1 Corinthians 10:1-22
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? 
When we began our series on things that go bump in the spiritual night, we noted there are two common mistakes believers make regarding transcendent evil and the spiritual realm. One mistake is to believe that demons do not exist at all. This has been the predominate view in our post-Enlightenment Western culture. Even Christians willing to believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God and to proclaim their salvation by trust into the person and work of the historical God-Man, Christ Jesus, balk at the idea of demons. Jesus is real. Heaven and hell are real. But demons, some say, are a fantasy. We are all comfortable with a nice, controllable, tame, safe God who exists to do nice things for us and blesses our personal agendas. But the very idea of things beyond our control is terrifying. So, many sincere believers simply reject the Bible’s plain teaching out of hand. They trust the god of science and rationality and their own wits to protect them.
The other mistake we can make is to give those transcendent often unseen forces too much importance. Some groups of Christians view themselves as a kind of spiritual special forces team whose duty is to actively battle the unseen realm through fervent prayers made in specific locations. They go scuba diving to cast out “water spirits” and they climb into planes to sprinkle holy water to allegedly exercise entire cities. Partly, they do such things out of devotion to God. Mostly, they attach such importance to the demonic realm because it gives them a sense of status. “I have to fight this important spiritual battle to save the world.” As soon as believers begin to attach themselves to a kind of messianic self-consciousness, Messiah Jesus is no longer enough. They need the “rush” of having an exciting and important mission other than the Great Commission and the ordinary means of grace. They exchange Messiah for a “Christianized” idol.
Paul offers us a much better balance in 1 Corinthians 10. He tells us the demonic realm is real. It associates itself with human idolatry (anything that is not the worship of God). Flirting with such idolatry is NOT neutral but is, in fact, fellowshipping with demons. The believer’s ordinary means of protection against such evil are the means of grace: The Word of God preached, prayed, sung, and portrayed in baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Paul’s contrast is stark. One can either attend the great Apollo Barbecue at the demon-god’s temple, dining with the devil and his minions, or one can attend the Feast of God and fellowship with Christ Jesus who has already defeated the spirits of the dark realm.
OT BAPTISM, SUPPERS
Paul writes, in vv. 1-7, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.’”
Why did the Israelites die in the desert? Despite the miracles God performed to lead them out of Egypt, these Israelites lacked trust in God. They crossed the Red Sea, never lacked daily food (manna), drank water from a rock (twice), were sheltered from the scorching sun by the cloud that accompanied them, were led by a pillar of fire at night, and received numerous other blessings. Instead of worshiping God, the Israelites served idols which they had taken along from Egypt (Amos 5:26). At Mount Sinai they formed a golden calf (Exod. 32:1–6) and worshiped it with a feast and orgy. These rebellious Israelites failed the test of faith, and, Paul intimates, those Corinthians who engage in idolatry also fail to serve God and participate in the table of demons (10:21).
In the first paragraph (vv. 1–5) Paul sets forth Israel (“our fathers” – the fathers of both Jewish and Gentile believers) as Exhibit A of those who failed to obtain the prize. The power of the type lies in the fact that they also had their own form of “baptism” and “Lord’s Supper,” the type and shadow of ours. All of them had these privileges; nonetheless, God was displeased with most of them and their bodies were scattered over the desert. Paul has two particular feasts in mind when he writes of the Israelites eating the same spiritual food. The first feast is found in Exodus 24:
Then [God] said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. 2 Moses alone shall come near to the Lord, but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not come up with him.”
3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” 4 And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank. 
In that passage, there are several types representing fellowship with God: the altar; the sacrifice of animals (the innocent for the guilty); the sprinkling of blood on the people who take an oath to keep God’s holy law; and finally, the feast in the presence of the Redeemer God who has freed them from slavery and showered them with miraculous salvation for all the world to see.
But buried in Paul’s admonition is another, darker feast much like the great Apollo Barbeque. We find that in Exodus 32:
When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” 6 And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.
7 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ ”
Aaron declares a feast day to YHWH in response to the making of this idol. This is the kind of syncretism Paul sees taking place in Corinth – the melding of animistic-demonic religion with the worship of the One True Redeemer God. Paul quotes Moses saying, the people…rose up to play – the word “play” likely describing sexual behavior (Gen. 26:8). So, unlike the previous feast, this feast with demons involved an orgy – like the “play” that took place at the great at temple feasts like the Apollo Barbecues in Corinth.
Paul alludes to at least five incidents in Israel’s exodus story. Some of the incidents overlap: (1) coveting food (Num. 11:4); (2) engaging in idolatry (Exod. 32:4, 6, 19); (3) committing immorality (Num. 25:1–9); (4) testing the Lord (Num. 21:5); and, (5) grumbling (Num. 14:2, 36; 16:1–35). Paul sums up in verse 6, “6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.’” 
