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1 Corinthians 10


        Food Offered to False Gods
Warning Against Idolatry Old Testament Examples A Warning Against Over Confidence Warning Against Idols A Warning and the Lessons
of Israel's History
10:1-13 10:1-13 10:1-5 10:1-5 10:1-13
    10:6-13 10:6-10  
  Flee from Idolatry Application: Sacrifices Idols Again 10:12-13 Sacrificial Feasts: No Compromise
with Idolatry
10:14-22 10:14-22 10:14-22 10:14-17 10:14-22
Do All to the Glory of God All to the Glory of God Principles: Our Freedom
and Responsibility for Others
  Food Sacrificed to Idols: Practical Solutions
10:23-11:1 10:23-11:1 10:23-30 10:23-24 10:23-11:1
    10:31-11:1 10:31-11:1  

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. Chapters 8 through 10 are integrally related in their attempt to bring balance to the discussion of Christian freedom versus Christian responsibility in love. Paul does not focus on hard and fast rules, but on the priorities of interpersonal relationships that strengthen believers and draw unbelievers to Jesus.

B. Paul's discussion of the Lord's Supper, beginning in v. 14 and continuing through v. 22, is a foreshadowing of the fuller discussion in 11:17-34.

C. Paul possibly addresses the "weak" believers in vv. 14-22 and the "strong" believers in vv. 23-33. If this is not the structure, one wonders how these two paragraphs do not contradict each other: vv. 14-22, don't eat sacrificial food; vv. 23-33, eat if it is not questioned. Possibly the first refers to a public meal at a pagan temple and the second a private meal at home.

D. The United Bible Societies' Handbook on Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, by Ellingworth and Hatton has an interesting outline of vv. 1-13.

"The general structure is as follows:

I. Introduction-verse 1a.

II. Positive aspects.

A. Four positive examples from the Old Testament-verses 1b-4a-the last example being expanded in verse 4b.

B. Conclusions drawn from the positive examples-verse 5.

C. Application to the readers-verse 6a.

III. Negative aspects.

A. Five negative Old Testament examples-verses 6b-10.

B. Application to the readers-verses 11-13.


The word all is repeated five times in verses 1-4, giving great emphasis to the fact that all the people of Israel shared God's protection and blessings during the exodus and the following years of wandering in the desert. All contrasts with most of them in verse 5 and with some of them, which is repeated four times in verses 7-10" (p. 214).


For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3and all ate the same spiritual food; 4and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 5Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.

10:1 "For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren" This phrase is a literary technique used often by Paul to introduce a conclusion (cf. Rom. 1:13; 11:25; I Cor. 10:1; 12:1; II Cor. 1:8; I Thess. 4:13).

▣ "our fathers" This reflects (1) a believing Jewish element in the Church or (2) NT Gentiles becoming grafted into the natural olive tree, Israel (cf. Rom. 10; Gal. 6:16), and are now one in Christ (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13).

▣ "all. . .all" This inclusive term (i.e., pantes) is used twice in v. 1 and once in vv. 2,3, and 4. It is a way to emphasize the unity of all Israelites in the experience of God's grace and judgment, called the Wilderness Wandering Period (i.e., Numbers).

▣ "the cloud" This refers to the unique symbol of the presence of YHWH. It was called by the rabbis the shekinah cloud of glory (cf. Exod. 13:21-22, 14:19). The Hebrew word shekinah meant "to dwell with." YHWH was with His people during this period of judgment in such intimate and caring ways that the rabbis began to call this the "honeymoon" period between YHWH and Israel.

▣ "all passed through the sea" This is an allusion to YHWH's splitting of the Red (literally "reed" or "weed") Sea. Today scholars are uncertain as to which specific body of water this refers. The same term, yam suph is used in the OT to refer to (1) the Gulf of Aqaba (cf. Exod. 21:4; Deut. 2:1; I Kgs. 9:26; Jer. 49:21) or (2) the Indian Ocean. Apparently it referred to the mysterious waters to the south. It is interesting that "water" is not said to have been created by God in Genesis 1. Often the Mesopotamian creation myths speak of the waters (i.e., salt and fresh) as gods who desired human destruction. YHWH delivers His people from watery chaos and defeat.


