1 Cor. 10:14-22

1 Cor. 10:14-22

SERIES: Christ Is the Answer When the Church Is in Crisis

The Danger of Mixed Drinks

SCRIPTURE: 1 Cor. 10:14-22                                               

DATE: May 6, 2001

Introduction:  What’s the highest virtue in America today?  Is it honesty, integrity, morality, or sanctity of life?  I would say none of these.  I think it’s tolerance.  Tolerance is so highly valued that it may be the only absolute virtue many Americans recognize.  On the university campus just about the only thing that is not tolerated is intolerance, especially on the part of those upholding traditional standards or biblical truth.  

I say that as a warning label for my sermon today.  It will be a biblical sermon, but it will not be a tolerant one.  I’ve entitled it, “The Danger of Mixed Drinks,” which I trust will become clear by the time I finish.  Listen to the Word of God, as found in 1 Cor. 10:14-22:

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’s opening challenge for his readers is to flee idolatry.  He’s talking about virtually every religion of his day other than Christianity and Judaism, for at the core of virtually all false religion is idol worship.  And Paul’s basic message is this:  Don’t mess with these religions, don’t attend their services, don’t go to their social events, and don’t participate in their religious rites and rituals.  Run away from them as far as you can.  

Now that’s not very tolerant and it’s not very ecumenical.  Courses on world religions on the university campus today (if they have any) focus on the value in every world religion, particularly indigenous, native religions.  We are told we must respect every person’s effort to find God in his own way, every religion has power to help people cope with their unique situations, and all roads lead to God.  

Paul agrees there is supernatural power behind religion, but he disagrees that all religions are therefore of equal value.  On the contrary, the power behind some religions is not divine but demonic.  Please understand he’s not talking denominational distinctions here.  That is, he’s not speaking as a Baptist and warning his congregation to stay away from those Presbyterians or Methodists or Charismatics.  What he wants believers to flee from is religions or cults that promote a god or gods other than the one true God revealed in the Bible.

And why?  Because it is forbidden in the First and Second Commandments.  Here is what they say to us in Exodus 20:3-5:  

You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.”

Idolatry, which is defined by Webster as “excessive reverence for or devotion to a person or thing,” is clearly forbidden in Scripture if it is not directed to the one true God.  And why is it forbidden?  Because it stirs up the Lord’s jealousy.  That’s exactly where Paul takes us in his closing statement in verse 22, “Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy?”  Perhaps you have never considered jealousy as an attribute of God.  We tend to think of many other characteristics, as when the Westminster Confession states, “God is infinite, eternal, unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.”  Or we can mention other attributes like mercy, love, omnipresence, or sovereignty.  But jealousy?  Yes!

Our God is a jealous God.

The difficulty this creates for us is that jealousy has long been considered a liability in human relationships.  Shakespeare called it “the green-eye’d monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.”  The Bible itself warns against jealousy.  The Song of Solomon declares, “Jealousy is as severe as the grave,” and Proverbs adds, “Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, but who can stand before jealousy?”  Yet, despite these warnings about the evils of jealousy among men, our text tells us that it is possible to provoke the Lord Himself to jealousy.  In fact, on a number of occasions the Bible refers to God as a jealous God.  He even refers to Himself that way in Exodus 20:5: “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.”  In fact, He goes so far in Exodus 34:14 as to tell Moses, “The Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”

I’m wondering how we would respond if a couple of our favorite worship choruses were rewritten.  Instead of “Our God Is an Awesome God,” how about “Our God is a Jealous God”?  Or how about singing the great song, “Majesty,” with these lyrics:  

“Jealousy, worship His jealousy, 

Unto Jesus be all vengeance, anger and rage.” 

Seriously, why does this attribute of God receive such little attention today?  Maybe because we have misunderstood it.  You see, there are two different kinds of jealousy.  God’s jealousy is not the compound of frustration, envy and spite that human jealousy so often is, but rather it is a praiseworthy zeal to preserve something supremely precious to Him, namely a love relationship with His people.  

