One important principle that is introduced in this chapter is that spiritual appearance and reality must match. We must outwardly appear spiritual just as we must inwardly be spiritual. The chapter explains that this principle is true in the Old Testament (verses 1-14) and in the New Testament (verses 16-21). Verse 15 fits into both sets of verses. After the principle has been discussed, verses 22-33 tell us how it must work out in our own lives. Essentially, the message of this chapter is not very different than the often-repeated truth that a person who is truly spiritual should show himself spiritual. But we should state that a person does not conform to God's spiritual will in order to be one of His people. Rather, a person behaves as he really is in his heart already (Matt. 7:17; 12:34,35; Rom. 6:17). It is God alone who changes hearts (Ezek. 36:25-28). The chapter reminds the Corinthians that they should check their behavior as part of the examination of their hearts (I Cor. 10:12; II Cor. 13:5).
Verse 1, "Moreover"
Paul is saying "I have more to say." About what? About the conclusion of Chapter 9 found in verses 26 and 27.
Remember, I Corinthians is a letter and was not written with chapter divisions. So it should not surprise us that Chapter 10 continues the logic of Chapter 9. Chapter 10 in a way is an illustration of the conclusion made in Chapter 9, which is that there is a special danger for those who live close to the Gospel. The danger is to substitute working in the Gospel (such as a minister) for one's personal salvation. An additional danger, discussed in Chapter 10, is to substitute living with God's people (in a church) for one's personal salvation. The Bible consistently forces us to face the question, "Are you saved?" This is the big question. No matter who you are or what you do or with whom you associate, there must be a consistent drive in your life for personal prayer, personal Bible study, and correction in your life to conform to God's will (I Tim. 4:16). All of this must be motivated by a heart that loves God. This is Paul's real concern for the Corinthians and the reason why he wrote the letter (II Cor. 2:9).
This is a reference to the corporate church and is not necessarily a reference to saved people. Unsaved people in the church are also called brethren (Gal. 2:4).
"I would not that ye should be ignorant"
1. The word "ignorant" could mean "to not know something" (Gal. 1:22).
2. However, many times the word "ignorant" is used to refer to unbelievers (Acts 17:23; I Cor. 14:38; I Tim. 1:13; II Pet. 2:12).
Both ideas could be in view, and so the idea of the phrase is, "You must know what happened to Israel, really know the spiritual lessons concerning their behavior." The Corinthians must know and trust that what God did in the Old Testament really happened and spiritually He will do the same today. The Corinthians must realize that what happened to Israel is relevant to them as well. They are not so different than the Israelites.
Everyone of the Israelites experienced what Paul is about to describe in the next verses. The idea is that they are all part of the corporate church and there is no apparent difference among the individuals.
Paul is not emphasizing that he is Jewish and a descendant of the Israelites. Rather, the fathers in Exodus are the fathers of the Corinthian believers too. The word "our" includes Jews (Paul and some Corinthians), and Gentiles (some Corinthians). The idea is that there is a unity and continuity of the Old and New Testament congregations. They are all one church (Eph. 2:19,20; Heb. 3:6; 12:22,23). This means that Gentiles are included among Israel, historically (Ex. 12:38) and spiritually (Gal. 3:28; 6:13,16). This unity is based upon the fact that the first of the "fathers," Abraham, is father to Israel corporately (Gen. 12:7) as well as the father of all believers (Isa. 51:2; Rom. 4:9-13,16,23,24; Gal. 3:7,29). The "fathers" in view in this verse are all those Israelites who came out of Egypt with Moses. Physically they are fathers of the ethnic Jews in the congregation. But they are fathers of all the members of the congregation in the sense that they were earlier members of the same church to which the Corinthians belong (Acts 7:38). As he says repeatedly in this chapter, "What you read in the Old Testament applies to you."
"under the cloud"
The Old Testament Hebrew word for "cloud", anor, contains the following ideas:
1. The cloud led the way in Israel's journeys (Ex. 13:21; 14:19; Ps. 78:14).
2. The cloud separated the church from the world (Ex. 14:20).
3. The cloud was from where God spoke (Ex. 19:9).
4. The cloud was protected them (Ps. 105:39; Isa. 44:22).
Therefore, this phrase must refer to the fact that they were under the guidance, care, and authority of God.
"passed through the sea"
Historically, the Israelites did not pass through the sea. Instead, they passed over dry ground (Ex. 14:21,22). The sea was a wall of water on either side of them. Therefore, this phrase must be a comment of the spiritual truth conveyed by this portion of their journey. This spiritual point is made in the next verse. Incidentally, the event to which this verse refers was an actual historical event. The event was a true physical miracle. The wind did not blow all night and create a marsh. Instead, the ground was dry. This physical miracle was a picture of the spiritual miracle of salvation that is described in the following verse.
Verse 2, "were all baptized"
Inasmuch as this is the point of the historical event, it is important for us to understand what is described by the word "baptized." Volumes can be written about baptism. Since we do not want to wander too far from our discussion of the letter to Corinth, we shall highlight only the essential ideas of baptism that give a clear and accurate understanding of the concept contained in this verse.
"Baptism" is the word used in this chapter to describe the experience of the Israelites "going through the sea." What does the sea represent? The Bible uses the word "sea" as a figure of hell (Rev. 12:12, 13:1) or as a figure of the people of the world who are citizens of hell ruled over by sin (Rev. 17:1,15). Furthermore, the word "sea" is used to describe the experience of Jesus Christ enduring the wrath of God in hell. We know that because Jesus identifies His death experience with Jonah's (Matt. 12:39-41). And when we turn back to the book of Jonah, we see that the sea is used to describe Jonah's experience of figuratively enduring hell (Jonah 2:2-4). So the picture of I Corinthians 10 and the picture of baptism is the experience of going through Hell.
This picture of baptism is further supported by Mark 10:36-38. The answer to the question in verse 36 should be, "Please save us." That is the greatest thing Jesus could do for them and what they should really desire. While their answer in verse 37 appears to be selfish and may have actually had quite worldly motives, God guides them to say those things. For whether the disciples realize what they are saying or not, their words are actually the correct spiritual answer. The words "in thy glory," when compared to Ps. 27:4, can be thought of as a request to experience the full blessings of salvation. Jesus in verse 38 says that they do not realize the spiritual thrust of what they have said. He then asks them a question about salvation but uses words that help us in our understanding of salvation. In effect, He is asking them, "Don't you realize that to experience salvation you must drink the cup I drink? Don't you realize you must be baptized with the same baptism that I am baptized with?" Notice the equivalence between drinking the cup and being baptized. They are both necessary to salvation. It is not as if each were parts in a two-fold salvation program. Rather, they are both describing the same event. Inasmuch as Mark 14:36; Rev. 14:10; 16:19 explain the cup to be the cup of Gods' wrath, we see that the cup, and therefore baptism, is the experience of hell. Jesus in Mark 10:39, who knows that James and John are two of His elect and will be saved, concludes the matter by stating that they indeed will experience Hell with Jesus.