10:2 "were baptized into Moses" The Greek manuscripts vary between passive voice (i.e., MSS א, A, C, D) and middle voice (i.e., MS B). It seems to me the middle voice is contextually appropriate in emphasizing the volitional decision of the Israelites to follow Moses and the historical fact the Jewish proselyte baptism was self administered. This is an unusual phrase, found only here in the NT. It implies a parallel between the responsibility and privilege of the Mosaic covenant, and our new covenant in Christ; both are from God and in some ways are similar. Here baptism is used as a symbol for one who follows.

There is a rabbinical tradition going back to Hillel (cf. b Ker 9a; bYeb 46a) which relates proselyte baptism to the Red Sea event. See Richard N. Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period, pp. 102-103.

10:3 "spiritual food" This refers both to manna (cf. Exod. 16) and quail (cf. Exod. 16:13; Num. 11:31-32), which were God's supernatural provisions during the wilderness wandering period.

10:4 "same spiritual drink" This refers to the miraculous provision of water (Exod. 17:6; Num. 20:8ff).

▣ "they were drinking from a spiritual rock" Rock is a title for YHWH in the OT which emphasizes His strength and permanence (cf. Deut. 32:4,15; Ps. 18:2; 19:14). It is also used of the Messianic Kingdom as a destroying force (cf. Dan. 2:45).

▣ "which followed them" These seem to refer to a rabbinical legend based on Exod. 17:6 and Num. 20:11ff, that the rock followed the Israelites and that it was the Messiah. This tradition is specifically mentioned in the Koran.

▣ "and the rock was Christ" This is a rabbinical typology (the personification of the rock may have come from Num. 21:17 or Deut. 32:4,15,18,30, cf. Targum Onkelos on Numbers 21). God provided life-giving water during the wilderness wandering period. Paul sees an analogy between God's provision then and God's life-giving provision now. Paul's theology viewed Christ as pre-existent and as the Father's agent of life and blessing. Jesus has always been God the Father's fullest provision and greatest blessing.

10:5 "Nevertheless" This is the Greek alla, which shows a strong contrast. See Contextual Insights, D.

▣ "with most of them God was not well-pleased" This is an attention-arresting understatement: all but two of that generation died. Only those under twenty years of age (i.e., not yet old enough to be in the military) and Joshua and Caleb (i.e., the two spies who brought a positive faith report) entered the Promised Land (cf. Jude v. 5).

▣ "they were laid low in the wilderness" This word implies their bones were scattered along the desert route (cf. Num. 14:16). They were God's chosen people, but He judged their unbelief. These OT believers saw the miraculous provision of God. They knew His will through their God-given leaders (i.e., Moses, Aaron, and Miriam), yet still they acted in unbelief and rebellion (cf. Hebrews 3-4).

Paul has just commented on his own strenuous efforts at self-control (cf. 9:24-27). In chapter 11 he is alluding to those who try to separate theological knowledge from godly lifestyle (i.e., Gnostics and other intellectuals). Even the common fellowship meal (i.e., the agape feast) cannot be eaten by godless believers (cf. 11:27-32). Physical death can be a temporal, divine judgment suffered by disobedient believers.

Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. 7Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play."8Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 12Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 13No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

10:6 "Now" The NRSV, TEV, and JB also mark a paragraph division at this point to show the transition from historical analogies to present application.

▣ "these things happened as examples for us" The Greek term tupoi, "examples," (singular tupos) has a wide semantical field. It was the mark left by a blow. This can refer to a physical beating (cf. Matt. 24:49; 27:30) or a metaphor for it (cf. I Cor. 8:12).

It came to be used for an imprint left by a blow of a hammer (cf. John 20:25). This imprint could refer to a physical image-an idol (cf. Acts 7:43) or a printed image (cf. Acts 23:25; Rom. 6:17). From this it came to stand for a pattern (cf. Acts 7:44; Phil. 3:17; I Thess. 1:7; II Thess. 3:5; I Tim. 4:12; Heb. 8:5; I Peter 5:3).

The best parallels to this term's use in this text (i.e., "type" I Cor. 10:6) are I Cor. 10:11 and Rom. 5:14, where it refers to (1) a foreshadowing type; (2) a figurative counterpart; or (3) a symbolic example.

Verses 6 and 11 remind NT believers that the OT has spiritual relevance for them (cf. Rom. 4:23-24; 15:4; I Cor. 9:10; 10:6,11). The revelations of God are eternal and the principles are relevant.

