1 Corinthians 10a
1 Corinthians 10:1-5… For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.
The Apostle Paul was a Jew, and when he says “our fathers” he is referring to his own people – the Jews. The “fathers” here refer to the Jews who came out of Egyptian captivity under Moses in 1446 BC. These Jews became the nation of Israel and thrived as a people. Paul, writing sometime around AD 55, was a descendant of these people. Hence, he calls them “our fathers.”
The people he refers to in v. 1 “were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea.” The “cloud” is a reference to Exodus 13:21. God was going before the Israelites in the desert in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. In Ex. 14:19-20 this same cloud is said to be “the angel of God” who moved in behind the Israelites to protect them from the Egyptians who pursued them. The cloud was God, and He was leading and protecting His people whom He had led out of Egyptian captivity through Moses. These people also “passed through the sea” – a reference to Ex. 14:21-28 where God parted the Red Sea so His people could pass through it. Verse two adds a third historical reminder that sums up the theological meaning of their deliverance from Egypt: they were thus “baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” Normally baptism refers to a ceremony where water is used to symbolize a cleansing from sins. However, though some have taken the above passage to mean that the Israelites (Jews) were sprinkled with rain from the cloud and/or immersed in the water from the sea, this is not the intended meaning. The “cloud” is the presence of God (Shekinah), and the sea was parted so that the people walked through on dry ground, so traditional baptism is not what is referred to here. Since water baptism identifies believers with Christ (Rom. 6:1-10) and is an outward sign of spiritual union with Christ (like wedding rings), the meaning above is that the Israelites were baptized into Moses in that they were identified with him as God’s appointed leader over them.
In verse 3 Paul continues by reminding his readers that the same people also “ate the same spiritual food” – a reference to the “manna” (bread from heaven) that God gave them each day (Ex. 16:4, 15), and in v. 4 he reminds them that they all “drank the same spiritual drink” – a reference to Ex. 17:6 and Numbers 20:1-13 which gives the account of water coming from a rock. Paul says that the “rock” was Jesus, and since the Exodus reference marked the beginning of Israel’s wanderings while the Numbers reference marked the end of those wanderings, it is evident that Jesus Christ, as the rock, followed the Israelites throughout their journeys.
Food for Thought
Verse 5 says, “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.” What a sad commentary on a people who experienced God’s blessings and protection the way they did to have behaved in such a way that God “was not well-pleased” and, as a result, they were “laid low in the wilderness.” They were literally “strewn over” the wilderness – a reference to their deaths in the desert due to disobedience.
Those people took God for granted. They felt they’d arrived because God took such great care of them. But since their behaviors were not pleasing to God, He killed them. They identified themselves with God as His people, but they weren’t with God. Their behavior said otherwise. If you take refuge in having been baptized, or having attended church all your life, and you think that holds weight with God… think again. Our obedience to God proves if we belong to Him.
1 Corinthians 10:6-10… Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved. 7 And do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” 8 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
The record of the God’s people coming out of Egyptian slavery, crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, eating bread from heaven, and drinking water from a rock – the rock of Christ – and their subsequent rejection of God through disobedience was actually, according to v. 6, an account given to Christians “as examples… that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved.” In other words, what happened to the Israelites is not just an ancient story in the Bible but an ancient lesson applicable for the present day. They tasted of God’s goodness, saw His presence, watched Him fight for them, and provide for their food and drink in the desert. Yet they didn’t trust Him. Their actions showed that they didn’t belong to Him spiritually. God’s hand didn’t save Israel spiritually as a nation, but their deliverance is a symbol of salvation for individuals under the New Covenant of Jesus Christ inaugurated by his shed blood on the cross.
Even though the Israelites in 1446 BC were delivered by God, they “craved evil things.” The word for “crave” means “one who greatly desires.” The Israelites, in spite of the fact that God was leading and providing for them, greatly desired evil things. Verse 7 says that some were “idolaters.” This is peculiar in that the One God who was demonstrating His power in their presence was being put aside for pagan idols who were nothing more than pieces of wood and metal. The people “craved” the idols rather than the One True God. When Moses went up to receive the Ten Commandments in Exodus 32 from God on Mount Sinai the people acted like teen-agers left alone at home without parents. They made a golden calf to worship, and after feasting “they stood up to play” – a euphemism for sexual revelry. So, after God delivers them from Egypt by His mighty hand, they “worship” Him with disobedience and sexual misconduct.
In v. 8 Paul references another sin Israel committed to teach the Corinthians. He speaks of an event that occurred in Numbers 25:1-9 where the Israelites committed more blatant sexual sins by intermarrying with the pagan peoples. God sent a plague that Paul says killed “23,000 in one day.” The Numbers account says that 24,000 died in all. Paul is clearly referring to the fact that 23,000 fell in ONE day while the other 1,000 must have died soon thereafter.
