Click here for a list of all our sermon series. 查阅我们所有的讲道系列

Sermon on 1 Corinthians 9:24-11:1 哥林多前书第9章24节至第11章1节

September 15, 2019, More from this speaker 更多关于此讲员: Dr. Tan Hock Seng (1 Corinthians 9:24-11:1) For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: 1 Corinthians
Preached at a Bilingual (Mandarin-English, Sunday) service

Tags: 1 Corinthians 哥林多前书

Listen to sermon recording with the play button or download with the download link. 您可点播或下载讲道录音。
Bible passage (ESV) of the sermon can be found at the bottom of the page.

The Corinthian Christians encountered the issue of eating idol food in three places:
In a temple (1 Cor. 8:10); the market place (10:25); and in an unbeliever’s home (10:27).

In the temple
Idolatry was pervasive in Paul’s time. (1) An estimated 30,000 statues of gods and goddess existed in the Roman Empire.

In the Greco-Roman world, idol worship intertwined with social life. (2) Participation in an idol-feast was a central element in maintaining relations with neighbors, friends and colleagues.

(3) Eating idol-food and attending idol-feast was also “a significant marker of social status.” The development of the Corinth city leaned heavily on the patronage-client structure. The wealthy patron sponsored the building of theater, shopping malls and the essential facilities.(4) As clients to the powerful and influential patrons, the Corinthian Christians were obliged to do things that were incompatible with their commitment to Jesus Christ. Some of them belonged to cult associations [collegium] which frequently held feasts under the patronage of various gods, both in temples and in private homes. Thus, if such VIP were to invite believers to an idol-feast, any RSVP, “Sorry, we can’t go,” might jeopardize the responder’s livelihood.

A distinctive feature in the cult centers was a place around the temple, usually a garden, for large numbers of people to eat around “sacred tables.” The temples in Corinth had premises with dining facilities.

From the market place
When a worshipper offers meat sacrifices in the temple, the priests would receive a third of the meat portion. Since they did not have refrigerators then, chunks of meat given cannot be kept for long. So, the priests would sell the meats at a cheaper price in the market near the temple. Of course, the consumers would choose to buy meats sold at a very low price, which normally they could not afford.

In an unbeliever’s home
When eating in the homes of relatives, neighbors or friends, Christian guests were often served meats that had been sacrificed to idols.

Christians were a marginal community in Corinth. People who became believers would experience a degree of “status dissonance” when they joined the church. Their dilemma was the tension between their allegiance to Jesus Christ and their loyalty towards family and friends, and being respectable citizens of the society. Many Corinthian Christians were still closely tied to idolatrous practices. *The Christians were faced with the challenge of living out their Christian faith in an idolatrous society.

There were Christians about were adamant about eating idol food even in the temple. They had many reasons to justify eating idol food:

“An Idol is Nothing” - Their knowledge that an idol is nothing (8:4-8)
“We have rights!” - Their rights as individuals (9:4-15; 10:23)
“We are free in Christ” - Their freedom as Christians (9:19-23)
“We are protected by sacraments” - Their security was wrongly anchored in the Sacraments and in being spiritually gifted (10:14-22).

“An Idol is Nothing” (8:4-8)

In 1 Corinthians 8-11:1 the Apostle Paul confronts the Corinthians’ excuses, one issue at a time. In chapter 8, Paul deals with the Corinthians’ issue of knowledge. Here is a summary of Paul’s teaching in chapter 8:

Corinthians must not eat idol-food based on knowledge alone because:

Firstly, love, not knowledge, is the basis for Christian conduct (8:1-8).

(1-3) Knowledge leads to self-deception and pride.
Pride can be destructive to self and to others.

Love reflects a right relationship with God.
Love builds up (the body of Christ – God’s people in the church).

(4-8) Not everyone holds the same view about idols.

Christians who do not have a proper view of idols and idol-food may compromise their sense of right and wrong.

Corinthians: An idol is not an entity; There is only one God (8:4b)
Paul: … but demons also exist (8:4c-5).

Not everybody knows this (7a). Recent converts may be drawn into sin (7b)

Secondly, they must exercise their freedom to eat with the welfare of others in mind.
If they do not consider the welfare of others while eating idol-food they might sin against the people for whom Christ died (8:9-13).

