Studies in First Corinthians
Lesson 26: “The Danger of Deception”
I Corinthians 10:14-22
The Christian life is full of wonderful blessings – and the longer you have known the Lord, the more aware of that you become. But what many Christians don’t realize is that there are also many dangers in the Christian life. And although we don’t have time to detail all of those, we do have a chapter before us where several of them are listed. First Corinthians chapter 10 deals with three such dangers, and they may not be the ones that we would expect at first thought: First, there is “the danger of disapproval” in verses 1 through 13, then “the danger of deception” in verses 14 through 22 and, “the danger of dependency” in verses 23 through 33.
In our last study we thought about “the danger of disapproval” as it is described in verses 1 through 13. So in this lesson we want to think about “the danger of deception” in verses 14 through 22. In verses 14 and 15 we find an appeal which Paul makes about the subject of deception in general.
Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (15) I speak to wise men, judge for yourselves what I say.
As usual, the word “therefore” should immediately catch our attention. And, as usual, it ties in with the verses just before this. In those verses he had been talking about the kinds of things that can keep Christians from being effective witnesses for him – and thus “lose out” on the “promised land” of satisfaction in this life and rewards at the judgment seat of Christ. So in this passage he is going to make a further appeal on the basis of those dangers. Incidentally, notice that the appeal is to “wise men” – the thing of which the Corinthians were so proud (and the subject of the whole first section of the book.) And the specific appeal is to “flee from idolatry” As we saw in our last study, “idolatry” is a summary of all the problems that took Israel away from God. It is the matter of letting anything take the place which God ought to have in our lives.
In Corinth it was a specific problem – people were still worshipping idols right along with the Christians worshipping Christ. In our day this is important from the standpoint of the principle involved. Now why is that appeal so important? Well, verses 16 through 20 give us the argument on which the appeal is based. The summary of the argument is that to participate in idol wordship in a Christian temple is to have fellowship with the false teaching that it represents. And that argument is developed by giving an analogy – the Lord’s Supper – in verses 16 and 17:
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? (17) For we, being many are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.
To participate in the Lord’s supper is to have fellowship with the Lord – verse 16. And at the same time it is to have fellowship with other believers – verse 17. Then the argument is further developed in verse 18 with another example: the nation of Israel:
Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?
In many of the Old Testament sacrifices, part of the sacrifice was given to the priest and part to the offeror. And the purpose of this was to show fellowship between the offeror, the priest and the nation of Israel as a whole.
So in summary, here is the principle: when we participate in a “religious ceremony” we are having fellowship with everything that that ceremony stands for. And therefore to participate in false worship is to have fellowship with that particular form of false worship and all that it stands for.
Now if the “appeal” of verses 14 and 15, and “the argument in verses 16 through 20 on which it is based are true, then there are only two alternatives in the appeal. These are described in verses 21 and 22.
The first alternative is separation from the temple – verse 21:
You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons
A person cannot sincerely partake of the Lord’s table on Sunday night and then on Wednesday night sincerely partake of something designed to lead people away from God. So there must be a separation from all idol activity.
Now if a person is not going to accept that alternative, the only other alternative is to “subject the Lord to jealousy” – verse 22
Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?
With humans, jealousy is sinful because it is based on desire. But with God it is not sin because what he wants He has every right to have. He wants, (and deserves) wholehearted allegiance from the believer. Are you so strong that you can deny Him what He wants?
Now those are the principles covered in these verses. But to really get the value of the passages we need to look at an analogy for today – there are at least 3 things that we can learn from all this:
First, of course, this principle applies to the kinds of things that we talked about in our last lesson; looking at your business or your family or your hobby or your glamour or your education or your fame to fill that place that only God can fill. To be motivated by those things is to worship those things. And these verses say that it cannot me done. It makes God jealous!
But there is a second application of these verses, and that is that they show us the true nature of liberalism in the church today. Satan is behind liberalism today just as he was behind idolatry in Corinth. He has many diversions form his frontal attack – moral laxity, drug abuse, alcoholism, etc. etc. But his major line of attack is counterfeit worship, described in I Timothy 4:1:
Now the spirit expressly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons . . . . .like any counterfeit, Satan’s worship is almost exactly like the real thing. For example, he has his own doctrines. Some of his doctrines deny the truth. The most prevalent (and therefore the most important) one is the question of the inerrancy of scripture. That questioning in and of itself does not deny any basic doctrines, it just “worries” you – like an accountant saying “we may have some problems with your tax return . . . .” And even though that in and of itself doesn’t sound too bad, it quickly opens the door for flat denials of the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the inspiration of scripture, the resurrection, etc.
