Tuesday, March 28th, 2023
the Fifth Week of Lent
the Fifth Week of Lent
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Ironside's Notes on Selected Books Ironside's Notes
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ isn/ 1-corinthians-10.html. 1914.
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://studylight.org/
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Old Testament Types Of New Testament Truths
1 Corinthians 10:1-14
Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not surfer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. (vv. 1-14)
If I were to choose one verse out of these fourteen as a text, it would be verse 11, “Now all these things happened unto them for examples [the word is really types]: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world have arrived.”
I learn a number of things from this verse. In the first place, I learn that all that is recorded concerning the nation of Israel in the Old Testament is sober, reliable history. The Word says, “All these things happened.” This is the testimony of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I believe it without a question. The account of the origin of mankind as given in the book of Genesis happened just as we are told it did. It has been given by the only One who was there to know, and that is God Himself. The history of mankind as further unfolded in that early book is all true. “All these things happened.” And then after the calling of Abraham and the separation of the Hebrew people from the Gentile world, the story given in the rest of the books of the Old Testament as to God’s dealings with these people is true history and nothing imaginary, nothing legendary, but actual history. “These things happened.”
The second thing I learn from this verse is that in the preparation of the volume of Holy Scripture, the Spirit of God so guided and directed the human writers that He led them to eliminate anything extraneous, anything not particularly helpful to us, and that the incidents recorded are there for a definite purpose. “All these things happened unto them for [types]: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have arrived.” They took place literally just as we are told they did. But there was something beyond the literal. The nation of Israel is a typical nation, the redemption of Israel is a typical redemption, the sacrifices offered under the law were typical sacrifices, the sanctuary of the Hebrew people was a typical sanctuary. David exclaims, “In His sanctuary every whit of it uttereth his glory,” and so we may profitably read all of these Old Testament stories with the light of the New Testament shining upon them and see there marvelous pictures, wonderful types of the Person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the people of God today. And so there are both encouragements and warnings for us in the history of Israel.
In the early part of this chapter the apostle particularly deals with some of these narratives. He reminds us how a great multitude went out of Egypt and started ostensibly for the land of Canaan, the land of promise, but many of them failed to reach that land because of unbelief which led them to many other kinds of sin, and so he says, “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ.” That is, as that great company of hundreds of thousands of Israelites left the land of Egypt, it would have been impossible for any one to have drawn any distinction between those who were real and faithful and those who because of sin and unbelief would have to be destroyed. And so the warning comes home to us: it is one thing to profess to be a Christian, it is one thing even to participate in the ordinances of Christianity, to have been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, to take part in the Supper of the Lord, to receive the consecrated elements that speak of the precious body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ given up to death for us; it is one thing to associate outwardly with the people of God and to seem to have fellowship and communion with them, but it is another thing to prove genuine by going on with God, by living for God, and by bearing a faithful testimony right on to the end. Of course, where there is a real work of the Spirit of God in a man’s soul, it will be continuous, but alas, there are many of whom it can be said, “Thou hast a name that thou livest; and art dead” (Revelation 3:1).
A number of years ago I was invited by a very godly minister to address his congregation on a certain Lord’s Day, and never having preached from his pulpit before, and not knowing what kind of a congregation I might be expected to face, and therefore being rather at sea as to the nature of the message that would be most suitable, I said to him, “Doctor, when I come to speak to your people, what kind of an audience will I address? Will they be mainly your own members, all Christian people, or many strangers and possibly unconverted people?” I can still see the look of sadness that came over his face and the tears that came into his eyes as he said, seriously and solemnly, “Well, my brother, I think that most of them will be our own people; we do not get a great many strangers in our place. But I am afraid that very few of our own members are Christians. After having been with them for a number of years, I greatly regret to say that I fear that the majority of them are like the foolish virgins, they have no oil in their lamps; and therefore I hope you will come to us with a clear, definite gospel message, and I shall be praying that God may use it for the awakening and the salvation of many of our people.” What a solemn thing to have to make a confession like that! And yet is it not true in many places today? We take too much for granted when we suppose that membership in a Christian church, that participation in Christian ordinances and in outward fellowship, means that one is really a child of God. There must be a second birth, there must be personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Israel there were two groups: those who had true faith in God and those who simply had an outward relationship to the people of the covenant. Those who had that outward relationship went with the rest through the Red Sea, and the apostle likens that to baptism. They were sheltered by the pillar of cloud and fire, and he compares that to the gift of the Holy Spirit. They all ate of the manna that came from heaven, and that speaks of participation in Christian fellowship at the table of the Lord. They all drank the water that came from the smitten rock, and that was an outward picture of those who drink today of the water of life that flows from the side of the wounded Christ. But this might all be outward, there might be no reality in the heart, no real work in the soul. Those who were real drank of the spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. In other words, it was not enough to drink of the water that came from the smitten rock, but of the stream that flowed from another Rock, and wherever there was reality they drank of the “attendant Rock,” as one has translated it. It was Christ who led the people of Israel across the desert into the land of Canaan as the Angel of the Lord. Jehovah said, “My name is in him” (Exodus 23:21), and in every dispensation all who have been saved at all have been saved through the Lord Jesus Christ. All who were genuine in their profession at any time and in any age were saved because they had put their trust in the revelation that God gave concerning the Seed of the woman who was to bruise the head of the serpent. But with many of this company God was not well pleased and they were overthrown. Why? Because of sin. And so the warning comes home to us now to learn from God’s dealings with this typical people the importance of being right with God today. Turn from everything unholy, judge every tendency in yourself to that which is impure and unclean, that God may be glorified in you.
