1 CORINTHIANS - CHAPTER 10
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2000 James Melough
“Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all
our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;”
reference to “our fathers” indicates, not that the Corinthian saints were Jews,
but that as another has pointed out, those Israelites, redeemed from Egyptian
bondage, and brought into the desert, were, in a sense, the “fathers” of all who
profess to be God’s redeemed people; and clearly Paul is not implying that the
Corinthian saints were ignorant of Jewish history, but rather, that they were
obviously ignorant of the spiritual significance of that history.
The same danger exists today. Many
Christians, well acquainted with the literal content of the OT, are totally ignorant
of the transcendent spiritual message being symbolically conveyed in its literal
language; but what is worse: many of them deny that there is such symbolic
instruction, and charge those who do see it, with engaging in unwarranted flights of
fancy. Failure to discern that truth,
however, robs the reader of a wealth of spiritual instruction, and accounts for the
abysmal ignorance that characterizes the great majority of Christians today.
deplores that ignorance, and seeks to remove it by showing them the spiritual truth
being declared in the literal history.
“cloud” obviously refers to the pillar of cloud and fire that guided them by day
and by night, and that moved behind them, separating them from the pursuing Egyptians
at the Red Sea, but as Paul goes on to explain, the cloud, the sea, the manna, the
rock, and the water resulting from the smiting of that rock, are all types or figures
of greater things.
“And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;”
cloud is a type or symbol of the Holy Spirit, and the Christian equivalent of their
being under the cloud is, that just as those redeemed by the blood of the Passover
lamb were under that protecting and guiding cloud, so are all those redeemed by the
precious blood of the true Passover Lamb, for we are indwelt and guided by the Holy
Spirit Who makes us one with Christ, just as their being under that literal cloud
made Israel one with Moses.
crossing of the Red Sea is generally recognized as being a figure or type of baptism,
which is itself, of course, the symbolic announcement of the truth that we are
identified with Christ in His death and resurrection, our going under the water
portraying the truth that we have died vicariously in Him, while our coming up out of
the water portrays the truth that we have also vicariously risen with Him, since God
imputes to the believer both the Lord’s death and His resurrection.
this point it might be well to note that Israel’s crossing the Jordan to enter
Canaan at the end of the wilderness journey, is also a figure or type of baptism,
raising the question, Why portray the same truth twice: once as they left Egypt, and
again as they left the wilderness to enter Canaan?
The explanation is very simple. It
is generally recognized that Moses portrays Christ dying for us to deliver us from
bondage; but Joshua, Christ living for us, as the Captain of our salvation leading us
into the enjoyment of the blessings secured for us by His death and resurrection.
As the crossing of the Red Sea baptized redeemed Israel into Moses, so did the
crossing of Jordan baptize them into Joshua. The
former is the figure of our identification with the Christ Who has been delivered for
our offenses; the latter, of our identification with the Christ Who has been raised
again for our justification. The one
emphasizes His death, and ours as having died in Him; the other, His resurrection,
and ours as having been raised with Him to walk in newness of life.
“And did all eat of the same spiritual meat (food);”
the Lord Himself makes clear in Jn 6:31-58, that manna, the bread sent down from
heaven, was a figure or type of Him. And
as Israel must eat that miraculously given food, so must believers today also eat a
miraculously given food: Christ as set before us in the literal and symbolic language
of Scripture. The miraculous nature of
the manna points to the same miraculous character of Scripture.
The natural man can’t comprehend it. Lacking
the Holy Spirit, he can discern nothing of its spiritual content.
The spiritual man, on the other hand, does discern that spiritual content,
finding in it the spiritual food and drink which sustains his new life.
there came a day when the Israelites despised the manna, saying “our soul
loatheth this light bread” (Nu 21:5), and so is it today.
Many professing Christians have the same distaste for God’s Word, that
aversion declaring their own spiritual state, for he who dislikes the study of
Scripture is either an unbeliever, or a backslidden saint.
There is no more accurate barometer of a man’s spiritual state than his
desire or lack of desire for God’s Word.
“And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that
spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ.”
takes us back to Ex 17 which records God’s command to Moses, “Behold, I will
stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and
there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink,” (v. 6), and as is
explained in the verse we’re considering, that rock is a type of Christ, smitten at
Calvary so that the water of life might become available to dying men.
