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1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1 Study Guide: Glory to God in All Things

Community Group Study Guide — Glory to God in All Things
1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1

Main idea:
Our lives in Christ are not neutral, we’re either trying to honor and please God or serving some false god in our lives. Paul reminds us that we’re either “in Christ” or we belong to someone else. God does not just want a small part of your life but for your faith in him to frame everything you do. Knowing this helps us navigate the gray areas of life as we seek to love our neighbor.

Study Information:
We all have a tendency to compartmentalize our lives, Christians are no exception to this. Paul addresses both the common meal of the church, the Lord’s supper, as well as private meals in one’s home and how both were examples of glorifying God through love of neighbor. To catch back up on the flow of 1 Corinthians, we’ve had numerous examples of the need for unity and the call to put pride to death. Paul discusses the interconnectedness of the church as we worship Christ through the image of communion and how that points to our fellowship in Christ. He specifically says that we are one body but many. This thought is connected to the command to “flee from idolatry” which may seem disconnected in our minds. Paul is connecting the idea that the love of self, and the rebellion of pride to idolatry, which is to worship something other than God as god. Disunity issues in the church are idolatry issues, which is why Paul goes from talking about idolatry to love of neighbor. 

The main idea of this passage is to give God glory in all that we do (1 Corinthians 10:31). Following Christ is not just about private and public worship but also about all areas of our lives including our relationships with others in Christ.

#1 Flee Idolatry: 1 Corinthians 10:14-22
The call to flee from idolatry is because of who we belong to. The danger of idolatry is that we’re led to worship many gods. If we are “in Christ” then we should be concerned about actions that distract us from Christ or lead us to false worship. Paul pulls back the curtain here a bit and teaches us that what’s behind these idols are actually demons. There are evil spiritual forces in the world trying to keep people from following God and as much as they can to distract Christians and create division. The specific example Paul used is the pagan temples, but certainly there are demonic forces at work in other areas of idolatry. They love to create false worship among those who do not follow God and disunity among the people of God. This is why Paul goes to the Lord’s Table to remind us of who we belong to and our need to love one another. Paul points back to the Lord’s Table (Communion) as an example of our interconnectedness as the body of Christ. On the night Jesus was betrayed he took the bread and the cup and explained the spiritual significance of how both represented his sacrificial death in order to forgive sin and make a new family through his work on the cross. More than that, Paul tells us to eat the bread and drink the cup is a “participation” or “fellowship” with the body of Christ. This is not just an individual thing but a corporate thing, as Paul says “we who are many are one body” (1 Corinthians 10:17). When it comes specifically to idolatry, back in chapter 8 he told us that eating meat that was previously sacrificed to idols “was nothing,” but here we get another clue to what’s really going on in the pagan temples; behind their worship of these pagan gods are demons. There are real spiritual influences to the false worship of idols. By participating in the temple worship these people are joining themselves to demons by “participating” or “fellowshipping” with them. The call here is a wake up call to see that worshipping an idol is not just some casual sin but an offering of your life to someone who is not god. When we last looked at 1 Corinthians 10:1-14 we talked about how idols represent themselves today around money, sex and power and we can easily make material things, success or emotional feelings an idol that we worship over God. Paul’s desire is for us to see that there is not one square inch of our lives that God leaves unchanged by Christ. If communion symbolizes our fellowship with Christ then this is a strong statement about our union with Christ and idolatry is not a casual activity but something to be fought against as we grow in Christ. 

#2 Not All Things Are Helpful: 1 Corinthians 10:23-30
Paul anticipates an objection based on knowing the Corinthians well. “All things are lawful” they say! But are they helpful and do they build up? Their objection is that these are areas of liberty and in their minds it is their private life and that should not impact the lives of the church. Yet the point is that “we who are many are one body” and how you treat your neighbor is an issue of how you glorify God. The example Paul uses is the 1 Corinthians 8 example and eating food sacrificed to idols. To recap what we learned there, it was common for people to buy meat that was sacrificed at the temple of pagan gods because of the quality, affordability and availability of it. Some Christians struggled because it was too close to their former lives, but others compartmentalized their lives and would say something like, “that is too bad for them, but why should my freedom be impacted by their conscience?” This would be the “it is not hurting anyone” argument. But look back to previous passage about our union in Christ and our being one part of a body, is your own private life really insulated from Christ and the church? Pauls admonition in verse 24 is to seek your own good and the good of your neighbor. Your love of neighbor is a central way you glorify God. Paul is essentially asking, how can we love one another when it comes to gray areas? In his context, when it came to meat sacrificed in the temples, Paul encourages them to default to the conscience of the other. This looks like not asking unneeded questions that may prick someone’s conscience, eating what is set before you when invited to dinner and if you know someone has an issue with the meat being sacrificed to idols then you too should abstain from it (1 Corinthians 10:25-28). 

This is tough for many of us, but being in the body of Christ means we are ok with laying aside secondary preferential things because we love one another and are part of the same family of faith. Look at 1 Corinthians 10:29, Paul anticipates the question, “why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience?” 
No one wants their actions to be determined or controlled by someone else. And yes, the command to “love your neighbor” can be abused and misused. Which is why we need wisdom, prayer and time with one another in the body of Christ. Paul’s goal though is to draw our eyes up to heaven and remind you that these are not just casual issues or small matters. His answer to the question of “why should my liberty be determined by someone else?” is in verse 31-33. Your interactions whether they are big or small are a way to glorify God. If you’re in Christ, it means that all your life is meant to be worship and glorifying to him whether you eat or drink or whatever you do. Also, as much as we are able we are to give no offense to one. Paul says it in Romans 12:18, as much as it depends on you strive to live peaceably with all. In Paul’s application this means that you know one another well enough to know what offends them and if something does we choose to love them by not doing it. This would have been extra difficult in Corinth because of how culturally diverse the church was being made up of both Jews and Gentiles. Finally, do not seek your own gain but that others may be saved. This goes back to Paul’s command to become all things to all people in order to win some (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). When you’re in a disagreement or experiencing friction with someone else in the body of Christ, do not try to “win.” When you try to win you’re walking in pride and are unable to love the other person. 

The theological foundation Paul lays out in 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 is that we are united to Christ and are fellowship with him. This is symbolized and realized in the communion meal. We are one body with many parts. God’s desire is that all areas of our lives are worship to him including our love of one another. So whether you have someone in your house for a meal, or you’re gathering at church for worship, teaching, and communion do all to the glory of God. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:

Read 1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1

How does communion illustrate the church and the person and work of Jesus? What does “participation” in Christ mean?

What does Paul say about the work of demons and their relation to idolatry?

1 Corinthians 10:31 is a verse that is familiar for many Christians. What is Paul referring to with "eat and drink” and how does this idea relate to loving one’s neighbor (1 Corinthians 10:24)? 

It is very difficult for many if not most of us to lay down our rights and seek the good of our neighbor. What is particularly challenging about it for you? What specific applications does Paul give in 1 Corinthians 10:25-28 and in 10:31-33?

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