Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord - It is in vain that you who frequent these idol festivals profess the religion of Christ, and commemorate his death and passion in the holy eucharist; for you can not have that fellowship with Christ which this ordinance implies, while you are partakers of the table of demons. That the Gentiles, in their sacrifices, fed on the slain beasts, and ate bread and drank wine in honor of their gods, is sufficiently clear from various accounts. See my Discourse on the Holy Eucharist, where many examples are produced. The following from Virgil, Aen. viii, verse 179-273, is proof in point: -
Tum lecti juvenes certatim araeque sacerdos
Viscera tosta ferunt taurorum, onerantque canistris
Dona laboratae Cereris, Bacchumque ministrant.
Vescitur Aeneas simul et Trojana juventus
Perpetui tergo bovis et lustralibus extis. -
Quare agite, O juvenes, tantarum in munere laudum,
Cingite fronde comas, et pocula porgite dextris,
Communemque vocate Deum, et date vina volentes.
The loaves were served in canisters; the wine
In bowls; the priests renewed the rites divine:
Broiled entrails are their food, and beef's continued chine
Ye warlike youths, your heads with garlands crown,
Fill high the goblets with a sparkling flood,
And with deep draughts invoke our common god.
Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord - This does not mean that they had no physical ability to do this, or that it was a natural impossibility; for they certainly had power to do it. But it must mean that they could not “consistently” do it. It was not fit, proper, decent. They were solemnly bound to serve and obey Christ, they had devoted themselves to him, and they could not, consistently with these obligations, join in the worship of demons. This is a striking instance in which the word “cannot” is used to denote not natural but moral inability.
And the cup of devils - Demons; 1 Corinthians 10:20. In the feasts in honor of the gods, wine was poured out as a libation, or drank by the worshippers; see Virgil, Aeneas viii. 273. The custom of drinking “toasts” at feasts and celebrations arose from this practice of pouring out wine, or drinking in honor of the pagan gods; and is a practice that still partakes of the nature of paganism. It was one of the abominations of paganism to suppose that their gods would be pleased with the intoxicating drink. Such a pouring out of a libation was usually accompanied with a prayer to the idol god, that he would accept the offering; that he would be propitious; and that he would grant the desire of the worshipper. From that custom the habit of expressing a sentiment, or proposing a toast, uttered in drinking wine, has been derived. The toast or sentiment which now usually accompanies the drinking of a glass in this manner, if it means anything, is now also a “prayer.” But to whom? To the god of wine? To a pagan deity? Can it be supposed that it is a prayer offered to the true God; the God of purity? Has Yahweh directed that prayer should be offered to Him in such a manner? Can it be acceptable to Him? Either the sentiment is unmeaning, or it is a prayer offered to a pagan god, or it is mockery of Yahweh; and in either case it is improper and wicked. And it may as truly be said now of Christians as in the time of Paul. “Ye cannot consistently drink the cup of the Lord at the communion table, and the cup where a prayer is offered to a false god, or to the dead, or to the air; or when, if it means anything, it is a mockery of Jehovah.” Now can a Christian with any more consistency or propriety join in such celebrations, and in such unmeaning or profane libations, than he could go into the temple of an idol, and partake of the idolatrous celebrations there?
And of the table of devils - Demons. It is not needful to the force of this that we should suppose that the word means necessarily evil spirits. They were not God; and to worship them was idolatry. The apostle means that Christians could not consistently join in the worship that was offered to them, or in the feasts celebrated in honor of them.
At Jerusalem the delegates from Antioch met the brethren of the various churches, who had gathered for a general meeting, and to them they related the success that had attended their ministry among the Gentiles. They then gave a clear outline of the confusion that had resulted because certain converted Pharisees had gone to Antioch declaring that, in order to be saved, the Gentile converts must be circumcised and keep the law of Moses. AA 191.1
This question was warmly discussed in the assembly. Intimately connected with the question of circumcision were several others demanding careful study. One was the problem as to what attitude should be taken toward the use of meats offered to idols. Many of the Gentile converts were living among ignorant and superstitious people who made frequent sacrifices and offerings to idols. The priests of this heathen worship carried on an extensive merchandise with the offerings brought to them, and the Jews feared that the Gentile converts would bring Christianity into disrepute by purchasing that which had been offered to idols, thereby sanctioning, in some measure, idolatrous customs. AA 191.2
Again, the Gentiles were accustomed to eat the flesh of animals that had been strangled, while the Jews had been divinely instructed that when beasts were killed for food, particular care was to be taken that the blood should flow from the body; otherwise the meat would not be regarded as wholesome. God had given these injunctions to the Jews for the purpose of preserving their health. The Jews regarded it as sinful to use blood as an article of diet. They held that the blood was the life, and that the shedding of blood was in consequence of sin. AA 191.3Read in context »