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1 CORINTHIANS 10:14-22

… but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons, too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he? (verses 20-22)


The Corinthians lived in a completely pagan culture, filled with idols and the worship of other gods. Many of the Corinthian Christians had previously immersed themselves in that world. Even now, it seems that some of them still engaged in temple activities, eating the sacrificial meals offered to idols. They knew idols “were nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one” (1 Cor 8:4), so they seem to have concluded it was just fine to continue enjoying such participation.

Paul has already given his own perspective that the meat itself actually meant nothing – “we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do” (1 Cor 8:8). There is freedom when it comes to such things as meat and drink. But, the over-riding principle, beyond freedom itself, is that of love. Don’t eat or drink anything that will cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble, Paul says. Don’t cause them to act against their own conscience. For love’s sake, limit your own freedom for their good.

Paul now takes the argument a step further. It’s not just a matter of the physical meat itself (an issue which he will return to in the very next section, 1 Cor 10:23-33). No, Paul says, the bigger issue is the context in which that meat is sacrificed and served up as a sacrificial meal. It all happens in an idol’s temple, and although the idol itself is nothing, and although the meat sacrificed to the idol counts for nothing, yet the spiritual reality behind the scenes is that a demon is honoured and worshipped. Truly. That’s what’s really happening. “The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons” (verse 14).

That being the case, Paul says, don’t join in. Don’t take part in the temple’s sacrificial meal. Do you really want to be participants with demons? How can you, when you have already chosen to be participants with Christ?

If you look closely you’ll see that Paul uses this same root word four times in this short passage. He uses it twice (verse 16) to talk about “participation” in Christ – oh, how good that is. He uses it once (verse 18) to recall how members of Israel would “participate” in the sacrifices of the altar – oh, how faithful they were. And then, without flinching, he uses the same word (verse 20) to talk about being “participants” with demons. Oh, how horrific.

Don’t go there. Don’t take such activity lightly. Don’t participate with demons.

Christians in the non-western world know all about this reality still. Those of us in the west don’t. But even for us, though idol temples are not a pressing issue, yet demonic presence is very much a reality, whether we are awakened to it or not. “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood,” Paul will say in another place, “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Participation in pagan temple worship seems so blatant. To our eyes it’s obvious. But is it possible to honour these “forces of evil” in other ways, less noticeably? How about when you submit to the world, allowing it to shape you into its own mold? Or when you give the devil a foothold by hanging on to anger, letting it fester beyond sundown? Or when, in any number of ways, you “let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires” (Romans 6:12)?

Don’t go there. You are a participant with Christ. Participate fully.


Lord Jesus, thank you for calling me into abiding relationship with you. I want to participate fully, putting aside the world, the flesh and the devil, honouring you alone in all I do. Fill me now again with your Spirit, strengthening me with his power in my inner being, so that you, dear Lord, may dwell in my heart through faith. May it be. Amen.


Reflect: How can you participate more fully in Christ today? Is there anything that needs to be put aside? Is there anything that needs to be renewed in your experience? Put it all before the Lord right now. Participate in him.

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