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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Backsliders; Jesus, the Christ; Jesus Continued; Rock; Stones; Symbols and Similitudes; Thompson Chain Reference - Food, Physical-Spiritual; Food, Spiritual; Names; Spiritual; Titles and Names; The Topic Concordance - Examples; Foundation; Jesus Christ; Living Waters; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Life, Spiritual; Rocks; Titles and Names of Christ; Types of Christ;
Verse 1 Corinthians 10:4. Spiritual drink — By the βρωμα πνευματικον spiritual meat, and πομα πνευματικον, spiritual drink, the apostle certainly means both meat and drink, which were furnished to the Israelitish assembly miraculously, as well as typically: and he appears to borrow his expression from the Jews themselves, who expressly say הלחם הלז רוחני hallechem hallaz ruchani, that bread was spiritual, and מיים רוחניים היו meyim ruchainiyim haiu, the waters were spiritual. Alschech in legem. fol. 238, to which opinion the apostle seems particularly to refer. See Schoettgen.
The spiritual rock that followed them — There is some difficulty in this verse. How could the rock follow them? It does not appear that the rock ever moved from the place where Moses struck it. But to solve this difficulty, it is said that rock here is put, by metonymy, for the water of the rock; and that this water did follow them through the wilderness. This is more likely; but we have not direct proof of it. The ancient Jews, however, were of this opinion, and state that the streams followed them in all their journeyings, up the mountains, down the valleys, c., c. and that when they came to encamp, the waters formed themselves into cisterns and pools and that the rulers of the people guided them, by their staves, in rivulets to the different tribes and families. And this is the sense they give to Numbers 21:17: Spring up, O well, c. See the places in Schoettgen.
Others contend, that by the rock following them we are to understand their having carried of its waters with them on their journeyings. This we know is a common custom in these deserts to the present day and that the Greek verb ακολουθεω, to follow, has this sense, Bishop Pearce has amply proved in his note on this place. The Jews suppose that the rock itself went with the Israelites, and was present with them in their thirty-eight stations, for only so many are mentioned. See Alschech in legem. fol. 236. And see Schoettgen.
Now, though of all the senses already given that of Bishop Pearce is the best, yet it does appear that the apostle does not speak about the rock itself, but of Him whom it represented; namely, Christ: this was the Rock that followed them, and ministered to them; and this view of the subject is rendered more probable by what is said 1 Corinthians 10:9, that they tempted Christ, and were destroyed by serpents. The same rock is in the vale of Rephidim to the present day; and it bears aboriginal marks of the water that flowed from it in the fissures that appear on its sides. It is one block of fine granite, about seven yards long, five broad, and - high. A fragment of this typical rock now lies before me, brought by a relative of my own, who broke it off, and did not let it pass into any hand till he placed it in mine. Exodus 17:6.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/1-corinthians-10.html. 1832.
Warnings from history (10:1-13)
Paul now illustrates from the history of Israel that some might join in the fellowship of God’s people, but miss out on the final blessing. All the people of Israel were united with Moses in their escape from Egypt and all enjoyed God’s provision through none other than Christ himself. But only two, Joshua and Caleb, entered into the blessing of the promised land. The rest disobeyed and were punished (10:1-5). (For relevant stories see Exodus 13:17-22; Exodus 14:21-29; Exodus 16:1-7; Numbers 13:1-35.)
These events should be a warning to Christians. Idolatry can give a feeling of self-satisfaction that results in moral laziness. This leads to the relaxing of control over sinful desires and finally to sexual immorality. This was what happened to Israel (6-8; see Exodus 32:1-6; Numbers 25:1-9). Christians should not put God to the test by seeing how far they can go without his acting in judgment. The Israelites did and were destroyed (9; see Numbers 21:5-9). They complained bitterly against him and were punished (10; see Numbers 16:1-50).
All these things are a warning to the Christians in Corinth not to be too confident in thinking they can join in idol feasts and not be affected by them. Tests and temptations will indeed come, but there will always be a way out. There can be no excuses. They must be loyal to God (11-13).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:4". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/1-corinthians-10.html. 2005.
And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them; and the rock was Christ.
Rock that followed them ... This is not to be understood as Paul's reference to the Jewish legend about a literal rock that followed the Israelites in their wanderings. The rock to which Paul referred here was clearly stated: "The rock was Christ." The miracle of Moses' bringing forth water from the rock in the wilderness (Exodus 17:5ff) provided literal water for Israel; but much more than that is in evidence here. As Marsh said, "The rock was Christ, not `is' or `is a type of' ... and this is a clear statement of the pre-existence of Christ."
One of the most beautiful and instructive titles of Christ in all the Bible is "Christ the Living Stone"; and for a full discussion of this, see my Commentary on Romans, pp. 352-357.
In these first four verses, the broad outlines of the great allegory of fleshly Israel are laid down; and a little further attention is due to it. As DeHoff declared: "The story of the Israelites and their journey from Egypt into Canaan is a type of our journey from the Egypt of sin into the everlasting Canaan."
Egypt is a type of sin and bondage.
God's sending Moses to deliver them is a type of God's sending Christ to deliver us from the degrading slavery of sin.
Pharaoh is a type of the devil.
The compromises he offered Moses are like the compromises that Satan still suggests to Christians.
Moses is the most eloquent type of Christ in all the Bible (see my Commentary on Hebrews, pp. 67-69).
Israel's crossing the Red Sea is typical of Christian baptism.
Their spiritual food is typical of the Lord's Supper.
Israel's entering the wilderness is typical of the Christian's entering the church.
The wilderness is a type of the church.
That Israel sinned is typical of the sins and rebellions of Christians.
The majority of them failed to enter Canaan; and this is typical of "the many" Christians who will not be saved eternally.
Canaan is a type of heaven.
Some of Israel entering Canaan is typical of the final victory of victory of Christians who shall enter into the joy of the Lord.
That some of them "fell" is typical of Christians who fall away and are lost.
God's providential care of Israel in the wilderness is typical of his providential care of Christians till "the end of the world."
The fact of Israel's being "baptized" and having the Lord's Supper (in the analogy) did not make them immune to sin and death, as Paul was teaching here; and the same is true of Christians now.
Canaan was entered when Israel crossed Jordan, making Jordan a type of death, beyond which Christians enter heaven.
The dangers which beset Israel in the wilderness are typical of the dangers confronting Christians during confronting Christians during their probation.
They were tempted to commit fornication, even as the Corinthians were being tempted, and by the same means, through the licentious celebrations of idol worship.
Other analogies in this remarkable allegory may be pointed out, but the above is sufficient to show the extensive parallel between the fleshly Israel and the spiritual Israel.
 Paul W. Marsh, op. cit., p. 394.
 George W. DeHoff, Sermons on First Corinthians (Murfreesboro, Tennessee: The Christian Press, 1947), p. 79.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:4". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/1-corinthians-10.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
And did all drink the same spiritual drink - The idea here is essentially the same as in the previous verse, that they had been highly favored of God, and enjoyed tokens of the divine care and guardianship. That was manifested in the miraculous supply of water in the desert, thus showing that they were under the divine protection, and were objects of the divine favor. There can be no doubt that by “spiritual drink” here, the apostle refers to the water that was made to gush from the rock that was smitten by Moses. Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11. Why this is called “spiritual” has been a subject on which there has been much difference of opinion. It cannot be because there was anything special in the nature of the water, for it was evidently real water, suited to allay their thirst. There is no evidence, as many have supposed, that there was a reference in this to the drink used in the Lord’s Supper. But it must mean that it was bestowed in a miraculous and supernatural manner; and the word “spiritual” must be used in the sense of supernatural, or that which is immediately given by God. Spiritual blessings thus stand opposed to natural and temporal blessings, and the former denote those which are immediately given by God as an evidence of the divine favor. That the Jews used the word “spiritual” in this manner is evident from the writings of the Rabbis. Thus, they called the manna “spiritual food” (Yade Mose in Shemor Rabba, fol. 109. 3); and their sacrifices they called “spiritual bread” (Tzeror Hammer, fol. 93. 2). - Gill. The drink, therefore, here referred to was that bestowed in a supernatural manner and as a proof of the divine favor.
For they drank of that spiritual Rock - Of the waters which flowed from that Rock. The Rock here is called “spiritual,” not from anything special in the nature of the rock, but because it was the source to them of supernatural mercies, and became thus the emblem and demonstration of the divine favor, and of spiritual mercies conferred upon them by God.
That followed them - Margin. “Went with” ἀκολουθούσης akolouthousēs. This evidently cannot mean that the rock itself literally followed them, any more than that they literally drank the rock, for one is as expressly affirmed, if it is taken literally, as the other. But as when it is said they “drank of the rock,” it must mean that they drank of the water that flowed from the rock; so when it is said that the “rock followed” or accompanied them, it must mean that the water that flowed from the rock accompanied them. This figure of speech is common everywhere. Thus, the Saviour said 1 Corinthians 11:25, “This cup is the new testament,” that is, the wine in this cup represents my blood, etc.; and Paul says 1 Corinthians 11:25, 1 Corinthians 11:27, “whosoever shall drink this cup of the Lord unworthily,” that is, the wine in the cup, etc., and “as often as ye drink this cup,” etc., that is, the wine contained in the cup. It would be absurd to suppose that the rock that was smitten by Moses literally followed them in the wilderness; and there is not the slightest evidence in the Old Testament that it did. Water was twice brought out of a rock to supply the needs of the children of Israel. Once at Mount Horeb, as recorded in Exodus 17:6, in the wilderness of Sin, in the first year of their departure from Egypt. The second time water was brought from a rock about the time of the death of Miriam at Kadesh, and probably in the 40th year of their departure from Egypt, Numbers 20:1. It was to the former of these occasions that the apostle evidently refers. In regard to this we may observe:
(1) That there must have been furnished a large quantity of water to have supplied the needs of more than two million people.
(2) It is expressly stated Deuteronomy 9:21), that “the brook נחל nachal, stream, torrent, or river, see Numbers 34:5; Joshua 15:4, Joshua 15:47; 1 Kings 8:65; 2 Kings 24:7) descended out of the mount,” and was evidently a stream of considerable size.
(3) Mount Horeb was higher than the adjacent country, and the water that thus gushed from the rock, instead of collecting into a pool and becoming stagnant, would flow off in the direction of the sea.
(4) The sea to which it would naturally flow would be the Red Sea, in the direction of the Eastern or Elanitic branch of that sea.
(5) The Israelites would doubtless, in their journeyings, be influenced by the natural direction of the water, or would not wander far from it, as it was daily needful for the supply of their needs.
(6) At the end of thirty-seven years we find the Israelites at Ezion-geber, a seaport on the eastern branch of the Red Sea, where the waters probably flowed into the sea; Numbers 33:36. In the 40th year of their departure from Egypt, they left this place to go into Canaan by the country of Edom, and were immediately in distress again by the lack of water. It is thus probable that the water from the rock continued to flow, and that it constituted a stream, or river; that it was near their camp all the time until they came to Ezion-geber; and that thus, together with the daily supply of manna, it was a proof of the protection of God, and an emblem of their dependence. If it be said that there is now no such stream to be found there, it is to be observed that it is represented as miraculous, and that it would be just as reasonable to look for the daily descent of manna there in quantities sufficient to supply more than two million people, as to expect to find the gushing and running river of water. The only question is, whether God can work a miracle, and whether there is evidence that he has done it. This is not the place to examine that question. But the evidence is as strong that he performed this miracle as that he gave the manna, and neither of them is inconsistent with the power, the wisdom, or the benevolence of God.
And that Rock was Christ - This cannot be intended to be understood literally, for it was not literally true. The rock from which the water flowed was evidently an ordinary rock, a part of Mount Horeb; and all that this can mean is, that that rock, with the stream of water thus gushing from it, was a representation of the Messiah. The word was is thus often used to denote similarity or representation, and is not to be taken literally. Thus, in the institution of the Lord’s Supper, the Saviour says of the bread, “This is my body,” that is, it represents my body. Thus, also of the cup, “This cup is the new testament in my blood,” that is, it represents my blood, 1 Corinthians 11:24-25. Thus, the gushing fountain of water might be regarded as a representation of the Messiah, and of the blessings which result from him. The apostle does not say that the Israelites knew that this was designed to be a representation of the Messiah, and of the blessings which flow from him, though there is nothing improbable in the supposition that they so understood and regarded it, since all their institutions were probably regarded as typical. But he evidently does mean to say that the rock was a vivid and affecting representation of the Messiah; that the Jews did partake of the mercies that flow from him; and that even in the desert they were under his care, and had in fact among them a vivid representation of him in some sense corresponding with the emblematic representation of the same favors which the Corinthian and other Christians had in the Lord’s Supper. This representation of the Messiah, perhaps, was understood by Paul to consist in the following things:
(1) Christians, like the children of Israel, are passing through the world as pilgrims, and to them that world is a wilderness - a desert.
(2) They need continued supplies, as the Israelites did, in their journey. The world, like that wilderness, does not meet their necessities, or supply their needs.
(3) That rock was a striking representation of the fulness of the Messiah, of the abundant grace which he imparts to his people.
(4) It was an illustration of their continued and constant dependence on him for the daily supply of their needs. It should be observed that many expositors understand this literally. Bloomfield translates it: “and they were supplied with drink from the spiritual Rock which followed them, even Christ.” So Rosenmuller, Calvin, Glass, etc. In defense of this interpretation, it is said, that the Messiah is often called “a rock” in the Scriptures; that the Jews believe that the “angel of Jehovah” who who attended them (Exodus 3:2, and other places) was the Messiah; and that the design of the apostle was, to show that this “attending Rock,” the Messiah, was the source of all their blessings, and particularly of the water that gushed from the rock. But the interpretation suggested above seems to me to be most natural. The design of the apostle is apparent. It is to show to the Corinthians, who relied so much on their privileges, and felt themselves so secure, that the Jews had the very same privileges - had the highest tokens of the divine favor and protection, were under the guidance and grace of God, and were partakers constantly of that which adumbrated or typified the Messiah, in a manner as real, and in a form as much suited to keep up the remembrance of their dependence, as even the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/1-corinthians-10.html. 1870.
10:4: and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them: and the rock was Christ.
A final similarity between Israel and Christianity is a “spiritual drink” (i.e. the water provided by God). This provision, just like the food described in verse 3, was available to “all.” When the Hebrews started their journey towards Mount Sinai (Exodus 17:1-7), God provided them with water. As their journey continued, God continued to supply water (Numbers 20:1-13; Psalms 105:41). A substantial supply of water was needed day after day (see this discussed in the next paragraph), but this need was always met. Lenski (First Corinthians, p. 392) noted how the Greek text means “Not once but, as the imperfect states, continually the Israelites were drinking, and from no mere natural rock although the water was twice made to gush out of such a rock, but of a spiritual rock which was supernatural, divine, and not left behind in the desert as those two natural rocks were but accompanied the Israelites wherever they went in their wanderings.” God cares for His people just as easily as He cares for birds and flowers (Matthew 6:26-28).
Providing for the Hebrews who left Egypt (many estimates suggest 2-3 million people were with Moses) was an enormous task, even by today’s standards. Yet, God did meet the needs of His people day after day, year after year, and the amount of what was needed to sustain the nation is staggering. It has been estimated that Israel consumed 1,500 tons of food, every single day, while in the wilderness. Two mile-long freight trains would be necessary to transport this many groceries. Of course, firewood was necessary for cooking and the timber needed for the nation has been calculated at 4,000 tons per day. Israel’s need for drinking and wash water has been estimated at 11,000,000 gallons per day. Transporting this much water would require a daily train 1,800 miles long. So much water was needed that two Old Testament psalms actually make mention of it (Psalms 78:16; Psalms 105:41). In addition to providing food, water, and wood, there was a need for land. If 3 million people left Egypt, the nation needed 750 square miles of space for a stopping place (an area equivalent to the size of Rhode Island).
