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Bible: What Does 1 Corinthians 10 Teach Us About Divine Discipline?
Moses Smashing the Tablets
The Sin of the Golden Calf
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Divine Discipline in the Desert
Next, Paul rehearses highlights from Israelite history with the Hebrew element of the Corinthian church to teach them not to be like their fathers who desired evil things and thus experienced disqualification (vv. 1-6; Ryrie, New Testament Study Bible, 301).
The children of Israel during Moses’ time possessed wonderful privileges: they were united (“baptized”) with their great leader when God revealed His mighty power toward them, saving them at the Red Sea crossing and providing them physical sustenance and spiritual guidance as they traveled through the wilderness (vv. 1-4).
Yet Paul reminds the Corinthians that God disciplined these people to death for their disobedience in the desert (v. 5).
These OT incidents serve as pedagogic examples for this particular church (and for the universal Church in general), teaching them not to allow their sinful capacity to rule (and ruin) their lives (v. 6).
Paul mentions three historical events that demonstrate how God chastised His people because of their sin.
First, some Israelites in the wilderness practiced idolatry leading them to drunkenness and sexual perversion, and many of them died (v. 7; cf. the golden calf incident in Ex. 32:1-14).
Second, twenty-three thousand plus perished at Acacia Grove because men committed sexual sins with the Moabite women, and God sent a plague to judge them (v. 8; cf. Num. 25).
Finally, many tested Christ (NKJV)/the Lord (NASB) in the wilderness, and God sent snakes to bite them (v. 9; cf. Num. 21:6).
After they grumbled against the LORD when He disciplined Korah, God sent a plague to take the lives of fourteen thousand seven hundred Israelites (v. 10; cf. Num. 16:41-50).
Paul reiterates that Moses recorded these episodes to warn future heedless generations who would arrogantly think that these judgments could not possibly happen to them (vv. 11-12).
God has allowed and will continue to permit similar trials to test His people at all times; as One who faithfully protects His own, He will always provide strength and “the way of escape” so that they could endure difficulties (v. 13).
The Upper Room: Site of the First Communion Service
Idolatry: Sacrificing to Demons
Did you know that idolatry is actually sacrificing to demons?
Considering that the Lord always offers an exit from trials, Paul commands the Corinthians to judge circumstances wisely and flee idolatrous attitudes and practices (vv. 14-15).
More pointedly, he wonders if they fully understand that they are fellowshipping with the Lord when they take the elements during Communion (v. 16).
They commemorate their sharing in the life of Christ, symbolized by the breaking of the bread (v. 17).
Physical Israel, likewise, fellowshipped with the Lord while eating the sacrifices of the altar (v. 18).
Paul does not signify that idol statues or food sacrificed to these images means anything (v. 19); however, he does show concern that the Gentiles, with whom some Corinthian believers were apparently associating religiously, sacrifice to demons (v. 20).
The apostle emphasizes the impossibility for the church to celebrate true communion with God and then revel at pagan feasts (v. 21).
He reminds them that this practice will bring chastisement from the Lord if they allow it to continue (v. 22).
Paul reiterates a general principle about Christian liberty: Christians are free from the Law’s restrictions, but they should perform only helpful and edifying practices (v. 23; cf. 6:12).
They should mix the right practices with an others-orientation, not with a self-centered one (v. 24).
He returns to the issue of purchasing and eating meat, but this time the subject is meat sold in the public market.
Setting down the principle that everything belongs to God (cf. Ps. 24:1), Paul asserts that Christians should not ask any questions about whether the owners sacrificed the animals to idols.
Likewise, if they attend a private non-Christian party, they should just eat the meat without inquiry (vv. 25-27).
On the other hand, if they learn from an informant that the owner offered the meat to idols, they should not eat it for the sake of the informant’s conscience (vv. 28-29a).
Eating it should not affect the Christian at all as long as he recognizes the truth of Psalm 24:1 and gives God thanks (vv. 29b-30).
Christians should seek to glorify (honor, exalt, magnify) God in and through every practice (v. 31), and give no offense to any Jew, Greek, or member of God’s church (v. 32).
Their foremost concern should be to seek the welfare of others in order that the latter might come to know Christ (v. 33).
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