victim in a sacred meal (Lev 3:1-17; 7:11-21). Since the altar represented God (Ex 24:5-6, 8; Dt 12:11-12; Heb 13:10), eating the sacrifice in a sacred meal was union with the Lord just as eating the sacrifice of the Eucharist is union with Christ. However, the union in the Eucharistic sacrifice is more profound. Christians become physically and spiritual one with Christ through consuming His flesh and blood sacrifice (singular in verse 16 verses plural in verse 18).
20 No, I mean that what they sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to become participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and also the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of demons.
In his statement, they sacrifice to demons, not to God, Paul is alluding to Deuteronomy 32:17, They offered sacrifice to demons, to "no gods," to whom they had not known before (also see Ps 96:5; Bar 4:7). To emphasize that the sacred meal of the Eucharist is incompatible with pagan sacrificial meals, Paul makes the contrast between "the cup of the Lord" and "the cup of demons," and between "the table of the Lord" and "the table of demons." "Table" is a word frequently used as the equivalent of "altar" in the Old Testament (Is 65:11; Ez 41:22; 44:16; Mal 1:7-12).
Paul's point is that Christians may know that idols are "nothing," and they may think that to partake at a pagan communal meal is also "nothing;" however, to engage in an act that expresses belief in them is not meaningless. It is scandalous, sacrilegious, and dangerous because demons are the power behind the worship of false gods (or any act that separates someone from the truth of God), and it opens people to a darkness that is Satanic.
Question: Paul forbids the Corinthian Christians
to take part in pagan sacrificial meals for two reasons. The first reason is that
they have their own sacred meal that unites them to the life of Christ. What
is the second reason in verse 22?
Answer: To take part in the pagan ritual of a sacred meal that acknowledges union with a pagan god is to invite the wrath and holy jealousy of the One, True God.
God has bound Himself to His covenant people in a marriage covenant in which infidelity to the covenant amounts to the sin of adultery (Is 54:5-10; 62:4-5; Jer 2:2; 6:1-10, 20; Ez 16:8, 28; Hos 1:2-2:25). The Old Testament frequently expressed God's jealousy concerning the undivided love of His Bride, the Church (Dt 6:14-15; 32:21; Josh 24:19-20; Ps 78:58-64).
Are we stronger than he? In using the pronoun "we" instead of "you," Paul applies this rhetorical question to the Corinthian community and to himself. The answer is "NO," and recalls Paul's warning in Hebrews 10:31, It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!"
1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1 ~ What is Lawful Versus what is Beneficial
23 "Everything is lawful," but not everything is beneficial. Everything is lawful," but not everything builds up. 24 No one should seek his own advantage, but that of his neighbor. 25 Eat anything sold in the market, without raising questions on grounds of conscience, 26 for "the earth and its fullness are the Lord's." 27 If an unbeliever invites you and you want to go, eat whatever is placed before you, without raising questions on grounds of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, "This was offered in sacrifice," do not eat it on account of the one who called attention to it and on account of conscience; 29 I mean not your own conscience, but the other's. For why should my freedom be determined by someone else's conscience? 30 If I partake thankfully, why am I reviled for that over which I give thanks? 31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 32 Avoid giving offense, whether to Jews or Greeks or the Church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved. 11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
In verse 23, Paul returns to the Corinthian community's claim that "everything is lawful" and repeats his response in 6:12. That "everything is lawful, but not everything is beneficial" is the theme of this part of his presentation. Paul has unequivocally denounced taking part in pagan ritual meals, but now he returns to the practice of eating the meat of sacrificial animals sold in the market. Paul makes several suggestions:
30 If I partake thankfully, why am I reviled for that over which I give thanks? 31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.
Paul defends his advice by saying if he has in effect "cleansed" the meat by giving thanks to God in prayer before eating, why should anyone complain so long as whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.
32 Avoid giving offense, whether to Jews or Greeks or the Church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved. 11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
Paul ends with the advice to do what you can to avoid giving offense; do this not for your benefit but for the sake of your Christian witness and the salvation of souls. Finally, he ends with a simple plan of action for the Corinthian Christians, Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
As Christians, we have the responsibility of presenting our distinctively Christian witness to the secular world. However, what about the special identity of a Catholic Christian? When a Catholic Christian attends a worship service of another Christian denomination, for example a wedding, when invited to take part in their form of communion, why should the Catholic Christian politely decline the invitation? Other Christian denominations either don't believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist as Catholics believe and see communion as symbolic. Or, if they do profess to believe Christ is present in the bread and wine, their offering is not Christ because Christ cannot be present in an offering made by an invalidly ordained minister. So, if what they offer is only "symbolic," why should a Catholic still politely decline?
1The "brothers of the Lord" refers to Jesus' kinsmen mentioned in Mk 3:31-35; 6:3; Jn 2:12; 7:3, 5, 10 and Acts 1:14. Jesus' kinsman, St. James, Bishop of Jerusalem, is specifically named in Gal 1:19.
2. Paul refers to twenty-three thousand dying in the Baal of Peor rebellion, but the Hebrew Old Testament and the Septuagint record twenty-four thousand died (Num 25:9). Either Paul's copy of the text was in error, or he had a lapse of memory.
3 Typology is the method Christian students of the Bible use to understand the historical and theological relationships between people and events recorded in Sacred Scripture. Typology guides the Bible student to look at each event and person in salvation history as that person or event may be linked to what preceded in the Biblical record and linked to what came after, uniting the reader to the divine mystery of the progression of God's plan for the salvation of mankind. The Catechism of the Catholic Church encourages an awareness of and an appreciation for Biblical typology in the study of Sacred Scripture (CCC 128-30).
4. Only Luke's Gospel mentions drinking from a communal cup in Luke 24:17-18 prior to Jesus taking up the cup that is "the new covenant in my blood" in verse 20. The cup in verse 17 is probably the second of the communal cups, the "Cup of Forgiveness," or possible the first communal cup, the "Cup of Sanctification" that began the meal. Drinking the 3rd cup that was the "Cup of Blessing" (also called the "Cup of Redemption), came after the faithful consumed the meat of the Passover sacrifice when no other food was to be consumed. Jesus changed the order of the meal by offering His Body and the cup of His Blood. See the book "Jesus and the Mystery of the Tamid Sacrifice" at the end of Chapter VIII: "The Sacred Meal."
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2017 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
Catechism references for this lesson (* indicated that Scripture is either quoted or paraphrased in the catechism citation):
1 Cor 8:6
CCC 258*, 2639
1 Cor 10:2
1 Cor 10:4
1 Cor 8:12
1 Cor 9:1
CCC 659*, 857*
1 Cor 10:9
1 Cor 10:11
CCC 117, 128*, 2175*
1 Cor 9:5
1 Cor 10:13
CCC 1329*, 1331*, 1396
1 Cor 9:22
1 Cor 10:16
1 Cor 10:17
1 Cor 10:24