So we have the biblical principle that all those who are saved endure the wrath of God in hell, and "baptism" is the word used to describe that experience. The wages of sin is death, eternal death in hell. Unless the payment is made, there is no relief. But no man could pay for his sins in this way. He would be consumed. That is why Christ endures the experience of hell for us. He takes our sins on the cross and endures the equivalent of God's wrath in hell (II Cor. 5:21; I Pet. 2:24). It is as if we went to hell with Him. Jesus is our substitute on the cross. He represents us, and in that way we are spiritually baptized with the same baptism with which He is baptized. In the picture of I Corinthians, the cloud which represents God went through the sea with the Israelites.
Romans 6 makes the same identification between baptism and the experience of hell. But the word "baptism" in this chapter is not used to describe Christ's personal experience of death and burial. We know from Mark 10 that Christ's experience is called a "baptism." But the word "baptism" in Romans 6 does not focus upon Christ's experience. Instead, it is reserved to describe our personal experience as believers. The word "baptism" applies to our own personal spiritual salvation, our personal identification with Christ's experience. These verses focus upon our personal spiritual baptism, the real change in our heart when we are saved. Notice in verse 2 that the point of the passage is we are dead to sin. In verse 3 it says we are baptized into Jesus Christ. That is, as verse 3 goes on to say, Christ died and we are baptized when we experience that death too. Verse 4 repeats the idea. Jesus was buried. Only dead people are buried. So Jesus must have died. We are baptized when we die with Him. Verse five uses the word "planted," but the idea is the same. We are saved only when we have died with Him too. The idea is even clearer in verse 6. The point of these verses in Romans 6 is that our old man is crucified, because as verse 8 states, Christ died and we died with Him. Romans 6 is not describing the sacrament of baptism, but the actual experience of our spiritual death. Verses 5 through 8 drive the point home. "We have been planted together in the likeness of His death" (:5). "Our old man is crucified" (:6). "He that is dead" (:7). "We be dead" (:8). It is not to much to say that an equivalent to the word "baptized" in verse 3 is "died."
In addition, Romans Chapter 6 is not saying that baptism is defined by certain physical experiences which Christ had. Rather, it is saying Christ had certain spiritual experiences, and we are baptized when we experience the same thing. Baptism is used in Romans 6 to describe our own experience of dying to sin (Rom. 6:11). But it a special death. It is the same death Christ experienced. It is the equivalent of an eternal death in hell. In fact, Christ died that death for us so we would not really go to hell. We are not required to imitate His physical death any more than we are required to imitate His physical miracles. They both point to the spiritual salvation He provides and which we must seek. We must not be like national Israel and insist on a physical form, but we must seek the spiritual reality behind it.
There is another idea conveyed by the word "baptism" that is just as important. The fires of hell not only are a just punishment for man's rebellion but also a purifying agent that consumes sin. Theoretically, when a man goes to hell to pay for his sin, he should, at the end of the payment, come out of hell without any sin. Unfortunately, no man can come out on the other side. The payment is eternal death. However, Christ is the man who has come out and the joy is our sins were left in hell. As Zech. 13:9 describes it, the fires of hell refine those whom God saves. We know that Zech. 13:9 describes the experience of salvation as we are familiar with it in the New Testament when we compare that verse with II Cor. 6:16. All their sins are gone. We can say that when the Israelites went through the sea, it was not only a picture of their going through hell, but also a picture of the waters of judgment that wash away sin from God's people. The word "baptism" is used to describe that washing experience.
Support for the idea that baptism also means "washing" is found in the New Testament. In Acts 22:16 we see that baptism is clearly an equivalent to washing away of our sins. Comparing that verse with Acts 2:38 we see that baptism is also equivalent to spiritual salvation or receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. In Mark 7:4 and Luke 11:38 the word "baptism," baptitzo, is used to refer to washing. Sometimes baptism describes the actual experience of spiritual salvation from sin as we have seen (Matt. 28:19; Gal. 3:27). Sometimes it refers to the event of water baptism without any physical description concerning how that event took place. But one thing is certain. Spiritual salvation includes washing away of our sins, and "baptism" is the word used to describe that.
We will not be able to continue to develop the idea of washing at this time. But it is a very important idea that is fundamental to understanding salvation. Washing away sins is the appeal of God to rebellious sinners (Isa. 1:16,17; Jer. 4:4,14). Washing away sins is the Gospel promise (Ps. 51:7; Ezek. 36:25-27). Washing away sins is the Gospel fulfillment (Titus 3:5; I Pet. 1:22; Rev. 1:5).
Our experience in hell with Christ removed our judicial liability. Our accounts are clear before God's Law. But our experience in hell also means that sin has been removed from our heart. Our sinful bodies no longer dominate us because we are spiritually alive and have spiritually pure hearts or souls (Acts 15:9; Heb. 10:22; I Pet. 1:22).
Getting back to our verse in I Corinthians we can say that the Israelites went through the sea and that experience is called a "baptism" to highlight the fact that the Israelites' experience was a picture of God's people going through hell with Jesus Christ. Also it was a picture of the change that God creates in the hearts of those for whom He went to the cross.
This word contains a grave warning. Every last Israelite went through the sea. Everyone had the physical experience of the event called "baptism." But many were not saved (:5). The outward event simply made the people members of the corporate church. That is all a physical event, like the sacrament of water baptism, can do for us today. So we should seek a washing, not of a sacrament, but of the washing of true salvation.
"unto (into) Moses"
1. We can look at the word "Moses" to be a figure of the Law (Luke 16:31; 24:27). In that light the focus is upon the Israelites' outward identification with the church in the wilderness.
2. We can look at the word "Moses" to be a figure of Jesus Christ (Acts 3:22-26). In that light the focus is upon people's outward identification with the church today.
Verses 3,4, "spiritual meat...spiritual drink"
Verses 3 and 4 continue to describe the common experiences of the Israelites. But they also explain the meaning behind those experiences. The word "spiritual" does not mean the physical things changed into ghostly, nonphysical things. The meat and drink were still physical. But God gave them to the Israelites as pointers to a greater spiritual reality. The Israelites did not partake of the spiritual reality or they would have been saved. Instead, they ate and drank physical objects that were symbols of spiritual realities. In that sense the meat and drink were spiritual. Therefore, the Israelites ate physical manna, and drank physical water, which were pictures or representatives of the greater spiritual meat and drink which God provides. From Ex. 16:4; 17:6,7; and Ps. 81:7-16, we learn that the physical manna and physical water were tests to see if the Israelites were seeking the greater spiritual realities behind them. No physical blessings are ever a substitute for a personal, spiritual walk with God Himself.
The rebuke of Jesus in John 6:32 and 35 teaches that the Jews in His time and in the time of the Exodus focused upon the physical man, Moses, whom God sent to them, rather than the spiritual God who sent him. Jesus says in these verses that the blessings were not from Moses but from God. And the offer was not physical sustenance but Jesus Christ Himself. At all times, then as well now, what God has to offer are spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3; I Pet. 2:5). Furthermore, for a person to be saved, he must submit to God's program for bringing those blessings to man. The world is full of people who run after some latest fad, join a haywire sect, or design a more compatible or exciting gospel. Few are the people who patiently and humbly wait for God's will to be worked out in His way (Lam. 3:25,26).
