1 Corinthians 10:14-22

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? [1]

One thing we have been trying to drive home in our series, The Invisible War, is that there are only two kingdoms: The City of God, and the City of Man. Or, to put it another way, there are only the Kingdom of God in Christ Jesus and the kingdom of Satan which is already judged and bound for destruction. There are really only two basic worldviews about transcendent or spiritual things: the biblical view or animism. Animism is the belief that non-human entities (plants, animals, inanimate objects like crystals, unexplained phenomena, the earth, the stars) possess a spiritual essence. Animism believes the souls of the dead can remain in the world like ghosts or spirits, acting as intermediaries between a distant and unknowable god (The Universe) and the living. Animism is a participation in the demonic realm.

In the past few weeks we’ve seen a fake psychic pretending to receive messages from the dead who was shocked when God brought the spirit of the real prophet Samuel appear to pronounce God’s covenant curse upon Saul. Last week, we looked at a real psychic using actual demonic powers to advise the “spiritual but not religious” people of Philippi. Today we begin a wrap-up of our series by looking at a small portion of 1 Corinthians 10. This text is so full of imagery we’re going to examine part of the Old Testament background this week and then take a broader look at 1 Cor. 10:1-22 next week for our final part of this series.

Sometimes interaction with the demonic realm can be individual, as in Saul seeking out the Witch of En-dor, or the citizens Philippi shelling out small fortunes to consult with the Snake Girl. And interaction with the demonic kingdom can be collective and cultural. As Paul teaches here in 1 Corinthians 10, interaction with the dark kingdom easily sneaks into the collective lives of God’s people as it did for God’s people in the days of the Isaiah and Jeremiah and in Paul’s day for the church in Corinth.

The context of Paul’s warnings in chapter 10 is the insistence of some of the congregation on attending the cultic meals in the pagan temples. Earlier (8:7–13) he had argued from the perspective of the weak, whose consciences were being violated by those who believed themselves free to attend pagan feasts (8:10). Now he speaks directly to those opposing him on this matter, first by sternly warning them on the basis of Old Covenant examples of the grave danger they are in (vv. 1–13), and second by expressly prohibiting temple attendance as totally incompatible with the Christian life (vv. 14–22).”[2] He uses two images in this passage: the cup; and, the feast. Both of these have a rich Old Covenant history and New Covenant context. He tells us there are only two cups and two feasts. Neither is neutral. Both are powerful. But only one cup and one feast are eternally powerful and beneficial.


Paul says there are two cups: The cup of the Lord; and, the cup of demons. Of course, the Old Covenant uses the word cup as a literal cup. As an example, Pharaoh’s imprisoned cupbearer dreams of squeezing grapes into Pharaoh’s cup. Joseph interprets this dream as a sign of the man’s restoration. The cup in the dream symbolizes a literal cup. Of course, that is not the kind of cup to which Paul referred in our text. There is another kind of cup frequently spoken of in the Bible is a cup of blessing. In the OT, this is metaphorical language – the word “cup” means something more than a literal device for holding liquid. Everyone knows the 23 Psalm, where the Psalmist says:

. . . my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

In Psalm 16:5, we read:

LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.

This cup of blessing is also referred to by the Psalmist as: the cup of salvation (Psalm 116:13). This is what Paul calls the cup of the Lord (10:21) and the cup of blessing which we bless (10:16). This is the cup that represents fellowship with Christ. He calls it participation in the blood of Christ (10:16).[3] In our passage, the cup is sacramental – it’s an actual cup of real wine AND it represents the blood shed by Christ upon Calvary for the sins, guilt, and shame of his people. It also represents real participation (10:16, 18) with Christ in our salvation. He is present with us as we participate in the feast of his Supper. He is working in us and through us to strengthen and renew our trust into him as we participate in his cup of blessing.


The next kind of metaphorical cup is what Paul calls the cup of demons. He’s speaking about the ceremonial drinking that goes on in the pagan temples of Corinth. He is arguing that, even though Corinthian believers really don’t consciously worship the demon gods when they attend the feasts, they are still participating with the demonic realm in the same way they participate with Christ in the Lord’s supper. He tells us that exposing ourselves to idols is exposing ourselves to the demonic realm that is bound for destruction. We see a picture of this in Revelation 17 where John writes:

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.[4]

