Lessons from the Past

1 Corinthians   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:01:59
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~Warnings to Heed for the Undisciplined


As many of you well know, we’ve been working through the book of 1 Corinthians. A book filled with instructions for a young, immature, and oftentimes very carnal church. Paul has already addressed many of the primary issues in the church in the beginning of the letter and has now moved onto answering the specific questions that they had regarding Christian living. We are now in the section where Paul addressed the question of “food offered to idols”. As has been noted many times, Paul address of the subject isn’t to specifically talk about that issue but a much broader topic to which this one fits in: that of Christian liberty.
Paul has already discussed with them what the Word of God has to say on it in chapter 8. How that liberties must never be pursued over care and concern for brothers and sisters in Christ. Sacrificing one’s personal rights for the sake of another. The principle of self-sacrificing love and devotion to another rather than self. Paul then turns his reader’s attention to how that he not only shared with them what is correct, but in how he himself was a prime example of it. We took note of the leadership principles found in his example in chapter 9. Paul closes that section with inspirational words of discipline and self-control so as for them to live a life worthy of the call of God and make the sacrifices he himself has made. These big moments of God’s working can only come about when we put our effort into it as an Olympic athlete would their own sport.
With all of this in mind, Paul is still not quite yet finished on the topic of Christian liberties. As we move into chapter 10, we will see that Paul not only gave example of his own life and how God used him to see success and victory in his walk, but example of people in times past who failed regarding the freedom they were given. They didn’t exercise self-control and discipline and ran rampant in their freedom, and it ruined their lives.
Today, we want to listen well to the words of Paul and his “Lesson from the Past- Warnings to Heed for the Undisciplined.”
Read passage 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
1 Corinthians 10:1–13 ESV
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
As we read these verses and try to understand the transition from the previous topic, it becomes apparent that Paul was concerned that they still wouldn’t catch the importance of this topic. Looking back a verse. Paul was still very concerned about their being “disqualified from service.” A metaphor from the Isthmian games. A contestant who failed to meet the training requirements was disqualified. He could not even run, much less win. Paul did not want to spend his life preaching requirements to others and then be disqualified for not meeting the requirements himself nor did he want the Corinthian believer to fail.
As you read this text, you get the impression that perhaps some in the church were perhaps belittling these principles. It isn’t hard to imagine that the Corinthian believer thought and perhaps might have even said to Paul in their letter to him with the questions they gave, that they felt perfectly secure in their Christian lives, that they had arrived.
1 Corinthians: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Chapter 23: The Danger of Overconfidence (10:1–13)

They thought they were strong enough to freely associate with pagans in their ceremonies and social activities and not be affected morally or spiritually, as long as they did not participate in outright idolatry or immorality.

1 Corinthians: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Chapter 23: The Danger of Overconfidence (10:1–13)

Paul tells them they were self-deceived. Abusing their liberty not only harmed weaker believers whose consciences were offended but also endangered their own spiritual lives. They could not live long on the far edge of freedom without falling into temptation and then into sin. The mature, loving Christian does not try to stretch his liberty to the extreme, to see how close to evil he can come without being harmed.

You simply cannot walk the fence. There is no middle ground here. You’re either sold out to Christ or sold out to your flesh.
Matthew 6:24 ESV
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
James 4:4 ESV
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
God Himself testifies that you cannot be satisfied being in the middle..
Revelation 3:16 ESV
So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
So with that being said, Paul begins by telling them “I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers....” this is as if to say I want you to recall the things that our Fathers- the Israelites (their spiritual descendants) went through and what they did and how that all turned out for them. The first thing will discussed is...

I. God’s Actions toward Israel (v. 1-6)

(I)A. His Provisions

Guidance- “were all under the cloud”
Exodus 13:21 ESV
And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.
Freedom - “all passed through the sea”
Exodus 14:22 ESV
And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
Leader - “all were baptized into Moses”
Significance for baptism is identification. Water baptist is an outward sign of spiritual union with Christ. When we trust in Jesus Christ, we are baptized into Him, identified with Him, made one with Him.
Galatians 3:27 ESV
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Paul is explaining when he says that they were baptized into Moses meaning in a sense that they were identified with him as the Lord’s appointed leader over them.
Sustenance - “all ate the same spiritual food”
Exodus 16:15 ESV
When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.
Exodus 16:35 ESV
The people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan.
- “all drank the same spiritual drink”
Exodus 17:6 ESV
Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

The Jews had a popular legend, still known and believed by many in Paul’s day, that the actual rock that Moses struck followed Israel throughout her wilderness travels, providing water wherever they went. I believe the apostle may have been alluding to this legend, saying, “Yes, a rock did follow Israel in the wilderness. But it was not a physical rock that provided merely physical water. It was a spiritual rock, the Messiah (the Hebrew term for Christ) whom you have long awaited, who was with our fathers even then

The point of these affirmations is to recount the privileges that Israel possessed. Much like we ourselves have.
-For the Corinthian believer, they too were given much from God. Saved baptized, well taught, lacking in no gift, given every spiritual blessing.....
We have been given everything we need to succeed.
But like the Israelites, we often fail....
Nehemiah recounts these events in Nehemiah 9:9-15
But how did Israel respond
Nehemiah 9:16 ESV
“But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments.

