1Co 10:18-22 “Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?”
Earlier in his letter, Paul told us that things offered to idols and the idols themselves are nothing (1Co 8:4). Still, we are cautioned about letting our knowledge rule us in such a way as to offend a brother weaker in the faith of Christ. We should always be very concerned about being a stumbling block to our brothers, except in those things specifically ordained by our Lord and Savior. When we walk in obedience to Christ, our actions may be a stone of stumbling to the disobedient, but this is Christ and not us (1Pe 2:6-8).
Paul made sure that his audience understood that he was speaking of Israel “after the flesh” in this example. He did this to distinguish between national Israel and the spiritual kingdom of God which was comprised of both Jew and Gentile and is to this day spiritually Israel (Rom 9:6-8). Israel after the flesh, which offered the blood and flesh of beasts upon the altar of legal sacrifice, ate of the sacrifice and were therefore partakers of the altar. In this they had communion with each other and with God according to the law, and all who saw this considered this to be an evidence of fellowship among the participants.
Although Paul is drawing a parallel here between the national Israel offering to God and the idolatrous practices of many in Corinth and other places, he makes it plain that he is not putting this on the same footing as offering unto the Lord. He reaffirms his position that an idol has not power and that things offered to idols have no merit in themselves. However, it is evident that offering to an idol is wickedness in the sight of God. Since sacrificing to an idol is not making an offering unto the true God, Paul says it is an act of sacrifice unto devils.
Just as Israel after the flesh was perceived to have fellowship with God and each other because they ate from His altar, in the same manner those that ate from the altar of an idol were perceived to have fellowship with each other and the god the idol represented. When we place anything ahead of our worship and service to God, it is perceived by those around us as being more important to us than God is. We may say that we know in our hearts that we love God more, but our actions cry out that this is not the case.
We simply cannot be partakers of the new testament in Christ’s blood and continue to hold the things of this world in high esteem. We cannot serve as a member of His body and still walk in our own lust. Why would we want to be seen esteeming the fellowship of this world as more important than our fellowship with God and His people? God is not mocked: He said, in the person of Jesus, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon (Mat 6:24).”
God told His people numerous times that He is a jealous God. He even made reference in Exodus 34:14 that his name was Jealous. The use of the word “name” here indicates that this is part of His character where we are concerned. Knowing that Jesus is verily man and verily God, then we must also understand that He has this same character because of His great love for us. Why would we provoke Him with idolatrous fellowship?
May God open our eyes to see anything that we esteem above Him and may we tear it down and serve Him with joyful repentance!