Tired of their daily manna, the Israelites said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt … also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite …” (Num. 11:4–6). These discontented Israelites tested and tried God (Ps. 106:14), who in his grace sent them an abundance of quail. But the Lord also punished them with a severe plague, so that they died with the meat still between their teeth (Num. 11:31–34). They were buried in a place which the Israelites called Kibroth Hattaavah (graves of craving). These people had been possessed by coveting, and, as Paul states elsewhere, coveting is idolatry (Col. 3:5). The people spurned God’s food while idolizing the foods of their slavery just like the Corinthian believers. Just like we do. If we miss that point, Paul again reminds us in verse 11, “11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” 
Being discontent with God’s sovereign gifts to us is fellowship at the altar of the demonic. The first fellowship meal with the demonic took place as Adam and Eve at their sacramental meal with Satan of the fruit from which God commanded them to not eat – in spite of the fact that God had given them all the other trees from which to feast. In the Mosaic Law, the Lord gave Israel seven feast days (Lev. 23-25): the weekly Sabbath; Passover; Unleavened Bread; First Fruits; Pentecost; Trumpets; and, Tabernacles. Only upon Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, were the people commanded to fast. After Messiah Jesus provided the once-for-all atonement at Calvary, we celebrate his perfect atonement with a feast: The Lord’s Supper. When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, he gave thanks when he broke the bread (11:24; Luke 22:19). He set the example of giving thanks to the Father for his gifts to us. Hence, the term eucharist, which derives from the Greek verb eucharisteō (I give thanks), means gratitude or the act of giving thanks.
The fundamental problem Paul tackles is the lack of thankfulness God’s people so often display. Adam and Eve lost their thankfulness and become convinced God was ripping them off. The Israelites lost their thankfulness and decided their pagan Egyptian masters were kinder than their Redeemer God. The Corinthians lost their sense of thankfulness for their so great salvation and decided the Great Apollo Barbecue was at least as much of a thrill as worshipping the Living God. Instead of rehearsing God’s blessings with a thankful heart, we worship our own wants and felt needs with a demanding heart. When we do so, we are drinking the cup of demons and eating at the enemy’s table.
That is not just Paul’s principle. He is actually basing this entire section in 1 Cor. 10 upon The Song of Moses in Deut. 32:15-18 – which the church at Corinth likely sang as a hymn. In that hymn, Moses sings of Israel making sacrifices to demons:
Israel grew fat and kicked. /They were fat and full and firm. /They left the God who made them. /They rejected the Rock who saved them. /They made God jealous with foreign gods. /They made him angry with hated idols. /They made sacrifices to demons, not God. /They were gods they had never known. /They were new gods from nearby. /Your ancestors did not fear them. /You left God who is the Rock, your Father. /You forgot the God who gave you birth.
Paul writes in verse 14, “14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” There are places in Pauline letter where he tells people to fight (1 Tim, 6:12). There are places where he admonishes people to stand (Rom. 11:20). But only in 1 Corinthians does Paul order people to flee (also 6:18). Paul commands them to flee from that environment as a refugee escapes from war or famine. He bids them to stay as far away as possible from pagan temples with their feasts held in honor of their demon gods. Even though statues of imaginary deities are merely wood and stone, the environment implies worship. With the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, God prepares his own table at which he is the host and the believers are his thankful guests. It’s not the temple, the statues, or the food itself that endangers the Corinthians.
The table in a dining room of a pagan temple and the table of the Lord belong to two diametrically opposed religious contexts. One is demonic and one is divine. When the Corinthians drink from the cup and eat of the bread during the Lord’s Supper, they indeed have communion with Christ and with one another. Because they have fellowship with Jesus Christ, they ought to have nothing to do with idols. Jesus said no one can serve two masters (Matt. 6:24; Luke 16:13).
Animistic culture is all about being able to control your own destiny, making all your wishes come true, gaining power over your environment, being the master of your soul and the captain of your fate. Nobody attended the Great Apollo Barbecue because they loved Apollo. They attended because doing so was a way to get the gods to give them the life they wanted.
The Christian life is all about what God has already provided in Christ Jesus. We are to content ourselves with what God ordains for us – grateful, thankful for the easy AND for the hard because we trust into the One True God who works all things for our good and his glory. Israel made and worshipped a golden calf and the idols they brought with them from Egypt because the One True God was not performing according to their timetable. The Corinthians chowed down at the Great Apollo Barbecue because the feast of the One True God wasn’t enough for them. Paul told the church at Philippi, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” 
What are your idols? Absolutely anything you are convinced you need to make you happy is an idol. Giving yourself over to dreaming of your own version of a “better life” is, according to Paul, being partakers with the demons (10:20). How do we protect ourselves from the transcendent powers of evil? We flee from our idols and flee to Christ; we immerse ourselves in his ordinary means of grace: the word preached, prayed, sung, and portrayed in baptism and Christ’s table. We give thanks. We celebrate His grace. We preach Christ’s death to one another in the Eucharist and recognize our only true good is found in Him. We humble ourselves, as James instructs:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You [covet] and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. 
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 10:1–22.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 10:1–7.
 Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, vol. 18, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 322.
 Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), 442.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ex 24:1–11. Emphasis added.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ex 32:1–8.
 Kistemaker and Hendriksen, 327.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 10:6–8.
 Kistemaker and Hendriksen, 328.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 10:11.
 Kistemaker and Hendriksen, 341–342.
 Id., 347. Quoting New Century Version Bible.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 10:14.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Php 4:11–13.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jas 4:1–10.