Those who drank of that miraculously given water shared a common life, and so
with those who constitute the Church: they too share a common life based on their
having drunk the water of life, i.e., trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ. Since, it would seem, they drank only once of that water from the
smitten rock, the spiritual lesson is that the sinner also drinks only once of the
living water. Trusting Christ as Savior
is a unique experience. It is done only
once. Thereafter, as believers, we drink
the water of the Word for cleansing and refreshment, not to get eternal life, but to
sustain the life obtained when we first trusted Christ as Savior.
as a type of the Word, focuses attention upon it as the agent of refreshment and
cleansing, as is declared specifically in Ps 119:9 “Wherewithal shall a young man
cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.”
incidentally, means a waster, and as the name of the place where the rock was
smitten, is a particularly apt figure of Calvary which was for Christ the place of
“wasting”, for it was there that God’s wrath and judgment against sin were
wasted or exhausted when they were poured out upon Him as our Substitute.
is not to be supposed that that literal rock followed Israel through the wilderness,
but rather, that He Whom the rock portrays, followed or guided them, through the Holy
Spirit portrayed by the cloudy and fiery pillars.
“But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in
more accurate translation is “with most of them, etc.”
Their being overthrown in the wilderness takes us back to Numbers 14 which
records the sending of the twelve men to reconnoiter Canaan, Joshua and Caleb being
the only two who encouraged the people to go in and take possession, the other ten,
leaving God out of the reckoning, declaring wrongly, the impossibility of Israel’s
overcoming the inhabitants.
Jg 1:10 it is recorded, “And Judah went against the Canaanites that dwelt in
Hebron: (now the name of Hebron before was Kirjath-arba:) and they slew Sheshai, and
Ahiman, and Talmai.” This is the
repetition of the account given in Joshua 14 and 15, where we read, “Hebron
therefore became the inheritance of Caleb .... And the name of Hebron before was
Kirjath-arba; which Arba was a great man among the Anakims” (Josh.14:14-15).
“And unto Caleb ... he gave a part among the children of Judah ... even the
city of Arba the father of Anak, which city is Hebron.
And Caleb drove thence the three sons of Anak, Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Tal-mai,
the children of Anak” (Jos 15:13-14).
Nu 13:2,3,6, we learn that Caleb was a ruler in Judah, and when the others
discouraged the people, “Caleb stilled the people ... and said, Let us go up at
once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Nu 13:30).
His faithfulness was rewarded with the promise of God, “But my servant
Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I
bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it” (Nu 14:24).
And when the unbelieving spies, “died by the plague before the Lord ...
Joshua ... and Caleb ... lived still” (Nu 14:37-38).
34:17-19 informs us also that, having appointed Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the
son of Nun, to divide the land to the tribes of Israel, God also declared, “And ye
shall take one prince of every tribe, to divide the land by inheritance,”
- and first on that list of princes is, “Caleb, the son of Jephunneh.”
portion given Caleb was the city and region generally known as Hebron; but under
Canaanite control, known as Kirjath-Arba, “the city of Arba the father of Anak.”
means communion; and Arba four, but since four is the number of earth
in connection with testing, the lesson being taught in the change of name that
accompanied change of ownership, is that the world has also its own form of communion
enjoyed by its own; but we do well to note that the son of Arba was Anak, meaning neck-chain:
long necked, which we have seen to represent pride and its accompanying bondage.
The “communion” available to the worldling binds him to the necessity of
keeping up with those whose fellowship he covets. Let his income, or his political power cease, however, and see how
quickly the “fellowship” also ceases.
different in the realm of faith! The
communion which the believer enjoys with God, and with every other believer, is not
dependent on the fluctuating values of earth, but on the changeless eternal love of
Joshua chapter 14 we learn that for forty-five years, since the day he first caught a
glimpse of it, Caleb had never lost his desire to possess Hebron.
The same desire for what Hebron represents would preserve us from many a
sorrow, for communion can’t be separated from obedience, nor obedience from
Caleb drove thence the three sons of Anak, Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai, the
children of Anak” (Josh.15:14). Arba’s
posterity didn’t end with Anak. Anak
had three sons, Sheshai, meaning My fine (linen) garments: whitish; Ahiman, Brother
of a portion: brother of whom?; and Talmai, My furrows.
the children of one who represents pride, these three are themselves representative
of what characterizes pride. The
significance of Sheshai is easily deciphered. He
represents the proud satisfaction with their own righteousness that marks so many of
the world’s unconverted. Caleb’s
expulsion of Sheshai, however, reminds us that the believer may also become proud of
his righteousness, forgetting that it is the righteousness of Christ that gives him
acceptance with a Holy God. Religious
pride is much more prevalent than many of us would care to admit.
There is as great need for us to expel the pride which Sheshai represents,
as there was for Israel to expel the literal giant Sheshai.
lesson of Ahiman is also easily read, for the “brotherhood” of the world depends
on the “portion” possessed by the man who wants to have fellowship.