“Now these things were [types], to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.” Christ is the great satisfying portion of the heart. The only way that one can be delivered from the corruption that is in the world through lust is by finding heart satisfaction in the Savior.
O Christ, in Thee my soul hath found,
And found in Thee alone,
The peace, the joy I sought so long,
The bliss till now unknown.
I tried the broken cisterns, Lord,
But ah, their waters failed,
E’en as I stooped to drink they fled,
And mocked me as I wailed.
The pleasures lost I sadly mourned,
But never wept for Thee,
Till grace my sightless eyes received,
Thy loveliness to see.
Now none but Christ can satisfy,
None other name for me,
There’s love, and life, and rest, and joy,
Lord Jesus, found in Thee.
When people profess to be Christians, outwardly profess to be members of the church of the Living God, and yet give every evidence that their hearts are still in the world, when there is no separation from the world, no breaking from the things that dishonor our blessed God, when they are still taken up with “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life”-one may stand in grave doubt as to whether they have ever really been brought to drink of that spiritual “attendant Rock,” that Rock which is Christ.
And then we are warned against putting anything in the place of God. “Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” The reference is to the making of the golden calf which they set up in the wilderness. Moses had gone up into the mount. Their leader who had brought them out of Egypt was no longer visible, just as our blessed Lord has gone to the Father’s right hand in heaven and our eyes do not now see Him. Therefore the people turned to Aaron and said, “We cannot see this man, he has disappeared from us; now make us gods that shall go before us, tangible gods that we can see and worship.” And so Aaron told them to bring all the gold, all the “earrings,” and other ornaments, and he would make a god for them. And they brought them and he melted them all down, poured the metal into a mold, and made a calf of gold, and set it upon a pedestal, and even gave it Jehovah’s name. He said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.” And the people danced around it and sat down to eat a sacramental meal in the presence of the golden calf, because of which the judgment of God burned fiercely against them as Moses came down from the mount. You remember the dreadful results. Many of them died under the hand of God, they that were spared even had to drink the calf. Moses took the calf of gold that they had made, and ground it into fine dust and poured this into the water that they drank. That was the “gold cure” to show them the folly of worshiping any other than the one true and living God, and the lesson for us is that if we dare to put anything else in the place of God, no matter how precious it may seem to be, the time will come when we will rue it. The golden calf is still worshiped. Many worship money, wealth, pleasure, and yet claim to be followers of the lowly Savior, “Who though in the form of God, thought equality with God not something to be grasped after: but emptied himself, and became obedient unto death, and such a death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8, literal rendering). How can I be a consistent follower of Him if I put self or anything that this poor heart of mine can crave on earth in the place of the true and living God? “Little children,” says John, “keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
The third is a solemn warning and is against every kind of uncleanness, “Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.” We are living in a day when uncleanness is everywhere. Our modern novels are reeking with it, our newspaper stands are filled with vile pornographic literature that came from hell, and men are enriching themselves by poisoning the minds of our young people. The pictures they see, the songs that come over the radio, many are filled with suggestions of impurity and uncleanness. How sternly the Christian church needs to set its face against everything of this kind. We should have no compromise whatever with impurity. People see the pictures, read the books, listen to the songs, and they all have their effect upon the flesh, and before you know it men are drifting off into unholy, unclean things because of the constant incitation to them in the music and literature of the day. Let us give everything like that a wide berth. “Ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh” (Galatians 5:13).
I am reminded that this eighth verse is one that unbelievers and modernists like to point to as an evidence that the Bible cannot be fully inspired. We read that because of this sin there “fell in one day three and twenty thousand.” And if you turn back to Numbers 25:5, you will find that twenty-four thousand were destroyed because of the sin of fornication. Therefore, these objectors say, “There is a contradiction in your Bible; in one place it says twenty-four thousand were destroyed and in another twenty-three thousand.” It is not difficult to harmonize the two accounts. In Numbers the complete account is given, there were twenty-four thousand destroyed during that period in which God was dealing with His people, but in 1 Corinthians the apostle is stressing the fact that the very first day that the judgment began twenty-three thousand died. The other thousand, of course, died later on. But he is emphasizing the fact that so indignant was God with His people when they fell into the sin of uncleanness that in one day He destroyed twenty-three thousand.
