One of the most powerful stories I ever read is about a man with a cheating wife. She consistently cheated on her husband and he knew it. He knew that many of the kids she birthed were not his kids. Yet, he stayed with her and remained faithful. This woman had a serious problem with an addiction to sex, so much so that she put herself into prostitution. She found herself a pimp and said: “Use me, I’m yours”. And use her he did. The most powerful part of the story of this man’s faithfulness is when he goes to the brothel where she was, walks up to the pimp and says: “How much to get my wife back?” The pimp gives him an amount and he pays it back and redeemed his wife from her prostitution. He bought her back! He remained deeply faithful
I’m talking of the story of Hosea and Gomer. His faithfulness blew me away when I first read it and understood the fullness of its ramifications. He was faithful enough to buy her back. The scriptures state that God called him to this life for the purpose of revealing God’s faithfulness in the midst of Israel’s sin and it is a testament to His faithfulness to us as well.
We, like the Israelites and the Corinthians have an issue with faithfulness. We have and still do walk away from the Lord by pursuing other things and other people. Paul reminded us in the last few verses before this that we tend to put our trust in these things and the trust is misplaced. Here he discusses this issue of turning to other things in the light of being faithful. He gives us tools to answer the question “How do we remain faithful?”
- Faithfulness Flows from His Faithfulness (vs. 13-15)
Paul uses the word “Therefore” to open this next portion of the letter. He is harkening back to what he had just previously stated. In the verse directly before vs. 14, he stated: “…God is faithful…” He then gave and example of the faithfulness of God. Using the word “therefore” then is saying: “Because God is faithful…” flee from idolatry. He declared God will give a way out, so take it. Flee, run away, disappear quickly and escape from idolatry. We have capacity to be faithful because he first was faithful to us. His unending love and dedication should spur us on to the same type of love and dedication. Paul here is also calling them to faithfulness in a deep, and loving way. He calls them his beloved. This word in Greek is another form of the word Agape, which means deeply committed love. He is here stating that he too is committed to them and because of his commitment, he desires the best for them. Fleeing from sin is always best for our souls. Paul was appealing to them in a fatherly type of way in this, trying to guide them into best practice.
He then stated something along the lines of: you are all smart people, judge for yourself if what I’m saying is true. Think about it critically, don’t just whimsically do what you immediately desire. Take time to ponder and wrestle with it. The insinuation in what he said is that the Corinthians will ultimately agree with him if they take time to critically assess what he is saying. What are the sins you keep running to? Have your idols ever really satisfied? Paul is implying that they haven’t Paul then launches into a confusing conversation about the Eucharist (the Lord’s table). In this he discusses unity with Christ and each other. He reminds them of their community. To flee from idols then
2. Conquering Comes from Community (vs. 16-18)
Paul took time to remind the Corinthian church and us of the unifying effects that communion has on our lives. It is an event that draws us together as one body. We are brought together by the blood of Christ in the culmination of the Lord’s table to drink from the same cup and eat of the same bread. This table is holy and brings deeper community than any other table in all of history.
Some of the members of the church were not only eating food sacrificed to idols, but dining at the very table of the idols to eat such food. As we saw in chapter 8, eating the food sacrificed to idols should be no big deal, but these folks were eating at the wrong table. This was not good for their souls. Plus, What some of the Corinthians do is understood by Paul to have implications for and an effect on the life of the congregation Dining at this table, due to the unity in the Lord’s table was effecting the whole congregation. Our personal sins, due to our unity affect the whole body, unless there is repentance. This point gets even more attention in the next chapter, but it is still present here.
This point is also encouraging because we can, in our unity come together to conquer our personal sins. We can bring the rest of our body into the fight along with us, so we don’t battle alone. It is for their holiness and my holiness that we all fight together. If an arm is cut off of a body, the body recognizes, so it must fight in unison to conquer the enemies that come at it. If we truly understand our unity in Him, we will desire to fight FOR one another rather and AGAINST.
Paul discusses how we are unified by the table then discusses how those who eat at the table of these idols are defiled. This was not a good thing for these Corinthians. They came out of this life, but were clinging to it, but excusing it as holiness. They thought they were all good and could go back to the areas that entrapped them before and be unaffected. Paul knew this wasn’t true. Think of it this way. It’s similar to a recovering porn addict going into a strip club…he isn’t going to be in there declaring Jesus. Paul then goes deeper into this and lets the Corinthians know who the real enemy is, because he knew:
3. To Remain Faithful, We Must know Who We’re Fighting (vs. 19-22)
These verses are ones that have been hard to deal with in recent years. Here Paul declares all idols that are worshiped and usurp the throne of God in our lives are actually demonic. He goes as far as calling these idols demons. This is intense language and it is hard to wrestle with these implications. These idols were pagan idols inside of temples…yet does this cross over into our American Idols (to borrow a popular name)? I think for many of the things we put as idols in our lives, they are indeed demonically inclined. Saying NO to our idols is to say no to the Demonic forces seeking to destroy us. We don’t want to think of those things we raise up on the throne where only God should be as demonic, but indeed they are. They are traps set for us to relinquish our love for God in order to loving something else, that is lesser than. One commentator said about these verse: “One power is the power of God manifested in a clear and ultimate form in Jesus Christ, and the other is labeled demons. Paul states plainly that the Corinthian Christians are to be concerned with and involved with only God. There is no room for other affiliations, and the Corinthians are to avoid all possible compromises of their relationship to God.” This idea can clearly be transferred to us as well. Paul too was pointing out that there can be no drinking of both cups. There is an either or. Either God is King or He is not. Don’t then come to the table and pretend He is King. Later Paul will discuss with the Corinthians about making sure their hearts are right before they come to the table so they do not drink judgment upon themselves for pretending.
The Lord’s Table unites us and heals us, so let’s not bring garbage to the Lord’s Table. If we are worshipping idols, we are partaking in their cup. Whether its sex, money, drugs, good grades…if it takes Christ out of the center it has become and idol and Paul is trying to reinforce this idea that we must look at these idols and whatever god is out there that is not THE God as demons. Knowing our enemy for who he is will help us defeat him. If we think it’s just an addiction, or just a minor thing we need to reevaluate the control our idols have upon us.
May we allow His faithfulness draw us into faithfulness as well. May we seek community to help conquer our faithlessness and may we know our enemy and see our idols and our faithlessness for what it is- demonic. Let us turn to Him and ask His Spirit to fill us in order to be able to do all of these things as we remain faithful.