Paul specifically said Jesus provided water for the Hebrews. Without divine intervention, most or all the Hebrews would have quickly died in the wilderness. What Jesus did for Israel looked forward to His work described in the New Testament. In John 7:37 we find these words: “Now on the last day, the great (day) of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” Jesus had provided Israel with literal water many years before. Stated another way, prior to the virgin birth He was active and working to benefit the very nation that would one day call for His death. Now Jesus is the “savior” in the fullest sense of the word-He is man’s spiritual savior (Luke 2:11; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 3:18; 1 John 4:14). He now stands ready to give men the “living water” (John 4:10) that forever satisfies people (John 4:14). For more information on Jesus and His “living water,” see the commentary on John 4:10-14 in section 10 of the Gospels commentary
For Paul, Jesus’ earlier work among the Hebrews must have been an amazing truth. Paul eventually had to recognize and admit that the Old Testament system he had grown up to love and cherish (Philippians 4:3-10) only anticipated (looked forward to) Jesus and the New Testament. A similar point is found throughout the book of Hebrews (the writer of that book repeatedly said the Old Testament had “shadows and types” that pointed forward to Jesus and the New Testament).
The Pulpit Commentary (19:322) relates a legend about Jesus and His being a rock. “The rabbis said that it [the rock, BP] was round, and rolled itself up like a swarm of bees, and that, when the tabernacle was pitched, this rock came and settled in its vestibule and began to flow when the princes came to it and sang, ‘Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it.’ It does not, of course, follow from this allusion that St. Paul or even the rabbis, believed their Hagadah in other than a metaphorical sense.” Another tradition (at least as old as the Koran) says, “the rock smitten by Moses was not part of the mountain, but a detached rock, pierced with holes whence the water is said to have flowed” (Hodge, Second Corinthians, p. 174).
While the rock legends are certainly fascinating, Hodge’s comments (p. 175) are far more helpful. He said, “But in what sense was the rock Christ? Not that Christ appeared under the form of a rock; nor that the rock was a type of Christ, for that does not suit the connection. The idea is not that they drank of the typical rock; it was not the type but the antitype that supplied their wants. The expression is simply figurative. Christ was the rock in the same sense that he is the vine. He was the source of all the support which the Israelites enjoyed during their journey in the wilderness.” The “supernatural rock that never allowed Israel to perish of thirst in the desert-as any other similar expedition would quickly have perished-was Christ, the Son of God, who later became incarnate for our salvation” (Lenski, First Corinthians, p. 393).
There are many parallels between Christians and the ancient Hebrews. A study of both groups reveals that each has been baptized and rescued (see the commentary on verses 1-2 in this chapter) Each group has also received food, drink, as well as God’s protection. The Corinthians knew what God had done for them, and it seems this knowledge caused them to conclude they were spiritually okay because of their spiritual blessings. As noted in the commentary on verse 1, these Christians must have been thinking: “If God has provided all these things for us, how could He ever be displeased with us? We may do whatever we want.” Paul responded to this type of incorrect thinking in the following verses.
Readers may be interested in doing a fuller study on the word “followed” (akoloutheo), a term usually found in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Jesus followed Israel to help this nation while it was in the wilderness, but now men are to follow Christ. Here are all the places where follow (akoloutheo) occurs in Matthew’s gospel: Matthew 4:20; Matthew 4:22; Matthew 4:25; Matthew 8:1; Matthew 8:10; Matthew 8:19; Matthew 8:22-23; Matthew 9:9; Matthew 9:19; Matthew 9:27; Matthew 10:38; Matthew 12:15; Matthew 14:13; Matthew 16:24; Matthew 19:2; Matthew 19:21; Matthew 19:27-28; Matthew 20:29; Matthew 20:34; Matthew 21:9; Matthew 26:58; Matthew 27:55.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Price, Brad "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:4". "Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bpc/1-corinthians-10.html.
4.That rock was Christ Some absurdly pervert these words of Paul, as if he had said, that Christ was the spiritual rock, and as if he were not speaking of that rock which was a visible sign, for we see that he is expressly treating of outward signs. The objection that they make — that the rock is spoken of as spiritual, is a frivolous one, inasmuch as that epithet is applied to it simply that we may know that it was a token of a spiritual mystery. In the mean time, there is no doubt, that he compares our sacraments with the ancient ones. Their second objection is more foolish and more childish — “How could a rock,” say they, “that stood firm in its place, follow the Israelites?” — as if it were not abundantly manifest, that by the word rock is meant the stream of water, which never ceased to accompany the people. For Paul extols (535) the grace of God, on this account, that he commanded the water that was drawn out from the rock to flow forth wherever the people journeyed, as if the rock itself had followed them. Now if Paul’s meaning were, that Christ is the spiritual foundation of the Church, what occasion were there for his using the past tense? (536) It is abundantly manifest, that something is here expressed that was peculiar to the fathers. Away, then, with that foolish fancy by which contentious men choose rather to show their impudence, than admit that they are sacramental forms of expression! (537)
I have, however, already stated, that the reality of the things signified was exhibited in connection with the ancient sacraments. As, therefore, they were emblems of Christ, it follows, that Christ was connected with them, not locally, nor by a natural or substantial union, but sacramentally. On this principle the Apostle says, that the rock was Christ, for nothing is more common than metonymy in speaking of sacraments. The name of the thing, therefore, is transferred here to the sign — not as if it were strictly applicable, but figuratively, on the ground of that connection which I have mentioned. I touch upon this, however, the more slightly, because it will be more largely treated of when we come to the 11th Chapter.
There remains another question. “Seeing that we now in the Supper eat the body of Christ, and drink his blood, how could the Jews be partakers of the same spiritual meat and drink, when there was as yet no flesh of Christ that they could eat?” I answer, that though his flesh did not as yet exist, it was, nevertheless, food for them. Nor is this an empty or sophistical subtilty, for their salvation depended on the benefit of his death and resurrection. Hence, they required to receive the flesh and the blood of Christ, that they might participate in the benefit of redemption. This reception of it was the secret work of the Holy Spirit, who wrought in them in such a manner, that Christ’s flesh, though not yet created, was made efficacious in them. He means, however, that they ate in their own way, which was different from ours, (538) and this is what I have previously stated, that Christ is now presented to us more fully, according to the measure of the revelation. For, in the present day, the eating is substantial, which it could not have been then — that is, Christ feeds us with his flesh, which has been sacrificed for us, and appointed as our food, and from this we derive life.
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:4". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/1-corinthians-10.html. 1840-57.
Moreover, brethren, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and passed through the sea ( 1 Corinthians 10:1 );
Now he is talking about their forefathers who were delivered out of Egypt. God used the cloud to guide them by day and the pillar of fire by night. The cloud had more than just a guiding. They were under the cloud. They were going to be spending time in that hot desert, and so what did God do? He put a cloud over them that shielded them from that hot desert. And whenever the cloud would move, they would move. And that is wisdom when you are out in the desert. And so God made a very great way of guiding them. The cloud would move and they would move to stay under the cloud.
Now, when they had come to the Red Sea and the Egyptian army came up behind them and had trapped them here in the valley, God took the cloud and moved it behind them and let it settle between them and the Egyptians. The Egyptians couldn't see what was happening, because of the fog, the cloud that had come down, and they couldn't see that the sea had departed and that the children of Israel were all escaping to the other side. And when God lifted the cloud, they saw what had happened. They saw the sea parted and they went dashing into the sea. Of course, the Lord allowed the sea to come back and they were drowned. But the cloud had a purpose more than just guiding them; it was a shelter to them. They lived under the cloud, walking when the cloud moved, living in the will of God, being guided by God through that wilderness experience. And how glorious it is that God will guide us, shelter us as we seek to walk after His will.
They passed through the sea, which is a symbol of water baptism, coming out of the life of the flesh in Egypt into a new relationship with God.
And they were all baptized ( 1 Corinthians 10:2 )
You see that symbolism there passing through the sea.
unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and they did eat the same spiritual meat ( 1 Corinthians 10:2-3 );
God gave them the manna, the bread from heaven that they all ate.
And they did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ ( 1 Corinthians 10:4 ).
So you remember, as the children of Israel came to Moses there in the area of Rephidim, the wilderness, and they said, "We are about to die of thirst, our cattle and all are about to die. What are we going to do?" And Moses went in and cried unto the Lord and said, "Lord, help me, these people are about ready to stone me." God said, "Take your rod that you used to strike the river in Egypt to turn it to blood and with the elders before the people strike the rock." And so he took his rod and smote the rock and water came forth, and the people drank and lived. They were saved. They drank, all of them, of that same spiritual Rock, and that Rock was Christ, who Himself said, "If any man is thirsty let him come unto Me and drink. And he that has a thirst let him come and drink [Jesus said] of the water of life freely." That is the last invitation in the Bible in the book of Revelation. The last invitation is for all men, "Whosoever will, let him come and drink of the water of life freely." The Rock smitten, if you partake and drink of Him tonight you will have life.
But with many of them God was not well pleased: and they were overthrown in the wilderness ( 1 Corinthians 10:5 ).
When Moses sent out the twelve spies to spy out the land, ten of them came back and gave an evil report, a report that planted fear in the hearts of the people. "The cities are big and the walls are high. And the people are like giants and we are like grasshoppers in their sight. They were huge people. We are not able to do it. We can't take it." There were two men, Joshua and Caleb, who came back bearing a bunch of grapes on a rod between them. And they said, "Look at these grapes. You have never seen anything like that in all your lives. Look at the size of the bunch of grapes here." "Oh, but we heard there are giants in the land." "Awe," they said, "they are bread for us." "Oh, we heard we can't take it." "Let's go in right now and take it." But the people listened to the ten and they turned. They didn't have faith and trust in God to deliver the land to them. So God said, "All right, you don't trust Me. You say that your children will be destroyed by them. I will tell you what. I am going to let you wander in this wilderness until this whole generation passes and your children that you say will be prey to them I will let them go in and take the land." Then began the longest funeral service in the world, forty years waiting for all of them to die. Only Joshua and Caleb were allowed to go in of that generation. So many of them perished in the wilderness.
Now these things were examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted ( 1 Corinthians 10:6 ).
They said, "Let's go back to Egypt. Remember the garlic and the leeks in Egypt. Oh, they were so good. I haven't had garlic in so long. Just this manna and it is so bland. It is so mild. I am sick of it. Oh, if I only had the garlic of Egypt." They were desiring after the old life of the flesh, the life of Egypt, the fleshpots in Egypt.
"And these were written for our examples that we would not lust after the things of the flesh, as they lusted."
Neither be ye idolaters ( 1 Corinthians 10:7 ),
Now, several things here. They were lusting after evil things, the things of the flesh, desiring them. Secondly, many of them turned to idolatry. Remember, Aaron made the golden calf and the people were all dancing around the thing.
as some of them were; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day twenty-three thousand ( 1 Corinthians 10:7-8 ).
In the book of Numbers it tells us twenty-four thousand, but Paul, no doubt, is writing from memory and it's probably just a mistake that Paul made as he is writing just from memory referring to that time when Balaam gave the evil counsel for the young girls to go down and entice the boys. And they committed fornication and the wrath of God was kindled against them and they were smitten by a plague.
Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of the serpents ( 1 Corinthians 10:9 ).
How did they tempt the Lord? They tempted Him because they were murmuring against God and against Moses, and said, "They brought us out in this place to kill us and it is terrible. We ought not to be here. We ought to go home." And the anger of the Lord was kindled and the serpents came into the camp and began to bite them; murmuring against God.
Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all of these things happened to them for examples: that they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come ( 1 Corinthians 10:10-11 ).
So twice here Paul says, "Now look, this is all here for an example unto you. It is all typical history. You need to learn from their mistakes. You are not to go after the flesh. You are not to desire after evil things. You are not to commit fornication. You are not to commit idolatry. You are not to murmur against God."
Wherefore let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he falls ( 1 Corinthians 10:12 ).
We are not to presume upon the grace of God.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above that which you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it ( 1 Corinthians 10:13 ).
The Bible says when a man is tempted he shouldn't say he is tempted of God. Every man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed, and lust, when it is finished, brings forth sin. Temptation begins with the mind, the desire. What do I do with it?
Now, the temptations that we have are common to man. As I am living in this body I am going to be subject to certain temptations, the desires of my flesh, the drives of my flesh. That is common to man. But with that temptation, God is faithful to me. He will not allow me to be tempted beyond my limits. He will provide for me the way to escape in order that I will be able to bear it. But it is important that I take that way of escape.
God is not going to force you away from temptation. God isn't going to force you to be good. When temptation comes, there is always an escape route. God always provides the way of escape. If you fall to temptation, it is because you didn't heed the voice of God. You didn't take the way of escape that He provided. And I can testify of my own life that in every temptation where I fell there was the route of escape. I had had the word of the Spirit to my heart. God said, "Get out of here." "Oh, I will just wait a little bit longer." No, I should have gotten out when the Lord said, "Get out." The way of escape was there, and so it was my failure, not God's. My sin is my responsibility, not God's. There are people that would like to throw it over on God. "Well, God made me this way and I just can't help it." Boy, you blame God for the worst things. It is my failure. God is faithful. I wasn't.
Wherefore, dearly beloved, flee from idolatry ( 1 Corinthians 10:14 ).
Run! Get out of there!
Now, idolatry is setting up anything in your life or mine before God. It is putting something in your life before the Lord. That is idolatry. You are wrong if you think of idolatry as having a little thing that you have carved out, or someone else has carved out, and you have bought. And you kneel in front of it, and do your little thing before it, and burn candles around it, and pray to it. No! That will probably be no problem to any of you. Your idolatry is far more apt to have a shiny coat of paint, beautiful upholstery and a turbo engine inside. Something that gets in your heart and mind and life and precedes your walk with God. It becomes more important to you than your walk with God. Something that replaces God in your life. That is the idol. Flee idolatry.
I speak as to wise men; judge what I tell you. The cup of blessing which we bless ( 1 Corinthians 10:15-16 ).
That is, when we gather together at the Lord's table and we take the cup and we bless it. This cup of blessing that we bless,
is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? ( 1 Corinthians 10:16 )
The word communion there is that interesting Greek word koinonia. Is it not the oneness that we share with Christ, the communion that we have with Christ, or the fellowship that we have with Christ, that oneness that we are sharing with Him? This cup of blessing that we bless, whereby, as I drink, I am identifying myself with Him.
The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread ( 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 ).
So this communion with Jesus Christ, the blood of Christ and the body of Christ, whereby we become one with Him, and whereby we also become one with each other. As we all eat of the same bread, as we all drink of the same cup, we are becoming one with each other. Joined together in communion, joined together in commonness, joined together in fellowship, as we are, all of us, joined together with Jesus. That oneness in the body of Christ. Surely the communion service symbolizes it more graphically than anything else within the church. All partakers of the same bread. All partakers of the same cup, becoming one with Him and thus, with each other.
Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? ( 1 Corinthians 10:18 )
Now, the idea of bringing in your peace offering and offering it unto God, the whole idea behind it was that of communion with God. So, you bring it into the priest and he would take it and butcher it and would cut a portion of the meat and would give it to you. Then you would take it out and roast it and then sit down and eat it. Now you have brought it and offered it to God. The fat and all was taken and burnt on the altar and the smoke went up as a sweet smelling savor unto the Lord. The priest took his portion, but now you have your portion. And with your family you are sitting there eating this roast beef, or this roast lamb. And as you are eating together, the idea is God has received a part of this and I am receiving a part of this, and so I am becoming one with God. For their whole concept of eating together was that of becoming a part of each other.