Notice the fourth warning. “Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.” How did they tempt Him? When they said, “Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?” they limited the Holy One of Israel. If we say, “Can God undertake for me? I am in very difficult circumstances; is God able to see me through?” we limit God, we limit the blessed God of all grace who gave His Son for us. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Faith believes God and never tempts Him, but goes forward in obedience to His Word.
Then the fifth warning, “Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.” The reference here is to the destruction of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram in the wilderness. They murmured against God and Moses, the servant of the Lord, and Aaron, the high priest of Jehovah, saying, “Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?” (Numbers 16:3). They practically said, “We do not need a mediator, we do not need a high priest, we are good enough for God as we are.” They found fault with God’s provision for them and destruction was the result.
Let us be grateful to God for the provision He has given through His Word and the Holy Spirit for the salvation of our souls and our building up in Christ. Let us never allow ourselves to become self-confident and imagine we can get along without the daily ministry of our risen, glorified Lord, our High Priest in heaven. “All these things happened unto them for [types]: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world [have arrived].” In view of them, let us walk carefully, and, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” Let him test his foundation, make sure that he is taking the Word of God as his guide, that he is resting upon the testimony that God has given, and when the hour of trial comes, he can be sure that there is abundant grace to sustain.
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13), He did this for Israel of old. As we read the story of His dealings with them, we have instance after instance of His wonderful intervention when they were at their very wits’ end, and the God who sustained His people in the wilderness, fed them on manna from heaven and water from the smitten rock, and drove out their enemies from the land of Canaan, is living still. In the measure in which we learn to depend on Him, to count on Him, we too shall find deliverance in the hour of difficulty and trial.
And so the passage closes with the solemn warning, “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” These are serious admonitions. Let us take them to our hearts, remembering that it is one thing to have made a profession, but it is another thing to have that profession backed up by a godly life that proves the profession to be real.
The Table Of The Lord And The Table Of Demons
1 Corinthians 10:15-30
I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he? All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth. Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that showed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof: conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? (vv. 15-30)
We have in this passage a very serious and solemn word regarding the celebration of the Lord’s Supper which has been maintained in the Christian church for the last nineteen hundred years. In the earlier part of the chapter we were warned against compromising with the world. Now Paul continues that warning, saying, “My dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” In civilized lands we do not come in contact with idolatry in the sense that the apostle primarily means it here, but this is still a very live question in pagan lands, where it is found to be very necessary to separate the converts from absolutely everything of a heathenish or idolatrous character, because if there is any compromise, any fellowship with them, the tendency of all these things is to drag one back to the old levels. Here at home we are more concerned about the gay, godless world around us. We have heard the challenge of the Spirit of God, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17), and as wise men we will apply the principle of this passage to the conditions under which we live.
As Christians we are linked with the table of the Lord, let us see to it that we “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11). We are told, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” In these words he shows us that the Lord’s Supper, as we commonly call it, sets forth the very foundation principles of Christianity. It is a rallying center, as it were, where God’s people come together to openly confess their adherence to these great fundamental truths. Notice the order given: the cup first, the bread second. When our Lord instituted the Supper, and when we participate in it, thanksgiving for the bread is first, and then for the cup; but the apostle here mentions the cup first because it sets forth the precious poured-out blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and there can be no relationship with God for those who by nature and practice are lost sinners, until they have been cleansed by the precious blood of Christ. Every time the Communion feast is celebrated, the great fact is emphasized that it is the blood, the blood of Jesus alone, that cleanses from sin and gives access to the presence of God. In this we may see the reason for Satan’s antagonism against this ordinance. It suffers in two ways. On the one hand there are those that have added to it a great many unscriptural superstitious practices and have made it a strange and weird mystery, so that many Christians are almost afraid to approach the table of the Lord. On the other hand there are those who pretend to have a deeper spirituality and a greater Bible knowledge than ordinary Christians, and so put the Lord’s Supper to one side on the plea that we have no need of ordinances of any kind in the Christian, which is a spiritual, dispensation.
We need to remember that the two ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper were given, not so much to be helpful to Christian people as such, though they are helpful to them, but to be a testimony to the world outside and to form as it were a line of demarcation between the church and the world. We have already seen how baptism does that. I trust the Lord Jesus Christ in my heart, I accept Him as my Savior, and by my baptism I am saying to the world, “I have identified myself with the Christ that you have rejected; henceforward I am
Dead to the world and all its toys,
Its idle pomp and fading joys;
Jesus, my glory be!
