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First Corinthians: Warnings from the Israelites

January 23, 2008

Some of the Corinthian Christians were eating meat sacrificed to idols, in disregard for those brothers and sisters whose consciences would not allow it. Paul admonished them to give up their rights, refraining from meat, rather than to cause a brother or sister to stumble. In chapter 9, Paul showed from his own example how Christians should give up their rights for the benefit of others. He concluded that thought with:

1Co 9:27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Being disqualified for the prize was a sobering warning. As Paul moved into chapter 10, he reminded them of some other children of God who had been disqualified.

1Co 10:1-5 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.

These Israelites seemingly had a lot going for them. They had witnessed the breathtaking miracles of God to free them from slavery to Pharaoh. They had witnessed the parting of the Red Sea, and had walked through it on dry ground. They had been led through the desert by God in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. They had received manna and quail from God in the desert. They had drunk water from a rock. Yet they had not responded to God’s deliverance appropriately. So they were disqualified for the prize. They died in the desert.

What had they done that displeased God? They had indulged in drunken revelry. They had practiced idolatry. They had committed adultery. They had challenged God and his servant Moses for leading them into the desert. They had grumbled against God and Moses.

The sobering thing for the Corinthian church was that they had been doing many of the same things. They were getting drunk at communion. They were toying with idolatry and meat sacrificed to idols. They allowed members to commit adultery. Some of them were starting to reject Paul’s inspired teaching and were beginning to turn back toward the philosophies of Greece and Rome. They were headed down the same road as the Israelites.

Paul urged them to take warning from those Old Testament examples:

1Co 10:11-13 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

In view of those warnings, Paul returned to the original question about meat sacrificed to idols. We will examine Paul’s conclusion on the subject in the next post.

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