For an introduction to this series, click here.
This chapter kind of covers a wide range of topics. Paul starts out with a discussion of the meaning of the stories of the Old Testament:
"Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, 'The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.' We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 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." (10:6-11)
I have run into a couple of people who believe the Old Testament is meaningless for Christians. Nothing could be further from the truth. We can learn so much from the Old Testament. Those people were real and struggled through life just like we do. Whatever we can learn from their example is good. Paul says the most important lesson we learn is this:
"Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (10:12-13)
I had never realized that passage was connected with a passage about the meaning of the Old Testament. So many times we think we are the only ones who have gone through what we are dealing with right now. But God wants us to know we are not alone: we are never alone from His presence, and other people in the past have gone through some of the same experiences we have. Some were faithful and some were not. We can seek to copy those who were faithful and learn from the others' mistakes.
Paul next gives a warning against idolatry:
"Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons." (10:14-21)
Apparently, some of the Corinthians thought that since an idol is not real, they could go and participate in some of the rituals at the pagan temple. I'm not sure why, maybe it was for the entertainment value or, more likely, they went with their unsaved family members, just as a family tradition. Paul is saying this is a very dangerous thing, not to be taken lightly. Just because an idol is not a real god does not mean that there is nothing spiritual going on. There are demonic forces at work, and a Christian has no business being involved in something like that.
Finally Paul brings up the topic of Christian liberty again:
"Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For 'the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof.' If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, 'This has been offered in sacrifice,' then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— I do not mean your conscience, but his." (10:24-29)
"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved." (10:31-33, ESV)
This is the ultimate teaching on doubtful things. We should do nothing that would make ourselves an offense. Sometimes this means forgoing something you might like to do. Not because there is something inherently sinful about it, but because someone else may be tempted to violate their conscience or an unbeliever may see no distinction between you and him. It is important not to use our own freedom to be an impairment to the work of God in other people's lives.