January 5, 2003


1 Corinthians 10:21-22


   "Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than He?" Standing alone this question seems preposterous! Who in his right mind could suggest that anyone might be stronger than God? But these words do not stand alone: they are in the context of Paul instructing the Corinthians in the matter of handling things which connected with idolatrous worship -- offered in sacrifice to idols.

   Paul began the chapter reviewing how Israel had been ensnared by idolatrous practices and many were "overthrown in the wilderness." He further reminded them of 23,000 that "fell in one day." He drew heavily upon Israel 's history and exhorted, "Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry" (10:5, 8, 14). The point is plain: God will not share our worship, affection, and love with idols. By playing fast and loose in the matter of idolatry, do we think we are strong enough to contend with God and withstand His sore displeasure? Job spoke thus of God: "(He is) wise in heart, and mighty in strength: Who hath hardened himself against him, and prospered? (9:4 ASV).

   There is another possible meaning in that some look upon jealousy as an expression of weakness. It seems that Paul is asking if we are more broadminded and tolerant (hence stronger) than God in that we can tolerate and even enjoy some fellowship with idols without getting upset about it. Perhaps God should learn to cope with the situation and not get Himself so bent out of shape in this matter?

   "Consider the people of Israel : Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of Gentiles 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?" (1 Cor. 10:18-22).

   We really need to ask ourselves just how far we can go in "fellowship with demons" and retain God's blessing and approval? Is a "little bit" all right? Will it really upset God and make Him angry and jealous?


Ivan L. Burgener