Immersed into Moses
Jesus not only said to seek first the kingdom of God, but He also added, "and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews also added this exhortation, "Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). The intent of Godís scriptures is pretty clear, that each saint is to exercise self-control in all things. "I buffet my body," was Paulís way of making this point, "and make it my slave." If he did not control himself, then ó regardless of how many thousands of others his messages had saved ó he himself would be disqualified at the gates of eternal life. This is a sobering thought for any modern Christian making the claim to godliness. With the help of the Holy Spirit, and the renewing of his mind by the scriptures, the disciple of Christ can win this battle with self, and exhibit the righteousness and holiness that the Father desires and requires from His children.
- Israelís foreshadow - It is truly astounding to look into the word of God and see the types and foreshadows the All Wise and All Knowing orchestrated in Old Testament times to prove the truthfulness of what is written in the New Testament. Whether it is Abrahamís offering of Isaac as a foreshadow of Godís offering of His only begotten Son, or whether it is the tremendous typology of the Old Testament tabernacle foreshadowing the church of the living God, it is always interesting, amazing, and instructive. So it is with Israelís crossing the Red Sea under the leadership of Moses. "For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren," are the words of Paulís introduction of this point, "that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were immersed into Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (I Corinthians 10:1,2). Here is a truly amazing and orchestrated picture indeed! With the walls of water on each side and with the cloud covering them over the top, the body of Israel was effectively immersed into Moses, prefiguring the saintís immersion into Christ. Just as the children of Israel left a life of slavery in Egypt behind and came up out of the water to enter a new life of freedom and responsibility, so the penitent individual leaves a life of slavery to sin behind and comes up out of the water to enter a new abundant life of freedom and responsibility in Christ.
- Spiritual food and drink - The cloud which covered them in crossing through the sea was the same cloud which guided them by day and the pillar of fire which guided them by night through the wilderness. The apostle described this in these terms: "And all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ" (I Corinthians 10:3,4). The manna on the ground in the wilderness and the water which flowed from the split rock of Horeb were prefigures of the Christ who dwells within Christians. Jesus, conscious of this foreshadowing, noted, "He who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst" (John 6:35). The Spirit who brought them out of Egypt with the mighty uplifted arm and preserved them in the wilderness is the same Spirit of Christ ó the Rock of our salvation ó who indwells those who walk in the footsteps of Christ in modern times!
Paulís reason in bringing this example forward is to warn the brethren. "Nevertheless," he points out, "with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness" (I Corinthians 10:5). It is not enough for an individual to simply be immersed into Christ; he must follow through and live successfully under the terms of this wonderful and final new covenant. "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling," is Paulís exhortation (Philippians 2:12). Modern saints must buffet their bodies and make them their slaves, lest they also be disqualified.
Do Not Crave Evil Things
It is possible to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. It is possible to walk as Jesus walked! But sinning is a possibility also; the scripture talks about it, and warns against it. The writer of Hebrews has a similar thought to that which Paul expressed to the Corinthian brethren when he wrote, "Let us lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1). The god of this age is hard at work, appealing to every lust of the flesh, every lust of the eye, and every bit of the pride of life to turn saints aside from the path of righteousness. Hence it is that the apostle Paul seriously warns the brethren in Corinth not to follow in the steps of the children of Israel after the crossing of the Red Sea, but rather to go forward and take hold of the abundant life in Christ.
- God was not happy - The twelve tribes had seen the mighty things which God had accomplished in Egypt, His wonders in the land of Zoan. They had participated in the crossing of the Red Sea, and had been guided and fed by the Spirit of God. They had assembled at the base of Sinai, had witnessed the lightning and thunder on the mountain, and had heard the voice of God utter the Ten Commandments. But, in spite of all this, they ó according to the writer of the Hebrew epistle ó lacked the faith to go and take the promised land. "Nevertheless," was Paulís word of astonishment, "with most of them God was not well-pleased, for they were laid low in the wilderness" (I Corinthians 10:5). Of the men twenty and above, 603,548 out of 603,550 did not cross the Jordan to go into the promised land. Those statistics should sober any Christian.
