Words of Faith 6-27-17
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2017
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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1 Corinthians 10
 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.  I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.  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?  Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
 Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?  Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything?  No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.  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.  Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
Paul was still talking about Christian freedom. To what degree is a believer "free" to participate in the things of the world that are clearly idolatrous? Such things have no power in the life of a believer, right?
Paul said that he could become all things to all people in order to win some to Christ. But Paul also advised careful discipline so as not to be disqualified from the prize God has for us. So what about the issue of eating food sacrificed to idols? It is not a big deal to us, but there is an application. For the Corinthians, there were really three different circumstances to consider-- meat in the pagan temples, meat in the marketplace, and meat in the home.
In the ancient urban world, meat sacrificed to idols was very difficult to avoid. These were not farmers. In a city of 200,000, virtually all of the meat in the city came from pagan sacrifices. Apparently, it was routine for some to eat meat in the pagan Temples. All the meat in the marketplace came from the pagan temples.
The activity of eating in a pagan Temple may not have even appeared terribly religious. It may have been more like restaurant dining, but Paul pointed out that in this setting people were actually "participating" in the pagan sacrifices. This made the issue in this setting very uncomplicated-- flee from idolatry. This was the only sensible answer.
Paul pointed to the Lord's Supper and to the sacrifices of Israel as examples of "participation". The worship of Christians at the Lord's Supper expressed unity among the members and their participation-- "fellowship"-- in the blood of Christ and in the body of Christ. The one loaf of bread, of which all partake, pictured their unity as members of the one body of Christ. In the worship of Israel, the participants identified with what was sacrificed and with each other.
The same was true of pagan worship. It was true that an idol was nothing, but the activity behind pagan religion was demonic. Pagan sacrifices were offered to demons, not to God. Through his minions "the god of this age" blinded unbelievers and kept them from the truth (2 Cor. 4:4). This was not the place for a believer to participate! There could be no union for good between Christ and the demonic world (2 Cor. 6:15).
Those who were the Temple of God should shun the temple of idols (1Cor. 6:19). Such participation corrupts the character of the participants and would be harmful for believers. Being participants with demons was unthinkable for those who are participants with Christ. Most importantly such behavior displeased God-- Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
We will see in the next few verses that there were places in which Paul could set aside issues related to meat, but in the actual participation of eating food in pagan places he drew the line. Flee from any participation in idolatry.
The applications of these principles in modern life are helpful and important but often difficult. Modern culture has significant idolatry, but it is also quite different. What are the idolatries of our day? We could point to so many things from the worship of money to fascination with the occult-- trust in government to faith in science-- worship of media celebrities to bloated religious bureaucracies-- worship of rugged self-reliance to the altars of self-indulgence and materialism. So where do we draw the line if we are trying to be all things to all people so that some may be saved?
Paul might observe that there are aspects of our culture that are idolatrous but that have no power over us. They are nothing. But there are places that we must flee rather than "participate" demonic activity.
There are other trappings of idolatry that we may be able to use without actually participating in the idolatrous worship. There is music and media that are idolatrous which we should never participate in, but there are other ways that the same media can be used as a cultural connection to win people to Christ.
The use of cultural connection, as Paul practiced, has been going on in the modern church at least since the 18th century when the Wesley brothers (John and Charles) started setting spiritual hymns to well-known bar tunes. George F. Handel set the story of The Messiah to the popular secular musical format called "Oratorio". This was some of the first contemporary Christian music. Believe it... or not.
Our careful walk through modern culture includes day to day decisions regarding everything from eastern mysticism in martial arts and yoga classes to the use of the Internet and modern technology, from Star Wars and Lord of the Rings to motorcycles in church. At what point can a cultural icon be used to reach people, and at what point do we cross over into "participation" in an idolatrous activity?
Paul was not as concerned with the trappings as he was with the participation. If we are participating in idolatrous worship, putting anything before God as our ultimate trust and hope, we need to flee from that idolatry.
Father, give me the Mind of Christ as I navigate the culture around me. Help me to know how I can be all things to all people so as to reach some-- and at the same time flee from any participation that would dishonor You. In Jesus' Name.