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. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. (10:1-5)
As we move into a new chapter, and because it begins with the word “for”, we need a reminder of what Paul has said previously, since Paul seems to be drawing a conclusion in these verses.
9:27… No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
10:1… 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.
As chapter 9 was coming to an end, Paul was exhorting the people to take his teachings about self-sacrifice for the sake of others seriously, encouraging them to behave as athletes in training to set aside some of their freedom for the sake of Christ. He continues in this chapter with another example for their instruction, this time from Israel’s history, to make the same point.
This section, 10:1-13 is being used to show that the Israelites were God’s chosen, His elect, His beloved. They had been freed from captivity in Egypt by God’s mighty hand when He parted the waters of the Red Sea, when He provided them with manna, when He gave them water to drink from the rock, and as He led them through the Wilderness by cloud and by fire: If there ever were people who were favored by God, and who could literally see the works of His hands, these were those people.
Yet, in spite of all this, they succumbed to every kind of temptation, and came to ruin. Honestly, I cannot imagine that anyone, not even these proud and worldly Corinthians could miss the connection Paul was making between the Israelites, and the Corinthian Church. Taking no chances, Paul continued:
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No 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. (10:11-13)
This paragraph, as it talks of temptation and holding firm, ties back to the end of chapter 9 and the sports training metaphor, and the idea that an athlete in training will push him or her self to attain the goal for which they train. Paul’s clear intention here is that we must push ourselves to overcome whatever temptation may come our way in order to attain our goal in Christ, and to avoid being pulled off in the direction of ruin.
Before we conclude for now, I must once again remind you that this passage is part of a three-chapter section on idolatry; food sacrificed to idols. In the next section, Paul returns to that topic, and begins to sum up the points he has made…