In Chapter 9, in what feels like the personal center of the letter, Paul tries to connect his own decisions with his instructions to the Corinthians. As you read it, remember what has led up to this: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price… Let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him…” and “…If food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
The line “All things are lawful for me” from chapter 6 is repeated in the middle of chapter 10. In many English Bibles this is found in quotes, as though Paul is repeating a favored argument of a group which he opposes, and it is followed again by Paul’s retort: “But not all things are helpful.” Yesterday it was in reference to sexual liberty, and today it refers to the practice of eating meat that has been offered to idols.
His logic is thus: “The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof” frees Paul to eat whatever he likes, because, as he argued yesterday, “Food will not condemn us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.” However, as he closes this section today, he seems to counter himself: “But if someone says to you, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice,’ then do not eat it…” Is Paul equivocating? Or does the context of the offering party matter? Listen closely, and discern for yourself.
Chapter 11 opens a new set of instructions regarding head coverings and the Lord’s Supper. In the section about head coverings, Paul makes arguments from creation and nature to commend men’s and women’s attire while praying. It’s not readily clear from the text whether this reflects first century Christian practice or a situation specific to the Corinthians, but it may be instructive that this follows directly after the “Give no offense” conversation in chapter 10.
In the final passage, Paul confronts the Corinthian church about their gluttonous approach to breaking bread: “When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk... What shall I say to you?” Consider his readers when listening to Paul’s basic approach, from the outline of what he “received from the Lord,” to his most elementary reprimand: “So, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another…”
Our verse for this week is Deuteronomy 6:4: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
1 Corinthians 9 through 11. Now let’s read it!
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.