▣ "so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved" Notice that Paul is comparing OT covenant people and NT covenant people. Evil is a recurrent problem. It can rob a human of eternal life, of intimate fellowship with God. Evil corrupts every level of mankind's existence. Salvation does not free us of the struggle (cf. Romans 7; Eph. 6:10-19). The Corinthian church was in danger in the areas of both orthodoxy and orthopraxy! Godliness, not information, is the goal!

The term "crave" (used twice) reflects the strong compound Greek term epithumeō, which is made up of the preposition "upon" and "to rush." It refers to a strong feeling or emotion overtaking and controlling the mind and heart of a person. It can be used in a positive sense as in Phil. 1:23, but usually is used in a negative sense (cf. II Tim. 2:22). Paul may be reflecting the strong desire and disobedience of the Israelites recorded in Num. 11:31-35, because he alludes to Num. 25:9 in v. 8 and Num. 16:4-5; 17:5,10 in v. 10.

10:7 "Do not be idolaters" This is a present middle (deponent) imperative with the negative particle, which usually means stop an act already in process. This OT quote refers to the idolatrous orgy of Exodus 32.

The exact idolatrous practice that Paul is referring to in Corinth is uncertain. Somehow the believers were in danger of offending God. From chapter 7 and the historical situation at Corinth it might have been pagan sexual worship practices or from chapter 8 pagan idolatrous sacrifices.

"The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play" This is an allusion to Aaron's making the golden calf in Exodus 32 and the children of Israel feasting before it and committing sexual acts (cf. Exod. 32:6,19). The sexual aspect of the term "dancing" is seen in the same Hebrew word used in Gen. 26:8 of Isaac making love to Rebekah.

10:8 "Nor let us act immorally" This shows the pagan setting of Corinth and also the tendency of pagans, even redeemed pagans, to be prone to immorality in the name of religion.

▣ "twenty-three thousand fell in one day" This is a reference to Num. 25:1-9. There is an obvious discrepancy between this and the Hebrew text of Num. 25:9, which has twenty-four thousand. This does not seem to be a copyist error. This discrepancy is in all Greek manuscripts. It could be a lapse of memory on Paul's part. This does not mean to imply a lack of inspiration or trustworthiness, but the ancient world was not as precise in their use of numbers as modern western people.

In Archer's Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pp. 141, 401, he asserts that the OT passage Paul is referring to is not Num. 25:1-9, but Exodus 32. He makes a good point in that 10:7 quotes from Exod. 32:4 and that Exod. 32:35 mentions the Lord's smiting of the people apparently even beyond the 3,000 of v. 28. This is surely a viable contextual option.

10:9 "Nor let us try the Lord" This is the term peirazō with the preposition ek, which intensifies it (cf. Matt. 4:7; Luke 4:12; 10:25). See Special Topic: Greek Terms for Testing at 3:13. The Corinthian Church was acting in a similar manner to the Israelites in the wilderness (cf. Num. 21:5-6). God does use temporal judgment to correct His people.

The term "Lord" (cf. NASB, TEV, NJB, and NIV) is found in the ancient Greek manuscripts א, B, C, P, and the Armenian translation. It would fit the OT allusion best, referring to YHWH in Numbers 21.

The term "Christ" (cf. NKJV, NRSV) is found in manuscripts P46, D, F, G, and the Vulgate and Peshitta translations. It fits Paul's immediate audience best.

While the UBS4 favors "Christ" with a "B" rating (i.e., almost certain), a strong argument for "Lord" is made by Bart D. Ehrman in The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pp. 89-90.

See Special Topic: Greek Terms for "Testing" and Their Connotations at 3:13.

▣ "were destroyed by the serpents" This is a reference to Num. 21. See Special Topic: Apollumi at 8:11.

10:10 "Nor grumble, as some of them did" The first phrase is a present active imperative with the negative particle, which usually means to stop an act in process. This refers to Num. 16:41-50, which is referred to in Num. 17:5,10. The Corinthian church was grumbling just like Israel of old.

"the destroyer" This alludes to the plague in Num. 16:49. It was a theological way of showing that death was in the hands of YHWH (cf. Exod. 12:23,29; II Sam. 24:16; I Chr. 21:15; Heb. 11:28). There is no "grim reaper"! There is no chance, fate, or luck! There is God, the God of Israel, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. He and He alone is in control of life and death!

