I Corinthians 10: A History Lesson
Paul was a student of the Old Testament and Jewish history, as this was all he had for the New Testament was being written by Paul and the others under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us regarding the Gospel, it was not given to him by any man, nor was he taught it; but rather it was revealed to him by the Lord Jesus. (Galatians 1) Augustine writes: “in the old, the new was concealed; and in the new the old was revealed. ‘ Which is exactly what Jesus showed the disciples in Luke 24. And every generation of believers must have their minds opened to understand just as the first generation of Christians did.
Paul realized nothing in Scripture is written in vain. It is written for our wisdom and for us to be instructed by it. Paul wrote in Romans 15: “For everything written in the past was written to teach us; so that through endurance (patience) and the encouragement (comfort) of Scripture we might have hope. Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement (patience and comfort) give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Did you notice God gives us these things individually that we might practice them corporately as His Holy Nation. Truly this is the only nation which is: One nation under God, indivisible.
In chapter nine of I Corinthians Paul said we were to go into strict training like the athlete, in order to run the race with endurance and fight the good fight. Paul said: “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” To be disqualified did not mean a loss of salvation, but a loss of rewards, as depicted in 1 Cor. 3- where they burned up. Paul knew when he was beginning his last lap in the race. He wrote Timothy his time of departure was soon. Then Paul said: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge will give to me on that day, and not only me, but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Tim. 4)
We sometimes overlook the first commandment given to mankind in the creation account in Genesis. The first commandment was to be fruitful and multiply. There is the fruitfulness of biological reproduction. And there is the spiritual fruitfulness to reproduce spiritual birth. And there is also fruitfulness through the work of the Holy Spirit in our own lives. This determines our character- and this is what the sanctification process is about which we have been studying. Christian character arises from our ‘participation in the divine nature’ which Peter writes about in 2 Peter 1. Peter tells us: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him; who called us by His own glory and goodness.” When we look back at the creation account and the very first commandment to be fruitful and multiply, we realize God had created everything Adam and Eve would ever need in order to accomplish this commandment. They were created on the highest plane. And in order to live the life God had given them, they must obey His command and not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We know how that turned out. Yet God has already made a provision for mankind by which they could be restored – they must be born again. By one man’s sin, death and sin entered the world. “For as by one man’s (Adam) many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5: 19) Thus we read in Scripture, the Lamb of God was slain before the foundation of the earth. The command to Adam and later to Noah and his sons, is the same to us- be fruitful and multiply.
Paul wants believers to grow up- to mature spiritually. To develop the character which arises from the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. For it is God who works in you, to will and do His good pleasure. The sanctification process is working it out in obedience in fear and trembling.
Thus Paul goes to examples of the Old Testament to reveal examples which instruct us and warn us how we ought to live and how to be on guard as we now have a threefold enemy with a three-fold strategy of attack. The three enemies: the world, the flesh and the devil. And the world lies under the sway, the influence of the devil. The society we live is wants to mold our thinking to accept their ways while the Holy Spirit wants to transform our minds with the Word of God. This is why the Word must be hidden in our hearts, so we will not sin against God. The three-fold strategy is to create temptation through: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. And it is this operation which seeks to ruin the life of the believer and run the life of the unbeliever.
A HISTORY LESSON FROM GOD’S WORD
I sometimes, believe we Christians in the 21st century take sin too lightly. Here in these passages Paul gives us a history lesson about the consequences of sin and thus why it is so important for us to strive not to sin.
First of all Paul reminds the church at Corinth and us how all of God’s people experience great spiritual privileges. Going back to the Exodus Paul reminds us: They ALL were under a cloud of God’s protection. They ALL passed through the sea. They ALL were baptized in the cloud and in the sea. The ALL ate and drank the spiritual food and drink from the ROCK, which accompanied them and the ROCK was Christ. Just like all the nation of Israel who were delivered from the slavery of Egypt, we too were delivered from sin and the sin master. We received the same great spiritual privileges they did. We were baptized into Christ and we experience the protection of God and His guidance. We partake of the spiritual food and drink and Jesus is our daily bread and spiritual drink. Christ is the solid Rock on which we stand.
