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Warnings from the wilderness
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Many in the church at Corinth were puffed up with their knowledge, their gifts and the great privileges with which God had blessed them. They had a good foundation laid by Paul (1 Corinthians 3:10-11), they knew the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) and theirs was a mighty church, respected and well known by all. But factions, divisions, open sin, intellectualism, and all sorts of ideas and wrong practices had crept into their midst. Therefore, to warn them of vain presumption, false confidence and indifference to holy conduct and practice, Paul sets before them the example of Israel, the church in the wilderness. All of these Israelites enjoyed great God-given privileges, the special favour of God and were exposed to the gospel of Christ in type, yet most of them perished under God's judgment in the wilderness.
1 Corinthians 10:1 . I would not have you to be ignorant nor uninformed concerning the matter of perseverance in faith, in obedience in conduct becoming a believer. All of the people of Israel led by the cloud (in which God's presence went before them), and every one of them passed safely through the Red Sea.
1 Corinthians 10:2 . ‘Every one of them allowed himself to be baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea,’ which was an acknowledgement of their regard unto him as their guide and governor, is a picture of our baptism, which identifies us with Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:3 . Those who perished in the wilderness all ate the same (supernaturally given) food which Moses, Caleb and Joshua ate (who went into Canaan). Manna is called spiritual food, first, because it was bread that came down from Heaven (John 6:31; John 6:35) and, second, because it signified Christ, who is the true bread from heaven. They actually ate the same spiritual bread we eat, they in type and we by faith.
1 Corinthians 10:4-5 . ‘They all drank the same water from a spiritual rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ’ in type and picture. Paul is saying to the Corinthians that all of Israel in wilderness days were an informed people, a privileged people, who were partakers of things that revealed the gospel of redemption in Christ, and yet the people who enjoyed those privileges were not pleasing to God nor accepted of him, but perished in the wilderness. This is a solemn warning (Hebrews 3:6-14).
1 Corinthians 10:6 . These people are an example to us who enjoy the blessed privilege and revelation of the gospel. The punishment inflicted upon them was designed as instruction for us to avoid the like sins, that we may not equally be condemned. The word ‘lust’ is to covet, crave, or desire and may be used in reference to all sin, for lust is the root and foundation of all (Romans 7:7; 1 John 2:15-16).
1 Corinthians 10:7 . ‘Do not be worshippers of idols, images and false gods, as some of them were’ (Exodus 32:1-6). Three thousand of them fell that day (Exodus 32:28). Our God is one God, is a jealous God and will not share his glory nor the love and worship of his people.
1 Corinthians 10:8 . We must not gratify evil, fleshly desires and indulge in immorality, as some of these people did, which resulted in the death of twenty-four thousand (suddenly) one day (Numbers 25:1-9; 1 Corinthians 6:15-20).
1 Corinthians 10:9 . ‘To tempt.’ in the general sense of the term, is to make a trial of God in reference to his power, his faithfulness and his goodness - to try his patience and be critical of his providence. It is not to be satisfied with his will and way, but to challenge him and provoke him. This Israel did in Numbers 21:5-6.
1 Corinthians 10:10 . ‘Murmuring’ signifies speaking against God out of impatience, discontent or covetousness. We learn from Exodus 15:24; Exodus 16:7 and Numbers 14:26-29 that it was a sin of which the Jews were very much guilty.
1 Corinthians 10:11 . These recorded punishments came upon Israel, not by chance, but by the will of God (as their idolatry and murmuring deserved) and were recorded for our admonition, that we may be warned to avoid the one and escape the other. Israel, blessed above all nations, presumed upon the goodness of God and suffered. We who live in the latter days before Christ's second coming are warned against such an attitude.
1 Corinthians 10:12 . Since the Jewish fathers (who enjoyed such special favors and great privileges) by their sin, idolatry and rebellion brought upon themselves the judgments of God, it would be wise for all today (who think themselves safe; secure and above these sins) to take heed lest they also fall (Galatians 6:1; Jude 1:24). Our strength is not in ourselves or our knowledge, but totally in Christ (John 15:5).
1 Corinthians 10:13 . The word ‘trial’ may include trials such as afflictions, testing and all things disagreeable to nature (James 1:2; 1 Peter 1:6), or temptations that arise because of our sinful natures. These are all common to believers everywhere. We do not expect to be free from the common trials of all men. But God has promised strength and assistance to his people (Matthew 7:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:3). You may be tempted beyond your strength but not beyond his!
