1 Corinthians 10:14
Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
Sermons
An Appeal to Men of Wisdom and CandourJ. Lyth, D.D.1 Corinthians 10:14-15
Flee from IdolatryR. W. Dale, LL.D.1 Corinthians 10:14-15
IdolatryBp. Beveridge.1 Corinthians 10:14-15
Idolatry1 Corinthians 10:14-15
Man's Responsibility in Relation to God's TruthW. Morris.1 Corinthians 10:14-15
Wariness in Christian WalkE. Hurndall 1 Corinthians 10:14-22
Fellowship with Christ by Means of the CommunionC. Limpscomb 1 Corinthians 10:14-33


Wherefore, says St. Paul, as a deduction from the foregoing argument, "my dearly beloved," his heart kindled anew towards his brethren, "flee from idolatry." This dread of idolatry is the key to what follows. Idolatry, in those days, was a sin that included all sins, and Corinth was behind no city in the charm and splendour it threw around this iniquity. Bodily indulgences of the worst sort were notorious. Throughout Greece, Corinth was the common synonym of the most shameful vices, and that too, not in despite of idolatry, but as a constituent of religious worship, especially of Venus. Art among the Greeks had done its utmost to destroy the uglier features of the old heathenism, had called beauty and culture into the service of the priests and the ceremonial of the temples, and had succeeded in making the aesthetic a reproach to pure taste and a mocking insult to every moral virtue. Corinth was a leading centre of all the corrupting and lascivious influence of idolatry, and hence St. Paul's tender and fervent entreaty, "My dearly beloved, flee from idolatry." The connection with his foregoing argument is clear. If the athlete must subject himself to a severe and protracted discipline; if God's elect race so largely perished in the wilderness by reason of transgression; if any and every temptation may be successfully resisted, so that neither the throng of evil doers nor the show and fascination of a pompons idol worship can be an excuse for sin; - with what force could he urge, "Flee from idolatry"! St. Paul knew the strength of his appeal. And he credited these Corinthians with insight sufficient to see this strength, for he bade them hear him "as wise men," and "judge" what he said. Is he satisfied to leave the argument at this stage? Observation of current facts, historical examples preserved from oblivion for their warning, God's faithfulness, have been brought to bear on the question; and yet, so far from being content to dismiss the subject, he resumes it with new vigour of thought and a deepened intensity of emotion. The language changes. Few or no metaphoric words occur. Throughout the paragraph, it is the vocabulary of pure feeling and impassioned earnestness that he employs, for the imagination has retired from its task and left the heart to consummate the work. he begins with the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, binding the argument to the point whence he had digressed at the opening of the ninth chapter. "This liberty of yours," he had said, "might prove ruinous to weak brethren 'for whom Christ died,'" and therefore such an abuse of freedom was a sin "against the brethren" and a "sin against Christ." What is the special connection of the Lord's Supper with the completion of the argument? Obviously the position it occupies in the logic of the case is one of eminence, St. Paul having reserved it for his conclusion. It would seem that he had before his mind one particular and engrossing idea in relation to the Supper, which, although perfectly consistent with other ideas of the sacrament, and, indeed, essential to their import, was detached at the moment and set forth with very distinct and commanding prominence. It is the idea of the communion. "Cup of blessing," "bread which we break," the thanksgiving, the faith and love exercised, the recollected obligations, the spiritual conception of "the blood" and "the body of Christ" as means of an inward holiness; are not these a communication, a participation, an entering into Christ's death, a true and real fellowship with him as "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world"? If so, it means separation from all evil compliances and from all dangerous associations. "Separate from sinners" was a distinguishing fact in Christ's life;" not only "holy, harmless, undefiled," but, by his separation from men, exhibiting in the fullest and most effective way the three characteristics mentioned. Near, very near, to all about him, and yet the nearer he was the further removed he stood in the dignity of his person and the exclusiveness of his office, so that the mysterious awe which invested him was profoundly felt by his friends even while ignorant of his nature and mediatorship as Son of God and Son of man, and on various occasions acknowledged by his enemies. And this separateness appeared even more conspicuously in his vicarious and propitiatory death. His life was a new revelation of life; his death was a new revelation of death. "Separate" was that death from all deaths actual and possible. He spoke of it as he never spake of aught else involving himself. He had feelings concerning it that he never indicated as touching other personal interests. For its loneliness and secret agony, for its public dishonour and humiliation, for its apparent triumph of his foes and its seeming discomfiture of himself, for its Jewish and Roman and world wide aspects, for its self sacrifice, for it as the divinely ordained means to reconcile God to man and man to