Learning from Bad Examples


1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Warnings about falling from a place of blessing

To think about Corinth was to think about the ultimate kind of idolatry, the ultimate forms of false religion and the very ultimate life of sexual immorality.

And that is why chapter 10 is in the New Testament, to give us fair warning about the possibility of falling from a place of blessing.

An example made of Israel for us all

In fact, back in the fourth chapter, verses 18 to 21, Paul was already warning them at the beginning of this first letter that if necessary he would come with a rod and he would deal with them.

So the message here is a very, very important message. Verses 6 and 11 tell us that what happened to Israel was an example to the Corinthians, but not only an example to the Corinthians, but for all of us, verse 6, “These things happened as examples for us, verse 11, These things happened to them as an example for our instruction. Who’s…all of us upon whom the ends of the ages have come. All of us living in the Messianic era, the time after the Messiah has come. So what Paul draws out of the Old testament experience of Israel is not only for the Corinthians but for all of us, to learn the lessons of warning about thinking you stand when you may fall.

What is the cloud

Now what is he talking about here? Well he’s simply talking about the tremendous privileges that came upon the people of Israel when they were led out of Egypt and they were led to the land of Canaan, all the fathers of Israel experienced great spiritual privilege in being led out of Egypt, all were under the cloud. What is the cloud? Exodus 13:21, “The Lord went before them by day I a pillar of cloud to lead them, and by night, of course, it was a pillar of fire. The whole nation was under that divine miraculous leading by God. The whole nation passed through the sea, the Red Sea, the basic touchstone of deliverance from Egypt. They all experienced that. So they were all called out by mighty power. They were all delivered through the sea, they were all led by God daily, and even nightly.

Baptized into Moses

Verse 2 says, “They were all baptized into Moses.” That is a simple concept. They were immersed into his leadership. They were identified with him. It was Moses’ people, it was Moses crowd. They were one with their leader, that’s what that is saying. They were united as a community with one leader. So there was not a division of leaders and Moses was God’s chosen man. They all had then this divinely appointed and divinely prepared and divined prepared and divine gifted leader and they were led as a united community. They all enjoyed that union with that great leader.

Now these are all analogous to the experience of salvation. We have all been delivered from the domain of darkness which is like our Egypt; we have all been led through the waters of escape. We have all been brought to a place where we’re under the direction of God. We have all been baptized into identification with our great leader, the Lord Jesus Christ, that’s the imagery here, that’s the picture here.

The rock that followed them

And then a most interesting statement in verse 4, they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them and the rock was Christ, a spiritual petra, cliff, rocky mass. What was this? This is Christ, the rock was Christ. You know we’re going to start a series on finding Christ in the Old Testament, well here’s one of the places, Exodus chapter 17, Christ was the rock in the leadership that we find that Christ extended to them in their wilderness wanderings in the Old Testament; He is often appearing as the angel of the Lord. That is a preincarnate appearance of Christ. He never allowed them to thirst. He never allowed them to hunger. He was there assessing their needs and meeting their needs. And, in a way, we could say the manna and the water were evidence of the presence of Christ who followed them. He was the rock that followed them, he was the rock that followed them, that He had not yet been incarnated into this world but the internal Son, the second member of the Trinity was the caretaker of the people of Israel, all the redeemed are His both in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Quick overview of this passage

So what are we talking about here? And just giving an overview, being led through the sea, that’s emancipation. Under the cloud, that’s guidance, baptism into Moses, that’s identification with a new assembly and one leader, manna and water, sustenance. And all of this provided for them and for us by Christ Himself. This is to talk about how blessed they were and how blessed we are.

Craving evil things

What went wrong? What happened to the people in Israel that could happen to us? Let’s look from the assets or the blessings in verses 1 to 5 to the abuses in verses 6 to 10. This is very basic. “These things happened as examples for us so that we would not crave evil things as they also crave…there it is in one statement. The loss of privilege is related to the craving of evil things. It’s basically the result of desiring sin, craving evil things.

