Taking Part in Evil
Paul wrote extensively about the problem of new believers still being influenced by pagan worship, which was normal in Corinthian culture. Temples dedicated to Greek or Roman mythical gods functioned as community centres, restaurants and business meeting places; they were also socially acceptable centres of immorality. Meat and wine offered to the idols were served in the restaurants, posing a dilemma of conscience for some who did not want to go back to their old way of life (1 Corinthians 8:7). Others thought there was no problem.
Paul had taught that the idols themselves had no personality or power and that the food was not altered: it was not spiritually dangerous in itself (1 Corinthians 8:4). However in these verses he reminded them that the Christless religious system is not just a harmless human invention; it is manipulated by demons. In the same way that the priests of Israel who ate the meat of sacrifices offered to the Lord identified themselves with Him (Leviticus 7:1-7), those who ate food offered to idols were vulnerable for demons to assume the right to manipulate part of their lives.
So how can a believer celebrate the Lordship of Christ in communion and also the authority of demons, in the same week? God is intensely jealous over His people (Deuteronomy 4:24). He will not share any part of His glory with idols or demons (Isaiah 42:8). Some people think that they are strong enough to ride two horses at the same time, but it is impossible if they are going in different directions. We need to be holy because the Lord is holy (1 Peter 1:16), and reject even the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
Sophisticated cultures pride themselves on tolerance. It is right to be tolerant of the variety of different personalities, ethnicities and many of the God-designed variants that make the world an interesting place. But it is not right to tolerate what God hates or give any space for the devil to operate (Ephesians 4:27). Today's issues may not be with pagan temple worship: our battle is not against human beings but against the demonic powers who seek to influence the decisions of worldly authorities (Ephesians 6:12), and individuals - through the idols of wealth, success, power and pleasure. Our desire for these things to satisfy us reflects our lack of trust in the Lord and exposes us to evil manipulation. Let us work with the Lord and not with His enemy.
© Dr Paul Adams