Matthew Poole's Commentary
Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;1 Corinthians 10:1-5 The Jews who came out of Egypt had all sacraments
typical of ours, yet many of them perished through sin.
1 Corinthians 10:6-12 Their examples should serve, as they were intended,
for our admonition.
1 Corinthians 10:13 God will not suffer his servants to be tempted
beyond their strength.
1 Corinthians 10:14-22 Christians must flee idolatry, and not by partaking
of idol sacrifices own fellowship with devils.
1 Corinthians 10:23-30 Even in the use of things lawful we should consult
the good of others,
1 Corinthians 10:31 and refer all we do to God’s glory,
1 Corinthians 10:32,33 careful to give none offence, after the apostle’s
The apostle saw that many in this church of Corinth were puffed up with their knowledge, and other gifts and great privileges with which God had blessed them; as also with the opinion of their being a gospel church, and some of the first-fruits of the Gentiles unto Christ, and might therefore think, that they needed not to be pressed to such degrees of strictness and watchfulness; therefore, to beat them off from this confidence and vain presumption, the apostle here sets before them the example of the church of the Jews: when he tells them, he would not have them ignorant, his meaning is, he would have them know and remember, he would have them well acquainted with and to reflect upon this, that all the Jews in Moses’s time, whom he calls their fathers, not according to the flesh, for the Corinthians were not descended from Jews, but with respect to the covenant, and their relation they stood unto God, as they were the only people God had on earth; these, he saith, were all of them (the whole camp of Israel) under very great privileges, of which he reckoneth divers: they were under the conduct of the cloud, Exodus 13:21; and they all obtained the favour of God so far for them, as to divide the Red Sea, so as they passed through it upon dry ground.
And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;There are two great difficulties in this verse:
1. What is meant by
2. How and why the Israelites are said to be
baptized unto Moses.
Some understand by Moses the person of Moses; others, the law or doctrine of Moses. Those who by Moses understand the person of Moses, are divided in their opinions, whether the preposition eiv, which signifieth divers things: Were better translated by, or into, or unto, or together with. Some think it were better translated by, and thus all the Jews were baptized by Moses in the cloud and in the sea, that is, by his ministry; and thus this very particle is translated, Acts 7:53 19:3. Some think it were better translated in Moses; that is, Moses going before them, when they were under the conduct of the cloud, and when they passed through the Red Sea. Others judge it better translated into Moses; that is, either Moses going before them; or, as Moses was a type of Christ, Galatians 3:19. Some would have the particle here to signify together with. Others, even unto Moses, Moses himself not being excepted from that baptism in the cloud and in the sea. Others by Moses here understand the doctrine and law of Moses: thus the term Moses is used, Luke 16:29 Acts 15:21. So they say, that to be baptized unto Moses, is to believe Moses so far, as to follow his conduct through the sea, and under the cloud.
The second difficulty is, to resolve what is meant by being baptized. The word signifieth, in the common acceptation of it, a being washed: in the ecclesiastical acceptation, it signifies a holy institution of the New Testament, according to which Christians are initiated into the church of God, by washing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Now how could the Jews be said either to be washed (that is, baptized) either in Moses, or by Moses, or with Moses, or into Moses; whenas the history of the Old Testament tells us, that both Moses and all the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, and we do not read that the cloud, under the conduct of which the Israelites journeyed, ever poured down any water with which the Jews, or Moses their leader, could be washed.
Answer. Some think, that the cloud which, passing over the Israelites, was all darkness to their enemies, yet poured down water for the refreshing of the Israelites, as it passed over their heads, and that this is hinted to us by the psalmist, Psalm 68:7-9. Others think, that the apostle applieth the term of baptism to a privilege of which the old Israelites had as much reason to glory, as the Corinthians had of their baptism, properly so called. Others say, that the Israelites’ walking under the cloud and through the sea, which was darkness and destruction to their adversaries, was a figure of baptism, the seal of the New Testament, by which Christ’s victory over our spiritual enemies is confirmed to us, and in that respect the apostle maketh use of this term baptized. Others, most probably, think, that the apostle useth this term, in regard of the great analogy between baptism, as it was then used, the persons going down into the waters, and being dipped in them; and the Israelites going down into the sea, the great receptacle of water; though the waters at that time were gathered on heaps on either side of them, yet they seemed buried in the waters, as persons in that age were when they were baptized; and for being baptized in the cloud, there is a great probability that the cloud did shower down rain, according to what is quoted out of the psalmist.