In v. 9 Paul references the account of the venomous snakes that killed the many who grew impatient with God in Numbers 21:4-9. And in v. 10 Paul references the account in Numbers 16:41-50 where the Israelites grumbled against God – and God killed almost 15,000 of them in a plague as a result. They were “destroyed by the destroyer.”
Food for Thought
The Israelites in the examples above were idolaters and sexual perverts (all sex outside of marriage between husband and wife is perverted). They greatly desired to do evil (describes folks who act contrary to any scriptural mandate). They grew impatient with God, and they also cursed Him. This sounds like some “Christians” I know! Notice that God hates all sin from sexual sin to simply griping about our lot in life. Those who did so died without seeing the Promised Land God was leading them into. As Christians our Promised Land is our eternal dwelling with Jesus Christ. Let us not forfeit that cherished prize because of disobedience.
1 Corinthians 10:11-13… Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure.
The entire context of 1 Corinthians 8-10 has to do with Christian liberty and its limitations. Paul’s main focus group were the Christian “libertarians.” Their problem was that they were offending others, causing them to act contrary to their faith by eating meat offered to idols. Eating the meat wasn’t sinful but offending their brothers brought about Paul’s rebuke.
The events described in 1 Corinthians 10:1-10 were sad stories concerning unfaithful Israel. They saw God’s power and experienced His wrath, yet they ignored Him in favor of their own lustful appetites. They were so self-absorbed and so worldly that they just took God for granted, and as a result suffered greatly. Paul said that those accounts were “written for our instruction” – they were “examples.” This gives great credence to the exhortation to read the Bible regularly – even the OT stories – so as to be reminded of the events of the past. Romans 15:4 says, “Everything written in the Scriptures was written to teach us, in order that we might have hope through the patience and encouragement which the Scriptures give us.” To fail to read the scriptures is to live in ignorance of the events of the past, written to teach and instruct.
Paul adds that the events of the past are for those living in the present, and he describes those people as those “upon whom the ends of the ages have come” which is a clear indication that in Paul’s mind we are living in a time that is close to the end. Verse 12 draws a conclusion to the matter by instructing the readers, in light of the fact that the end is upon us, to “take heed lest he fall.” This is an indirect reference to the haughty Christians who were flaunting their freedoms and causing others to fall by their bad example. They were to beware because of the timeless principle that “pride goes before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18). Their pride was going to prove to be their downfall in the same way that the Israelites of old were taken down by their smug feeling that God loved them above all others because he led them out of the Egyptian captivity.
The temptations these Corinthians were having are addressed in v. 13. Paul relates to them the fact that there are no temptations given to Christians that are designed to overtake them completely. All temptations are common to all people, but God is faithful in that He won’t allow temptations to overtake us. In addition, He always provides a way of escape from each situation “that [we] may endure.” In other words, God is sovereign over our temptations, and He tests us through them. He won’t allow anything to overtake us, and He never leaves us without an out.
Food for Thought
Being a Christian is serious business, never to be taken lightly. We have liberty to behave as we wish, but we are not to offend others with our liberties. As children of God we have been warned not to take God’s grace for granted like the Israelites did. They griped and complained; they indulged their lusts and acted arrogantly in light of the fact that God was leading them. Their attitudes took them down, however, and the whole point here is for us to steer clear of the same trap. If God so punished those who were not His true children (obedience is the indicator), how much more so will He discipline His elect children who are called by His name? Let us take heed lest we fall. We live in the end times of humanity, and no matter how difficult our trials are, God provides us strength and a way out when the temptations to sin become too strong for us.
1 Corinthians 10:13
Above that ye are able. Not above that ye think ye are able! A way to escape. Literally, the way out, the suitable and necessary one. This is not an escape from temptation, nor simply a hope of strength to overcome in the future, but a present power to endure in the midst of temptation (cf. Heb 2:18), a glorious promise for the sorely tried.
Paul’s third warning was that God can enable us to overcome temptation if we heed His Word (vv. 13–22). God permits us to be tempted because He knows how much we can take; and He always provides a way to escape if we will trust Him and take advantage of it. The believer who thinks he can stand, may fall; but the believer who flees will be able to stand.
Paul had already told his readers to “flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18);
After kicking out the props of false security, Paul pointed toward the One on whom the Corinthians could rely. The temptations that seized the Corinthians were like those people had always faced. They could be met and endured by depending on God, who is faithful. Part of the Corinthian problem, of course, was that some in the face of temptation were not looking for a way out by endurance, but a way in for indulgence.
Let others take their own way of interpreting this. For my part, I am of opinion that it was intended for their consolation, lest on hearing of such appalling instances of the wrath of God, as he had previously related, they should feel discouraged, being overpowered with alarm. Hence, in order that his exhortation might be of advantage, he adds, that there is room for repentance. “There is no reason why you should despond; for I have not had it in view to give you occasion for despair, nor has anything happened to you but what is common to men.” Others are of opinion that he rather chides their cowardice in giving way, on being so slightly tried; and unquestionably the word rendered human is sometimes taken to mean moderate. The meaning, then, according to them would be this: “Did it become you thus to give way under a slight trial?” But as it agrees better with the context, if we consider it as consolation, I am on this account rather inclined to that view.