- Example for us - God was able to orchestrate the history of the Old Testament to serve as foreshadows of the New. The individuals involved exercised their free will, but the Mighty Hand was able to work through those choices to execute a plan to accomplish His eternal purpose. The Father, therefore, was willing to use the perishing of more than 600,000 men and their women to paint and record a picture to assist His new covenant saints in their battles for spiritual victory. "Now these things happened to them as examples for us," notes Paul and the Holy Spirit, "that we should not crave evil things as they also craved" (I Corinthians 10:6). It is interesting that the expression "crave evil things" is used here. There were not a lot of luxuries in the wilderness as Israel wound its way for forty years. But the fact that most of the apparent temptations were not available in the austerities of desert life did not stop their minds from imagining and craving for the things they had seen in the fleshpots of Egypt. Hence, because the craving for the evil things was there, their minds were not truly interested in the true wonders of the spiritual life and the unique place in history which God had prepared for them.
It is clearly important, then, that the saint recognize the importance of having the driving desire to please God. If He is not happy with an individual, that individual is going to be really unhappy for all eternity. "Walk as children of light," Paul exhorted in another place, "trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:8,10). The saint will take spiritual inventory of his progress and position at this point, and make the adjustments necessary. He is to put a stop to any craving of evil things, and focus his entire attention on pleasing the Lord. In so doing, he will cross his own Jordan, and conquer the "lands" that the Lord has set out for him!
Warnings from Israel's Wanderings
An estimated 1.5 million Israelites perished in the wilderness of Sin and related locations over a period of forty years. That averages out to a little more than 100 people per day, every day, for those years! Thatís 100 families per day in the camp affected personally by death; thatís 100 funerals per day in the congregation in the wilderness. These are sobering statistics to contemplate, and that contemplation is exactly what God wants His new covenant saints to do. "They were laid low in the wilderness," Paul had stated, and that "these things happened as examples for us." Christians, if they do not maintain their proper spiritual focus, can be sucked into Satanís schemes just as Israel was pulled into idolatry and moral destruction.
- Idolatry and immorality - God had given the second commandment that they were not to make any carved image to worship. But in short order, they had made a golden calf and held an orgy at its base. Despite strong action by Moses, and the death of 3000 unrepentant Israelites, the people continued to worship idols and engage in secret pagan sacrifices. The saint is warned against falling into an sort of idolatry, whether it involves visible images or whether it is more subtle idolatry such as humanism or covetousness. "And do not be idolaters," enjoined the apostle, "as some of them were; as it is written, ĎThe people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.í " (I Corinthians 10:7). The games they played were not childrenís games! Idolatry and immorality were problems from the beginning to the end, from the golden calf to the last plague forty years later in connection with the introduction of Moabís idols into the camp. "Nor let us act immorally," was the apostleís continued warning, "as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day" (I Corinthians 10:8). The Moabites deliberately sent their young ladies into Israelís camp for seduction and destruction, the young men of Israel yielded to the temptation, and God responded with the obliteration of thousands of Israelites in this last plague.
- Incorrigible and horrible - As the children of Israel approached the last year of their sojourning in the wilderness, they became impatient at the inconvenience of having to go around the land of Edom. One more time they went back to the well of discontent, saying to God and to Moses, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and water, and we loathe this miserable food" (Numbers 21:5). By this point, they had pushed Godís patience beyond the limit. Paulís comment: "Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents" (I Corinthians 10:9). The plague of fiery serpents was only checked by the raising of a bronze serpent on a pole, and Godís willingness to heal any who would gaze at that pole. God also does not like His special children whining or complaining. "Nor let us grumble," Paul charges, "as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer" (I Corinthians 10:10). The same One who passed through Egypt in the night of the Passover to destroy the first-born of Egypt also passed periodically through the camp of Israel in the wilderness, bringing to death those who complained before the Lord. "Do all things without grumbling or disputing," is Paulís instruction to the Philippian brethren, and for us as well, "that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:14,15).
