The Danger of Falling Away.
Paul clearly warns his readers about the dangers of falling away from Christ. The Old Testament was written for our learning and instruction, and since the consummation of God's purpose in Christ is now at hand, we must take heed to the warnings God gives us through His Word; these dangers are both real and serious.
1,2. For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
God brought the children of Israel out of God, redeeming them from slavery that they might be His own special people. He first of all gave them the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night as their means of receiving the Divine guidance, which proceeded to lead them through the wilderness to the Red Sea. In the face of imminent danger danger from the armies of Pharaoh who pursued them, the people were willing to be led by Moses through the sea, which was a picture of baptism, as Godspeed says "all accepted baptism as followers of Moses." Moses should be considered the forerunner of Jesus Christ. By participating in the events of the Exodus the people willingly accepted Moses' leadership, and were united to him, just as believers in Christ are united with Him by baptism into His death (Rom 6:3).
3,4. and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they were all drinking from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.
In these opening verses Paul refers to "all" the children of Israel five times. They all ate the food and drank the water which had been supernaturally provided by God. Nor was this a one off, for God provided for the people throughout their wilderness journey. The manna and water out of the rock were both pictures of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom Paul sees as the source of all Israel's blessings; for Christ is the bread which came down from Heaven, and the source of living water (John 6:53-55 ; John 6:63 ; John 4:10). As Israel received physical food and water (albeit in a supernatural way) from Christ, so we receive our spiritual life from Christ, by faith in His death and resurrection. By calling Christ "the Rock", Paul equates Christ with God (Deut. 32:15; Psa. 18:2) and asserts the coequal status of the eternal Son within the Godhead. By his assertion that Christ accompanied Israel through the wilderness, he further argues the pre-incarnate existence of Christ. As Morris states: "note the implications for Christology both of this transfer and the clear implication of the pre existence of Christ."
5. But God was not pleased with most of them, for they were cut down in the wilderness.
Yet in spite of all their blessings and privileges, the majority of the people failed to enter the promised land. Only two men out of a whole generation of Israelites aged 20 or over entered; and they were Joshua and Caleb. Paul depicts the corpses of the others being spread out over the whole desert because "God was not pleased with them." Their deaths are not attributed to natural or accidental causes, but were the direct result of God's judgment.
Israel's history makes clear that it is possible for those who have experienced great spiritual blessing to turn away from God, to such an extent that they fail to apprehend the blessing to which they were called by God. Just as Morris observes "enjoyment of high privilege does not guarantee entry into final blessing."
6. These things happened as examples for us, so that we will not crave evil things as they did.
The lessons of the past are still relevant today. As Christians we have been called out by God from slavery to sin. He has brought us out of darkness into his marvelous light and chosen us to be his own special possession (1 Pet. 2:9). Paul wanted His converts' confidence to be in God, rather than in the privileges and blessings which they had received. He did not want them to become complacent, for our faith in God is not meant merely to produce initial blessing but in an ongoing relationship. Paul lists of number of incidents from the forty years of Israel's wilderness wanderings, in order to teach us what behavior is acceptable to God.
7. So do not be idolaters, as some of them were. As it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play."
Paul has already raised the subject of idolatry in this epistle, for it was rife in first century Corinth. In the incident he cites, Moses had been absent for some time, receiving the law on the mount of God, when Israel, being left to themselves, made a golden calf to worship. The words "they sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play (to dance and carouse)" are a quote from Ex. 32:6; and reveal that this was a typical idol festival, ending in debauchery and sexual sin. In the drink or drug fueled parties of today, the idols themselves may be absent; but the demons influencing and controlling the passions of men and women are still present.