If baptism does not mean that to me, it is really nothing more than a mere empty form; but if I see that by my baptism I am confessing my identification with the rejected Christ, it becomes a sweet and precious ordinance and is a testimony to the world outside. The Lord’s Supper is also a testimony. Baptism speaks of my death with Christ; the Lord’s Supper speaks of Christ’s death for me as the only ground of approach to and fellowship with God. And so we read, “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come” (11:26). The word translated “show” is exactly the same word which is used on many other occasions in the book of the Acts and in the Epistles for “preach.” “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do [preach-you proclaim] the Lord’s death till He come,” and so by participation in the Lord’s Supper today we are preaching to the world around the blessed fact that Christ has died and that His precious blood alone can cleanse from sin. Therefore the emphasis on the cup. First, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?” That is the expression of fellowship which is based upon the blood of Christ. Therefore, you can readily see that no one has part nor lot in this ordinance, no one ought ever to participate in it, who does not put his or her trust in the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. I cannot understand how any one who denies the atoning efficacy of the blood of Jesus could even desire to take part in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and yet I am told that in places where Christ’s atoning death is scouted, in places where men ridicule the thought of salvation by His precious blood, the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is still observed in a formal way. It seems to me that is an insult to God, it is an insult to the blessed Savior whose death is commemorated in this service. Christ died for sinners, poured out His blood to redeem us to God, therefore from time to time we come together to remember Him in the drinking of the cup.
Then notice that the bread used in the Supper of the Lord has, if I may so say, a double significance. It speaks of the literal body of our Savior which was offered for us upon the cross, but there is another and wider sense in which it speaks of the mystical body of Christ to which all believers belong. “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” It expresses our fellowship with the body of Christ. He said, “This is My body which is given for you.” That precious body of His came into being in a different way from any other body. It was the direct creation of the Holy Spirit of God in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary. Christ says, “A body hast thou prepared me” (Hebrews 10:5). It was a human body, a body in every respect like ours excepting that there were in that body no sinful tendencies whatever, for our Lord Jesus Christ was, from the moment of His birth as He had been from all eternity, the Holy One of God.
In that prepared body He went to the cross and died for our sins; in fact, He assumed that body in order that He might die. Deity as such cannot die. God, no matter how much He loved us, could not die, but God becoming Man, God taking humanity into relationship with Deity could die as Christ has died on Calvary’s tree. And so, every time we participate in the Lord’s Supper we are again announcing the fact, “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (15:3). This service preaches, it preaches loudly, of salvation only through that vicarious Sacrifice offered upon the cross.
It is evident that the apostle by the Spirit of God attaches a wider meaning to the use of the bread in the Communion service. “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” When he says, “we all” he means, of course, Christians. “We being many are one bread, and one body.” And again he means believers. He is not speaking of mankind in general. Let us never make the mistake of thinking that all men are included in the body of Christ, neither is it true that all believers in all ages have been included in the body of Christ. If I read my Bible correctly, the body of Christ came into existence on the day of Pentecost. There were believers in the world before that. There were one hundred and twenty of them gathered together that morning, but they were one hundred and twenty individuals, separate units, and the Holy Spirit came according to the Savior’s promise and in a moment baptized those one hundred and twenty individuals into one, and made of them one body of which the risen glorified Christ is the Head. That body exists in the world today, and includes every one who all through the years since has put his trust in Christ.
The body as presented in Ephesians takes in all saints, living and dead, from Pentecost to the Rapture. The body as presented in 1 Corinthians takes in all saints upon the earth at a given moment of time. They are all members of the body of Christ. The body of Christ on earth is in the place of responsibility; the body of Christ in heaven, of course, is in the place where praise and thanksgiving alone prevail, for there is no longer the need of prayer because saints have passed beyond the bounds of responsibility. But how blessed to realize when we take the Lord’s Supper that we are doing so as recognizing our unity with every fellow believer on the face of the earth. There is only one Lord’s table in all the world. Wherever bread and the fruit of the vine are placed on a table in commemoration of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, that is the Lord’s table, and Christians are responsible to behave themselves accordingly. The apostle emphasizes that when he points out that there are only two other tables. One is either at the Lord’s table on earth, the table of Judaism, which is the fellowship of Israel, or the table of demons, which is the fellowship of idols.
“Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?” He is referring to the peace offering. All in Israel had their title to participate when the peace offering was offered; that marked them out as a special communion. On the other hand, “The things that the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to [demons], and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.” Idolatrous feasts and heathen festivals were all expressions of fellowship, just as the Lord’s table is an expression of fellowship, or as the peace offering in Israel was an expression of fellowship. But these idolatrous festivals express fellowship with demons whether people realize it or not. I wish that the members of the Laymen’s Appraisal Commission could get the meaning of this. They tell us that we make a great mistake in sending missionaries to heathen lands to draw a line of demarcation between heathenism and Christianity. They say we should go to them and get all the good we can out of their religions, and then share with them what we have. “The things that the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to [demons], and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with [demons].” They may not realize it, but behind those idols, those images, there are demon powers controlling the hearts and minds of the people, and Christians are to be separated from everything like that.
“Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of [demons]: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of [demons].” And, let me say, you cannot be living for the world, the flesh, and the Devil, and be a partaker at the table of the Lord. You may sit in a church pew, and when the bread and wine are passed you may eat and drink of them, but you have not partaken of this fellowship, you cannot do it. You may in an outward sense take your place with Christians, but you know there is no real fellowship if you still belong to the world or love the world and its ways. It is the heart that is occupied with Christ that enjoys the sweetness and preciousness of fellowship at His table. “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of [demons].” If we attempt to do so, it would be as though we would try to provoke the Lord to jealousy.