Interestingly, God’s jealousy is almost always mentioned in connection with false religion.  He loves us so much, and has done so much for us, that his jealousy is stirred up whenever we give allegiance to someone or something other than Him.   You see, much that passes today as religious worship does not have God as its source and object; much of it is empty and twisted; and some is even demonic and Satanic.  And that is why …

God’s jealousy leads Him to command us to “flee from idolatry.”

Apparently in an effort to appear open minded, tolerant, and ecumenical, and in an effort to exercise their freedom, some of the Corinthian Christians had begun to compromise their new-found faith.  They were doing this by returning to the idol temples for old times’ sake or perhaps to appease their friends and relatives.  One can understand the temptation, for pagan temples were everywhere in Corinth.  The best restaurants were in the temples.  All the beautiful people gathered there.  If you cut yourself off from the temples, you were isolating yourself from weddings, parties, service clubs–most of the social life of the community. 

But there were greater dangers here than appearing non-social.  To Paul this is not a grey area, like eating meat purchased in the market that had once been offered to idols, as discussed back in chapter 8.  Participating in idolatrous services is a black and white issue.  The former was up for discussion; the latter is clearly wrong.

OK, you ask, what does this have to do with us today?  We don’t have idol temples we are tempted to visit, nor does anyone in America worship idols.  Really?  Actually, there is an idol temple just a mile north of where we are sitting–a Hindu temple on Weidman Rd. opposite Queeny Park.  But I’m not particularly concerned about that, because I doubt if anyone here is tempted to go and worship there.  

I’m more concerned about the religious idolatry that isn’t so obvious but is all around us.  I think if Paul were writing this today, he would revise his statement for our sake and say, “Flee from all false religious systems and cults and the occult.  Don’t buy their literature, don’t log onto their websites, don’t visit their assembly halls, don’t participate in their rites and rituals, don’t toy with them or dabble in them.”

In fact, I will go further than that.  I think he would tell us to examine our own lives for evidence of idol worship through which Satan may be trying to set up strongholds.  Such things as wrong relationships, work, wealth, hobbies, sports, or addictions may become idols in our own lives–anything that has our primary concern and loyalty.  Things like overeating, overspending, uncontrolled drinking, gambling, reading horoscopes, calling psychic hotlines, or viewing pornography can all become idols, and the message he is going to drive home is that we cannot continue to worship God and maintain these idols in our lives.

The Apostle develops his warning against all idolatry by means of three propositions:

         There is a spiritual reality behind true worship.

         There is also a spiritual reality behind false worship.

         There is an absolute incompatibility between the two realities.

         There is a spiritual reality behind true worship.  (14-17)   Paul chooses the very centerpiece of Christian worship for his discussion, namely the Lord’s Supper, asking a question: “When we gather for communion around the Lord’s Table, what are we doing?  What does the cup represent and what does the bread represent?”  The answer is that the cup and the bread signify a participation in the blood and body of the one and only Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Now if you have any background in the Church, you are probably aware that there is less than full agreement among Christian churches regarding the meaning of communion.  In fact, the Lord’s Supper, Communion, or the Eucharist, as it is sometimes called, has unfortunately been a source of confusion and major divisiveness among Christians.  Allow me to offer a brief overview this morning so we can see where we fit in all of this.  

There are four primary views regarding the meaning of the Lord’s Table.  The Catholic Church holds to Transubstantiation, the Lutherans believe in Consubstantiation, Baptists and many other evangelicals see the Lord’s Supper as a Memorial, while the Reformed Churches hold to what they call the Real Presence view.  Let’s look at each of these briefly. 