Some of his doctrines displace the truth. In place of the teaching of the Word of God in the worship service there are “lectures” about “current issues” Then, some of his doctrines distort the truth, saying, for example, that Christ died as a martyr to show us how to face death bravely, or that believing “about” Christ is all that is necessary to be saved, and that “all roads lead to Rome, that sincerity in what you believe is all that rally matters.
But not only does he have his doctrines, he has his own pastors – look at II Corinthians 11:13 through 15:
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. (14) and no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. (15) Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according tot heir works.
Dr. William McCrae of Tyndale College in Toronto has said that “the finished product of Satan’s art is not the drunken bum in the gutter, but the false teacher in the pulpit. These are men who try to “demythologize” the scripture, or urge young Christians “use your own head, don’t quote scripture so much.” Satan has his own doctrines and his own pastors, and Revelation 2:9 points out that he even has his own churches: In the first chapters of the book of Revelation, Jesus Christ had the apostle John write letters to seven churches scattered around the Mediterranean area giving each of them an evaluation. To the church in Smyrna He wrote, I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews but are not, but are a synagogue (congregation) of Satan. (!) These are the kinds of churches that take out ads in major newspapers, explaining that “we can still believe in Jesus as a great teacher even if he did believe in angels.”
Or another ad saying “what should children be taught in Sunday School? That God created the world in 6 days? That man is not a creature of evolution? That Jesus was born to a virgin who had not had sexual relations with a man? That he did miracles and was literally raised from the dead? That Jesus may come down from the sky just any day now? That only those who believe such assertions with all their hearts are “saved” while everyone else will burn in hell? Or, that creation should be studied from all of the world’s religious viewpoints, plus the views of modern science? That man has evolved from a wonderful evolutionary process and is a part of the beautiful process of nature? Or, that Jesus was most likely a good man who did many good things, but whose followers invented myths and legends about him? That religion should deal with the here and now, with a complete trust in the forces that brought us into existence without a morbid fear of death.”
We’ve been talking about the true nature of religious liberalism. But now coming back to First Corinthians chapter 10, we also need to think about the true nature of relationship between a believer and a liberal church. Look at verse 14 again:
Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
If Satan is at the heart of idolatry and the heart of liberalism, this verse could be construed to say “flee apostasy” or” “flee liberalism.” This is emphasized more clearly in II Corinthians 6:14-16.
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? (16) And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God, has said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God and they shall be my people.”
The context here is speaking specifically of church (“or religious”) relationships. Marriage is a legitimate application of the passage, but not the primary one. So clearly what this passage is saying is “get out of that liberal church!”
Now the question often comes up, “what constitutes a “yoke?” – attendance? Membership? financial contributions? And basically, that has to be determined by the individual. But the basic principle is stated clearly in verse 17: “Come out!” Now this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have anything to do with people who are in such a church. But it is to say that such things must be thought through very carefully!
Now we have thought about the true nature of liberalism and the relationship between a believer and a liberal church. But there is one last thing to be considered, and that is the consequences of continuing a relationship with a liberal church. Believe it or not, there are many people whose churches have gradually become liberal without the members even realizing it. And often people like that will try to stay in the church in an attempt to “rescue” it. Over the years I have been personally acquainted with people who have given of their time and their money in those kinds of attempts. But we have to remember that behind all of the seemingly “good” things that are taught or “good works” that are done in those churches is the work of Satan himself. No one can argue with the fact that God has blessed the people that have stayed in those churches and have taught those Sunday School classes. But listen carefully: God’s blessing does not necessarily indicate His approval – because He always blesses His word, regardless of who is giving it out! But it is also true that to remain in a liberal church can be dangerous to your own spiritual health.
You can’t walk through a coal mine without getting dirty. And in the same way, you cannot regularly sit under false teaching without being affected to some degree. Even if you might not be hurt (and that’s a big “if,” what about your children? But the most important point by far is brought out back in verse 22 “do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?
We have been talking about the dangers of liberal religion – and it is obvious that this is a serious business. But the overall application of this passage is much broader than that: I mentioned earlier II Corinthians 6:16, which says that you and I as Christians are the dwelling place of God. (As God, has said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God and they shall be my people.”) If that is to be true in your life you may have to sacrifice some of your treasured relationships and friendships. Think carefully about your life for a moment: are you “provoking the Lord to jealousy” by the way you live: the things in which you invest your time and money, the people you listen to, the company you keep, and so forth.
The purpose of these studies is to draw you closer to Jesus Christ. If you do not know him, it is my prayer that they will help you understand that Romans 3:23 says that you, like all of us, have sinned and come short of the glory of God. And Romans 6:23 says that the result of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ. And Acts 16:32 says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. If I can be of help to you in understanding any of this information I can be reached at