Let his “portion” (of wealth, power, influence, etc.,) fall below that of
those with whom he has fellowship, and he finds himself very quickly unwelcome within
is a form of pride regrettably rampant in Christendom today, in spite of the numerous
Scriptural warnings against it, e.g., James 2:1-9, “...if ye have respect to
persons, ye commit sin....” and 1 Co 11:22 “...despise ye the church of God, and
shame them that have not?” The
spiritual counterpart of the giant Ahiman is likewise to be expelled from the midst
of God’s people.
spiritual significance of Talmai is likewise easily translated.
The furrow is produced by plowing, and in an agricultural society there was an
obvious correlation between the number of furrows, and the amount of a man’s
wealth. It is regrettably true also in
Christendom today that all too often a man is esteemed in proportion to his secular
success, while he who labors in spiritual things is despised.
“Talmai” remains unexpelled in many a church today.
Countless believers are starving spiritually under the “ministry” of the
spiritual “Talmai’s”; and countless others groan under the misrule of men whose
only leadership qualifications are secular or academic rather than spiritual.
is just as great need for individual believers, and churches today, to expel these
spiritual sons of the giant Pride, as there was for Caleb to expel the literal sons
of Anak. Caleb’s enjoyment of Hebron
depended on their expulsion. Our
enjoyment of the communion which Hebron represents, depends on our expulsion of the
pride which they represent.
only difference between the account in Joshua 15, and that given here is that there
Caleb appears to have expelled the three giants, but here he slays them.
“Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after
evil things, as they also lusted.”
fact that only two (Joshua and Caleb) of all those redeemed from Egyptian bondage,
entered Canaan, may not be taken to imply that all those who died in the desert were
unbelievers. Most, but clearly not all,
were unbelievers, but there is no question that Moses, Aaron, Miriam, and others were
as much believers as were Joshua and Caleb. This
confirms that Canaan is not a type of heaven, but of the sphere into which the sinner
is brought at conversion, and the truth being taught is not that disobedience keeps
the genuine believer out of heaven, but out of the enjoyment of blessing here on
earth. That that same disobedience will also rob him of reward at the
Bema is equally clear.
fact that “these things were our examples” confirms that the OT is invested with
a spiritual significance which transcends the literal language, and declares the need
for us to acquaint ourselves with the Bible’s symbolism.
is inordinate desire. It goes far beyond
the mere wish for something, e.g., a better job, car, house, clothing, etc., but
without envy of those who may have these things, or of anger against God for having
withheld them. Lust, on the other hand,
does envy, does rebel against God, and desires things God has forbidden.
It is evil things we are forbidden to lust after.
The believer certainly may pray for a better job, car, house, etc., as long as
he is satisfied to accept God’s will relative to the answers.
Simple desire becomes lust when it is accompanied by envy or rebellion, or the
wish for what God has forbidden.
“Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people
sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.”
reference is to the matter of their sin in connection with the worship of the golden
calf (Ex 32), and it is noteworthy that in connection with that worship we read that,
“Aaron made a proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.
And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought
peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.
And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people which thou
broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves” (Ex 32:5-7),
“corrupted” meaning literally decay that causes ruin.
Others have pointed out that there is conspicuous absence of any mention of
the sin offering, and that this flagrant idolatry was cloaked under the guise of the
worship of Jehovah.
same commentators have also drawn attention to the parallel between that idolatry
masquerading as worship of God, and what is called worship in Christendom today.
It too, so far from Scriptural order as to have no resemblance to true
worship, is nevertheless still called worship. Nor
will any spiritual mind fail to see the parallel between the order in Christendom,
and Israel’s early morning offering of that idolatrous worship, followed by their
feasting and dancing. A professing
church, also lusting for the things of Egypt (the world), also offers its
“worship” early in the morning, so that it may have the rest of the day for
feasting and revelry. Note for example
in how many churches the evening service has been abandoned, and in how many
assemblies there is no longer an evening meeting. A professing church, as pleasure crazed as the world to which it
is to be a witness, preserves the empty form, the dead ritual, but in heart is as far
from God as was the Israel prostrated before the golden calf.
is instructive to note how that golden calf came to be.
The people, impatient of waiting for Moses’ return, of obeying an invisible
God, wanted something they could see and touch, i.e., what appealed to the senses,
what was sensuous. So is it today. A
professing church, no longer looking for the return of an absent Christ, and no
longer willing to obey an invisible God, wants a “worship” that is sensuous.
