Staying in the Game
1 Corinthians 10:1-12
Introduction: Many years ago when I was the Awana Commander at our church, I can remember getting ready for the Awana Olympics. One of our leaders was a real stickler for the rules and it seemed as though she looked for every infraction possible in order to disqualify the clubbers from the events. I can almost still hear her yelling, “YOURE DISQUALIFIED” at the top of her lungs and see her grabbing the unsuspecting child as the rounded the pin. It seemed to make her day!
If you remember, in chap. nine Paul’s concern was that he would not be disqualified from receiving the prize that was waiting him when he got to heaven. He wanted to win the race of being a follower of Jesus and he wanted others to win too. In chap. 10 he continues to stress the importance of staying in the game and being able to claim the prize that comes from faithfully serving the Lord. He uses a history lesson to teach the Corinthians the severity of losing focus and squandering their opportunities. He wants those who perhaps considered themselves to be a bit superior, to realize that they were vulnerable to becoming disqualified from claiming their prize.
As we take a look at this brief history lesson may we too learn to be careful and to stay qualified.
1. Blessings and opportunities vv. 1-4
a. Paul first outlines five blessings that the Israelites enjoyed because God had favored them.
i. Supernatural guidance and protection from the pillar of cloud. Ex. 13:21, 14:19-20
ii. Miraculous deliverance as they passed through the Red Sea. Ex. 14 21-28
iii. Spirit led leadership as the servant Moses led them as God directed. Ex 14:31.
iv. Spiritual food as God sent them “angel food” every day. Ps. 78:25
v. Spiritual drink as God provided water from rocks in the desert. Ex. 17:6
b. Notice that all of the people had been exposed to these blessings. The word “all” is used five times in describing the participation level in each of these miraculous events.
c. Wouldn’t you have liked to be there to experience some of these miracles? Wouldn’t we be rejuvenated in our dedication to the Lord if we had been there?
d. In one way, we actually are there!
i. Jesus Christ has come and is the light of the world and has promised to never leave us or forsake us.
ii. He has miraculously delivered us from the enemies of sin, death, and Satan.
iii. We are members of the body of Christ and follow the leadership of Jesus.
iv. We have eaten of the true bread from heaven. John 6 31-34
v. We have drunk of the living water and will never thirst again. John 4:13,14
e. How privileged we are to have these spiritual blessings and advantages. We should be overjoyed with our relationship with the Living God. We should be living by faith and excited to see how God is going to use us as His servants. What blessings, what opportunities are ours. How do we respond to what is in front of us?
f. I hope we do better than the Israelites did! The next thing that Paul tells them should catch our attention as well.
2. Failures and punishments vv. 5-10
a. In spite of the fact that they had everything going for them because God was personally seeing to it that their needs were not only met but surpassed, most of them blew it!
b. Most like seem like a bit of an understatement because looking back at history we would have to say that nearly all of the did! Caleb and Joshua were the only adults over the age of twenty that survives the forty years in the wilderness.
c. Parallel to the five blessings and advantages that they had, Paul lists five failures and corresponding punishments.
i. They craved the evil things that were in Egypt. It was evil in the sense that they showed a disdain for the things that God had provided specifically the food that they ate. They had an appetite for what they had felt that they had left behind when they followed the Lord and complained until God gave them what they wanted. They lusted after something other than what God had supplied and the paid the price. In Numbers 11:34 we are told that the people died because of a plague spawned by their lusting and were buried in a cemetery called, “the graves of craving”. The Corinthians were told not to eat meat if it offended their brothers!
ii. Three thousand more of them died when Moses did not return from the mountain as quickly as expected and the people got involved in idolatry. Ex. 32:28. Evidently the Corinthians were not only having trouble eating meat offered to idols. In 10:14 they are told to flee from idolatry.
iii. Twenty-three thousand more died in a single day because of sexual immorality toward the Moabite women and following the false god of Baalpeor. The Corinthians had also been warned about immorality in the church.
iv. Multitudes of people lost their lives when they spoke against God and His servant Moses and questioning why God would bring them out of Egypt only to die in the wilderness? Number 21:4-6. The Corinthians also had become puffed up with their so called knowledge that they knew more than the Apostles or even God.
v. In Numbers 16:41-49, 14,700 perished after murmuring against the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Atonement was quickly applied by the burning censer from the altar of God or the whole congregation would have perished. The Corinthians were perhaps complaining against the leadership that god had placed in their church.
d. All of these people had experienced the awesome power of the Lord as He provided and protected them but unfortunately most of them chose to experience the chastening of the Lord because they failed to obey Him.
e. I would think that Paul would have had their attention and that the Corinthians would be ready to fall in line before such a God who is to be feared and reverenced.
f. How about us? Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t send a plague when we complain about His provision or His servants? God could disqualify us because of our disobedience but He would much rather reward us for faithfulness.
3. Examples and warnings vv.11,12
a. Notice that warnings and examples are posted throughout this passage.
b. It starts with verse 1 where Paul says that he does not want us to be ignorant or uninformed that there have been others who disqualified themselves from finishing the race well.
c. Verse 6 informs us that the failures were recorded for the benefit of our learning. Again in verse 11 we are reminded that these examples were given for our instruction. They are given as a warning.
d. Some warnings must be heeded. This is one of those important ones. There is danger here. Be careful because many have become disqualified and wasted their lives who had an advantage over you.
e. Paul sums up the entire warning with the words of verse 12. Self confidence and self reliance will make you very susceptible to failure.
f. To the Corinthians who saw themselves as the stronger Christians and able to express all their freedoms even when a weaker brother was present Paul says watch out, your not that strong. You might become disqualified.
g. Keep your body under submission or you may fall prey to immorality as did the Israelites and have to sit on the sidelines while others compete for the prize.
h. To those who were puffed up with knowledge that they were ready to be deflated.
Conclusion: God does not want to call us out! He wants to see us compete for the prize that He has reserved in heaven for us. We too should learn from the examples that have been revealed to us and be all the more determined to compete with excellence!
1 Corinthians 10:1-12 (NASB95)
1 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.
5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.
6 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.
7 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.
11 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 that he does not fall.