For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

10:1.  “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;”

The 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.

Paul deplores that ignorance, and seeks to remove it by showing them the spiritual truth being declared in the literal history.

The “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.

10:2.  “And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;”

The 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.

The 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.

At 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.

10:3.  “And did all eat of the same spiritual meat (food);”

As 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.

Sadly 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.

10:4.  “And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ.”

This 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.

Water, 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.”

Horeb, 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.

It 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.

10:5.  “But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.”

The 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. 

In 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).

From 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).

Nu 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.”

The 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.”

Hebron 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.

How 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 God.

From 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 blessing.

“And 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.

As 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.

The 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 that circle. 

This 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.

The 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.

There 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.

The 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.

10:6.  “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.”

The 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.

The 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.

Lust 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.

10:7.  “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.”

The 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. 

The 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.

It 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).

In 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.

The 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.

Nor 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.

It 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.

We 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 sport.

It 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.

10:8.  “Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.”

The 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.

In 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. 

It 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).

We 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.

There 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.

Further 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.

10:9.  “Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.”

The 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.”

Its 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.

We 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.

“...neither 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.

Angered 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.

10:10.  “Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.”

It 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 incense.

One 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.

10:11.  “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.”

Any 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.

The “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.

10:12.  “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

There 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?

10:13.  “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.”

In 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.

The 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.”

The 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.”

10:14.  “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.”

“My 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.

Having 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 the

professing church.

10:15.  “I speak as to wise men: judge ye what I say.”

Unlike 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.

10:16. “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?”

Having 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.

The 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.

10:17.  “For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.”

The 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 Scripture.

“Partakers” here means to “have a share in or with.”

10:18.  “Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?”

This 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 Spirit.

As 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).

10:19.  “But what say I then? that the idol is anything, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?”

Paul 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.

10:20.  “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 devils.”

While 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 darkness).

God forbids believers to have any fellowship whatsoever with demons.

10:21.  “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.”

The 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, idolatry.

10:22.  “Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?”

In 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!

10:23.  “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.”

The 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.

10:24.  “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.”

Selfishness 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.

10:25.  “Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake:”

Even 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 meat.

10:26.  “For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.”

This 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).

10:27.  “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.”

There 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 truth.

10:28.  “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.”

Where 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.

10:29.  “Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?”

The 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?

10:30.  “For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?”

Paul’s 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.

10:31.  “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

It 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?

10:32.  “Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.”

That 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.

10:33.  “Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”

This 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]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough