Fellowship with Demons

I Corinthians 10

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
May 2024

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 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? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.

18 Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? 19 Do I mean then that food sacrificed 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. 22 Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he? (I Corinthians 10:14-22 NIV)

Today, we come to an important topic.  It deals with the topic of demons.  Some may feel a little uncomfortable with this topic, but it is a biblical topic.  The world rejects the notion of demons.  They would say that is superstition.

Paul assumes that demons are real.  He believed in them and so did Jesus.  He cast some out.  We are not only going to look at the topic of demons but demons and Christians.

Paul does not say here that a Christian can be possessed by a demon, but he does say that a Christian can fellowship with demons.

Paul talks about having “fellowship with demons” (I Corinthians 10:20 NKJV)?  He talks about having “communion with demons” (I Corinthians 10:20 ASV)?

Many preachers have entitled this passage “Dining with Demons.”  How would you like to have some demons for dinner?  How does that happen?  We will see.

There are two extremes on demons in the church today.  Both extremes are dangerous.  Both extremes are unbiblical.

Two Extremes on Demons

1. An underemphasis on the demonic

On the other extreme are some who de-emphasize demons.  They talk as if they are not real, just forces in society.

Some Christians do not seem to take demons seriously.  You rarely hear anything about demons in some churches.  You hear some things about angels.  You do not hear too much about demons.

They talk as if this is something that only happens in some dark land where the name of Jesus is not known but not in a civilized society.  The truth is that evil is real.  Diabolical evil is real.  Demonic possession is real.

2. An overemphasis on the demonic

On the other extreme is an obsession with demons and demon possession.  They see a demon behind every tree.

Every sin is caused by a demon.  Some have a demon of lust or a demon of unforgiveness.  Some have a demon of laziness.  Some have a cigarette demon.

Every Christian has a demon that needs to be cast out.  They make exorcism a part of every church service.  Some of these charismatic house churches are too scary to even have children present.

It is interesting to me that the most carnal church in the NT is the church of Corinth.  They had all kinds of problems.  People were getting drunk in church.  They were visiting prostitutes.  They were visiting pagan temples.

They had all kinds of problems.  Paul dealt with their sin.  He addressed it but not once did he say that the solution was to have demons cast out of the Christians in the church and this was the worst church in the NT.

Before we look at I Corinthians 10, we want to see what Paul says about demons in another book.

Doctrines of Demons

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (I Timothy 4:1 NKJV)

An inspired apostle gives a prophetic word to Christians.  He predicted in the future that three things would happen (so Guzik).  He says that this is clear.  The Spirit says it expressly.  There is no doubt about it.

Prediction One– Apostasy

Paul says, “In latter times some will DEPART from the faith.”  He does not just say that in latter times some will depart from the church.  He says some will depart from the faith.

They will not just leave the Baptist Church. They will leave Christ. They will leave Christianity.  It happens today. Sometimes, even leaders commit apostasy.  Some pastors and worship leaders become complete atheists.

Prediction Two – Deception

This is a prediction not just of deception but of demonic deception (“giving heed to DECEIVING spirits”).  Demons love to deceive people. C. S. Lewis gives different ways that demons deceive people in his Screwtape Letters.

Satan is a master deceiver.  He is described in Scripture as “the one who deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9 NIV).  He deceives people into believing all kinds of things that are not true.

He deceived Adam and Eve in the garden and is still in the business of deceiving people today. People today are just as gullible as Adam and Eve were.

Prediction Three – False Teaching

Paul talked about “doctrines of demons.”  What are they? They are NOT doctrines about demons.  They are NOT doctrines taught by demons.  Actual demons do not stand up in the pulpit and teach people.

Doctrines of demons are doctrines that come from demons. Some teaching comes from demons.  Its origin is not human but demonic.  These are demonically inspired teachings.

Some ideas are not just false; they are demonic.  They actually come from demons.  How do you know if a teaching is demonic?  How do you know if some teaching happens to be a doctrine of demons?

Doctrines of demons are teachings that boldly and emphatically deny divine commands.  They contradict divine revelation.  They reject divine institutions.

They directly contradict what God explicitly says. This has been going on since Genesis 3.  They call good “evil.”  They call evil “good.”  They reject not just human institutions.