"drank of that spiritual Rock"
They drank physical water that came out of a physical rock. So this phrase interprets the historical event to mean that they drank of the water that came out of the spiritual rock, in the sense that they were identified as people who were given the Gospel in word and in picture form (Rom. 3:2; Heb. 4:2). The physical episode was meant to turn the Israelites' hearts toward God and seek a greater spiritual blessing.
"that followed them"
Rocks do not move around. They are inert objects. In fact, they were the followers. For the cloud went before them (Ex. 13:21; 14:19). This phrase must mean "come after in time."
"and that Rock was Christ"
This proves that we correctly understand the previous phrase. God does not follow us. We follow Jesus. He is before us in His death and resurrection. He is before us as He leads us into salvation and through this world into the next.
The point of the first four verses of this chapter is that most of the Israelites cared too little for God's spiritual things. All of the Israelites had an outward identification with God. Everyone in the congregation was outwardly identified with God's kingdom. Many were satisfied with just that alone. But as we shall see, that is not salvation. They were stewards of God's Word and rejoiced to receive God's physical blessings. But most did not obey those words which were entrusted to their care nor seek the spiritual reality to which the physical blessings pointed.
Verse 5, "many...not well pleased"
According to Heb. 11:6, without faith, saving faith, it is impossible to please God. The word "many" does not mean God is displeased with a group of people. The word "many" means that He is not pleased with many individuals. The point is that many of the congregation were not saved, despite their outward affiliations with God's church. The word "many" is also a frightening word in that the apostasy was not just an isolated case. Rebellion had infected and spread throughout the whole congregation (cf. Jer. 5:31).
This word, katastonnumi in the Greek, is used only here is the New Testament. It is comprised of a prefix kata, "down," and the root stonnumi, used four times to mean "spread" or "scatter" (Matt. 21:8; Mark 11:8 "spread","strew"). The picture that this word portrays is that the Israelites as a group wandered through the wilderness. But many of those of the cursed, unbelieving generation died along the way. Their bodies were buried as a trail of scattered debris left behind. The unbelieving generation was not overthrown in a day, but was scattered during the 40 years of wandering (Num. 14:26-35).
"in the wilderness"
No specific time or place is mentioned here or in the historical record. This general reference reminds us that the whole time of their wanderings was filled with rebellion. Their very first encampment was Marah (Num. 33:8). That is where they murmured (Ex. 15:24; 16:8). Their 42nd and last encampment was by the Jordan in the plains of Moab (Num. 33:49). It is where they entered Canaan (Joshua 3:1). And there is where they committed whoredom (Num. 25:1).
Verse five is not saying that these people who died in the wilderness lost their salvation. Instead, it is pointing out that they were never saved in the first place. All the blessings mentioned in verses 1 through 4 were not enough. Their outward identification was not enough. In fact, an examination of their years in the wilderness revealed a consistent fixation upon this world and a consistent lack of trust in God. Sadly it sealed them in their spiritual death (Heb. 3:7-4:2).
Verse 6, "These things"
Verse six refers especially to the blessings mentioned in verses 1 through 4 that God gave the Israelites.
The word "examples" is tupos in Greek and is used to refer to an original object. It refers to the real thing and not to the copy or the picture of the real thing. In John 20:25 the word refers to the actual marks on Jesus. In Acts 7:43 it is translated "figure" and refers to the actual statues or idols. In the next verse (44) it is translated "fashion" and refers to what Moses had seen. He had seen the pattern or plan of salvation of which the tabernacle was a picture. In Rom. 5:14, translated "figure", it refers to Adam who was a real man. Jesus, the second Adam, became fully man after the pattern of the first Adam, who was the example. In I Tim. 4:12 it is translated "example" and used to make this point: "Really be what you say you are!"
Therefore, the point of the verse is that the example of Israel is a true historical illustration and not a story made up to scare us. The nation of Israel actually did experience spiritual blessing from God. They were close to the Gospel. God was not playing a game with them. He used physical blessings (manna, tabernacle, etc.) to point to the spiritual offer of salvation which was real. No other people on the face of the earth had such a witness of the grace of God. Also their reaction was real. Their apostasy was a rejection of God's spiritual salvation, and they perished in their unbelief, condemned to hell. All the things that happened to Israel proves that such things can happen to anyone. God does give blessings. But God sends curses upon those who love the material world more than His spiritual blessings.
Before we continue in this chapter, we might as well ask the question, "Why did God bother to deal with a particular nation anyway?" The answer is found in the preeminence of God's Word. We are saved by a knowledge of Christ (Isa. 53:11; John 17:3). What we think of Jesus determines how we spend eternity. This knowledge comes only through the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). So the integrity, accuracy, and trustworthiness of the Bible is paramount; it is crucial. Our lives hang on God's Word (I Pet. 1:23). So God in His wisdom decided to choose a people to preserve His Word (Rom. 3:2), that men of all ages might learn and believe (John 20:31).
God did not put His promises in some remote and mysterious temple nor seal them in some time capsule for safe keeping. Instead, He preserved them through history by means of a people who would display its contents. He could have chosen anyone. He is not a respecter of men. But He decided to choose a people who were not one of the existing nations at that time. In a sense He invented a people that did not exist as a nation before. By doing that God emphasized the fact that they found their existence and identity in God and not in geography or politics. The Hebrews' (or Jews) uniqueness was in their separation from the world and identification with God. Their calling was not in their nature. By choosing the Hebrews, God used a people who would be a good example of the message they carried.
1. They were weak as a people, dependent upon God (Deut. 7:7). This showed that they needed God's grace for redemption and His help in their daily lives to faithfully live for Him. Furthermore, their weakness revealed that they were not able to secure the blessings of God through their own obedience to the law.
2. They were people promised to Abraham ahead of time. This illustrates they were chosen by grace. Their calling was not of themselves (Gen. 12:7; Neh. 9:7,8).
3. They brought forth Christ, illustrating that the Savior was born of mankind, subject to the law (Rom. 5:14; 9:5; Gal. 4:4).
God has always dealt with an outward organization, a group of people who are outwardly identified as His people, even though His real interest is in those people within the organization whom He has really saved and made His spiritual people. But He uses the outward organization for spiritual purposes. The Israelites were supposed to illustrate the message of the Word that was entrusted to their care. We should learn from their example not to focus upon the material instruments God uses, lest we forget God's spiritual ends.
"that we...as they lusted"
The word "lusted," epithumia, is a neutral term that means "great desire" (Luke 22:15). The idea of the phrase is, "Do not fill your mind or have an inordinate focus upon the wrong things, namely the `evil things' the Israelites desired." The choice is clear. We seek either God or manna, things of their world or things of heaven. What is our hearts' desire? (Matt. 6:19-21)
Verse 7, "idolaters"
This word does not refer to a primitive aborigine who bows down to some wooden or stone idol. It refers to "some of them," some in the nation of Israel who knew something about the God of the Bible and identified outwardly with His people.
