1 Corinthians 10:5. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
Paul starts 1 Corinthians 10 with a beautiful reminder of who we are in Christ. We are ALL baptized into Christ, and we have all participated with Christ by eating and drinking the spiritual food and water which is his own life. He shows us our identity by connecting our experience as the church with Israel’s experience. They were the people of God, now we are the people of God too, having been brought into the New Covenant with Israel.
But then comes the warning in our verse above. Not a warning from smugness. But a warning from fatherly love.
Just because you are in Christ does not mean that you can’t begin to live a life that displeases God. And it doesn’t mean you can run after idolatry, sexual sin, or fleshly selfishness without facing the displeasure of God. These things are simply incompatible with the life of Christ inside of you.
Let me pause and try to be very clear. Because you are in Christ, YOU, by your very nature, are pleasing to God. But, your behavior can still be self-promoting and self-seeking. Our position in Christ is always secure, but our condition can be a train wreck at times.
Remember, that’s exactly the way the Corinthians were living. The ones who were “strong” and “spiritual,” and even had the right answers, were offending the “weaker” Christians and creating huge divisions in the church. Some were even mixing Christianity with idolatry and sexual immorality and calling it freedom. Then the “weak” Christians were being shamed into similar practices. It’s in the middle of all this mess that we find Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 10:5, and his comparison of their sin to Israel’s sin in 10:6-12.
We must not take this warning lightly. Notice Paul’s language – they were overthrown in the wilderness. Why? Because of their idolatry, sexual immorality, and putting Jesus (Yahweh their guide) to the test. Oh yeah, they were also overthrown in the wilderness for their grumbling.
1 Corinthians 10:9-10. 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.
Our freedom in Christ does not magically prevent these sins in our life. We have all seen Christians succumb to these things. Um, let’s be honest, we have all seen ourselves succumb to these things. If you think you haven’t – Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall (10:12).
You may be thinking that you have never put Christ to the test. But anytime we take Christ’s grace for granted. Anytime we presuppose that he will just forgive us and move on. Any time we choose to grumble, complain, doubt, or worry about God’s provision. Anytime we transfer our anger onto Christ. Anytime we blame others without seeking reconciliation. Anytime we slip into trusting anything other than his love and grace (idolatry). Anytime we act upon our bodily desires with no regard for their spiritual connection. Yes, you have put Christ to the test. And so have I.
But here’s the glorious truth of “to live is Christ:” Christ will pass that test because he has passed that test already. If we have Christ is in us, may we never put Christ to the test. But since we are in Christ, when we do put Christ to the test, he has already passed that test. He already forgiven you, loved you, filled you with his grace and power.
And here’s the second glorious truth of “to live is Christ:”
1 Corinthians 10:13. 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.
Because Christ HAS passed the test, you CAN pass the test each and every day. God is faithful. He will provide the way of escape and the ability to endure it until that escape comes. How do I know? Because he already has provided the ultimate escape and the ultimate endurance through Jesus Christ himself and your union with him.
Do you find yourself taking grace for granted? Putting Christ to the test? Have you allowed grace to empower holiness in your life? How can the truth of your union with Christ serve to remind you that you are pleasing to God and that your life needs to be pleasing to God?