Summary: We learn from Old Testament examples that misusing our liberty can disqualify Christians from effective service to Christ.
We continue our study in The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians in a series I am calling Challenges Christians Face.
One of the challenges that Christians face is the issue of Christian liberty. Let’s learn about this in a message I am calling, “Learn from Old Testament Examples.”
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 10:1-13:
1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed 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. (1 Corinthians 10:1-13)
During the early part of my High School education I had to study the subject of history. Frankly, at that time I hated it! I couldn’t remember the names of the people, the places they lived, the things they did, and, especially, the dates when it all happened!
It seemed to me that Richard Reeves had it right when he said that “a lot of history is just dirty politics cleaned up for the consumption of children and other innocents.”
It wasn’t until I became a Christian after High School that I became interested in history. I learned that the famous Harvard professor George Santayana was in fact right when he said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
History is extremely important because the lessons that others have learned in the past can teach us to avoid them in the present. Or, as a somewhat pessimistic anonymous author put it, “History teaches us the mistakes we are going to make”!
The apostle Paul was a great student of history. He knew that God’s people should learn from Old Testament examples.
The Corinthian church lived in a very idolatrous society. Many Corinthians had been converted from pagan idol worship. Furthermore, much of the food available for purchase in the market had associations with idol worship. There were many opportunities for Christians to fall back into pagan practices and idolatry. Sometimes when Christians exercised their liberty in Christ without falling into sin themselves, others observing their actions were affected.
And so Paul argued that in order to protect others, Christians should forfeit their liberty in certain situations. Paul showed from Old Testament examples how misusing our liberty can disqualify us from effective service to Christ.
So, in our lesson today, we learn that misusing our liberty can disqualify Christians from effective service to Christ. Christians should learn from Old Testament examples that we must not misuse our liberty. Let’s learn about this as follows:
1. The Advantages of Liberty (10:1-4).
2. The Abuses of Liberty (10:5-10).
3. The Application of Liberty (10:11-13).
I. The Advantages of Liberty (10:1-4)
First, let’s look at the advantages of liberty.
The break between chapters 9 and 10 is unhelpful. It begins in chapter 10 verse 1 with the word “For,” thus showing that Paul was actually continuing his discussion about disqualification from effective service to Christ with Old Testament examples of those who suffered God’s judgment.
Furthermore, Paul wanted his Christian readers to learn from Old Testament examples when he said, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers” (10:1a). Paul wanted his readers to remember what happened to God’s people in the wilderness.
And so he began by listing five advantages of liberty.
A. They Were All Under the Cloud (10:1a)
The first advantage of liberty is that they were all under the cloud.