Say I take a loaf of bread. I break it and I give you a part of it and I take a part of it, and you eat it and I eat it. It is one loaf, but we are both eating from the same loaf. Maybe we have a bowl of soup here and we are both dipping our bread in the soup and eating it. Now that the bread that is nourishing me is also nourishing you. The bread that is being assimilated and becoming a part of the chemistry of my body is also becoming a part of the chemistry of your body. So the same loaf of bread is becoming part of you as it is assimilated in your body, but it is also becoming a part of me. Therefore, we are a part of each other, because we are both being strengthened and both of us are assimilating the same loaf of bread. And they really saw this and to them it was something that didn't need to be explained. It was just an accepted thing.
So when I offer a part of this meat to God and it is burnt on the altar unto the Lord, it is God partaking of it, and now I am eating of it, so I am becoming one with God. Beautiful thought, beautiful concept, and the beautiful awareness of becoming one with God.
Now we have that every time we partake of communion. I am becoming a part of Jesus Christ. He is becoming a part of me as we commune together and as I receive the cup and as I receive the bread, but also we are becoming a part of each other as we do it.
And so Israel after the flesh when they eat of the sacrifices. They are partakers of the altar. They are becoming one with God.
What say I then? that an idol is any thing ( 1 Corinthians 10:19 ),
Now we are going back to chapter 8, and the whole thing started as he was talking about them eating meat in the house of idols and some weak brother going by and seeing them eating there and thinking, "If he can do it, then I can do it," and stumbling because his conscience would bother him. You say you have freedom, and unfortunately, they were exercising this freedom of eating in the temple of the various gods there in Corinth. "I have freedom in Christ." So, Paul is coming back to that now.
What shall I say then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God ( 1 Corinthians 10:19-20 ):
That is, the pagan sacrifices in the pagan temples are offerings unto the demons. They are not offerings to God.
and I would not that ye should have fellowship [communion] with demons. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he? ( 1 Corinthians 10:20-22 )
So Paul is really coming down on the practices of some of those Corinthians of eating meat in the pagan temples there in Corinth.
This is an interesting thing. In these pagan temples, Paul declared that actually the offerings were made unto devils, literally demons. In Deuteronomy 32:16-17 ,He said, "They provoked Him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they Him to anger. They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not. Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee."
So the concept is that the worship of these false gods, the worship of these idols was, in reality, the worship of demons.
There was in Harper's Magazine many years ago an interesting article called, "I saw the King of Hell." It was taken from the book, Through Forbidden Tibet. And the author talks about going with the religious leaders of Tibet in disguise to a ceremony that was held annually where they called forth the various demons. And it describes these demons as they appeared, their forms, and then he describes as they call forth the king of hell. It is a very spine-tingling description. Awesome.
A lot of people say, "Well, all roads lead to God. And those people are so sincere in their worship, though they don't believe in Jesus. Surely God will recognize their sincerity and all, because what difference does it make, if we follow Confucius, Buddha, or whatever. Aren't we all seeking after God?" Well, that isn't the concept that we receive from the Bible. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me" ( John 14:6 ). Paul said, "They are sacrificing unto devils. And in the same token, as you eat of the sacrifices made to God and become one with God, if you are eating of the sacrifices made to devils, then you are becoming one with the devil, with the demon that is represented in that idol. And I would not have you to have this koinonia, this fellowship, this communion, this oneness," Paul said, "with devils. Therefore, you cannot drink of the cup of the Lord and of the cup of devils. You cannot be partakers of the Lord's table and of the table of devils."
Now he is no doubt thinking of chapter 32 of Deuteronomy, the thing that we just read to you. Because, again, it says that they provoked the Lord to jealousy in sacrificing to devils, and he said, "Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?" Are we stronger than He? Dare we to oppose Him?
All things are lawful for me ( 1 Corinthians 10:23 ),
He comes back to this refrain.
but all things are not expedient ( 1 Corinthians 10:23 ):
Yes, you may prove that it is all right that I am living under grace and I believe in Jesus Christ, and therefore it is all right and you may enter your argument. And yes, it may be lawful, but it isn't expedient. It is going to slow you down. It is going to hinder your progress. If you are running in the race, run to win and don't take on extra baggage or weight that will slow you down. It is not expedient.
all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not ( 1 Corinthians 10:23 ).
There are things that tear me down and do not build me up. There are things that take me away from Christ and do not bring me closer to Christ. And my desire is to get close to Him. Therefore, though it may be lawful, you may prove that it is all right, it is taking me away from my fellowship with Him. It isn't building me up in Him, or building Him up in me. Therefore, though it may be lawful, wisdom tells me don't do it. It will slow you down. It will tear you down. I am desiring to win the race. I am desiring to be found in Christ, built up in Him.
Let no man seek his own, but every man another's profit ( 1 Corinthians 10:24 ).
Don't just live for yourself. Don't just think about yourself, but think about others and live for others.
Whatsoever is sold in the market, go ahead and eat it, don't ask question for your conscience' sake ( 1 Corinthians 10:25 ):
Now, a lot of the meat that was sold in the butcher shops in Corinth were used first in sacrifices in the pagan temples. So, when you went to the meat market to buy meat, you say, "I would like a pound of hamburger." Was that hamburger offered as a sacrifice in the temple? Paul said don't ask that kind of stuff. Just buy it, take it home and eat it for your conscience sake. What you don't know won't hurt you. And so for conscience sake just don't ask questions, because you know it doesn't matter. If you are asking those kind of questions, then you are going to find yourself tripping over your own conscience. So eat and don't ask questions.
For the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof. If any unbeliever invites you to a feast, and you are obligated to go; whatever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience' sake ( 1 Corinthians 10:26-27 ).
So he sets before you a big steak. "Did you offer this meat as a sacrifice to a pagan god?" Paul said don't ask those questions, just eat it. You don't ask the questions for your conscience sake.
Now, if the fellow, when he sets it before you, says, "We offered this to Zeus." Then Paul said, "Don't eat it." Not that it would hurt you, but it might hurt the guy that offered it to you seeing your liberty. So if they volunteer the information, then say, "No thank you," so that you are not stumbling him or offending him.
So if any man says unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that showed it to you, and for your conscience' sake: now the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof: Conscience, I say, not always your own, but that of the other: for why is my liberty judged by another man's conscience? For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? ( 1 Corinthians 10:28-30 )
Paul said everything is sanctified with thanksgiving. You say, "Lord, just bless this now and I thank You for it," then it is sanctified. Yet, it is going to hurt someone else. They are going to be stumbled by it. So again, the law of love, not wanting to be an offense, not wanting to hurt the weaker brethren.
Whether therefore you eat, or drink, whatsoever you do, do all to the glory to God ( 1 Corinthians 10:31 ).
Here is the principle. Now, people who have principles don't need laws. If you are living by the right principles, you don't need rules, you don't need laws. This is the principle. So now, we are getting . . . this is what you want to really take note of. This is the heart of it. "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." And you are right. If I can do it to the glory of God, I am right. If I can't do it to the glory of God, then I better not do it. But whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all to the glory of God.
Give no offense, neither to the Jews, or to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved ( 1 Corinthians 10:32-33 ).
And so as Paul said, don't live for your own profit, but for others. He said, "This is the way I live." My desire is that people might be saved, and so I live for their sakes, not for my own sake, not to satisfy my own flesh, not to live after my own desires, but I restrict myself. I live a careful life in order that I might win others to Jesus Christ. And so if that is the goal of my life to bring others to the Lord, then that will be the governing factor in what I allow or don't allow, what I do or don't do, what I eat or don't eat, what I drink or don't drink. It is not to bring an offense, walking in love, thinking of others, not thinking of myself. God help me to win this race and to live in love, walking in love, serving in love.
Shall we pray.
Again, Father, we are so grateful for these words of wisdom, words of guidance. Help us, Lord, that we might now be doers of the Word and not hearers only. God, we want to come into that full fellowship with You, that fellowship with one another in Jesus Christ. Lord, let Your Holy Spirit just work a special work in our hearts. In Jesus' name, and we thank you for it, Father. Amen.
May the hand of the Lord be upon your life to guide and direct in all that we do. May God help us to consider Him, not whether or not is it right or wrong, but is it pleasing, or would it please Him. Is this the best? God help us not to be satisfied with the mediocre, but that we might run to win.
And thus, may the Lord be with you today and this week as we really seek to live a disciplined life for Jesus Christ. Laying aside the flesh and the things of the flesh, the body and its desires, keeping it under in order that we might live and walk after the Spirit, and the things of the Spirit, and the things of the eternal. And thus, may the Lord reward you and bless you as you walk in fellowship with Him. May you experience His touch upon your life. In Jesus' name. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:4". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/1-corinthians-10.html. 2014.
And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
And did all drink the same spiritual drink: The "spiritual drink" has reference to the natural water that came from the smitten rock prepared by God (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:7-8). Just as the "spiritual meat" is parallel to the unleavened bread in the Christian communion, the "spiritual drink" is parallel to the fruit of the vine in the Christian communion.
for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: The bread (manna) mentioned in verse 3 came from heaven, but the "spiritual drink" came from the "spiritual Rock" that followed them. This "spiritual Rock" followed them, not by rolling along after them, as the old Jewish legend relates, but by continually being there when water was needed. Even though the Israelites were in a desert area, they were never without water as long as they were under the protection of God. David says, "He opened the rock, and the waters gushed out; they ran in the dry places like a river" (Psalms 105:41).
and that Rock was Christ: The "Rock" refers to the Lord (Psalms 18:2; Psalms 18:31; Deuteronomy 32:15; Isaiah 30:29). In this verse the "spiritual Rock" was in reality the Christ who "followed" (akoloutheo) or "accompanied" (Thayer 22-1-190) them throughout the wilderness. Isaiah records,
For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them (Isaiah 63:8-10).
As we continue noticing Paul’s parallel, we must keep in mind that "all fathers" were under God’s protection and leadership (verse 1), they "all" were redeemed from slavery by being baptized in the cloud and in the sea (verse 2), they "all" ate the "spiritual meat" (verse 3), and finally they "all" drank of that "spiritual Rock" and had Christ as their provider.
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:4". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ctf/1-corinthians-10.html. 1993-2022.
The tragic example of Israel 10:1-5
The point of this example is that God’s people can practice idolatry, and persisting in idolatry has dire consequences. Paul stressed the similarity of experience that the church, the Corinthian church particularly, and Israel shared by pointing out that each group had its own "baptism" and "Lord’s Supper." Israel had five advantages, according to the following verses.
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3. The sinfulness of idolatry 10:1-22
Paul continued dealing with the subject of going to idol temples to participate in pagan feasts in this section. In it he gave a warning to the believer who considered himself strong, the one who knew there were really no gods but the true God. Such a person felt free to accept the invitation of a pagan neighbor to dine in a pagan temple (1 Corinthians 8:10). The apostle cautioned this element in the Corinthian church because, even though there are no other gods, the possibility of participating in idolatry is very real. He drew his lesson from the experience of Israel during the wilderness wanderings (cf. Exodus 13-17; Numbers 10-15).
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Furthermore, fourth and fifth, all the Israelites, not just some of them, ate the manna and drank water from the rock. They ate supernatural food and received supernatural sustenance. They ate manna throughout their wilderness sojourn (Deuteronomy 8:2-4), and they drank from the rock at the beginning (Exodus 17:1-7) and at the end of it (Numbers 20:2-13), namely, throughout their wilderness experience. Paul called the manna and water spiritual food and drink because God provided them supernaturally and because they have spiritual significance. Both of them came ultimately from Christ and point to Christ, the real sustainer of His people (cf. John 6:35; John 6:48-51; John 7:37-38). The Israelites thought of God as a rock (Deuteronomy 32:4; Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 32:18; Deuteronomy 32:30-31; et al.). He as a rock, not some physical rock, accompanied them in the wilderness. Their eating and drinking of God is similar to and anticipated the Christian Lord’s Supper.
Paul’s point in these first four verses was that the Israelites were the chosen people of God just as Christians are now the chosen people of God. God accompanied and provided for them faithfully in the past just as He does for all Christians now.
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THE PERIL OF OVER-CONFIDENCE ( 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 )
10:1-13 Brothers, I do not want you to forget that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all of them passed through the midst of the sea, and all of them were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same food which the Spirit of God gave to them; and all drank the same drink which came to them by the action of the Spirit; for they drank of the rock which accompanied them through the action of the Spirit, and that rock was Christ. All the same, with the majority of them God was not well pleased; for they were left dead, strewn in the desert. These things have become examples to us, so that we should not be men who long for evil and forbidden things as they longed after them. Nor must you become idolaters as some of them did, as it stands written, "The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to enjoy their sport." Nor must we practise fornication, as certain of them practised fornication, with the consequence that twenty-three thousand of them died in one day. Nor must we try the patience of the Lord beyond the limit, as some of them tried it, and in consequence were destroyed by serpents. Nor must you grumble, as certain of them grumbled, and were destroyed by the destroyer. It was to show what can happen that these things happened to them. They were written to warn us upon whom the ends of the ages have come. So then let him who thinks that he stands secure take care lest he fall. No test has come upon you other than that which comes on every man. You can rely on God, for he will not allow you to be tested beyond what you are able to bear, but he will send with the trial an escape route as well, so that you may be able to bear it.
In this chapter Paul is still dealing with the question of eating meat which has been offered to idols. At the back of this passage lies the over-confidence of some of the Corinthian Christians. Their point of view was, "We have been baptized and are therefore one with Christ; we have partaken of the sacrament and so of the body and the blood of Christ; we are in him and he is in us; therefore we are quite safe; we can eat meat offered to idols and take no harm." So Paul warns of the danger of over-confidence.
When Oliver Cromwell was planning the education of his son Richard, he said, "I would have him learn a little history." And it is to history that Paul goes to show what can happen to people who have been blessed with the greatest privileges. He goes back to the days when the children of Israel were wayfarers in the desert. In those days the most wonderful things happened to them. They had the cloud which showed them the way and protected them in the hour of danger. ( Exodus 13:21; Exodus 14:19). They were brought through the midst of the Red Sea ( Exodus 14:19-31). Both these experiences had given them a perfect union with Moses the greatest of leaders and law-givers, until it could be said that they were baptized into him as the Christian is baptized into Christ. They had eaten of the manna in the wilderness ( Exodus 16:11-15). In 1 Corinthians 10:5 Paul speaks of them drinking of the rock which followed them. This is taken not from the Old Testament itself but from Rabbinic tradition. Numbers 20:1-11 tells how God enabled Moses to draw water from the rock for the thirsty people; the Rabbinic tradition was that that rock thereafter followed the people and always gave them water to drink. That was a legend which all the Jews knew.
All these privileges the children of Israel possessed, and yet in spite of them they failed most signally. When the people were too terrified to go forward into the Promised Land and all the scouts except Joshua and Caleb brought back a pessimistic report, God's judgment was that that whole generation would die in the desert. ( Numbers 14:30-32). When Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the law, the people seduced Aaron into making a golden calf and worshipping it. ( Exodus 32:6). They were guilty of fornication, even in the desert, with the Midianites and the Moabites and thousands perished in the judgment of God. ( Numbers 25:1-9). (It is to be noted in passing that Numbers 25:9 says twenty-four thousand perished; Paul says twenty-three thousand. The explanation is simply that Paul is quoting from memory. He rarely quotes scripture with verbatim accuracy; no one did in those days. There was no such thing as a concordance to help find a passage easily; scripture was not written in books, which had not yet been invented, but on unwieldy rolls.) They were wasted with serpents because they grumbled on the way ( Numbers 21:4-6). When Korah, Dathan and Abiram led a grumbling revolt, judgment fell on many and they died. ( Numbers 16:1-50).
The history of Israel shows that people who enjoyed the greatest privileges of God were far from being safe from temptation; special privilege, Paul reminds the Corinthians, is no guarantee whatever of security.
We must note the temptations and the failures which Paul singles out.
(i) There is the temptation to idolatry. We do not now worship idols so blatantly; but if a man's god be that to which he gives all his time and thought and energy, men still worship the works of their own hands more than they worship God.
(ii) There is the temptation to fornication. So long as a man is a man there come to him temptations from his lower self. Only a passionate love of purity can save him from impurity.