God, he prepared himself as one who realized the infiniteness of the act. Previously to the great passion hour, nature had given him, of her own accord, no recognition of his Divine majesty. It was his act, not hers, when miracles transpired. But, at his death, she put forth the power of her attestation to the fact that he was "separate from sinners," and by the darkness, and the earthquake, and the opened graves, and the rent veil, signified that, "Truly this man was the Son of God." Now, in St. Paul's view, partaking of the Lord's Supper is partaking spiritually of the blood and body of Christ, and if so, it is communion with him, the communion - a special form of confessing him, a particular and most solemn act of acknowledging him as our Redeemer and Lord, in a word, a sacrament. Wine and bread are symbols; but the sacrament must not be limited to ordinary symbolism. It is a fact, a vital and absolute fact, a Divine reality, to the believer's soul, a spiritual realization of Christ. Nothing magical and superstitious, nothing mechanical, nothing that derives virtue from priest and ceremonials in the form of sacerdotal consecration, belongs to its nature, use, and end. It is simple, it is personal to the faith and love of the humble disciples of the cross, it is sublime because so perfectly spiritual in the union and fellowship with Christ which it is intended to secure. But is this all? By no means; it is communion and fellowship among believers. "We are all partakers of that one bread." Now, there are common ties among Christians that grow out of their relation to one another in Christ considered as Son of man. If he was Philanthropist, Benefactor, Friend, Healer, Teacher, Inspirer, he has left us an example that we should follow in his steps, and this example is beautifully potent when we cooperate in these beneficent duties. Yet there is a higher expression of our union when we partake of the Lord's Supper, since this recognizes his atoning death as the bond that makes us one. And as Christ's works of power and mercy throughout Galilee and Judaea went forward and attained their fullest manifestation in the atonement of Calvary, so our sympathies with one another and harmonious activity in daily acts of kindness must be ratified and scaled by being "partakers of that one bread." Jesus said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." No such drawing power did he claim for his miracles, nor for other marvellous forces that radiated in every direction from him as the great Centre of blessing in his day to the poor, the diseased, the demoniac. Where he is mightiest we are most mighty; for it pleased him, in varying the manifestations of his omnipotence and adapting them to the different instincts of man as he dealt one by one with these primal qualities, it pleased him, we say, to leave similar channels of activity for us to occupy. Therefore it is that the cross lifts us up into a higher companionship with one another. Even in common life, there is no such reconciler as death. A corpse in a divided household is a peace maker. We are all brothers at a funeral. The presence of death lingers not in the senses, nor pauses in the imagination, nor rests in the understanding, but goes down into the great original instincts, where the sense of humanity lies embedded under the shadow of the infinite. Of what immeasurable value, then, is the death of Christ as a uniting influence in behalf of brotherhood! And what an appeal the communion makes to that social sentiment which is so precious to Christianity! And who can go in a devout frame of mind to the table of the Lord without feeling that "life's poor distinctions vanish here," without a larger consciousness of the Divine loveliness of forbearance, and of patience with others, and of forgiveness of enemies, and of the blessedness unspeakable and full of glory in charity when charity as "the greatest" possesses intellect, heart, and life? God be praised for such hours! Finer spheres than sun and planets measure their coming, their stay, and. their going. Nor does the argument rest at this point. "To partake of a Jewish sacrifice as a sacrifice, and in a holy place, was an act of Jewish worship" (Hodge). Here are "our fathers," "Israel after the flesh," and they were "partakers of the altar;" and here are we, to whom "the ages" have brought their light and privileges and been perfected in the epoch of Christianity, and who "are all partakers of that one bread." Shall we be found feasting in idol temples? This is heathenish idolatry, this is communion with devils, this is fatal to brotherhood, this is treachery to the Lord Jesus Christ. What do I say? Do I declare that the idol is anything or the sacrifice anything? I, Paul, say to you, that ye cannot "drink the cup" consecrated to the Lord and "drink the cup" consecrated by the heathen to their demons deities to the Gentiles, evil spirits to Jews and Christians. For this use of the cup is an acknowledgment of fellowship with these "evil spirits," and a fraternization with their worshippers. Such conduct is utterly unjustifiable; it will "provoke the Lord to jealousy," and to a jealousy like that when wedded love has proved faithless to its holy vow. And can ye Corinthians withstand such a devouring flame of anger? Then he recurs to the statement made in 1 Corinthians 6:12, "All things are lawful," etc., and reaffirms the ethical principle of restraint on personal liberty. And with the mightier impulse which has just accented its deep tones