Summary: We are free in Christ, yes, but how is that freedom to be used? How can it be abused?
1 Corinthians 10:1-5 Spirituality
1/25/04 D. Marion Clark
Let’s review the issue being addressed. The Corinth Church is abusing a correct doctrine, which is that we are free in Christ Jesus from having to observe regulations and restrictions in order to find favor with God. What Paul wrote to the Colossians, he no doubt taught the Corinthians:
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism…20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh (2:16-23).
They like this teaching, and they are more than willing to exercise their freedom in the flesh, particularly when it comes to eating! Now, Paul is having to temper their freedom with exhortation to show responsible care for their brothers and sisters (as in chapter 8). Furthermore, he needs to warn them about a lax attitude towards living an obedient life to God. Let’s see what he has to say.
I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea…
Paul has talked about the importance of finishing the race to the goal of inheriting our heavenly prize. He even points to himself as one who cannot rest on his laurels or credentials as an apostle, but must keep himself under discipline so as not to be disqualified. Now, then, he turns to the Israelites who journeyed in the wilderness as an example of those who did fail.
He points to certain incidents that put them under the category of being identified with God’s covenant people. They were all under the cloud. He is referring to the pillar of cloud that represented God’s presence with his people. All passed through the sea. This is a reference to 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. Consider these events together as a baptism. By them, 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 the people from bondage; he 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 the covenant.
Next: 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. Here are the incidents of eating manna (spiritual food) and drinking water that came from a rock (spiritual drink). Paul compares them 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.
For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. In a sense, the Israelites were partaking of Christ. In this week’s devotions, I will introduce the term “theophany.” “Theo” is the Greek for “God,” and “phaneim” means “to show.” Thus, a theophany is a visible representation of God. The pillar of cloud and fire is a theophany. Paul is saying that the rock also was a theophany, specifically of Christ.
Again, his point is that all the Israelites possessed the credentials for being identified with God. They had undergone baptism, and they 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.