Doing Everything For The Glory of God
[1st Corinth. 10, 18-33]
In this week’s Bible study I will finish up the second half of chapter 10 in the first book of Corinthians. Our study will begin at verse 18, but to put it into better context let me quote verse 17, where St. Paul is comparing the breaking of bread to the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ when he wrote, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” The ‘one loaf’ symbolizes the body of Christ who was sacrificed for all our sins. He then goes on to use the temple at Jerusalem as an example, since many of those to whom Paul was writing at this point were converted Jews. He begins at verse 18:
“Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than He?” (1Cor. 10, verses 18-22 NIV)
In the first sentence above, Paul is referring to the live sacrifices offered by the Israelites when they were wandering in the Sinai desert, and especially after the first temple was constructed in Jerusalem. Since there was no banking system such as what we have today, those priests who “participate in the altar” ate from the animal sacrifices that were offered there as a form of partial payment for performing their duties. Pagan sacrifices, which were still common in those days, were made to an illusory god who did not really exist, and so their efforts were futile. I’m pretty sure that’s what Paul meant when he wrote warning the early church at Corinth not “to be participants with demons”. Allow me to add some extra thought right here at this point in today’s lesson.
There are those who would say that since there are no more pagan sacrifices in the modern world, then what Paul wrote about in the above passage of Scripture no longer applies to the world of today. I would strongly disagree with that, and let me explain why. First of all, demons are real, they are not something out of folklore. They actually exist, and they have installed themselves into positions of power and influence. There are a disturbing number of them working in Washington right now. They are also doing everything they can to try and stir up as much trouble, strife and conflict as possible, especially within the church where resistance to Satan is strongest. Paul wrote that we must all stand against these demonic forces in unity when he wrote, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.” You can’t play both sides of the fence with God. You can’t have your life running both ways at once, because God and demons are polar opposites of each other. But just because we refrain from doing this, that doesn’t get us off the hook, because there is still the related issue of idol worship that must be addressed.
Nobody builds altars to their idol gods anymore as far as I know, or at least not in the western hemisphere. And when was the last time you heard of the sacrifice of live animals and human beings for religious purposes? So one would think that this should be a moot issue, but in fact it is not. The idol gods of today come in vastly different forms than they did 3,000 years ago when the first temple was built at Jerusalem. Back in antiquity, idol gods were carved or graven images of wood and stone inlaid with precious jewels and metals such as gold, silver, diamonds, emeralds and sapphires. But in the modern world, idols tend to take the form of money (for its own sake), status (which is always temporary), power over others for the purpose of controlling or manipulating them ( which in the end is an illusion), and the craving for material wealth and luxurious possessions, which are vanity and selfishness personified. One thing is for sure; everybody is ultimately destined for death. Nobody gets out of the game of life alive. That being the case, it stands to reason that when we all eventually die, we’re not going to be able to take any of our stuff with us. So all of the above examples are forms of idolatry, and any person who is engaging in any of the above activity should be warned that they are about to bring judgment upon themselves; not from other people, but from Almighty God himself! But there is still time to change! Ask Jesus to come into your heart today and dwell there forever, so that you in turn can dwell with Him forever when this life is over. Jesus is the Son of God, the only God who is real and genuine. Paul then uses the remaining verses in this chapter to further explain himself.
“‘Everything is permissible’; but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible; but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it’. If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if anyone says to you, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice’, then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for your conscience’ sake – the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by anothers’ conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks, or the church of God – even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” (1Cor. 10; verses 23-33 NIV)
Paul ends this 10th chapter of First Corinthians with a warning about how we are to be living. “Nobody should seek his (or her) own good, but the good of others”. Just because something is beneficial and agreeable to us (such as the pursuit of financial gain), or just because something makes us feel good (such as substance abuse or sexual promiscuity), does not mean it is good for us even if we believe that what we do does no harm to anyone else. The fact of the matter is that in cases such as this, when we sin against ourselves by engaging in any and all forms of idolatry, we sin against God who made us and we ultimately devalue ourselves. The most positive thing about this is that He loves us just the same without any prequalifications. You see, when Jesus died on the cross for us, He took care of all that for us no matter how many times we have sinned, and regardless of what we have done.
Paul warns the early church against knowingly consuming food and drink offered to idols, and I am thankful to say that this form of pagan worship is almost unheard of in the early 21st century. But it is even easier than that to get caught up in the modern idols of our day that I mentioned earlier, such as the waging of endless wars by our US government that are based on greed, or the domination of others by manipulation or control such as in “corporate America”, or the trashing of our planet Earth’s environment, also by corporate America and the US military for profit at the expense of future generations. And so Paul concludes this portion of his letter by telling the early Corinthian church to stay away from all vestiges of idolatry, closing with the admonition, “…whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” We are to focus on God when such issues crop up in our lives, and it is the responsibility of each and every believer to keep God first and foremost in our lives, above all else. The way to maintain a state of obedience to God is to “do it all for the glory of God”. That’s how we should all be living, especially in light of the fact that His second coming could happen at any time in the near future. Therefore let us keep ourselves in a state of readiness for Christ, and to eagerly await His return. Let’s spend each one of our days living for Him, and see what a big difference it makes in our quality of life. Today is the best day to start, so why not right now?