That “worship,” however, like the world’s much vaunted wisdom, is
“earthly, sensual, devilish” (Jas 3:15).
order to have that golden idol they had to sacrifice their own golden earrings (Ex
32:2-3); but it is to be noted that it is specifically stated that the rings were
removed from the ears of their wives, sons and daughters, the wife representing the
expression of the man’s spiritual life; the son, the activity of his will; and the
daughter, the submission of his will. The
lesson couldn’t be clearer. It soon
becomes apparent when a believer is lusting after evil things.
It is seen in the deterioration of his spiritual life; in the activity of his
will; and in a mere outward submission to God’s will, the ritualistic obedience
being continued in the delusion that it will deceive the eye of man.
ear is the channel by which man hears God’s voice, while the golden ring upon the
ear speaks of the eternal glory which is the reward of obedience, not just in heaven,
but also here on earth, for he who obeys God, walks in the enjoyment of His peace
which passeth understanding. He who
abandons the spiritual for the earthy robs himself of present peace and eternal glory.
The professing church today, no less than Israel then, has plucked off the
golden earring and formed it into an idol. Professed
believers want what is sensual: music, choirs, concerts, drama, oratory, banquets,
social programs, games, etc., in the church; while outside they crave the sensual
filth of a corrupt world. They too have
corrupted themselves, their distaste for spiritual things being advertised in the
increasing number of discontinued evening services both in the denominational
churches and in the assemblies.
should we fail to note the significance of its being made first a molten calf which
Aaron then shaped with a graving tool. The
fire which reduced the earrings into a molten mass wasn’t the Holy Spirit, but
rather, the fire of emotion out of control. The
emotions, apart from the control of the written Word, will always produce a “molten
calf.” And its being shaped with the graving tool in the hand of Aaron,
would teach us that Satan always has a man ready to shape the people’s molten
emotions into something having a resemblance to worship, but which is in reality the
worship of the prince of darkness.
is not that the worship of Jehovah was abandoned. It was that the method which He Himself had appointed was
abandoned in favor of that which appealed to the senses of the multitude.
The outward form of worship was preserved, but it was according to a form
conceived by man’s own fallen corrupt mind, and therefore an abomination to God.
Such is the worship of Christendom today.
Virtually none of it can claim the sanction of God’s Word.
should note further what is written concerning them, “And when Moses saw that the
people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their
enemies....)” (Ex 32:25). Most
translations indicate that the word “naked” is used here figuratively, the
thought being that they were unbridled, broken loose, out of control, without
restraint, run wild, the body freed from restraining clothing being an apt figure of
the unrestrained sinful activity which accompanied their drinking, feasting, and
is significant, however, that the Holy Spirit has chosen to use the word “naked,”
for literal nakedness is symbolic of lost righteousness, note for example Adam and
Eve following their disobedience. The message is easily read. Israel’s
being described as “naked” following their idolatry, declares that their
rebellion had robbed them of righteousness. The
same idolatry has also caused the professing church to become naked in God’s sight. Nor should we fail to note that Israel’s naked state was the end
result of their having themselves removed the golden earrings from their ears.
“Neither let us
commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty
reference is to the incident recorded in Nu 25:1-9, where Israel began to intermingle
themselves with the Moabites, a rebellion which caused God to send a plague in which
twenty-four thousand of them perished. The
discrepancy between the twenty-four thousand of Numbers and the twenty-three thousand
here in Corinthians, is generally explained as being that the twenty-four thousand is
the total number slain; the twenty-three thousand, the number slain in one day.
regard to that rebellion, the fornication was both literal and figurative, for
idolatrous worship is almost invariably accompanied by gross immorality - adultery
and fornication being used frequently in Scripture to portray unfaithfulness to God.
is instructive to note that the sin which brought the judgment of God upon rebellious
Israel, came soon after Balak’s vain attempt to have Balaam curse the people.
While they were obedient, nothing could touch them, Balaam being compelled by
God to pronounce a blessing upon them instead of a curse.
It is equally instructive to note that while Balak came against them as an
open enemy, the people were safe, for fear of the enemy kept them obedient to God.
It was when Balak changed his tactics, and presented himself in the guise of a
friend, that foolish Israel fell prey to his wiles.
It is when Satan appears as an angel of light (2 Co 11:14), rather than as a
roaring lion (1 Pe 5:8) that he is most to be feared, for it is then that God’s
people, deceived by his disguise, most easily fall victim to his subtlety.
The lesson for believers today is of the need to beware of the blandishments
of a world presenting itself in the guise of a friend.
It is God Himself Who warns us that the world is our enemy, “Know ye not
that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a
friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Jas 4:4);
“... what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what
communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial, or what
part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And
what agreement hath the temple of god with idols? for ye are the temple of the living
God.... Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord....”