A young man is engaged to a beautiful young woman. She does not know that his ways are very careless, and by-and-by she learns that while he comes to visit her and treats her with kindness and affection, on other nights he is out with other young women and is just as affectionate and free with them. He comes back to her as though nothing has happened. Do you think she would accept him on the same good terms? No, she would say, “You cannot go on with others if you expect me to be devoted to you alone.” And so our Lord has called us to proclaim our wholehearted devotion to Himself and thus our separation from the world that has rejected our Savior. Looked at from this standpoint how important the frequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper becomes.
The early Christians used to call this “The Sacrament.” Where did that term come from? The word sacrament was used for the oath of allegiance which the soldiers of the Roman legion took to their emperor. The early Christians said, “In a similar way every time we gather at the table of the Lord we renew our allegiance to our blessed Lord, we are confessing our devotion to Him who in grace gave Himself for us.” That is what makes this so precious in His eyes as we thus remember Him.
And so the believer, remembering he is always linked with the Lord’s table, that his behavior is to be in accordance with the Communion, should be careful as to how far he participates in things that worldlings think nothing of. “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” In other words, the believer is not put under rules and regulations, he is free and is at liberty to do the thing that he believes is right. Let him stop and ask the question in regard to a matter, “Will it edify, will it bless, will it help to make Christ more precious to me? Is there a possibility it may stumble any one else?” If it would not edify, it is something from which I must turn. I am not bound by these things, I am here to seek the blessing of others, not to do my own will.
The apostle says, as it were, “When you go into the market to buy, purchase what you will, take it home and eat it. If you are invited to a meal, feel perfectly free to go and eat what is placed before you. But if when you go to the market and are about to purchase your meat, the butcher should say, ‘This has been dedicated to idols,’ you say, ‘We do not want it.’ If you go out to dinner and your host should say, ‘We are eating this today as dedicated to such and such a god,’ you say, ‘I cannot eat it with you because I am a partaker at the table of the Lord.’” We are not to make difficulties unnecessarily, but to be very careful of the consciences of other people. He does not want the butcher to be able to say, “I sold that Christian meat dedicated to Apollo, or to some other god; he evidently recognizes that there are other gods.” He does not want that host to be able to say, “We thought him very narrow, we thought he recognized only Christ as God, but you see he partakes with us in the recognition of all our gods. He has so much more liberty than we thought.” No, the apostle says, “Flee all that kind of liberty, be out-and-out for Christ; do not let any one have occasion to speak ill of that which you feel perfectly free to do.”
“If I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?” I am not to allow myself to partake of anything that would mislead those who are weak in the faith. Each believer is to act thus in good conscience toward God.
The conscience of a young person may be more active than some of the older folk think. Some of us get in the habit of speaking disparagingly of the young, and we would like to see them begin where we have left off. We have had to grow and they have to grow. Well, then, do not expect too much of young believers. Remember how you had to grow, you had to learn little by little what a poor, wretched thing this world is, and you had to learn how Christ could make up for everything else. They have to learn it too; give them credit for being just as honest as you were. They want to live for God, but they come to me and say, “What do you think of thus and so?” It is generally some kind of amusement. They ask, “Do you think that it is all right for a Christian?” And I always say, “My dear young brother, or my dear young sister, don’t you think that you are turning that around? Don’t ask the question, ‘Is there any harm in it?’ but, ‘Is there any profit in it? Will it really do me good? Would it be a blessing to me physically, spiritually, and in other ways? Will it help me to be a better testimony for Christ?’ If so, do not be afraid of it. But if conscience says, ‘It would not be profitable and it would not be a good testimony to others, it may mislead the weak, it will not lead me toward a deeper knowledge of Christ,’ then say, ‘I cannot, on the principle that the apostle lays down here, and I will avoid it.’” Let Christ be the one supreme Object of the devotion of your heart.
The Jew, The Gentile, And The Church Of God
1 Corinthians 10:31-33
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. (vv. 31-33)
These words form a fitting conclusion to the portion which we considered in our last study. Paul has just emphasized the behavior that should characterize those who are linked with the table of the Lord. A table is the expression of fellowship, there is no place where we enjoy one another’s companionship so much as there. We sit down to partake of the good things provided, and there is a feast of reason and a flow of soul, and we find ourselves enjoying fellowship together.
