About Jesus    Steve Sweetman
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Chapters 10 

ch. 10:1-13     ch. 10:14-22   ch. 10:23 to 11:1

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Warning From Israel's History (ch. 10:1-13)


Paul opens verse 1 by saying that he did not want the Corinthians to be ignorant of the facts.  Knowing the facts as they pertain to God and the Bible is very important.  Christians today are Biblically illiterate of the Biblical facts.  I would suggest that Paul would say we are ignorant of the facts, and that we should not be.  


Note the term "our forefathers" in verse 1. Paul was writing to a Gentile church.  Why would he call Jewish forefathers the forefathers of Gentiles?  There might be two reasons.  One reason might be that there were Jews in the church, and, maybe there were many Jews.  Another reason might be that Paul understood these Greek Christians were grafted into the Jewish tree, the Jewish family of God.   


Paul opens chapter 10 by referring back to some Israeli history when Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt.  The people were under God’s protection in those days as seen in the miracle of the crossing of the Red Sea.  God also performed other miracles to provide for their safe existence in the desert, as seen by the cloud that protected them from the hot sun.  Yet even with all of this protection and miracles of God , Israel did not walk with Him properly, and as Paul says, “God was not pleased with many of them” as we see in verse 5.


You might ask how should we interpret the word baptize in verse 2.  Paul says that they were all baptized into Moses.  What exactly does that mean?  When we are baptized by water, or the Spirit, we are baptized into Jesus and all that He stands for.  We are totally immersed into Him.  The same is true with the Children of Israel.  They were in one sense of the word, baptized into Moses. No, they were not physically baptized.  But as they followed Moses out of Egypt, they gave themselves to him and all that he said and represented, at least for a while.  Symbolically speaking, you could say then that Israel was baptized into Moses.


In verse 3 and 4 Paul speaks of Israelis eating and drinking from spiritual food and water.  Paul specifically speaks of the "rock that accompanied them".  They drank from this rock.  There has been debate over this rock.  Old Jewish rabbinical tradition states that Moses carried this rock around with them to provide water for Israel while in the desert.  The Old Testament text doesn't specifically say this.  You can read about the rock in Exodus 17:6 and Numbers 20.  Maybe the rabbis were right or maybe they were wrong.  What Paul might have been doing here is taking the rabbinical stand and putting the New Testament in Jesus meaning to it. We do know that Paul is saying that Christ is symbolized in the rock.  Of course, the rock was Yahweh's tool to provide water for Israel , and, Jesus is Yahweh in human flesh.  Therefore, whatever one thinks about the rock, whether Moses took it with him or not through the desert, Jesus provided the water from the rock.  This tells us that Paul believed in the existence of Jesus prior to His incarnation.       


As a result of God not being pleased with most of Israel, they died in the desert, never reaching the land that was promised to them.  They grumbled and complained against Moses.  They made their own god to worship, and sinned against God, their provider.  In the midst of the miracles Israel fell away from God, resulting in their failure to obtain the promise of God.  In reality, they exchanged the worship of the true God for the worship of a man made God, something we still do today.


In verse 6 Paul says that “these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did”.  These people “sat down to eat and drink” the food that the Lord provided, yet at the same time participated in “pagan revelry”. 


Many Christians read the New Testament only, but here, Paul is using the Old Testament as a means of teaching.  The Old Testament is just as important as the New Testament, and if you understand the Old Testament, you'll better understand the New Testament. 


Paul tells his readers that because of this pagan revelry and immorality 23,000 Israelis died in one day.  Paul says that we must use this as an example and not do the same.  We should not claim to be Christian and participate in the good things of God and commit such sexual sins as they did.  


Paul goes one step farther by saying that this is really testing God. (ch. 10:9)  Paul reminds these 
people that Israel tested God in the desert, resulting in many being killed by snakes.  He also 
says that some were killed by the destroying angel because of their complaining. 


So the Children of Israel complained, they committed idolatry, they sinned sexually, and in all of this they tested God.  Paul says that we cannot do the same. The problem was that the Corinthians were doing all of these things, and many of us do similar things today.  We often wonder why we don't see the power as the early church did.  I think it is because we test God with our spiritually unhealthy way of living, both as individuals and the church as a whole. 


In verse 12 Paul says that the “fulfillment of the ages has come”.  What could this possibly mean?   The safest interpretation is that the Old Testament and all that it meant have been fulfilled in our day.  Yet maybe since Paul is talking about more than one age in the past, he is thinking of ages before the creation of the earth and mankind.  This is only speculation, but many believe in the gap theory that says there was a pre-adamic race between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2.   


One thing we do know is that Paul believed that the Old Testament Law and the Prophets have been fulfilled in Jesus. The Old Testament writings are now viewed in a different manner than they once were viewed.  Instead of being a Law to follow and prophecies to be fulfilled, all that is written are “examples and warnings to us”.  Therefore we can learn lessons from the Children of Israel.  They disobeyed and reaped a just result.  God has not changed.  His ways have changed in one sense, yet He Himself is the same. 