Numbers 11 and Psalm 78 where we have the record of the people of Israel longing after evil things. But there was perpetual warning against the indulgence of the lust that rises up in the fallen heart, or the things of the world. We are warned in the New Testament, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world,” 1 John 2.

About the golden calf

I mean, it was an ugly scene at the foot of the golden calf. Exodus tells us that the people were actually naked. It was a horrible experience. God killed three thousand of them in that one moment and in all 23 thousand perished. That would have been a good indication that God was removing favor. In fact, you can read about that in Numbers chapter 25. He killed 23 thousand, the next day God even did away with a thousand more of them, disqualified from usefulness and blessing.

…How much can we get away with? That’s the wrong question. How much can we be like the Savior, how holy can we be? That’s the right question.

The death angel executed complainers

There’s another sin here that is indicated in verse 10 and that seems like an odd one to put in this category because these all seem so severe, how about this? Complaining, nor grumbling or complaining as some of them did and were destroyed by the destroyer. How did that get in here?
The term in the original language means to give expression to unwarranted dissatisfaction. It’s complaining, being dissatisfied and verbalizing it.

Exodus 16:2 says the whole congregation grumbled, murmured, complained, complained against God. They were sitting in judgment on God on the way things were. You have it in Numbers 16 and almost 15 thousand people died because they complained. And it says in Numbers 16 they were killed by the destroyer, the judgment angel, the rabbis called him mashith(?), he was the one who slew the firstborn in Egypt. He was the one ready to slay in the plagues, 2 Samuel 24, he destroyed the Assyrians in 2 Chronicles 32, the death angel. And here the death angel executes complainers, complainers, grumblers, murmurers complaining against God.


So there are the abuses that came to be the experience of the children of Israel, worldliness, idolatry, morality, presumption, living on the edge and complaining. They are results of lack of self-denial, lack of self-control, lack of godly pursuits. They are abusives of freedom, and abuses of privilege, flirting with the world and its idols, flirting with the world and its morals, pushing the patience of God to the limits, complaining when you don’t get what you want when you want it, will result in tragedy…tragedy.
So the admonition comes to us then in verses 11 and 12. “Now these things happened to them as an example and they’re written for our instruction upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”

The ends of the ages, as I said earlier, are the Messianic period, the last ages before the Kingdom.

Again and again there are warnings in the Scripture but none is more poignant and powerful to me than this one. A number of times in the book of Revelation, as I mentioned earlier, there are warnings given to the church and one of them that comes to mind is to the church at Sardis in chapter 3 where it says in verse 3, “Remember what you have received and heard and keep it and repent. And if you don’t wake up, I’ll come like a thief and you’ll not know at what hour I will come.”

No panic

Now you don’t need to live in total fear, you don’t need to live in panic. You need to live warned and thoughtful and careful but not as if the system around you and the enemy of your souls and your flesh is more powerful than you, or than He who is in you, because verse 13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man.”

What does that mean? Anthropinos, bearable for a human being. That’s what it means.

In other words, you’re never going to be able to say, “I got into immorality, I got into idolatry, I began to crave evil things because it was too much for me. The devil is more powerful than I am. It was way too potent a temptation, it was a supernatural temptation, it was a demonic temptation, it was a multiply demonic temptation. I had no defense. I was overpowered.” You know, the old Flip Wilson line, “The devil made me do it, and what kind of a match am I for him?”

No, this is saying to you, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as common to man.”

That is to say it is humanly bearable, it is normal. It is not super human, it is not supernatural, you cannot claim to be overpowered by anything. We all face the same things and we can deal with them. We can’t blame God, we can’t blame the devil.”

Further, he says and this is even more wonderful, “God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you’re able.”

Not only is any temptation you ever have normal, human and bearable, but even among the temptations that are normal and human and bearable, the Lord knows what you can tolerate, particularly you, individually you, and He will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able.

For some of us, that’s the reason we don’t have more money than we do…or more fame than we do, or more of whatever we don’t have. The Lord knows. Nothing is super human, everything is resistible. And furthermore, God knows us as individuals and He knows what we fall easily prey to and will not allow such things to happen.

The full sermon can be viewed here at Grace to you

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