Studies in First Corinthians
Lesson 25: “The Danger of Disapproval”
I Corinthians 10:1-13
As almost everyone in the civilized world knows, every 4 years the world of athletics celebrates its achievements and honors its heroes in the Olympic games. And it is truly amazing what the human body and spirit can accomplish and endure. But unfortunately it seems that almost every Olympiad a has a scandal of one kind or another. In the Olympics celebrated recently in Brazil, some of the best swimmers in the world demonstrated that although they had accomplished amazing things with their bodies, their spirit of honor, honesty, and decorum left much to be desired. In these same games, the entire Russian track team was called into question for the use of drugs. Unfortunately, such moral failures are not limited to any one nation or to any particular sport. As the human race spins further and further into Godlessness, these things will continue to take place in whatever time we have left before the Lord Jesus Christ returns.
But whether you realize it or not, that is something that is a very real possibility in the Christian life! In the last part of chapter 9, Paul has said that he “disciplines” his body because of the possibility of “disapproval” or “disqualification.” He wants the Corinthians (and us) to understand how simple it is to lose “rewards” at the judgement seat of Christ. This is a judgement that every believer in Jesus Christ will face. So in this lesson he elaborates on the little discussed topic of “disqualification” by using believers as examples. We know that this is his topic because he begins with “moreover” – an obvious tie-in with the previous passage. Now at this point we need to stop and point out that this judgement has nothing to do with whether or not a person will go to heaven or hell. This a judgement that every Christian will face. It has to do with how well or how poorly we have used our time and talents to honor the Lord Jesus Christ during the time span between the day we accepted Him as our Savior and the time that we die and go into His presence. And as we look at what he says, we will cover it from 3 standpoints, and also, we will see that those same provisions have been made for us in this New Testament generation.
- The past privileges of the people of God in verses 1 through 4
- The past problems of the people of God in verses 5 through 11 and,
- The present provisions of the people of God – verses 11 and 12.
“The people of God” to whom Paul refers here are the Old Testament saints who went from Egypt, through the wilderness, into the promised land.
So let’s look first at the past privileges of the people of God in verses 1 through 4 (showing how special these Old Testament saints were to God) First of all verse 1 tells us that they enjoyed divine guidance
Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea.
The phrase “the cloud” is a reference to the pillar of cloud which guided the Israelites in the wilderness (described in Exodus 13:21,22) The equivalent for today’s believers is the Word of God (Psalm 119: 105; II Timothy 3:16,17) Verse 1 also tells us that they enjoyed divine deliverance (note the phrase “all passed through the sea”) Obviously this is a reference to the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21 and 22). A third privilege of these people was divine identification as pointed out in verse 2
All were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. All ate the same spiritual food, (4) and all drank the same spiritual drink for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them and that rock was Christ.
Even though the text says “spiritual drink” and spiritual” food, it is a reference to the divinely provided manna and water described in Exodus 16:4 through 36 and Exodus 17:5-7.
Both are “types” of Christ – verse 4 specifically says so. “The Rock” is one of the Old Testament names of for Jehovah – so Paul is identifying Christ as Jehovah here. But also, this shows the pre-existence of Christ – He is the one who sustained them in the wilderness wanderings!
The word “baptize” in its most basic meaning means literally “to identify” one thing with another thing. In this instance the Israelites were identified” with the godly faith and leadership of Moses.
Now surely, with all these people (note the repetition of “all” throughout the passage) enjoying all of these privileges, they would have been very successful people, don’t you think? But verse 5 indicates that, to the contrary, they had many, many problems.
But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
The phrase “most of them” is an understatement – history shows that only 2 actually went into the promised land out of some 2 million who left for Egypt that night. And remember that the point is that we are the same today – disqualification is a very real possibility.
So let’s think now about the past problems of the people of God as they are listed for us in verses 5 through 11.
Verse 6 provides a summary of the wilderness generation:
Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.
The word “lust “here means “strong desire” of any kind, not just sexual things. And that is the key to all kinds of sin – the fact that we do what we want to do! Then in verses 6 and 11 we see what the wilderness generation symbolizes for us.