Recent converts might have weak conscience. The conscience’s weakness was due their vulnerability to compromise their Christian conviction. They might try to rationalize their idolatrous conduct based on some superficial knowledge.

We have Rights! (9:4-15; 10:23)

Paul told the Corinthians that as an Apostle, he had the right to be supported [9:3-12a]
(1) Other apostles have exercised this right [3-6]
(2) Even soldiers are entitled to be supported [7]
(3) The Mosaic Law grants him the right to be supported [8-12a]

But Paul relinquished His right to be supported for the sake of the Gospel [9:12b-15]
Similarly, for the sake of the Gospel, the Corinthians should be willing to yield their rights for the good of others. Q: Should we also learn to give up our rights for the sake of the Gospel? We ought to.

We are Free in Christ (9:19-23)

Paul told the Corinthians that he would use his freedom to serve others, even if serving others entails the loss of their freedom.

19 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Corinthians’ False Sense of Security: Baptism & the Lord’s Supper (10:14-22).

Next, Paul shall deal with the Corinthians’ false sense of security. Their security was wrongly anchored on Christian Sacraments. Paul cites the example of the OT people of God -- the Israelites:

1 Corinthians 10:1
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.
2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
3 They all ate the same spiritual food
4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them,
and that rock was Christ.

OT Israelites Corinthian Christians
Baptized into Moses
[Mosaic community] Baptized into Christ
[Messianic community]
Ate the same spiritual food [Manna] Ate of one loaf of Bread
Drank the same spiritual drink Drank of the one Cup
The LORD’s Presence was with the OT & NT People of God

When those Israelites willfully participated in idol-worship and pagan revelry, they died as the result of the LORD’s judgment.

5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.

6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.

These are the evils things committed by the Israelites:
[1] Idolatry; [2] Sexual immorality; [3] Testing the LORD; and [4] Grumbling.

From the terrifying experience of the OT People of God, Paul issues four warning to the Corinthians:

[1] Do not be idolaters (10:7); [2] Do not engage in sexual immorality (10:8); [3] Do not test the LORD (10:9); and [4] Do not grumble against the LORD’s goodness (10:10).

1. Do not be idolaters (10:7)

7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: "The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry."

At the plain of Moab the Israelites indulged in the worship of Baal of Peor (Numbers 25:1-3).

2. Do not engage in sexual immorality (10:8)

8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did-- and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.

Paul alluded to the incident recorded in Numbers 25 where the Israelites were lured by the Moabite “Girls’ Generation” pop-group to engage in the worship of Baal of Peor (Num. 25:1-3).

Pagan worship often degenerated into a sexual debauchery. Sexual revelry was often part of pagan worship. There is a sensual [natural] association between idolatry and sexual immorality

The warning against idolatry was very relevant to conditions in Corinth. The idol-feasts were held in the dining rooms. At about 8.00pm, the wives would take the children home, and the men stayed behind for sex party in the dining rooms. Sacred prostitutes were found at many shrines, and Corinth had temple with Shrine prostitutes.

3. Do not test the LORD (10:9)

9 We should not test the Lord, as some of them did-- and were killed by snakes.

Israel’s testing the LORD in times of dire need showed a mindset of unbelief and rebellion. They treated the God who saved them with contempt. They questioned God’s goodness and were ready to reject Him for food and water. To reject God for material gains is the very essence of idolatry. Paul’s references of the OT, “Do not test the LORD!” exhorted the Corinthians to trust and to obey their invisible God when pressured by idolaters to compromise their faith. The idea of “testing” God is to see how far one can go; and also to test how loving the LORD can be. Unfortunately, many Christians today have negated God’s attributes of Holiness, when they proclaimed the Love of God. But when they read about God’s judgment in the OT, they lose faith and tell others “God is bad.”

4. Do not grumble against the LORD’s prohibitions (10:10)

10 And do not grumble, as some of them did-- and were killed by the destroying angel.

The Israelites in the wilderness had a long history of grumbling.
One ridiculous incident of grumbling is seen in Numbers 11:4-6:

4 The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, "If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost-- also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!"

They grumbled not because God had ill-treated them. They grumbled because they were ungrateful. Instead of saying “Thank you, LORD!” They filed many unreasonable complaints against God.

