Key verse: 1 Corinthians 10:23
Big idea: There is no room for any competitors to the cross.
Unlike Romans, which we saw moved forward in a very linear way, 1 Corinthians introduces ideas and then returns to them later, in overlapping cycles. If we synthesize the major issues so far, we can see how they interact. The church as a Temple, where the food is not the animals sacrificed to idols, but the blood and body of Christ as represented in the Lord's Supper, where the united church as His body is the unleavened bread offered up alongside the Lamb. We should not be surprised then when the Lord's Supper is brought back in for today's text. The tenth chapter of 1 Corinthians brings the argument which began in the eighth chapter to full fruition. Chapter 8 had dealt with laying our liberty down for the sake of other believers, not eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols if it might cause someone else to stumble. Then, chapter 9 had expanded this principle to our witness before non-believers: if it interferes with our witness, it is not worth doing. But the summary principle is plain: all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. We must realize that the same temptations that run through the Bible are the ones we face today, but with the promise of a way out.
The Israelites worshipped God in the Tabernacle and the Temple but contaminated it with idolatry. God has recorded their failures as an example for us, so we will not follow in their steps of sin and judgment. Do not miss the point here. The idolatry is not the meat sacrificed to idols; Paul says that if you go to a party, don't ask if the meat has been offered. The idolatry is putting meat ahead of Christ, by eating it when it hurts my brother. It is an idol because I think that what it gives me is worth more than what Jesus has commanded. God is a jealous God and He demands our whole heart.
Brothers and sisters, idolatry is just as dangerous for us as it has ever been. We may not bow down before golden calves or offer up incense, but whenever we let anything in our lives get in the way of the work God has called us to, we have found our idols. Whatever we do, "whether we eat or we drink," it must be for the glory of God. Not offending Jews, Gentiles or the church, but trying to please others. We do not live for ourselves, but for the Lord.
Discussion idea: What is an idol which tempts you? What personal/cultural preference would you be unwilling to give up for the sake of evangelism and building up your brothers?
Prayer focus: Pray that God would give you the strength to flee the temptation to idolatry by running to Him.