But God is faithful. As he exhorted them to be of good courage as to the past, in order that he might stir them up to repentance, so he also comforts them as to the future with a sure hope, on the ground that God would not suffer them to be tempted beyond their strength. He exhorts them, however, to look to the Lord, because a temptation, however slight it may be, will straightway overcome us, and all will be over with us, if we rely upon our own strength. He speaks of the Lord, as faithful, not merely as being true to his promises, but as though he had said. The Lord is the sure guardian of his people, under whose protection you are safe, for he never leaves his people destitute. Accordingly, when he has received you under his protection, you have no cause to fear, provided you depend entirely upon him. For certainly this were a species of deception, if he were to withdraw his aid in the time of need, or if he were, on seeing us weak and ready to sink under the load, to lengthen out our trials still farther.
Now God helps us in two ways, that we may not be overcome by the temptation; for he supplies us with strength, and he sets limits to the temptation. It is of the second of these ways that the Apostle here chiefly speaks. At the same time, he does not exclude the former — that God alleviates temptations, that they may not overpower us by their weight. For he knows the measure of our power, which he has himself conferred. According to that, he regulates our temptations. The term temptation I take here as denoting, in a general way, everything that allures us.
Consolation to them, under their temptation; it is none but such as is “common to man,” or “such as man can bear,” “adapted to man’s powers of endurance” [Wahl].
faithful—(Ps 125:3; Is 27:3, 8; Rev 3:10). “God is faithful” to the covenant which He made with you in calling you (1Th 5:24). To be led into temptation is distinct from running into it, which would be “tempting God” (1Co 10:9; Mt 4:7).
way to escape—(Je 29:11; 2Pe 2:9). The Greek is, “the way of escape”; the appropriate way of escape in each particular temptation; not an immediate escape, but one in due time, after patience has had her perfect work (Jam 1:2–4, 12). He “makes” the way of escape simultaneously with the temptation which His providence permissively arranges for His people.
to bear it—Greek, “to bear up under it,” or “against it.” Not, He will take it away (2Co 12:7–9).
Hath taken (εἰληφεν [eilēphen]). Perfect active indicative of λαμβανω [lambanō]. But such as man can bear (εἰ μη ἀνθρωπινος [ei mē anthrōpinos]). Except a human one. Old adjective meaning falling to the lot of man. Above that ye are able (ὑπερ ὁ δυνασθε [huper ho dunasthe]). Ellipsis, but plain. There is comfort in that God is faithful, trustworthy (πιστος [pistos]). The way of escape (την ἐκβασιν [tēn ekbasin]). “The way out” is always there right along with (συν [sun]) the temptation. This old word only here in N.T. and Heb. 13:7 about death. It is cowardly to yield to temptation and distrustful of God. 
The Danger of Overconfidence
II) The Assets of Liberty (1-4)
A) Liberation from Egypt “under the cloud”
1) Exodus 13:21
2) Exodus 14:19-20 “angel of God” is the cloud
B) Baptism into Moses
1) Exodus 14:21-28
2) Baptism associated with identification w/Moses as leader
C) Spiritual Sustenance
1) Exodus 16:4, 15 for manna (cf. John 6:41ff.)
2) Exodus 17:6 & Numbers 20:1-13 (Jesus followed the whole time)
(a) Bread was Jesus (John 6)
(b) Rock (“petra”) was Jesus
III) The Abuses of Liberty (5-10)
A) Idolatry (Exodus 32)
B) Sexual Immorality (Numbers 25:1-9)
1) Sinned by intermarrying and worshipping pagan gods
2) Phinehas killed man and woman in the act
3) God’s plague killed 23,000 in ONE day (Numbers account says 24,000)
C) Trying God (Numbers 21:4-9)
1) They spoke against God and Moses
2) God sent serpents to kill the sinners
3) Provided salvation through a bronze serpent
D) Complaining (Numbers 16:41-50)
1) People grumbled against Moses and Aaron for the Dathan, Korah, Abihu incident
2) God killed 14,700 people
IV) The Application of Liberty (10-13)
A) READ the OT for instruction and examples (cf. Romans 15:4)
B) Be READY, he end is near for Christians
C) RID yourself of libertarian pride
D) REMEMBER “no excuses” when tempted and tried
Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett Falconer Harrison, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary : New Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), 1 Co 10:11.
Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, "An Exposition of the New Testament Comprising the Entire 'BE' Series"--Jkt. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989), 1 Co 10:1.
John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985), 2:527.
John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries, electronic ed., electronic ed. (Garland, TX: Galaxie Software, 2000), 1 Co 10:13.
Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, A. R. Fausset et al., A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, On Spine: Critical and Explanatory Commentary. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 1 Co 10:13.
A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol.V c1932, Vol.VI c1933 by Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1997), 1 Co 10:13.