Paul was warning the Corinthian church against falling into idolatry. Some members of the church were eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols in the pagan temples. Paul warned against this because participating in any of the rituals in the temple, including eating at the table with temple worshippers, meant that Christians were involving themselves in idolatrous practices. Here, Paul uses the sharing of communion and fellowship with other believers to demonstrate his point to them. When we share bread and wine with other believers, this is a symbolic participation in the body of Christ. It is not the kind of food or wine that is important, but the participation of it by the church members in fellowship together. Similarly, it was not the sacrificed meat that was the problem but the act of sharing this meat and participating in rituals with the idol worshippers in the temple. We cannot be faithful to one God but at the same time participate in the worship of other ‘gods’ or idols. 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 (v21).
What relevance does this have to our modern life? Few of us have probably had the experience of having to decide whether or not to eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols, or to participate in idol worship. However, some of us may have relatives or family members from other faiths and have been pressured to participate in worship rituals for “family’s sake” or “to show respect”. The Bible is clear on this. Paul encourages us to use our sense and judgment and we are strongly advised not to participate in anything that would cause us to be unfaithful to God. This teaching can guide us in any circumstance where we need to make wise decisions regarding whom we choose to spend time with and what activities we choose to do. The question we should ask ourselves in each situation is, “Does what I am doing give honour to God?” I do not wish to give specific examples, because it is not necessarily the activity per se that may be the problem, but the risks associated with it. However, some activities are more clear-cut than others. Should you spend time with people and sit at the table with them while they are gambling, watching pornography or gossiping about others? Being a Christian is not going to protect us from the dangerous slide into sin and unfaithfulness, if we choose to participate in activities that do not honour God. Taking the Holy Communion on a Sunday is not an “insurance policy” against sin. The risks of playing with the devil are real and serious. The Bible is clear; flee from idolatry (v14).
Do not attempt to negotiate with it, but get out immediately. Act wisely and do not risk arousing the Lord’s jealousy (v22).
Lord God, help me to guard my heart and to stay away from anything that would displease you. If there is anything in my life that I need to put away, please help me to identify it and give me the strength to walk away. Help me to be faithful to You in all that I do. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.