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1 Corinthians 10:14–18

“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (v. 14).

When Christians face temptation, we can be confident that the Lord is there to help us, and that He will provide a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). Therefore, we can never say that there was no way for us to avoid a particular sin if we are believers in Christ. He does not leave us to rely on our own strength.

However, the way out of temptation that the Lord provides does not always consist of some extraordinary measure of spiritual power. Often it is quite ordinary. We see this in today’s passage, where the Apostle exhorts us to “flee from idolatry” (v. 14). The way to endure temptation here is simply to stay away from participating in idolatrous worship. Our Lord gives us a way out of idolatry in that He commands us to flee it, to have no part in it, to not put ourselves in a situation where we might fall into it. This requires no extra measure of grace beyond what God has given in Christ but simply the application of commonsense wisdom that the Holy Spirit gives to all believers.

Paul confirms this in 1 Corinthians 10:15 when he says that he is speaking to sensible people. It does not require special insight to know that idolatry is wrong and that we should not dabble in it. After all, condemnations of idolatry occur all through Scripture. One cannot take part in actual pagan worship, as the self-professed “strong” Corinthian Christians did, without participating in the one worshiped by the pagans. To make this point, Paul draws an analogy with the Lord’s Supper. To participate in drinking the cup and eating the bread is to participate in the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ (vv. 16–17). Paul is speaking here of participation in a spiritual sense, of the strengthening of our spiritual union with Christ, which union is possible because He shares our human nature. This is a great mystery, but we fellowship with the whole Christ, including His flesh-and-blood human nature, when we take the Lord’s Supper. As John Calvin comments, “The soul has as truly communion in the blood [of Christ], as we drink wine with the mouth.” The Lord’s Supper is not simply a memorial meal but a means of grace wherein we commune with Jesus in heaven (see also 11:17–34).

Paul is helping us understand that since partaking of the sacrament (the Christian worship meal) is to participate in Christ, eating pagan worship meals is also to participate in a spiritual reality—an evil reality (10:20–22). Thus, we cannot take part in the worship of any but the one true God.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

The Lord’s Supper involves remembering the Lord’s death on our behalf, but it is not a mere remembrance. It involves a deep spiritual communion with the risen Christ as well. This truth must guide our preparation for and participation in the Lord’s Supper. Let us take the sacrament seriously and approach the Lord’s table humbly if we are to benefit from it spiritually.

For Further Study
  • Exodus 24:9–11
  • Psalm 34:8
  • John 6:22–40
  • Hebrews 13:10

God’s Faithfulness in Our Temptation

Demons and Idols

Keep Reading Luther on Trial: The Diet of Worms

From the April 2021 Issue
Apr 2021 Issue