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1 Corinthians 10:18

Oct 12, 2014   //   by Charlie Garrett   //   1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 10, Daily Writing, Epistles (written), Writings  //  No Comments

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Sunday, 12 October 2014

Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?  1 Corinthians 10:18

Paul has been speaking about the Lord’s Supper and our partaking of it. How does that fit in with participating in pagan sacrifices? To do both would be completely contrary to the purpose of partaking in the Lord’s Supper. As an example for them to consider, he now brings in a lesson from the law itself. In this, he begins with, “Observe Israel after the flesh.” This is an unfortunate translation when rendered by the NIV and some other translations which say something like “Consider the people of Israel. In Greek it reads blepete ton israel kata sarka – “Consider Israel according to the flesh.” He is making a statement about Israel who participated in the sacrifices at the Temple, regardless of whether they were really right with God or not, hence the term “according to the flesh.”

All of Israel would go to Jerusalem and offer their offerings to God. Some truly believed and some simply went through the motions, but the sacrifices brought the people together as one. It separated them as a people and showed their united allegiance under the God whom they served. When they went to these sacrifices, they actually participated in most of them. Some, such as the sin offering, were completely burnt up. But most of them were handled differently as Paul notes in the form of a rhetorical question, ” Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?” The question demands an affirmative answer. “Yes, they are.”

A portion of the sacrifice was burned on the altar, a portion of it was given to the priest who conducted the ritual, and the rest of the offering was returned to the one who offered it for him (and his family if applicable) to eat. In this, he participated in what was offered. But it wasn’t mere participation, instead the word Paul uses is koinonoi. It was a communion with the altar, just as we commune in the Lord’s Supper.

Regardless of whether these Israelites were “circumcised in the heart” or merely national Israelites who were only going through the motions, their sacrifices were a communion with the altar and they were thus identified with that altar, with the people of Israel, and with the God to whom the sacrifices were made. If this was the perception by all who saw them as they offered, and if it was also the perception of their fellow Israelites who looked at one another as a corporate body, then doesn’t our participation in the Lord’s supper convey the same concepts? Likewise, what would people think if they saw us at the sacrifice to an idol?

Regardless of whether these Israelites were “circumcised in the heart” or merely national Israelites who were only going through the motions, their sacrifices were a communion with the altar and they were thus identified with that altar, with the people of Israel, and with the God to whom the sacrifices were made. If this was the perception by all who saw them as they offered, and if it was also the perception of their fellow Israelites who looked at one another as a corporate body, then doesn’t our participation in the Lord’s supper convey the same concepts? Likewise, what would people think if they saw us at the sacrifice to an idol?

Regardless of whether the idol is a true god or not (and we know that it isn’t), that is irrelevant to the perception we are giving others by our actions if we participate in such a sacrifice when it is made. Paul shows that our actions have consequences because they produce perceptions in the eyes of others which may become a stumbling-block to them.

Life application: Paul shows us that the conscience of others is an important consideration for us as we conduct ourselves as Christians. We need to be understanding of others in our actions which could cause them to misunderstand our freedoms in Christ. However, this does not include all things that people may find offensive. If someone doesn’t like something we do, like eating meat because they are vegetarians, that is their problem and not ours. Discernment and understanding of what could be considered a stumbling-block to others takes time to learn.

Lord give me discernment in order to know
What actions may harm the faith of another
In this walk with You, it is my desire to show
What is right in order to instruct my brother

Let me not be the cause of him to stumble
But instead help me to be a good guide to show him Jesus
What good is it to the team if I make the ball fumble
That can only harm the goal set before us

And so O God, help me to stick close to Your word
And to always bring honor to Jesus my Lord

Heavenly Father, help my actions to be right and pure in Your eyes. Grant me the wisdom to conduct myself in a way which will keep others from stumbling in their own desire to know if You are God. Likewise keep me from hindering another’s growth in You if they already have faith in You. In all things, let me not diminish You in the eyes of others, but rather exalt You and bring You the glory You deserve. Amen.

 

 

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