You may recall from our study of Revelation that both John and the OT prophets picture all idol worship as harlotry or sexual immorality – a breaking of covenant vows with God. That is the point of the prophets Hosea’s story. The harlot’s cup of immorality is associated with the cup of the bitter wine of God’s wrath mentioned in Revelation 16:19, “God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath.[5] In a way, the cup of the unsaved sinner and the cup of God’s wrath are one and the same. Paul tells the Romans that the way God pours out his judgment upon those outside of Christ is to turn them over to the self-destruction of their own sins:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. …21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator… 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. [6]


The cup of the wine of the wrath of God is the opposite of the cup of blessing. It is a cup of cursing. It describes that radical, explosive “chemical reaction” when God’s pure holiness comes into contact with the total corruption of sin. If I were to take a cup of vinegar and place a tablespoon of baking soda in it, we all know what would happen, don’t we?  The reaction of these two elements results in a foaming and fizzing. When we see the foaming and hear this hissing, we are observing the physical aspects of this reaction.  But those observable aspects of the reaction are symptomatic of something taking place at a much deeper level. And so, to describe the reaction which occurs when the utter holiness of God contacts the complete and radical corruption of man, God speaks to us of the cup of the wine of the wrath of God.

God’s foaming cup of wrath is found some 15 times in the OT. Asaph, in Psalm 75, sings:

…but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another. For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth. [7]

Isaiah preaches a sermon to the city of Jerusalem, God’s own city, and he speaks of their corruption and wickedness and rebellion against God. Jerusalem, Isaiah says, will taste the wine of the wrath of God because of her idolatry along with the pagan nations who attack Judah. Beginning in Isa. 51:17 we read:

17 Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering. 18 There is none to guide her among all the sons she has borne;          there is none to take her by the hand among all the sons she has brought up. … 20 Your sons have fainted; they lie at the head of every street like an antelope in a net; they are full of the wrath of the Lord, the rebuke of your God. 21 Therefore hear this, you who are afflicted, who are drunk, but not with wine: 22 Thus says your Lord, the Lord, your God who pleads the cause of his people: “Behold, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering; the bowl of my wrath you shall drink no more; 23 and I will put it into the hand of your tormentors….[8]

The most powerful of all of the passages on the cup of God’s wrath is found among the prophecies of Jeremiah. But rather than read it with me, I want for you to listen to it as if you were a citizen of Jerusalem, listening to the prophet’s sermon. Imagine yourself on the dirty, dusty, hot summertime streets of old Jerusalem in about the year 604 or 605 B.C. This was a year of great political consequence and turmoil in the land of Judah. Jeremiah has been preaching in Jerusalem for 25 years. And he has had NO RESULTS. He has been warning of the coming judgment of God for 25 years and for that quarter of a century, people listened, and laughed and went on about their daily lives (exactly as people had done in the days of Noah).

But now, things are changing. The Assyrian Empire, which had controlled all of Asia Minor (all of modern-day Turkey), and all of the land of Palestine and even parts of Egypt for 200 years, is now coming unraveled. And as Assyria began to lose her power, all of the vassal states begin to revolt. Egypt revolts. Babylonia revolts. And the Assyrians lack the power to do anything about it. Their empire is shriveling to the point where there is nothing left but a little garrison of soldiers boxed into a small town in northern Assyria.

There is a power vacuum in the region. The Egyptians begin to push north toward Palestine grabbing as much land as they are able. The Babylonians begin marching northwest toward the Euphrates River, grabbing as much territory as they can. These two great powers clash in 605 or 604 B.C. in a town called Carchemish in northern Syria. Pharaoh Necco and Nebuchadnezzar fight the Battle of Carchemish and Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon defeats Egypt, routs their army and sends them running back down through Syria, back through Palestine, back into Egypt. A mighty army, battered and wounded, deflated and defeated, has dragged itself through Palestine, slinking and slogging its way homeward, past the faces of the people of Judah and Jerusalem.

Israel, refusing to trust into God’s protection, as allied itself with Egypt – something God considers to be political and spiritual prostitution. And now, after 25 years of proclaiming the judgment of God, Jeremiah has the attention of the citizens of Jerusalem for there is nothing standing in between the county of Judah and the mighty army of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  As he preaches his sermon, on this hot and dusty day, he takes out a cup and uses it as a symbol of the wine of the wrath of God.  And he passes the cup around to the people of the congregation and, as each one takes the cup, he names each person who holds the cup by the name of a nation.  He hands the cup to someone and says, “Here: you represent Edom and Moab.” Then to another he hands the cup and says, “Here: you represent Egypt. Drink it. It’s the wine of God’s wrath. Here: you represent Tyre and Sidon. Drink the cup of God’s wrath. Taste God’s fury. And here, you, you represent Jerusalem; drink up the dregs of the wine of God’s wrath.”