Transubstantiation is the view that the bread of the Eucharist, called the host, is actually transformed into the literal body of Christ as it is given to the communicant, and the wine is actually transformed into the literal blood of Christ.  Catholics argue from 1 Corinthians 11 that Jesus Himself said, “This is my body,” and the most natural way to understand “is” is “is”.  However, that is not the onlylegitimate way to understand it.  Earlier in this very chapter Paul said in verse 4 that “that rock was Christ.”  Actually, what he meant is, “that rock represents Christ” or “it stands for Christ.”  So also, what Jesus may have meant is that “this bread represents my body.”  In fact, I’m fairly sure that iswhat He meant, for just after saying to his disciples, “This is my body,” He added, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood,” not “This is my blood.”  Clearly, that wine was not the New Covenant; it merely represented the New Covenant.

Consubstantiation, the Lutheran view, also holds to the actual presence of the body and blood of Christ, but without any transformation of the elements.  Rather the body and blood are said to be “in, around, and under” the bread and wine of communion.  This is a rather mystical and spiritualized concept, and even Lutheran theologians admit that Christ is received by the participant in a “supernatural, incomprehensible manner.”1  So, I don’t feel too bad that it seems incomprehensible to me.  

The memorial position holds that communion is first and foremost a means of remembering and honoring Christ and His redemptive death.  Those who hold this view point out that a phrase that dominates the Lord’s Supper passages is “in remembrance of me.”  This is not to deny that Christ is spiritually present with believers as they partake of the Lord’s Supper, but He is not bodily present.  The elements are, in a sense, object lessons of the suffering of Christ and His death on the cross for us, object lessons that help us to remember.  

The Reformed view agrees with the memorial position in rejecting the actual bodily presence of Christ in communion, but it goes beyond it by emphasizing that Christ is dynamically present through the Spirit in such a way that believers are spiritually nourished through the bread and cup.  In other words, these are more than symbols; there is a real partaking in the life of Christ.  He is the believer’s necessary food.  Spiritual life cannot begin without Him, nor can it go on without Him.  He is the bread of life.

I personally lean toward what I have described here as the Reformed view of communion.  Yet I do not espouse the notion that God imparts saving grace through the Lord’s Supper.  Neither communion nor baptism is a spiritual rabbit’s foot or lucky charm.  Communion won’t save you, but it certainly can nourish and refresh you spiritually.

Now let’s go back to our text, 1 Cor. 10:16: “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?”  I think the Reformed view I have mentioned does greater justice to the concept of “participation” than does the Memorial view, without becoming overly literal or engaging in unnecessary mysticism.  The term “participation” is the familiar term koinonia in the Greek text, which means fellowship or sharing.  We are doing more than remembering; we are participating, actively receiving spiritual nourishment, so long as we meet the requirements of self-examination, repentance, and faith. 

You will notice in verse 18 that the Apostle presses home his point with an analogy from the worship of the ancient Jews.  He asks, “Do not the Jews who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?”  In other words, the Jews weren’t just going through mindless rituals when they brought sacrifices; in participating with the altar, they were meeting with God.  Furthermore, not only are we participating in the body and blood of Christ at communion, but, according to verse 17, we are sharing with one another.  In the first century Christians always shared from a single loaf of unleavened bread, signifying their unity together, as well as their unity with Christ. 

So, in summary, Paul is telling us that there is a spiritual reality behind Christian worship and that reality is the dynamic presence of Jesus Christ Himself.  Our worship actually brings us into union with Him and with each other.  

The second point he makes is that …

         There is also a spiritual reality behind false worship, i.e., behind idolatry and other kinds of non-Christian worship.  (18-20)   Just as the OT Jews were meeting with God when they brought their sacrifices, and just as Christians are meeting with Christ when they gather at the Lord’s table, so also idolaters are meeting with somebody supernatural when they worship.  But it’s not God and it’s not Christ; Paul claims they are meeting with Satan and his demons (all of whom are fallen angels).

Back in chapter 8 and verse 4 Paul said this about idols: “We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one.”  But now in 10:19-20 he clarifies the issue by indicating that while an idol is not alive and is certainly not a “god,” still there are spiritual realities called demons who use idols for their own benefit.  Therefore, idol worshipers are not merelyworshiping wood and stone carvings, and they certainly aren’t worshiping God.  They are actually uniting themselves with demons.  Friends, that’s flat scary!

