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Blessings Israel Received
Though Paul was writing primarily to Gentile Christians, Abraham would be considered their father in the spiritual realm ( Gal_3:7-8 ; Gal_3:29 ), as would the other faithful fathers of the past. The Corinthian brethren probably knew the basic facts of the story of Israel's deliverance from Egypt, but Paul wanted them to see its spiritual significance. He first referred to the crossing of the Red Sea ( Exo_14:19-22 ). The Israelites were buried in the sense of being completely covered from sight. A wall of water was on both sides and the cloud between them and Egyptians. The cloud did also cover them ( Psa_105:38-39 ). In the sea, they passed from disputed leadership, between Moses and Pharoah, to undisputed leadership by Moses, God's messenger. Thus, like baptism for the Christian, the crossing of the Red Sea saved the Jews from bondage ( 1Co_10:1-2 ; Exo_14:30 ; Rom_6:3-4 ; Rom_6:16-18 ).
The manna God provided in the wilderness could be said to be spiritual because it came from God. It was also a type of Christ ( Joh_6:31-35 ; Joh_6:49-51 ). Through it, the Jews should have come to recognize God as the giver. Its provision should also have induced them to be thankful, which would have spiritually strengthened them. Rocks were used on two occasions to provide water when needed. The rock is said to have followed them in the sense that it was available when needed ( Exo_17:6 ; Num_20:8 ). In the Christian age, Jesus provides living water ( Joh_4:14 ). The apostle's comments on Christ as the rock prove Jesus existed in Old Testament times ( 1Co_10:3-4 ).
Lost Though Rewarded
As Paul continues his discussion of their fall in the wilderness, he emphasizes self-control as he did in 9:27. Five times in the preceding verses he emphasized the participation of all in the blessings of deliverance. Then, he reminded the Corinthians that few received the reward ( Deuteronomy 1:3138 ; Num_26:62-65 ). Their starting number had been 693,550 ( Num_1:3 ; Num_2:32 )! "Scattered" suggests the desert was strewn with their corpses (see Vine). On page 27 of The Gospel Plan of Salvation, T. W. Brents cites verses 5 through 12 and says, "We know not how the apostle could have given more conclusive proof that the number of the elect composing the Church of God at Corinth, was liable to be diminished by apostasy than is here given" ( 1Co_10:5 ).
The apostle indicated those serving under the law of Christ can learn from the mistakes of those Israelites. They lusted after the fleshpots of Egypt ( Numbers 11:46; 3234 ). A desire to return to the old life and its sinful pleasures is thus condemned. Egypt equals the sinful life. Paul then makes reference to Exo_32:1-35 where in connection with idolatrous worship they apparently danced and let their passions run wild. Anything placed before God is idolatrous ( 1Co_10:6-7 ).
Num_25:1-9 contains the record of the next incident mentioned by Paul. The number used by Paul may have been rounded down and Moses' number rounded up. Idolatrous worship often led to sexual immorality because it was a part of such worship among other nations. Allen says immorality follows rejection of God ( Rom_1:18-32 ). The Israelites also tried God's patience. This was either through lack of trust (belief in his power and word; Act_5:9 ; Act_15:10 ; Heb_3:9 ), or by needlessly exposing themselves to danger ( Mat_4:7 ). Paul may have been referring to the incidents recorded in Numbers 21:46 . There are two cases of murmuring done by the children of Israel ( Num_14:12 ; Num_27:1-23 ; Num_28:1-31 ; Num_29:1-40 ; Num_16:41-49 ). God is never pleased with complaining ( 1Co_10:8-10 ).
A Warning For Us
All other ages pointed toward this last great one in which we live. Notice "all" of them received God's blessings and mercy ( 1Co_10:1-4 ), yet "some" turned away ( 1Co_7:1-40 ; 1Co_8:1-13 ; 1Co_9:1-27 ; 1Co_10:1-33 ). Their sins grew out of lust ( Jam_1:14-15 ; 1Jn_2:16-17 ). Since they had many blessings yet fell, it serves to warn us. Trusting obedience will keep us from falling ( 1Co_10:11-12 ; 2Pe_1:10 ).
