For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.’ We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did – and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did – and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angel.
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
1 Corinthians 10:1-12 (NIV)
Paul is clear in 1 Corinthians 10 that Scripture is given to us not just to record how God interacts with humanity, but as examples and warnings. In other words, whatever we read in the Bible should challenge our thinking so that we know how to live (examples), but also what to avoid (warnings).
In the second half of the verses quoted above Paul sets out five things that we should avoid. He says – do not:
- set your heart on evil things- other transalations refer to this as worldly things;
- be idolaters;
- engage in sexual immorality;
- test Christ;
What Paul is referring to clearly relates to the attitudes displayed by the people of Israel during their wanderings in the wilderness (v.1-5). Also, as he was writing to the Corinthian church, we know that he intended the members of the church there to apply lessons from the Old Testament stories to their own lives. But can it still apply to us today?
Paul was writing a long time after the events recorded in Exodus took place, yet he was confident that the lessons scripture contains were relevant to his day. He could see parallels between how the people of Israel behaved and how the church at Corinth was acting. He knew that human nature, tainted by sin, hadn’t changed over the centuries. Notice Paul’s comment:
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.
The ‘culmination of the ages’ refers to the time from Christ’s death and resurrection up to his return and beyond. So it should be obvious that we also are living during this period and, as such, we should look for the application of these things in our lives in the 21st century.
Look again at Paul’s list. It is tempting to think that we don’t have to worry about these particular things. You may even be convinced that the only issue that you might need to worry about is grumbling. If this is how you think, then pay particular attention to Paul’s words:
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
It seems that even some of the Corinthians thought they didn’t have any problems with sin.
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