(2 Co 6:14-17).
do well to note also that the enemy who enticed them to sin was Moab, the people who
represent false profession mixed with the lusts of the flesh.
(Ammon, incidentally, appears to also represent false profession, but mixed
with intellectualism). Scripture warns
us repeatedly against those same lusts, for they will entice us to sin just as the
Moabites enticed Israel to their sorrow long ago.
is instruction also in the name of the place where they were when they fell into this
sin. It was Shittim, which means acacias,
but inasmuch as the acacia tree is notorious for its thorns, and thorns are the
Biblical figure of sin, the message is clear: they were living in a place which, in
its very name, speaks of sin. It is a
figure of the world in which we live, and would remind us of the need to be on
constant guard, not only against the lusts of the flesh, but against every form of
sin. The believer who deliberately
forsakes the paths of righteousness to live in sin, is inviting disaster.
instruction is furnished in its being recorded that, “Israel joined himself to
Baal-peor,” which means Lord of the opening. The opening, in the present context, appears to speak of a breach
in the moral boundary which God has appointed, not only for Israel, but for us.
It hints at a going beyond what God permits; and surely no one will fail to
see that this is the very attitude that marks, not only Christendom in general, but,
sadly, true believers also today. It is
significant in this connection that Israel, usually spoken of in the feminine form,
is here spoken of in the masculine, for, as already noted, the female speaks of
passivity, but the male, of activity of the will.
It declares that the sin was deliberately chosen, rather than fallen into
accidently, and we should remember that there were offerings for sin of the latter
type, but not the former.
“Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were
destroyed of serpents.”
reference is to Nu 21:4-9 where it is recorded that the people “much discouraged
because of the way ... spake against God, and against Moses....” complaining about
the manna, and lack of water, declaring relative to the manna, “our soul loatheth
this light bread.”
being said in Numbers that they spake against God; and here in Corinthians, against
Christ, is another confirmation that Christ is God; and its being said that they
spake against Moses, warns us against speaking ill of those who are His servants.
have noted already that the manna is a figure or type, not only of Christ the living
Word, but also of that same Christ as is set before us in the written Word, so that
their dislike of the manna translates into what is all too prevalent amongst
professing believers today: an aversion to the reading and study of Scripture, that
antipathy being simply the manifestation of a distaste for Christ.
He who professes to love the Lord, but who has no desire to read and study
Scripture, contradicts his own profession.
is there any water.” As manna is a
type of the Word to nourish the believer’s new spiritual life, so is water a type
of that same Word to refresh and cleanse him. It
is instructive therefore to note that their loathing of the manna was accompanied by
lack of water. The lesson is too obvious
to miss. Rejection of the Word denies
the professed believer, not only what he needs to nourish his new spiritual life, but
also what he needs to cheer his heart, and keep himself pure.
by their murmuring, God sent serpents among them, with the result that many
Israelites died. Since Satan is
presented in Scripture under the figure of a serpent, these serpents in the camp
would seem to represent those who are his spiritual children, i.e., unbelievers.
The spiritual picture couldn’t be clearer.
It is what we see everywhere in Christendom today - the invasion of the
professing church by those who are the seed of the serpent; nor is the result any
different from what it was then: death follows.
Believers cannot mingle with unbelievers without losing their spirituality,
with the result that they might as well be dead, for the carnal believer can no more
serve God than can the unbeliever. God
will not use unclean vessels.
“Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the
is generally accepted that the “murmuring” mentioned here was in connection with
the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, as recorded in Numbers 16.
They, presumptuously determining to intrude into a sphere of service to which
God had not called them, were slain when the earth opened and swallowed them, the 250
who had joined them in the rebellion, being slain by fire from God.
The people who witnessed their destruction were at first terrified, but the
next day accused Moses and Aaron, saying, “Ye have killed the people of the Lord”
(Nu 16:41). In response to this further
rebellion, God sent the plague which consumed another 14,700, and was stopped only
when Aaron, at Moses’ command, made atonement with a censer full of fire and
obvious lesson being taught in this incident is the folly of attempting to do
anything relative to which God has neither fitted nor called us.
In spite of the warning, this very sin is being repeated in Christendom every
day, for in all the religious activity with which an apostate church busies herself,
there is very little that will bear the scrutiny of God’s Word.
We should note too that the sin was in connection with worship, in regard to
which it might be supposed that the deaths of Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu,
would have been sufficient warning against such folly (Le 10:2; Nu 3:4), but
obviously it wasn’t. Nor do all the
warnings recorded in Scripture serve as a deterrent to a rebellious professing
church. She too displays the same brazen
determination to present “worship,” and to render “service”, according to the
inclination of man’s corrupt mind, rather than God’s Word.
