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Demons at the Lord’s Table?

Demons at the Lord’s Table? October 26, 2021

Demonology is never debated in the Early Church. They just know there are evil forces, and they are demons.

i. this Scripture has always been unsettling for me

So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10.12-13, NRSV

We can obviously “fall” from grace as Christians, lose the faith, backslide. Even in the best of times, we are vulnerable to temptation in this life. We are entering into a communion passage, so there is added emphasis here.

ii. this is partially for Christians who are wrestling with their faith

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 1 Cor 10.14-15

Sometimes we question if we can approach the Table and take Communion.

“You say, ‘I am unworthy to receive it.’ And what then? You are unworthy to receive any mercy from God. But is that a reason for refusing all mercy? God offers you a pardon for all your sins.” John Wesley [1]

We all face times when we wonder if we’re worthy of God’s grace. John Wesley argues, What part of grace are you unworthy of? Receive it all. Paul is talking about those who are caught up in idolatry, still able to turn to Christ and receive grace.

iii. these are beautiful verses about unity

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? 1 Cor 10.16-18

In this passage, Paul actually relates the bread to the Body of Christ. This is a passage I often read at communion, but then Paul makes a contrast.

iv. idolaters are bringing demons to the Lord’s Table?

What do I imply then? That food sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. 1 Cor 10.29-20

Unified Christians are at the Table and idol worshippers are trying to join them. The tone of the writing changes from Communion, to a bleak, dark tone. Are we making room for idols at the Lord’s Table, our lower case g- gods?

Paul says it’s demonic . . . Demonic?  Isn’t that a bit extreme? Does Paul really mean demonic?

Rev. Steven Martyn, Ph.D., Professor of Spiritual Formation at Asbury Theological Seminary, says:

Demonology is never debated in the Early Church. They just know there are evil forces, and they are demons.[2]

I would ask, What ever happened to that belief? Did we explain it away?

Martyn goes on to ask, “Why do we hate silence? Why do we?” It is well known in the Early Church that the desolate places are crowded by the enemy. In silence you hear what’s rattling around in the world and in your own heart.

I think this is a key question for our times now in silence and isolation. It’s in the quiet places, the isolated places, that we get cabin fever, don’t we? Cabin fever means we can’t be busy enough anymore to outrun ourselves.

In this season of time we are all facing ourselves a little more, facing our families, facing cabin fever.

Be honest, what is the silence and isolation doing for you?

Are you spending your time trying to outrun your family or yourself?

Are we afraid of the silence? What do we find there?

Sometimes we stumble into a season when we face our own demons. In a way, God leads us into the desert of silence if we allow Him. He always protects us and brings us through stronger than before.

Paul is not talking about that, he’s talking about something more sinister.

v. some people are more intentional about evil

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. Or are we provoking the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? 1 Cor 10.21-22

Paul says it’s demonic, so the LORD’s jealousy and anger might be aroused.

We haven’t read verses 1-12, but Paul is comparing New Testament idolatry to Old Testament idolatry. God leads the Israelites to the Promised Land, “Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness” (1 Cor 10.5).

Why did the Israelites die in the wilderness (see verses 6-11)? Paul says it happened because of idolatry, and let it be a warning to you!

vi. a word to those imprisoned in enchantment

What I’m about to share is based on the fact that these ancient religions of Canaan and Israel were nature religions, animism, with idols of nature.

Asherah-altar-Tel-Rehov-Exhibition
Oren Rozen | Asherah altar, Tel Rehov Exhibition | 03.09.16 | creative commons

They weren’t much different from some of our witchy religions today. So just in case you’re reading and you’re caught up in witchcraft, I have some questions for you. These have developed out of my personal Bible study and intercession time:

Who are you, O enchanter?
Black or White Witch or Wiccan?
Are you honestly conjuring something new?
Your craft is as old and as tired as the ages

Were not Baal and Asherah gods of nature?
Did they save the Canaanites from Joshua?

Did they save the fallen Jews from Assyria and Babylon?
Can you conjure up nature to stand against God?

No, creation will always point to the Creator

If some of God’s own people are not free from this sin
If they can turn aside to nature
If they can seek the voice of enchanters
And if God can punish His own people

Who are you?

Let me add this, because I’m really trying to connect with your soul:

If you were to face the end today, your last sunset, your last clear moon in the sky, who would you call on to receive your soul?

What enchantment can you utter to grant you any degree of peace?

What entity or spiritual guide do you trust to escort you to greener fields?

There is no one for you.
You are undone.

The demons that misled you in life, now wait to escort you to a place you do not want to believe exists.

Instead of uttering another spell, why not utter just one Name, The Name? That Name is our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God. In His Name alone is salvation.

vi. Christian perspective

Christian, do you think Paul is facing anything less? He’s probably facing more. Paul says the idolator can approach the Lord’s Table, if he surrenders his idols.

Paul says the Christian can approach the Lord’s Table in the real fear of the Lord. Do we teach and talk about the love of God so much that we forget a healthy fear the Lord?

Have we forgotten our testimony, the sin that Jesus Christ has delivered us from?


notes:

[1] John Wesley, “The Duty of Constant Communion,” in John Wesley’s Sermons: An Anthology, ed. Albert C. Outler and Richard Heitzenrater (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1991), 505.
[2] adapted from: Stephen L. Martyn, “Athanasius” (lecture, Readings in Christian Spirituality, Asbury Theological Seminary, January 20, 2015).

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