10:11 "to them" This is referring to the people in the OT who died at the Destroyer's hands.

"example" See note at v. 6. See SPECIAL TOPIC: PAUL'S VIEWS OF THE MOSAIC LAW at 9:9.

▣ "ends of the ages have come" This is a perfect active indicative. It is a metaphor for the prophesied new age (similar phrase in Heb. 9:26). Believers live in the Kingdom of God, inaugurated at Jesus' first coming, to be consummated with His Second Coming. We live in the tension of the "already and the not yet"!


10:12 "let him who thinks he stands take heed" The self assurance and arrogant pride of the Corinthian factions were a major problem, as the same attitude is today (cf. Rom. 11:20; II Pet. 3:17). God has and will judge His own people (cf. Jer. 25:29; I Pet. 4:17). Self deception is a curse of religious people! Those in Christ must continue to exercise diligence (cf. 9:24-27)!

10:13 "temptation" This word is used three times in this verse and means to tempt with a view toward destruction (see Special Topic at 3:13). There are three sources of temptation in the NT:

1. fallen human sin nature

2. personal evil (i.e., Satan and the demonic) 

3. the fallen world system (cf. Eph. 2:1-3; James 4:1,4,7)


NASB"but such as is common to man"
NKJV"except such as is common to man"
NRSV"that is not common to everyone"
TEV"the kind that normally comes to people"
NJB"none. . .is more than a human being can stand"

Other humans have faced the same temptation as the Corinthian believers. Jesus also has experienced and overcome all temptation which is common to human beings (cf. Heb. 4:15).

▣ "God is faithful" This is such a crucial descriptive statement! Biblical faith rests on the character of God. Our hope is in His gracious character, sure promises and redemptive acts.

This aspect of God's character is first stated in Deut. 7:9, which is an amplification of Deut. 5:9-10. God's justice moves through time to three and four generations, but His lovingkindness (i.e., covenant loyal love, hesed) to a thousand generations. This same affirmation is continued in Isa. 49:7.

This is a major theme in the Corinthian letters (cf. 1:9; 10:13; II Cor. 1:18, as well as I Thess. 5:24 and II Thess. 3:3). Believers are to faith God's faithfulness; to trust God's trustworthiness. This is the essence of biblical faith!

NASB"but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it"
NKJV"but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it"
NRSV"but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it"
TEV"at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out"
NJB"with any trial will also produce a way out by enabling you to put up with it"

This Greek word was used of a way of escape for a trapped military unit. Believers do not face temptations alone!

The problem in this text is how one relates "provide the way out" with "be able to endure it." Do some get a way out and others bear it or is God's way out really a means of enduring? Does the testing stop or do believers work through the testing by faith? Although this ambiguity cannot be settled, the good news is that God is with us in the problems (cf. Ps. 23:4). God will not leave us or forsake us. The exact mechanism of victory is not clearly revealed, but the victory is!

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say. 16Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. 18Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar? 19What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. 21You 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. 22Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?

10:14 "Therefore" Paul is concluding the previous discussion and moving on to a conclusion.

NASB, NKJV"my beloved"
NJB"my dear friends"

Paul's Corinthian letters (and Galatians) are his hardest words to churches. Therefore, he wants to remind them how precious they are to him even when he speaks so harshly to them (cf. 4:14; 10:14; 15:58; II Cor. 7:1; 12:19).

This term was used by God the Father of Jesus (cf. Matt. 3:17; 12:18; 17:5). Paul, Peter, Jude, and John, in their letters, use this adjective to denote the followers of Jesus. They are beloved because of their relationship to Christ; beloved by God, by Christ, and by the writers of the NT letters.

▣ "flee from idolatry" This is a present active imperative. Notice "idolatry" has the definite article. God provides a way, but believers must choose to take advantage of it (cf. 6:18). One way to handle temptation is to flee its presence. Believers must not put themselves into the arena of temptation.

"Idolatry" in the OT was the image and worship of pagan gods. In our day it is anything that replaces God in our priority structure (cf. 10:7,14). As Jesus said, where your treasure is there will your heart be (cf. Matt. 6:21). Moderns reveal their priorities by time, money, and thought life. Religion is often a significant appendage, but not the core priority. True faith does not deal with excess, but with the essence of life. The book of I John closes with "guard yourselves from idols" (cf. I John 5:21).