They reject divine institutions going back to creation.  They reject what God says about marriage.  They reject what He says about sexuality and gender.  They reject what He says about the family.

They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth (I Timothy 4:3 NIV)

Flee Idolatry

The last two weeks, we have seen that the main theme of this chapter is idolatry.  Do you have any idols in your life?

Both the Apostles Paul and John warned Christians against committing idolatry.  That seems like something that you would tell the unsaved not to do.  They told Christians not to do it.

The Apostle John says, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). The Apostle Paul uses a little stronger language than the Apostle John.

John says, “Reject idolatry; abstain from idolatry; keep yourself from idolatry.”  Paul says, “Run from idolatry.  Flee from it.”

Paul told the Corinthians to FLEE sexual immorality (I Corinthians 6:18).  He told them to FLEE idolatry (I Corinthians 10:14).

Don’t try to get as close to it as you can.  That is what many people try to do.  Paul says, “Get as far away as possible. Don’t have anything to do with it.”

The Danger of Idolatry

In America, idolatry is not even a sin.  It is a constitutional right.  We have religious freedom.  We give people the freedom to worship whatever they want in whatever way they want.

There are several things you should know about idolatry.  You will see that idolatry is not only a sin; it is one of the worst possible sins you can commit.  Idolatry is the ultimate sin.  It is the greatest sin.

1) Idolatry is number one on God’s top ten list

God has a top ten list of sins.  They are called the Ten Commandments.  Idolatry was number one on the list.  The very First Commandment said, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3 KJV).

God put it first. He made it number one on the list.  He even put this one above adultery.  He put it above murder.  He put it above stealing.

2) Idolatry actually makes God jealous

When God’s people worship other gods, it makes God jealous.  Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14 NIV).

No other sin does this.  Only idolatry makes God jealous.  We see this in I Corinthians 10.

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. 22 Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he? (I Corinthians 10:21-22 NIV)

3) Idolatry is something that God hates

It is something that God hates.  It is something that He loathes. He calls it an abomination.  That term is used for the worst possible sins.

You shall burn the carved images of their gods with fire; you shall not covet the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, lest you be snared by it; for it is an ABOMINATION TO THE LORD YOUR GOD. (Deuteronomy 7:25 NKJV)

Cursed is the one who makes a carved or molded image, AN ABOMINATION TO THE LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ “And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen!’ (Deuteronomy 27:15 NKJV)

4) Idolatry excludes people from heaven

Paul said that it excludes people from heaven.  He said that idolaters are excluded from the kingdom of God.

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral NOR IDOLATERS nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (I Corinthians 6:9-10).

Definition of Idolatry

So far, we have seen that idolatry is serious.  God hates it.  We are to flee from it but what exactly is idolatry?  What constitutes idolatry?

Most people think of idolatry as physical.  We think it means just worshiping sticks and stones.  We do not have much danger in doing that. We don’t worship a golden calf today.

The truth is that idols come in many different forms. There are many different kinds of idols.  Modern idols can look a little different than ancient idols.

Idols are not just physical idols.  The OT speaks of men who have set up idols in their heart (Ezekiel 14:3 NIV).  Idols can be mental, as well as physical.

Idolatry is anything that you put first in your life.  It is anything or anyone that you place at the center of your life.  It is anything that is more important to you than God.  It is anything that you love more than God.

American Idolatry

There are many examples of American idolatry.  What are some idols we worship today?  There are so many examples we could give.  Here are four examples.  This may get uncomfortable for some.

1) Money

Some make a god out of money.  Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24 NIV)

Americans worship money.  It is part of the American Dream.  We call it “the Almighty Dollar.”  One sign that you worship money is that you are stingy.  You never want to help anyone in need.

Your entire life is centered around getting rich.  That is what you boast about.  Paul called greed idolatry in two of his epistles (Colossians 3:5; Ephesians 5:5).  He also said that the greedy will NOT enter the kingdom (I Corinthians 6:10)

2) Pleasure

Some make a god out of pleasure.  The Bible speaks of some who are “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (II Timothy 3:4 NIV).  They are guilty of sexual idolatry.

What are some signs of sexual idolatry?  You become obsessed with sex.  You become addicted to pornography.  You can’t stay faithful to one person.  You constantly have affairs with other people.