of warning, the thought of expediency widens its application. What is the great tap root of all our evils? Selfishness. And this selfishness assumes manifold forms, intellectual and social, physical and commercial. Subtle one moment and palpable the next; disguised and then open; endless in shifts and turns; inexhaustible in resources; skilled in every variety of means; sharp, vigilant, unwearied; its five senses multiplied in its unnumbered agents; - what save Christianity, would entertain such a hope of the human race as to warrant the strong utterance, "Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth"? This is laying the axe to the root of the gigantic tree with its trunk and branches. Anything less than unselfish love will not satisfy the argument at this stage. Whither has the fiery logician been? Where has he arrested his course and paused to meditate and analyze? The death of Christ and the memorials of that death, fellowship with his sufferings, communion with the "great High Priest that is passed into the heavens;" and, along with this theme, the communion with brethren and the burdening sense of that unity of believers which all great souls aspire to, but have to mourn over as a postponed reality; - such were the truths that had engaged the strength of his intellect and the ardour of his feelings. Could he tolerate the idea of one making himself the supreme object of consideration? Could he think of a man in Christ shutting himself out of the very heart of Christ? Only in such words as these can he appease the yearnings of his nature: "Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth." Suppose, then, that these Corinthian Christians were at a private feast, enjoying the hospitality of a friend; would it be proper for the man of scruples to inquire into the meats? Nay, this is not a "communion," though a social union, and hence you are at liberty to eat; "asking no question for conscience sake." Sentiment has its obligations no less than conscience, and, in fact, conscience is honoured when you remember that "the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof." If, however, some one says to you, "This is offered in sacrifice unto idols," the matter takes another aspect. For the sake of a brother guest whose scruples are wide awake, do not eat. It is his conscience that your conscience is to respect, and therefore abstain. If a weak brother were to ask you to do something or avoid something for the sake of his conscience that your own conscience would not suffer you to do or to forbear, resist him and by no means comply. Weakness may be yielded to simply as the infirmity of another, but if it become dogmatic and aggressive, seeking to impose its restraints on our convictions, Christianity never requires of us to submit to such meddling dictation. Condescension to an infirm mind is very proper and commendable, provided it do not make us infirm. Easy compliances of this lax sort are dangerous snares. In the one case, the compliance is on principle; in the other, the non compliance is on principle; and, in each instance, conscience is upheld. Then the apostle rises again to a broad, general truth, "Do all to the glory of God." For this statement, that extends the sentiment of a spiritual mind over all duties, he had already prepared the way. Twice had he said, "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof," and, in the third chapter of the Epistle, he had declared, "All is yours." We are not like trees that can only grow in certain soils and climates. We are not like animals that are found exclusively on this or that continent. We are not creatures limited to their immediate surroundings. To form a human soul, a world and a universe of worlds are needed. Influences acting on us are not counted and tabulated by the intellect of the senses. These senses shut us up in the body. They are for today and for appropriating what is at hand. Intellect is under stern limitations. Yet the sphere of the inner life is for ever widening beyond the sphere of sensuous existence, and on the eves of "three score and ten" the stars shine with a home light unknown to young manhood, Growth is within, but there is no self nutrition. All the materials that nourish and build up the man come from without, and, hence, it is not by looking merely at ourselves and our capacities, but by regarding the world and the universe as furnishing the occasions and supplying the means of development, that we learn to measure our ability by the grace of God stored up in all things for our enrichment. Where we are interprets what we are. Now, in view of this, St. Paul lays down the principle, "Whether... ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." The range is immense; the world is not to be cut up into fragments, and the "glory of God" identified solely with them; but, as the primary condition of glorifying him, we are to believe that his Divine presence is in whatever he has created. There is nothing speculative and remote in this doctrine. How are we to glorify God? By being most truly human; by realizing that others are a part of ourselves and we a part of them; by acting on the truth that individuality attains its perfection in brotherhood; and therefore we should "please all men in all things." Nothing selfish must appear in it; "not seeking mine own profit." Nothing of effeminacy, nothing of calculating acquiescence, must taint its purity, and we must please others for their profit, that they may be saved. - L.









Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
I. WHAT IS IDOLATRY? The worshipping of anything besides God.

1. Outwardly.

2. Inwardly.

II. WHAT IDOLS MUST WE NOT WORSHIP?

1. Heathenish (Romans 1:23).

2. Jewish (1 Kings 12:28).

3. Papistical.

(1)The Cross (Isaiah 44:19).

(2)The host.

(3)Images (Exodus 20:4).

(a)Of Christ.

(b)Of saints.

(c)Of God (Exodus 32:4, 5; Deuteronomy 4:12-16).

III. WHAT OUTWARD WORSHIP MUST WE NOT GIVE TO THEM?

1. Praying (Isaiah 44:17).

2. Thanksgiving (Judges 16:23, 24; Daniel 5:4).

3. Sacrifices (2 Kings 17:35).

4. Incense (Jeremiah 18:15; Jeremiah 44:17).

5. Temples or altars (Hosea 8:14; Hosea 12:11).

6. Asking counsel (Hosea 4:12).

7. Bowing down to them, and so adoring of them (Acts 10:25, 26; Revelation 22:8, 9).

(Bp. Beveridge.)

I. INWARD IDOLATRY (Ezekiel 14:7) is —

1. Covetousness (Colossians 3:5; Ephesians 5:5). A covetous man —

(1)Minds his riches more than God.

(2)Takes more pains for them (Matthew 6:24).

(3)Loves them better (1 Timothy 6:10).

(4)Fears to lose them (Acts 19:25).

(5)Puts his trust in them (Luke 12:18, 19; 1 Timothy 6:17).

(6)Makes them his chiefest good (Luke 18:19).

(7)Sacrifices both body and soul for them (Matthew 16:26).

2. Carnal pleasures (Philippians 3:19). A voluptuous man —

(1)Loves pleasure more than God (2 Timothy 3:4).

(2)Takes more delight in them (Romans 8:5, 6).

(3)Takes more pains for them (Romans 16:18).

3. Popular applause (John 12:43). The ambitious man

(1)Desires his own honour more than God's.

(2)Prizes it more (Daniel 4:30).

(3)Is more troubled at the loss of it than of God's favour (2 Samuel 17:23).

4. Sin, especially beloved sin, which —

(1)You prefer before God.

(2)Will not part with for His sake.

(3)Venture more for than for God.

5. Satan.

(1)You prefer him to God (John 8:44).

(2)Are more pleased with his works than God's.

II. WHENCE PROCEEDS THIS INWARD IDOLATRY? From —

1. Ignorance in the mind.

2. Perverseness in the will.

3. Disorder in the affections.

III. HOW DOES IT APPEAR THAT THIS IS PLAIN IDOLATRY?

1. Others worship idols with their bodies, we with our souls.

2. These give the principal part of Divine worship to these things.

3. These things alienate our minds from God (Ephesians 2:12).

(Bp. Beveridge.)

The "wherefore" carries us back to the previous verse, and reveals the apostle's train of thought. He had been warning these Corinthians in chap. 1 Corinthians 8 against partaking of meat that had been offered to idols, not because it was wrong in itself, for an "idol is nothing in the world," but because of "weaker brethren," who believed in the reality of heathen divinities. This leads him, in chap. 1 Corinthians 9, to refer to his own example of self-denial, and he then passes on, in chap. 1 Corinthians 10, to justify his warnings by quoting the melancholy example of Israel, who were placed in circumstances in many respects similar to those of the Church at Corinth, and in their temptations and sins the latter might see the danger that threatened themselves. Still, the temptation was not irresistible (ver. 13). "Wherefore," St. Paul adds, "flee from idolatry": that is, do not see how near to it you may approach without being entangled, but avoid it altogether.

