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The Challenge of Israel (1 Corinthians 10)

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1 Corinthians 10

Israel in the wilderness are our warning
Brothers, I would not have you ignorant that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, 2 and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They did all eat the same spiritual food, 4 and did all drink the same spiritual drink. For they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them; and the rock represented Christ. 5 However with most of them God was not well pleased; for their dead bodies were scattered over the wilderness.
   6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they lusted. 7 Neither be you idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play. 8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and so in one day twenty three thousand died. 9 Neither let us put the Lord to the test, as some of them did and perished by the serpents. 10 Neither let us grumble, as some of them did, and were killed by the Destroyer angel.
   11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written about for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 Therefore let him that thinks he stands be careful lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Don’t participate in idol worship
14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise people. Think upon what I say. 16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion of the body of Christ? 17 Seeing that we, who are many, are one loaf, one body; for we are all partaking of the one loaf.
   18 Behold Israel after the flesh. Are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What say I then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I would not have you sharing communion with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of demons. 22 Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
   23 All things are lawful, but not all things are expedient. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own, but his neighbour's good.

Don’t cause others to stumble
   25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience, 26 for the earth is the Lord's and the fullness of it. 27 If one of them that do not believe invites you to a feast and you are inclined to go, whatever is set before you eat, asking no question for conscience sake. 28 But if anyone says to you: This has been offered in sacrifice to idols! Do not eat it for the sake of he that tells you, and for conscience sake. 29 Conscience, I say, not your own, but the other's. One may ask: Why is my liberty judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I eat my food with thankfulness, why is evil spoken of me, for that for which I give thanks? 31 The principle is that whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do or do not- do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no occasions of stumbling, either to Jews, or to Gentiles, or to the church of God. 33 Even as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but that of the many, that they may be saved.


10:2 Israel in slavery in Egypt represent us in the world, before baptism. When Israel went through the Red Sea, they had water on both sides of them and a cloud (also water) above them. In this sense they were surrounded with water- and so Paul saw it as a symbol of baptism. They came through the Red Sea and had to walk through the wilderness (our life in this world after baptism), feeding daily on manna (God’s word, Jesus), until they came to the promised land (the Kingdom of God on earth when Jesus returns). Israel failed in the wilderness, they wanted to return to Egypt, and we must learn from their example.

10:13 The test may actually be beyond our ability to bear; but God gives us a way of escape. Whenever we sin, we are therefore guilty and responsible; we can’t justify our failure by ‘situational ethics’, whereby we reason that the situation left us with no choice but to sin. God promises that He will not allow this ever to happen. It’s a great comfort as well as a challenge.

10:21 Demons are another name for idols- which don’t exist, even though many thing they do (8:45).

10:29,30 Why is my liberty...? why is evil spoken of me... ?- These appear to be Paul anticipating the kind of objections which people would raise to what he has just said (he has this same style in 15:35). We must be sensitive to the conscience of others, and not simply reason that we see nothing wrong in doing something.