Idol food

Idol food

According to the firm knowledge of the believers, there is only one God and one Lord. (8:6) Idols are nothing. (8:4) However, there are those “with conscience of the idol” who consider idol food truly offered to idols. By eating the idol food, their weak conscience will be defiled.(8:7) Their faith will be tarnished.

Although we have the freedom to eat or not to eat idol food, we should not eat idol food before them. If we do eat idol food before them, they will be encouraged to eat idol food. That will mislead them to think that offering sacrifice to idols has no conflict with our belief. Thus their faith will break apart. In the end, we wound their weak conscience and cause the brothers to perish.(8:11) We sin against them and Christ.(8:12) We shall become sinners too!

Eating idol food is idolatry

Paul in Chapter 8 spoke of idol food issue, telling the believers not to eat idol food for the conscience of the weak believers. Now in Chapter 10, he continues this topic about eating idol food.

In Chapter 10, he first exhorts the Corinthians several things:

  1. don’t be idolaters (10:7)
  2. don’t commit fornication (10:8)
  3. don’t tempt Christ (10:9)
  4. don’t murmur (10:10)

Then he cited the bad example of the Israelites and their terrible outcome. He first spiritualizes the experience of the Israelites. When they walked under the cloud and through the sea, they were “baptized” in the cloud and in the sea (10:2). When they ate the meat, they ate the “spiritual” meat (10:3). When they drank the water that gushed out from the rock, they drank the “spiritual” water of the “spiritual Rock”—and that Rock was Christ (10:4).

But what was their outcome? Many of them were overthrown in the wilderness (10:5). Why? For God was not pleased with them. Again why? Paul quoted some examples as follows:

  1. The idolaters sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play—the golden calf incident. (10:7)
  2. Some committed fornication. Outcome: fell in one day 23,000 people. (10:8)
  3. Some tempted the Lord. Outcome: destroyed by the serpent. (10:9)
  4. Some murmured. Outcome: destroyed by the destroyer. (10:10)

Paul concludes their experience as being our examples and for our admonition. (10:11) He exhorts us to take heed not to tempt God or fall into temptation at the end of this world. Any temptation that befalls us cannot be “above that ye are able”. God will “make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear”. (10:13)

Now, Paul refers to eating idol food as partaker of the table of devils and fellowship with them.(10:20-21) We, as Christians, are partakers of the body and blood of Christ when we eat the bread and drink the cup at the communion. (10:16-17) Even the fleshly Israelites (priests) who eat the sacrifices offered to God in the temple are partakers of the altar. Comparatively, the Gentiles who eat the sacrifices offered to idols are partakers of the table of devils. We cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table and the table of devils at the same time. (10:21)

In a practical situation, when you eat the food you bought in the market, you have no need to ask whether the food has been sacrificed to idols or not. Even if you are invited to a feast, you have no need to ask such question. However, if someone tells you in advance that the food has been offered to idols, then you should refuse to eat the food—for the conscience of the person, not yours. (10:25-29)

Finally, he concludes that “whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God”. (10:31) Don’t just seek our own advantages. Don’t let anyone fall but save as many as possible. He again exhorts the Corinthians to follow him (11:1, cf. 4:16).