I Corinthians 10:1–13 Warnings For Us.
Key Notes: Israel's case-history applies to Corinthans. Key verse on temptation. Christ in Israel's wilderness experience. The modern church in the wilderness.
Paul has come to the last part of his discussion of what to do when we don’t know what to do. This part relates to decisions made by the strong Christian. Theoretically, the strong Christian can do whatever he or she wants. In chapter 9 Paul talked about his entitlements as an apostle and how that affected his spiritual freedom. In chapter 10 Paul relates a little of the history of Israel to the Corinthians. The Corinthians were in danger of making the same mistakes that Israel did. We can ask how that applies to us in the modern evangelical church.
10:1–5 “Our fathers” refers to the elders of the twelve tribes coming out of Egypt in the Exodus. Paul is speaking to a largely Gentile audience which seems quite well informed about Israel’s history. In his‘ months in Corinth, Paul must have spent a lot of time teaching them Old Testament.
Israel, coming out of bondage in Egypt, had a series of supernatural demonstrations of God’s presence and power. They had a great start in the spiritual life.
*They were all under the cloud of God’s protection.”Then the angel of the God who went before the host of Israel moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel.” (Ex.14:19–20).
*All passed through the Red Sea--dry-shod. Ex.14:21–25
*All were baptized into Moses in the cloud and the sea. They did not get wet! They had a saturating experience that was physical, spiritual, even political. They came out exuberant, with singing and dancing. Ex.15:1–21
*They all ate the same supernatural food—manna from Heaven. Ex.16
*They all drank from the supernatural rock. When Moses struck the rock at Horeb, water poured out to save the people from thirst. (Ex.17:6). This water was from Christ, their Rock.
Yet they did not please God and were not able to enter Canaan. God decreed that all aged 20 years and up would die in the wilderness over the next 40 years because they refused to believe that God could save them from the Canaanites. Num.14:29
10:6–13. What happened to them is a warning to us. (10:6,11) They desired evil.
*We are not to be idolaters. They fell into calf worship with Aaron’s connivance only three months after baptism into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. Moses had been gone too long on Mt. Sinai. Three thousand were killed for idol worship. Ex.32
*We must not get into immorality. They were seduced by the people of Moab, worshipped their gods, ate and had sex with them. 23,000–24,000 died of a plague. Num.25:1-
*We must not challenge the Lord, murmuring and complaining. Many of them died from viper bites (Num.21:5–6) until the Lord ordered Moses to set a bronze serpent on a pole. Thus who looked were healed.
*We must not grumble as they did. Koreh, Dathan and Abiram rebelled against Moses and died. 14,000 more died when the people joined in revolt against Moses and Aaron. Num.16
Paul says these happened to them for examples to us. We have the privilege of learning from other people’s successes and failures. We do not eat the white mushroom Amanita Phalloides because plenty of people have already tried that and died.
Paul lines up four illustrations from Israel that coincide with Corinth’s problems.
*Israel got into idolatry. “Shun the worship of idols.” (ICor.10:14)
*They were immoral. “Shun immorality.” ICor.6:18)
*They tested the Lord. “Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy?” (ICor.10:22)
*They distrusted Moses. “…it is a small thing that I should be judged by you….” (ICor.4:3)
Corinth had disagreements about who was the best leader (1:10), but judged Paul (4:3, 20–21) as unworthy to be their spiritual guide.
There were other examples of Israel challenging the Lord and grumbling at Moses; some were particularly dramatic because there were immediate judgments with loss of life. The Corinthians must beware of their cocksureness, their sense of security. They are at risk of falling. Immediately after this serious warning, Paul adds a comfort. Temptation is not unique. God is faithful. He does not allow temptation beyond our strength. He also makes a way to escape. The book of Hebrews is full of similar warnings and encouragement.
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength but with the temptation will also provide a way of escape so that you may be able to endure it”This key verse (ICor.10:13 has been of great help to Christians and may indeed have rescued many young people from moral wreck. We should keep it as a life-verse, and a prayer.
They drank from that rock that followed them and that rock was Christ. This is a strange expression, suggesting a moveable rock. It is a metaphor. [A concordance will enable you to find four ways in which Christ is like a rock.] Other metaphors for God in the OT are a shield, a shepherd, a lion, etc.
Moses refers to Israel’s Rock as God in Deut. 32:
"The Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are justice.” (Deut.32:4)
“…he (Israel) forsook God who made him, and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation.” (Deut.32:15)
“You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.” (Deut.32:18)
“How should one chase a thousand and two put ten thousand to flight unless their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had given them up?” (Deut.32:30)
Paul says "that Rock was Christ", God’s visible presence in the Old Testament, providing Israel with spiritual as well as physical refreshment. We also understand Christ as “TheAngel of God” who was seen in the pillar of cloud and fire (Ex14:19–25) as well as at numerous other places. To out amazement, “The Lord used to speak to Moses face for face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Ex.33:11)
The basic guide to this concept (Christ their Rock) is that Christ pre-incarnate is God visible in the Old Testament, as the Angel of the Lord, or sometimes as man, but always recognized as God. The key verse is “No one has seen God at any time; the only-begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known.” (Jn.1:18)
We believe the pre-incarnate Christ was overseeing Moses and providing spiritual water and bread for the people. He was with them throughout their wilderness journey, nourishing and disciplining. [Most of this information has been hidden from our eyes. Doubtless there is more.]
Like the Corinthians, we have experienced baptism, Christ’s leadership and communion and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Do modern Christian people sin? The question is whether the Evangelical Church as such is succumbing to the kinds of sin Paul found in the Corinthians. We hope not. We find the first two sins, idolatry and sexual immorality to be serious, whereas testing the Lord and grumbling against leadership would be considered minor offenses to many. Some of us think that disappointment with God is not uncommon, and grumbling against leadership as healthy, even democratic.
We point the finger of shame at mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics, for succumbing to homosexuality, even child molestation. Some evangelical leaders who have been guilty of conspicuous adultery, but would Paul point to our run-away divorce rate as sexual sin? What would Paul say of evangelical leaders who say that he got some of his theology wrong, particularly on feminism? Are we provoking the Lord to jealousy by our church worship turned into a night-club setting? What if the church choir dresses in green and gold for the Green Bay Packers Super-bowl Sunday? If parents have the option of Sunday soccer or Sunday School for their kids, which do they chose? If most people are in church on only one out of three Sundays, what do they value? If 80% of the worshipers put nothing in the offering, what shall we say of our worship?
We are much better taught than the Corinthians. They had eighteen months of Gospel preaching and teaching. We have access to the Gospel since infancy and two millennia of Christian history and thought behind us. But are we better off? A recent US News and World Report was happy to congratulate evangelicals as being just like the rest of Americans. Unfortunately, Barna’s polls largely confirm this impression.
Las Vegas, anyone?
The Church cries out for revival, Dear Lord.