God, then, expects His children to step up and perform worthy of the family Name. One of the points in these exhortations is that there are consequences for running counter to the direction the Lord would have us to go. "Now these things happened to them as an example," notes Paul, in reference to those millions who perished in the wilderness, "and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come" (I Corinthians 10:11). The instruction is given; will we heed the instruction?
Heed What Is Written
One of the common, but mega-important, statements of the Bible is: "It is written Ö" From the time that Moses inked the first scroll, God has pointed truth-seekers to what is written for instruction and direction. When Israel was pictured as hesitating between what was muttered by the mediums and spiritists, the prophet cried out, "To the Law and to the testimony!" (Isaiah 8:20). Hence it is that New Testament apostles, preachers, and teachers would continually appeal to what was recorded in the sacred scrolls. Even our Lord Jesus, during the days of His sojourning in the flesh, again and again pointed people to those written documents of authority with words such as, "have you not read?", "it is written," and "the scripture cannot be broken." Thus the apostle Paul, in this epistle to the Corinthian brethren, adverts that the Old Testament scrolls were really written and preserved for the sake of the followers of Christ. Referencing the Old Testament quotation, "You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing," the apostle had posited, "God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written Ö"
- The special people - God created the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them in six days. A truly thoughtful consideration of the awesomeness of space and the hugeness of the galaxies and some of the stars in them give an idea of the grandeur of the Omnipotent. An honest examination of the complexity of life at a cellular and sub-cellular level reveals a picture of the wondrous intelligence and engineering capability of the Omniscient. But the magnitude of the difficulties of creation is small in comparison to what it took for God to work with the free will of man. He accomplished the physical creation in six days; it took Him four to five thousand years to work with man to produce the first new creation in Christ Jesus! The Father had patiently worked with mankind through Israel to produce the first of those who were "born from above," those indwelt by the Spirit with whom the great God could have full fellowship. "This will be written for the generation to come," the Lord had stated through one of His prophetic psalmists, "that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord" (Psalm 102:18). The apostle Paul, familiar with this concept, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, then commented to the church about the Israelites in the wilderness: "Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written," he says, "for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come" (I Corinthians 10:11). Modern saints need to savor these words, that disciples of Christ are those "upon whom the ends of the ages of have come!" These "sons of God" are the awesome ones who are joint-heirs with Christ as they humbly stride over this planet, and those for whose revealing the whole creation eagerly awaits!
- A word of caution - "Pride goeth before destruction," is the wording of the King James Version, "and an haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18). These awesome people ó this special generation ó need to recognize the truthfulness of the proverb, and to remain humble, as their Lord and example was humble. The apostle adds his cautionary note, saying, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (I Corinthians 10:12).
"I buffet my body and make it my slave," Paul had commented concerning himself, to enjoin upon the brethren the seriousness of their commitment to Christ, "let possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified." Most of the Israelites who had crossed the Red Sea failed to cross the Jordan; the modern saint needs to somberly consider that truth, and be certain to heed the things that are written!
What God Can Do
The spiritual warfare is intense. The temptations are great. The forces of evil are at work, clawing and tearing at the defenses of the Christian, to wear him down. The devil is prowling about as a roaring lion, seeking someone to destroy. The saints, then, are warned by Paul and the Holy Spirit that "we should not crave evil things," that we should "not be idolaters," "nor act immorally," nor "try the Lord," nor "grumble." The saint is cautioned that he should, when he "thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." When these are the considerations, the picture painted is pretty bleak. And if the saint were on his own, then the outcome would most likely be one of failure. But these are not the only considerations by far. The focus is really on what God can do! "What God has promised," the scripture affirms, "God is able to perform" (see Romans 4:21).
