‘What the Nations Sacrifice, They Sacrifice to Demons’
WRITING to Christians living in the notorious city of Corinth, the apostle Paul gave this warning: “The things which the nations sacrifice they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers with the demons.” (1 Cor. 10:20) How can 20th-century Christians benefit from this warning? Could we actually become “sharers with the demons” although not offering animal sacrifices? What is the principle behind the apostle’s words?
SACRIFICES OF THE PAST
In ancient times, many people presented sacrifices and offerings to their gods. Doing this was an act of devotion, even love, on their part. By means of his sacrifice, the offerer wanted to please or appease the divinity he worshiped.
As an unrepentant sinner, the first man, Adam, never offered God a sacrifice. The first sacrifices mentioned in the Bible were those of Adam’s sons Abel and Cain. Cain’s offering consisted of “some fruits of the ground,” whereas Abel sacrificed “some firstlings of his flock.” “While Jehovah was looking with favor upon Abel and his offering,” we are told, “he did not look with any favor upon Cain and upon his offering.”—Gen. 4:3-5.
Jehovah, who can read the heart, rejected Cain’s offering as formalistic, without any underlying faith. His offering might tend to exalt the individual presenting it, rather than showing love for the Divine Being. It was obvious to Jehovah that Cain was not seeking to draw closer to his Maker in a proper intimate relationship. Abel’s intentions, however, were quite the opposite.
Paul, in writing to Hebrew Christians, pointed out that Abel’s sacrifice was prompted by faith. Likely, Abel had learned and had kept in mind what Jehovah had said to the serpent while our first parents were still in the garden of Eden: “I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.” (Gen. 3:15) No doubt, Abel analyzed those words and fully believed that someone would have to shed his blood, or be ‘bruised in the heel,’ so that mankind might be uplifted again to the state of perfection that Adam and Eve enjoyed before their rebellion.
Later, nations that did not worship Jehovah could have heard of ‘a promised seed.’ In classic Greek writings, one reads about the virtue of a deity’s blood that could be shed for the redemption of mankind. Also, who has not heard of the mythical hero Achilles, with the immortal body but, alas, the vulnerable heel? So, in time, both the true and the false worshipers were offering sacrifices, the former to God and the latter to supposed deities.
Immediately after coming out of the ark in the year 2369 B.C.E., Noah expressed heartfelt gratitude for deliverance. He did so by building an altar and offering sacrifices on it to Jehovah. (Gen. 8:20, 21) Thereafter, sacrifices were a means by which a person showed his relationship with and dependence on God. In time, it became customary for the male family head to act as a priest.—Gen. 31:54; Job 1:5.
Eventually, sacrifices of clean animals became a vital part of Jehovah’s worship as practiced by the Israelites. These sacrifices typified the sacrifice of Jesus’ life to save all obedient mankind. As Adam, the forefather of the human race, passed imperfection and death on to his offspring, so “the last Adam,” Jesus Christ, ultimately would give his perfect life as a ransom for all kinds of people.—Matt. 20:28; Rom. 5:12; 6:23; 1 Cor. 15:22, 45.
Among the many types of sacrifices or offerings presented under the law given to the Israelites through Moses were the communion, or peace, offerings. In this type of offering, Jehovah received the pleasing smoke of the burning fat and the officiating priest received a choice portion of the animal, as did other priests on duty. The worshiper and his household partook of the sacrificial victim in the courtyard of the temple where dining rooms were provided. It was, indeed, a communion sacrifice. Jehovah considered this communion or relationship with the offerer a very serious matter, even to the point of punishing by death the one who partook when in a state of uncleanness according to the requirements of the Law.—Lev. 7:20, 21; 19:5-8.
From what the apostle Paul says, it seems evident that pagan priests partook of sacrificial animals. So did the individuals presenting these sacrifices to false gods. But the apostle warned fellow believers: “The things which the nations sacrifice they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers with the demons. You cannot be drinking the cup of Jehovah and the cup of demons; you cannot be partaking of ‘the table of Jehovah’ [this act signifying peace with God as partakers of the Lord’s Evening Meal] and the table of demons. Or ‘are we inciting Jehovah to jealousy’? We are not stronger than he is, are we?”—1 Cor. 10:18-22.
When the Mosaic law was in operation, a person could distinguish between true and false worship. He could reason with soundness that if the sacrifice was not offered at Jerusalem’s temple by one of the Aaronic priests, automatically such a sacrifice was unacceptable to God. (Deut. 12:5-7; 26:2, 3) Today, however, animal sacrifices are not offered in Jerusalem or elsewhere by an Aaronic priesthood. Such sacrifices have been fulfilled and taken out of the way by Jesus’ sacrifice. (Col. 2:13, 14; Heb. 7:12) Hence, how can we exercise care today so as to avoid being partakers with the demons?
EXERCISE CARE TODAY
Sacrifices denote devotion to a superior power or deity. So, today they have to do with our conduct, our behavior, our way of thinking and acting. Paul indicated that “the god of this system of things” is none other than Satan the Devil, the chief demon. (2 Cor. 4:4) Logically, therefore, Christians cannot be a part of this system over which he rules. Otherwise, we would be sharing with him, would be used by him. (Jas. 4:4) Many things done by people of this system are contrary to Jehovah’s will and ways, and involvement in these practices would mean sharing with the demons in wrongdoing. Think of the many aspects and features of false religion, nationalism, materialism, worship of popular idols, and so forth.
True Christians are “no part of the world.” (John 15:19) They live in this system of things, but do not belong to it. They have come out of its false religious empire. (Rev. 18:4) This system’s religion, politics, ambitions, materialistic aspirations, hopes and the like once were part of our own lives. In the past, some of us fought for this system, tried to reform it, strove to perpetuate it. But now we see the futility of our former sincere efforts. When we were supporting this system of things, which stands in opposition to Jehovah’s will and ways, we were dead in God’s sight. But Jehovah extended mercy to us. He showed us the way out. Yes, he made Christ’s anointed followers alive spiritually. Paul describes this at Ephesians 2:1-6.
Let us remember that ancient Israel was a nation differing from all other nations. It had Jehovah as its God, a unique place of worship, a priesthood and a law. That law not only showed God’s people how to be clean morally and spiritually, but also commanded them to avoid alliances with the other nations and involvement in their practices.—Deut. 18:9-13.
Jehovah’s servants of today also are different from the nations of this world. These Christians have Jehovah as their God, as well as their own form of worship based on his Word. They accept the Bible as God’s book and follow its commandments. One of the Bible’s commands is: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:15-17.
Only when we comprehend what it means to be no part of this world can we understand Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “No; but I say that the things which the nations sacrifice they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers with the demons.” (1 Cor. 10:20) Blessed are those who today keep a clean position before Jehovah and his Son and do not become “sharers with the demons.”