"as it is written"
This refers to Ex. 32:6. The idea in the Old Testament passage is that they were worshiping a false god, even though they appeared to worship the true God. Notice in Ex. 32:5, even though the Israelites worshiped a molten calf, Aaron called it a "feast to the Lord."
"eat and drink"
This does not mean that they had a party and were living it up. It refers to a part of the religious ceremony of worship. Comparing this verse with the context in I Cor. 10:3,4, we see that in some way the Israelites' idolatrous worship imitated the true worship of God.
"Many" of the Israelites and "some" Corinthians were not willing to submit to God's ways. They did not wait patiently for His guidance. They despised His blessings. They rebelled against His will. But still they wanted to be identified as the true people of God. By their outward association with the congregation of God and the true form of worship, they tried to relieve their conscience, remain comfortable in their sin, preserve their pride, and protect themselves from condemnation. But they were living a lie. They were only deceiving themselves. Judgment was coming.
Verse 8, "fornication...as it is written"
Fornication (porne) is a general term referring to all sorts of uncleanness. But this verse narrows our attention to a specific incident. The Israelites had committed sexual fornication with the daughters of Moab (Num. 31:15-17). We also read that their whoredom was evidence of their spiritual rebellion (Num. 25:1-3). In fact, the Bible regularly uses the word "fornication" to describe the actual heart rebellion of people (Rev. 2:14; 17:2). But the focus here is not just any people. This sin was committed by the church.
"fell in one day"
This was a swift and sweeping judgment, and reminds us of the day of judgment when Christ comes back (Rev. 6:17). There are other things in the verse that cause us to think that this episode is a picture of the end of time. One is the nature of the Israelites' sin. The physical sin is similar to the situation to the time of Noah, another picture of the end of time (Luke 17:26). There the sons of God (those who want to identify with God) married the daughters of men (people of the world). The picture is not only that there were mixed marriages, church members being unequally yoked with unbelievers, but also that those who claimed to love the Lord gave themselves totally to the world. The picture of mixed marriage is a picture of apostasy (Judges 3:6). Then the flood came, the end. Additionally, the historical episode referred to here in I Cor. 10:8 took place at Shittim, the Israelites' last encampment in the wilderness just before they ended their wanderings. This, again, makes us think of the end of the wanderings of God's people on the earth at the end of time.
"three and twenty thousand"
Although 24,000 perished in the entire plague (Num. 25:9), this verse emphasizes that 23,000 of them died in one day. The Bible in other places, such as the 2,300 evenings and mornings of Daniel 8:9-14 and the 23 years between the death of Josiah and the end of the southern kingdom of Judah (609-587/6 BC), uses the number 23 to highlight the demise of the church near the end of the world.
The point of this verse is that when many of God's churches go apostate, they will not continue to get away with it. Judgment will come. Churches cannot hide behind the fact that they are called by God's name. They cannot kid God. In fact, the very God they call upon will consume them. Their sin was real, and God's reaction was real, even though they were outwardly the people of God. God's reaction to apostasy is just as real today. Notice the message of Zephaniah to the church. God says "I will consume." (Zeph. 1:1,2).
And yet, as always, God has a remnant. That is, not all will go apostate. A few will have the grace to remain faithful (Zeph. 3:12-20, Heb. 13:5,17).
Verse 9, "tempt Christ (actually 'the Lord')"
The word "tempt" (pirasmus) is used to convey the idea of trial or judgment. Psalm 78 discusses this idea in light of Israel's entire journey through the wilderness. Briefly we can make these observations. Their test was essentially challenging God to prove that He is God. They demanded a physical sign to prove that He wanted to help and was able to help. Their request was motivated by a physical lust for the things of this world (Ps. 78:18-20). In addition, they forgot that God had helped in wonderful ways in the past (Ps. 78:11,42). Also they deliberately challenged God's authority by risking His anger. They loved their own ways and walked in them (Ps. 78:10,56). Finally, they mocked God by despising the help God provided (Ps. 78:22) while at the same time deceitfully pretending to honor God (Ps. 78:35-37).
This verse refers to the incident recorded in Num. 21:5-9. The sin is described in Num. 21:5. Essentially, the people did not believe God would provide for their needs. God responded to their complaints. The people feared that they would die. That is exactly what happened to them.
An important observation can be made from this incident. One way to prove that a person's trust or hope is in this world is to remove all the physical blessings and notice the reaction. His reaction will be fear or bitterness or anger or unbelief.
A material focus is so blinding that it causes people to play their stupid sinful games in the presence of an almighty, powerful God. What foolish audacity. The people's attempt to put God on trial backfired. For it actually proved what kind of heart they had instead and led to their destruction.
Verse 10, "murmer"
This verse looks back to the incident recorded in Numbers 14. The situation is slightly different than the episode mentioned in verse 9. Here the problem is that the people faced an enemy which from a human point of view was much greater than they were. Again they had a physical focus. But in this case it was upon an enemy who was able to destroy them. Essentially, they did not believe that God would or could help them (Num. 14:1-3). Their idea was to make their own leader and return to their former life (Num. 14:4).
Things often look bad from a human material point of view. But God is with His people. The problem is that when God commands them to walk by faith, He provides few, if any, physical reinforcements. And only spiritual people have the insight to see God's hand in events, the heart to trust that God's way is best, and the power to walk obediently according to God's will. The problem is not just that the Israelites complained with their mouth or that they planned some drastic action. But their murmuring revealed a deeper problem. They were carnal, faithless people. Their "destruction" was that they would not see the land of Canaan (Num. 14:23,24,28-35). That meant that they were unsaved (Heb. 3:16-19). "The destroyer" in this verse refers to God Himself who brought judgment.
The point of verses 7 through 10 is that most of the Israelites cared too much for the things of this world. They lusted after physical things and despaired when they suffered physical distress.
Verse 11, "all these things"
This phrase refers to verses 1 through 10.
This is the same word, tupos, as translated "example" in verse 6. The idea is that just as verses 1 through 4 described real blessings which the people despised and just as verses 7 through 10 described their real lustful rebellion and lack of faith, the verses also describe God's answer in a real judgment. It happened once. God does judge, and He will judge again. We can count on it. It is not some fairy tale. That is why Paul uses real history to illustrate his point.
"for our admonition"
Why warn the church? Aren't people who are saved going to heaven? Yes. But the message is to the whole corporate church. Some may be in the congregation and may not be saved. In that case the warning means, "Be sure you are saved" (II Cor. 13:5; I Pet. 4:17-19). To the true believers the warning means, "Be sure you are faithful in your witness. Be sure you are giving the complete score, judgment as well as grace" (Ezek. 33:7-9; Acts 20:27).
"upon whom the ends of the world"
If Paul was really given insight as an apostle and as a writer of Scripture from God, shouldn't he have known that hundreds of years of the earth's history was still yet to come? Was Paul really one for whom the ends of the world had come, even though he died hundreds of years ago? Yes, he was. According to I Peter 1:20 and Heb. 1:1;2 the total time between Christ's first and second coming is a period of time called "the ends of the world."