I don't think the church is all that different than Israel in Old Testament times.  We have a hard time staying on track and in the will of God.  For this reason, how God dealt with Israel in Old Testament times is very relevant to us.  There is so much for us to learn from these things, and Paul is telling us that is just what we need to do.


Paul therefore concludes by saying, “if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall”. (ch. 10:12)  Paul is very mindful of pride and what it can do in a life.  In my estimation, pride is one of the sins that plague the church today.  It was what caused satan to fall.  It's the basis for what I call "the religion of self".  We think way too much of ourselves. 


In case someone might say, “Paul, but you don’t understand my problem.  If things were different, then I would not sin”.  This kind of thinking is not acceptable. Paul clearly states in verse 13 that “no temptation has seized you except what is common to man”.  All men and women are tempted in all sorts of ways.  None of us can claim special exemption to this rule.  None of us have a legitimate excuse to sin.  None of us have some kind of temptation that no one else has ever had which would let us off the hook.  We are all in the same boat, having the same temptations.  Furthermore, Paul tells us that when we are tempted, God has provided a way for us to escape the temptation.  Therefore once again there is no excuse for our sin.


Idol Feasts And The Lord’s Supper   (ch.10:14-22)


In verse 14 Paul tells the Corinthians that he is “speaking to sensible people” when he tells them to “flee from idolatry”.  He therefore begins to make a case for not participating in ceremonial meals offered to idols.


He says, “Judge for yourself”.  These people should be able to come to the same conclusion as Paul comes to.  He tells them that when they eat the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, as some call it, that they are really “participating” in the body and blood of Jesus.  They are really associating themselves with the death of Jesus and all that it means. 


The Greek word “koinonia” is the word that is translated as “participate” in this chapter.  “Koinonia” means to hold in common or to share”  Thus, when we participate in the Lord’s Supper, we are sharing in His sacrifice on the cross.  This is why I use the word “associate”.  Although the wine and the bread are symbols, they are extremely significant symbols representing, a very real event in history with lasting consequences.         


Note the term "cup of thanksgiving" in verse 16.  The KJV uses the term "cup of blessing" and rightly so.  During the Last Supper Jesus ate with the Twelve, which was part of the Passover meal, there would have been 4 cups of wine mixed with water to be drunk during the meal.  The third cup was called the "cup of blessing", which I believe Paul refers to here.  The fourth cup was called the "cup of the Kingdom" which represented the day that the kingdom would be restored to Israel .  What is interesting is that Jesus did not drink that fourth cup with the disciples.  He said that He would not drink it again until He drank it in the Kingdom, that is what I believe His kingdom rule during what has traditionally been called the "thousand year rule of Christ on earth."  Therefore, in one sense of the word, when we eat of the Lord's Supper, we're not just remembering His death but His return.       


In verse 17 Paul speaks of us partaking of “one loaf” resulting in the fact that we are “one body”.  The church is Jesus’ representative to the world.  Since Jesus is not on earth in a physical body, the church is His physical body.  This is part of what is represented when we all partake of the one loaf in the Lord’s Supper.


Once again Paul refers back to Jewish history in verse 18.  He says that the priests actually ate the meat that has been sacrificed to the Lord in the ceremonial offerings.  They, like the church, “participated” (koinonia) in the blood sacrifice.  They associated themselves with the sacrifice by eating the meat offered in the sacrifice.


So Paul has just established that both in Jewish history and in the present day church, when people “participate” in these ceremonies, they are identifying themselves with all of what that ceremony means.  So in like fashion, Paul goes on to say that if you “participate” in pagan ceremonies and eat the meat offered to idols, you are actually associating, or identifying yourself with a demon behind the idol.  Paul says that the wooden or stone idol itself is nothing, and the meat offered to the idol is not all that important.  It is clear that Paul has no problem eating meat offered to idols.  The problem comes in when you eat the meat when it is part of a pagan ceremony with the understanding that behind a wooden idol there is a demon.  Therefore he says in verse 21 that “you cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons…”  It makes no logical or spiritual sense.


If we do participate in such pagan worship we are actually “arousing the Lord’s jealousy”.  I can only imagine if our Lord gets jealous that there might be some consequences as a result of His jealousy.


Paul ends this section by asking, “are we stronger than He”?  Are we stronger than God?  Do we really think we can escape the Lord’s jealousy when we give ourselves to idol worship at the same time claiming unity with Jesus in His death as we eat the Lord’s Supper?


Now, early on in the twenty first century post-modernism is infiltrating the church and Christian thinking.  Post-modernism lays aside a detailed study of the Bible.  It sees the Bible more of a devotional book, not necessarily accurate in what it says.  Post-modern influence has also joined together our religious ceremonies as a means of uniting other cultures and religions with Christianity.  One example of this is native Indian cleansing ceremonies that have been somewhat Christianized.  Thos who participate in these find no problem mixing a pagan ceremony with a Christian ceremony.  According to what Paul says in this chapter, Paul has lots of problems with such things.     


