Eating Food Sacrificed to Idols Is Participating with Demons (10:19-21)
If eating the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper connects us intimately to the sacrifice on the cross, Paul argues, then sitting in a pagan temple eating meat that has just been offered to pagan gods is not inconsequential.
"19 Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons." (10:19-21)
Paul agrees with the Corinthian "liberals" that an idol has no real existence as a god (8:4-6). They are no competition with the One God. But the act of eating food offered to idols is not spiritually neutral. Behind idol worship, Paul is telling us, is a demonically-inspired conspiracy to lead people away from the true God. To participate in pagan rituals is to participate with the unholy demonic forces that underlie them. The result is spiritual contamination. You can't at the same time have koinōnia with unholy demonic spirits and the Holy God!
Let's pause here a moment and talk about demonic contamination. Though I don't believe true Christians can be demon-possessed, I do believe that Christians who open themselves to demonic activity can become spiritually contaminated, spiritually compromised. I have a friend who participates in Wiccan rituals, celebrating the ancient so-called gods and goddesses of the British Isles. This isn't spiritually neutral. It is hard for me to believe that a person can open this kind of door to demonic spirits and remain free from demonic contamination.
If you've been involved in occult or pagan rituals, if you've used Ouija boards to communicate with spirits -- even "innocently" -- I encourage you to renounce all such activity in the name of Jesus! If you're still having trouble, you might want to seek out a person with a gift of discernment of spirits and a ministry of deliverance to help you.315
Q5. (1 Corinthians 10:19-21) The beings behind idols are not real gods, according to 1 Corinthians 8:4. What kind of beings does this passage say they are? What then is the spiritual danger to us of participating in idol worship (or the occult, for that matter)?
Beware of Offending the Lord (10:22-23)Not only is eating food offered to idols -- and participating in pagan rituals -- spiritually contaminating, it is also deeply offensive to the Lord. It is spiritual adultery. It grieves the Holy Spirit within us (Ephesians 4:30).
"22 Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
23 'Everything is permissible' -- but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissible' -- but not everything is constructive." (10:22-23)
We can't afford to get God angry with us! Paul concludes this argument by quoting to the Corinthians one of their guiding proverbs, "Everything is permissible," that he had commented on earlier in the context of having sex with prostitutes:
"'Everything is permissible for me' -- but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissible for me' -- but I will not be mastered316 by anything." (6:12)
Yes, we have tremendous Christian freedom, Paul is saying, but that doesn't mean everything we want to do is helpful to our spiritual lives. When we sin flagrantly -- whether in sexual sins or participation in pagan rituals -- we open ourselves to spiritual bondage that can "master" us, and will take some effort to free ourselves from.