Looking back at how God has blessed us with his love, mercy and grace, saved us from our sins by the blood shed by His Son, Jesus, then taught us lessons that challenged us to grow and mature in His holy character, we actually discover how far we still need to go. The more we grow in His love, the more we want to know about Him. The more we discover the true depths of His love for us, we learn to love others more deeply in the distinct ways He loves us—full of mercy and grace, without conditions, never ending and limitless.
Be looking back, we also realize how far we have come—or not. With the help of God’s Holy Spirit, we evaluate our growth and realize we want to grow more. God is always there to guide us to His best life for us. Every day.
Paul is taking believers of the Corinthian church on a journey toward a more devoted, intimate relationship with Jesus by looking back at all God has already provided for His people. There are some great “teachable moments” in this message of hope, our living Hope and Solid Rock foundation, Jesus Christ.
CORINTHIANS—CALLED AND SENT
1 Corinthians 10, The Message
1-5 Remember our history, friends, and be warned. All our ancestors were led by the providential Cloud and taken miraculously through the Sea. They went through the waters, in a baptism like ours, as Moses led them from enslaving death to salvation life. They all ate and drank identical food and drink, meals provided daily by God. They drank from the Rock, God’s fountain for them that stayed with them wherever they were. And the Rock was Christ. But just experiencing God’s wonder and grace didn’t seem to mean much—most of them were defeated by temptation during the hard times in the desert, and God was not pleased.
6-10 The same thing could happen to us. We must be on guard so that we never get caught up in wanting our own way as they did. And we must not turn our religion into a circus as they did—“First the people partied, then they threw a dance.” We must not be sexually promiscuous—they paid for that, remember, with 23,000 deaths in one day! We must never try to get Christ to serve us instead of us serving him; they tried it, and God launched an epidemic of poisonous snakes. We must be careful not to stir up discontent; discontent destroyed them.
11-12 These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.
13 No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.
14 So, my very dear friends, when you see people reducing God to something they can use or control, get out of their company as fast as you can.
15-18 I assume I’m addressing believers now who are mature. Draw your own conclusions: When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life, of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the loaf of bread we break and eat? Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ? Because there is one loaf, our many-ness becomes one-ness—Christ doesn’t become fragmented in us. Rather, we become unified in him. We don’t reduce Christ to what we are; he raises us to what he is. That’s basically what happened even in old Israel—those who ate the sacrifices offered on God’s altar entered into God’s action at the altar.
19-22 Do you see the difference? Sacrifices offered to idols are offered to nothing, for what’s the idol but a nothing? Or worse than nothing, a minus, a demon! I don’t want you to become part of something that reduces you to less than yourself. And you can’t have it both ways, banqueting with the Master one day and slumming with demons the next. Besides, the Master won’t put up with it. He wants us—all or nothing. Do you think you can get off with anything less?
23-24 Looking at it one way, you could say, “Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.” But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.
25-28 With that as a base to work from, common sense can take you the rest of the way. Eat anything sold at the butcher shop, for instance; you don’t have to run an “idolatry test” on every item. “The earth,” after all, “is God’s, and everything in it.” That “everything” certainly includes the leg of lamb in the butcher shop. If a nonbeliever invites you to dinner and you feel like going, go ahead and enjoy yourself; eat everything placed before you. It would be both bad manners and bad spirituality to cross-examine your host on the ethical purity of each course as it is served. On the other hand, if he goes out of his way to tell you that this or that was sacrificed to god or goddess so-and-so, you should pass. Even though you may be indifferent as to where it came from, he isn’t, and you don’t want to send mixed messages to him about who you are worshiping.
29-30 But, except for these special cases, I’m not going to walk around on eggshells worrying about what small-minded people might say; I’m going to stride free and easy, knowing what our large-minded Master has already said. If I eat what is served to me, grateful to God for what is on the table, how can I worry about what someone will say? I thanked God for it and he blessed it!
31-33 So eat your meals heartily, not worrying about what others say about you—you’re eating to God’s glory, after all, not to please them. As a matter of fact, do everything that way, heartily and freely to God’s glory. At the same time, don’t be callous in your exercise of freedom, thoughtlessly stepping on the toes of those who aren’t as free as you are. I try my best to be considerate of everyone’s feelings in all these matters; I hope you will be, too.
