Letters to the Corinthians: And Now to You

In 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, Paul refers to Moses leading the Israelites through the Red Sea and into the Wilderness. We just saw that he referred to the Isthmia Games to talk to the Corinthians about discipline, but what would the Jewish believers who have fled Judea have known about that?

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

Likewise, isn’t it odd that Paul would refer to Israel’s history to a partially or mostly Greek church? What would they know about Moses, the red sea, the cloud, the food, the drink, the rock, or the wilderness? I think this passage isn’t so much mean for the Corinthians as it is for the Jewish believers among them. It’s one thing for life-long Corinthians to have the problems they do – but these Jewish believers ought to know better.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

This references the Golden Calf (Exodus 32:6), and points to a few more events that happened in the wilderness. I can just imagine the Corinthians whispering to their nearest Jewish brother or sisters in the faith: “What do you think he means by that?”

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Now believers can’t blame temptation as being too great to resist as the cause of their sin, but at least it’s good news that temptation will now be manageable and endurable from this point forward with a way out. But just what is this way out?


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