- God wants victory - The Father wants His children to be victorious over the forces of darkness, for He triumphs through the saints. He has therefore set in motion the works and words which produce Biblically defined faith in those who are interested in truth. "Faith comes from hearing," said the apostle Paul, "and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). These faithful brethren, then, believe what is written concerning what God is able to do. As the apostle John noted, "This is the victory that has overcome the world ó our faith" (I John 5:4). "God is able," said John the Immerser, as he prophetically spoke to the Sadducees and Pharisees, "from these stones to raise up children to Abraham" (Matthew 3:9). Who would believe that this could be accomplished? But He has done so; those who are immersed into Christ ó specifically from the Gentiles ó are these children to Abraham, according to Paul in Galatians 3:26-29. He raised Jesus from the dead, and is able to raise those who have fallen asleep in Jesus also. If He can do these things, what else can He do?
- Dealing with temptation - Temptation exerts a powerful pull or push. When Jesus, following His immersion, went into the wilderness for forty days to fast and pray, "the tempter came" to Him (Matthew 4:3). Jesus was able, through quoting the book of Deuteronomy, to send Satan packing. But the devil was not finished, and continued to try to turn the Lord aside from His purpose until His very last breath. But, praise be to God, the tempter was not successful! To this, then, is added a powerful application. "For since He Himself was tempted in that which He suffered," the word of God has noted, "He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted" (Hebrews 2:18). The saint is not alone in his struggle! He "is able to keep you from stumbling," as another exhibition of Godís power, "and to make to you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy" (Jude 24). "No temptation has overtaken you but such is common to man," Paul contributes to the discussion, "and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide a way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it" (I Corinthians 10:13). The faithful, dependable, you-can-count-on-Him God absolutely will not allow the Christian to be tempted beyond his capacity! He is able to provide a way of escape.
He has given the saints His word, "which is able to save your souls" (James 1:21). He "is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20). He "is able to save forever those who draw near to God" through Jesus (Hebrews 7:25). If He is able to do these things, why ó to parallel one of the apostle Paulís points before Porcius Festus ó would it be considered incredible if God is able to deliver the saints from temptation?
Faith That Overcomes
Are Christians fighting the battle against temptation, but guaranteed to lose? This, of course, is the position of Catholics and Calvinists, of denominationalists and deniers of the faith once and for all delivered. Catholics are encouraged to petition for Mary to pray for them as sinners even in the hour of their deaths. Protestants, with their Calvinistic foundation, believe that they are simply sinners, and always sinners, saved by Godís grace. But this is not the picture the inspired scriptures paint. Rather, Christians are represented as those who are overcomers ó those who overcome sin, self, and circumstance in order to propagate the faith of Christ throughout the world. They are to "lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily besets" them (Hebrews 12:1). They are to "stop sinning" (I Corinthians 15:34). "The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked," walking in purity and sinlessness and compassion, "because as He is, so also are we in this world" (I John 2:6; 4:17).
- Mental preparation - He who is defeated mentally before he begins to play is guaranteed to lose the game. The army which knows it is going to lose the war is defeated before it ever takes the field. Would, then, the one who is known as the tempter, attempt to have everyone believe that there is no possible way to overcome temptation and therefore continue to fall under the spell of sin? Would he, who holds sinners in captivity to do his will, endeavor to establish that no one can ever escape that captivity? The obvious answer to anyone who understands even a modicum of strategy is, "Yes!" But what saith the Lord? "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man," is one of the foundation points the apostle Paul lays. One of the mental positions the mind is tricked into believing is that "no one has ever had the obstacles in their lives that I have; if they had, they would be doing the same things I am doing." No one has ever had it as bad as I have; no one has ever had the bad childhood I have had Ö But that type of thinking is brought on by the prince of the power of the air, the spirit working in the sons of disobedience. The word of God is firm on this point: any temptation an individual is facing is common to man. So all those excuses for mental and spiritual bail-out are taken away. The mind of the saint needs to be preset that anything he is facing is common, and therefore there is a common solution found for that in the sacred pages of the word of God.
- The situation can be handled - One of the common statements made is, "This situation is too much for me; I just canít handle it." Again, what saith the Lord? "God is faithful, and will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able." If a saint is in the middle of a set of difficult ó tempting ó state of affairs, then God knows he can handle it, with Godís help. "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me," is the proper spiritual mindset (Philippians 4:13). Knowing this enables the saint to buckle down and power and pray his way through the temptation.
