1 Corinthians 10:6-14
Idolatry and Sexual Immorality Go Hand in Hand
Paul continues his journey through the Old Testament, citing examples from Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness, with the goal of helping the Corinthians to see themselves in those Scriptures and be forewarned of the danger yet to come if they do not repent. He will cite some specific instances; however, I wish now to highlight what he writes after these instances: “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” This is such an important verse for us to hear and applies to the whole Bible: It has all been written down for our instruction. Why? So that we may fear Him after whom there is no court of appeal.
By citing these specific examples, Paul now returns to his discussion in chapter eight which he momentarily broke off to defend his apostleship. You will remember that the subject was dining out at the local pagan temple. Those Corinthians who saw no problem therein argued that they knew that the gods in the temples were not gods at all, so why worry. Paul’s argument then was that such behavior might stumble a brother with a conscience more tender, who might fall away after following the other’s example. But now Paul turns a corner in his argument and leaves no doubt that such an act is sinful in itself. And this is where the pertinence of his citing the golden calf episode (Exodus 32-33) makes it appearance. The people made an idol, offered sacrifices, ate and drank, “and rose up to play,” which is a euphemistic way of referring to sexual immorality. Throughout the Bible and in ancient secular literature, illicit sex accompanied idol worship. As for tempting the pre-Incarnate Christ, that episode involved the people’s complaining about “loathsome manna” (Numbers 21).
So Paul exhorts: “Flee from idolatry.” Sure, you think you can go in there and come out not singed, but not so. Of course, there is only one God, but there are “many gods and many lords,” and behind every false god is a very real demon. And given the sexual sin that seems to plague your church, and your appetite for rich food, surely a pagan temple is last place you need to be. Yes, God can and will deliver us from temptation, but we can’t just jump into the fire. And let us not forget that we are the people “on whom the end of the ages has come.” Christ is the end of earthly time and existence and beginning of a new time and existence. We live as people who are already heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, whose citizenship is above. We certainly don’t belong in pagan temples. Let us keep ourselves holy.