1 Corinthians 10:1-22
The Apostle Paul would have agreed that “those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it” (Winston Churchill, 1948).
The Corinthian church was struggling with the lusts of the flesh: in particular, idolatry, immorality, and grumbling. So Paul reaches back to what had happened to the Israelites, who like the Corinthians, struggled with similar issues. The caution is, the Corinthians could end up repeating history.
Miraculously, the Israelites had come through the parting of the Red Sea. They were obviously privileged and in favor with God who saw fit to rescue them from their years of slavery in Egypt. Wonderful!
Yet, after witnessing this amazing miracle, they engaged in idolatry – worship of the golden calf. They engaged in immorality with the Moabites in worship of their god Baal. They had been “passed over” from the judgment of the death angel, and they had been fed with manna - food from heaven, yet they grumbled. Unbelievable!
The lesson from history: the favored status of the Israelites did not exempt them from responsibility for their actions. God judged them, and in one day 23,000 died. God sent venomous snakes to kill them. Actually, all of them died in the wilderness prior to their offspring entering the land of promise. Ouch!
Jumping ahead many centuries, God was not going to exempt the church in Corinth from responsibility for their actions either. The Corinthians had let down their guard as had the Israelites. God’s judgment on the Israelites was a warning to the Corinthians not to become complacent in their freedom in Christ. No, they could not do anything they wanted.
Paul says to take heed when we think we are strong so that we do not fall. He offers hope in verse 13, with the promise that God will make a way of escape and will not allow us to be tempted above that which the Lord would strengthen us to resist. However, verse 14 makes clear that it’s up to us to flee any form of idolatry.
We have experienced the patience of God as believers, but the example of purity and God’s response to sin are clear: Be careful, lest you fall. God’s delay in punishment isn’t because all is unnoticed. Verse 22 asks, Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he? If we think we can resist in our own strength, be warned: “It is dangerous to play with sin and tempt God.” (Warren Wiersbe, Be Wise.)
Life Application Questions
- For more than two centuries the American church has been privileged with freedom to worship without persecution. But have our freedoms led to lack of accountability? Can you cite some examples of complacence among people who claim to be Christians?
- How might we as members of the church of God guard our own hearts from idolatry, immorality, and grumbling?
- Reflect on a time when God provided a way of escape to help you endure temptation to sin.