Here is what Jeremiah preaches in chapter 25:

15 Thus the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. 16 They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them.”

17 So I took the cup from the Lord’s hand, and made all the nations to whom the Lord sent me drink it: 18 Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, its kings and officials, to make them a desolation and a waste, a hissing and a curse, as at this day; 19 Pharaoh king of Egypt, his servants, his officials, all his people, 20 and all the mixed tribes among them; all the kings of the land of Uz and all the kings of the land of the Philistines (Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod); 21 Edom, Moab, and the sons of Ammon; 22 all the kings of Tyre, all the kings of Sidon, and the kings of the coastland across the sea; 23 Dedan, Tema, Buz, and all who cut the corners of their hair; 24 all the kings of Arabia and all the kings of the mixed tribes who dwell in the desert; 25 all the kings of Zimri, all the kings of Elam, and all the kings of Media; 26 all the kings of the north, far and near, one after another, and all the kingdoms of the world that are on the face of the earth. And after them the king of Babylon shall drink. 27 “Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Drink, be drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you.’

Now if I were sitting there when Jeremiah was passing out that cup, knowing that this great army was bearing down upon my city, finally having some sense of the punishment that lay in store for me after years of laughing at this angry old preacher, I’m sure I would have said, “ No, thank you. I pass. Let someone else drink it. I’m not really very thirsty this morning.” I can imagine that at this point people who had taken this cup and sipped it had a very sour look on their face. Most likely this cup contained sour wine — wine vinegar. But it’s precisely because people are beginning to catch on and are trying to pass up this cup that Jeremiah goes on to preach:

28 “And if they refuse to accept the cup from your hand to drink, then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: You must drink! 29 For behold, I begin to work disaster at the city that is called by my name, and shall you go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth, declares the Lord of hosts.’ [9]

God was announcing his judgment upon all people, including those bearing his name, because all people had broken his covenant of works by worshipping anything and everything other than God. And the way he was judging them was by turning them over to their own sins. Judah had trusted into political alliances, looking to Egypt for safety and accepting her culture and her demon gods in the process. Now, another political power worshipping different demons would conquer their land and lead them into slavery.

The cup of the wine of the wrath of God, the bitter, fiery cup of God’s fury, appears in Ezekiel, Habakkuk, Lamentations, the Psalms and elsewhere in Jeremiah’s sermons. And in each instance, the cup of the wine of God’s wrath is a picture of the violent reaction which occurs when the pure holiness of God contacts the complete corruption of humanity as it desperately searches for anything other than God to manage our lives. Paul reminds us in 1 Cor. 10 that even believers are never free from this quest for something other than God. All of us chase after idols. All of us break the covenant of works that demands we have and worship no other gods.


Because we all worship other things, other ideas and ideals, we all deserve to drink the cup of the wine of the wrath of God. But the one person who DID NOT deserve this cup, the one person ever to walk upon this earth who was completely free of unholiness and corruption, agonized over the prospect of drinking this cup as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was about to grab hold of the cup of the wine of God’s wrath which all the wicked must drain to the dregs.  There was no sin in the Son of Man. There was no corruption in Him. The Son of God felt revulsion when confronted with that cup. He prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.[10] And, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.[11]

At the end of his crucifixion, John notes this final scene:

Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. [12]

This was God’s way of showing the world that Jesus drained the cup of sour wine – the bitter, foaming cup of the wine of the wrath of God.

Jeremiah spoke of a time when the innocent would taste the cup of God’s wrath (Jer. 49:12). Now, here is that time. Jesus willingly accepts the sour cup of the wine of the wrath of God for his people who have communed with false gods. The question for you is: from which cup of God are you going to drink? Paul says here in 1 Cor. 10, you either participate in the cup of blessing, or you drink the cup of demons. To say that you do not want a part with Christ, that you want no part of Christianity, is to also say, I DO want my portion of the cup of the wine of the wrath of God. I will drink with the evil one. For we shall and we must drink either one cup or the other: either the fiery cup of God’s wrath, or the cup of salvation, the cup of the propitiation of God’s wrath.











[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 10:14–22.

[2] 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), 441.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 10:16.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 17:1–6.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 16:19.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 1:18–32.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 75:7–8.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Is 51:17–23.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Je 25:15–29.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 26:39.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 26:42.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 19:28–30.