In the spiritual sense there are three tables, representing three great fellowships in this world. First, there is the table of the Lord, and that represents Christian fellowship. As we have seen, the loaf and the cup upon that table speak of the body and the blood of our Lord Jesus, and we being many, all who have been redeemed to God by the precious blood of our Savior, are members of one body and so partake together of that one communion feast. Then there is that which the apostle solemnly designates the table of demons. He is referring to heathen festivals, the kind of feasts held in those days, and that are still being held in pagan lands where devotees of idolatry gather together for fellowship in their abominably mysterious and unspeakably evil rites and ceremonies. Behind all this is the power of Satan. “The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to [demons], and not to God.” In the third place there is what might be called the table of Israel. “Are not they that eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?” (v. 18). That was called the table of the Lord, but when the Lord Jesus was forsaken these forms and ceremonies became empty. Yet today we recognize that there is that fellowship in the world, a fellowship which is neither Christian on the one hand nor pagan on the other, the fellowship of the house of Israel. And now the apostle shows us that as Christians we are to live in this world having due regard to these different fellowships, seeking to bless all in each of these various circles.
First, we have our individual responsibility to order our lives to the glory of God. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” How far-reaching is this commandment. I wonder whether we always bear it in mind as we should. I am quite certain that many of us as Christians would live very different lives if we kept this admonition in mind, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” That takes in my entire life. A great many people try to live their lives in sealed compartments; there is one compartment for the church, there is another for the family, another for business, and another for pleasure and recreation, and the same man may seem to be an altogether different person in each one of these. When he comes to church he is the essence of sanctimoniousness, he has a long face and reverent mien as he sits in his pew. You would not think an unholy thought ever passed through his mind. His eyes are either uplifted to heaven or closed as if in rapt meditation. But see that same man during the week when he goes out into the world in business. Now his eyes are never closed, they are never lifted heavenward, but he is looking about him furtively in a most anxious way, and he is always interested in how he may make a dollar honestly or dishonestly. In fact, he sometimes does not “make” the dollars at all, he simply gets them. There is a great deal of difference between making money and getting money. We make money when we give a legitimate return for it; we get money without giving a legitimate return for it, and even professing Christians often engage in various nefarious schemes that would not bear the test of the Word of God nor even a close application of the law of the land, in their efforts to get money. When they are questioned they say, “Well, you know what the Bible says, ‘Not slothful in business.’” That is a Scripture that has made a great impression upon many minds. And then again this same man goes to his home, and there he is an altogether different person. In business he is so affable, at church so reverent and so solemn, but in his home where he feels he is best known he is sometimes anything but affable and solemn, he shows a miserably bad temper and is a kind of boor and makes everybody around him uncomfortable. You have possibly heard the story of the wife who said of her husband who was a preacher, “When I see him in the pulpit, I think he never ought to come out of it, and when I see his behavior at home, I think he never ought to go into it.” There are many people like that, they live one way at home and altogether another outside. John Bunyan speaks of a man as a “devil at home and an angel abroad.”
These same people have another compartment in their lives, and that is the one that has to do with their leisure time, their pleasure. It is amazing to see the very person who looks so serious on a Sunday morning make his way into some ungodly movie, or some other unholy place of amusement, on a weeknight. I wonder how people can attempt to combine the two, how there can be any respect whatever for the things of God if they go on with the vile, wicked amusements that so many are running after today. We are not to live our lives in these air-tight compartments, but are to do everything to the glory of God. If we gather with the people of God in the church services, it is that He may be glorified; if we go out to take our place in the business world, it is that we may bring glory to His name. A straightforward, upright, godly-living Christian businessman may be a far greater testimony for God than a preacher. Men expect the preacher to unfold the Word of God, but it often comes to them as a wonderful surprise when they see a business man living out the Word of God, and it appeals to them, it gives them to know that what the preacher declares is the right thing.
The home is the place where perhaps above every other a man may show what a Christian really should be, as in the presence of his wife and his children he manifests the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and seeks to lead those who are young in the ways that be in Christ. And then we come to his recreation, for a Christian needs recreation, a Christian has a body and a mind to be thought of, and needs to get out in the open and give a certain amount of time to that which is not so serious. But in his recreation he will say to himself, “I am still to have this in view, that I am to live to the glory of God, and whatever I do I must be careful that I do not allow in myself anything, under the plea that it is simply pleasure or recreation, that would not have the approbation of the Lord Jesus Christ.” We can easily make the test by saying, “If I do thus and so, would it disconcert me in the least if the Lord Jesus would suddenly appear, if He would look down upon me and say, ‘What are you doing?’”
During my unconverted days I had never been in a theater, but some seven years after my conversion I got into a low backslidden state and I said, “I am going to find out what the theater is like.” I felt like Moses before he killed that man, when he looked this way and that way to see if anybody was watching. I looked to the right and to the left, but I forgot to look up, for there was One watching me, the blessed Lord Jesus Himself. I paid for my ticket and went in and the miserable thing began. I had not been sitting there long until I seemed to hear a voice say, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” and I thought, “Where does that come from? Oh, yes, I remember, that is in the Bible.” It stirred me so I got up and ran from the place. If you cannot enjoy things with the Lord’s approbation, then you had better avoid them.
