Chapter ten approaches Paul’s discussion of freedoms from a different perspective. To this point it has been about not flaunting legitimate freedoms. In this chapter, Paul speaks of extending freedoms to areas in which we are not free. Using the Jewish Exodus generation as an example, Paul showed they had experienced all of God’s blessings (freedoms), yet they wanted more (1 Corinthians 10:1-6). Paul wrote that we can look to them as examples, considering that the judgments God placed on them was because they went after evil desires, things they were not free to have or do.
1 Corinthians 10:7-10 lists four “nots” that Paul commanded the Corinthians: 1) “do not be idolaters”; 2) “let us not be immoral”; 3) “let us not put Christ to the test”; and 4) “do not complain.” The Israelites were judged for each of these things, and we are not free to engage in them either. In fact, it is when we think, in pride, that we are exercising our freedoms that we are most likely to fall (1 Corinthians 10:12-13). On the other hand, we should not be so fearful about situations that may be tempting, that we do nothing at all. God will help us through any temptation, whether those just listed or any others.
It seems that a particular situation they faced had to do with attending feasts to pagan gods rather than just purchasing meat in the market (1 Corinthians 10:14-22). The mature believers knew there was nothing wrong with the food and no such false gods, so they participated in these feasts and had a good meal. However, the weaker, immature believers considered this to make them “partners with demons.” Paul told them all to refrain from such feasts, because it was tantamount to the Israelites testing God in the wilderness, trying to participate with both demons and God, which must not be. Eating food sacrificed to an idol was one thing; joining in a feast celebrating these demonic gods was not a freedom they could exercise.
He concluded this chapter with a few final principles about our freedoms (1 Corinthians 10:23 – 11:1). First, not all freedoms are beneficial to ourselves or others, and the ultimate principle is still love. Second, enjoy everything with a clean conscience, because “the earth and its abundance are the Lord’s.” Third, enjoy a meal with a clean conscience, unless a weaker believer is present and clearly concerned about it. Fourth, in all things, work to glorify God and not intentionally offend anyone (Jews, Gentiles, or believers). Fifth, imitate Paul and Jesus who both lived for the spiritual benefit of those around them.