I. IT MIGHT SEEM THAT SUCH A PRECEPT WAS UTTERLY NEEDLESS IN THE PRESENT DAY. For we have reached an intellectual position exactly the opposite to that occupied by the ancient world. They believed in "gods many, and lords many"; we find it difficult to believe in any God at all. They saw divinities everywhere; we see God nowhere. Their sin was believing in gods who had no existence; our sin is disbelieving in One who alone exists.

II. BUT IF IDOLATRY BE THE ENTHRONING OF ANYTHING IN THE PLACE OF GOD, THIS IS A SIN TO WHICH WE ARE JUST AS PRONE.

1. The Roman, e.g., is an idolatrous church. And this not because it formally worships the Pope — although the extravagant homage of those who call him "our Lord God the Pope" comes perilously near to rendering him Divine homage — but because it has dogmatically declared that the voice of a fallible man has the authority of the Word and Spirit of God over the intellect and conscience of man.

2. But Protestants, who reject this with indignation, may themselves be in danger of a similar sin. Roman Catholics complain that we have substituted an infallible Book for an infallible Pope. And it must be confessed that when human interpretations of the Bible have been placed on a level with its Divine verities, when theories of the Atonement have been confounded with the great fact, when a human creed has practically been asserted to be an infallible exposition of Divine truth, or when the authority of the Bible has been used in support, not of religious truth, but of historical and political and scientific theories, all of which have turned out to be false, and when men have been branded as misbelievers because they have refused to submit to the claim thus made upon them, then we have been guilty of a sort of idolatry.

3. Just in the same way scientific men and philosophers are in danger of idolising the intellect. To claim for the logical understanding sole authority in the discovery or the verifying of truth, to deny that we can go beyond all phenomena and hold converse with the Author of them all, to refuse to allow the supreme facts of the spiritual nature of man any place in the facts of human consciousness, is an idolatry offensive to God and perilous to man.

4. Perhaps the most dangerous is practical idolatry. Money is man's chiefest idol, and it is, unhappily, only too possible to retain it in the heart, even after we have professed to be servants of Christ. But "no covetous man who is an idolater hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." To us all, in one form or other, the warning belongs —"Flee from idolatry."

(R. W. Dale, LL.D.)

I speak as to wise men
I. THE GOSPEL APPROVES ITSELF TO ALL WHO ARE TRULY WISE —

1. As a revelation.

2. As a remedy.

II. IT IS THE DUTY OF EVERY MAN TO EXERCISE HIS JUDGMENT IN RELATION TO IT. With —

1. Care.

2. Candour.

3. Prayer.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

Let us look upon the text —

I. AS PRESUMING A CAPACITY IN MAN FOR THE EXERCISE OF JUDGMENT IN MATTERS CONCERNING HIS MORAL AND SPIRITUAL INTEREST. The text presumes —

1. A natural capacity for judgment (Romans 2:14, etc.).

2. A cultivated capacity; a mind that has passed under the hands of the cultivators of mental soil. A cultivated mind sees God in a thousand things which the less-informed cannot comprehend. Its charms are thrown into the writings of Paul.

3. A spiritual capacity (1 Corinthians 1:2; Romans 8:5).

II. AS SUGGESTING THE SUBJECTS ON WHICH TO EXERCISE THIS JUDGMENT. "Judge ye what I say."

1. The Jews in their rebellions and judgments are ensamples to us (ver. 11).

2. We must guard against light thoughts of sin, and presumptuous confidence in God's grace (ver. 12).

3. Divine support in temptation (ver. 13).

4. That we merge all minor difficulties that stand in the way of Christian usefulness or communion (vers. 27-33).

III. AS URGING INVESTIGATION AS A MATTER OF IMMEDIATE IMPORTANCE. "I speak as to wise men, judge ye what I say." And this in order —

1. To the purity of the Church.

2. Its prosperity.

3. Its unity.

(W. Morris.)

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