Summary: How do you commit idolatry when you don’t believe in idols? How do you fall from grace when grace is what you most affirm? How can you be in bondage while you revel in freedom? How can you know so much when your great knowledge keeps you from knowing what
How do you commit idolatry when you don’t believe in idols? How do you fall from grace when grace is what you most affirm? How can you be in bondage while you revel in freedom? How can you know so much when your great knowledge keeps you from knowing what really matters? Let our fathers and mothers of the ancient church in Corinth show us how.
I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea…
They were all under the cloud. He is referring to the pillar of cloud that represented God’s presence with his people and which passed before them in their journeying. All passed through the sea. This is a reference to the Israelites passing through the Red Sea. The point so far is that all the people went through the same experience.
Now, what about it? Verse 2: all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. What an interesting perspective. Paul wants his readers to consider these events together as a baptism. By experiencing these miraculous events, the people left their bondage and entered into a new life identified as God’s covenant nation. That is what baptism signifies: entering into an identity as belonging to God.
Paul says they were baptized into Moses. What does he mean? They were baptized into the covenant that was mediated by Moses. In a sense, Moses is the Christ of the old covenant. He saved his people from bondage and mediated a covenant for them. Again, Paul is merely making the case that all the Israelites did indeed go through the experiences that qualified them as members of God’s covenant.
Next: 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. Paul is referring here to the incidents of eating manna (spiritual food) and drinking water that came from a rock (spiritual drink). Paul compares these activities to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper with its spiritual food and drink. The next verse makes clear that he is thinking of the sacrament of Communion. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. In a sense, the Israelites were partaking of Christ, just as we partake of Christ in the Lord’s Supper.
Again, Paul’s point is that all the Israelites possessed the credentials for being identified with God under his covenant. They had undergone baptism together, and they had participated in communion. He even contends that they were identified with Christ. Even so, these spiritual experiences did not save them.
5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. They perished along the journey. They did not complete the race begun. Only a few of the adult generation who left Egypt entered into the Promised Land. They failed, not because they were not hardy enough, but because they had disobeyed God, and he brought judgment against them.
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.”
Their sin and fall should serve as a warning to the church of what could happen to its own members as well. Let’s look at this.
Here is the story Paul is referring to:
When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” 6 And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play (Exodus 32:1-6).
What makes Paul concerned that the Corinth saints would abandon God and set up their idol to worship? There is no record of them keeping idols in their homes nor where they met for worship. No one spoke of turning away from God or from Christ.