And did all eat the same spiritual meat;Those of the Jews that perished in the wilderness, did all eat the same manna which Caleb and Joshua ate of, who went into Canaan; or, those Jews that so perished in the wilderness did eat the same spiritual meat that we do, they in the type, we in the antitype. Manna is called
1. Because it was bread which came down from heaven, the habitation of spiritual beings, John 6:31.
2. It was miraculously produced.
3. Because it was angels’ food, given out by their ministry.
4. But principally, because it signified Christ, who was the true bread from heaven, John 6:32.
And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.And all the Jews, as well those that perished in the wilderness, as those that were preserved to go into Canaan, they drank of the water which came out of the rock, of which we read, Exodus 17:6 Numbers 20:11; which water was
spiritual drink in the same respects that the manna was spiritual meat, being miraculously produced, and being a figure of Christ. For, saith the apostle, that rock was Christ; that is, that rock did signify or prefigure Christ; the rock was Christ in the same sense that the bread in the Lord’s supper is the body of Christ, that is, a sign which by Divine institution did signify Christ. Here ariseth a question in what sense it is said, that the
rock followed them? That by the rock is to be understood the water that God made to flow out of the rock, is evident; but though we read of water twice fetched out of the rock upon Moses smiting of it; once at Rephidim, before they came so far as Mount Sinai, Exodus 17:6; another time at Kadesh, Numbers 20:7,8; yet we no where read in the history of the Jewish journeyings to Canaan, that the rock followed them. But this is not the only thing that we read in the New Testament relating to the history of the Old Testament, with some circumstances which we do not find recorded there; it is enough that it is plainly asserted here, and it must be presumed, or how can we imagine that the Israelites were supplied with water for forty years together? Whereas some object, that if the water, which came out of the rock at Rephidim, had followed them, there would have been no need of Moses striking the rock at Kadesh; it is answered, that God, to try them, probably caused the water to stop. For the analogy between the rock and Christ, divines make it to lie in these particulars:
1. That Christ is the firm and unmovable foundation of his church, called therefore a stone, a tried stone, Isaiah 28:16 Romans 9:33 1 Peter 2:6.
2. As this rock sent out no water for the refreshment of the Israelites, till Moses had struck it; so all the benefit we have from Christ as Mediator, floweth from him as smitten of God, and afflicted.
3. As the water of the rock served both for cleansing, and upholding life in satisfying thirst; so the blood of Christ is useful to the soul, both for washing from the guilt of sin, and the upholding spiritual life in a soul.
4. As the rock that followed the Israelites afforded water not only to that generation that were alive and present when the rock was smitten, but to all the succeeding generations, until the Israelites came into Canaan; so the blood of Christ is useful not only to his people in this or that place or age, but to all that shall believe in him, and that till they shall come into the heavenly Canaan.
But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.But with many of them God was not well pleased; these many were no less than that whole generation, which were at that time twenty years old and upward, according to the threatening, Numbers 14:28,29; of the acccomplishment of which we read, Numbers 26:64,65.
For they were over thrown in the wilderness; as an instance of God’s being displeased with them, he giveth their falling in the wilderness. It is very possible, that many of these were the objects of God’s eternal and special love, and eternally saved, notwithstanding their joining with worse men in their rebellion and murmuring; but that signal judgment of God upon them was enough to prove, that their being baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and being made partakers of those great privileges of eating spiritual meat, and drinking spiritual drink, typifying Christ, did not set them out of the danger of God’s judgments, which is the use the apostle maketh of it.
Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.Our examples; our types or patterns (as the Greek word signifies): we may, by God’s dispensations to them, learn what God will be to us: as they were patterns to us, of persons enjoying great spiritual privileges; so they are also examples or patterns to show us what we may expect from God, and to deter us from such practices, as brought the vengeance of God upon them; which were their sinful lustings or desirings of things which God had forbidden, as they did the flesh-pots, and onions, and garlic of Egypt, and to return thither again, Numbers 11:4,5,33 14:2-4.
Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; the people of Israel, being first enticed to whoredom with the daughters of Moab, were after that invited to the sacrifices of their gods, and did eat, and bowed down to their gods. Numbers 25:2; so, either worshipped the creature instead of the Creator, or worshipped the Creator in and by the creature.
As it is written: The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play; thus it is written in Exodus 32:6; which history mentioneth another idolatry they were guilty of, in worshipping the golden calf. They were wont to have feasts after their sacrifices, and pastimes and diversions after such feasts; and particularly we are told in the history concerning the golden calf, that they danced before it. Stephen saith, Acts 7:41, they rejoiced in the works of their own hands.
Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.The story to which this verse relates is that, Numbers 25:1-9. When Balaam could not curse the Israelites, he advised the debauching of them by the Moabitish women, first enticing them to fornication and adultery, then to idolatry: and they were enticed, which caused a plague amongst them, which destroyed amongst them
in one day three and twenty thousand, saith our apostle: Moses saith, that there died twenty and four thousand. There are many guesses for the clearing of that seeming contradiction. Some say, that Moses mentioneth not one day, there might in all die twenty-four thousand, but not all the same day, nor possibly by the same death. But nothing is in Scripture more ordinary, than to speak of things or persons in round numbers, though something over or under; and also to speak according to the common reckoning of people, who also may talk variously. Some might report twenty-three, some twenty-four thousand: or possibly Paul chose to mention the lesser rather than the greater round number. The sense of Moses might be, about twenty-four thousand, or near up to that number, all of which probably had not been guilty of adultery or fornication. Paul saith, there died twenty-three thousand. If there did die twenty-four thousand, there must needs die twenty-three thousand.
Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.To tempt, in the general notion of the term, signifies to make a trial; applied unto God, it signifieth to make a trial of God, either with reference to his power, Psalm 78:18-20, or to his truth and goodness: not to be satisfied with God’s word, but to challenge him to a sensible demonstration, is to tempt God. Or else to tempt may signify more generally, to provoke God; for indeed all notorious sinning against God is a tempting of God, not believing the wrath of God, which he hath revealed in his word against sin, till men feel it. The term
Christ here is very remarkable to prove Christ’s Divine nature and existence before he was incarnate; for the same person who is here called Christ, is called God, Psalm 106:14, and Jehovah also in the same Psalm; neither could they have tempted Christ at that time, if at that time he had not been existent.
Were destroyed of serpents; by serpents he meaneth the fiery serpents; we have the history, Numbers 21:6-9.
Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.Murmuring signifies the speaking against a person or thing, out of dislike, impatience, or discontent. It was a sin the Jews were very much guilty of, as may be read, Exodus 15:24 16:7,8 17:3 Numbers 14:27 16:11,41. The apostle may either refer to all their murmurings, when he saith they
were (as the punishment of their sin) destroyed of the destroyer, or to that more universal murmuring upon the ill report the spies brought up of the land of Canaan, of which we read, Numbers 14:1-45.
Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.Now all these things happened to them for ensamples; all these dispensations of Divine providence in the revelations of Divine wrath against several sorts of sinners, happened to the Jews, who were God’s first and ancient people, and enjoyed those great privileges which were before mentioned, not only as just punishments upon them for their sins, but as examples or types, to let the succeeding world know what they should find God towards such kind of sinners.
And they are written for our admonition; and God in his wise providence hath ordered the record of them in holy writ, that others who should live afterward might read, and hear, and fear, and take warning, and beware of such wicked actions, as pulled down such vengeance upon a people, than which none can plead a nearer relation to God, or the receiving of greater favours and privileges from him.
