Don’t think that your baptism and taking the Lord’s Supper will save
you if you rebel against God. Israel was baptized in the Red Sea and ate
spiritual food in the presence of God — and yet nearly all of them died before crossing the Jordan!
I don’t know how anyone reconciles this warning with the doctrine of
the Perseverance of the Saints. I think Paul and the rest of the
scriptures teach that Christians will generally make it to the end and
be saved, but I also think that rebellion is possible and will damn.
This is, indeed, a major theme of Hebrews, beginning in chapter 3 and
culminating in chapter 10. It’s quite possible that this extended
treatment of falling away in Hebrews was based on this teaching of Paul.
Both compare the Christian life with the Exodus, and both conclude that
Christians can fall away for rebellion as did Israel —
(Heb 3:13-19 NIV) 13 But encourage one another
daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be
hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if
indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. 15 As
has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your
hearts as you did in the rebellion.” 16 Who were they who heard and
rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with
whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned,
whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear
that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19
So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
Paul then warns the Corinthians against particular sins that the Israelites committed —
(1Co 10:6-8 TNIV) 6 Now these things occurred as
examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.
7 Do 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.” 8
We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did–and in one
day twenty-three thousand of them died.
triumphal hymn of
unquestionably a religious character about it; but the employment of
music in religious
though idolatrous, is more distinctly marked
in the festivities which attended the erection of the golden calf."
(Smith's Bible Dictionary, Music, p. 589).
Acts 7:41 And they made a calf in those days,
and offered sacrifice unto the idol,
and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.
Euphrainō , Ep. euphr-, fut. Att.155.12, Pi.I.7(6).3
Pind. I. 6 Just as we mix the second bowl of wine when the men's symposium is
flourishing, here is the second song of the Muses for Lampon's children
and their athletic victories: first in Nemea, Zeus, in your honor they
received the choicest of garlands,
This is the Crooked Race we are warned to save ourselves FROM.
Pind. I. 7 In which of the local glories of the past, divinely blessed Thebe, did
you most delight your spirit? Was it when you raised to eminence the
one seated beside Demeter of the clashing bronze cymbals,
flowing-haired  Dionysus? Or when you received, as a snow-shower of
gold in the middle of the night, the greatest of the gods,
when he stood in the doorway of Amphitryon, and then went in to the
wife to beget Heracles?
But since ancient grace sleeps, and mortals are forgetful
of whatever does not reach the highest bloom of skillful song, joined to glorious streams of words,
then begin the victory procession with a sweet-singing hymn for Strepsiades;
Aristoph. Ach. 5 I was
in ecstasy and I love the Knights for this deed; ‘it is an honour to
Greece.’ But the day when I was impatiently awaiting a piece by
Aeschylus, what tragic despair it caused me when the herald called,
“Theognis, introduce your Chorus!” Just imagine how this blow struck
straight at my heart!
Xen. Sym. 7.5 However, these questions also fail to promote the same object that wine
does; but if the young people were to have a flute accompaniment and
dance figures depicting the Graces, the Horae,
and the Nymphs, I believe that they would be far less wearied
themselves and that the charms of the banquet would be greatly
Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the
host of heaven;
as it is written in the book of the prophets,
O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain
beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the
wilderness? Acts 7:42
Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the
star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to
worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon. Acts
The phrase “setting our hearts on evil things” in v. 6 refers to Num 11:4 —
(Num 11:4-6 NIV) 4 The rabble with them began to
crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If
only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no
cost– also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now
we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”
Paul choose this word from the Septuagint —
(Num 11:34 ESV) Therefore the name of that place was
called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had
In short, remember that God struck down the Israelites who complained for meat.
The quotation in v. 7 is from Exo 32:6, referring to the golden calf,
in which eating and drinking are associated with idolatry. Remember:
we’re still discussing meats offered to idols!