1Co_10:13 teaches God watches out for us as individuals and providentially cares for us. It also shows he has control over all things, even the forces of evil, since he will not allow too much pressure to be brought against us. General kinds of temptation are listed in 1Jn_2:15-17 . Other Israelites had resisted that which caused some to fall (See The Timeless Trinity for the Ceaseless Centuries by Roy H. Lanier, Sr. for further comments, pp 386387).
Flee From Idolatry
Idolatry is dangerous. As surely as one would flee from a snake coiled at his feet, he should flee from idolatry. Perhaps to make the lesson more palatable, and certainly because he truly loved them, Paul addressed the Corinthians as brethren. The apostle went on to tell them he was writing to them as men and women who could discern the truth. They knew drunkenness, reveling, lust, etc. were closely related to idolatry. It should have been readily apparent to them that anything so closely related to such sins ought to be avoided ( 1Co_10:14-15 ). In a letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul wrote, "Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil" ( 1Th_5:21-22 ).
The Lord's Supper and Idolatry
When any Christian partakes of the Lord's Supper, he partakes of the blessings of fellowship with Christ and his brethren. Both baptism and the Lord's Supper recall Christ's death. The fruit of the vine Christ blessed and the Corinthians gave thanks for involved a full fellowship, or partnership, of all who partook. Similarly, the unleavened bread broken in the memorial involved all who participated in a communion with the whole body of Christ ( 1Co_10:16 ; Mat_26:26-30 ; Mar_14:22-26 ; Luk_22:19-20 ).
Paul wanted them to see that the Lord's Supper emphasizes the united nature of the church. Though the body is comprised of many members, it is still one body. Paul thought of the church as true Israel and the wilderness wanderers as "Israel after the flesh." When they offered sacrifices, part was given to God on the altar and part was eaten by the worshiper ( Deu_12:18 ). Thus, they had fellowship with God ( 1Co_10:17-18 ).
Eating At the Idol's Table
It was certainly true, as Paul admitted in 1Co_8:3 , that an idol was not a real god. However, there was some reality behind the idol. The Greeks considered an idol to be a "demigod or minor deitya being between God and men" (McGarvey). To the Christian it would have been a demon or an evil spirit. To eat of meat offered to idols, then, would have brought a Christian into fellowship with a demon.
Since the wine at an idolatrous feast was blessed and dedicated to the idol, just as the wine in the Lord's Supper is consecrated to the Lord, Paul said the Corinthians had to choose which one they would be dedicated to. They could not serve both. Otherwise, they would have been like a "wife who would provoke her husband to jealousy by showing her affection for another man" (Lipscomb). Paul wanted those who would risk arousing Christ's anger to know he was strong enough to destroy them ( 1Co_10:19-22 ).
Seeking The Good of Brethren
Paul knew all things not morally wrong were lawful, but some of those would not build up or strengthen the church. When Christians have the right to do something, the question should be "How will it affect others?"
The apostle said brethren did not need to ask questions about meat bought in the marketplace, since meat there would have been divorced from idolatrous practices. He went on to quote from Psa_24:1 , which proves all meat is pure since it comes from God. Neither did the apostle deem it necessary for the one asked into a heathen friend's home, and not to a sacrificial feast, to ask questions about the food since such would not be an act of worship ( 1Co_10:23-27 ).
However, if someone, probably a weak brother, pointed out that the meat had been offered to an idol, Paul said a Christian should not eat for the sake of the one who pointed it out. Of course, he would still have the right to eat, but should have forfeited it for the sake of the other ( 1Co_10:28-29 ).
Sacrificing To Save A Brother
Obviously, the strong could have been thankful for any meat and eaten. The apostle asked whether they should allow their freedom to cause another to fall and speak evil of them? He wanted the brethren to realize they should be willing to give up all rights so God's purposes might be furthered. Nothing was to be done to cause others to either remain in, or fall back into sin. Paul's main purpose was to save men. He was willing to sacrifice privileges to accomplish that purpose ( 1 Corinthians 10:3033 ).
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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany