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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 10:21 The cup of demons

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, March 20, 2023

21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

“Cup” and “table” in this verse mean the meal itself. We who receive it are fed with the Lord’s body and blood along with the bread and the wine, for our forgiveness. We can say, and we should say, that we therefore receive five things in the sacrament:

  1. The bread (Matthew 26:26)
  2. With it, the body of Christ (Matthew 26:26)
  3. The wine (Matthew 26:27)
  4. With it, the blood of Christ (Matthew 26:28)
  5. With these things, the forgiveness of our sins (Matthew 26:28)

In order to receive these things, we are invited as guests to the Lord’s table. But we must remember that it is his table. He, God himself, is the host of this meal. In verse 16, Paul asked: “The cup of blessing that we bless: is it not a joint partaking of the blood of Christ? The bread that we break: Is it not a joint partaking of the body of Christ?” Now, how can anyone who partakes in the very body and blood of Christ at the altar of God partake in the cup of demons? The answer is clearly that this is impossible. But what is meant by “the cup of demons” and “the table of demons”?

1, Is the cup of demons the cup which demons give and pass to the living human beings that they tempt and torment? (That is, is it a punishment to them from demons?)

2, Is the cup of demons a special or particular cup used in ceremonies dedicated to demons, or to the devil himself? (That is, is it an offering to demons?)

3, Is the table of demons a certain rite held behind closed doors by worshipers of the devil and his demons? (That is, is it a mockery of what Christians receive from God?)

Paul doesn’t really mean any of these things in particular. He is simply drawing a comparison between the worship of idols (which he has already associated with demons) and the worship of the true God. One cannot do one and then do the other while retaining one’s faith in Christ. In fact, no one could truly do the reverse: a worshiper of demons could not in turn come to the Lord’s table and knowingly receive the Lord’s body and blood in faith, seeking forgiveness, without a complete change of heart and a genuine desire to repent and change their life and actions.

Before we turn from this verse to the next, we remember that some have taken this verse to argue that, since an offering to an idol would be a sacrifice, then the Lord’s Supper could be called a sacrifice (as the modern Roman Catholic church calls it, although the ancient church did not). But Paul isn’t saying this, as we observed above. He is only saying that the Lord’s table joins in fellowship with Christ, and the demon’s table, whatever that might be, would join in fellowship with demons. From a demon one would receive nothing but separation from God, a mockery of all God’s blessings, removal from the forgiveness of sins, a restoration of all the recipient’s sins on his own head, and finally eternal damnation.

The Lord offers himself and forgiveness from his own atoning sacrifice. This seems like a choice between heaven and hell, but the context is not of an outsider (for no outsider can partake of the table of the Lord) but of a Christian. Therefore Paul proves that there is no decision for a Christian to make about his own salvation. Either Christ saved him by dying on the cross, or else he rejects Christ and dies in his own sins. We are not saved by our choices, but by Christ. And we receive his gift through the sacraments by the grace of God, for our eternal good.

The refrain remains dear to us all by itself:

Lord, may your body and your blood
Be for my soul the highest good!

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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