Scripture reading – 1 Corinthians 10
Today’s Scripture reading (1 Corinthians 10) continues Paul’s response to matters the believers in Corinth had addressed to him in a letter (7:1). The Corinthian believers had questioned the liberty men and women had to remain single, marry, divorce or remarry (1 Corinthians 7). 1 Corinthians 8 focused on whether or not believers had liberty to eat “things offered unto idols” (8:1-8). Paul admonished, the issue was not a question of liberty, but of brotherly love. He commanded them to do nothing to offend the conscience of other believers (8:9-13).
In chapter 9, Paul defended his liberty to be supported by the church as a minister (9:1-14), though he had chosen to forgo his “reward” as a preacher of the Gospel (9:15-23). 1 Corinthians 9 concluded with Paul calling on believers to live spiritually disciplined lives, by following the example of a runner who disciplines his body in preparation for a race (9:24-26a). He concluded his challenge, drawing an analogy with the disciplines of a boxer preparing for a fight (9:26b). While Paul affirmed the liberty believers have in Christ, he challenged them by his own example, writing, “27But I keep under [discipline; train] my body, and bring it into subjection [enslave; subdue his lusts and desires]: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway [a spiritual shipwreck]” (9:27).
Though the flow of Paul’s letter is broken by a chapter break, in reality, 1 Corinthians 10:1 continues the thought of personal disciplines and restraint with the word, “Moreover” (10:1). With the backdrop of Paul’s challenge to follow in the spiritual arena the physical disciplines of a runner and boxer, Paul warned believers to not be presumptuous (10:1-4).
Paul reminded believers how the children of Israel were delivered out of slavery, and God protected them by a cloud in the day, and divided the sea so that they passed safely into the wilderness (Exodus 13:21; 14:16-19). All the children of Israel identified with Moses and God’s covenant, and were fed by daily manna (John 6:35, 48). When they thirst, they all drank “the same spiritual drink…that spiritual Rock…that was Christ” (10:4). Yet, not all Israel were believers, and only two (Joshua and Caleb) who left Egypt lived to cross into the Promised Land (10:5).
Why did Paul refer to the troubles and trials Israel suffered in the wilderness, when many believers in Corinth were Greeks by birth? (10:6-13)
The answer began with verse 6, and is also instructive to 21st century believers. Paul wrote: “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted” (10:6). In other words, those things that are recorded in the Old Testament are relevant to every generation of believers. The lusts and sinful cravings Israel entertained in the wilderness, and the consequences that befell them, serve as a warning to all believers. Though free from the slavery of Egypt, the children of Israel failed to discipline their bodies and sinful lusts, and disobeyed God’s Law and Commandments (10:6).
Israel committed four sins in the wilderness (10:7-10): Idolatry (10:7); Fornication (10:8); Provoked the Lord to anger (10:9); and Murmured and complained (10:10).
As Israel was freed from Egypt, so the Corinthian believers were saved from the sins of Corinth. Paul therefore challenged them, “Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them [children of Israel]; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play” (10:7; Exodus 32:1-6). The children of Israel worshipped and offered sacrifices to the golden calf Aaron fashioned, and then they ate and drank their sacrifices, and “rose up to play” (probably descriptive of immorality, 10:8).
The consequences that befell Israel were to serve as a warning to believers of every generation. Paul instructed: “Now all these things [the thousands slain in God’s judgment] happened unto them (Numbers 16:32-35; 21; 25:2-9) for ensamples [example; pattern]: and they are written for our admonition [warnings; instructions], upon whom the ends of the world are come [the last days]” (10:11).
Closing thoughts – A Warning and an Exhortation (10:12-13)
A Warning: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (10:12). Being presumptuous in life is not only foolish, it is dangerous! The “fall” mentioned in verse 12 is most likely that of falling into sin. Solomon warned his son, “Pride goeth before destruction, And an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
An Exhortation (10:13) – I conclude today’s devotional on a point of encouragement. Trials, troubles, and temptations are part of our sojourn through this life. Yet, a believer can take confidence in this promise:
“There hath no temptation [no trial or trouble] taken [overtaken; or taken hold of] you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation [trial; trouble] also make a way to escape [literally, to pass through], that ye may be able to bear it [endure]” (10:13).
Trials and temptations are not selective. Generations before us have faced similar trials, and found they could trust God. Indeed, His Word promised, you will never face a trial through which you are not able to pass. We are not promised we will be spared trials; however, we are assured God is faithful, and has promised we will “be able to bear it” (10:13).
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