Practice These Important Commands !
1 Corinthians 10:12, 14, 23-24; 31-11:1
By Paul Robison

“Cleveland Stroud had coached the Blue Collar Bulldogs for 18 years before his basketball team made it to the state championship.  Stroud recalls that it was ‘the perfect night’ when they won—‘a night you dream of.’  He was carried around the gym on the shoulders of his triumphant players and their proud parents.  The local paper put his picture on the front page.  But the excitement was short-lived.  Two months after the championship, during a routine grade check, Stroud discovered that one player was academically ineligible.  The player had only played 45 seconds during the regional qualifying tournament.  He struggled with what to do next.  Yet, his commitment to integrity led him to the right decision.  He reported the error to the league, and the Bulldogs forfeited their trophy.  When the team lamented their loss in the locker room, he told them, ‘You’ve got to do what is honest, what is right, and what the rules say.  People forget the scores of basketball games, but they don’t ever forget what you are made of’” (Touch Magazine, January 1999). “You’ve got to do what the rules say.”  That’s a refreshing statement!  In our postmodern culture, most people don’t think like that.  Most think that you can make up and modify the rules as you do long.  But no, Coach Stroud taught a great lesson to his team--we not only need rules but also we need to obey them.  When we look at the New Testament, we find rules as well.  Those rules are often called commands.  Now those commands are not just put there to make our lives miserable, although we might think so at times.  But we need to remember something very important about these commands: they come from a benevolent Commander who wants us to live abundantly!  Now that Commander also shared His thought through the Holy Spirit with some who were His special messengers.  One of those was Paul.  We have seen how the church in Corinth lived in the Las Vegas of the ancient world, and how the congregation itself had many problems.  In the letter we call 1 Corinthians, he encourages these brethren to be a united church, a surrendered, pure, and spiritual church, a moral, sensitive, and sacrificial church.  In chapter 10, Paul encourages them to be an obedient church and to put into practice some important commands.  Our theme today is: Practice these important commands!  Now recall that from chapter 8-10, Paul is answering the question that had been raised in the first verse of chapter 8 about eating meats that had been offered to idols.  Let's look at how Paul sets the stage and then at four important commands found in this chapter.
“Let's quickly read the first eleven verses: “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink.  For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.  But with most of them, God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.  Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.  And do not become idolaters as were some of them.  As it is written: 'The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.'  Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day 23,000 fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.  Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”  Paul moves from human illustration in the previous chapter to scriptural examples and is still dealing with the topic of meats offered to idols (Oster).  What is Paul's point?  “... Paul here called attention to the pitiful defeat of an entire generation in the wilderness and made their overthrow a warning to the Corinthians and the Christians of all generations of the dreadful consequences of disobedience. ... After having been totally and completely 'saved' from Egyptian slavery, they were lost and rejected; and, corresponding to that, Christians who are completely and totally saved may fall into sin and lose their hope of eternal life. ... 'Unless there is a real and present danger of falling away so as to be lost, the message of this whole chapter is meaningless.'” (Coffman quoting McGarvey).  Someone else notes that both salvations (theirs and ours) involved a baptism at the beginning, a promised land at the end, and a wilderness period of testing to see who will prove to be faithful (Roper).  Some members in Corinth may have felt their salvation was guaranteed no matter what they did, but Paul warns them that this is not so, and idolatry can bring ruin.  The Corinthians and all Christians can learn from the evil examples of these Jews.  Another commentator states: “Nobody who seriously considers what God did to the sinning Israelites will lightly follow their example” (Morris).  How many of the first generation entered into the promised land?  The answer is only two! So Christians must keep their guard up, especially when the sins of idolatry, sexual immorality, provoking Christ, and complaining are involved!  Now with this warning, let's note four important commands that Paul wants the Corinthian members and all Christians to practice.