(iii) There is the temptation to try God too far. Consciously or unconsciously many a man trades on the mercy of God. At the back of his mind there is the idea, "It will be all right; God will forgive." It is at his peril that he forgets that there is a holiness as well as a love of God.
(iv) There is the temptation to grumble. There are still many who greet life with a whine and not with a cheer.
So Paul insists on the need of vigilance. "Let him who thinks he stands secure take care lest he fall." Again and again a fortress has been stormed because its defenders thought that it was impregnable. In Revelation 3:3 the risen Christ warns the Church of Sardis to be on the watch. The Acropolis of Sardis was built on a jutting spur of rock that was held to be impregnable. When Cyrus was besieging it, he offered a special reward to any who could find a way in. A certain soldier, Hyeroeades by name, was watching one day and saw a soldier in the Sardian garrison drop his helmet accidentally over the battlements. He saw him climb down after it and marked his path. That night he led a band up the cliffs by that very path and when they reached the top they found it quite unguarded; so they entered in and captured the citadel, which had been counted too safe. Life is a chancy business; we must be ever on the watch.
Paul concludes this section by saying three things about temptation.
(i) He is quite sure that temptation will come. That is part of life. But the Greek word which we translate temptation means far more a test. It is something designed, not to make us fall, but to test us, so that we emerge from it stronger than ever.
(ii) Any temptation that comes to us is not unique. Others have endured it and others have come through it. A friend tells how he was once driving Lightfoot, the great Bishop of Durham, in a horse carriage along a very narrow mountain road in Norway. It got so narrow that there were only inches between the wheels of the carriage and the cliffs on one side and the precipice on the other. He suggested in the end that Lightfoot would be safer to get out and walk. Lightfoot surveyed the situation and said, "Other carriages must have taken this road. Drive on." In the Greek Anthology there is an epigram which gives the epitaph of a shipwrecked sailor, supposedly from his own lips. "A shipwrecked mariner on this coast bids you set sail," he says. His bark may have been lost but many more have weathered the storm. When we are going through it, we are going through what others have, in the grace of God, endured and conquered.
(iii) With the temptation there is always a way of escape. The word is vivid (ekbasis, G1545) . It means a way out of a defile, a mountain pass. The idea is of an army apparently surrounded and then suddenly seeing an escape route to safety. No man need fall to any temptation, for with the temptation there is the way out, and the way out is not the way of surrender nor of retreat, but the way of conquest in the power of the grace of God.
THE SACRAMENTAL OBLIGATION ( 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 )
10:14-22 So then, my beloved ones, avoid everything that has to do with idols. I speak as I would to sensible men; pass your own judgment on what I am saying. Is not this blessed cup on which we ask the blessing, a very sharing in the blood of Jesus Christ? Is not the bread which we break a very sharing in the body of Christ? Just as the broken bread is one, so we, though we are many, are one body. For we all share in the one bread. Look at the nation of Israel in the racial sense. Do not those who eat of the sacrifices become sharers with the altar in them? What then am I saying? Am I saying that a thing which has been offered to idols is actually a real sacrifice? Am I saying that an idol is actually something? I do not say that, but I do say that what pagans sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to share things with the demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. Or are we too to provoke the jealousy of the Lord? Surely you do not think that you are stronger than he is?
Behind this passage there are three ideas; two of them are peculiar to the age in which Paul lived; one is forever true and valid.
(i) As we have seen, when sacrifice was offered, part of the meat was given back to the worshipper to hold a feast. At such a feast it was always held that the god himself was a guest. More, it was often held that, after the meat had been sacrificed, the god himself was in it and that at the banquet he entered into the very bodies and spirits of those who ate. Just as an unbreakable bond was forged between two men if they ate each other's bread and salt, so a sacrificial meal formed a real communion between the god and his worshipper. The person who sacrificed was in a real sense a sharer with the altar; he had a mystic communion with the god.
(ii) At this time the whole world believed in demons. These demons might be good or bad, but more often they were bad. They were spirits who were intermediate between the gods and men. For the Greek every spring, every grove, every mountain, every tree, every stream, every pool, every rock, every place had its demon. "There were gods in every fountain and every mountain summit; gods breathing in the wind and flashing in the lightning; gods in the ray of the sun and the star; gods heaving in the earthquake and the storm." The world was packed with demons. For the Jew there were the shedim ( H7700) . These were evil spirits who haunted empty houses, who lurked "in the crumbs on the floor, in the oil in the vessels, in the water which we would drink, in the diseases which attack us, in the air, in the room, by day and by night."
Paul believed in these demons; he called them "principalities and powers." His point of view was this--an idol was nothing and stood for nothing; but the whole business of idol worship was the work of the demons; through it they seduced men from God. When they were worshipping idols, men thought they were worshipping gods; in fact they were being deluded by these malignant demons. Idol worship brought a man into contact, not with God, but with demons; and anything to do with it had the demonic taint on it. Meat offered to idols was nothing, but the fact remained it had served the purposes of demons and was therefore a polluted thing.
(iii) Out of this ancient set of beliefs comes one permanent principle--a man who has sat at the table of Jesus Christ cannot go on to sit at the table which is the instrument of demons. If a man has handled the body and blood of Christ there are things he cannot touch.
One of the great statues of Christ is that by Thorwaldsen; after he had carved it, he was offered a commission to carve a statue of Venus for the Louvre. His answer, was "The hand that carved the form of Christ can never carve the form of a heathen goddess."
When Prince Charlie was fleeing for his life he found refuge with the eight men of Glenmoriston. They were outlaws and criminals every one; there was a price of 30,000 British pounds on Charlie's head; they had not a shilling among them; but for weeks they hid him and kept him safe and not a man betrayed him. The years passed on until the rebellion was but an old, unhappy memory. One of the eight men, Hugh Chisholm by name, found his way to Edinburgh. People were interested now in his story of the prince and they talked to him. He was poor and sometimes they would give him money. But always Hugh Chisholm would shake hands with his left hand. He said that when Prince Charlie left the eight men he shook hands with them; and Hugh had sworn that he would never again give to any man the hand he had given to his prince.
It was true in Corinth and it is true today, that the man who has handled the sacred things of Christ cannot soil his hands with mean and unworthy things.
THE LIMITS OF CHRISTIAN FREEDOM ( 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 ; 1 Corinthians 11:1 )
10:23-33 All things are allowed to me, but all things are not good for me. All things are allowed, but all things do not build up. Let no one think only of his own good, but let him think of the good of the other man too. Eat everything that is sold in the market place, and don't ask fussy questions for conscience sake; for the earth and its fulness belong to god. If one of the pagans invites you to a meal, and you are willing to go, eat anything that is put before you, and don't ask questions for conscience sake. But if anyone says to you, "This is meat that was part of a sacrifice," don't eat it, for the sake of him who told you and for conscience sake. I don't mean your own conscience, but the conscience of the other man, for why has my liberty to be subject to the judgment of any man's conscience? If I partake of something after I have given thanks for it, how can I unjustly be criticized for eating that for which I gave thanks? So then, whether you eat or whether you drink or whatever you do, do all things to God's glory. Live in such a way that you will cause neither Jew nor Greek nor church member to stumble, just as I in all things try to win the approval of all men, for I am not in this job for what I can get out of it, but for what benefits I can bring to the many, that they may be saved. So then show yourselves to be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
Paul brings to an end this long discussion of the question of meat offered to idols with some very practical advice.
(i) His advice is that a Christian can buy anything that is sold in the shops and ask no questions. It was true that the meat sold in the shops might well have formed part of a sacrifice or have been slaughtered in the name of some god lest the demons enter into it; but it is possible to be too fussy and to create difficulties where none need exist. After all, in the last analysis, all things are God's.
(ii) If the Christian accepts an invitation to dinner in the house of a pagan, let him eat what is put before him and ask no questions. But, if he is deliberately informed that the meat is part of a sacrifice, he must not eat it. The assumption is that he is told by one of these brothers who cannot rid his conscience of the feeling that to eat such meat is wrong. Rather than bring worry to such a man the Christian must not eat.
(iii) So once again out of an old and remote situation emerges a great truth. Many a thing that a man may do with perfect safety as far as he himself is concerned, he must not do if it is going to be a stumbling-block to someone else. There is nothing more real than Christian freedom; but Christian freedom must be used to help others and not to shock or hurt them. A man has a duty to himself but a still greater duty to others.
We must note to where that duty extends.
(i) Paul insisted that a Corinthian Christian must be a good example to the Jews. Even to his enemies a man must be an example of the fine things.
(ii) The Corinthian Christian had a duty to the Greeks; that is to say he had to show a good example to those who were quite indifferent to Christianity. It is in fact by that example that many are won. There was a minister who went far out of his way to help a man who had nothing to do with the Church and rescued him from a difficult situation. That man began to come to Church and in the end made an astonishing request. He asked to be made an elder that he might spend his life showing his gratitude for what Christ through his servant had done for him.
(iii) The Corinthian Christian had a duty to his fellow Church member. It is the plain fact of life that somebody takes the cue for his conduct from everyone of us. We may not know it; but a younger or a weaker brother is often looking to us for a lead. It is our duty to give that lead which will strengthen the weak and confirm the waverer and save the tempted from sin.
We can do all things to the glory of God only when we remember the duty we must discharge to our fellow men; and we will do that only when we remember that our Christian freedom is given to us not for our own sake but for the sake of others.
1 Corinthians 11:1-34; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; 1 Corinthians 14:1-40 are amongst the most difficult in the whole epistle for a modem person in the western world to understand; but they are also among the most interesting, for they deal with the problems which had arisen in the Corinthian Church in connection with public worship. In them we see the infant Church struggling with the problem of offering a fitting and a seemly worship to God. It will make the section easier to follow if we set out at the beginning the various parts of which it is composed.
(i) 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 deals with the problem of whether or not women should worship with their heads uncovered.
(ii) 1 Corinthians 11:17-23 deals with problems which have arisen in connection with the Agape ( G26) or Love Feast, the weekly common meal which the Christian congregation held.
(iii) 1 Corinthians 11:24-34 deals with the correct observance of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.
(iv) 1 Corinthians 12:1-31 discusses the problem of welding into one harmonious whole those who possess all kinds of different gifts. It is here that we have the great picture of the Church as the Body of Christ, and of each member as a limb in that body.
(v) 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 is the great hymn of love which shows men the more excellent way.
(vi) 1 Corinthians 14:1-23 deals with the problem of speaking with tongues.
(vii) 1 Corinthians 14:24-33 insists on the necessity of orderliness in public worship and seeks to bring under necessary discipline the overflowing enthusiasm of a newly born Church.
(viii) 1 Corinthians 14:24-36 discusses the place of women in the public worship of God in the Church of Corinth.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Barclay, William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:4". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/1-corinthians-10.html. 1956-1959.
1 Corinthians 10:4
Spiritual rock -- Num. 20
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:4". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gbc/1-corinthians-10.html. 2021.
And did all drink the same spiritual drink,.... By which is meant the water out of the rock, which was typical of the blood of Christ, which is drink indeed, and not figurative, as this was, for which reason it is called spiritual; or of the grace of Christ, often signified by water, both in the Old and New Testament; and is what Moses and the law could not give; for righteousness and life, grace and salvation, could never be had by the works of the law: and very unpromising it was, and is to carnal men, that these should come by a crucified Christ, as it was to the Israelites, that water, in such plenty, should gush out of the rock in Horeb; but as those waters did not flow from thence without the rock being stricken by the rod of Moses, so the communication of the blessings of grace from Christ is through his being smitten by divine justice with the rod of the law; through his being, stricken for the transgressions of his people, and and being made sin, and a curse of the law in their room and stead. And as those waters continued through the wilderness as a constant supply for them, so the grace of Christ is always sufficient for his people; a continual supply is afforded them; goodness and mercy follow them all the days of their lives:
for they drank, of that spiritual rock that followed them; by which the apostle means not Christ himself, for he went before them as the angel of God's presence, but the rock that typified him; not that the rock itself removed out of its place, and went after them, but the waters out of the rock ran like rivers, and followed them in the wilderness wherever they went, for the space of eight and thirty years, or thereabout, and then were stopped, to make trial of their faith once more; this was at Kadesh when the rock was struck again, and gave forth its waters, which, as the continual raining of the manna, was a constant miracle wrought for them. And this sense of the apostle is entirely agreeable to the sentiments of the Jews, who say, that the Israelites had the well of water all the forty years k. The Jerusalem Targum l says of the
"well given at Mattanah, that it again became unto them violent overflowing brooks, and again ascended to the tops of the mountains, and descended with them into the ancient valleys.''
And to the same purpose the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel m,
"that it again ascended with them to the highest mountains, and from the highest mountains it descended with them to the hills, and encompassed the whole camp of Israel, and gave drink to everyone at the gate of his own dwelling place; and from the high mountains it descended with them into the deep valleys.''
Yea, they speak of the rock in much the same language the apostle does, and seem to understand it of the rock itself, as if that really went along with the Israelites in the wilderness. Thus one of their writers n on those words, "must we fetch you water out of this rock?" makes this remark:
"for they knew it not, לפי שהלך הסלע, "for that rock went", and remained among the rocks.''
And in another place it is said o,
"that the rock became in the form of a beehive; (elsewhere p it is said to be round as a sieve;) and rolled along,
ובאת עמהם, "and came with them", in their journeys; and when the standard bearers encamped, and the tabernacle stood still, the rock came, and remained in the court of the tent of the congregation; and the princes came and stood upon the top of it, and said, ascend, O well, and it ascended.''
Now, though in this account there is a mixture of fable, yet there appears something of the old true tradition received in the Jewish church, which the apostle has here respect to.
And the rock was Christ: that is, it signified Christ, it was a type of him. So the Jews q say, that the Shekinah is called סלע קדוש, "the holy rock"; and Philo the Jew says r of this rock, that the broken rock is η σοφια του θεου, "the wisdom of God". Christ may be compared to the rock for his outward meanness in his parentage and education, in his ministry and audience, in his life and death; and for his height also, being made higher than the kings of the earth, than the angels in heaven, and than the heavens themselves; and for shelter and safety from the wrath of God, and from the rage of men; and for firmness, solidity, and strength, which are seen in his upholding all things by his power, in bearing the sins of his people, and the punishment due unto them, in the support of his church, and bearing up his people under all afflictions and temptations, and in preserving them from a total and final falling away: and a rock he appears to be, as he is the foundation of his church and every believer, against which hell and earth can never prevail; and to it he may be likened for duration, his love being immovable, his righteousness everlasting, his salvation eternal, and he, as the foundation of his church, abiding for ever.
k Jarchi in Numb. xx. 2. l In Numb. xxi. 20. m In ib. n Jarchi in Numb. xx. 10. o Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 1. fol. 177. 2. p Gloss. in T. Bab. Pesach. fol. 54. 1. q Zohar in Num. fol. 87. 4. & Imre Binah in ib. r Lib. Allegor. l. 3. p. 1103.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:4". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-corinthians-10.html. 1999.
|Admonitions and Warnings.||A. D. 57.|
1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
In order to dissuade the Corinthians from communion with idolaters, and security in any sinful course, he sets before them the example of the Jews, the church under the Old Testament. They enjoyed great privileges, but, having been guilty of heinous provocations, they fell under very grievous punishments. In these verses he reckons up their privileges, which, in the main, were the same with ours.
I. He prefaces this discourse with a note of regard: "Moreover, brethren, I would not that you should be ignorant. I would not have you without the knowledge of this matter; it is a thing worthy both of your knowledge and attention. It is a history very instructive and monitory." Judaism was Christianity under a veil, wrapt up in types and dark hints. The gospel was preached to them, in their legal rites and sacrifices. And the providence of God towards them, and what happened to them notwithstanding these privileges, may and ought to be warnings to us.