(6) Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted . . . . . . . (11) Nor murmur as some of them also murmured and were destroyed by the destroyer
Now why did God bother to write all these things down? For our sakes! They are “symbols” of the kinds of things that can happen to any generation of Christians. The old saying is that experience is the best teacher,” but that is not Biblical! Experience may be the most thorough teacher or the most difficult teacher, but God’s choice of teaching method is example.
Now the next thing we see in this record of the past problems of the people of God is a listing of the sad events of the wilderness generation in verses 7 through 10. First there was idolatry in verse 7. (described in Exodus 32:6 – the golden calf incident – where 3,000 died.
And do not become idolators as some of them. As it is written, “the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”
This would have had particular significance for the Corinthians – idolatry was the very subject that had started this whole discussion! But the whole world today is more guilty of idolatry than that generation was. Think about it this way: Whatever motivates your life is your idol; whatever it is that is the basis for distinguishing right from wrong is your idol. It may be a person or a philosophy or the acquisition of possessions or lack of possessions. Why do you do the things you do and refrain from doing?
Then verse 8 brings out a second problem: fornication (sexual sin) – example: Numbers 25:1-9
Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day thousands died
Again, this is extremely comparable to our civilization and that of the Corinthians. Then in verse 9 there was “testing Christ. The story is in Numbers 21:1 through 6 – fiery serpents were sent among the people because of their dissatisfaction with God’s provisions. It almost seems as if they were just pushing to see how far God would go before administering discipline. Perhaps in our day it would be in the form of seeing how much like the world we can be.
Then there was “murmuring” (complaining) in verse 10 (an example is in Numbers chapter 16 (the whole chapter) – two incidents of murmering against the leadership of Moses and Aaron – over 14,000 died. Murmering and complaining are sin!
Finally, verses 11 and 12 draw some conclusions from the wilderness generation:
Now all these things happened to them for examples, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come. (12) Therefore, let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
“Falling” in verse 12 cannot mean “falling from grace” because of the clear teaching of “eternal security” throughout the scripture. Our security rests on the promise of Christ in John 10:27 – “He that comes to me I will in no wise cast out”.) It rests on the provision of Christ in I John 1:7 (the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.”) So what “falling” means is that if you are not willing to be a slave to Jesus Christ you can be disqualified for some or all of the rewards you could have had. As with anything having to do with the future, whether pleasant or unpleasant, it is hard to visualize what the scene at the Judgement seat of Christ will be like but the scripture does speak clearly of “loss” and “pain” in describing it.
Now with that in mind, the things we have been talking about in this chapter are very somber for us too. Because we individually and as a people have many of those same problems. So what are we to do? First, don’t forget these people and their failures. And there is hope, because verses 12 and 13 show us the present provision for the people of God. If the above is true, and such common problems stand to disqualify us, what should we do? The case seems hopeless. But there are two things to remember: first, the common nature of temptation in verse 13
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful. Who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but will, with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
No matter what you may think there is nothing unique about your testing or temptation. Thousands down through the years have triumphed over that very sort of thing with the power of the Holy Spirit – and you can too!
The second truth in this verse is the complete faithfulness of God . The phrase “way of escape” is a translation of the Greek word “ekbasin” which means “completion” or “issue.” So it doesn’t mean you can finally escape if you hold on long enough, but rather it means if you don’t run away from it; hold on long enough, you can escape, but that if you don’t run away from it; if you let Him deal with it in His way, He will accomplish His purpose in it.” It doesn’t say it won’t last a long time, or that it will be easy, but that His purpose will be accomplished. And the promise of the Word of God is that God has provided a way in which temptation and sin can be successfully dealt with.
The purpose of these studies is to draw you closer to Jesus Christ. If you do not know him, it is my prayer that they will help you understand that Romans 3:23 says that you, like all of us, have sinned and come short of the glory of God. And Romans 6:23 says that the result of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ. And Acts 16:32 says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. If I can be of help to you in understanding any of this information I can be reached at