The number slain, however, declares the abhorrence with which God views all
such self-willed “worship” and “service,” and should impress upon us the
necessity of being sure that all we do is according to Scripture, and at the impulse
of the Holy Spirit.
“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples, and they are written
for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”
question as to the typological teaching of the OT is surely refuted by such verses as
this; yet the fact remains that by far the vast majority of professing Christians
refuse to concede that Scripture furnishes such teaching.
In this, as in virtually everything else, however, the majority are wrong, and
it is by their refusal to acknowledge the typological character of the OT that so
many have wandered off into varying degrees of error.
We ignore at our peril the warning that these things “are written for our
admonition.” He is a wise man who
recognizes that the paucity of NT detail relative to the Church’s worship and
service is not to be construed as liberty to do what each man thinks best, but
rather, as being because God has furnished very detailed instruction in the symbolic
language of the OT, the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit being all that is needed to
disclose that instruction.
“ends of the world” is better translated “the climax of the ages,” and has
nothing to do with the end of the world (that event is at least 1,007 years in the
future: the 7 years of the Tribulation, and the 1,000 years of the Millennium).
But just what is meant by “the climax of the ages”?
Whatever else may be involved, no reasonable mind will fail to acknowledge
that that climax is the Lord’s incarnation, death, and resurrection, for it was to
these things that all eternity past has looked forward, and to which all eternity
future will look back. It is with these
things that Scripture is primarily concerned.
“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
was the danger for those early Christians of thinking that they could never be guilty
of the sins we have just been considering, but, as we have discovered, the danger for
them and for us is very real. We not
only can be, but all too often, have been guilty of the same offenses, and
like the OT offenders, we have very frequently been ignorant of having done any
wrong! This ignorance points up the need
to familiarize ourselves with Scripture, for if we aren’t aware of what is written,
how can we avoid these sins of ignorance?
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is
faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able: but will with
the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
connection with the first clause of this sentence is not only the thought that those
addressed by Paul had been subjected to no greater testing than have others, but also
the thought that the testings which came to those of the OT age, are the same as come
to men in every age.
assurance that God will not permit us to be tested beyond what we are able to endure,
reminds us that nothing can happen to us apart from what God either ordains or
permits. Note for example, that Satan
could do nothing more to Job than God permitted.
And it is to be further noted that the testing of believers is not to entice
them to sin, but to purify or refine their faith, as we read in 1 Pe 1:6-7, “Wherein
ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through
manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of
gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and
honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”
That God doesn’t tempt any man to sin is declared in Jas 1:12-15, “Blessed
is the man that endureth temptation (trial or proof), for when he is tried, he shall
receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be
tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted, when he is
drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then
when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished,
bringeth forth death.”
believer is assured not only that God will make “a way to escape” before the
testing becomes unbearable, but that, “All things work together for good to them
that love God” (Ro 8:28).
a way to escape” (more accurately, the way to escape, or, the way out)
doesn’t mean a way to escape the testing, but rather, the assurance given by God
that every trial has an end or way out, that assurance giving us the ability to
endure the testing, and emerge from it successfully with our faith strengthened and
refined, Heb 4:15 reminding us that, “We have not an high priest which cannot be
touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all prints tempted like as we
are, yet without sin.”
“Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.”
dearly beloved,” reminds us that even though Paul had used sharp words in rebuking
their sin, he loved them dearly, his objective being that they yield to God the
obedience that would secure His blessing, instead of the disobedience that would just
as surely bring His chastisement.
regard to the iniquitous character of the city of Corinth, there is no doubt that the
Apostle’s exhortation was literal, but keeping in mind that literal idolatry is
symbolic of the evil of giving to anyone or anything else the love that belongs to
God, there can also be no doubt that the spiritual application was equally relevant,
not only to them, but to every believer. The
twentieth century’s love of money, pleasure, sport, education, art, and a host of
other gods, reminds us that the warning to the first century believer was never more
needed than today. That it is a warning
which has been largely ignored is painfully obvious from the deplorable condition of
“I speak as to wise men: judge ye what I say.”
his former allusions to their imagined wisdom, there is no sarcasm here.
Paul is appealing to them as men having the capacity to judge spiritual
things, and he is asking them to make that judgment, relative to what he is saying.