The term "ends" can be understood a little better by looking at Heb. 9:27 and 28. The idea there is that men must take care of their sin now because after they die it is to late. The next event to take place in God's program is judgment. The events of time are totally centered around God's program of salvation. First there was creation. Then there was a time of promise and waiting for the fulfillment of that promise. Then came the fulfillment. "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many." Judgment is one of the final events to take place in history. But the last salvation event is the going forth of the Gospel. The salvation program closes when "shall he appear the second time." For when He appears again it will not be for salvation but for judgment (Heb. 9:28). The phrase "without sin" does not refer to the fact that Jesus Christ is sinless, even though it is true that He has no sin. Rather, the phrase means that the second time He will return without bearing the sins of many. This is a reemphasis of the word "once" in Heb. 9:26. The idea is that Jesus already dealt with sin on the cross the first time. The second time He comes he will not deal with it except to judge it. The words "unto salvation" must be tied back to "them that look for him." Those "many" for whom Christ died look forward to the completion of their salvation when all sin is put away in body as well as soul.
Therefore, the phrase "the ends of the world" refers not to the last few years of the earth's existence, but to the last event in a series of events which God performs as He works out His salvation program. The phrase refers to the end of God's salvation program for the world, the last salvation event prior to Jesus Christ's return. The total New Testament period contains the last event of salvation by God, namely, the harvest of souls through the proclamation of the Gospel.
Verse 12, let him that thinketh...take heed."
This verse states the point of the chapter. The warning is that if your standing before God is only something that you think is true and not something you have examined to be so, then take heed. Take heed to the Bible and to your life that you are truly saved. This is the warning of the ages. This is the issue of the hour. The Corinthians and all men should be so concerned about the welfare of their souls that they do not have time for their sin.
Why is the Bible so often negative? The abundance of warnings in the Bible is:
1. A testimony to our propensity for wickedness.
2. A testimony to what is crucial in life.
3. A call to many who attach themselves to the church but are not saved. They must not feel comfortable with the physical props until they have faced the Savior honestly.
Verse 13, "temptation"
This word is peirasmos, meaning "trial" or "judgment." This verse reminds us that our faith is on trial all our life. What do we think and do when the physical wonders of this world beckon us? What do we think and do when physical and spiritual dangers threaten us? Also, this is a verse that comforts us by teaching that God will not let true believers somehow be overwhelmed by their lusts or their fears. It is similar to John 10:8,28. Because they are spiritual people, they will always pass the test. True believers seek God's blessings in God's way, no matter what.
"common to man"
All men are tested in life. This phrase shows that the verse is not primarily discussing affliction or suffering, because every man suffers differently and in different amounts. Some kinds of affliction or suffering are not common to men. But every man's common lot is to be tested by the Lord. For some the result is positive (Job 23:10). For some the result is negative (Daniel 5:27). In fact, the word "common" is not even in the Greek text. A better rendering would be, "A trial has not been taken of you except what is human (anthropinos), or expected of a human." God has reserved testing for humans. It began in the garden of Eden and continues to the end.
"but God is faithful"
This phrase explains why those who have been saved by the grace of God will pass the test. The reason is that God is faithful. We can look at this phrase in two ways. First of all, God has promised to save certain people. They are chosen before the foundation of the world, and God is faithful to His promise to save them. He will control all situations so that they spiritually endure to the end (Rom. 8:30). Secondly, God is always with the believers, empowering them to lead faithful lives in a wicked world (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 2:13).
The word "bear" is the word power (dunamai). It especially refers to God's mighty power (Rom. 16:25 "that is of power"; Eph. 3:20 "that is able"). We who are truly saved are not tempted to lust after the world or forsake God, because the power within us is able to keep us faithful (I John 4:4). The struggle on this planet is ongoing, but spiritually successful. In Christ the continual battle always ends in victory (I Cor. 15:57).
"make a way of escape"
The word "escape," ekbasis, is used only here and in Heb. 13:7. In Hebrews it is translated "end" and refers to the "results" of the people's lives which others should imitate. The word is composed of a prefix ek, "out of," and the root basis which is used only once and is translated "feet" (Acts 3:7). In Acts 3 the restoration of the man's feet is a picture of salvation. We could say then that the word "escape" means to have the feet to walk out of sin such as idolatry or unbelief. Again we will only be able to escape, or we will only have the feet if God has saved us.
"able to bear"
This phrase is similar to the phrase "above that ye are able." The idea is that we have the power, if we are saved, to pass the test when all sorts of temptations to sin came our way. A complete discussion of this idea is found in the first dozen or so verses of Romans 8.
In summary we could say the trials prove what is already there. What will we do in the crucible of social or family or even church pressure to compromise or mistrust God's spiritual ways? Do we succumb or are we able to endure? God is faithful to His own. The saved get help. The unsaved get no help. True believers know that the material influence of this world is never greater than the spiritual power of God to keep them faithful. They have escaped this wicked world through the cross, and continue to escape through His power and presence. In fact, it is God's design to show the glory and power of the cross in believers' lives as they face particular circumstances of temptation. They are victorious over appeals to their physical appetites (pride, greed, etc.) and reveal God's grace and power within them (Matt. 5:16; I Pet. 2:9).
Therefore, this verse is not a general word of comfort that God will help before things get too much for us. Rather, this verse promises a specific comfort that God will help us in a particular type of spiritual danger. That danger is illustrated in the previous verses of this chapter.
Verse 14, "Wherefore"
This word is a conclusion to what has been said before, including verse 13. This verse supports the idea that our escape is not from affliction but from sin.
If we look at this verse as a conclusion to all that has been discussed in this chapter so far, then we can say that all the different sins mentioned are really idolatry (Col. 3:5). Essentially, disobedience to God's will is idolatry because it puts something before God.
This is a fair appeal. Paul can expect them to do it, if they are really Christians. Also this is the most practical advice for dealing with sin. We do not examine our sin in order to figure out a way to get better control over it. That method only leads to more sin. Instead, we simply put it aside. We get as far away from it as we can, and we do that as soon as we can. This is illustrated in Joseph's reaction to sin in Gen. 39:12. (Incidentally Colossians Chapter 3 is an excellent program for dealing with sin in our lives.)Verse 15, "to wise"
The word "wise" is phronimos and is used to refer to someone who is saved (Matt 7:24; 25:2-9).
"judge ye what I say"
Taking these two phrases together, we can say that the idea of the verse is, "If you are truly saved you will be able to examine what I say and easily see that I am right. Am I wrong? If you think about it a little, you will see that I am not!"
This verse does not begin a completely new change of thought, as it might first seem. Instead, Paul now examines the outward identification of those people "upon whom the ends of the world are come." That is, there are problems in the church today that are similar to what has happened in the past.
"The cup of blessing"
This refers to the cup of the sacrament of communion which was blessed in the worship service of the church. The cup reminds us of the cup of God's wrath which Christ drank. It was not a blessing for Him, but it was a blessing for us.
