Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Temptation and Eucharist

One of my favorite verses as a protestant was 1 Cor 10:13:
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
Now as I contemplated it more and more it became clear to me that the second part was vitally important. Look for the way out of temptation. Don't just assume that God will protect you. Often the way out came in the form of community. Someone who was struggling with the same temptation and could provide some wisdom. But one thing I never did as a protestant was check out the context. Lets see what follows this verse in 1 Cor 10.
Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
So what does that way out of temptation look like? It might involve fleeing. There is a lot to be said for fleeing as a way to deal with temptation. Sometimes we can get so caught in stinking thinking we forget simple answers like that.

But what else does it say? The next way out it suggests is the Eucharist. Paul sees the connection as so natural and obvious he does not even provide a segue. We can participate in the body and blood of Christ. What else would provide us a way out of temptation? Of course it makes sense that this context was never highlighted as a protestant because if the Eucharist is only a symbol then Paul's connecting it with temptations is quite strange. So you assume he just abruptly switched topics. But then what is next:
Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 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. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
Now as a Catholic this is still very natural. Paul is talking about ways out of temptation. So he mentions the Eucharist. He also mentions sacrifice. We believe as Catholics in making penitential sacrifices to break the power of temptation in our lives. We also believe in the Eucharist as a sacrifice. So everything fits. But a protestant needs to believe Paul has made yet another change of topic. He can't mean the Eucharist is a sacrifice on an altar even though he draws an explicit parallel between the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons and the table of the Lord and the table of demons.


  1. On a baptist message board, one of my forum friends recently told me that Paul is addressing Christians who were using meat sacrificed to idols in celebrating the Lord's Supper. Did you ever subscribe to that interpretation?

  2. That makes very little sense to me. Is there any evidence that meat was ever used in celebrating the Lord's Supper? So no. I never went there. Mostly I just ignored the context. It is easy if your try.