If you want to be the kind of Christian who grows in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, you must order your life according to His Word. We have a similar verse to this in the epistle to the Colossians, “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks unto God and the Father by Him” (3:17). If you call yourself a Christian, the next time you think of going to some ungodly place of worldly amusement, get down on your knees first and say, “Blessed God, in the name of the Lord Jesus I am going down to the movie theater-or whatever it may be-to see some of those ungodly Hollywood divorcees cavorting on the stage, and I pray that it may be for my spiritual blessing and that I may be enabled to glorify God.” If you can pray that way without biting your tongue for being a hypocrite, you may go, but if you find you cannot pray like that, you had better give the place a wide berth.
I have heard Pastor D. H. Dolman tell that he was giving some addresses, before the world war, in a palace in Russia. He had been invited over from Germany by a Russian princess who was an earnest evangelical Christian. She had gathered together many of the old Russian nobility and it was to them Pastor Dolman was speaking. At one of his meetings he was talking of the Christian’s attitude toward the world. A Grand Duchess was there and she was a professed Christian. At the close of the meeting, being a strong-minded lady, she spoke up and said, “I do not at all agree with some things that Pastor Dolman has said today.”
He turned to her and said, “Your Imperial Highness, what have I said with which you disagree?”
“You said a Christian should not go to the theater, and I do not agree with you. I go to the theater, and I never go but what I get down on my knees first and say, ‘I am going to the theater today, and I want Thee to go with me and protect me from all evil,’ and He always does.”
“Your Imperial Highness, may I ask you a question? Where did you get the authority to decide what you were going to do or where you were to go, and then ask the Lord to go with you in it? Why do you not wait until the Lord says to you, ‘Grand Duchess, I am going to the theater tonight and I want you to come with Me,’ and then follow Him to the theater?”
She threw up her hands and said, “Pastor Dolman has spoiled the theater for me, for if I wait for the Lord to bid me go, that time will never come!”
That is true of a great many other worldly places. Give the Lord the opportunity to guide you and He will lead your steps in the right way. You may say, “Oh, well; whose business is it how I behave?” That is something like the question Cain asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” If you profess to be a Christian, there are a great many eyes fixed upon you, people are watching you to see what a Christian should be and they are judging your Master by your life, and if your life is worldly, mean, and ungodly, they decide that your Master is not the blessed, glorious, holy Christ that your lips tell them He is.
And so the apostle reminds us that there are three great classes of people who are looking on and he says, “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.” “Give none offence.” He does not mean that we are not to offend any one, for it is impossible to keep from offending somebody. For instance, if I preach the Lord Jesus Christ, I offend my unbelieving neighbor. If I try to live for God, I offend people who do not want to live for God. If I stand against the liquor traffic, I offend all those engaged in that abominable business and who are interested in it from the standpoint of revenue. It is impossible for a Christian to live as he should without offending somebody, but the old English word offend has an altogether different meaning. The admonition may be translated, “Give no occasion to stumble,” do not allow yourself in anything that would give another occasion to stumble because of your inconsistency.
“Neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.” Here are the three classes into which the world is divided. The Jews of old, God’s covenant people, the people to whom He gave the revelation of His Word and who preserved that revelation for us down through the centuries, the people to whom the Savior came-in fact, He was one of them, “Of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came” (Romans 9:5). But that people reading their own Scriptures fulfilled the predictions of the prophets in condemning and rejecting that Savior, and because they condemned and rejected Him God has set them to one side. He went out to die, sadly saying to Israel, “Your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:38-39). And so because of their awful sin in rejecting their promised Messiah they are scattered everywhere among the Gentiles today. It may be that I am addressing sons or daughters of Israel. Let me assure such that every honest Christian heart goes out in tender sympathy toward Israel, with yearning and longing for their salvation. We realize that Israel having been set to one side, great blessing has come to the Gentiles, the nations outside to whom we belong, but we desire that God’s ancient people may share these blessings with us.
A Jewish lady once said to me, “If Jesus was the Messiah, the One predicted by our prophets, why is it that it is you Gentiles who seem to enjoy the blessings that Jesus brings while we are bereft of them?” I said, “My dear friend, the blessed Lord came and spread a table laden with all good things and said, ‘I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,’ and He invited the people of Israel to come and partake of these good things, but they turned away and did not come; they rejected the Savior and the blessings He brought. It was then He threw open wide the door to the Gentiles and said, ‘Come in, and take of the good things that Israel refused,’ and that is why we have come in; but we still recognize Israel as God’s ancient covenant people and know from the Word of God that the day is coming when their eyes will be opened and ‘They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn’ (Zechariah 12:10). Meantime blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.”
We as Christians are to live our lives consistently, carefully, before the Jew, we are to have consideration, we are to remember that judicial blindness has come upon him and are to commend our Christ to Israel by the godly lives that we live. I am afraid that some Jews might well be excused for rejecting Christ Jesus because of the behavior of those who profess to belong to Christ. Shame that it ever should be so.
