First Corinthians 10:1–13 . . .

Historical Examples — A Way Out of Sin

Sin: In today's passage, Apostle Paul warns us about the dreadful and severe consequences of sin. He also challenges us to avoid sin and persevere in our Christian lives by giving us historical examples from which to learn.

Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat its mistakes. In these 13 verses, two spiritual realities will reinforce this idea.

1)  All of God's people experience great spiritual privileges (10:1–5, see this passage below).  In vv. 1–4, Paul tells the Corinthians that they've been blessed with the same spiritual blessings as Old Testament Israel. Like Israel in the Old Testament, we too have received many spiritual privileges: in the same way that Israel was "under the cloud," we've experienced God's protection and guidance; in the same way that Israel "passed through the sea," we've "passed from death to life" (John 5:24); in the same way that Israel was "baptized into Moses," we've been "baptized into Christ" (1 Cor. 12:13); in the same way that Israel ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink, we celebrate the Lord's Supper (see 1 Cor. 11:17–34); in the same way that Israel was "accompanied" by Christ the spiritual rock, Christ is with us at all times (Hebrews 13:5).

After unloading the spiritual privileges of God’s people, Paul transitions into a startling contrast. In spite of Israel’s redeemed state and numerous blessings (vv. 1–4), Paul writes in 10:5, “Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.” The word "nevertheless" emphasizes the contrast between how many were blessed ("all") versus how many with whom God wasn't pleased ("most of them"). What an understatement! Over two million people came out of Egypt, yet only two male adults (Joshua and Caleb) were allowed to enter the Promised Land. The rest were "scattered in the wilderness" (a.k.a. being six feet under!).

[So, while all of God's people experience great spiritual privileges, we next learn further that . . . .]

2)  Many of God's people experience great spiritual failure (10:6–13)  In vv. 6–11, Paul draws himself, the Corinthians, and all of us into the story, giving "us" a collective warning. Paul summarizes five stories from the 40 years of wilderness wandering, showing a pattern of disqualification. He's going to tell us that it's important for us to understand these Old Testament accounts, because we stand accountable as Israel did. Paul wants us to see ourselves here because there's a danger that we too might fall into sin as Israel did and become disqualified from receiving our reward.

In vv. 7–10, Paul gets right in our face as he highlights four sins of Israel, four sins of the Corinthians, and four sins of people in the world today: Idolatry, immorality, the testing of God, and grumbling. It's important to realize their source: the craving of evil things. Fortunately for many of us, the last two verses of this week’s passage (vv. 12–13) give a wonderful summary that balances an important warning and a hopeful word of encouragement and grace.

It's good to know that we can choose to avoid disqualification by finishing well. Paul reminds us in 10:13 that when we are vulnerable to falling into sin, "God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out." It's easy to assume that God is not with us when we're tempted to sin. But this verse assures us that he's present, not just standing by idly. Rather, he's actively providing a way out so we can endure it.

So, the next time you feel tempted, remember that you're not helpless; there's a divinely provided "way out"! Look for the sign that the Holy Spirit puts in front of you and follow it to safety.

Lord, keep us mindful that your presence with us in times of temptation means that we need not fall. Give us the desire to seek your way out so we can know the joy of living a life that's pleasing to you.

Thank you, Lord, amen.

God is actively working to keep you from the danger of getting lost in sin.

It Makes You Wonder . . .
  • Q. 1  Assuming that you value the many spiritual blessings and privileges you've received (vv. 1–4), how do you exhibit your gratitude?
  • Q. 2  What sin do you struggle with the most: idolatry, immorality, testing God, or grumbling?
  • Q. 3  For that sin (and any of the others), how are you presently trying to overcome it? Who's holding you accountable in this endeavor? What specific victories (however small) have you experienced along the way?

This Week’s Passage
1 Corinthians 10:1–13

New International Version (NIV)
[You can view it in a different version by clicking here; you can also listen to this chapter.]

Warnings From Israel's History

10  For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3They all ate the same spiritual food 4and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

6Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7Do 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 revelry." 8We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did — and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9We should not test Christ, as some of them did — and were killed by snakes. 10And do not grumble, as some of them did — and were killed by the destroying angel.

11These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! 13No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.