Upon whom the ends of the world are come: the apostles ordinarily in their epistles speak of the world as nigh to an end in their age, though it hath since continued more than sixteen hundred years; which would incline one to think, that they thought it would have been at an end before this time, but had no such revelation from God. So true is that of our Saviour, that of that day and hour knoweth no man; and it should teach us to beware of too particular determinations in the case, which the apostles did not make, though they spake of theirs as the last times, and themselves as such upon whom the ends of the world were come.
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.Let him that thinketh he standeth, either in a right and sound judgment and opinion of things, or in a state of favour with God, or confirmed in a holy course of life and conversation; standeth in grace, Romans 5:2. A man may stand in these things, and he may but think that he standeth: be it as it will, he is concerned to
take heed lest he fall. He may but think he standeth, and if so, he will fall: he may really stand in a right judgment and opinion of things, and be a member of the church of Christ, and yet may fall into errors and some loose practices, so as to bring down Divine vengeance upon himself; he may have God’s favour so far as concerns external privileges, and yet perish, as many of the Jews did in the instances before mentioned: nay, he may really stand in a state of justification and regeneration, and yet may fall, though not totally and finally, yet foully, so as to lose his peace, and bring God’s severe judgments upon him. Therefore he that thinketh that he standeth, whether his apprehensions be false or true, had need use all means and caution that he may not fall, and that because, if he keepeth his standing, it must be by the use of due means, which God hath appointed in order to that end, though he be also kept by the power of God unto salvation, 1 Peter 1:5.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.There hath no temptation taken you: temptation (as hath been said before) signifieth in the general notion of it no more than trials, and is often so used in holy writ. Now, in regard we are tried either by afflictive providences, or by motions made to us, either from God, or our own lusts, or the devil, or men of the world; temptations, in Scripture, sometimes signify afflictions, as Jam 1:2 1 Peter 1:6; sometimes, motions made to us by God, Genesis 22:1,2; both which sorts of temptations are good in themselves. Sometimes the term signifies motions made by the lusts and unrenewed part of our own souls, or by the devil, or by sinful men in the world; these are sinful temptations, and what we most ordinarily call by that name. Whether the apostle here means all or some of these, cannot certainly be determined; what he saith is true of all, and therefore that is the safest interpretation of the term in this place. Though he had not been before speaking indeed of afflictive temptations, he had before affrighted them with minding them of the possibility of their falling, though they did stand, or thought they stood, and cautioned them to take heed: here he comforteth them, by minding them, that no temptation had befallen them, but what was incident and common to man, anthrwpinov, and they could not expect to be freed from the common fate of mankind: then he minds them, that that God who had promised strength and assistance to his people, Matthew 7:11 Luke 11:13 2 Corinthians 1:18 1 Thessalonians 5:4 2 Thessalonians 3:3, was one that would be as good as his word, being
faithful, and would not suffer them to be tempted above their strength, and ability to oppose and resist; yea, and would
make a way to escape, both the evil of the temptation, that it should not overbear them to a total ruin of their souls, and likewise the burdensome and afflictive evil, that it should not continually lie upon them, provided they used their just endeavours, and (as he had said before) took heed lest they fell.
Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.The apostle would have them avoid all sin, but idolatry more especially, keeping at the utmost distance imaginable from that, being of all sins in its kind the greatest transgression; upon which account it is often in Scripture compared to whoredom. Though we ought to be afraid of and to decline all sin; yet as God hath revealed his wrath against any particular sin more than other, so every good Christian is obliged more to detest and abhor that sin. How the Corinthians were concerned in this caution, we shall read afterwards, 1 Corinthians 10:20. For though idolatry be properly where the failure is in the ultimate or mediate object of our worship, and the creature is made either the ultimate term of our worship, or the medium in and by which we worship the Creator; yet there are many other ways by which we may be partakers of the sins of others, and this sin of idolatry in particular: and idolatry being a sin of the greatest magnitude, from which they were bound to keep the furthest distance, they were bound to take heed of being partakers of other men’s sins of this kind.
I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.As to the present case, you are persons that understand the principles of Christian religion, I will make you judges in this case.
