Paul used “typology” in the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 10. The people of God who experienced the Exodus from Egypt were a “type” or an “example” of what can take place in the life of a Christian.
As Paul describes the way the Exodus was a “type” or “example” of what can take place in a Christian’s life, he made two important points.
(1) Both Jewish and Gentile Christians were included as members of God’s family.
In Romans 11.11-26, Paul describes how Gentiles have been grafted into the family of God, just like a wild branch is grafted into the root of an existing tree.
(2) The Christ or Messiah was present with God’s people throughout the Old Testament era.
A theophany is an appearance of God to people. Each appearance of God in the Old Testament was an appearance of the Messiah or Christ.
When God established Israel, he promised to bless Abraham and his descendants. During the Exodus from Egypt, God’s blessing was obvious.
Paul used the Israelites as a “type” or an “example” for the church.
— 1 Corinthians 10.1-4 – 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, and all ate the same spiritual food,
And all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.
The blessings and their type can be explained like this.
BLESSING: The cloud signified the presence of God. It provided protection and guidance to his people.
TYPE: God is present in the lives of his people through the Holy Spirit. His presence protects and guides them.
BLESSING: The Israelites passed through the Red Sea on dry land. When the Egyptians attempted to follow them, God allowed the sea to close in upon them.
TYPE: Baptism pictures death and resurrection. We die to our old way of life and are raised to a new one.
BLESSING: God blessed the Israelites with spiritual food and drink. It was spiritual because only God could produce it for them.
Paul reveals how Christ or the Messiah was present as God’s agent of provision for the people.
TYPE: The Lord’s Supper is God’s spiritual provision for his church. It is powerful because it is spiritual. It is provided by God and Christ is present.
In spite of God’s blessings, his people turned away from him and incurred judgment.
— 1 Corinthians 10.5 – Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.
There are two extreme responses to this verse, both to be avoided.
The wife of the famous Puritan preacher, Jonathan Edwards, is one. To her dying day, she was worried that she was not part of God’s “elect.”
Even though Mrs. Edwards lived an exemplary life of devotion to Jesus, she was afraid that her eternity with God was not secure.
God’s grace is far greater than this good lady’s fears.
Psalm 14 is an example of the other extreme. Verse 1 is a summary of the Psalm.
Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is no one who does good. (Psalm 14.1)
Distinct from Mrs. Edwards are the “fools” who believe they can do anything they want and yet escape the judgment of God.
When I talk with “fools” like this, I ask them, “Are you wondering how far you can live from God and still go to heaven when you die?”
Both extremes must be avoided. If we are striving to live a Jesus-kind-of-life, we don’t have to worry about verse 5. If not, we need to examine our lives in the light of the following verses.
Types and Examples
What we think about God determines our behavior. When we serve a substitute for God (i.e. an idol), our attitudes and actions will reflect it.
— 1 Corinthians 10.6-10 – Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did.
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.”
We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.
We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents.
And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
When leading members of the church join themselves to idols in order to boost their status among their peers, the entire church suffers.
Important men used pagan temples to entertain friends like we use restaurants today.
The problem in Corinth was the temple was the part religious establishment, restaurant, bar, and house of prostitution.
— Religious establishment – People believed the god of the pagan temple ate with the guests. The god was served and invited to participate in the meal.
— Restaurant – The best food in Corinth was served in the pagan temples.
— Bar – Wine was served before, during, and after the meal. Drunkenness was part of the festivities.
— House of Prostitution – Male and female temple prostitutes were part of the activities of pagan temples, at least to some degree.
Leading members of the Corinthian church rationalized their behavior with this belief: “no idol in the world really exists, and that “there is no God but one” (1 Corinthians 8.4).
Paul confronted their logic by showing what happened to the Israelites.
— 1 Corinthians 10.11 – 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.
The Corinthians were cautioned to remember the example of what happened to the Israelites.
Their belief in God was reflected in behavior that was totally offensive to God.
Like the Israelites, if they didn’t repent of their behavior, they were destined for judgment.
Idols in 2022
We are witnessing the destruction of cities and lives in Ukraine. The devotion to a nationalistic idol has resulted in the destructive behavior of the Russian government in Ukraine.
Paul didn’t address the leaders of the city of Corinth about their involvement in pagan temples. His audience was the church and especially church leaders who joined in the activities.
The complicity of the Russian Orthodox Church’s leadership in Putin’s war in Ukraine is an extreme example of the destructive nature of not separating the worship of idols from the true worship of Jesus.
Patriotism is a laudable trait. However, Jesus is Lord, not the government or a political figure.
A casual examination of church history is replete with tragic examples of what happens when the church attempts to blend the worship of Jesus with a nation’s endeavors.
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