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of
Christ? The bread which we break, is it
not the communion of the body of Christ?”
regard to the fact that the idolatry against which he was warning them, involved
feasts in which the participant expressed his fellowship with the idol, Paul now goes
on to point out the utter folly of a believer’s partaking of the bread and wine of
the Lord’s supper (which is the symbolic expression of fellowship with Him), and
then attending a heathen feast where his very presence expressed fellowship with an
idol, a fellowship which was, in fact, with demons, and therefore with Satan the
prince of the demons, verse 20.
which we bless” is literally to give thanks for.
the communion of the blood of Christ” is literally, “a sharing in the realization
of the effects of the blood (i.e., the death) of Christ and the body of Christ, as
set forth by the emblems of the Lord’s Supper” (Vine).
Communion is literally having in common.
We have communion with Christ and with one another because it is by His blood
that every believer has been cleansed from sin, and by His death that our souls have
been redeemed. Through His death we have
died to our condemned state as men in Adam, and by His resurrection we have become
new creatures who possess His life and His nature, and are clothed with His
righteousness. The blood portrayed in
the wine, is related to our cleansing, while the bread, symbol of His body, reminds
us of the means by which that cleansing has been secured.
He had to give His body to be broken in death so that we might receive God’s
gift of eternal life.
reversed order here - the wine before the bread - is because we are first cleansed by
the blood of Christ, the new life thus obtained being then sustained by the
“bread” the written Word which is the revelation of Him Who is the Living Word.
At the Lord’s supper the bread is broken first, because we have already been
cleansed, and the focus is, not upon our need of cleansing, but upon our being
members of the body of Christ.
“For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of
that one bread.”
indissolubility of the believer’s union with Christ is very aptly declared here.
He is the true Bread Who came down from heaven, but through faith in His death
and resurrection we as a corporate body, have become one bread or one loaf with Him,
and just as the removal of a piece of the loaf would mar its completeness, so would
the loss of a believer mar the completeness of Christ.
The thought that a believer could lose his salvation has no support from
here means to “have a share in or with.”
“Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices
partakers of the altar?”
is another reminder that the OT has a great deal to teach us, its literal language
being but the vehicle by which God furnishes us with spiritual instruction.
It is a very great mistake to construe the paucity of instruction in the NT
relative to the worship and work of the Church, as being license for every man to do
what is right in his own eyes. The
instruction is given in the symbolic language of the OT, but carnality has deprived
many professing believers of the ability to read that language, for it is
unintelligible apart from the enlightenment of an ungrieved and unquenched Holy
those Levitical priests, in eating part of the sacrifices offered, were declaring
symbolically that they were partners with God to Whom the altar belonged, so we who
are a kingdom of spiritual priests, in eating the Lord’s supper, announce that we
too are in partnership with Him. But
ours is a far closer relationship than was ever enjoyed by the priests of the Aaronic
order, for we are declared by God to be His sons and daughters.
We are members of that mystical body of which the Lord Jesus Christ is Head.
We are heirs and joint-heirs with Him of all that is God’s (Ro 8:17).
“But what say I then? that the idol is anything, or that which is offered in
sacrifice to idols is any thing?”
goes on to explain that there was only one God, and that the imaginary gods to whom
the heathen offered sacrifice didn’t really exist, so that in reality the food
offered to idols underwent no literal change. It was the spiritual implications that mattered.
“But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to
devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with
there were no “gods” such as the heathen believed existed, the truth was that in
their ignorance they were worshipping demons, i.e., the evil spirits ruled by Satan.
(As noted already, Vine points out that “There is only one Devil; where the
plural is used the rendering should always be demons”).
Those therefore, who offered sacrifices to idols were actually worshipping
Satan, and having fellowship with his evil minions who incite that worship, just as
the Holy Spirit inspires true worship. (Relative
to the origin of demons, many hold them to be the disembodied spirits of creatures
who inhabited the pre-Adamite world ruled by Lucifer shining one, and who
joined him in his rebellion against God, which resulted in the destruction of the
pre-Adamite world, and in his becoming Satan an adversary, the prince of
forbids believers to have any fellowship whatsoever with demons.
“Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils: ye cannot be
partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.”
cup speaks of that which has redeemed and cleansed us - the Lord’s blood.
As those who have been redeemed from the tyranny of the prince of the demons,
and cleansed from the filth associated with that bondage, we can’t do in symbol
what portrays a return to that bondage and uncleanness, without grieving the Lord and
disparaging His sacrifice. To be a
participant at a feast which honors Satan, is to dishonor the Lord Who has redeemed
us. And lest we should conclude that we could never be guilty of
giving such offense, we must remember that to give to anyone or anything, what
belongs to Christ, is idolatry. Time,
talent, money, etc., therefore, not used for His glory are, in some measure at least,
“Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?”
Ex 20:5 the warning is given, “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.”