First of all, recognize falling (v. 12)!  Paul warns in verse 12: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall!”  One commentator rightly noted that many fortresses have been conquered because their defenders thought they could not be invaded and defeated (Barclay). “The Acropolis of Sardis was built on a jutting spur of rock that was held to be unconquerable.  When King Cyrus of Persia was besieging it, he offered a special reward to any who could find a way in.  A certain soldier was keeping watching one day and saw a solider in the garrison of Sardis drop his helmet accidentally over the battlements.  He saw him climb down after it and marked the path.  That night he led a band up the cliffs by that very path and when they reached the top they found it quite unguarded; so they entered in and captured the citadel, which had been counted too safe. … [Christians] must be ever on the watch” (Ibid). Recognize falling!  Some religious groups believe that once a person is saved from sin, then that person can never sin again.  Don't we see clearly in this passage how Paul teaches against that idea?  Note what he also writes in Galatians 5:4: “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law, you have fallen from grace.” The apostle Peter describes a group who fell with these words in 2 Peter 2:20: “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ [in other words, they escaped the world by becoming Christians], they are again entangled in them and overcome [they are overcome once again by the world's pollutions], the later end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them [to turn away from the Gospel].” Recognize falling!  There is a warning about falling in 12 and a promise about escaping in 13 (Roper).  One commentator noted: “God does not exempt Christians from trials.  Neither does He force us to face them alone and unaided.  By His grace, we can withstand and have the victory” (Shelly).  Another observed: “All temptation, while allowed by God, is also controlled by Him; and the Father will simply not allow a child of God to be tempted above what he is able to bear.  In the wise providence of God, he has made a way out of every temptation” (Coffman).  Why would the apostle Paul talk about a way of escape if the danger of falling back into sin and the world was not a very serious reality?  Recognize falling!  We can fall back into sin!  Our fortresses can be conquered, and Satan, like that Persian soldier, is always looking for our weakness.  We can become entangled in the ways of the world and become sensual people who no longer have the Holy Spirit!  Recognize falling!  Practice these important commands!
Secondly, forsake idolatry!  Note what Paul writes in verses 14 and 21-22: “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. ... You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and the table of demons.  Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?”  Let's notice what some commentators say. One noted that the present tense of the verb here means keep continuing to flee from idolatry; this is a habitual rejection.  Having nothing to do with idols is the only wise course.  You see, it is not how near you can go, but how far away you can flee (Morris).  Another adds: “Such dillydallying with idolatry as that being engaged in by the 'knowledge' party in Corinth was the most stupid kind of folly.  Their acceptance of any kind of participation in the idol feasts was a violation of their status as participants in the Lord's Supper ...” (Coffman).  Another states: “In the public ceremonies involving pagan gods, sacrifices, and sacrificial meats, Christians were to be conspicuously absent at Corinth” (Shelly)!  The table of the Lord and the table of demons are directly opposed; there is no room for compromise here!  If a Corinthian Christian was to say, “Eating meats at a pagan temple has no effect on me whatsoever,” then that brother was acting foolishly and arrogantly!  Idolatry had led to the downfall and captivity of God’s people centuries earlier, so why should God's people at Corinth think they were any stronger?  Forsake idolatry! And what about us?  What is the closest thing to the pagan idolatry of Paul's in our day?  Isn't it the fleshy activities that go on at taverns, honky-tonks, casinos, and nightclubs?  When are we going to learn: the table of the Lord and table of gamblers and prostitutes are directly opposed; there is no room for compromise here either!  The Jews' split loyalties brought upon them God's wrath, and our split loyalties will also bring upon us God's wrath.  Forsake idolatry!  Remember something here. That rule is given to us by a godly servant of the God who created us. Who knows better what we need than the God who brought us into our very existence?  The lusts of the flesh can deeply hurt us, leave permanent scars, and inflict painful heartaches and physical diseases! “Forsake idolatry” is not just a cheap expression; it's a command from an apostle inspired by God's Holy Spirit for our own best welfare!  You can't worship fleshly gods on the weekends and then have the audacity to think that Almighty God is pleased with you for being here on Sunday!  To the contrary, if He punished the Jews for that type of behavior, what in the world makes us think that He's going to let us off the hook?  You cannot please God by professing to follow Him, yet all the while giving yourself over to the god of fleshy pleasures.  Forsake idolatry!  Practice these important commands!