But pagan religions are not the only religions that have demonic forces behind them.  I believe many world religions and cults can have demonic involvement.  In fact, when I see some mainline Protestant denominations advocating abortion and homosexual behavior and other things clearly forbidden in God’s Word, I can’t help but think that demons may be behind that as well.  Some faith healers may even be in league with demons.  

I was visiting a family in the church two weeks ago, and they were watching a program on HBO that was featuring some of the leading faith healers, including Benny Hinn and Reinhold Bonnke.  Did any of you see that?  I want to be very honest with you.  I don’t know what to do with some of that stuff, but when I saw Benny Hinn flamboyantly walking back and forth on the platform of a huge stadium with tens of thousands of people, swatting at people (not actually hitting them) with his hand and having them fall over–no, not just fall over but flung over as though Jackie Chan had kick-boxed them to the floor—I couldn’t help but think that this may not be a hoax.  This may be supernatural.  

But is it of God?  There is nothing like this in the NT.  Why should anyone assume that such bizarre and unbiblical practices are due to the power of God?  Yet obviously there is some power at work there.  Benny Hinn, by the way, does not have a good track record when it comes to orthodox theology.  Several years ago a group of leading evangelicals challenged him publicly and sought to get him to conform to biblical truth; however, he resisted their efforts.  I want to be careful here–God loves Benny Hinn.  Yet I also believe it is our job to be discerning and to expose false religion when we see it, so that others are not misled.  

Let me bring this even closer to home.  I said earlier that even we evangelicals may have idols that aren’t necessarily made of wood, stone or metal.  Remember the definition of idolatry: “excessive reverence for or devotion to a person or thing.”  I am not one, as you well know, that sees a demon behind every bush, or even behind every sin.  But frankly some people have strongholds in their lives that seem beyond help through normal means, like counseling or medication.  Perhaps some of them have unwittingly opened themselves up to demonic influence.  You only need listen to the now famous interview of serial killer Ted Bundy by Dr. James Dobson to learn that drugs and alcohol and pornography can be a gateway to demonic possession. 

So, it is clear from this passage that all religion is not intrinsically good and it is also clear why God continually and unceasingly warns believers to flee from false religion.  Having affirmed that there is a spiritual reality behind true worship and also a spiritual reality behind false worship, Paul offers his conclusion:

         There is an absolute incompatibility between the two realities.  (21-22) The last statement Paul makes in verse 20 is, “I do not want you to be participants with demons.”  He comes on even stronger in verse 21: “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too.  Don’t mix the drinks!”  I don’t think he means that it’s impossible to participate in a Christian communion service and then go to a non-Christian worship service or involve oneself in some other form of idolatry, for clearly someone could do both of those things and many have.  What he means is that a person cannot do so without spiritual peril.  Elijah asked, “How long will you halt between two opinions?”  If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal or Buddha or Joseph Smith or some Protestant heretic is God, then follow him.

Remember the words of 2 Cor. 6:14-17, which we taught on several months ago.

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ ‘Therefore come out from them and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.’”

Some Christian people today are defiling themselves by trying to walk the tightrope between true and false worship.  Maybe they grew up in a religion that doesn’t preach salvation by grace through faith and that refuses to follow biblical standards, but in an effort to keep peace in the family. they continue to pay their respects to that church.  Maybe you or someone you know is dabbling in Scientology or Eastern Mysticism or worse, the occult.  That can be a very dangerous choice.  Maybe someone has invited you to attend a New Age wedding.  Paul says, “Stop!  Go no further!” 

When the Mormon temple opened up on Highway 40 a few years ago, invitations to visit it were extended to nearly everyone in St. Louis.  I urged you not to go because I believe that is a false religious system, and I don’t think a believer in Christ has any business participating at any level in the spiritual realities that stand behind The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which is what they want to be called today.  I will not invite their missionaries into my home. 