II. He specifies some of their privileges. He begins, 1. With their deliverance from Egypt: "Our fathers, that is, the ancestors of us Jews, were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea. They were all under the divine covering and conduct." The cloud served for both purposes: it sometimes contracted itself into a cloudy pillar, shining on one side to show them their way, dark on the other to hide them from their pursuing enemies; and sometimes spread itself over them as a mighty sheet, to defend them from the burning sun in the sandy desert, Psalms 105:39. They were miraculously conducted through the Red Sea, where the pursuing Egyptians were drowned: it was a lane to them, but a grave to these: a proper type of our redemption by Christ, who saves us by conquering and destroying his enemies and ours. They were very dear to God, and much in his favour, when he would work such miracles for their deliverance, and take them so immediately under his guidance and protection. 2. They had sacraments like ours. (1.) They were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud, and in the sea (1 Corinthians 10:2; 1 Corinthians 10:2), or into Moses, that is, brought under obligation to Moses's law and covenant, as we are by baptism under the Christian law and covenant. It was to them a typical baptism. (2.) They did all eat of the same spiritual meat, and drink of the same spiritual drink, that we do. The manna on which they fed was a type of Christ crucified, the bread which came down from heaven, which whoso eateth shall live forever. Their drink was a stream fetched from a rock which followed them in all their journeyings in the wilderness; and this rock was Christ, that is, in type and figure. He is the rock on which the Christian church is built; and of the streams that issue from him do all believers drink, and are refreshed. Now all the Jews did eat of this meat, and drink of this rock, called here a spiritual rock, because it typified spiritual things. These were great privileges. One would think that this should have saved them; that all who ate of that spiritual meat, and drank of that spiritual drink, should have been holy and acceptable to God. Yet was it otherwise: With many of them God was not well pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness,1 Corinthians 10:5; 1 Corinthians 10:5. Note, Men may enjoy many and great spiritual privileges in this world, and yet come short of eternal life. Many of those who were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and sea, that is, had their faith of his divine commission confirmed by these miracles, were yet overthrown in the wilderness, and never saw the promised land. Let none presume upon their great privileges, or profession of the truth; these will not secure heavenly happiness, nor prevent judgments here on earth, except the root of the matter be in us.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:4". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/1-corinthians-10.html. 1706.
As usual, the introductory words (1 Corinthians 1:1-3) of the epistle give us no little intimation of that which is to follow. The apostle speaks of himself as such "called [to be ] an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God," but coupling a brother with him, "and Sosthenes our brother," he writes to "the church of God at Corinth" not to the saints, as was the case in the epistle to the Romans, but to the church at Corinth "to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus," as in the former epistle "called [to be] saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours."
This will be found to lead the way into the main subject of the present communication. Here we must not look for the great foundations of Christian doctrine. There is the unfolding of the assembly in a practical way; that is, the church of God is not viewed here in its highest character. There is no more than an incidental glance at its associations with Christ. No notice is here taken of the heavenly places as the sphere of our blessing; nor are we given to hear of the bridal affections of Christ for His body. But the assembly of God is addressed, those sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints called, "with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord." Thus room is left for the profession of the Lord's name. It is not, as in Ephesians, "to the saints which are in Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus." There is no such closeness of application, nor intimacy, nor confidence in a really intrinsically holy character. Sanctified they were in Christ Jesus. They had taken the place of being separate, "calling upon the name of the Lord;" but the remarkable addition should be noticed by the way "with all that in every place call upon the name of the Lord, both theirs and ours." And this is the more notable, because if there be an epistle which the unbelief of Christendom tries more than another to annul in its application to present circumstances, it is this first letter to the Corinthians. Nor need we wonder. Unbelief shrinks from that which calls, now rather recalls, the saints to a due sense of their responsibility in virtue of their position as the church of God here below. Those at Corinth had forgotten it. Christendom has not merely forgotten but denied it, and so would fain treat a large part of that which will come before us tonight as a bygone thing. It is not disputed that God did thus work in times past; but they have not the smallest serious thought of submitting to its directions as authoritative for present duty. Yet who can deny that God has taken more care to make this plain and certain in the very frontispiece of this epistle than anywhere else? He is wise and right: man is not. Our place is to bow and believe.
There is another point also to be weighed in the next verses (4-8). The apostle tells them how he thanks his God always on their behalf, but refrains from any expression of thankfulness as to their state. He recognises their rich endowments on God's part. He owns how they had been given all utterance, and all knowledge, the working of the Spirit of God, and His power. This is exceedingly important; for there is a disposition often to consider that difficulties and disorder among the saints of God are due to a want of government and of ministerial power. But no amount of gift, in few or many, can of itself produce holy spiritual order. Disorder is never the result of weakness alone. This, of course, may be taken advantage of, and Satan may tempt men to assume the semblance of a strength they do not possess. No doubt assumption would produce disorder; but weakness simply (where it leads souls, as it should, to spread out their need before the Lord) brings in the gracious action of the Holy Ghost, and the unfailing care of Him who loves His saints and the assembly. It was not so at Corinth. Theirs was rather the display of conscious strength; but at the same time they lacked the fear of God, and the sense of responsibility in the use of what God had given them. They were like children disporting themselves with not a little energy that wrought in vessels which altogether failed in self-judgment. This was a source, and a main source, of the difficulty and disorder at Corinth. It is also of great importance to us; for there are those that continually cry out for increase of power as the one panacea of the church. What reflecting spiritual mind could doubt that God sees His saints are not able to bear it? Power in the sense in which we are now speaking of it that is, power in the form of gift is far from being the deepest need or the gravest desideratum of the saints. Again, is it ever the way of God to display Himself thus in a fallen condition of things? Not that He is restrained, or that He is not Sovereign. Not, moreover, that He may not give, and liberally as suits His own glory; but He gives wisely and holily, so as to lead souls now into exercise of conscience and brokenness of spirit, and thus keep and even deepen their sense of that to which God's church is called, and the state into which it has fallen.
At Corinth there was a wholly different state of things. It was the early rise of the church of God, if I may so say, among the Gentiles. And there was not wanting an astonishing sample of the power of the Spirit in witness of the victory that Jesus had won over Satan. This was now, or at least should have been, manifested by the church of God, as at Corinth. But they had lost sight of God's objects. They were occupied with themselves, with one another, with the supernatural energy which grace had conferred on them in the name of the Lord. The Holy Ghost in inspiring the apostle to write to them in no way weakens the sense of the source and character of that power. He insists on its reality, and reminds them that it was of God; but at the same time he brings in the divine aim in it all. "God," says he, "is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." Immediately after he alludes to the schisms that were then at work among them, and calls on them to be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment; informing them of the tidings which had reached him through the house of Chloe, that there were contentions among them, some saying, "I am of Paul," others "I am of Apollos;" some, "I am of Cephas," and others "I am of Christ himself." There is no abuse to which flesh cannot degrade the truth. But the apostle knew how to introduce the Lord's name and grace with the grandly simple but weighty facts of His person and work. It was unto His name that they were baptized; it was He that had been crucified. And be it observed, that from the first of this epistle it is the cross of Christ that has the prominence. It is not so much His blood-shedding, nor even His death and resurrection, but His cross. This would have been as much out of place in the beginning of Romans as the putting forward of propitiation would be out of place here. Expiation of sins by Christ, His death and resurrection, are given of God to be displayed before the saints, who needed to know the firm, immutable foundation of grace; but what the saints wanted most was to learn the gross inconsistency of turning to selfish ease, honour, and aggrandisement the privileges of God's church, and the power of the Spirit of God that wrought in its members.
It is the cross which stains the pride of man, and puts all his glory in the dust. Hence the apostle brings Christ crucified before them. This to the Jew was a stumbling-block, and to the Greek foolishness. These Corinthians were deeply affected by the judgment of both Jews and Greeks. They were under the influence of man. They had not realized the total ruin of nature. They valued those that were wise, scribes, or disputers of this world. They were accustomed to the schools of their age and country. They conceived that if Christianity did such great things when those who possessed it were poor and simple, what might it not do if it could only be backed by the ability, and the learning, and the philosophy of men! How it must ride triumphantly to victory! How the great must bow, and the wise be brought in! What a glorious change would result when not the unlettered poor only, but the great and the noble, the wise and the Prudent, were all joined in the confession of Jesus!
Their thoughts were fleshly, not of God. The cross writes judgment on man, and folly on his wisdom, as it is itself rejected by man as folly; for what could seem more egregiously unreasonable to a Greek than the God that made heaven and earth becoming a man, and, as such, crucified by the wicked hands of His creatures here below? That God should use His power to bless man was natural; and the Gentile could coalesce as to it with the Jew. Hence too, in the cross, the Jew found his stumbling-block; for he expected a Messiah in power and glory. Though the Jew and the Greek seemed opposite as the poles, from different points they agreed thoroughly in slighting the cross, and in desiring the exaltation of man as he is. They both, therefore, (whatever their occasional oppositions, and whatever their permanent variety of form,) preferred the flesh, and were ignorant of God the one demanding signs, the other wisdom. It was the pride of nature, whether self-confident or founded on religious claims.
Hence the apostle Paul, in the latter part of chap. 1, brings in the cross of Christ in contrast with fleshly wisdom, as well as religious pride, urging also God's sovereignty in calling souls as He will. He alludes to the mystery (1 Corinthians 2:1-16), but does not develop here the blessed privileges that flowed to us from a union with Christ, dead, risen, and ascended; but demonstrates that man has no place whatever, that it is God who chooses and calls, and that He makes, nothing of flesh. There is glorying, but it is exclusively in the Lord. No flesh should glory in his presence."
This is confirmed in1 Corinthians 2:1-16; 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, where the apostle reminds them of the manner in which the gospel had entered Corinth. He had come there setting his face against all things that would commend himself. No doubt, to one of such eminent ability and such varied gifts as the apostle Paul, it was hard, to speak after the manner of men, to be nothing. How much it must have called for self-denial utterly to decline that which he could have handled so well, and which people at Corinth would have hailed with loud acclamation. Just think of the great apostle of the Gentiles, on the immortality of the soul, giving free rein to the mighty spirit that was in him! But not so. What absorbed his soul, in entering, the intellectual and dissolute capital of Achaia, was the cross of Christ. He determined therefore, as he says, to know nothing else not exactly to know the cross alone, but "Jesus Christ and him crucified." It was emphatically, though not exclusively, the cross. It was not simply redemption, but along with this another order of truth. Redemption supposes, undoubtedly, a suffering Saviour, and the shedding of that precious blood which ransoms the captives. It is Jesus who in grace has undergone the judgment of God, and brought in the full delivering power of God for the souls that believe. But the cross is more than this. It is the death of shame pre-eminently. It is utter opposition to the thoughts, feelings, judgments, and ways of men, religious or profane. This is the part accordingly that he was led in the wisdom of God to put forward. Hence the feelings of the apostle were distrust of self, and dependence on God according to that cross. As he says, "I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling." Thus, as Christ Himself is said in 2 Corinthians 13:1-14 to be crucified in weakness, such was also the servant here. His speech and his preaching was "not in enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." Accordingly, in this chapter he proceeds to supplement the application of the doctrine of the cross to the state of the Corinthians by bringing in the Holy Ghost; for this again supposes the incapacity of man in divine things.
All is opened out in a manner full of comfort, but at the same time unsparing to human pride. Weigh from the prophecy of Isaiah the remarkable quotation "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit." There is first the great standing fact before our eyes. Such is the Saviour to the saved. Christ crucified is the death-knell on all man's wisdom, and power, and righteousness. The cross writes total condemnation on the world. It was here the world had to say to Jesus. All that it gave Him was the cross. On the other hand, to the believer it is the power of God and the wisdom of God, because he humbly but willingly reads in the cross the truth of the judgment of his own nature as a thing to be delivered from, and finds Him that was crucified, the Lord Himself, undertaking a deliverance just, present, and complete; as he says, "Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." Flesh is absolutely put down. Man cannot go lower for weakness and ignominy than the cross on which hangs all the blessedness God gives the believer. And therein God is glorified as He is nowhere else. This in both its parts is exactly as it should be; and faith sees and receives it in Christ's cross. The state of the Corinthians did not admit of Christ risen being brought in, at least here. It might have drawn a halo, as it were, round human nature this presenting the risen man in the first instance. But he points to God as the source, and Christ as the channel and means, of all the blessing. "Of him," says he, "are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." But then, as he shows, there was not only this great source of blessing in Christ, but there is the power that works in us. Never is it the spirit of man that lays hold of this infinite good which God vouchsafes him. Man requires a divine power to work within him, just as he needs the Saviour outside himself
Accordingly, in 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, still carrying on the thought of Christ crucified, and connecting it with their condition, he intimates that he was in no wise limited to it. If persons were grounded in Christianity, he was prepared to go into the greatest depths of revealed truth; but then the power of entering safely was not human, but of the Holy Ghost. Man is no more capable of fathoming the depths of divine things than a brute can comprehend the works of human wit or science. This doctrine was utterly repulsive to the pride of the Greeks. They might admit man to have need of pardon, and of moral improvement. They fully admitted his want of instruction, and refinement, and, so to speak, of spiritualization, if it only might be. Christianity deepens our estimate of every want. Man not only wants a new life or nature, but the Holy Ghost. It is not merely His grace in a general sense, but the power of the Holy Ghost personally dwelling in him. It is this alone which can lead us into the deep things of God. And this, he lets us see, affects not merely this particular or that, but the whole working of divine grace and power in man. The whole and sole means of communicating blessing to us must be the Holy Ghost. Hence he insists, that as it is the Spirit of God in the first place who reveals the truth to us, so it is the same Spirit who furnishes suitable words, as, finally, it is through the Holy Ghost that one receives the truth revealed in the words He Himself has given. Thus, from first to last, it is a process begun, carried on, and completed by the Holy Ghost. How little this makes of man!
This introduces 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 and gives point to his rebukes. He taxes them with walking as men. How remarkable is such a reproach! Walking as men! Why, one might ask, how else could they walk? And this very difficulty as no doubt it would be to many a Christian now (that walking as men should be a reproach) was no doubt a clap of thunder to the proud but poor spirits at Corinth. Yes, walking as men is a departure from Christianity. It is to give up the distinctive power and place that belongs to us; for does not Christianity show us man judged, condemned, and set aside? On the faith of this, living in Christ, we have to walk. The Holy Ghost, besides, is brought in as working in the believer, and this, of course, in virtue of redemption by our Lord Jesus. And this is what is meant by being not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, which is proved by the Holy Ghost dwelling in us.
Here the apostle does not explain all this, and he gives a very withering reason for his reticence. These Corinthians had an uncommonly good opinion of themselves, and so they must be told plainly the reason why he does not open out these deep things. They themselves were not fit; they were but babes. What! the polished Greek believers no more than babes! This was rather what they would have said of the apostle or of his teaching. They thought themselves far in advance. The apostle had dwelt on the elementary truths of the gospel. They yearned after the fire of Peter and the rhetoric of Apollos. No doubt they might easily flatter themselves it was to carry on the work of God. How little many a young convert knows what will best lead him on! How little the Corinthians dreamt of depreciating the Second man, or of exalting the first! Hence the apostle tells them that he could not speak unto them as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat." Far from denying, he owns that their insinuation was true he had only brought before them elementary truths. They were not in a condition to bear more. Now this is full of meaning and importance practically at all times. We may damage souls greatly by presenting high truths to those that want the simplest rudiments of divine truth.
The apostle, as a wise master-builder, laid the foundation. The state of the Corinthians was such that he could not build on the foundation as he would have desired. His absence had given occasion for the breaking out of their carnal wishes after the world's wisdom. They were making even the ardour of a Peter and the eloquence of an Apollos to be a reason for dissatisfaction with one that, I need not say, was superior to both of them. But the apostle meets them in a way most unexpected to their self-satisfaction and pride, and lets them know that their carnality was the real reason why he could not go on with them into deeper things.
