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"Learning the Lessons of History"
1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Wednesday AM Bible Study
Septemer 19, 2007

Theme: The experience of Israel in the wilderness teaches us that having privileges of knowledge of God, and the benefit of His favor, doesn't mean you can't still fall to the temptations of sin.

As the old saying goes: Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Here, Paul gives the Corinthians a history-lesson in the hopes that they would learn.

He had been instructing the Corinthian believers in the need to refrain from the exercise of their Christian "rights", if the exercise of them would harm another Christian brother or sister. In verses 14-22, he describes the danger they face in greater detail; but in verses 1-13, he illustrates the broad principle by example. He himself had said that he refrained from the use of his liberties for the cause of the Gospel, "lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified" (9:27). And now, he illustrates the warning through the Old Testament stories of those who did become disqualified.

I. ISRAEL'S HISTORY (vv. 1-5).

A. The ancient people of Israel, at the time of the exodus, had great privileges of knowledge and favor with God (vv. 1-4).

1. Paul says that he doesn't want the Corinthians to be "unaware" or "ignorant" of the ancient people of Israel as they left Egypt (v. 1). Here, he is making them stop and think; and urging them to gain the perspective of history from others of God's people.

2. Since he had been writing specifically to warn Christians who boasted of "greater knowledge" of their "liberties" (see chapter 8), Paul reminds them of the Israelites' great privileges of knowledge and favor from God (vv.1-4). The "knowledgeable" Corinthians had nothing on them.

a. They all were under the cloud, which spoke of God's direct guidance (Exodus 13:21-22; 14:19, 24).

b. They all passed through the Red Sea, giving them a first-hand experience of God's mighty power (Exodus 14:15-31).

c. They all were "baptized" into Moses through the cloud and the sea. This speaks of their permanent, experiential "identification" with Moses as they followed him in these great miraculous experiences (Exodus 15:1-21).

d. They all ate of the spiritual "food"; that is, they daily received direct provision from God in the form of manna (Exodus 16:4, 15, 35; Psalm 78:24).

e. They all drank from the "spiritual" rock that followed them; which was Christ. This may speak of the way God provided for the people of Israel in the wilderness through the water that came from the rock—which served as a picture of Christ as the water of life (John 7:37-38). That it was said to have "followed" them may mean that the miracle of the water from the rock occurred twice, and symbolized Christ's continual provision (Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 20:1-11).

B. And yet, in spite of their advantages, many of them fell and suffered great spiritual loss (v. 5). Note that, in the above verses, the word "all" is repeated. This communicates the idea that "all" had the privileges; but not "all" gained the blessing of those privileges. With "many" (or "most"), God was not pleased; and a whole generation died in the wilderness because of its sin (Numbers 14:26-35; 26:63-65). That whole generation died in the wilderness—with the exceptions of Caleb and Joshua.


A. The experiences of ancient Israel in the wilderness stand as examples to us (vv. 6-10). This passage gives us a mandate to study the Old Testament carefully as instruction for our daily Christian life; because the things that happened to Israel were providentially given by God to teach us important things. Among those things they teach is the need to beware of thinking that privilege secures us from falling into temptation and sin. We, like they, can fall . . .

1. Through lust after sinful things (Num. 11:4, 34).

2. Through idolatry (Exodus 32:6).

3. Through sexual immorality (Num. 25:1-9).

4. Through testing Christ (Num. 21:4-9).

5. Through grumbling (Num. 14:37; see also 12:23; 2 Sam. 24:16).

B. These things are written down and preserved for us as a warning not to think that we ourselves cannot likewise fall (vv. 11-13). They are for our admonition; and have been recorded in print so that we can read them and remember! We can be sure that no temptation comes to us without the provision of God of an escape (v. 13). But we must beware; lest thinking that we stand by our knowledge and our privileges, we draw to close in confidence to the edge of sin—and fall in (v. 12)!

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