If the temptation is too strong, there is a way out. "God," says Paul, "with the temptation will provide a way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it." Sometimes the way out is simply to shut off the TV, walk out of the movie, stay out of the bar Ö whatever! But there is always a way out, so there are no excuses! Christians, then walk by faith and live by faith. They trust in the truthfulness of Godís word; they donít find excuses ó they find a way forward!
Flee From Idolatry
Idolatry and paganism are powerfully deceptive. Most of Abrahamís descendants descended into paganism; most of Israel was swept away by idol worship; and it was a tremendous battle in the early church. Will not the weaker brother, asked Paul, if he sees you who have knowledge dining in an idolís temple, "will not his conscience be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols?" (I Corinthians 8:10). The pull of paganism is obviously powerful, so powerful that the apostle exhorts, "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry" (I Corinthians 10:14). Some idolatry is subtle. "Greed," says Paul, "amounts to idolatry" (Colossians 3:5). "A covetous man," says he in another place, "is an idolater" (Ephesians 5:5). Jesus thus talked about "unrighteous mammon [taken from a pagan god of wealth]" (Matthew 6:24). But some of the idolatry the early church faced was open worship of the pagan gods, and due to family and peer pressures, the pull exerted was so strong that the saints were simply exhorted to flee.
- A word to the wise - The apostle really believes in the Corinthian brethren; he believes that they will get past their difficulties and be able to enter the gates of glory. Therefore, in a congregation riddled with factions, idolatry, and immorality, he calls them "saints." As Paul approaches a key point in his argumentation with these disciples, he attributes to them "wisdom" of the spiritual type. "I speak as to wise men," is his affirmation, "you judge what I say" (I Corinthians 10:15).
- Communion with Christ - To the wise in Corinth, the apostle Paul makes his ultimate appeal. "Is not the cup of blessing which we bless," he reasons, "a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?" (I Corinthians 10:16). This sharing ó this koinonia (from the Greek language) ó is a broad word referencing those things which are held in common, and is the word from which is translated the English word communion. The idea is that when the saints share in the "cup," meaning the fruit of the vine, they are actually sharing in the precious blood of Christ, blood spilled on Calvary but sprinkled in glory. Likewise, when they participated or shared in the "loaf," they were sharing in the body of Christ, the one who bore our sins in His body on the tree (I Peter 2:24). The Lord Jesus Himself is the One who instituted the terminology, affirming as He broke the bread with the apostles at the inauguration of the Lordís Supper, "Take, eat; this is My body" (Matthew 26:26). Of the cup, He noted, "This is My blood of the covenant" (Matthew 26:27). The apostle, then, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gives us the language by which communion was styled by those entrusted with the apostlesí doctrine.
- One "bread" - There is only one avenue of participation with Christ, not two or many. "Since there is one bread," he again emphasizes, "we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread" (I Corinthians 10:17). The "many" are funneled into one body through their participation in the one "bread," which, while having physical aspects, is primarily a spiritual loaf in which all the brethren throughout the world participate when they share in the Lordís Supper each Lordís Day!
Paulís desire is to emphasize the importance of fellowship with Christ. The thoughtful individual ó and certainly every Christian should be one of these ó recognizes that continued participation in the body and blood of the Lord is the only means by which the proper eternity is secured for him. Hence the beginning point in the apostleís carefully reasoned presentation against any semblance of participation in idolatry is his emphasis on the importance of sharing in the body and blood of Christ. "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry!"
Nature of Our Participation
Godís goal has been to move man from focusing on the physical to a sharing in the spiritual. "The things which are seen are temporal," noted the apostle Paul in another place, "but the things which are not seen are eternal" (II Corinthians 4:18). The elements of the Old Covenant were of necessity physical in nature, whereas the elements of the New Covenant are spiritual, although occasionally with physical touchstones to make the bridge to the spiritual. The thrust of immersion into Christ, for example, is primarily spiritual, involving unseen forgiveness of sins and a new spiritual birth, but it has the physical component of having a physical body plunged into physical water. Similarly with the Lordís Supper; it has the physical elements of the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine, but the significance of the Supper is spiritual. The "cup," then, is "a sharing in the blood of Christ," and the loaf is "a sharing in the body of Christ."