This leads him to point out the seriousness of the work or building; for he presents the church of God under this figure. What care each servant needs to take how and what he builds! What danger of bringing in that which would not stand the fire or judgment of God nay, further, of bringing in that which was not simply weak and worthless, but positively corrupting; for it was to be feared there were such elements even then at Corinth! Again he brings in another principle to bear upon them. Their party spirit, their feeling of narrowness, the disposition to set up this servant of Christ or that, was not only a dishonour to the Master, but a real loss to themselves. Not that there is any ground to suppose it was the fault of Peter or Apollos any more than of Paul. The evil was in the saints themselves, who indulged in their old zeal of the schools, and allowed their natural partiality to work. In point of fact this never can be without the most grievous impoverishment to the soul, as well as a hindrance to the Holy Ghost. What faith must learn is, that "all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas; . . . . . all are yours." Thus the subject enlarges, as is his wont, taking in an immense breadth of the Christian's possessions life, death, things present, and things to come. "All are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's."
This again brings in another point before the subject closes. He is not content with the pressing of responsibility on others; he had a solemn sense of his own place, which made him wonderfully independent of the judgments of men. Obedience gives firmness as well as humility. Not in the smallest degree was the pride of the Corinthians met by pride on his part, but by keeping the Lord and His will before his soul. Yet this is certainly true that this effect of faith looks like pride to a man who merely views things on the surface. The calm going on in the service of Christ, the endurance of this spirit or that, as no more than the idle wind, was no doubt exceedingly unpleasant to such as were wise in their own conceit, and valued the criticism they freely bestowed on the different servants of the Lord. But Paul sees all in the light of the eternal day. They had forgotten this, and were in a sense trafficking with these powers of the Spirit of God. They were making them the counters of a game they were playing in this world. They had forgotten that what God gives He gives in time, but in view of eternity. The apostle puts the truth of the case before their souls as he had it vividly before his own. (1 Corinthians 4:1-21)
Another thing is noticeable here. He had reproached them with walking not as Christians but as men (that is, with their habitual life and conversation formed on human principles instead of divine). On the other hand, it would appear from what follows, that they reproached the apostle in their hearts, not, of course, in so many words, with not being enough of a gentleman for their taste. This seems to me the gist of the fourth chapter. It was a thing that they considered quite beneath a Christian minister to work from time to time with his hands, often poor, occasionally in prison, knocked about by crowds, and so on. All this they thought the fruit of indiscretion and avoidable. They would have preferred respectability, public and private, in one who stood in the position of a servant of Christ. This the apostle meets in a very blessed way. He admitted that they were certainly not in such circumstances; they were reigning as kings. As for him it was enough to be the off-scouring of all men, this was his boast and blessedness. He wished that they did indeed reign that he might reign with them (that the blessed time might really arrive). How his heart would rejoice in that day with them! And surely the time will come, and they would all reign together when Christ reigns over the earth. But he quite admits that for the present the fellowship of Christ's sufferings was the place he had chosen. Of honour in the world, and ease for the flesh, he at least could not, if they could, boast. Present greatness was what he in no wise coveted; to suffer great things for His sake was what the Lord had promised, and what His servant expected in becoming an apostle. If his own service was the highest position in the church, his was certainly the lowest position in the world. This was as much an apostle's boast and glory as anything that God had given them. No answer can I conceive more telling to any one of his detractors at Corinth who had a heart and conscience.
In 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 we enter on another and more painful part of the epistle. A fearful instance of sin had come to light, so gross, indeed, that the like was not even named among the Gentiles. In fact it was a case of incest, and this among those called of God, and sanctified in Christ Jesus! The question is not in the least raised whether the guilty person was a saint or not; still less does he allow that which one so often and painfully heard pleaded in extenuation, "Oh, but he [or she] is a dear Christian." Christian affection is most excellent; as brethren we should love even to laying down life for each other; as it is also very right that we should own the work God has wrought, above all what He has wrought in grace. But when one bearing the name of the Lord has, through unwatchfulness, fallen into wickedness, which of course grieves the Holy Ghost and stumbles the weak, it is not the time to talk thus. It is the time, in the very love that God implants, to deal sternly with that which has disgraced the name of the Lord. Is this to fail in love to the person? The apostle showed ere long that he had more love for this evildoer than any of them. The second epistle to the Corinthians entreats them to confirm their love to him whom they had put away. They were too hard against him then, as they were too loose now. Here their consciences needed to be roused. To deal with the matter they owed to the Lord Jesus. It was not merely getting rid of the obnoxious man. They had to prove themselves clear in the matter certainly; but he puts before them another course, whenever the guilty one had repented.
"I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already," etc. The case was most gross, and there was no question about it. The facts were indisputable; the scandal was unheard of. "I have judged already, as though present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh." There was no discussion raised whether the person might be converted. The fact is, church discipline supposes and goes on the ground that those on whom it is exercised are Christians; but when it is a question of discipline, it is not the season for the display of Christian affection. This would falsify the conscience and turn the eye from off the point to which the Holy Ghost was directing attention. There was wickedness in their midst; and while known and unjudged, all were implicated; none could be clean till it was put away. Accordingly the apostle, while he expresses the desire that the spirit of the man should be saved in the day of the Lord, flesh being destroyed, at the same time rouses the saints to that which became the name of the Lord on the very ground that they were unleavened. If they were free from evil, let them act consistently. Let them preserve that purity in practice which was theirs in principle. They were unleavened, and therefore should be a new lump. Notoriously there was old leaven among them. What business had it there? "Put away from" not the table of the Lord merely, this he does not say, but "Put away from among yourselves." This is much stronger than expelling from the table. Of course, it implies exclusion from the Lord's table, but from their table too "with such an one, no, not to eat." An ordinary meal, or any such act expressive even in natural things of fellowship with the person thus dishonouring the Lord, is forbidden.
Mark, they must put away. It is not the apostle acting for them; for God took particular care that this case, demanding discipline to the uttermost, should be where the apostle was not. What an admirable instruction for us who have no longer an apostle! None can pretend that it was an assembly where there was a high degree of knowledge or spirituality. The very reverse was the case. The responsibility of discipline depends on our relationship as an assembly to the Lord, not on its changing states. The Corinthians were babes; they were carnal. He who loved them well could not speak of them as spiritual. Nevertheless, this responsibility attached to the very fact that they were members of Christ His body. If saints are gathered to the name of the Lord, and so are God's assembly, if they have faith to take such a position here below, and have the Holy Ghost owned as in their midst, this, and nothing short of this, is their responsibility; nor does the ruined state of the church touch the question, nor can it relieve them from their duty to the Lord. The church at Corinth had soon failed most gravely far and wide. This was the more shameful, considering the brightness of the truth vouchsafed to them, and the striking manifestation of divine power in their midst. The presence of apostles elsewhere in the earth, the beautiful display of Pentecostal grace at Jerusalem, the fact that so short a time had elapsed since they had been brought out of heathenism into their standing in God's grace, all made the present state of the Corinthians so much the more painful; but nothing can ever dissolve the responsibility of saints, whether as individuals or as an assembly. "Put away from among yourselves that wicked person."
Another thing is to be observed, that the Holy Spirit's scale of sin is not that of man. Which of you, my brethren, would have thought of classing a railer with an adulterer? A railer is one who uses abusive language for the purpose of injuring another, not the transient out-breaking of flesh, sad as it is, but provoked it may be, or at any rate, happening through unwatchfulness. The habit of evil speaking stamps him who practises it as a railer; and such a man is unfit for the company of the saints, for God's assembly. It is the old leaven of malice and wickedness. He is unclean. Doubtless the world would not so judge; but this is not the world's judgment. The Corinthians were under the influence of the world. The apostle had already shown that to walk as men is beneath the Christian. Now we see that to walk as the world, no matter how refinedly, ever exposes Christians to act worse than men of the world. God has stamped upon His children the name of Christ; and what does not express His name is inconsistent, not only with the Christian, but with His assembly. They are all as such held responsible, according to the grace and holiness and glory of Christ, for the sin done in their midst, of which they are cognisant. They are bound to keep themselves pure in ways.
There was another case also: brother was going to law with brother. (1 Corinthians 6:1-20) We have no reason to think they had fallen so far as to go to law with those that were not brethren; this would seem to be a lower step still. But brother was going to law with brother, ,and this before the unjust. How often now-a-days one hears, "Well, one expects something better from a brother; and surely he ought to suffer the consequences of his ill-doing." This was just the feeling of the Corinthian plaintiff. What, then, is the weapon that the apostle uses in this case? The dignified place in the glory that God designs for the Christian: "Know ye not that we shall judge the world judge angels?" Were such going before the Gentiles? Thus is seen how practical all truth is, and how God casts the bright light of the approaching day on the smallest matters of the life of today.
Again, there was no quarter in the world where personal purity was more unknown than at Corinth. Indeed, such were the habits of the ancient world, it would only defile the ears and minds of God's children to have any proofs of the depravity in which the world then lay, and that too in its best estate, the wisest and the greatest not excepted, those, alas. whose writings are in the hands of the youth of our day, and more than ever, perhaps, in their hands. Those wits, poets, and philosophers of heathen antiquity lived in habitual, yea, often in unnatural grossness, and thought nothing of it. It is a danger for the saints of God to be tinctured by the atmosphere of the world outside when the first fervour of grace cools, and they begin to take up their old habits. It was certainly so at Corinth.
Accordingly the believers there were betrayed into their former uncleanness of life when the heavenly light got dim. And how does the apostle deal with this? He recalls to them the Holy Spirit's dwelling in them. What a truth, and of what force to the believer! He does not say simply that they were redeemed, though he brings it in also; still less does he merely reason on the moral heinousness of the sin; neither does he cite the law of God that condemned it. He presses upon them that which was proper to them as Christians. It was no question of man, let him be Gentile or Jew, but of a Christian. Thus he sets before them the distinctive Christian blessing the Holy Ghost dwelling in the believer, and making his body (not his spirit but his body) a temple of the Holy Ghost; for here was precisely where the enemy seems to have misled these Corinthians. They affected to think they might be pure in spirit, but do what they liked with their bodies. But, answers the apostle, it is the body which is the temple of the Holy Ghost. The body belongs to the Lord and Saviour; the body, therefore, and not the spirit only, He claims now. No doubt that the spirit be occupied with Christ is a grand matter; but the licentious flesh of man would talk, at any rate, about the Lord, and at the same time indulge in evil. This is set aside by the blessed fact that the Holy Ghost even now dwells in the Christian, and this on the ground of his being bought with a price. Thus the very call to holiness ever keeps the saint of God in the sense of his immense privileges as well as of his perfect deliverance.
1 Corinthians 7:1-40 naturally leads from this into certain questions that had been proposed to the apostle touching marriage and slavery questions which had to do with the various relationships of life. The apostle accordingly gives us what he had learned from the Lord, as well as what he could speak of as a commandment of the Lord, distinguishing in the most beautiful manner, not between inspired and non-inspired, but between revelation and inspiration. All the word is inspired; there is no difference as to this. There is no part of Scripture that is less inspired than another. " All (every) scripture is given by inspiration of God;" but all is not His revelation. We must distinguish between parts revealed and the whole inspired. When a thing is revealed of God, it is absolutely new truth, and of course is the commandment of the Lord. But the inspired word of God contains the language of all sorts of men, and very often the conversation of wicked men nay, of the devil I need not say that all this is not a revelation; but God communicates what Satan and wicked men say (as for instance Pilate's words to our Lord and the Jews). None of these evidently was that which is called a revelation; but the Holy Ghost inspired the writers of the book to give us exactly what each of these said, or revealed what was in the mind of God about them. Take, for example, the book of Job, in which occur the sayings of his friends. What intelligent reader could think that they were in any way authorised communicators of the mind of God? They say sometimes very wrong things, and sometimes wise, and often things that do not in the smallest degree apply to the case. Every word of the book of Job is inspired; but did all the speakers utter necessarily the mind of God? Did not one of the speakers condemn one or other of the rest? Need one reason on such facts? This, no doubt, makes a certain measure of difficulty for a soul at the first blush; but on maturer consideration all becomes plain and harmonious, and the word of God is enhanced in our eyes.
And so it is in this chapter, where the apostle gives both the commandment of the Lord, and his own matured spiritual judgment, which he expressly says was not the commandment of the Lord. Still he was inspired to give his judgment as such. Thus the whole chapter is inspired, one part of it just as much as another. There is no difference in inspiration. What was written by the different inspired instruments is of God as absolutely as if He had written it all without them. There is no degree in the matter. There can be no difference in inspiration. But in the inspired word of God there is not always revelation. Sometimes it is a record which the Spirit gave a man to make of what he had seen and heard, sometimes he recorded by the Spirit what no man could have seen or heard. Sometimes it was a prophecy of the future, sometimes a communication of God's present mind according to His eternal purpose. But all is equally and divinely inspired.
The apostle then lays down at least as far as may be here briefly sketched that while there are cases where it is a positive duty to be married, undisguisedly there was a better place of undivided devotedness to Christ. Blessed is he who is given. thus to serve the Lord without let: still it must be the gift of God. The Lord Jesus had laid down the same principle Himself. InMatthew 19:1-30; Matthew 19:1-30, it is needless to say, you have the selfsame truth in another form.
Again, while the Lord employs the apostle thus to give us both His own commandment and His mind, the general principle is stated as to the relationships of life. It is broadly laid down that one should remain in that condition in which he is called, and for a very blessed reason. Supposing one were a slave even, he is already, if a Christian, a freeman of Christ. You must remember that in these days there were everywhere bondmen: those that then ruled the. world took them from all classes and all countries There were bondmen highly educated, and once in a high position of life. Need it be said that often these bondmen rose up against their cruel masters? The very knowledge of Christ, and the possession of conscious truth, if grace did not counteract mightily, would tend to increase their sense of horror at their position. Suppose, for instance, a refined person, with the truth of God communicated to his soul, was the slave of one living in all the filth of heathenism, what a trial it would be to serve in such a position! The apostle urges the truth of that liberty in Christ which Christendom has well-nigh forgotten that if I am Christ's servant I am emancipated already. Match if you can the manumission he has got. Twenty millions will procure no such emancipation. At the same time, if my master allows me liberty, let me use it rather. Is it not a remarkable style of speech and feeling? The Christian, even if a slave, possesses the best freedom after all: anything else is but circumstantial. On the other hand, if you are a freeman, take care how you use your liberty: use it as the Lord's bondman. The freeman is reminded of his bondmanship; the bondman is reminded of his freedom. What a wonderful antithesis of man is the Second Man! How it traverses all the thoughts, circumstances, and hopes of flesh!
Then he brings before us the different relationships at the end of the chapter, as they are affected by the coming of the Lord. And there is nothing which shows more the importance of that hope as a practical power. There is not only the direct but the indirect allusion when the heart is filled with an object; and the indirect is a yet stronger witness of the place it holds than the direct. A mere hint connects itself with that which is your joy and constant expectation; whereas when a thing is little before the heart you require to explain, prove, and insist upon it. But this chapter brings vividly before them how all outward things pass away, even the fashion of this world. Time is short. It is too late either to make much of scenes so changing, or to seek this thing or that here below with such a morrow before our eyes. Hence he calls on those who had wives to be as those who had none, on those who were selling and buying to be above all the objects that made up the sum of business. In short, he puts Christ and His coming as the reality, and all else as the shadows, transitions, movements of a world that even now crumbles underneath us. No wonder that he follows all up at the end with his own judgment, that the man most blessed is he who has the least entanglement, and is the most thoroughly devoted to Christ and His service.
