PART B (1 Corinthians 10)
For the moment we're going to skip 1 Corinthians 9 and pick it up in the next lesson, because in chapter 10, Paul continues his discussion of feasting in pagan temples. In 10:7-22 he adds that eating in pagan temples will contaminate the believers spiritually, due to the demonic nature of pagan worship, and then gives some practical instructions about living in a pagan society (10:23-33).
God's Wasn't Pleased with the Israelites
(10:1-5)Paul begins chapter 10 by instructing the Corinthians from the experience of the Israelites in the desert -- who were also hurt by idolatry.
First, he establishes for the purposes of the illustration that the Israelites were believers. He is saying that, in a sense, they were baptized, that they were spiritual people. Paul is trying to help the Corinthians see that the Israelites can be a helpful example to them.
"1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert." (10:1-5)
Paul, alluding to baptism and the Lord's Supper,
is using a form of rabbinical argument here, but it's important not to push Paul's analogy too far. His point, according to F.F. Bruce is:
"... to show that their 'baptism' did not preserve them ex opere operato from premature death when they later rebelled against God, nor guaranteed their entrance into the promised land."
We could spend time exploring all the Old Testament references to Paul's analogy (which you can find in most commentaries), but rather we'll stay on track with Paul's main point to the Corinthians about the danger of idolatry.
Learn from the Israelites' Punishment for their Sins
(10:6-11)Now Paul recalls how the Israelites displeased God.
"6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 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 pagan revelry.' 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did -- and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test the Lord, as some of them did -- and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did -- and were killed by the destroying angel." (10:6-10)
Paul refers to worshipping the golden calf
(Exodus 32), fornicating with the Moabite women who sought to win them over to their false gods (Numbers 25:1-9), rebelling against the Lord and being bitten by snakes (Numbers 21:4-7), and spreading unbelief and perpetual grumbling about food and being struck down by plague, attributed here to a "destroying angel" (Numbers 14:37; 16:46-49).
Paul warns the Corinthians:
"These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come." (10:11)
God hasn't changed. When you sin and rebel against God, you subject yourself to his discipline and punishment. Hey, you "liberal" Corinthians, don't toy with sin or you'll suffer the consequences.