- One distinct body - One of the apostleís purposes is to call the brethren in Corinth out of the world, to have them separate from the participation in idols that so plagued their ancestors. "Since there is one bread," he reasons, "we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread." Saints, then, are a part of a fellowship that is contradistinguished from every other fellowship. They are participating in a spiritual altar ó they are participating in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God! ó and therefore are segregated from all other religious fellowships.
- Israelís priesthood - The apostle uses a couple of real life illustrations to make his point. "Look at the nation Israel," says he. "Are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar?" (I Corinthians 10:18). In the case of the sin offering, for instance, "the priest who offers it for sin shall eat it" (Leviticus 6:26). "No layman," wrote Moses, "however, is to eat that which is holy; a sojourner with the priest or a hired man shall not eat of that which is holy" (Leviticus 22:10). Only those who ate of the sacrifice were sharers in that altar, and only those who shared in that altar could eat of the sacrifice. Thus it is written of Christians, each of whom is a new covenant priest, "We have an altar, from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat" (Hebrews 13:10). The participation in the Lordís Supper is therefore highly significant, and is clearly a participation in a spiritual altar wherein there is a remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ.
- Pagan altars - The pagans had their altars as well, and their priests offered their sacrifices in accordance to their customs. "What do I mean then?" the apostle queries. "That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?" (I Corinthians 10:19). Of course not! "But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons" (I Corinthians 10:20). Now that is a strong statement!! Those who participate in pagan sacrifices are actually fellowshipping with demons.
There is one God, and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, and those who participate in the Lordís Supper have fellowship with the Father and with the Son. But if there is a distinction between the altar at which the Old Covenant priest served (which was ordained by God) and the spiritual altar of the New Covenant, how much more distance is there between the pagan altars and the participation the body and blood of Christ! "You cannot drink of the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons" (I Corinthians 10:21). The saint, then, must choose which side he will fellowship with; either he participates with his pagan relatives and demons, or he participates with the Lord and His brethren. No one can choose "the middle ground" because there is no middle ground.
Common Sense Edification
God has always indicated that He will brook no competition. At the beginning of Israel as a nation, God spoke through Moses, saying to Israel, "You shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God" (Exodus 34:14). And reaching to the other end, as the prophet Ezekiel looks to the church, he quotes the Almighty as saying, "Now I shall restore the fortunes of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I shall be jealous for My holy name" (Ezekiel 39:25). The revelation of that love and jealousy is expressed through the coming of Jesus Christ into the world. Thus Jesus would say, "Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32,33). A situation, then, where a Christian would participate in the sacrifices at an idolís temple, or would light a candle, saying, "Caesar is Lord," would be tantamount to denying Christ before men!
- Deceptive demonic influence - Satan is the ultimate deceiver, and his fallen angels are participating in that deception. The devil does not want people worshiping God. He perpetrates idol worship to turn people aside from Godís path, and garners worship for himself and his demons indirectly through those idols. Thus those who partake at the idolís table are actually "sharers in demons." Unknowingly, perhaps, but sharers nonetheless.
- The Lordís table - It is a tremendous privilege to be able to eat at the Kingís table. God began to set the stage for the Lordís Supper when He called Moses, Aaron, and seventy elders of Israel up at the base of Sinai, and "they beheld God, and they ate and drank" (Exodus 24:11). Later, the priests were commanded to eat of the unleavened "bread of the presence" every Sabbath from the table of the Lord that first stood in the tabernacle as a foreshadow of the Lordís Supper. To eat at the table in the presence of King David and his sons was also a great honor, and likewise a foreshadow of eating at the Table in the presence of King Jesus and His sons. Thus the apostle is so emphatic: "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons."