Next in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 he begins to take up another danger for the Corinthian saints. They had the sound of the truth ringing in their ears; and assuredly there are few sounds sweeter than the liberty of the Christian. But what is more liable to abuse? They had abused power to self-exaltation; they were now turning liberty to license. But there is a solemn fact which none can afford to forget as to both power and liberty that without responsibility nothing is more ruinous than either. Herein lay the sad failure of these saints. In the sense of responsibility they were utterly wanting They seem to have forgotten completely that the Lord from whom the liberty had come is the One in whose sight, and for whose glory, and according to whose will, all power was to be used. The apostle recalls them to this; but he takes up their license in going into heathen temples, and eating things offered to idols, not first of all on the high ground of the Lord, but on account of their brethren. In their boasted liberty, and because they knew an idol was nothing, they considered that they might go anywhere, and do what they pleased. Nay, not so, cries the apostle; you must consider your brother. There is many a disciple who, far from knowing how vain idolatry is, thinks a good deal of the idol. Thus, you that know so much, if you make light of going here and there, will induce other disciples to follow your steps who may slip into idolatry through it, and thus a brother perish for whom Christ died; and what is the liberty of one who is instructed may prove the extreme ruin of one who is equally a believer in the Lord. Thus he looks at the thing in its full character and ultimate tendency if unchecked. Grace, as we know, can arrest these tendencies, and avert the evil results.
In 1 Corinthians 9:1-27 he interrupts the course of his argument by an appeal to his own place as an apostle. Some were beginning to question his apostolate. It was not that he in the slightest degree forgot his call by God's will to that special service; neither was he insensible to the blessed liberty in which he was serving the Lord. He could lead about a sister-wife like another; he had foregone this for the Lord's sake. He could look for support from the church of God; he preferred to work with his own hands. So in the second epistle to the Corinthians he begs them to forgive the wrong; for he would not accept anything from them. They were not in a condition to be entrusted with such a gift. Their state was such, and God had so overruled it in His ways, that the apostle had received nothing from them. This fact he uses in order to humble them because of their pride and licentiousness.
The course of this chapter then touches on his apostolic place, and at the same time his refusal to use the rights of it. Grace can forego all questions of right. Conscious of what is due, it asserts rights for others, but refuses to use them for itself. Such was the spirit and the faith of the apostle. And now he shows what he felt as to practical state and walk. Far from being full of his knowledge, far from only using his place in the church for the assertion of his dignity and for immunity from all trouble and pain here below, he on the contrary was as one under the law to meet him that was under it; he was as a Gentile to meet him that was free from law (that is, a Gentile). Thus he was a servant of all that he might save some. Besides, he lets them know the spirit of a servant, which was so lacking in the Corinthians in spite of their gifts; for it is not the possession of a gift, but love which serves and delights in service. The simple fact of knowing that you have a gift may and often does minister to self-complacency. The grand point is to have the Lord before you, and when others are thought of, it is in the love which has no need to seek greatness, or to a et it. The love of Christ proves its greatness by serving others.
This, then, was the spirit of that blessed servant of the Lord. He reminds them of another point that he was himself diligent in keeping his body in subjection. He was like a man with a race that was going to be run, and who gets his body into training. He puts this in the strongest way, "Lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." Mark the tact of the apostle. When he has something discreditable to say, he prefers to say it about himself; when he has something pleasing to say, he loves to put it with regard to others. So here he says, "Lest I myself become a castaway," not " you." He meant their profit, no doubt; his aim was for them to have their own consciences searched by it. If Paul even was exercising himself to have a conscience void offence; if Paul was keeping his body in subjection, how much more did these men need it? They were abusing all the comfort that Christianity brings, to live at ease and play the gentleman, if one may speak according to modern language. They had not entered in the smallest degree into the spirit of the moral glory of Christ humbled here below. They had dislocated the cross from Christianity. They had severed themselves from the power of service. Thus they were in the utmost possible jeopardy; but the apostle, who had the blessedness of Christ before him, and the fellowship of His sufferings is scarce another had like him, even he used all diligence of heart, and held a tight rein over himself. Faithful man as he was, he allowed himself none of these licenses. Liberty indeed he prized, but it was not going here and there to feasts of idols. He was free to serve Christ, and time was short: what had such an one to do with heathen temples?
Thus he wants them to feel their danger, but first of all he begins with himself. He was free but watchful; and he was jealous over himself, the greater the grace shown him. It was not that he in the smallest degree doubted his security in Christ, as some so foolishly say; or that such as have eternal life may lose it again. But it is plain that men who merely take the place of having eternal life may, and often do, abandon that place. Those who have eternal life prove it by godliness; those who have it not prove the lack of it by indifference to holiness, and lack of that love which is of God. So the apostle shows that all his knowledge of the truth, far from making him careless, prompted him to yet greater earnestness, and to daily denial of himself. This is a very important consideration for us all (I press it more especially on the young in such a day as this); and the greater the knowledge of the saints, the more they need to keep it in view.
The apostle draws their attention to another warning in the history of Israel. These had eaten of the same spiritual meat, for so he calls it; they had the heaven-sent manna, had drunk of the same spiritual drink; yet what became of them? How many thousands of them perished in the wilderness? The apostle is approaching far closer to their state. He began with application to his own case, and now he points to Israel as a people sanctified to Jehovah. At length the word is, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful." This was a great comfort, but it was also a serious caution. "God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able." It is in vain, therefore, to plead circumstances as an excuse for sin. "But [He] will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry." He makes it plain that he is, with characteristic address, dealing with their little-exercised consciences from the statement of his own earnest vigilance over his ways, and then from the sad and solemn history of Israel judged of the Lord. Thus, too, he goes forward into new ground, the deeper spiritual motives, the appeal to Christian affection as well as to faith. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? He begins with that which most nearly touches the heart. It would have been an order more natural, if one may so say, to speak of the body of Christ; as we know in the Lord's supper habitually, there is that which brings before us first the body and then the blood. The departure from what may be called the historical order makes the emphasis incomparably greater. More than that, the first appeal is founded on the blood of Christ, the answer of divine grace to the deepest need of a soul found in its guilt before God and covered with defilement. Was this to be slighted? "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" He does not here say, "the blood" or the "body of the Lord." This we find in 1 Corinthians 11:1-34; but it is here Christ, because it becomes a question of grace. "The Lord" brings in the idea of authority. This, then, is evidently an immense advance in dealing with the subject. Accordingly he now develops it, not on the ground of injury to a brother, but as a breach of fellowship with such a Christ, and indifference to His immense love. But he does not forget His authority: "Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table and of the table of demons." It is not simply the love of Christ, but His full authority as the Lord. The apostle contrasts two mighty powers that were contesting demons, on the one hand, a power stronger than man, struggling as to him here below; and, on the other hand, there was the Lord that had shed His blood for them, but the Lord of all who should judge quick and dead. Hence he follows up with a comprehensive and simple principle, but full of liberty withal, that in going into the market you need ask no questions. If I do not know that the food has been connected with idols, the idol is nothing to me; but the moment I know it, it is no longer the question of an idol but a demon; and a demon, be assured, is a very real being indeed. Thus what the apostle insists on amounts to this, that their vaunted knowledge was short indeed. Whenever a person boasts, you will in general find. that he particularly fails precisely where he boasts most. If you set up for great knowledge, this will be the point in which you may be expected to break down. If you set up for exceeding candour, the next thing we may well dread to hear is that you have played very false. The best thing is to see that we give ourselves credit for nothing. Let Christ be all our boast. The sense of our own littleness and of His perfect grace is the way, and the only way, to go on well. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?"
Then in 1 Corinthians 11:1-34 we enter on another point. It would seem that the sisters at Corinth gave them a deal of trouble, and that they had forgotten entirely their due relative place. No doubt the men were at least as much to blame. It is hardly possible that women should ever put themselves forward in the church unless Christian men have deserted their true, responsible position and public action. It is the man's place to guide; and although women may assuredly be far more useful in certain cases, still, unless the man guides, what an evident departure from the order God has assigned to them both! How complete a desertion of the relative position in which they were placed from the first! Thus it was at Corinth. Among the heathen, women played a most important part, and in no quarter of the world, perhaps, so prominent a one as there. Need it be said that this was to their deep shame? There was no city in which they were so degraded as that in which the attained such conspicuous and unnatural prominence. And how does the apostle meet this new feature? He brings in Christ. This is what decides all. He affirms the everlasting principles of God, and he adds that which has so brightly been revealed in and by Christ. He points out that Christ is the image and the glory of God, and that the man stands in an analogous place as connected with and distinguished from the woman. That is to say, the woman's place is one of unobtrusiveness, and in fact, she is most effective where she is least seen. The man, on the contrary, has a public part a rougher and ruder task, no doubt one that may not at all bring into play the finer affections, but which demands a calmer and more comprehensive judgment. The man has the duty of the outward rule and administration.
Accordingly he marks the first departure from what was right by the woman's losing the sign of her subjection. She was to have a covering, on her head; she was to have that which indicated as a sign that she was subject to another. The man seemed to have failed just in the opposite way; and although this may seem a very little thing, what a wonderful thing it is, and what power it shows, to be able to combine in the same epistle eternal things and the very smallest matter of personal decorum, the wearing of long hair or short, the use of a covering on the head or not! How truly it marks God and His word!! Men. would scorn to combine them both in the same epistle; it seems so petty and so incongruous. But it is the littleness of man which calls for big matters to make him important; but the smallest things of God have significance when they bear on the glory of Christ, as they always do. In the first place, it was out of order that a woman should prophesy with her head uncovered; man's place was to do so. He was the image and the glory of God. The apostle connects it all with first principles, going up to the creation of Adam and Eve in a very blessed manner, and above all bringing in the second Man, the last Adam. Did they think to improve on both?
The latter part of the chapter takes up not the relative place of the man and the woman, but the supper of the Lord, and so the saints gathered together. The first part of it, as is evident, has nothing to do with the assembly, and thus does not dispose of the question whether a woman should prophesy there. In fact, nothing is said or implied in the early verses of the assembly at all. The point primarily mooted is of her prophesying after the manner of a man, and this is done with the greatest possible wisdom. Her prophesying is not absolutely shut out. If a woman has a gift for prophecy, which she certainly may have as well as a man, for what is it given of the Lord but for exercise? Certainly such an one ought to prophesy. Who could say the gift of prophecy given to a woman is to be laid up in a napkin? Only she must take care how she does exercise it. First of all, he rebukes the unseemly way in which it was done the woman forgetting that she was a woman, and the man that he is responsible not to act as a woman. They seem to have reasoned in a petty way at Corinth, that because a woman has a gift no less than a man, she is free to use the gift just as a man might. This is in principle wrong; for after all a woman is not a man, nor like one officially, say what you please. The apostle sets aside the whole basis of the argument as false; and we must never hear reasoning which overthrows what God has ordained. Nature ought to have taught them better. But he does not dwell on this; it was a withering rebuke even to hint at their forgetfulness of natural propriety.
Then, in the latter verses, we have the supper of the Lord, and there we find the saints expressly said to be gathered together. This naturally leads the way to the spiritual gifts that are treated of in1 Corinthians 12:1-31; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31. As to the supper of the Lord, happily I need not say many words to you. It is, by the great mercy of God, familiar to most of us; we live, I may say, in the enjoyment of it, and know it to be one of the sweetest privileges God vouchsafes us here below. Alas! this very feast had furnished occasion, in the fleshly state of the Corinthians, to a most humiliating abuse. What led to it was the Agape, as it was styled; for in those days there was a meal which the Christians used to take together. Indeed, the social character of Christianity never can be overlooked without loss, but in an evil state it is open to much abuse. Everything that is good may be perverted; and it never was intended to hinder abuse by extinguishing that which was only to be maintained aright in the power of the Spirit of God. No rules, no abstinence, no negative measures, can glorify God, or make His children spiritual; and it is only by the power of the Holy Ghost in producing a sense of responsibility to the Lord as well as of His grace that saints are duly kept. So it was then at Corinth, that the meeting for the Lord's Supper became mingled with an ordinary meal, where the Christians ate and drank together. They were glad to meet at any rate, originally it was so, when love was gratified with the company of each other. Being not merely young Christians, but unwatchful and then lax, this gave rise to sad abuse. Their old habits re-asserted their influence. They were accustomed to the feasts of the heathen, where people thought nothing whatever of getting drunk, if it was not rather meritorious. It was in some of their mysteries considered a wrong to the god for his votary not to get drunk, so debased beyond all conception were the heathen in their notions of religion.
Accordingly these Corinthian brethren had by little and little got on until some of them had fallen into intemperance on the occasion of the Eucharist; not, of course, simply by the wine drank at the table of the Lord, but through the feast that accompanied it. Thus the shame of their drunkenness fell upon that Holy Supper; and hence the apostle regulated, that from that time forward there should be no such feast coupled with the Lord's Supper. If they wished to eat, let them eat at home; if they came together in worship, let them remember it was to eat of the Lord's body, and to drink of the Lord's blood. He puts it in the strongest terms. He does not feel it needful or suitable to speak of "the figure" of the Lord's body. The point was to make its grace and holy impressiveness duly felt. It was a figure, no doubt; but .still, writing to men who were at least wise enough to judge aright here, he gives all its weight, and the strongest expression of what was meant. So Jesus had said. Such it was in the sight of God. He that partook undiscerningly and without self-judgment was guilty of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus. It was a sin against Him. The intention of the Lord, the true principle and practice for a saint, is to come, examining his ways, trying his springs of action, putting himself to the proof; and so let him eat (not stay away, because there is much discovered that is humbling). The guard and warning is, that if there be not self-judgment, the Lord will judge. How low is the state of things to which all saints tend, and not the Corinthians only! There ought to have been, I suppose, an interposition of the church's judgment between the Christian's lack of self-judgment and the Lord's chastenings; but, alas! man's duty was altogether lacking. It was from no want of gifts. They had no sense of the place God designed self-judgment to hold; but the Lord never fails.
In 1 Corinthians 12:1-31 accordingly, the apostle enters on a full statement of these spiritual powers. He shows that the distinctive feature of that which the Spirit of God leads to is the confession, not exactly of Christ, but of Jesus as Lord. He takes the simplest and most necessary ground that of His authority. This is observable in verse 3: "Wherefore I give you to understand that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed, and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost." Impossible that the Spirit should dishonour, yea, that He should not exalt, Him who humbled Himself for God's glory. "Now, there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God that worketh all in all." They had forgotten all this. They were pre-occupied with human thoughts, with this clever Jew and that able Gentile. They had lost sight of God Himself working in their midst. The apostle points out that if there were different services, if distinct gifts to one and another, it was for the common good of all. He illustrates the nature of the church as a body with its various members subserving the interests of the body and the will of the head. "By one Spirit were we all baptized into one body;" it is not the Holy Ghost merely making many members, but "one body." Accordingly he confronts with this divine aim their misuse of their spiritual powers, independence one of another, disorder as to women, self-glorification, and the like, as we see in1 Corinthians 14:1-40; 1 Corinthians 14:1-40 the detail. He presses that the least comely members, those that are least seen, may be of more importance than any others; just as in the natural body some of the most vital parts are not even visible. What would a man do without a heart, or liver, or lungs? So in the spiritual body there are members which are most important and not seen at all. But men are apt to value most those which make a showy appearance. Thus he rebukes the whole tenor and spirit of Corinthian vanity; at the same time he maintains their place of blessing and responsibility to the last. After all their faults he does not hesitate to, say, "Now ye are the body of Christ." This way of dealing with souls has been grievously enfeebled in the present day. Grace is so feebly known, that the first thought you will find amongst godly people is what they ought to be; but the ground and weapon of the apostle Paul is what they are by God's grace. "Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular; and God hath set some in the church." It was far from his mind in the least to deny it. Observe here an important use of the expression, "the church." It cannot be the local assembly, because, looking at Corinth, no apostles were there. Whatever might be the providential arrangements outside in the world, he is looking at the assembly of God here on earth; and it is the assembly as a whole, the Corinthian assembly being, as every true assembly is, a kind, of representative, of the church universally. It is the church of God here below; not merely churches, though that was true also.