8. And let us not be immoral, as some of them were, and twenty-three thousand died in a single day.
Their idolatry brought with it an epidemic of sexual immorality; the two are often linked. In Numbers 25, we read of the men of Israel engaging in immoral sex with the women of Moab, an incident linked to pagan idolatry. Judgment came in the form of a plague which killed twenty four thousand people (Num. 25:5). Since Paul mentions 23,000, the two are obviously rounded numbers.Modern Western society not only fails to condemn sexually immoral behavior, it positively encourages it. If men do not take such matters seriously today, God still does. If Israel, with all its privileges, did not escape the judgment of God for their sin then neither can we. The danger is that sin can lead us irreparably and eternally away from God; causing us to forsake Christ and go back into the world, which is at enmity with God (Rev. 22:15).
9. And let us not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by snakes.
We are not to tempt God. The word means to "see how far you can go". How far can you push God? God is holy and He must and will punish sin. To tempt God is to deliberately rebel against His revealed will, thinking that we can get away with it. We tempt God by questioning His goodness. The temptation referred to in the above verse is when the people complained to God about the lack of food, even though He had daily provided manna for them. He had done so much for them, yet they still found fault with Him. This was going too far; and as a result of their provoking God, many of them died of the bite of poisonous snakes (Num. 21:5).
10. And do not complain, as some of them did, and were killed by the destroying angel.
The scripture warns us not to murmur (to mutter against) which denotes the brewing of insurrection or rebellion. In Num. 14 we see examples of such murmuring; and on each occasion, there was an appropriate punishment. The group following Korah were overthrown by God when they rose up against Moses, whom God had entrusted with the task of leading His people. By so doing they were rebelling against God and brought death on themselves and their families. There earth opened and they went down alive into the earth, which them covered their bodies. Indeed, were it not for the intercession of Moses, the whole country would have been put to death in a moment. There is a lesson for believers today, for those in office within Christ's Church are not put there by men, but are called by God (Heb. 5:4 ; Acts 20:28).But there is a greater lesson. Moses was a type of Christ, and those who rebelled against him serve as figures of those who rebel against Christ and suffer eternal retribution. When the word murmur is used today we think of it in terms of our grumbling and complaints: The sermon is too long or short; the building is too hot or cold; the music is too ancient or too modern, the toilet is painted the wrong color. As a Pastor, I've heard all these and many more.They may sound like unimportant points, but grumbling is a symptom which reveals a spiritual malady - it is the beginning of a spirit of rebellion against Christ. Dissatisfaction in Christ's Church is the result dissatisfaction with Christ Himself; which is indeed a dangerous sickness, remedied only by our own repentance and God's restoration of our souls.
Persevering in Christ.
11. These things happened to them as examples and were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come.
Let us take heed to the warnings of Scripture, for they were written for our learning and instruction as believers in Christ.
12. So let the one who thinks he is standing be careful that he does not fall.
As Christians we should never become arrogant, thinking that we can never fall. Paul wants the young believers to have assurance of salvation, but he does not want them to be complacent. It is Christ who has saved us and Christ must help us; whereas complacency is self confidence, not confidence in God. Let us maintain a spirit of watchfulness, keeping our eyes on Jesus, lest at any time we fall away. Our cooperation with Christ is essential as we travel on the upward way. As He upholds and keeps, we are to diligently press on. The scripture gives many exhortations for us to diligently persevere in Christ (e.g. Heb. 6:11-12 ; Heb. 12:1 ; Job 17:9 ; John 15:9 ; Rom. 2:7).
13. No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.
There are no unusual temptations for believers to face. What we face today has been faced by the generations of believers before us, and by those who live in the world around us. Just as others have triumphed by God's grace, so shall we, for Christ our captain has overcome and is able to give us the grace to overcome with Him. For the believer, God's grace is available that we might conquer sin; and should we fail, there is still grace to cleanse from our sin, so that we might continue to live for righteousness. It is said of the Welsh king Caradog that he met the Roman legion in the valley only to be defeated and driven into the mountains, where much of his army was destroyed. Yet, if there had been a mountain pass, the armies of the the Welsh could have escaped destruction at the hands of he Roman legion. God promises always to supply His Christian soldiers with such a means of escape. There is only one way to escape temptation. Jesus Christ is our means of escape. Only through Him can we stand; for He is our armor - the whole armour of God (Eph. 6:13).
a) In Our Commitment to Christ.