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?It is on all hands agreed, that the apostle is here speaking of believers communicating in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper. By
the cup of blessing, he meaneth the cup there, which he so calleth, because we in the taking of it bless the Lord, who gave his Son to die for us, and Christ, for that great love which he showed in dying for us: we are said to bless it, because we, by solemn prayer in the consecration of it, set it apart for that sacred use, and beg of God to bless it to us. This cup (saith the apostle) is the communion of the blood of Christ.
The cup is put for the wine in the cup (which is very ordinary). The cup, or wine, of blessing, signifieth that cup of wine to which the blessing is added, or with which in that holy institution we thankfully remember the death of Christ, and bless his name for that great mercy; and the wine or cup of blessing, also, here signifieth our religions action in drinking of that cup of wine so blessed. This, saith he, is the communion of the blood of Christ; that is, it is an action whereby and wherein Christ communicates himself and his grace to us, and we communicate our souls to him; so that Christ and believers in that action have a mutual communion one with another. And as it is with the one element in that holy sacrament, so it is also with the other.
The bread which the minister breaketh (according to the institution and example of Christ) for the church to make use of in the celebration of the Lord’s supper, that is, their action in eating of that bread so broken and divided amongst them, is the communion of the body of Christ; an action wherein Christians have a fellowship and communion with Christ.
For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.Believers, though many, yet are one body, and declare themselves to be one body mystical, by their fellowship together in the ordinance of the Lord’s supper; as the bread they there eat is one bread, though it be made up of many grains of corn, which come into the composition of that loaf or piece of bread which is so broken, distributed, and eaten; and the wine they drink is one cup, one body of wine, though it be made up of many particular grapes. And they declare themselves to be one body, by their joint partaking of that one bread. Some have from hence fetched an argument to prove the unlawfulness of communicating with scandalous sinners at the Lord’s table, because we declare ourselves one body with those that communicate: but whether it will (if examined) be cogent enough, I doubt; for one body signifieth no more than one church, and that not invisible, but visible. So as we only declare ourselves to be fellow members of the visible church with those with whom we partake in that ordinance, and the visible church may consist of persons that are bad mixed with the good. So as though, undoubtedly, scandalously wicked persons ought to be excluded from the holy table, yea, and no unbeliever hath a right to it; yet it may reasonably be doubted, whether those that partake with unbelievers, do by it own themselves to be unbelievers; they only own themselves members of that church wherein there are some unbelievers. But the scope of the apostle is from hence to argue, that by a parity of reason, those that communicated with an idolatrous assembly in their sacrifices, declared themselves by that action to be one body with those idolaters.
Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?Israel after the flesh was the whole seed of Jacob, the whole body of the Jewish church; for believers only were Israelites after the Spirit, Romans 11:6, called the Israel of God, Galatians 6:16.
Are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? If in the Jewish church any persons ate of the flesh of sacrifices offered upon God’s altar, did they not by that act manifest that they were members of the Jewish church, and owned that God to whom those sacrifices were offered, and that way of worship by which God was so worshipped? By the same reason these Corinthians eating of the flesh of those beasts in the idol’s temple, which had been offered unto idols, did by that act declare their owning of the idol, and that idolatrous worship which had been there performed, and were really partakers of the idolatrous altar.
What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?I do not by this contradict what I before said, nor now affirm that an idol is any thing, or the sacrifices offered to it any thing. An idol hath nothing in it of a Deity, nor can it either sanctify or pollute any thing that is set before it; the error is in your action, as you communicate with such as are idolaters; it is your own action that polluteth you, not the idol, nor yet the meat set before it.