As Paul exhorts the Corinthians, “Do not attend idol-feast”; “Do not attend sex parties at the temple”; he could imagine the Corinthians grumbling. “Aiyah! Being a Christian, here cannot go; there cannot go; and this cannot do; that also cannot do – so boring! Better to be dead than alive!”

So, Paul tells them, “Don’t you test the LORD!” “Do not grumble like the Israelites”

Then God sent plagues and consuming fire to wipe out those ungrateful complaint-kings and complaint-queens. Angels were the agents who carried out God’s judgment.

The Apostle Paul warned church-goers who anchored their faith on a wrong foundation.

12 So, if you think you are standing firm,
be careful that you don't fall!

Be careful if you think that you are “protected” because of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Sacraments do not have magical power to save.

Jesus Christ is the solid ground of our faith. Salvation is not the result of our participation in sacred rituals. Salvation is a gift that transpired from our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

In verse 7, Paul cautions the Corinthians “Do not be idolaters” now in verse 14, he seriously warned the Corinthians to flee from idolatry.

14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.

The concept of idolatry is expressed in three inter-related forms:
[1] The form of Idols – Exchanging God for gods; [2] The form of Indulgences – Exchanging God’s design & order for sensual pleasures and material things; and [3] The form of Ideologies – Exchanging God’s truth for men’s ideas.

The form of Idols (exchange God for gods);

22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles (Rom 1:22)

The form of Indulgences (exchange God’s creation-design/ order for sensual pleasures and materials things);

Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion (Rom 1:26-27).

The form of Ideologies (exchange God’s truth for man’s ideas).

25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator … (Rom 1:25)

In the first part of Chapter 10, Paul deals with the Corinthians’ false sense of security. Their security was wrongly anchored in Christian Sacraments. In the second part, Paul corrects the Corinthians’ knowledge, which is actually a partially wrong theology.

The Corinthians think that “an idol is nothing,” meaning, “an idol is not an entity”. Therefore, it is perfectly alright to participate in idol-feast. Now, Paul tells them:

1. It is not consistent for believers to participate in the idol-feast because they are united with Christ -- one Body of Christ (10:16-17).

16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving
for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ?
And is not the bread
that we break a participation in the body of Christ?

17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.

Our union with Christ is expressed through our part-taking of the Holy Communion.
The cup is the New Covenant that Christ inaugurated by His blood, that is Jesus’ atoning death. The bread is Christ’s body with which we are united in His death and resurrection. Since we are one body with Christ in the New Covenant, how could we engage in activities that are incompatible with this sacred reality?

2. The idol-feast is a locus of demonic activities.

18 Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?

19 Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything,
or that an idol is anything?

20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God,
and I do not want you to be participants with demons.

Yes, an idol is nothing because it is not an entity. But the idol-feast is a locus of demonic activities. In the OT, sacrifices to idols are equated with sacrifices to demons. Thus, attending the feast is participation with demons.

3. Participation in an idol-feast tantamount to idolatry.

21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's Table and the table of demons.
22 Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy?
Are we stronger than he?

The LORD’s jealousy will be aroused when believers eat at idol-feast because it is idolatry.

Some of us might feel troubled reading that God is jealous. In the OT, the LORD is depicted as the husband of Israel, and in the NT, the church is depicted as the bride of Christ. In the ancient near east culture, a jealous husband is a good and protective husband. “Jealousy” is a valid and healthy emotion in the husband-wife relationship. If the husband is not jealous, then he does not really love his wife. If other men come to snatch the wife away by force, the unloving husband wishing only to protect himself would say, “You want, you take.” But the jealous husband would give his life to protect the wife. Thus, we read the LORD is a jealous God, it means that like a husband He will love and protect His people from being lured or taken away from His absolute Goodness.

In the third part of 1 Corinthians 10, Paul will give some guidelines concerning eating idol-food.

1. Use your freedom to benefit and to build-up others for their good (10:23-24)

Corinthians: 23"Everything is permissible"—
Paul: but not everything is beneficial.
Corinthians: "Everything is permissible"—
Paul: but not everything is constructive.
Paul: 24 Nobody should seek his own good,
but the good of others.

2. Don’t ask questions of conscience when eating food bought from the marketplace (10:25-26)

25 Eat anything sold in the meat market
without raising questions of conscience,
Reason: 26 for, "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it."

3. Don’t ask questions of conscience when eating in the unbelievers’ home (10:27)

27 If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go,
eat whatever is put before you
without raising questions of conscience.