WHAT WE LEARN TO GROW ON—
(With commentary excerpts interspersed from Warren Wiersbe)
Balance experience with caution. Paul reminded the experienced believers who were strong in the faith that they had better not grow overconfident. “Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.”
I’m reminded of Solomon’s wisdom, “Pride goes before a fall.” (Proverb 16:18)
Privileges were no guarantee of success (vv. 1–4). Israel had been delivered from Egypt by the power of God, just as the Christian believer has been redeemed from sin. (In 1 Cor. 5:7–8, Paul had already related Passover to salvation.)
There are dangers to maturity as well as to immaturity, and one of them is overconfidence. When we think we are strong, we discover that we are weak.
Good beginnings do not guarantee good endings. The Jews experienced God’s miracles, and yet they failed when they were tested in the wilderness. Experience must always be balanced with caution, for we never come to the place in our Christian walk where we are free from temptation and potential failure.
We can almost hear some of the “strong” Corinthians asking, “But what does that have to do with us?” Paul then pointed out that the Corinthian church was guilty of the same sins that the Jews committed. Because of their lust for evil things, the Corinthians were guilty of immorality (1 Cor. 6), idolatry (1 Cor. 8; 10), and murmuring against God (2 Cor. 12:20–21). Like the nation of Israel, they were tempting God and just “daring Him” to act. Yikes!
Paul was not suggesting that his readers might lose their salvation, but he was afraid that some of them would be “castaways” (1 Cor. 9:27), disapproved of God and unable to receive any reward.
I heard about a pastor who gave a series of sermons on “The Sins of the Saints.” One member of the church, apparently under conviction, disapproved of the series and told the pastor so. “After all,” she said, “sin in the life of a Christian is different from sin in the life of an unsaved person.” “Yes, it is,” the pastor replied. “It’s worse!”
Sin in the church today is far more serious, because we have Israel’s example to learn from, and we are living “at the end of the ages.” To sin against the law is one thing; to sin against grace is quite something else.
God can enable us to overcome temptation if we obey His Word (vv. 13–22). God permits us to be tempted because He knows how much we can take; and He always provides a way to escape if we will trust Him and take advantage of it. The believer who thinks he can stand may fall; but the believer who flees will be able to stand.
Dear Friends, we love the illustration Paul gives us about staying in communion with God. He used the Lord’s Supper as an illustration. When the believer partakes of the cup and loaf at the Lord’s table, he is, in a spiritual way, having fellowship with the body and blood of Christ. By remembering Christ’s death, the believer enters into a communion with the risen Lord. Read that again, we are in close communion with the One and Only who saved us from all sin. Christ is our confidence, our ONLY confidence!
Freedom must be balanced by responsibility—the maturing factor. To begin with, we have a responsibility to our fellow believers in the church (1 Cor. 10:23–30). We are responsible to build others up in the faith and to seek their advantage. Philippians 2:1–4 gives the same admonition. While we do have freedom in Christ, we are not free to harm another believer.
Concerning the recurring “meat” question—Paul explains, “Why should I not enjoy food for which I give thanks? Why should my liberty be curtailed because of another person’s weak conscience?” His reply introduced the second responsibility we have: We are responsible to glorify God in all things (1 Cor. 10:31). We cannot glorify God by causing another Christian to stumble. To be sure, our own conscience may be strong enough for us to participate in some activity and not be harmed. But we dare not use our freedom in Christ in any way that will injure a fellow Christian.
But there is a third responsibility that ties in with the first two: We are responsible to seek to win the lost (1 Cor. 10:32–33). We must not make it difficult either for Jews or Gentiles to trust the Lord, or for other members of the church to witness for the Lord. We must not live to seek our own benefit, but also the benefit of others, that they might be saved. (Our ultimate focus.)
By the way, when Paul wrote, “I please all men in all things” (1 Cor. 10:33), he was not suggesting that he was a compromiser or a man-pleaser (see Gal. 1:10). He was affirming the fact that his life and ministry were centered on helping others rather than on promoting himself and his own desires.
In other words, don’t be callous, be kind. Always.
Wow, there was a lot to learn in this passage this morning! Help me to center all my thoughts on You with ears to hear you along with confidence in You to obey you first and last. Always. May I be led by your love.
In Jesus Name, For His Glory, Amen.