But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.The heathens might not intentionally offer sacrifices to devils, (such a thing can hardly be supposed of men), but actually they offered sacrifices to devils; for they were devils, that is, evil angels, which deluded the poor heathen, and gave answers from the images and statues which they worshipped, believing the true God to be in them: which answers they accounted for oracles. Besides, the apostle saith, they sacrificed to devils, because in God’s esteem it was so, though not in their intention; God judgeth of men’s acts of worship and homage pretendedly done unto him, not according to their intention, but according to the truth and reality of the thing: now, really the heathen in their sacrifices paid a homage to devils, though such a thing was far from their intention; and this deserves the consideration, both of the papists, who worship images, and also of those protestants (if any such be) who would excuse the papists in their idolatries from their intentions. The nature of idolatry doth not lie in men’s intending to worship the creature instead of the Creator, (there were hardly every any such idolaters in the world), but in their actual doing of the thing; and except they can find a direct rule in holy writ ordering the adoration of the Creator in the creature, or before the creature, it is much to be feared, that in the last day God will judge their homage performed to the creature, not to him. Now, saith the apostle, you had need take heed that, by this action, you prove not yourselves to have fellowship with devils, instead of Christ and the true and living God.
Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.The cup of the Lord: we may either take the phrase as signifying all religious communion under one great act of religion, or as particularly signifying having a communion with Christ in the ordinance of the Lord’s supper, which is called
the cup of the Lord, either because God hath instituted and appointed the drinking of it, or because it is done for the honour, glory, and remembrance of our Lord Christ, to remember his death until he come, as the apostle speaketh, 1 Corinthians 11:26. This the apostle tells them they could not drink of, that is, not rightly, and with a good conscience; or not really; no man that is an idolater, or hath communion with idolaters in their idolatrous acts, can have communion with Christ. The same is meant by
the Lord’s table, and the table of devils. So as I cannot see how either an idolatrous church can be a true church, or an idolater a true Christian, unless we will assert, that a body of people may be a true church, that can have no communion with Christ; or a man may be a true Christian, and yet have no communion with Christ. Idolatry, doubtless, both divides the soul from Christ, as he is the Head of a believer, and as he is the Head of the church. To call any body of idolaters a true church, either morally, or metaphysically, is to say to those: Ammi, You are the Lord’s people, to whom God hath said, Lo-ammi. Let them be what they will, the name of a church belongeth not to them, if (as the apostle affirmeth) they can have no communion with Christ.
Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?Jealousy is a violent passion in a man, not bearing a companion or a rival as to a thing or person which he loveth. It is in holy writ applied unto God, not to signify any such extravagancy, excess, or vehemence, as attendeth that passion in men, but only his just displeasure at the giving that homage to any creature which is due to him alone. It is most applied to God to express his anger against those who give Divine homage to idols; the worship of God being a great piece of his glory which he hath said he will not give to another, nor his praise to graven images, Isaiah 42:8. Hence divines observe, that jealousy is attributed to God in the second commandment, which concerns the more external worship of God, to deter men from the violation of it, Exodus 20:5. So Exodus 34:14 Deu 4:24 5:9 6:16, and in many other texts, it signifieth, that the worship of God is a thing that he is very tender of, and that his will is to endure no creature to share with him in it; and that his wrath shall flame against that man that offers to make any creature such a sharer. So that it is not safe for any to do any thing of that nature, unless he could fancy himself to be stronger than God; for he that doth it, must expect the power and strength of God to be engaged against him. Thus the apostle had dissuaded them from eating meat sacrificed to idols in the idol’s temple, from the impiety of it, it being a species of idolatry, against which God hath signally revealed his wrath. He returns in the following verses to an argument, by which he had before dissuaded it, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, as it was against charity, and the duty of love, in which they were indebted to their brethren.
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.All things here must necessarily signify many things, or, at least, (as some think), all those things I have spoken of, to eat meat offered to idols, &c. But if we interpret it in the latter sense, it is not true without limitations; for the apostle had but now determined, that to eat meat offered to idols in the idol’s temple, was to have communion with devils. I had rather therefore interpret all by many, as that universal particle must be interpreted in a great multitude of scriptures. So as the sense is: There are many things that are lawful which are not expedient; that is, considered in themselves, under due circumstances, they are lawful, but considered in such and such circumstances, are not so, because they are not for the profit or good, but the hurt and disadvantage, of others. Thus the apostle himself expounds it in the latter clause of the verse, where he saith, they
edify not, that is, they tend not to promote the gospel, or the faith and holiness of particular Christians.
Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth.It is the duty of every one who is a disciple of Christ, not merely to look at his own pleasure or profit, but the profit and advantage of others.
Charity seeketh not her own, ( saith the apostle, 1 Corinthians 13:5), that is, it seeketh not its own with the prejudice of another. So as admit that in this practice there were nothing looked like idolatry and impiety towards God, yet charity or love to your brethren ought to deter you.
Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake:It is possible that butchers, before they brought their meat into the market, might offer some part of it to the idol; or it is possible that the priests, who had a share in the beasts offered to idols, or the people that had offered such beasts, who, also had a share returned them, might out of covetousness come and bring’ it to be sold in the market. The apostle directeth the Corinthians in such cases to make no scruple, but eat of it, if it were commonly sold in the shambles; which argued, that the thing in itself, considered nakedly, was not sinful. But yet he would have them in that case ask no questions, whence it came? Or whether it had not been offered to an idol? For the sake of other men’s consciences, lest some others standing by should take notice that they bought and ate such meat. Or their own consciences, lest, though the thing in itself, so separated from a sacred use, and returned to its common use, might be lawfully eaten, yet their consciences should afterwards reflect upon them for the doing of it.
For the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.This sentence is taken out of Psalm 24:1. The earth is God’s, or the Lord Christ’s, who hath sanctified all things for the use of man, and all the variety of creatures that are in it are sanctified by him. An idol cannot pollute any kind of meat, it hath no such malign influence upon any thing; you may pollute yourselves by your action, eating it in the idol’s temple, at an idolater’s feast immediately upon his sacrifice, but the idol itself is no operative thing, nor can cause an ill quality in the meat; let the meat be once returned to its common use, (the idolater’s sacred mysteries being over), it is the Lord’s, what he hath appointed for the use of man. In the idol’s temple they took the meat out of the devil’s hand, that was indeed unlawful; but if it were once returned to its common use, and sold in the market, they took it out of the hand of God’s common providence, and every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving, 1 Timothy 4:4.
If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.The apostle puts another case, in which they might lawfully enough eat of meat offered to an idol; that was in case any of their neighbours, that were heathens, invited them to dinner or supper in a private house (some add, or in the idol’s temple, if it were a feast of friendship, not a feast upon a sacrifice; but I doubt that, and also whether in the idol-temples there were any feasts but upon sacrifices): he determineth it lawful for them to go and eat whatsoever was set before them; but in this case he would also have them
ask no questions for conscience sake.
But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof:The meat being out of the idol’s temple, and returned to a common use, there could be no impiety in eating it, no communion with devils, and partaking of the table of devils, in and by such an action; but yet there might be a breach of charity in the action, that is, in case one were there present, who knew that it had been so offered to the idol, and declared his offence, by telling the Christian that was about to eat, that that meat had been so offered: in that case the apostle commandeth Christians not to eat, and that partly
for his sake that showed it, lest they should lay a stumbling block before him, and by their example imbolden him that showed it to do the like, though he doubted the lawfulness of it; and likewise
for conscience sake, that is, for their own conscience sake, which through weakness might afterward trouble them for it, though without just cause. He gives them as a reason for it, because
the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof, that is, because there was other meat enough to eat. This passage, taken out of the psalmist, had a something different application, 1 Corinthians 10:26; there the apostle used it to justify the lawfulness of their eating such meat, returned again to a common use, and exposed to sale in the shambles; here he useth it to dissuade them from eating, if any let them know it had been offered to the idol.
Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience?By reason of what we had, 1 Corinthians 10:28, (where the apostle forbade eating these meats, in case any at the feast told them they had been offered to idols, both for his sake that told him so, and also for conscience sake), it is most reasonable to interpret those words not thine own in this verse, not thine own only, there being frequent instances in Scripture where the negative particle must be so restrained, as John 4:42 6:27,38.
For why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? For why should my practice in a thing wherein I have a liberty, be censured or condemned by the conscience of another, he being persuaded that what I do, and judge that I have a liberty to do, and may do lawfully, is done by me sinfully, and I by him accounted a transgressor for it; so as though I do a thing that is honest, yet it is not honest in the sight of all men, or of good report; whereas Christians are obliged, Romans 12:17, to provide things honest in the sight of all men, not in their own sight merely, end to do those things that are lovely and of good report, Philippians 3:8.