10:15 This shows Paul's approach to leadership. He was an Apostle of Christ, yet he admonishes these prideful believers to judge his words for themselves (cf. 14:39-40). It is surely possible that Paul is being sarcastic. He used this same word (i.e., wise man) in 4:10 and II Cor. 11:19 in a sarcastic sense.

10:16 This verse is constructed as two rhetorical questions (although TEV translates it as indicative statements).

▣ "the cup of blessing" This probably refers to the third cup in the Jewish Passover service. It was what Jesus used to inaugurate the Lord's Supper.

The term "blessing" is eulogia from the verb eulogeō, which means "to praise," "to flatter," "to bless," or "to benefit." See note at II Cor. 9:5. We get the English term eulogy from this Greek root. When Jesus enacted this ordinance he took both the cup and bread and gave thanks to God. The Greek term for thanks or thanksgiving is eucharistia, from which we get the term Eucharist. Both of these Greek terms are used in a synonymous way in 14:16.

It is interesting, but not theologically significant, that the normal order of the cup and bread (cf. 11:24-27) is reversed here. The order is not the issue, rather fellowship with Christ at His communal meal versus fellowship with pagan deities at their communal meals.


"sharing" This is the Greek word koinonia, which means "joint participation with." This is the origin of the English word "communion," used for the Eucharistic symbolic meal, which emphasizes fellowship now, but a more intimate fellowship in the future. See Special Topic: Koinonia at 1:9.

▣ "in the blood of Christ" This is an emphasis on the death of Christ in its sacrificial OT context (cf. Levticus 1-7). The blood symbolized the life (cf. Lev. 17:11,14).

▣ "the bread which we break" This is the source of the English phrase we use for the Lord's Supper, "breaking bread" (cf. Acts 2:42). This was the symbol Jesus chose to represent the New Covenant in His broken body on the cross. He purposely did not choose the Passover Lamb, which was a symbol of the old covenant experience (cf. Exod. 12).

"sharing in the body of Christ" The symbol of the "body of Christ" is twofold: (1) His physical body was sacrificed for human sin and (2) His followers became His spiritual body, the church (which also has two aspects in I Corinthians: [a] local church and [b] the universal church).

10:17 This is an emphasis on the unity of Christ and His church expressed in the Lord's Supper symbolism (i.e., one bread). This same unity of Christ's body is in 12:12-13 in relation to spiritual gifts.

10:18 "the nation Israel" This is literally "Israel according to the flesh" (see Special Topic at 1:26). This is another symbolic way (i.e., historical allusion) to show the unity of those who partake of the Lord's Supper.

10:19 "What do I mean then" Paul's writings are some of the easiest biblical texts to interpret because he logically develops his thought. Logical markers such as this phrase allow modern interpreters to outline Paul's thoughts at paragraph level, which is a key in interpreting his books.

Paul develops his thought throughout this context by a series of rhetorical questions (cf. NASB, v. 16 (two); v. 18 (one); v. 19 (two or three); v. 22 (two); v. 29 (one); v. 30 (one).

▣ "or that an idol is anything" As an example of how ancient scribes unintentionally altered the texts they were copying, this phrase was accidentally left out in the very early ancient Greek manuscripts (i.e., P46, א*, A, and C). For further discussion of Textual Criticism see Appendix Two.

10:20 "sacrifice to demons" Paul, going back to the OT, understood idolatry as related, not to the reality of the image, but to the reality of spiritual forces in the physical creation (cf. Lev. 16:8; 12:7; Deut. 32:17; Ps. 96:5; 106:37; Isa. 65:11; Rev. 9:20; 16:14). Behind all human activity is the spiritual realm (cf. Deut. 32:8 [LXX]; Daniel 10; Eph. 6:10-18). Although it is never stated specifically that the fallen angels of the OT are the demonic of the NT, Paul refers to these fallen spiritual forces by other terms in Rom. 8:38-39; I Cor. 15:24; Eph. 1:21; 3:10; Col. 1:16; 2:10,15. Paul uses the term "demon" only here and in I Tim. 4:1. See Special Topic: Personal Evil at 7:5.