Yet, God was not pleased with most of them and their bodies scattered over the desert. Does this mean they lost their salvation? No. The blood of the Lamb which had taken them out of Egypt did not lose its power to save to the uttermost. They did not lose their salvation, but they lost their reward. Even Moses was disqualified to enter the Promised Land.
Many of God’s people experience spiritual failure. Paul is using this historical story to warn us of the consequences of sin in the lives of Christians. “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our heart on evil things as they did. “
Paul then describes four sins which they committed. But the source of all four of those sins come from craving evil things. Now we tend to think of evil things, as sexual immorality of all types; criminal behavior, pornography, drunkenness, drugs, murder, etc. Yet we read in Numbers 11, what caused an intense craving and caused them to cry out to Moses: they craved fish, and the fresh vegetables of Egypt- cucumbers, melons, the leeks, onions and garlic. They were sick and tired of manna. They revealed the spirit of ingratitude. How are we guilty of such cravings? We crave a new car, a bigger house, a new wardrobe, a new mate. How are those any different? But it is these cravings the world culture tells us will satisfy us.
Here are the four sins from the history of the nation of Israel. A people who had been given great spiritual privileges, not unlike what we have experienced in America.
THE FOUR SINS
- Idolatry. Paul says do not be idolaters like they were.
- Sexual immorality. This was rampant in Corinth in Paul’s day as it is today in America.
- Testing God. Complaining even when He is faithful to provide us with everything we need. A spirit of ingratitude.
- Grumbling. This sin is associated with testing God. There was grumbling in the church at Corinth with the leadership, just like there was grumbling about the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Are we any different today in our church bodies?
Like the Israelites we have exhibited in our own lives, a sense of ingratitude. God has given us, like He did the Israelites, His Presence, His Power, and His Provisions and yet we often complain they are not enough. Do you realize how dangerous ingratitude is? In Romans 1, the horrific description of the downward spiral of mankind, which we are witnessing today which ends in murder, violence, a depraved minds, sexual sins of all types and the destruction of the family unit began with ingratitude: “Because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were they thankful, but became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened. It all began with a spirit of ingratitude- not thanking God for all He had done. This is why as Christians we are encouraged to give thanks in all things.
Paul tells us these things were written as a warning to us. We have been given unbelievably great privileges, but we must be careful – ‘let him who thinks he stands, take heed that he does not fall.’
HOW TO CHOOSE WELL- TO FINISH WELL
These next verses are very special to me. For I am convinced they kept me sober and alive at a very fragile time in my life, when God knew just how much temptation or testing I could bear. “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, Who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but will with the temptation will also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Notice what a clear picture of making a way to escape, God teaches us in the parting of the Red Sea. God was showing us He can make a way where there is no way.
Keep in mind the word ‘temptation’ in Greek also can be translated as ‘test.’ In every temptation there is a test. And in every test there is temptation. So this covers the situations completely. Let us look at the principles about temptations and tests.
- Temptation is common to every person; there is no temptation that is unique. What I discovered in AA, was people who were tempted and tested in the same area as I was with alcohol. We were unable to choose in our own strength and power to choose not to drink.
- God controls our temptations and tests. He knows exactly how much we can bear. Like the signs we see on the roadways, there are load limits for certain bridges. Our load limits vary from one person to the next. God knows how much we can bear in each situation.
- God personally and providentially provides a specific way of escape. So always ask God to show you the way of escape, for He has promised to provide it. And He is faithful to keep His promise. However, there will be an act of will on your part which you are responsible for taking. We are to ‘bear’ it; and ‘stand up’ and in certain cases ‘flee’. So it is knowing when we are to: fight and when we are to flee.
WATCH AND PRAY LEST YOU FALL INTO TEMPTATION.
Jesus taught us to pray- ‘lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.’ These two petitions are considered the two parts of the sixth petition in what we call “The Lord’s Prayer”. Here is a list of the six petitions:
- Hallowed by thy name. Petition is that we would not dishonor the name of God by our actions of willful sin or ungratefulness.
