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How do you persuade headstrong people to change their way of thinking and behavior?
So far, we have seen Paul answer questions (chapter 8) and encourage people to imitate his own lifestyle (chapter 9) in an effort to correct their attitudes and actions.
In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul drew examples from the only Bible the Corinthians had, the Old Testament.
The letters to the Corinthians were two of the earliest books in the New Testament to be written. Thus, the only Bible the early church could reference was the Hebrew Scriptures.
Experiences of God’s Salvation
Both Jewish and Gentile believers in Corinth were familiar with the major events of salvation history. To refresh our memory I will provide some notes, along with Paul’s words.
— 1 Cor. 10.1-2 – I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
God liberated generations of Hebrew slaves from Egypt. God led them with his awesome visible presence as a million people crossed the Red Sea on dry land.
“The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them” (Exodus 14.19).
— 1 Cor. 10.3 – And all ate the same spiritual food . . .
In Exodus 16.4-30 we have the account of how God’s people complained about the lack of meat in their diet. On that day, God provided quails and a manna.
Let’s not miss the fact that one issue in Corinth was whether to go to pagan temples to eat meat that was provided by wealthy citizens.
— 1 Cor. 10.4 – And all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.
In Exodus 17.1-7 the people complained about not having water to drink. God commanded Moses to strike a rock, and when he did water flowed from it.
It is interesting that Paul said, “the rock was Christ.” Paul knew that Jesus was/is eternal like the Father and the Holy Spirit.
We know Jesus best as the man who walked the earth for 33 years at the beginning of the first century. However, Jesus was also present as the “angel of the Lord” in the cloud and as God’s Rock of provision in the wilderness.
Examples for Us
Profound spiritual experiences should transform our lives. God’s people had more than their share of history making encounters with God.
In spite of all God had done, they failed to trust his leadership at crucial times in their history.
Thus, Paul could observe, “Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness” (1 Corinthians 10.5).
Paul reminded the church in Corinth of these examples to shake them out of believing that they could live in “puffed up” pride and opposition to his will.
Let’s examine what Paul said, again with a few notes along the way.
— 1 Cor. 10.6-7 – Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did.
7 Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.”
While Moses was meeting with God, the people who had experienced God’s mighty deeds made a golden calf. Paul quoted from Exodus 32.6 to remind the church of their error.
This episode of Hebrew history was all too close to what was taking place in Corinth. When people substitute any object for their devotion to God, idolatry has taken place. The Corinthian Christians were guilty.
The various gods in Corinth were believed to be present anytime a feast was served in their respective temple. A Christian who participated in a temple meal would definitely compromise his or her devotion to Jesus by eating there.
Just as in the golden calf episode, people left pagan temples in Corinth to go to their homes and engage in activity that was harmful to everyone concerned.
— 1 Cor. 10.8 – We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.
Numbers 25 describes a time when God’s people blended their obedience to God with service to Baal. Part of Baal worship was sexual immorality and the result was God’s judgment and death.
— 1 Cor. 10.9-10 – We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents.
10 And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
Numbers 21.4-9 tell of how God’s people grumbled and complained about their living conditions. God sent both serpents to correct them and the means for their healing.
Hindsight Has 20-20 Vision
It is easy to see how slavery in America was wrong in 2021, but the issue may have been far less clear in 1850.
The rise and influence of the Nazi party in the 1930s and their treatment of Jewish people is universally condemned in 2021. That wasn’t the case in 1930s America.
In a similar way, we can see the folly of the Corinthian church and God’s people in the past with 20-20 vision.
The question is whether we can learn from history and not make the same mistakes.
Paul’s final advice to the church, then and now, is: “These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10.11).
As a final warning to us all, he wrote: “So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall” (1 Corinthian 10.12).
May We Pray for You
The prayer team at Maywood Baptist Church is honored to pray for you. Please email me at email@example.com or private message me on Facebook. I will ask the team to pray for your concerns.