▣ "sharers in demons" Follow Paul's analogy. Christians are one with Christ's body (i.e., the church) because they are one with His sacrifice (i.e., His body crucified on Calvary) because they share in the bread of the Lord's Supper that symbolized His broken body. Therefore, pagans who share in the eating of meat sacrificed to a non-existent idol participate in spiritual idolatry relating to the demons behind world religions. As believers share in the historical events of Jesus' life by means of ritual (i.e., Romans 6), so too, unbelievers share in the demonic.

10:21 This phrase refers to the pagans' sacrifices and rituals in the pagan temples of Corinth. A believer cannot affirm the exclusiveness of Christianity (i.e., one and only one true God and Jesus His Messiah) and still spiritually participate in pagan worship. If they do, it is spiritual idolatry!

10:22 "provoke the Lord to jealousy" This seems to be an allusion to Deut. 4:25; 32:16,21; Ps. 78:58; or Isa. 65:3. The term Lord in v. 21 obviously refers to Jesus, but in v. 22 to YHWH. This type of transfer is one of the ways that NT authors assert the deity of Jesus of Nazareth.

The term "jealousy" is a powerful love word. One is only jealous about someone they love. YHWH is emotionally involved with His people, who reflect His character and take His name to the world. Idolatry destroys this fellowship and the evangelistic purpose.

▣ "We are not stronger than He, are we" The grammar expects a "no" answer. This terminology implies two different Christian groups being referred to: the weak brother in vv. 14-21 and the strong brother in vv. 23-33. Verse 22 shows the difficulty of trying to deal with the mindset of these two groups of believers (cf. Rom. 14:1-15:13). Paul is trying to walk a theological tightrope between two Christian philosophies/world views (i.e., freedom and bondage to past experiences).

All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. 25Eat anything that is sold in the meat market without asking questions for conscience' sake; 26 for the earth is the Lord's, and all it contains. 27If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience' sake. 28But if anyone says to you, "This is meat sacrificed to idols," do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience' sake; 29I mean not your own conscience, but the other man's; for why is my freedom judged by another's conscience? 30If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks?

10:23 This is a return to the subject begun in chapter 6:12 about how to balance Christian freedom and responsibility (cf. Rom. 14:19). Verses 23-33 address the strong brother.

"All things are lawful" This phrase is repeated twice. Some translations put this phrase in quotes (cf. NRSV, TEV, NJB) because they think it was a slogan of one of the factious groups at Corinth or a cultural proverb. This is the emancipated world view of the "strong" Christian (cf. 6:12; 10:26; Rom. 14:14,20).


▣ "but not all things edify" The practical, spiritual test is, "Does it edify the body (i.e., the believing community)?" (cf. 6:12; 14:3-4,26; II Cor. 12:19; Rom. 14:19; 15:2). This must be the test in all believers do or say. One's freedom in Christ must not hurt another for whom Christ died (cf. Rom. 14:15).

Just a personal word, this is not to imply that spirituality must float at the lowest level of the weakest believer, but that mature believers must not flaunt their freedom at the expense of fellow-believers. Some believers are dogmatic, Pharisaic legalists. I do not have to succumb to their rules, but I must love them, pray for them, fully accept them, and not publicly embarrass them or flaunt my freedom. I am spiritually responsible for my fellow believers! See SPECIAL TOPIC: EDIFY at I Cor. 8:1.

10:24 "Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor" This is a present active imperative. Mature Christianity puts the welfare of others to the forefront (cf. v. 33; 12:7; 13:5; Rom. 14:7; 15:2; Phil. 2:1-5,21).

10:25,27 This is the voice of emancipated faith. But "strong" faith publicly yields to "weak" faith (cf. vv. 28-29).

10:25 "conscience" There is not an OT counterpart to the Greek term "conscience" unless the Hebrew term "breast" implies a knowledge of self and its motives. Originally the Greek term referred to consciousness related to the five senses. It came to be used of the inner senses (cf. Rom. 2:15). Paul uses this term twice in his trials in Acts (i.e., 23:1 and 24:16). It refers to his sense that he had not knowingly violated any known religious duties toward God (cf. I Cor. 4:4).

Conscience is the developing understanding of believers' motives and actions based on (1) a biblical worldview; (2) the indwelling Spirit; and (3) a lifestyle knowledge based on the word of God. A Christian conscience is made possible by the personal reception of the gospel. See fuller note at 8:7.