Now there is nothing wrong with pleasure.  God created it.  He created it for us to enjoy.  Paul said this (I Timothy 6:17) but some put it first and make it a god.  They worship pleasure rather than the God who created pleasure.

3) Family

Is it possible to make your family an idol, put it first and worship your family?  Some Christian families do this.  They put family first.

Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37 NIV).

Some idolize their husband or wife.  Some idolize their kids.  They become the center of their lives. They put them first.  Some idolize marriage.

We are supposed to love our parents, our siblings, our husband or wife but we shouldn’t love them more than we love God. We should not put them first in our life.

4) Addictions

Many are addicted to drugs and alcohol.  If you have an addiction to something, it rules your life. It controls your life.  You serve the addiction and do whatever it says.  It becomes a god.  It is a form of idolatry.

Some are addicted to their cell phones.  They take them everywhere.  They can’t ever be without them.

According to Apple, the average iPhone user unlocks his or her device eighty times a day.  That turns out to be six to seven times an hour, or roughly once every 10 minutes.  Are you addicted to your cell phone?

Demonic Influence

There are four lessons about idolatry that every Christian should know from this chapter.

1) Idolatry is demonically inspired

Idolatry is not innocent.  It is not harmless.  It is satanic.  It is not only sinful; it is not only false; it is demonic.

Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything?  No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered TO DEMONS, not to God (I Corinthians 10:19-20 NIV)

Pagan gods don’t exist, but demons do.  There are demons behind every idol.  There are demons behind every false religion.

There is a spiritual force behind these religions.  It is a demonic force.  There is something there.  That is why so many people follow them blindly.

These demons must be pretty active, because there are a lot of false religions.  There are four thousand religions in the world today.

There are two thousand gods worshiped in Hinduism alone and there is a demon behind each one.

Paul says that when the pagans offer sacrifices to their gods, they are actually offering them to demons.

We saw from I Timothy that demons are not only behind false worship, they are also behind false teaching.

2) Idolaters fellowship with demons

The first thing Paul said was that there is a demon behind every idol.  The second thing he says is that when you sacrifice to an idol, you are actually fellowshipping with a demon.

16 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? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. 18 Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? 19 Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything?  (I Corinthians 10:16-19 NIV)

Paul gives three examples.  Each involves a meal.  Each involves a religious meal. Eating involves fellowship.  The word for “participation” in Greek is the same word for fellowship (κοινωνία).

He gives the example of eating communion bread and drinking communion wine (I Corinthians 10:16-17).  He gives the example of eating the meat of an OT sacrifice (I Corinthians 10:18) and he gives the example of eating idol meat in sacrifice to a pagan god (I Corinthians 10:19).

Paul says when you do that you are fellowshipping with a demon, even if you are not aware of it.  Are we fellowshipping with a demon? That raises a really interesting question.

If idolatry opens you up to demonic activity, can other sins do that as well?  Can other sins open the door to demonic activity?

Most believe that involvement in the occult and witchcraft can open you up to demons.  Pornography and sexual sin can open the door to demonic activity.  Some demons are called “unclean spirits.”  Other sins may as well.

3) Christians can commit sin

Genuine believers can fall into any sin.  They can commit sexual sin.  They can commit idolatry.  King David committed murder.  Believers sin.

That is clear in the OT.  It is clear in the NT.  Apparently, the Corinthians were eating meat offered to idols in pagan temples and that is why Paul wrote this.

Paul says, “I do not want YOU to be participants with demons” (I Corinthians 10:22 NIV).  Paul was writing to Christians.  He was writing to saints.  This was a real possibility.

Christians can sin just like God’s people sinned in the OT.  They committed idolatry and believers today can fall into that sin.  That is the whole point of the chapter, and it leads to Paul’s final point.

4) A choice must be made

You say, “want to worship both.  I want to worship Jesus and some other gods.”  Paul says that you can’t.  It is impossible.

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 (I Corinthians 10:21 NIV).

You can’t have fellowship with Christ and demons at the same time.  You can’t have both at the same time.  These two tables are mutually exclusive.

We are all invited to a table.  Two tables and two cups are set before humanity. Everyone eats from one table or the other.  Everyone drinks from one cup or the other.  A choice has to be made.

You have to decide which cup you are going to drink.  Are you dining with the Lord or with devils?

What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 17 Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” (II Corinthians 6:14 NIV)


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