14,15. So then, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I am speaking to thoughtful people. Consider what I say.
Returning to his earlier subject, Paul warns us to flee from idolatry. It is not something to be meddled with. We cannot go near it thinking that we are safe from going any further. Morris says "the only safe course is to have nothing to do with it"; there is to be no compromise. "Believers must not think of how near they can go but of how far they can fly." (Robertson & Plummer).In these verses Paul exposes the true nature of idolatry. Those with spiritual discernment will be able to affirm what he says.
16. Is not the cup of blessing that we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread that we break a sharing in the body of Christ?
When Paul refers to the cup of blessing, he is thinking of the communion service. The phrase refers not to God's blessing which we receive as we take the cup, but to our blessing or thanksgiving to God. Through the simple act of taking bread and wine we remember all that God has done for us in Christ, and give thanks for it. Those believers who take communion as partaking of the blood of Christ. The bread and the wine are just emblems to remind us of the broken body and shed blood of Christ. But as we partake of them, we are enjoying fellowship with the living Christ whose broken body and shed blood they represent. His death has brought us into communion or fellowship with God. So every time we take communion we are reaffirming our allegiance to Christ who has done so much for us.
17. Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all share the one bread.
Christ's death, symbolically remembered in the communion, has not only brought us into fellowship with God, but into fellowship with each other. All who share in Christ are part of His body; and our taking of the sacrament reveals our true spiritual unity. Christ and his people are inseparably joined (Eph. 5:30-32); so that His people also are inseparably joined to each other. We are one, for we all partake of the one true and living bread - Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:5). Stephen Olford says "all believers have been forever incorporated into the very life of Jesus."
18. Look at the people of Israel. Are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar?
In the Old Testament, those who took part in the sacrifices were taking part in the worship of God and all that it represented. When we take communion, we are participating in an act of worship to God. Since those who ate the sacrifices (the priests) were eating what was holy, they themselves were to be holy (Lev. 6:29; Lev. 22:6).
19. Am I saying that idols or food sacrificed to them amount to anything?
In the same way, to take part in an idol's feast is to participate in more than the eating of food - it is the worship of an idol. But someone may ask, can an idol really be worshipped? It is only wood, metal, or stone. Surely Paul does not mean that the idol is real? No, Paul is not suggesting that an idol is real or that it is worthy of the adulation accorded it; but rather that the idol is false and the food offered to it is the rightful property of the Creator God.
20. No, I mean that what the pagans sacrifice is to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons.
Paul insists that by taking part in idol worship (an act which involves making a sacrifice and then eating the meat), the worshippers are having fellowship with the demonic personality to whom the offering was made. The hosts of darkness blind men and lead them to worship false gods. Thus the false God's represent the demons themselves. As Morris says "when men sacrifice to idols, it cannot be said that they are engaging in some neutral activity. They are in fact sacrificing to evil spirits" (Deut. 32:17). To take part in such an idol feast is to have fellowship with darkness and to take part in the worship of the powers of darkness themselves- the demons. It is possible for Christians, being influenced by their association with those who are in contact with the powers of darkness, to compromise their commitment to Christ. I know a Christian lady who mistakenly thought that she was helping to win Hindus to Christ by participating in their celebration of Divali, an idol feast. She was wrong. There can be no compromise for the Christian with the powers of darkness. As Paul says "I do not want you to have fellowship with demons".
21,22. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot take part in the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or are we trying to provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we really stronger than he is?
If a man's wife wanted to be joined a man other than her husband, then he would have every right to be jealous and angry. In the same way the Lord will not share his people with another (Ex. 20:4-5).Christ will not allow us to eat at His table and have fellowship with Him, and then go and have fellowship with demons. If we do, the Lord who is stronger than any of us, will take matters into his own hands. We may not have fellowship with Christ the light, and walk in darkness. The warnings Paul gave at the beginning of the chapter illustrate how the Lord brought judgment on the people of Israel for their idolatry. His attitude to idolatry has not changed (Rev. 2:14; 3:20-22).
b) In our Testimony to the Truth.
