Only foolish believers think that they cannot be tempted, or that they can manage to fight the attraction of Satan's lies in their own strength. God's anger against the sins of Israel in the wilderness is a warning to believers at any time in history, and especially for us who know that Jesus will soon return. He will call us to account for our sins and to reward faithful discipleship.
Taking part in something is not just an activity; it is a statement about what you value. Idolatry was rife in Corinth; not just the ceremonies at the pagan temples, but acceptance of the associated immoral culture. When people believed in Jesus, some brought their past culture into the church; in much the same way that the Israelites who left Egypt took some of the pagan Egyptian ethos with them into the wilderness.
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.
Corinth, like many cultures today, had a liberal approach to personal ethics. If something was possible then it was ok to do it. You could do almost whatever you liked as long as you stayed clear of the Roman authorities. That approach enabled corruption to thrive in business: slavery was accepted, women were often treated as property and immorality was normal in pagan worship.
We all hold values according to our background, knowledge and experience; by what we are taught is right and what we feel is right. Our conscience is the automatic guardian of what we believe is right. But in a confused world which despises God's Word, we may not be sure of what is right and wrong.
The Apostle Paul faced all kinds of criticism from people who did not understand his motives. The issue of how to deal with the problem of meat which had been offered to idols, had polarised the church. That is why Paul spent so much time in this letter helping the church to understand what was important and how to be caring of others whose consciences were troubled (
Despite the immaturity of the Corinthian church, its divisions, quarrelling, acceptance of immorality, confusion about marriage and how to live in a city dominated by pagan worship, Paul knew that many had held on to what he had taught them during his 18 month stay (
The immorality surrounding pagan worship in Corinth led to confusion about the way in which men and women ought to relate in marriage, and in the church. Introducing this teaching, Paul defines the principle of headship. This is not to rank people in order of importance or merit, but to establish where responsibility lies.
The church of Jesus Christ has seen all too many divisions in the past 2000 years. It has not just been a gradual fragmentation over centuries; the problem was present in Corinth. While Paul tried hard to find some reason to praise the church before applying criticism, in the matter of worship and the Lord’s Supper he had none. The Apostle had heard reliable reports of the church which justified his strong reproach that their meetings did more harm than good. Their worship services were an offence to the gospel and to the Lord.