Perhaps there never was a day when it was more important that real Christians should confirm their love toward Israel than the present one. There seems to be a rising tide of anti-Semitism sweeping all over the civilized world. To follow the writings of some, one might think that the Jew is responsible for all our national and political ills. But we know who is responsible. Professing Christian people have turned away from the living God, have spurned His Word, have rejected His Son, have dishonored His Holy Spirit, and so God is giving the Christian nations of the world to feel that it is an evil and a bitter thing to forsake the Lord their God. But Israel we know is blinded, and many of them have turned away from the God of their fathers, and instead of being a blessing to the world they are a curse. However, the great majority of them today are simple, kind, earnest people. How dare we try to blame on them the ills of the nations? We as Christians should show them that our hearts are toward them, and that we desire to have them share with us the blessings which we have found through the One who came from them, Jesus of Nazareth, the rightful King of the Jews.
But the apostle says, “Give no occasion to stumble, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles,” the Christless nations all about us. Most of us are Gentiles by birth and at one time we were outside the covenants of promise, we were aliens to the commonwealth of Israel, and today the great part of the Gentile world still remains in its ignorance and darkness and sin although nineteen hundred years have elapsed since the Lord Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). There are over a billion persons in this world today who are still without God and without hope. What a tremendous responsibility rests upon us as Christians to give the gospel to the Gentile world! You do not need to go across the sea to do that, you work with them day by day, these Gentiles are all about you. How careful we should be to give no occasion to stumble.
I have said to some, “Are you a Christian?” They have answered, “No.” “Wouldn’t you like to be?” I have asked. “Well, I have sometimes thought so, but I have seen so many hypocrites among people professing to be Christians that I have not much interest.” That is, of course, a very foolish excuse to make. It is as if I were to offer a man a ten-dollar bill and he said, “Thank you, but I have seen so many counterfeit bills I don’t like to touch it.” It would be a very foolish way of reasoning. I do not excuse any one for reasoning like that, for no one will talk that way in the day of judgment. When the Lord says, “Why didn’t you trust Me?” no one will dare to look up and say, “I would have, but I saw so many hypocrites among those professing to be Christians.” But on the other hand you and I are to be careful that there be no possibility of people getting a wrong conception of Christianity because our lives are not what they should be.
“Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.” What is the church of God? This is a third company. There was a time when the church of God had no existence. You remember when our Lord Jesus was on earth after Peter made his confession, He said, “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). There was no church of God existing on the earth in the four Gospels, but when you come to the book of the Acts after the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, you find a new company. The apostle Paul, when speaking of what he was in his unconverted days, says, “I persecuted the church of God and wasted it.” And speaking to the Ephesian elders he says, “[Feed the flock of God], over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers,” and he calls it, “The church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Writing to Timothy long years afterward, he tells him how he ought to behave himself in the house of God and adds, “Which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). What is the church of God? In the first place, it is not a building in which we meet. When we speak of a church in that sense, we use the word colloquially. The church is the company of people who have been redeemed to God by the precious blood of His Son. At one time some of these people were Jews, in the beginning the great majority of them were Jews, and then God began to work in power among the Gentiles and the two together constituted the church of God, as it is written in Ephesians 3:6, “That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” It was the Jew first and then the Gentile, and now all who believe form this wonderful company called the church of God. Let me ever remember as I walk down the street that I am a member of the church of God; as I meet with fellow Christians I am a member of the church of God; in my home life, in my business life, I am a member of the church of God. I cannot get out of the church, so I always have to behave as in church. Some people have one manner of behavior in what they call a church building and another outside. Parents will say to their children, “You must be good in church.” Let me say to every Christian, You and I must always “be good,” for we are always in church! We are members of the church of God, and we are to behave ourselves accordingly. “Giving none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.”
Now see how the apostle says, as it were, “I am not asking you to do something that I do not ask myself to do.” He was not one to say, “You do as I say and not as I do.” “Even as I please all men in all things.” Of course he uses the word please in the sense of seeking to profit all men. You cannot please them in the sense of doing that which every man wants you to do. If you did, you would not please God, but we are to behave ourselves properly toward others. “Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” Why is it so important that I should behave myself aright as a Christian? Because others who are not saved are watching me, and if I am not careful my behavior will perhaps be such that they will never be saved. They will say, “No, I have no use for God, for Christianity. I have no use for the Bible, for I have been watching that man who professes to love God, to love Christ, and to honor the Bible, and I do not see anything in his life to commend either God or Christ or the Bible.” We want to behave ourselves so that people looking at us will see Christ.
“That they may be saved.” Well, then, there are some people not saved. “If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Scripture divides all mankind into two classes, the lost and the saved. Who are lost? Those who reject the gospel, those who live on in their sins and never come to Christ. Who are saved? Those who put their trust in Jesus, those who believe the gospel, those who come to Christ. My friend, are you lost or are you saved? Notice, it is “ are lost,” not merely in danger of being lost, but you are lost now if you have not trusted Christ. If you are lost, you may be saved, and you may be saved now.