23. "Everything is lawful," but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is lawful," but not everything builds others up.
Returning to his earlier theme of not causing offense, Paul here takes a slightly different approach. Then he was concerned about not offending believers; now unbelievers. Repeating his earlier maxim that "all things are permitted" he reminds us that not all things build us up in Christ and this is what is important.
24. Do not seek your own good, but the good of the other person.
The same selfless spirit that Christ had should be found in us. Christ did not seek his own, but the good of others. We are to follow his example, especially in regard to the spiritual welfare of others.
25. Eat anything that is sold in the marketplace without questions of conscience.
In Corinth it would be very hard to tell in the shops which meat had been offered in sacrifice to idols and which had not, as much of it was sold on to the markets. Paul does not want believers to be over scrupulous about this. It is not the action of eating meat, but the participating in the worship of idols that he condemns (Mark 7:14-23).
26. For the earth and its abundance are the Lord's.
All the earth and every living thing in it is God's and He has provided it for our food (Gen. 9:3). The fact that meat has been offered to an idol does not mean that it now belongs to the idols or should in any way be associated with them.
27. If an unbeliever invites you to dinner and you want to go, eat whatever is served without asking questions of conscience.
In this verse Paul is obviously speaking of a situation where a believer is invited to a meal in an unbeliever's home - a meal in the idol temple has already been ruled out. Of course, we are at liberty if we choose to accept such invitations. When we dine, we are not to be so scrupulous as to ask the origin of every thing that is put in front of us, for all comes from God.
28,29,30. But if someone says to you, "This is from a sacrifice," do not eat, because of the one who told you and because of conscience --I do not mean yours but the other person's. For why is my freedom being judged by another's conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I blamed for the food that I give thanks for. Yet if our host were to volunteer the information that the food had been offered in sacrifice to an idol, we may infer from that that the host has some regard for the practice. He may view the meat as sacred to his "god" and consider that eating it is an act of worship. If this is the case then we are to refuse to eat. God will have no other gods before Him we must not compromise. Actually, it is for the sake of the unbeliever that we refuse to eat. By not compromising our faith we give witness of the truth and show up idolatry for what it truly is in God's sight. Far better to show a sinner the error of his way than to join him in his error, condone his sin, and so misguide his conscience. Paul emphasizes that it is not for our conscience sake that we refrain. We may have no problem eating the meat. Since God has given it to us, we would not be going against our conscience to eat it. Yet others may not see it this way. What advantage would we gain by using our liberty to give them an opportunity of accusing us of evil practices? For it is not for men to judge us; we are the servants of Christ and He is our judge. If we eat what He provides and thank Him for it, what right has anyone to speak evil of us? And why give them the opportunity?
31,32. So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Do not give offense to Jews or Greeks or to the church of God.
The guiding principle for all our conduct is to do everything for the glory of God. Though we are not subject to man's judgment, we are not so brash as to willfully cause offense to any, whether Jew, Gentile, or to fellow believers. Of course, the host referred to above may be "offended" by our refusal to eat his meat. Yet we have done the right thing to refuse. So what does Paul mean when he urges us not to cause offense? He means that we are not to put a stumbling block in anyone's way which could keep them from coming to know Christ. Compromising the truth is certainly such a stumbling block.
33,1. Just as I also try to please everyone in all things. I do not seek my own benefit, but the benefit of many, so that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
We would all do well to follow the example of Paul, who in following Christ's example did not seek his own benefit, but the eternal and spiritual benefit of others that they might be saved (Rom. 15:2-3).
Recommended for You - Further Reading in 1 Corinthians
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Recommended for You - Further Reading for 1 Corinthians
by Mathew Bartlett
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