Warning against Overconfidence. 1* I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea,a 2and all of them were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.b 3All ate the same spiritual food, 4and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them,* and the rock was the Christ.c 5Yet God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the desert.d
6* These things happened as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things, as they did.e 7And do not become idolaters, as some of them did, as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.”f 8Let us not indulge in immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell within a single day.g 9Let us not test Christ* as some of them did, and suffered death by serpents.h 10Do not grumble as some of them did, and suffered death by the destroyer.i 11These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us, upon whom the end of the ages has come.* 12Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.* 13No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.j
Warning against Idolatry.* 14Therefore, my beloved, avoid idolatry.k 15I am speaking as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I am saying. 16The 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?l 17Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.m
18Look at Israel according to the flesh; are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?n 19So what am I saying? That meat sacrificed to idols is anything? Or that an idol is anything? 20No, I mean that what they sacrifice, [they sacrifice] to demons,* not to God, and I do not want you to become participants with demons.o 21You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and also the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of demons.p 22Or are we provoking the Lord to jealous anger? Are we stronger than he?q
Seek the Good of Others.* 23“Everything is lawful,” but not everything is beneficial.* “Everything is lawful,” but not everything builds up.r 24No one should seek his own advantage, but that of his neighbor.s 25* Eat anything sold in the market, without raising questions on grounds of conscience, 26for “the earth and its fullness are the Lord’s.”t 27If an unbeliever invites you and you want to go, eat whatever is placed before you, without raising questions on grounds of conscience. 28But if someone says to you, “This was offered in sacrifice,” do not eat it on account of the one who called attention to it and on account of conscience; 29I mean not your own conscience, but the other’s. For why should my freedom be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30If I partake thankfully, why am I reviled for that over which I give thanks?u
31So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 32* Avoid giving offense, whether to Jews or Greeks or the church of God, 33just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved.v
* [10:1–5] Paul embarks unexpectedly upon a panoramic survey of the events of the Exodus period. The privileges of Israel in the wilderness are described in terms that apply strictly only to the realities of the new covenant (“baptism,” “spiritual food and drink”); interpreted in this way they point forward to the Christian experience (1 Cor 10:1–4). But those privileges did not guarantee God’s permanent pleasure (1 Cor 10:5).
* [10:4] A spiritual rock that followed them: the Torah speaks only about a rock from which water issued, but rabbinic legend amplified this into a spring that followed the Israelites throughout their migration. Paul uses this legend as a literary type: he makes the rock itself accompany the Israelites, and he gives it a spiritual sense. The rock was the Christ: in the Old Testament, Yahweh is the Rock of his people (cf. Dt 32, Moses’ song to Yahweh the Rock). Paul now applies this image to the Christ, the source of the living water, the true Rock that accompanied Israel, guiding their experiences in the desert.
* [10:6–13] This section explicitates the typological value of these Old Testament events: the desert experiences of the Israelites are examples, meant as warnings, to deter us from similar sins (idolatry, immorality, etc.) and from a similar fate.
* [10:9] Christ: to avoid Paul’s concept of Christ present in the wilderness events, some manuscripts read “the Lord.”
* [10:11] Upon whom the end of the ages has come: it is our period in time toward which past ages have been moving and in which they arrive at their goal.
* [10:12–13] Take care not to fall: the point of the whole comparison with Israel is to caution against overconfidence, a sense of complete security (1 Cor 10:12). This warning is immediately balanced by a reassurance, based, however, on God (1 Cor 10:13).
* [10:14–22] The warning against idolatry from 1 Cor 10:7 is now repeated (1 Cor 10:14) and explained in terms of the effect of sacrifices: all sacrifices, Christian (1 Cor 10:16–17), Jewish (1 Cor 10:18), or pagan (1 Cor 10:20), establish communion. But communion with Christ is exclusive, incompatible with any other such communion (1 Cor 10:21). Compare the line of reasoning at 1 Cor 6:15.
* [10:20] To demons: although Jews denied divinity to pagan gods, they often believed that there was some nondivine reality behind the idols, such as the dead, or angels, or demons. The explanation Paul offers in 1 Cor 10:20 is drawn from Dt 32:17: the power behind the idols, with which the pagans commune, consists of demonic powers hostile to God.
* [10:23–24] He repeats in the context of this new problem the slogans of liberty from 1 Cor 6:12, with similar qualifications. Liberty is not merely an individual perfection, nor an end in itself, but is to be used for the common good. The language of 1 Cor 10:24 recalls the descriptions of Jesus’ self-emptying in Phil 2.
* [10:25–30] A summary of specific situations in which the eating of meat sacrificed to idols could present problems of conscience. Three cases are considered. In the first (the marketplace, 1 Cor 10:25–26) and the second (at table, 1 Cor 10:27), there is no need to be concerned with whether food has passed through a pagan sacrifice or not, for the principle of 1 Cor 8:4–6 still stands, and the whole creation belongs to the one God. But in the third case (1 Cor 10:28), the situation changes if someone present explicitly raises the question of the sacrificial origin of the food; eating in such circumstances may be subject to various interpretations, some of which could be harmful to individuals. Paul is at pains to insist that the enlightened Christian conscience need not change its judgment about the neutrality, even the goodness, of the food in itself (1 Cor 10:29–30); yet the total situation is altered to the extent that others are potentially endangered, and this calls for a different response, for the sake of others.
* [10:32–11:1] In summary, the general rule of mutually responsible use of their Christian freedom is enjoined first negatively (1 Cor 10:32), then positively, as exemplified in Paul (1 Cor 10:33), and finally grounded in Christ, the pattern for Paul’s behavior and theirs (1 Cor 11:1; cf. Rom 15:1–3).