One of the great sculptures of Christ is that by Thorwaldsen.   After he had carved it, he was offered a commission to carve a statue of Venus for the Louvre.  His answer was, “The hand that carved the form of Christ can never carve the form of a heathen goddess.”  Would that all Christians had the same kind of single-minded commitment when they come to Christian worship!  

Paul concludes with a couple of rhetorical questions which bring us back to the issue of God’s jealousy: 1 Cor. 10:22 reads, “Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy?  Are we stronger than he?”  As I said at the beginning, this has not been a very tolerant sermon, but friends, I don’t care to arouse God’s jealousy, and He doesn’t tolerate unfaithfulness.  

Lessons we need to learn from God’s jealousy. 

May I suggest two (and some of the insights I share here are borrowed from J. I. Packer’s brilliant book, Knowing God3).  

         The jealousy of God requires us to be zealous for God.  The words translated “jealous” and“zealous” are the same in both the Hebrew of the OT and the Greek of the NT.  The person who is jealous should also be zealous for the object of His love.  Of course, just as there is a good and a bad jealousy, so there is a good and a bad zeal.  Paul said of His compatriots, the Jews, “They have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.”  And he said of himself that before the Damascus Road incident he was full of zeal, but a persecutor of the Church.  But there is also such a thing as positive zeal, too.

You and I should be righteously zealous for God’s name and reputation.  Our lives are the only Bibles some people read.  They may form their entire opinion of Christ by observing our behavior.  Let us not forget that we bear the name of Christ and we must be zealous for His name. 

You and I should be zealous for God’s people–both those who are already His and those who are not yet in the family.  When Paul was preparing to establish the church at Corinth God gave him a very encouraging word: “I have many people in this city.”  Well, there weren’t any Christians there yet. What God meant is that there were many who were destined to become Christians, but they needed to be evangelized.  Do we have a passion for souls?  Do we have a passion for making disciples?  Do we have a zeal for serving God’s people?

Then, too, you and I should be zealous for God’s house, which in the NT is His church.  Do you remember what Jesus said, “Zeal for Thy house has consumed Me.”  How do you rate in this area?  In every church there are those whose zeal has waned and even evaporated.  For many American Christians it might well be said, “Zeal for my job has consumed me,” or “Zeal for sports has consumed me,” or “Zeal for my family has consumed me,” rather than zeal for God’s house.  May we focus our zeal on that which will last for eternity, when the rest of these things are burnt up on Judgment Day.

         The jealousy of God threatens churches which are not zealous for God.  (Rev. 3:15, 16, 19) The Lord Jesus once sent a message to a church very much like some of ours today–the complacent church of Laodicea–in which He told them that their lack of zeal was a source of supreme offence to Him.  “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth…. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.  So be earnest (be zealous), and repent.”  How many of our churches are like Laodicea?  Sound, respectable, orthodox … and lukewarm.  What would Christ’s word be to us today?  

Conclusion:  I want to read a portion of Joshua 24, which in my estimation sums up the essence of this message.  This chapter contains Joshua’s farewell message to the people of Israel, along with their response to some of his warnings.  Joshua 24:14-24.  

“Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. 

Then the people answered, ‘Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods!…  We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God.’ Joshua said to the people, ‘You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God…. But the people said to Joshua, ‘No! We will serve the LORD.’ Then Joshua said, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the LORD.’  ‘Yes, we are witnesses,’ they replied. 

‘Now then,’ said Joshua, ‘throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.’  And the people said to Joshua, ‘We will serve the LORD our God and obey him.’”

Perhaps there are some here today who have been flirting with false religion.  Maybe there are those who have been standing on the fence of making a commitment to Christ.  The Word of God speaks clearly, “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve.”  Today is the day of salvation.  You may never have another day.  Let those who have ears listen to what the Spirit of God says to the Church about true religion.        

DATE: May 6, 2001





The Lord’s Table





1.  John Theodore Mueller, Christian Dogmatics, 509-12.  

3.  J. I. Packer, Knowing God, 167-175.