- Thy Kingdom come. This means we want above all else for God to rule in every area of our lives. Lord over all- Lordship 101.(Romans 8:31.32)
- Thy will be done. Submission, yielding to the will of God, not our own. Sanctification 101
- Give us this day, our daily bread. God knows we have need of material things. These are necessities not luxuries. A job, food, clothing, shelter. He made sure Adam and Eve had all these things and He has provided us with everything we need for life and godliness.
- Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. An unforgiving spirit leads to bitterness if not resolved. Which in turn hinders our fellowship with God. Paul says no one should seek his own good, but the good of others.
- Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil. Notice this petition does not say- do not let us be tempted. The petition is to not let us be led into temptation. For if temptation is followed it will deliver us to evil. Thus Jesus’ commandment to watch and pray lest you fall into temptation. Temptation is permitted by God- as we look back at the two trees in the Garden of Eden. There are two primary categories of temptations. One is the temptation of riches, power, honor, pleasures of this world. These tempt us to think we do not need God. We are self-sufficient. The other temptations come from poverty, contempt, and afflictions which lead us to become angry with God in our despair and thus lose hope. (You realize Adam and Eve experienced and yielded to the first temptation. This created a fallen world in which the second temptation to curse God and be angry with Him for the evil which mankind brought on its self. )
James writes: “Blessed is the man who endures temptation: for when he has been approved he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (Notice enduring temptation can be a blessing which leads to reward and experiencing the blessings of God) Let no man say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin and sin when it is full grown brings forth death.”
The reason the enemy tempts you to sin is to prevent you from obeying God and experiencing His best for you. He will do anything he can to demolish the works of God in your life and make you ineffective.
This is why we must learn to use the weapons of our warfare which are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
Thought replacement is our part as we transform our minds with the Word of God. Paul tells us what things to think on in Philippians 4. We are also encouraged to let this mind be in you which is in Christ Jesus. Do you realize we have the wisdom of God for the asking, the peace of our Lord Jesus, the same power, the Holy Spirit, which resurrected Him, the mind of Christ, and love of God poured out into our hearts with His promise He will never leave us or forsake us.
Next week- we will continue explore this component of being fruitful and multiplying. For the Fruitful life is the life which glorifies the Father. And it is sanctification which enables us to bear much fruit. We have to put off our old self which was corrupted by its sinful, evil desires and put on the new self. We have to do this every day.
We want to develop godliness which we can only experience because of the grace of God. There is only one way this can occur: Whole-hearted devotion to God so that I might be pleasing to Him. I then must understand where the source of this power to live this life comes from. I discovered on the very first AA meeting I went to- they told me I was powerless over alcohol and had to find the resource of greater power in my relationship with God as I came to understand Him.
For the last almost 40 years, I have been coming to understand Him. And I am still trying to obey His First Commandment given to man- the reason for which we were created and exist: to be fruitful and multiply.
Peter tells us God, by His divine power has given everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him. Here in lies the problem we encounter in the sanctification process: *though the power for Christ-like character comes from Christ, the responsibility for developing and displaying that character are ours.
The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
By this is my Father glorified that you bear much fruit. (John 15) This fruit is listed as: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This comes from a life fully, whole-heartedly submitted to Jesus Christ. Half measures never worked. No shortcuts. Next week we will see how all we do should bring glory to God.
EVIL Check List
- Expect evil. I Peter 4: 12- don’t be surprised
- Endure evil. I Cor 13- Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things
- Give thanks for refining evil. Romans 5:8 Rejoice in suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance. Give thanks in everything for this is the will of God.
- Hate evil and hold fast to good.
- Pray for escape. I Cor. 10: 13 God is faithful to provide a way of escape to bear it
- Expose evil. Evil is darkness, we are light.
- Overcome evil with good.
- Resist evil. James says resist the devil and he will flee.
- Never despair for evil is not out of control ‘…being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will. Eph. 1: 9 Also Romans 8: 28&29
- Never give into evil.
- Never yield to thoughts God is unjust or unrighteous.
- Never doubt God is totally for you in Christ. If God is for us – who can be against us?