Do all to the glory of God
1 Corinthians 10:14-33
1 Corinthians 10:14 . ‘Flee from idolatry’ of any sort, which is particularly offensive to our Lord! Not only avoid the worship of idols and the acts of idolatry, but believers should avoid that which gives even the appearance of idolatry, such as eating things offered to idols in an idol's temple. That this is what he especially had in mind we can judge from the following verses.
1 Corinthians 10:15 . Whereas he was speaking to intelligent, sensible men, he gave three arguments against associating themselves with idolaters in their temples of worship and eating with them at their feasts.
1 Corinthians 10:16 . The first argument is taken from the Lord's Table. When we sit at the Lord's Table and drink the wine and eat the bread, it suggests that we have a blessed union and communion with Christ. In like manner, when a man sits in an idol's temple and eats meat sacrificed to that idol, it indicates to all that he has a communion with that idol.
1 Corinthians 10:17 . The second argument is taken from the believer's union and communion in Christ with one another. No matter how numerous we are or whether we be Jew or Gentile, when we meet around the table of the Lord, we are saying that we are one body, one bread, one hope. In like manner, those who associate with idolaters and eat their sacrificial meat give the appearance, at least, of being one with idolaters.
1 Corinthians 10:18 . The third argument is taken from the Jewish nation. When they ate the flesh of sacrifices offered upon God's altar, did they not by that act manifest that they were members of God's assembly, that they believed in the God of the altar and that they accepted this way of worship? In like manner, eating sacrificial meat in an idol's temple indicates the owning of that idol and a participation in the altar of idols.
1 Corinthians 10:19-20 . What is Paul saying? That an idol has any reality at all or that these sacrifices offered to them have any meaning? Certainly not! But these pagan sacrifices are offered (in effect) to demons and not to God. The nature of idolatry is to turn from the living God to the creature, to will-worship, to idols, and this is instigated, promoted and directed by devils, which makes any worship, except true worship of the living God, to be devil-worship! ‘I do not want you to fellowship or have anything to do with diabolical spirits’ (Deuteronomy 32:16-17).
1 Corinthians 10:21 . It is impossible to sit at both tables, to recognize the true God and a false god, to live in two bodies, or to trust in the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifices to idols.
1 Corinthians 10:22 . ‘Are we foolish enough to provoke the Lord to jealousy, anger and indignation? (Exodus 20:3-5; Exodus 34:12-14.) Do we think that we are stronger than he, that we should defy him? How foolish!’
1 Corinthians 10:23-24 . ‘Many things are lawful for me which are not wise. Many things which are not sinful in themselves may he detrimental to me and to others. What is permissible is not always advisable. What I can do, without sinning, is not always what I should do!
Let us not then seek our own pleasure, profit and advantage, but the welfare and good of others. ‘Love seeketh not her own.’
1 Corinthians 10:25-28 . ‘When you go to the market or butcher's shop and meat offered to idols is sold in common with other meat, it may be bought and eaten with no questions asked, because the earth and all that is in it are the Lord's, and his people have a right to it through him. If an unbeliever invites you to eat with him, you may eat what is set before you, so long as no issue is raised about the meat's being from the idol's temple. Nor must you inquire about the source from which the meat was secured.
However, if someone tells you, ‘This is meat from the idol's temple,’ do not eat it. Do not eat it for the sake of the one who made the point and for the sake of a weak brother who may be offended. There is plenty of other food without it.’
1 Corinthians 10:29-31 . ‘Why should my way of life be determined by another man's conscience? Why should my behavior be guided by another man's principles? Why should I allow my liberty to be suppressed by another man's weakness? If I am guided by the Scriptures and give thanks for all that I have or do, why should I be criticized? The whole matter is resolved in this: whatever I eat, drink, or do, I must consider first the glory of God!’
1 Corinthians 10:32-33 . ‘If I have the glory of God as my chief concern, I will be careful not to offend needlessly the Jews, the Gentiles, nor the church of God.’ Paul gives himself as an example in these things. He was careful not to seek only to please himself, but made every effort not to hinder others in order that they might come to know Christ.
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Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16