(I)B. His Reaction

“With Most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.”
Numbers 14:28–34 ESV
Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the Lord, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have rejected. But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, a year for each day, you shall bear your iniquity forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.’
This wasn’t a one time offense...
Again Nehemiah recounts God’s grace to them even after they did these wrongs, and made these idols, and were unthankful, and God was still faithful to them and forgave and continued to lead them...
Nehemiah 9:26 ESV
“Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies.
“These things took place as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did.”
There is great truth in this verse
Proverbs 1:7 ESV
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Hebrews 10:28–31 ESV
Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Let us not forget that God is a righteous God who still does punish sin today. These verses are true of us today.
1 Corinthians 11:27–30 ESV
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

II. Man’s Failure in their Freedom (v. 7-11)

(II)A. Idolatry

Israel’s idolatry wasn’t so much possessions as it is for us, although there were certainly instances of this. There idolatry was literally worshipping of other gods. The golden calf being among many. The origin of idolatry comes from the same place that we struggle. It’s a place of not being content, never being satisfied. Israel longed to be like other nations. They placed idols in their home, they demanded a physical king to rule their people, like the other nations.
We too are never satisfied. Places, stuff, things, events, people… many of these things are good in and of themselves, but they are misplaced in their priority. We long after them more than we long after God. They consume us.
Here’s a real test of whether or not you have idolatry in your life...
John 21:15 ESV
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
Our busy lives could really be our idol. I know this to be true with having kids in the home.
This is a good illustration I saw of Facebook
“parents, one day our children will also stand before King Jesus, and He’ll care little about their grades, batting averages, 3-point percentages, yards per carry, popularity, college transcripts, or class rank. How are we investing in their souls? The one thing He cares about.”
I will admit to you that my wife and I recently discussed this. We are both trying to make disciples. Both of us have a time a week when we spend time together with them. But recently, I’ve been asking myself, is it enough? Is it Biblical or have we once again Americanized discipleship? Paul was with his disciplee’s all the time. Anywhere you see discipleship in scripture there is ongoing personal relationship taking place. And the reason I meet but really once maybe twice a week is because of our busy schedule. Some things are required, Biblically, like my shepherding the flock, like my leading and training my family, like my responsibilities. But I often wonder if there are busy things in my life that I’m holding that I don’t need to! These are keeping me from truly “feeding my lambs” Making disciples.
What about you? What are you doing that keeps you busy? Everyone’s busy. You ask someone how they been and they say busy. But busy with what? It better be feeding God’s lamb’s or something else commanded in scripture or it may just very well be idolatry.

(II)B. Sexual Immorality

In the New Testament, the word most often translated “sexual immorality” is porneia. This word is also translated as “whoredom,” “fornication,” and “idolatry.” It means “a surrendering of sexual purity,” and it is primarily used of premarital sexual relations. From this Greek word we get the English word pornography, stemming from the concept of “selling off.” Sexual immorality is the “selling off” of sexual purity and involves any type of sexual expression outside the boundaries of a biblically defined marriage relationship (Matthew 19:4–5).
Sexuality is God’s design. He alone can define the parameters for its use. The Bible is clear that sex was created to be enjoyed between one man and one woman who are in a covenant marriage until one of them dies (Matthew 19:6). Sexuality is His sacred wedding gift to human beings. Any expression of it outside those parameters constitutes abuse of God’s gift. Abuse is the use of people or things in ways they were not designed to be used. The Bible calls this sin. Adultery, premarital sex, pornography, and homosexual relations are all outside God’s design, which makes them sin.
Hebrews 13:4 makes God’s expectation for His children crystal clear: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” Sexual immorality is wrong. The blood of Jesus can cleanse us from every type of impurity when we repent and receive His forgiveness (1 John 1:7–9). But that cleansing means our old nature, including sexual immorality, is put to death (Romans 6:12–14; 8:13). Ephesians 5:3 says, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.”
Jesus identified that even to look upon a woman with lust is adultery. Matthew 5:28
Many men of God have struggled intensely with this sin. We can certainly recount men like Samson, and David, and Solomon, who obviously fell because of women. We can even see it strikes men in our time. Men like Ravi Zaccharius & the terrible deeds he did when he give into sin. That’s the sickening cycle of sin. It looks so innocent, and small compromises are made and just like David you are neck deep in all kinds of wicked things.
Barna group shared recently in a survey they took that somewhere around 65% of christian men have struggled with pornography. Of that 65% that viewed pornography a good majority stated there was nothing wrong with it.
Be careful little eyes what you see. It’s the second glance that ties the hands as darkness pulls the strings. We must be on alert. This sin is unacceptable to God.

