Church membership no guarantee of perfection
1The fact is, brethren, baptism and partaking of the bread and wine, and your membership in the Church of Christ show forth your status as the spiritually elect of God — but remember, you are not thereby perfected. There may yet come another falling away, as with those who were called in the old days in a similar manner to us. 2What though they were all under the cloud in the moment of revelation, and all passed through the sea, 3and all ate the spiritual manna 4and drank the spiritual drink which flowed from the rock. The rock is said to have followed them wherever they went. That rock means the Christ. 5Now mark and learn the lesson. Many of those original founders of our faith “were slain in the wilderness” (Num. xiv. 16). 6The perfect will of God was not fulfilled in them and thereby we can discern the truth about ourselves, for they are types. They teach us not to lust, as some of them “lusted” (Num. xi. 4, 34). 7Yes, our fathers took part in that great piece of history, they witnessed that divine manifestation of God, and yet though part of all that, they were not all elect. There took place in their midst a corresponding reprobation and apostacy of some. They worshipped idols, and made an image to Jehovah, and made a pagan rite of his sacrifice. “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” (Exod. xxxii. 6) 8They committed fornication, and 23,000 fell in one day. 9They tempted the Lord, and were destroyed by serpents. 10They murmured, and the destroyer fell on them. 11On us has come the fulfilment of history. What happened before is the type of that which happens now, what was written before was written for the guidance of those on whom these days have come. All that past is contained in the history that is being made. 12Therefore let us beware, beware of “lusting,” of “fornication,” of “idolatry,” of doubting and murmuring. If our eyes are not open to the significance of those warnings, we too shall fall, even though we think we stand. 13It is God alone that can save us; in Him there will always be a way of escape however hotly the temptation press in on us, for such temptation must needs come to those that are but human. 14But mark me, note what I say. 15Beware, O beware, of idolatry, of pagan feasts and rites. Study well my words. 16That cup over which we pronounce the blessing, 17and the bread which we break, assembling ourselves together for the purpose — 18have they anything to do with the rites observed by pagans, and can we who take this cup of the Lord fall into the error of idolatry? 19Certainly the image and the meat sacrificed to it are nothing — 20we know that. But the heathen sacrifice “not to God, but to devils.” (Deut. xxxii. 17).
Pagan rites very different from the table of the Lord
21And to partake of the feasts by which these devils are worshipped is to lay yourself open to the strong influences that hang over such rites. Just as in that Israel which now bears the name of Israel after the flesh, the people who share in the sacrificial feast, share also in the Altar. Can we then, who take the cup of the Lord and partake of this feast, have anything whatever to do with the feasts of the devils? O beware of the subtle contaminating influence of idolatry! Our feast is a spiritual one; the words of blessing pronounced over the cup, and again over the bread, they mean our share in the blood of the Christ, our membership in the infinite body of the Christ, just as we all partake of the one loaf which is broken and given to all with the accompanying words of blessing, so are we all members of that one divine spiritual body. That is the meaning of our feast. Can such a feast as that have in it any taint of idolatry? Mark well the types I have spoken of, which the scriptures contain! Shall the table of the Lord (Mal. i. 7, 12) be polluted by you through intercourse with devils? 22Will you “provoke him to jealousy with strange gods?” (Deut. xxxii. 16). What possible connection can there be between our spiritual feast and the table of devils? 23Granted — all things are lawful to those who are free and emancipated. But it does not follow that there is no danger, no destructive power lurking round things which in an absolute sense are harmless. 24Seek what serves the common good, seek what builds and edifies, seek not your own. 25You are of course at liberty to purchase whatever you please where meat is sold, and ask no questions about it. 26-27Similarly, you can dine with friends not of the faith, and eat whatever they set before you. That is our freedom. “Is not the earth the Lord's and the fulness thereof?” (Ps. xxiv. 1). 28But if your host inform you, “this meat was sacrificed to such and such a god,” then keep the rule of absolute abstention from idolatry. 29You may consider yourself free, and think that you partake of all things by the grace of God, 30and are able to give thanks therefore with a good conscience, but if you are really free, why should this action affect the conscience of another, and be misinterpreted? It is better not to eat of it where other people's consciences are at stake. 31-32Seek not your own point of view, lean not to that, although you know yourself to be as free as Christ has made you in all such matters of eating and drinking, or whatever other things you may be doing, but seek the glory of the one God, seek to commend yourself to all men, whether your company be Jewish, Greek or those who are of the faith. O think not of yourselves, but of them! 33That is always my point of view, to please all in every way I can, that they may find salvation;
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