4. Refrain from eating if that will affect other’s conscience and yours (10:28)

28 But if anyone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice,"
then do not eat it,
both for the sake of the man who told you
and for conscience' sake --
29 the other man's conscience, I mean, not yours.

Concerning guideline #4, the Corinthians might protest,

For why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience?
30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness,
why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

Thus, Paul was all ready with this 2-fold counter-response:

For God’s sake: Do everything for the glory of God (10:31)

31 So whether you eat or drink
or whatever you do,
do it all for the glory of God.

For the Gospel’s sake: Don’t cause others to stumble in sins;
Seek the good of others (10:32-33).

32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God--
33 even as I try to please everybody in every way.
For I am not seeking my own good
but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

Whenever necessary, Paul would exercise discipline for the sake of the Gospel, so that he would not be controlled by his physical or sensuous appetite:

1 Corinthians 9:24c, 27 (in the context of verses 9:24-27)

[In the work of the Gospel Paul will …]

24c Run in such a way as to get the prize.

27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Paul’s concluding words concerning the idol food/ idol-feast issue:

1 Corinthians 11:1
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

This is a picture of the flat I stayed in during the 1960’s. It is a pre-war building with 5 storey at the Yong Siak Street, Tiong Bahru. My family of 9 people lived in the unit 12-C. The unit above ours, 12D was occupied by a Christian family of 9 people. The matriarch of that family was an elder of Jubilee Church. She led my grandmother to Christ and be baptized. I was an orphan, so I lived with my aunt and my 6 cousins. My aunt was a church-goer, who also worshipped ancestors. The storey below our units lived two families of staunch idol-worshippers.

The front doors of all units were always locked; but the back doors were always open during meal-preparation time. The neighbors would walk in and out of one another’s home unannounced and without invitation. That’s how friendly the neighborhood was.

A housewife in unit 12A, whom we called second-storey auntie always offered food to idols during the Chinese religious festivals. She was very generous in sharing idol-offered food with my family. She would give us a plate of noodles, chicken and roasted pork. The Christian family on the fifth storey never accepted any food that was offered to idols, because the Jubilee Church pastor had instructed the church -leaders and members not to eat idol-food. In those days a pastor’s instruction was “Thus saith the LORD” words to the church members. Although my family accepted the idol-food, my grandmother and my two cousins would not eat any because they were baptized.

Now, neighbors might be offended when we reject their good will. We are worried when some people say, “If you don’t accept our gifts, you don’t like us. What should we do?”

Now, that kind of talk is actually a binary-trap. A binary trap is a situation where only two options are presented, which are fallacious ˗ If you accept us, you will accept our gift; If you reject our gifts, you don’t like us. That is a false binary because there are other better and reasonable options available.

My Christian grandmother would often invite the second-storey auntie, “Come over, let’s drink coffee and listen to Li Da Sa’s story-telling on radio. My aunt would ask her, “Let us go for a show at the Great World Theater this evening.” The fifth storey elder would tell her, “I’m going to the market, is there anything I can buy for you?” There are many other ways to cultivate friendships, and acceptance of idol-food was the only option to make friends.

The fifth storey family helped my family on many occasions, and we, in turn, also helped the second storey Shenist family many times. For example, the elder’s daughter who was a music teacher would teach my cousins piano; and my cousins would give the second storey auntie’s daughter tuition in Chinese. In the mid-1970s, many families moved away from Tiong Bahru to other parts of Singapore. However, we still retained close contacts with our former neighbors. Everyone in 12C Yong Siak Street became Christians. Before she went home to be with Jesus, my aunt renounced ancestor-worship and became a believer who prayed, read the Bible and shared her testimonies with friends and relatives. She led the woman who washed our clothes to Christ. That laundry woman became a baptized member of Jubilee Church. The second storey auntie also became a baptized believer in Jubilee Church. Her husband and the other children also believed in Jesus. Her eldest son later became the founding pastor of a megachurch, the “Lighthouse Evangelism”.

In conclusion, taking a stand for Jesus is necessary. Our Christian beliefs and convictions do not offend people. It is how we live, how we treat others, how we speak about others that can cause people to either feel loved and accepted, or despised and rejected.

1 Corinthians 9:24–11:1 (Listen)

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

10:1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 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. 21 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. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience—29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

(ESV)