(II)C. Put the Lord to the Test

Numbers 21 gives the story behind this reference. “And the people spoke against God and Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food’ ” (Num. 21:5). God had provided manna to eat and water to drink, but the people were not satisfied. They wanted more variety and more spice. They complained and complained, questioning God’s goodness and trying His patience. They had no concern for pleasing God, only for His pleasing themselves. They did not use their new freedom to serve Him better but to demand that He serve them better.

Christians sometimes use their freedom to push God to the limit, trying to see how much they can get out of Him and how much they can get by with before Him. Ananias and Sapphira sold some property to raise money for the church in Jerusalem. Keeping part of the proceeds for themselves was within their freedom and was not sinful. But they decided to appear more generous by claiming they gave the entire amount, and their lying hypocrisy pushed the Lord too far. They not only lied to God’s people but to God Himself. In rebuking them Peter asked Ananias,

Acts 5:3–4 ESV
But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”
Acts 5:9 ESV
But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”

Many of the Corinthians were pushing their liberty to the limits, to see how much of the flesh they could indulge and how much of the world they could enjoy. They were trying God and risking severe discipline. As some Christians today, they probably said, “This is the age of grace. We are free and God is forgiving. We can’t lose our salvation so why not get everything out of life that we can?”

(II)D. Grumbling

Can you believe that grumbling and complaining is in the same categorical level as sexual immorality. In most of our minds, immortality is the worst of the worst of sins, but grumbling is listed amongst these that would have major consequences for.
Yet her is another example of it found in the Israelites life…
Numbers 16:41 ESV
But on the next day all the congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and against Aaron, saying, “You have killed the people of the Lord.”
God was so bothered by their complaints about His divine justice that He immediately sent a plague that killed 14,700 people.

When God’s people question or complain, they are challenging His wisdom, His grace, His goodness, His love, and His righteousness.

Our need for contentment is not merely for our own well-being, which it is, but for God’s honor and glory. Complaining dishonors our heavenly Father; contentment glorifies Him

We need to learn as Paul did...
Philippians 4:11 ESV
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

III. Our Response to these Lessons (v. 12-13)

(III)A. Overconfident

Take heed lest you fall...
Take heed is an expression that means “to watch carefully, be careful, be vigilant, or be on the lookout.” The word stands in verse 12 refers to “holding one’s ground, being steadfast, or remaining firm in one’s position.”
Proverbs 16:18 ESV
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
-Story of Marriage counseling, and not needing to hear these truths regarding sexual integrity. “We are not like everybody else, will be fine.”
-I know my strengths and weaknesses, that’s not where I’m weak. This is a question of, are we capable of any sin? The apostle Peter famously boasted of his death-defying dedication to Christ: “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death,” he said (Luke 22:33). Jesus’ reply was sobering: “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me” (verse 34). In other words, take heed, Peter, lest you fall. A few minutes later, Jesus tells Peter, James and John, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Matthew 26:41).

(III)B. Certainty of Failure/Doubt of Success

We might feel we can’t win. We don’t want to fall to sin but it feels pointless. Hearing of others failing only makes it more difficult to believe we can have victory. We must importantly remember....
-Where does the strength come from? You or God?
He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, so that you may be able to endure it.
Without God, who is Himself limiting the temptation and who is Himself providing a way of escape; (without Him)you will fail. So without God, we lose. But with God, we can win!
Quote from “who moved the goalpost” about moving past temptation. He doesn’t lead you around it, but through it.
Jesus said,
John 16:33 ESV
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
He doesn’t just vanish it away though, it’s there in your life for the purpose of changing you into His image.
Paul and his companions were sorely tried as they took the gospel into new areas. This is his testimony:
2 Corinthians 1:8–9 ESV
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
It sounds like Paul was tempted beyond what he could bear—“far beyond.” “This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God” (2 Corinthians 1:9).
God hasn’t left us stranded either. He given us many tools. Prayer and your local church are designed for that purpose, but we’ve got to be open and transparent.
James 5:16 ESV
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
If we rely on God’s strength, dwell on Him and yield to His Spirit. Devoting ourselves to prayer and the help of the Church. God will grant us victory but know that these trials and temptations are there to shape us into His image. He will lead us past the temptation on the road to our sanctification.
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