- Godís jealousy - God will not allow split loyalty. "He who is not with Me is against Me," said our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, "and he who does not gather with Me scatters" (Matthew 12:30). The saint, then, who would try to please his earthly relatives by participating when the family went down to the pagan temple, and turn around and show up on Lordís Day for participation the Lordís table would be playing with fire. "Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?" is Paulís question here. He follows with a straightforward reminder: "We are not stronger than the Lord, are we?" (I Corinthians 10:22).
God is a jealous God! He sent His only begotten Son into the world to rescue the lost, demonstrating His love for His brethren. How then could they participate in "other communions?" How could they drift over and eat at the temple of Zeus, or participate in the sacrifice to Poseidon? How could they participate in the ashrams of Hinduism, or the mosques of Islam? How could they share in the so-called eucharists of the Greek Orthodox religion, or participate in that offered by the Roman Catholics? How could they share with the Methodists or Baptists? Assemblies of God? Presbyterians? Episcopalians? So-called Disciples of Christ? Lutherans? Fake churches of Christ, or compromised Christian churches? How could they share "communion" with any of the thousands of denominations out there who "have a form of godliness" but deny its power? Would they provoke THE LORD to jealousy?
That They May Be Saved
Free in Christ! Free at last! Free at last! But what does that mean? Over the centuries God has used political freedom and political tyranny, slave holders and slaves, to communicate the difference between slavery to sin and freedom in Christ. One of the great lessons exhibited in the inspired records of Israelís history, and confirmed in the experiences of the Roman republic and the American republic, is that only a self-governed, reasonably disciplined people can remain free. When the public begins to lack discipline, and heads down the road of being dissolute, then that same people at some point no longer have the capacity to be free; they disintegrate into being ruled by tyrants. Liberty is lost through those who become libertine. In Christ, then, is true freedom of the spirit. But as political freedom can be lost through lack of discipline, so the saint is warned about his behavior under liberty. "For you were called to freedom, brethren," the apostle Paul reminded the saints in the Roman province of Galatia, "only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another" (Galatians 5:13). "Act as free men," was Peterís contribution, "and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond-slaves of God" (I Peter 2:16). Liberty in Christ must be managed!
- Meat from pagan sacrifices - Paulís lengthy discussion in regard to meat offered to idols, with its related side-bars, began in chapter eight. The follower of Christ is free to eat such meat when it is offered in the market place because he knows that idols are Satan-backed figments of peopleís imaginations. If no one brings the topic up, the saint is free to eat such meat when he is a guest at someone elseís house. But if someone points out that the meat on the table was sacrificed to idols, the Christian is to back away from it, in order not to weaken the consciences of the others present. "For why," is Paulís rhetorical question, "is my freedom judged by anotherís conscience?" (I Corinthians 10:29). "If I partake with thankfulness," he adds, "why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks?" (I Corinthians 10:30). The point of these queries has to do with the attitude of the saint who so partakes. Of course he has the freedom to eat any of this meat with thanksgiving ("saying grace"). But if he eats such meat when it is clearly meat offered to idols, and he as a Christian partakes anyway, of course he is going to be slandered. But that meat as food cannot be so important to the Christian brother that he is willing to overthrow the consciences of weaker saints or prospects for the gospel. His liberty in Christ is limited by the other manís conscience.
- For the glory of God - The issue is not about the outer limits of what a Christian can do; it is about what is profitable for God and the salvation of othersí souls. "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do," is Paulís encouragement, "do all to the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31). And how is that to be practically accomplished? "Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God," is Paulís exordium; drawing upon his personal example that he has reluctantly put forth over the course of this discussion, "just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved" (I Corinthians 10:32,33).
God is glorified when saints are conscious of the impact of their actions on others, and how it may impact their desire to be open to the gospel. "By this is My Father glorified," affirmed the Lord Jesus Himself, "that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples" (John 15:8). In that context, therefore, the apostle Paul issued this positive challenge, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" (I Corinthians 11:1).