For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?If I by grace be a partaker; if I by the goodness of God, whose the earth is, and the fulness thereof; or by the grace of knowledge, by which God hath given me to understand that I may do that, as to which others less knowing stumble; can eat such meat (out of the idol’s temple) as part of it hath been offered to the idol, or with thanksgiving partake of such meat, (for so cariv signifies, Luke 6:32 17:9), why am I blasphemed, or evil spoken of, for that for which I can give God thanks? That is, I ought not to cause another to speak evil of me for using of meat, but rather than run that danger, to abstain from such meat which I could otherwise eat of, and give God thanks: for in so doing I should but abuse my liberty, and instead of giving God thanks, I should grievously offend God, not at all consulting his glory.
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.The apostle, in these three last verses, layeth down three rules, to direct Christians how to use their liberty as to things that are of an indifferent nature, neither in themselves commanded nor forbidden in the word of God. His first rule is in this verse, to do whatsoever we do to the glory of God. This is a general rule, not to be restrained to the eating of meat offered to idols, of which the former discourse had been. It is a general rule, not applicable alone to eating and drinking, but to all other human actions. The reasonableness of this rule appeareth from our consideration, that the glory of God was the end of our creation; The Lord hath made all things for himself, Proverbs 16:4: and indeed it is impossible it should be otherwise; for whereas every reasonable agent both propounds to himself some end of his actions, and the best end he can imagine, it is impossible but that God also, in creating man, should propound to himself some end, and there being no better end than his own glory, he could propound no other unto himself. The glory of God being the end which he propounded to himself in creating man, it must needs follow, that that must be the chief and greatest end which any man can propound to himself in his actions. God is then glorified by us, when by our means, or by occasion of us, he is well spoken of in the world, or by our obedience to his will: this our Saviour hath taught us, John 17:4,6. No man in any of his actions hath a liberty from this rule; so as though a man, as to many things, hath a liberty to marry or not to marry, to eat meats or not to eat them, to wear this apparel or not to wear it; yet he is not even in such things as these so at liberty, but he ought to look about, and to consider circumstances, which will be most for the honour of God, the credit of the gospel, and reputation of religion. And the judgment of this is to be made from circumstances, the difference of which may make that unlawful which otherwise would be lawful, and that lawful which under other circumstances would be unlawful.
Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:We use to say, that men are offended when they are grieved or angered; but these offences are not here meant, (as appears by the Greek phrase, ’ Aproskopoi ginesye) but give no occasion of sin or stumbling. This care he commands us, with reference to all men; for at that time all the world fell under one of these denominations, they were either Jews, or Gentiles, ( that is, heathens), or the church of God (that is, Christians). It was always a hard matter, if not a thing impossible, for Christians to carry themselves so as not to anger those that were no Christians; but it was not impossible for them so to behave themselves, as not to be to them any just occasion of sin. Much less ought conscientious Christians to give offence to Christians, that made up the church of God, and were with them members of the same mystical body, of which Christ is the Head.
Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.Even as I please all men in all things; that is, in all things wherein the law of God hath left me a liberty; for Paul pleased no man, either in the omission of any thing which God had commanded him to do, or in the doing of any thing which God had forbidden him to do.
Not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved; not seeking my own advantage, either the satisfaction of my own mind or humour, or my own gain, but the advantage of others, especially in matters that may any way affect them as to their eternal salvation. Thus Paul, like a good shepherd, goeth out before the sheep, and leadeth them, and, as every true minister should be, is himself an example to the flock of Christ. And this is a third rule to be observed by Christians, as to the use of the liberty which God’s law hath left them as to any particular actions; notwithstanding that liberty, yet they ought to have respect to the spiritual good and salvation of others, and to do that part which their judgments inform them will be, as least to the spiritual damage and detriment, so most to the spiritual good and profit, of the souls of others with whom they converse.