10:26 "For the earth is the lord's and all it contains" This is the affirmation of the goodness of all created things (cf. 6:12; 10:26; Rom. 14:14,20), taken from a combination of Ps. 24:1 and 50:12, which was used by the OT Jews as a blessing at meals.

The Textus Receptus repeats v. 26 at the end of v. 28. This is not original. It is missing in the Greek manuscripts א, A, B, C, D, F, G, H*, and P, also it is not included in the Vulgate, Syriac, or Coptic translations.

10:27 This verse is crucial in making a distinction between participation in public idolatrous feasts versus common daily socializing with unbelievers. Paul does not have hard and fast rules. He prioritizes personal relationships (i.e., evangelism and discipleship). People are priority. People are eternal. People are the purpose of Christ's death, not food! Verses 29-33 show us Paul's summary on this issue.

10:27,30 "If" Both of these are first class conditional sentences, which are assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes.

10:28 "If" This is a third class conditional sentence, which means potential action.

▣ "do not eat it" This is a Present active imperative with the negative particle which usually means stop eating it. If the Christian is informed he/she must not eat because the very fact the issue is brought up shows the presence of weak faith or a seeking faith (cf. v. 29).


NASB"why is my freedom judged by another's conscience"
NKJV"why is my liberty judged by another man's conscience"
NRSV"why should my liberty be subject to the judgment of someone else's conscience"
TEV"why should my freedom to act be limited by another persons' conscience"
NJB"why should my freedom be governed by somebody else's conscience"

The NRSV punctuates this as if these were Paul's words. The TEV translates this as if they were another question asked by a supposed objector. This is the literary technique called diatribe (cf. 6:12,13). 

This is the crucial question you must answer for yourself. Each of us, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, must define the boundaries of our self-limitation for others, out of love and respect for Christ.


10:30 This refers to a meal for which the believer has given thanks and eaten. The question sets the stage for the universal principle about how to exercise our Christian rights, which follows in v. 31.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:10:31-11:1
Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved. 11:1Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

10:31 "do all to the glory of God" This is the universal principle applicable in every area of the believer's life (cf. Eph. 6:7; Col. 3:17,23; I Pet. 4:11). See SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (DOXA) at I Cor. 2:7.

10:32 "Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God" This seems to refer to three groups. The first two are related to evangelism; the last group to fellowship in the church.

The term "church" is obviously being used in a universal sense as in Matt. 16:18. The term is used in the NT in

1. a local sense (most occurrences)

2. a regional sense (cf. Acts 9:31; Gal. 1:2)

3. a universal sense (cf. Phil. 3:6; Heb. 12:23)

4. a cosmic sense of all the saints of all ages alive and dead (cf. Eph. 1:22; 5:23,24,25,27,29,32; Col. 1:18,24)


▣ "church" See Special Topic: Church at 1:2.

10:33 "just as I also please all men in all things. . .so that they may be saved" Evangelism, not self-rights, is the priority of mature believers (cf. 9:19-22).

"the many" In English this might be understood as a large part of the whole group. However, in Hebrew thought it is just a literary variation of "the all." This parallelism can be seen in

1. Isaiah 53:11, "the many"

     Isaiah 53:12, "of many"

     Isaiah 53:6, "of us all"

2. Romans 5:18, "to all men. . .to all men"

     Romans 5:19, "the many. . .the many"

3. In Corinthians 10:17, "we who are many" (here Paul uses the term "many" to refer to the whole group of believers)

▣ "so that they may be saved" This is the goal of gospel preaching and Christian living (cf. 9:19-22). God's promise of Gen. 3:15; 12:3 has now been fulfilled. The broken fellowship (i.e., the marred image of God in mankind) has been restored through Christ. "Whosoever will" may come (cf. Ezek. 18:23,32; John 1:12; 3:16; I Tim. 2:4; II Pet. 3:9).

11:1 This verse seems to go with chapter 10, not 11. Paul's evangelistic motives and actions parallel the life and teachings of Jesus. As Paul mimicked Him the believers at Corinth were to focus on (1) the good of the body (the church) and (2) the salvation of the unbelieving world.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Were the Israelites who died in the wilderness spiritually lost?

2. What is the major purpose of the Lord's Supper?

3. How does one balance Christian freedom and Christian responsibility?

4. What should be the main goal of our freedom?