"which we bless"
The word "bless", eulogoumen in Greek, means "good words." The idea is that we say good words about Christ's sacrifice because of what it means for us. Additionally, we should remember that what we say with our mouth about that cup outwardly identifies us with God and His church. So it behooves us to make sure the inner reality of our heart matches the appearance we make in the sacrament.
"is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?"
The word "communion" is koinonia and is translated several times as "communion" or "fellowship." A clearer understanding of the word is found by examining the use of similar words koinonea and koinonos. They are translated as "partaker" (I Cor. 10:18, II Cor. 1:7), "partner" (Luke 5:10), and "companions" (Heb. 10:33). The idea of the word is close to the idea of sharing a common experience with. Applying that to this phrase, we understand it to mean we also experienced the death of Christ in the sense we died with Him (Gal. 2:20). So far this verse is teaching that when we partake of the communion service, we must identify with more than the outward symbol. Our communion or fellowship must be with the blood of Christ which the cup symbolizes. The idea is that the blood refers to Christ's death on the cross. And our communion means we trust that He died for our sins. That is, both the penalty for sin and the power of sin are taken away (Rev. 1:15).
In addition to the judicial payment for sin to which the blood refers, Jesus Christ gives us eternal life to which the bread refers (John 6:32-35). However, we should state that the separation is not that sharp. The bread also refers to Christ's sacrifice.
It is appropriate to add a few words about the physical sacrament of communion. The direction of focus in the sacrament is always away from the symbols and toward the reality. The symbols are not our hope. The cup reminds us of Christ's blood and the bread reminds us of Christ's body. The cup and the bread bring our minds to the cross. We must be saved and the symbols remind us of that.
The communion is not just a bunch of people gathering for a "love feast." The focus is not upon the unity and bond which the worshipers have among themselves. The communion is a personal confrontation with God. We are forced into a declaration. It can be a blessing if what is symbolized is true about our lives. Or it can be a curse if what it symbolizes is not true. For that reason the sacrament ought to be supervised. Some leadership or control should be maintained so that the witness it makes about Christ's sacrifice for His people is a true witness. Also, the leadership should care enough about the participants to try to make sure the sacrament does not become a witness against them (I Cor. 11:27-29).
Communion is not a common thing. It is not a regular meal. All times are not the same. All acts are not the same. This is a personal act that is special. It is something like an engagement ring. An engagement ring is not just an ornamental piece of jewelry used any time for any purpose. At one time it was in the store like all the other rings and had no unique meaning. But once it was chosen and given as a token of commitment, it became a symbol for an important special relationship. Neither the symbol nor the relationship can be treated casually or with disdain. But the symbol is only a symbol. Its value is found in the reality it represents. The key to the sacrament is also the reality behind it. It is not any cup, any bread, any blood. It is Christ's. Once God has set up the relationship between the symbol and the reality, we must respect the symbol as something holy. Furthermore, our identification with it is a statement that God's salvation is best and it is what we want. We are saying what God offers is better than what the world offers. We are saying we are saved. May it be so!
Verse 17, "we...one bread, and one body"
These are not two different things. The words "one body" define the words "one bread." The bread means the body. The phrase is not saying that individual members of the church become a unit as if they were collectively one bread or one body. The word "we" refers to an individual person and Jesus Christ. The bread, the body, is Christ's (verse 16). The idea is that the communion is a statement by each participant that he is one with Christ (I Cor. 6:17; I John 1:3), that he is "in Christ," or saved (Rom. 8:1).
"for we are all partakers of that one bread."
This supports the idea that the focus of this verse is upon the saving relationship between an individual member of the church and the Lord Jesus Christ, not upon their union with each other as they partake of communion. There is a word to the congregation, but not to the group as a whole. The message is to all the individuals who are part of the congregation and who take communion. They must all realize that partaking of the bread is a statement that they personally derive life from Christ. In fact, the word "of" is ek, "out of," as if to say the life we individually have comes out of Christ. There is a oneness among the individual members of the church (I Cor. 12). But it is based, first of all, upon each individual's oneness with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our participation in the outward event of communion is an outward statement of our unity with Christ. Also, our spiritual unity with Christ cannot remain hidden and will affect our life and result in a living statement to the world (John 17:21). The formal ceremony should match what is really going on in our hearts and lives.
Verse 18, "Behold Israel after the flesh"
Paul now says, "Let's look at those National Jews who had only a flesh existence, who were only interested in material things." The phrase is similar to Rom. 9:3 in which the focus is only upon the nation in their outward corporate manifestation. However, as we shall see, these verses of I Cor. 10 apply to all who, like Israel, trust in rituals and the outward form of Christianity and not the substance.
The answer is "yes." In an outward way they were considered part of God's people. The altar was a picture of Christ's sacrifice. But they put their hope in the actual physical altar and not in the spiritual promise which it pictured.
This is a strong and surprising statement. It is saying that the sacrifices in which Israel after the flesh partook were really sacrifices to idols. The Israelites may have performed the sacrifices properly according to the Law, but because they did it in unbelief, it was a sacrifice to idols. This is an echo of verses 7 and 14. The answer to the question is "No!" The physical idol (or altar) is not anything nor is the sacrifice to it. If their heart was not right, neither was their sacrifice (Prov. 15:8; Isa. 66:3).
Verse 20, "things which the Gentiles sacrifice"
The word "Gentile" is not in this verse. A better translation is "things which they sacrifice." To whom, then, does the "they" refer?
1. Let's assume that like the King James version the word "they" refers to the Gentiles. Then the previous verses would teach:
verse 18, At one time Israel's sacrifices were meaningful, and the intent of their worship was to identify with that meaning.
verse 19, However, the Gentiles' sacrifices were never meaningful.
verse 20, Although the Gentiles' intentions were to worship God, they really worshiped something other than God. So do not have any outward fellowship with them in this.
2. The above interpretation is not very clear. It also does not match the context. The following is a more accurate way to think of the verses. If we assume that the "they" refers to the Jews, Israel according to the flesh, then the previous phrases have the following meaning:
verse 18, Israel sought for an outward identification by partaking in the rituals of sacrifice according to God's Law. As it turns out, they really wanted a gospel of their own choosing, with the outward trappings of the true religion.
verse 19, As it turns out, their worship was really worship to an idol (as we learned in verse 7 and 14). Their worship was their own invention and not really anything (I Cor. 8:14).
verse 20, In fact, the things they sacrifice today, even though it may be to the altar identified with the true God, are really sacrifices to devils. Not only because such ceremonial sacrifices have been put aside since Christ's death, but also because their heart is not right before God when they sacrifice. They are really of their father the devil (John 8:44; I John 3:8). So do not have any outward fellowship with them in the communion.Historically, this was an appropriate warning at the time Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians. There were still people who wanted to identify with the new Christian religion, but still maintain some of the Old Testament laws such as sacrifices and circumcision. For us today that is not a problem, and we must heed the general application, which is: Do not have communion with people who only outwardly try to identify with God's Kingdom but do not live like God is their King. Do not have communion with those who have their own gospel or do not hold to the Gospel of the Bible and so who are not really saved.