He will not share His glory with another; and there is special significance in
its being asked, “Are we stronger than he,” for the implication is that when we
arouse His jealousy we immediately make ourselves His adversaries, and surely it is
significant that that is the meaning of the name Satan - an adversary!
“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things
are lawful for me, but all things edify not.”
term “all things” is clearly not all inclusive, for it is obvious that the
believer does not have liberty to do as he pleases.
The statement must be understood in the light of other Scriptures, e.g.,
Romans 14. The reference is to such
things as meats and the observance of special days, etc.
It is relative to things like these that the believer has individual liberty,
but even then that liberty is to be relinquished if the exercise of it would affect
adversely the faith of another believer. The
test to be applied to such liberty is, Will this build up others?
If not, it is not to be exercised.
“Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.”
has no part in the Christian life, the exhortation in Ro 15:1-3 being, “We then
that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please
ourselves. Let every one of us please
his neighbor for his good to edification. For
even Christ pleased not himself....” The upbuilding of others is to be our constant objective.
“Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for
though some of the meat offered for sale in the meat-market may have been that of an
animal which had been offered in sacrifice to an idol, the believer was free to eat
it, for, as noted already, the evil was in the deed of the offerer, not in the animal
offered. The believer therefore, to
avoid any guilt of conscience which might have arisen from knowing that the animal
had been offered to an idol, was to make no inquiries relative to the source of the
“For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.”
is nowhere better explained than in Ro 14:14, “... there is nothing unclean of
itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.”
It is in a man’s mind that a thing is clean or unclean.
In the age of law, God designated creatures as clean or unclean, but with the
passing of that age, all such distinctions ended.
The strong believer recognizes that fact, and is free to eat what he pleases.
The weak believer, however, having trouble accepting his new freedom, may
retain scruples relative to such things, and if he eats when his conscience troubles
him, he commits sin. The strong brother
therefore, will deny himself the exercise of his liberty, so as not to offend or
stumble his weaker brother (Ro 14:15-23).
“If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to
go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.”
were occasions then, as there are now, when it may have been necessary for a believer
to attend a function where the other participants were unbelievers, e.g., a wedding,
birthday, anniversary, funeral, etc. He was to eat what was served without inquiring as to whether it
had previously been sacrificed to an idol. The
believer isn’t to make difficulties unnecessarily.
It is very different, however, when there is any question of compromising the
“But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat
not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the
Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”
the Christian guest was specifically told that the food had been offered to an idol,
he was not to eat, for clearly his informant was testing him to see whether he would
leave himself open to the charge of having fellowship, even remotely, with idols.
And there was the additional matter of conscience (his own, or that of his
perhaps Christian informant), for to have eaten, after having been informed of the
idolatrous association, would have been to provide his informant with reason to say
that he had compromised his Christian profession.
“Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty
judged of another man’s conscience?”
other brother’s conscience is to govern my conduct, for what profit is there in the
exercise of my personal liberty if it stumbles another believer by causing him to
believe that I am sinning?
“For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which
I give thanks?”
advice is that even though I may have perfect liberty of conscience in relation to
something, and may, in fact, give God thanks for that thing, it is better to forego
the use of my personal liberty if such use will cause another to view me as being
guilty of sin. Ro 14:3 however, makes it
clear that the weaker brother has also an obligation.
He is not to allow his own conscientious scruples to bring the stronger brother
into unnecessary bondage. Where love is
the governing principle there will be a mutual accommodation of their divergent
views, though obviously truth is never to be compromised.
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the
glory of God.”
is not just in the matter of food and drink, but in everything that we are to have
this care that the exercise of our personal liberty doesn’t offend another
believer, for ultimately whatever offense we give is given to God, Saul being
reminded on the Damascus road that persecution of believers was persecution of the
Lord Himself (Ac 9:4). The number of our
offenses would be greatly reduced if we asked relative to all our activities, Will
this glorify God?
“Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the
church of God.”
our care in this matter isn’t limited just to individual believers in our own local
fellowship is here made plain. The same
care is to be exercised in regard to our dealings with all men, Jews and Gentiles,
unbelievers as well as believers everywhere, though Vine maintains that in the NT the
term “the church of God” refers to the local church only, and not the Church
universal. Clearly however the principle
applies to the Church worldwide.
“Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but
the profit of many, that they may be saved.”
isn’t the first time Paul exhorted them to follow his example, see 4:16 and 11:1,
but it is to be noted that he did so only because he himself was a follower or
imitator of Christ. The great objective
ever before him was the profit of others: the upbuilding of believers, and the
salvation of sinners. That same
objective kept before us will do much to make us also imitators of Christ of Whom it
is written, “For even Christ pleased not himself” (Ro 15:3).
[1 Corinthians 11]