Recognize falling, forsake idolatry, and then edify others! Look now at verse 23-24: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.  Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's well-being.”  Then Paul gives some practical instructions saying that Christians do not need to ask about meats sold in the marketplaces or served at private feasts.  But, if someone at a dinner tells you that the meat has been offered to an idol and if there is another member there who questions the ethics of eating such meat, then forgo the eating of that meat so that that brother's faith will be strengthened.  One commentator made this good remark: “He declines for the sake of any brother in Christ who might not understand his 'liberty' and whose conscience would be offended in the matter. Liberty is thus subordinated to love.  Christ is honored, and the weak brother is protected” (Shelly).  Another stated: “And the 'strong' Christian is urged to refrain from eating the meat for the sake of the weak brother's conscience.  The conscience of the weak brother is the crucial matter at stake” (Hollday).  Another gives this good insight: “The overriding question which must determine all that any Christian does is the question of whether or not his actions will build up, edify, strengthen, and encourage the church of Christ; and if any action whatsoever falls short of such utility to bless and honor God's kingdom, then it is forbidden to the child of God” (Coffman).  Edify others! Someone affirms: “There is nothing like putting the shine on another's face to put it on our own.  Nine-tenths of all loneliness, despondency, and being downcast are connected with personal interests.  Turn more of these selfish interests into unselfish ones, and by doing so, we also change being disheartened into being edified” (Gannet).  You know, elders and members may not be pulling the same oars, but we are on the same boat!  If we don't pull the oars together, we end up making lots of splash but very little progress.  Let's work out our problems together, with confidence in each other, with love for one another, and with unselfish thinking for future generations (Babson).  Edify others! Edification!  An old watchword for the church which needs to be newly applied in each generation!  Shout it out!  Pass it on!  Make it happen! Continually build others up and seek their best interest above your own (Swindoll).  Paul has come full circle for he began this discourse on meats in 8:1 with these words: “Know puffs up, but love edifies!”  Someone observed: “What a revival would break out upon earth today if all those who profess to follow Christ should adopt such a rule of conduct” (Coffman)!  Edify others!  Practice these important commands!
Lastly, glorify God!  Now look at verses 31ff: “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  Give no offense, either to the Jews, or to the Greeks, or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.  Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”  One commentator noted: “God's glory is paramount; human appetite and convenience have no weight whatever when opposed to God's glory” (Coffman).  Another affirmed that the Christian is not concerned with his rights, but God's glory, and that Christians are to be guided by the salvation of others, just as Jesus was (Morris).  One more added: “Since Paul has been careful to practice this very thing among them, he could encourage the Corinthians to imitate his example in the matter” (Shelly).  Glorify God!  Paul lived a very integrated life.  He did not compartmentalize his life by putting his faith in one cubbyhole, and his work in another one, and his Roman citizenship in another one.  No, every action in every place, and every word in every situation was done to bring glory to God!  Even such a simple thing as eating a piece of meat could have great religious implications!  Isn't it interesting how all the routine things of each day can now be channeled and utilized to bring strength to others and glory to God?  “Will this action bring glory to God and is it imitating Jesus?” is a good questions to ask when you're at a crossroads.  Glorify God!  Practice these important commands!
“A man advertised for a coachman in days when buggies were used. Among those who came were two who seemed to him to be particularly bright.  He took them aside and asked them how near they could drive to the edge of a precipice without falling over.  The first candidate answered that he could go within half an inch and had frequently done so, just shaving the edge and feeling perfectly safe.  He then asked the other the same question.  ‘Well, sir,’ replied the man modestly, ‘I really cannot tell, because I have never allowed myself to venture near the edge of a precipice.  I have always made it a rule to keep as far as possible from danger, and I have had my reward in knowing that my master and his family were kept from danger and harm.’  The master had no difficulty in deciding between the two candidates.  ‘You are the man for me,’ he said to the second candidate.  ‘The other may be brilliant, but you are safe’” (Simpson).  Our character is revealed every time we either practice or fail to practice God's commands.  Let's practice these four important commands which the inspired apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: recognize falling, forsake idolatry (or fleshly pursuits), edify others, and glorify God!  His way will bring us safely home too!
Let's pray!  “Our Father, we thank you for the inspired writings of the apostle Paul, and for the guidance that they give our lives.  Help us to realize that Your commands are for our own best interest.  Help us to put these important commands into practice.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
“Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments” (Psalm 112:1).  Have you been keeping these important commands that we've discussed today?  If you’ve fallen, why not repent today?  If you’ve been worshiping another god, why not renew your devotion to God Almighty?  If you've been failing to edify others, why not confess that selfishness and get back on the right track?  If your life has been bringing shame to God, why don't you choose to change and begin today to reverse that trend?  Jesus has given us good rules which will bless us!  Let's obey His precepts!