"fellowship with devils"
The word fellowship is kononion, meaning "to have in common." The idea is that we have nothing in common with devils, we do not share anything with them. So we must not, in communion, make a statement that we do.
Verse 21, "Ye cannot drink...ye cannot be partakers..."
Physically they can take the communion with whom and at any time they choose. But spiritually, when we sit down with unbelievers and it is clear that they are unbelievers, we are making the wrong statement. As it turns out, such a ceremony is not really the Lord's cup or the table of the Lord, no matter what we call it. It could be that this discussion is referring to the situation mentioned in Chapter 5. The sin was so greatly publicized that sitting down with such a man would destroy the communion ceremony. This matches what we learned in I Cor. 5:11 that such a man must not partake in communion with the Corinthian congregation.
This refers to the bread that is on the table. Physically, it is the communion bread. Spiritually, it points to the Living Bread, the Lord Jesus Christ. When we consider the words of Psalm 23, "Thou preparest a table before me," we see that only God can give the true bread of life (John 6:32-35). Only He can change lives and provide the right motivation for worship. As we learned in this chapter, observing the outward ritual without the right heart is really idolatry. Today people who are not satisfied with God's plan for their life and have an inordinate interest in this world are worshiping devils. The choice is clear: we either worship the Lord or the devil (Matt. 12:30; Luke 11:23; Rev. 13:8)!
Why does Paul ask this question?
1. "jealousy" God has His name at stake. Our faithfulness in life must match our statements so that God's name is honored. It is O.K. for God to be jealous. Jealousy is an attitude of concern that a person is not getting what he deserves. In our case it rests upon an improperly high view of ourselves. But God is worthy. In fact, He alone is worthy. Jealousy is wrong for us because we are sinners and do not deserve acclaim or honor. It is right for Him because all honor is due Him (Rom. 11:33-36; Rev. 4:11; 5:12).
2. "stronger" We must not think we can get away with our pretenses or our impertinence. Do we really think we are strong enough to challenge God? It is a kindness of God that He warns us, rather than destroys us (Isa. 40:6-8,15-17, 22, 29-31).
All things are lawful for me" According to God's Law, the Bible, Paul knows there are certain things He could do. That is, Paul is saying, "All things that are lawful according to God's Word are lawful for me."
This is a word that means "bring together." The question is, What brings people and spiritual goals together? Some things do not do this.
Likewise, some things do not build up the church.
The point of the verse is that even things that God's law allows are not necessarily the wisest thing for us to do. Some things done strictly according to the letter of the Law may not always build others up spiritually.
We could easily play with idols and consider them trifles because that is all they are. We could easily talk about false gospels and think of them as idle tales, which is all they are. We can easily take communion with others and not care what they believe; That is their problem before God, isn't it? We are saved, aren't we? What does it matter to us? But such a tactic does accomplish spiritual goals.
1. It does not help us personally to play with fire.
2. It does not help unbelievers to dilute our witness. We must make a positive statement to those who worship idols.
3. It does not help weak believers who are sensitive about these things and who are wondering what is the right thing to do.
4. It does not help God who wants us to be trophies of His grace by showing loving, spiritual concern for others.
Verse 24, "his own (literally, 'the thing of himself')... another's (literally, 'the thing of the other')"
The word "wealth" is not in the Greek text. The question is, to what does the word "thing" refer? According to verse 23 it is the thing that edifies another. So it is not so much an object, as if we are to seek something material, or spiritual. Rather, we are to seek actions and attitudes that build up the spiritual life of another. The idea is we must not seek our rights before the law if it conflicts with the edification of another.
At this point we should say a few things to avoid possible confusion. Paul expects the readers to make an assumption when they read this verse. If we expand the first part of this verse to say, "Let no man seek his own, selfishly disregarding others," the idea would be more clearer. It is certainly not against God's will to seek our own things, if it is in the sense of I Tim. 4:16 in which our spiritual growth is the objective. But it is not God's will to seek our own if it is in the sense that we do what we want, regardless of what difficulties it might cause for others. This second case is the idea of this verse and is similar to Chapter 8. So there may be an honorable and godly goal which we desire for ourselves. But the verse is focusing upon the heart attitude that governs our action in seeking that goal.
This verse really echoes the eternal conflict illustrated by the lives of King Ahab and Naboth (I Kings 21). What do people of the world do when another person interferes with their attainment of what they seek? In keeping with the context in this chapter, we can narrow the question a little. What do people with a worldly focus do when someone weak or someone in need makes demands upon them that interrupt their own pursuit of personal achievement? Their reaction is either to turn on them like a pack of dogs who smell blood or ignore them out of fear of losing something themselves.
The root problem is the heart. Do we have a heart that matches God's heart? Does our heart motivate us to act like God acts (John 15:13; Rom. 5:8; Phil. 2:5-8)? This verse is distinctly Christian. True believers never seek their own without regard to others. This was exemplified by Jesus Christ Himself. It is God's repeated Word to us (Matt. 22:39).
These verses provide an illustration of the point made in verse 24. We can think of these verses as a little drama in which verses 25 and 26 set the stage and cast, and verses 27 and 28 are two possible scripts taken from experiences the Corinthians would recognize.
Verse 25, "shambles"
This word, makello, means "marketplace." The historical situation referred to here is that food was being served by some members of the congregation to their guests. But the food had origins that were suspect. The food was probably food that had been part of the ceremonial worship to some idol. After the ceremony it was probably sold in the marketplace to make money for the heathen temple (see Chapter 8).
Whose conscience? Verse 29 shows it is the conscience of another weaker brother, who is the guest.
There are three people in the drama described in verses 25 through 29. First, there is the host who had served the food which may have been earlier part of an idol ceremony. Second, there is a church member whose conscience is troubled because he somehow has reason to wonder about the food that is served. The host cannot be the same person as the one with the weak conscience. The host is the one serving the meat previously offered to idols. He would never include in a meal something which is a problem for himself. Third, there is the "you" of verse 27 who is a strong Christian and realizes that verse 26 is true.
Verse 26 quotes Psalm 24:1 which is repeated in verse 28 for a different reason. In verse 26, the Psalm is quoted to support the idea we must be concerned for another's conscience. We who are saved know that Psalm 24 is true. The Psalm asks "who is the King of Glory?" We know that it is certainly nothing in this world. Neither idols nor anything else are King (I Cor. 8:4). As the Psalm says, everything belongs to God. Idols who do not really exist own nothing. So it is alright if we eat or do not eat something. Our King has given all things to us to eat (I Tim. 4:4). We can eat or not eat with out any personal spiritual liability (I Cor. 8:8). Therefore, we can refrain for other reasons, namely, for the sake of another conscience. We can afford to give up our liberty for another person who might think certain foods have religious implications and has not yet learned what Psalm 24 teaches.
These next two verses examine two different situations among the three people mentioned above.