The Believers Freedom  (ch. 10:23-11:1)


Paul repeats in verse 23 what he said earlier in his letter, “everything is permissible – but not everything is beneficial.  Everything is permissible – but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good but the good of others”.  Participating in pagan worship is not right according to Paul, yet eating meat that has been offered to pagan gods outside the context of worship is okay, because it is just meat.  It is no big deal.  So, it is quite “permissible” to eat this meat, yet it is not always “constructive”.  The rule that Paul says we need to follow in that this liberty is the rule of  “seeking the good of others over the good of ourselves”.  Not everyone understands the liberty we have as Christians in this area.  Not call Christians in Paul's day, especially Jewish Christians understood what Paul was saying here.


When Paul says that everything is permissible, or, all things are permissible, we need to understand this phrase in its context.  The word "everything" in the NIV or "all" in the KJV doesn't mean everything or all things.  The context is speaking of things pertaining to the Law of Moses.  I say this because I have it heard it said that everything imaginable is okay for the Christian.  We have been forgiven in advance, so go ahead and do whatever feels good.  One man used this verse to support his practice of frequenting nude beaches.  In many places in the Bible the word "all" doesn't always mean "all".  "All" must be understood in its context.     


So in verse 25 Paul says that when you go to the market and buy meat, you don’t need to ask if this meat has been offered to idols.  It is only meat.  Don’t worry about it.  You are free to eat any meat because “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it”, including meat. 


You may remember the Apostle Peter's vision in Acts 9 where the various types of animals and birds came down from heaven.  Peter was told to eat, but he refused because these were unclean animals and birds according to the Law of Moses.  Peter was then told not to call unclean what God now God calls clean.  It is obvious that the cross of Christ has redefined the Law of Moses.  


Paul says not to raise “questions about conscience”.  Basically, he says, “If you don’t ask, you won’t know.  If you don’t know, you won’t have a conscience problem”.


The same thing applies when you get invited to eat with an unbeliever at his home.  If he serves meat, don’t ask him if it has been offered to idols.  If he tells you that this meat has been offered to an idol, then don’t eat it.  Don’t eat it for the sake of the one who told you, not for your own sake, because you have the liberty to eat the meat.  We should note here that the context does permit one to eat the meat if he knows if it has been offered to idols if the one who told you it's been offered to idols isn't offended by you eating it.  Only if he is offended to the point of losing his faith is when you don't eat.      


In verse 29 Paul says, “Why should your freedom be judged by another man’s conscience”?  We should not let other people’s weak conscience or way of thinking change our thinking on such issues. We should change our actions so that we will not cause a person with a weak conscience to stumble and lose faith.  We don’t have to change our thinking on the issue.  When alone, we can eat the meat.  “Why am I denounced because of something I thank God for”? asks Paul.  Paul strongly believes that he can eat meat offered to idols.  He also believes that he should not participate in any idol ceremony, yet at the same time, if eating meat will cause a brother to fall from faith, he will not eat meat, although he will not change his position on the issue.  As a matter of fact, I believe Paul would try to help this particular brother to see his position.


If you read Romans 14 closely you will note that Paul does believe that those who don't eat meat because of their understanding of the Law of Moses have weak faith.  We should also note here that Paul is not talking about not eating meat for any other reason.  The point should be made that if someone chooses not to eat meat but be a vegetarian, that's okay.   Paul would have no problem with that.   


Paul closes this section by saying, “follow my example while I follow the example of Christ”.  He has just stated his thinking on the matter to follow.  He said, “Do not cause anyone to stumble … even as I try to please everybody in every way.  For I am not seeking my own good, but the good of many so that they may be saved”.  The driving force of Paul’s life was for as many as possible to be saved through his ministry.  If that meant he had to lay down some of these secondary issues that he believed in, he would do that.  Of course, he would not lay aside the essentials of the gospel to please anyone.   In some corners of the church today the essentials of the gospel are being laid aside for the sake of unity.  This should never be the case.   


I've just used the term "secondary issues" and have applied it to eating meat.  I personally don't believe that Paul viewed this as a secondary issue as we would view it today.  I believe that anything that concerned the Law of Moses was a primary issue for Paul.  The point to be made here is that the cross of Christ made things like eating meat no big deal.  You could either eat the meat or not eat the meat.  We see this in circumcision.  Over and over again Paul said that circumcision, which was a very important issue in Old Testament Judaism, now was no big deal.  That is to say, if you're circumcised that's no big deal, or, if you're not circumcised, that's no big deal either.  The reason why I even call eating meat a secondary issue is because Paul clearly states that eating the meat or not eating the meat is not the important thing any more.   That being said, if you don't eat meat because of your stand on the Law of Moses, and, especially if you based your salvation on the Law of Moses, then that is a big deal for Paul.  He would confront anyone on that issue.  That is a primary issue for Paul, and should be for us as well.    


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