In v. 8, Paul refers to Num 25:1-9,
(Num 25:1-2 ESV) While Israel lived in Shittim, the
people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. 2 These invited the
people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed
down to their gods.
Another reference to idolatrous eating.
(1Co 10:9-10 ESV) 9 We must not put Christ to the
test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor
grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.
Yet two more references to the Israelites being punished because they complained about a lack of food.
(Num 21:5-6 ESV) 5 And the people spoke against God
and against 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
worthless food.” 6 Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people,
and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.
Paul’s reference to the Destroyer is to the Passover and the death
angel. In this case, the eating of the sacrificed lamb — meat — saved
Now, it’s a little odd that Paul refers to the event in Num 21 as putting Christ
to the test. There are ancient manuscripts that replace “Christ” with
“the Lord” or “God,” but textual critics believe “Christ” to be original
here. After all, why would a copyist change “God” to “Christ” in this
Hays suggests the parallel between the two halves of
this verse does not necessarily imply that that Israelites had put
Christ to the test. Paul could be understood to say “We should not put
Christ to the test like some of them tested God.”
On the other hand, Paul has already identified Christ with the
rock which provided water (and followed Israel) in 10:4 and in Exod.
17:2, 7, the people of Israel are twice described as testing “the Lord,”
perhaps leading to Paul identify Christ the Lord as the one tested
there. Furthermore, in Num. 21:6 it is “the Lord” who sends the serpents
in response to the complaining.
Paul has already identified Christ as “the Lord” named in the
Shema (see on 1 Cor. 8:6) making the identification between Christ and
the Lord in those other OT texts a natural one. Numbers 21:5-6 is
probably being read in the light of Psalm 78:18 where the incident is
related to craving food, a theme found throughout this passage.
The Corinthians are warned against following the example of those
in Israel who tested the Lord’s patience by insisting on eating the
food they crave or desire even if it entails provoking him. Such
insolence can expect to be met with judgment.
The theme of testing the Lord will be raised again in vv. 21-22
when Paul warns against provoking the Lord and the motif of God’s
strength (see the comments there). While Paul would certainly vehemently
oppose any behavior or attitudes that could be interpreted as putting
the Lord to the test, the context indicates that his present concern is
with the possibility of testing the Lord’s patience through
participation in idolatrous activities. In Corinth that was most likely
to happen through persistent consumption of food associated with idols.
Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians (Pillar NTC; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 462-463 (paragraphing added).
I quote this lengthy discussion in the Pillar Commentary to make this
point: Rather than treating the God of the Old Testament as the source
of Divine Wrath and Jesus as our Protector and Shield from God’s Anger —
as though Jesus were somehow unlike the Torah’s YHWH, Paul goes well
out of his way to associate Jesus of Nazareth with the severe
punishments meted out to the Israelites for their complaining about food. Paul says Jesus killed the ungrateful, complaining Israelites.
Therefore, Paul is saying, don’t take the servant-hearted Messiah who
died on the cross for you to be some sort of pushover. He is not to be
trifled with — and certainly not over meat!
An example is a PATTERN: the pattern was
vocal and instrumental rejoicing when the only assembly was called to
listen to the WORD of GOD only. Both Jews and Gentiles attended the
synagogue called a skhole or READING ASSEMBLY and were therefore wise
unto salvation defined in the prophets by Christ:
(1Co 10:11-12 ESV) 11 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. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks
that he stands take heed lest he fall.
Acts 15:21 For Moses
of old time hath
in every city
them that PREACH him,
being READ in the synagogues every sabbath [rest] day.
Is it possible to fall? Yes. What might cause that? Being more
concerned about your stomach than your brother. Will the grace of Jesus
protect you? Not necessarily. Jesus will treat rebellion today just as
he treated it in the Sinai desert.
Of course, not all sin and not all doctrinal error is rebellion. As
Heb 10:26-27 makes clear, the sin must be a continuing, deliberate
rejection of the will of God.