The first situation is the case in which none at the dinner bring up the possibility that some of the food was previously sacrificed to an idol. The idea in verse 27 is that an unbeliever is the host and it does not really occur to him that anything is wrong. You are the strong Christian and realize he is right, although for different reasons. The weak brother does not happen to know where the food came from. The advice of this verse is do not bring up the subject if no one else does. Just go ahead and eat.
"asking no questions"
The idea is, "Just eat and don't complicate the situation." First of all, the food really is fine to eat because an idol is nothing. Secondly, eating a meal is not a statement of any kind. You can eat with an unbeliever and you are not saying anything about the Gospel by your action.
The second situation is the case in which the subject happens to come up that some of the food may have been sacrificed to idols. The advice in this case is if there is a man present at the dinner who has a hard time forgetting that idols are something, based upon his idolatrous past, then those who know better should help him out and not eat that food even though they know they are free under God's law to eat it. If the man with a weak conscience is a true, born-again believer, then over time God's grace will prevail in his life, and He will slowly straighten out the man's thinking. Those who know better must be lovingly patient. In fact, the words "disposed to go," which apply to both verse 27 and 28, mean "having a personal interest and motivation." The implication is that the "you" of the verse is a person who is a strong believer and has a specific reason for going to the dinner. Perhaps he accepted the invitation because he is working on a friendship with the host for evangelistic reasons (notice verse 33). If that is the case, then the strong believer does not want to create a problem in the presence of the host by ignoring the sensitive conscience of a weaker brother who happens to be invited to the dinner also.
We who know more, such as the truth taught in Psalm 24, have options open to us. We know that we can eat or not eat. We do not have a conscience that is encumbered by artificial taboos. We know that neither eating nor not eating is sinful in itself. The deciding factor in what we do is what is expedient, what is spiritually edifying. We are careful with those who know less, not because we agree with what they say or do, but because we are interested in their soul. Of course there are some cases in which we have no options. Some things are against God's will. In those cases we must obey God rather than man. But in things lawful, we defer to another's conscience.
Verses 29,30, "why is my liberty judged ... why am I evil spoken of ..."
The point of these two verses is this: If I insist upon my liberty to eat or not to eat in situations where others for their own conscience's sake object to my action, then my liberty has become no liberty at all. I am acting like someone who is a slave to his desires. At that point my attitude and conduct could correctly be judged as evil. And that would be silly because my action is otherwise neutral. By my pride I will have turned my liberty into a liability to the Gospel. I would offend unbelievers and confuse weak believers. That is a terribly stupid and spiritually dangerous way to live. Instead of being spiritually helpful, that kind of action tragically creates spiritual problems.
Verse 31, "do"
This is a word of command that demands action. It reminds us that living to God's glory is not an option. It is certainly required of God's stewards. But it is also required of all men. Their failure is part of their condemnation.
This means all, in its most sweeping sense. Whether we do things at work or at home, vacation time, busy times, quiet times, big special times, small ordinary times, times in church, all times, we must do all for the glory of God. This is an impossible command, impossible because if it is up to us to make sure that in every second of our lives we do what this verse commands, we are not able to obey. But in Christ we can fulfill this verse. In principle it is fulfilled because whenever we do fail we know that our sins are covered by Jesus' blood. In practice we have the power to obey to a much higher degree than a non-Christian. Therefore, we should never be depressed at our failure to glorify God nor fear Him because we have failed and then give up. Our failure must not paralyze us with the result that we do not do anything or say anything. A Christian has the power to obey the verse. However, when we do not, we can return to God our Father and ask for forgiveness and help to obey. The idea is not we do all we can and the rest does not matter. It all matters. But on this side of eternity, the Christian's heart is right even though he may stumble. His desire is to do all to God's glory. His motive is right all the time because his heart is pure. Sometimes he fails. But he never is overcome by his failures. Each day is a new day, and God's grace is sufficient for all his needs (Lam. 3:22,23; I John 1:8,9).
"glory of God"
This phrase is especially relevant because the letter is addressed to the Corinthians who have been making an effort to identify with the Lord. The point is this: make sure that what you do glorifies the Lord inasmuch as you have called attention to the fact that you represent God! It is not enough to say "praise the Lord" and then not obey the Lord. The congregation must both say and do that which glorifies the Lord.
Verse 32, "Give none offense"
This phrase reflects back to the discussion of the chapter. The point is this: "Do not, by what you do, wound someone's conscience, because that does not glorify God. Even though what you do is O.K. by God's Word, if you offend a weak brother in your personal conduct, you are not glorifying the Lord."
These three words are not three different entities. There are only two groups here. On one hand there are "Jews" and "Gentiles" (or Hellesin, "Greeks") which means all non-Jews. Therefore, the phrase "Jews...Gentiles" includes all mankind, the unsaved of the world. On the other hand, there is the church of God, those called out of mankind to be God's own people. We know that the distinction must be between "Jews and Gentiles" and "the church" because the church itself was composed of ethnic Jews and Gentiles. It would be redundant for Paul to say "Jews and Gentiles" if he meant those who were in the church too. Therefore, the distinction must be between those in the church and those not in the church. The idea, then, of verses 31 and 32 is this: "Never give offense by what you do, not to those outside the church and certainly not to those in the church." Those outside the church are divided into Jew and Greeks, but only to highlight the nature of their particular rebellion. Whether a man is a Jew who seeks for a sign or a Gentile who seeks wisdom (I Cor. 1:22) or a church member struggling with his past, we must not despise him and say by our action "we don't care about you." The next verse gives the goal that should guide all of our actions.
Verse 33, "that they may be saved"
In short, if our actions are determined by a heart-felt desire for the salvation of others, whatever we do will glorify God. The phrase "I please all men in all things" does not mean we are wishy-washy or that we disobey God to keep a friendship. Rather, the idea is that "in all things I do not seek my own profit, but what is best for others. Others may even be offended with me as I try to live a holy life and as I discuss God's things. That sort of life does not always please others. But my goal is that others are attracted toward the Gospel and not driven away from it because of some selfishness on my part."
"seeking...the profit of many"
There is another idea here. The Lord Jesus is a seeker (Luke 19:10). The ones He seeks are called the "many" (Matt. 20:28). Therefore, the words used in verse 33 remind us that we ought to be doing what Jesus is doing. He did not please Himself in His desire to save many. If He is our Lord, that should be our desire too. In fact, it will be if He dwells in us and motivates us.
The next verse, Chapter 11 verse 1, is actually part of the same discussion and supports the point we have just made.
Chapter 11, verse 1, "followers"
This word, mimetai, means "to copy" or "imitate." This verse is not a contradiction of the thoughts in 1:12,13 and 3:4-7. Paul is not saying "take my side" or "keep your attention on me." Rather, Paul is saying "I follow Christ. So you follow Christ as I do." When the Corinthians follow Christ, they will be imitating Paul. The verse could be written, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." The idea of this verse, then, is that we do all things for the salvation of others, just in the same way Christ did. Paul is stating the fact that he is an example of someone who follows Christ in that way.
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