Thus we can look at what the church will be by-and-by glorified and absolutely perfect. We can also look at a particular local assembly. Besides there is this most important sense of the church never to be forgotten namely, that divine institution viewed as a whole on. earth. Members of Christ no doubt compose it; but there is His body, the assembly as a whole, in which God works here below. Such is the reason why we do not find in this epistle evangelists or pastors, because it is not a question of what is needed to bring souls in or lead them on. He looks at the church as a thing already, subsisting as the witness of the power of God before men. Therefore it was not at all necessary to dwell on those gifts which are the fruit of Christ's love to and cherishing of the church. It is regarded as a vessel of power for the maintenance of God's glory, and responsible for this here below. Therefore tongues miracles, healings, the use of outward powers, are largely dwelt on here.
But we pass on to another and a still more important theme, a wonderfully full picture even for God's word, that most perfect and beautiful unfolding of divine love which we have in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. After all, if the Corinthians had coveted gifts, they had not coveted the best But even if we may desire the best gifts, there is better still; and the best of all is charity love. Accordingly we have this in the most admirable manner brought out both in what it is and in what it is not, and that too as corrective of the wrong desires of the Corinthians, and the evil spirit which had manifested itself in the exercise of their gifts; so that what seems to be an interruption is the wisest of parentheses between chapter 12, which shows us the distribution of gifts and their character, and chapter 14, which directs the due exercise of gifts in the assembly of God. There is but one safe motive-power for their use, even love. Without it even a spiritual gift only tends to puff up its owner, and to corrupt those who are its objects.
Hence 1 Corinthians 14:1-40 thus opens: "Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy." And why? Prophecy seemed to be somewhat despised amongst the Corinthians. Miracles and tongues were liked, because these made themselves of importance. Such wonders made men stare, and drew general attention to those who were invested evidently with a superhuman energy. But the apostle lays it down, that the gifts which suppose the exercise of spiritual understanding have a far higher place. He himself could speak more tongues than they all. It need hardly be added that he did more miracles than any of them. Still, what he valued most was prophesying. We must not suppose that this gift simply means a man preaching. Prophesying never means preaching. More than this, prophesying is not simply teaching. It, no doubt, is teaching; but it is a good deal more. Prophesying is that spiritual application of the word of God to the conscience which puts the soul in His presence, and makes manifest as light to the hearer the mind of God. There is a great deal of valuable teaching, exhortation, and application, that has no such character. It is all very true, but it does not put the soul in the presence of God; it gives no such absolute certainty of God's mind flashing on the condition and judging the state of the heart before Him. I do not speak now of the unconverted, though prophesying might affect such as well as the converted. The direct object of it was, of course, the people of God; but in the course of the chapter the unbeliever is shown coming into the assembly and falling on his face, and owning that God was among them of a truth. Such is the genuine effect. The man finds himself judged in the presence of God.
There is no need to enter into all that this chapter brings before us, but it may be well to observe that we have giving of thanks and blessing, as well as singing and prayer. Prophesying and the rest are brought in as all pertaining to the Christian assembly. What was not directly edifying, as speaking in a tongue, is forbidden unless one could interpret. I doubt very much whether there was any revelation after the scheme of Scripture was complete. To suppose anything revealed, when that which is commonly called the canon was closed, would be an impeachment of God's purpose in it. But till the last portion of His mind was written down in a permanent form for the church, we can quite understand His goodness in allowing a special revelation now and then. This gives no warrant to look for anything of the sort at any time subsequent to the completion of the New Testament. Again, it is plain from this that there are certain modifications of the chapter. Thus so far it is true that if anything has, through the will of God, terminated (for instance, miracles, tongues, or revelations), it is evident that such workings of the Spirit ought not to be looked for; but this does not in the smallest degree set aside the Christian assembly or the exercise according to God's will of what the Spirit still distinctly gives. And undoubtedly He does continue all that is profitable, and for God's glory, in the present state of His testimony and of His church here below. Otherwise the church sinks into a human institute.
In the end of the chapter a very important principle is laid down. It is vain for people to plead the mighty power of God as an excuse for anything disorderly. This is the great difference between the power of the Spirit and the power of a demon. A demon's power may be uncontrollable: chains, fetters, all the power of man outside, may utterly fail to bind a man who is filled with demons. It is not so with the power of the Spirit of God. Wherever the soul walks with the Lord, the power of the Spirit of God on the contrary is always connected with His word, and subject to the Lord Jesus. No man can rightly pretend that the Spirit forces him to do this or that unscripturally. There is no justification possible against Scripture; and the more fully the power is of God, the less will a man think of setting aside that perfect expression of God's mind. All things therefore are to be done decently and in order an order which Scripture must decide. The only aim, as far as we are concerned, that God endorses, is that all be done to edification, and not for self-display.
The next theme (1 Corinthians 15:1-58) is a most serious subject doctrinally, and of capital importance to all. Not only had the devil plunged the Corinthians into confusion upon moral points, but when men begin to give up a good conscience, it is no wonder if the next danger is making shipwreck of the faith. Accordingly, as Satan had accomplished the first mischief among these saints, it was evident the rest threatened soon to follow. There were some among them who denied the resurrection not a separate state of the soul, but the rising again of the body. In fact the resurrection must be of the body. What dies is to be raised. As the soul does not die, "resurrection" would be quite out of place; to the body it is necessary for God's glory as well as man. And how does the apostle treat this? As he always does. He brings Christ in. They had no thought of Christ in the case. They seem to have had no wish to deny the resurrection of Christ; but should not a Christian have at once used Christ to judge all by? The apostle at once introduces His person and work as a test. if Christ did not rise, there is no resurrection, and therefore no truth in the Gospel; "your faith is vain: you are yet in your sins." Even they were quite unprepared for so dreadful a conclusion. Shake the resurrection and Christianity goes. Having reasoned thus, he next points out that the Christian waits for the time of joy and glory and blessing for the body by-and-by. To give up resurrection is to surrender the glorious hope of the Christian, and to be the most miserable of men.. For what could be more cheerless than to give up all present enjoyment without that blessed hope, for the future at Christ's coming? Thus strongly was the whole complex nature of man before the apostle's mind in speaking of this hope of blessedness by-and-by.
Then, somewhat abruptly, instead of discussing the matter any more, he unfolds a most weighty revelation of truth "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the. resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." True, the kingdom is not yet come for which we are waiting, but it 'will come. See how all truth hangs together, and how Satan labours to make a consistency in error. He knows the weakness of man's mind. Nobody likes to be inconsistent. You may be dragged into it, but you are never comfortable when you have a sense of inconsistency about you. Hence, after one. error gains empire over the mind of man, he is ready to embrace others just to make all consistent.
Such was the danger here among the Corinthians. They had been offended by the apostle's supreme indifference to all that is of esteem among men. His habits of speech and life were not at all up to the mark that they supposed seemly before the world in a servant of God. Out of this fertile root of evil has the clergy grown. It has been the effort to acquire as much refinement as possible. Holy orders make a man a sort of gentleman if he was not so before. This seems to have been at work in, the minds of these critics of the apostle. Here we find what lay at the bottom of the matter. There is generally a root of evil doctrine where you find people wrong in practice. At any rate, where it is a deliberate, persistent, and systematic error, it will not be merely a practical one, but have a root deep underneath. And this was what now came out at Corinth. It was feebleness about that which, after all, lies at. the very foundation of Christianity. They did not mean to deny the person of Christ or His condition as risen from the dead; but, this is what the enemy meant, and into this their wrong notion tended to drift them. The next step, after denying resurrection for the Christian, would be to deny it about Christ. And here the apostle does not fail to rebuke them, and in a manner trenchant enough. He (exposes the stupidity of their questions, wise as they flattered themselves to be. How? It is always the danger of man that he is not content to believe; he would like first of all to understand. But this is ruinous in divine things, which are entirely outside sense and reason. All real understanding for the Christian is the fruit of faith.
The apostle does not hesitate in apostrophising the unbeliever, or at any rate, the errorist he has in view, to expose his folly. "Thou fool," says he, "that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die." Thus the strongest possible censure falls on these Corinthians, and this for the very matter in which they plumed themselves. Human reasoning is poor indeed outside its own sphere. However, he is not content merely with putting down their speculations; he brings in subsequent and special revelation. The previous part of the chapter had pointed out the connection of Christ's resurrection with our resurrection, followed by the kingdom which finally gives place in order that God may be all in all. In the latter part of the chapter he adds what had not been explained hitherto, From the early portion we should not have known but that all saints die, and that all rise at Christ's coming. But this would not be the full truth. It is most true that the dead in Christ rise, of course, but this does not explain about the living saints. He had vindicated the glorious character of the resurrection; he had proved how fundamental, and momentous, and practical, is the truth that the body is to be raised again, which they were disposed to deny as though it were a low thing, and useless even if possible. They imagined the true way to be spiritual was to make much of the spirit of man. God's way of making us spiritual is by a simple but strong faith in the resurrection-power of Christ; look to His resurrection as the pattern and spring of our own. Then at the last he adds that he would show them a mystery. On this I must just say a few words in order to develop its force.
The resurrection itself was not a mystery, The, resurrection of just and unjust was a well-known Old Testament truth. It might be founded on Scriptures comparatively few, but it was a fundamental truth of the Old Testament, as the apostle Paul lets us hear in his controversy with the Jews in the Acts of the Apostles. In fact, the Lord Jesus also assumes the same thing in the gospels. But if the raising of the dead saints was known, and even the raising of the wicked dead, the change of the living saints was a truth absolutely unrevealed. Up to this it was not made known, It was a New Testament truth, as this indeed is what is meant by a "mystery." It was one of those, truths that were kept secret in the Old Testament, but now revealed not so much a thing difficult to comprehend when stated, as a thing not revealed before. "And behold," says he, "I show you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." Evidently this supports and confirms, while it might seem an exception to, the resurrection; but, in point of fact, it gives so much the more force and consistency to the rising of the dead in a very unexpected way. The general truth of the resurrection assuredly does put the sentence of death on all present things to the believer, showing that the earth cannot rightly be the scene of his enjoyment, where all is stamped with death, and that he must wait for the resurrection power of Christ to be applied before he enters the scene where the rest of God will be our rest, and where there will be nothing but joy with Christ, and even this earth will behold Christ and His saints reigning over it till the eternal day. The addition to this of the New Testament truth of the chance gives immense impressiveness to all, and a fresh force, because it keeps before the Christian the constant expectancy of Christ. "Behold, I show you a mystery" not now that the dead in Christ shall rise, but "we," beginning with the "we" "we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed; for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality." And "therefore," as he closes with the practical deduction from it all, "my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work, of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
The last chapter is now before us, in which the apostle lays down a weighty exhortation as to collections for the saints. He puts it on the ground of their being prospered in any degree, and connects it with the special day of Christian enjoyment, when they gather together for the communion of saints. "Upon the, first day of the week let every one of you lay by in store as he has been prospered, that there be no gatherings when I come." Need it be said how human influence has dislocated the truth there? No doubt this was precisely what the apostle, or the Holy Ghost rather, discerned to be at work at Corinth, the same mistake that has wrought so malignantly in Christendom; that is to say, personal rank, learning, eloquence, or a great name (as of an apostle for instance), invoked to call out the generosity of the saints (perhaps, even of the world), and increase the proceeds by all these or like means.
But is there not another danger? Is there no snare for you, beloved brethren? When persons are more or less free from the ordinary incubus of tradition, when they are not so much under the influence of excitement, and of those appeals to the love of being known and of pleasing this or that man, or the cause, or any of those human motives that often do operate, I apprehend that they are exposed to danger in a wholly opposite direction. Do we sufficiently make it a matter of personal responsibility to the Lord, everyone of us, to give, and that in connection with the first day of the week and its blessed surroundings and objects, when we meet at His table? Do we every one of us give as we are prospered by the way? It is very well to keep clear of human influence, but let us see to it that we do not forget that "the Lord has need" of our giving for the purposes He loves here below. And of this I am sure, that if we have rightly cast aside mere human calls, and if we do thank God for the deliverance from worldly influence, and from the power of custom, public opinion, etc., it would be a deep reproach if we did not do double as much now, under the grace that confides in us, as we used to do under the law that used to govern us. Your own consciences must answer whether you can meet the Lord about this matter. I believe that we are in no small danger of settling down in the conviction that our old way was quite wrong, and simply keeping the money in our pockets. It does seem to me, I confess, that bad as human pressure may be in order to raise money, bad as may be a variety of earthly objects in this way or that, bad as a worldly lavish expenditure is, after all, a selfish personal keeping to ourselves of what we have is the worst thing of all. I am quite persuaded that the danger of the saints of God who have been brought outside the camp lies here, lest, delivered from what they know to be wrong, they may not seek in this an exercised conscience. Standing in the consciousness of the power of God's grace, they need to be continually looking out that they be devoted to Him. To cease doing what was done in a wrong way, and sometimes for wrong ends too, is not enough. Let there be zealous and vigilant exercise of soul, and enquiry how to carry out right objects in right ways, and so much the more, if indeed a simpler, fuller knowledge of God's grace and of Christ's glory has been given us.
Then we have various forms of ministry noticed. It is not here gifts as such, but persons devoted to labouring in the Lord; for there is a difference between the two things, as this chapter shows us strikingly. For instance, the apostle himself comes before us in ministry with his especial gift and position in the church. Then again, Timothy is there, his own son in the faith, not only an evangelist, but with a charge over elders at length, to a certain extent acting occasionally for the apostle Paul. Again, we have the eloquent Alexandrian thus introduced: "As touching our brother Apollos I greatly desired him to come unto you, but his will was not at to come at this time." How delicate and considerate the grace of Paul who wished Apollos to go to Corinth then, and of Apollos who wished not to go under the circumstances! On the face of the case we have the working of liberty and responsibility in their mutual relations; and the apostle Paul is the very one to tell us that Apollos's will was not to go as he himself wished at this time. It was no question of one in a place of worldly superiority regulating the movements of another of subordinate degree. The apostle did express his strong desire for Apollos to go; but Apollos must stand to his Master, and be assured that he was using a wisdom greater than that of man's. Finally, we observe another character of service lower down in "the house of Stephanas." This was a simpler case and a humbler position, but very real before God, whatever the danger of being slighted of men. Hence, I think, the word of exhortation "I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first-fruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)" etc. They gave themselves up in an orderly manner to this work. "That ye submit yourselves," not merely to Timothy or to Apollos, but to such, to the simple-hearted Christian men whose desire was to serve the Lord with the measure of power they had, and this proved by their persevering labour. Undoubtedly, in the midst of the difficulties of the church, in the face of the oppositions and disappointment, manifold griefs, enemies, and sources of sorrow and shame, it requires the power of God to go on without being moved by any of these things. It is an easy thing to make a start; but nothing short of the power of God can keep one without wavering at the work in the face of everything to cast down. And this was the question. We may suppose that these Corinthians were troublesome enough. From the statements made in the early part of the epistle it is evident; and so the apostle calls upon them to submit themselves. Evidently there was an unsubject spirit, and those ministered to thought they were just as good as the house of Stephanas. It is good to submit ourselves "unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us and laboureth." I am persuaded, beloved brethren, that it is no impeachment of the blessedness of the brotherhood to maintain the speciality of ministry in the Lord. There can be in these matters no more deplorable error than to suppose that there is not to be this godly submission one toward another, according to the place and power that the Lord is pleased to entrust.
The Lord grant that our souls may hold fast the truth here revealed, and in no general or perfunctory way. All I pretend to now is to give a sketch or combination of the parts of the epistle. But may the word itself, and every part of it, sink into our souls and be our joy, that we may not only take the precious truth of such an epistle as the Romans for the peace and joy of our hearts in believing individually, but also may understand our place by faith as of God's assembly on earth, and with thankful praise as those that call on the name of the Lord ours as well as theirs as those that find ourselves practically in need of such exhortations. The Lord give us His own spirit of obeying the Father.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:4". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/1-corinthians-10.html. 1860-1890.
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26