Lesson Four – Jesus Christ, The Rock of Ages

Jesus Christ, the Rock of Ages

Lesson text:  I Cor. 10:1-13.


In this text we are reminded that the Corinthian letters are a part of a complex narrative.  This narrative had its beginning in Acts chapter 18 when Paul arrived in Corinth to preach the kingdom of God (Acts 20:25).  The story was closed out in Acts 20:2-6 as Paul and the brothers from several churches left Corinth with the contribution for the poor saints in Jerusalem (II Cor. 8:16-24; Rom. 15:25-27).  The narrative is set in time and it is geographically oriented.  See Part I, Lesson One.  There was a plot and a plot resolution.  There was a protagonist and antagonists and each had agonists on their team.  See the introduction in Part I, Lesson Two.

We simultaneously read narratives on three levels.  First the individual or complex narrative; however, we must interpret the narrative on the next level in the context of what God was doing through Jesus.  What was Jesus Christ, our Lord, doing with the Apostle Paul in Corinth?  He sent Paul to preach the kingdom of God (Acts 18:9-11; 26:15-18).  On the highest level, we seek to understand the connection between what God was doing right here in this story in relation to His purpose for creating mankind.  What God was doing in Corinth was fulfilling His promises to Abraham to bless all nations (Gen. 12:1-3).  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing “in Christ.”  Eph. 1:3.  Paul preached the kingdom of God and worked with Jesus to build a church for God (Acts 19:6; Eph. 1:22, 23; 2:15-22).  The members of this church who qualify for our inheritance on Judgment Day will be turned back to God in His eternal kingdom (I Cor. 15:24; II Cor. 6:18).  Please review Part I, Lesson Five, “Fitting Time into Eternity.”

Since we are also reading a letter it will be necessary to follow the style of the writer.  Please review item 5 in the Introduction of Part IV, Lesson Two.  The most important question we ask while doing literary analysis is, “Why did the writer say what he said right here?”  How does what he said function in the document?  How does it support the purpose of the document?  We will ask these questions about our text.


There is another principle we want to remember.  We must know what the recipients knew.  The aim of this lesson is to understand what Paul had taught this predominately Gentile church about the topics mentioned in our text.  We want to think about what part of this information he taught them in preparation for their new birth.  What had he taught to prepare their minds and hearts to be spiritually literate – as he thought they should have been (I Cor. 3:1, 2)?  When he said, “Do not go beyond what is written,” it raises the question; “How much had he taught them about what had been written in the Old Testament?”  I Cor. 4:6.  The New Testament was in the process of being written but it was not yet completed.  We will not make a detailed study of each topic we encounter but we do want to be aware of the level of the first century educational program.  The church members in Corinth were not ignorant people (I Cor. 10:1).

God’s story in the Old Testament had its setting in time and place; however, there was a spiritual element in this story for “the children of promise.”  They were, and Christians are the true Israel of God (Rom. 9:8; Gal. 4:31; 6:16; Phil. 3:3).  The people who passed through the sea God opened by the hand of Moses were the physical children of Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3).  A few were motivated by their faith in the promises God made through Abraham’s seed (Gen. 15:4-6).  As Paul pointed out to the Galatians, “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.  The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,” meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.”  Gal. 3:16.  The “children of promise” traveled with physical Israel.  They all drank from the water that proceeded from the rock Moses struck (Numbers 20:11) However, spiritual Israel also “drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”  I Cor. 10:4.  God was not pleased with most of physical Israel; “their bodies were scattered over the desert.”

Paul had already introduced the topics about sexual immorality and idolatry in chapters 5-8.  We ask why Paul added this block of scripture to his letter?  These real stories about the Israelites served as a warning about what he was working with at this point in I Corinthians.  Evidently the church had the Old Testament writings at their disposal.  They could read these stories in the Pentateuch (Ex. 32:5, 6; Num. 14:29; 25:1-9).  We can be sure the Jewish members had a copy.  If not, they could find one at the local synagogue.  The people who desired to be equal with Paul’s position as an apostle certainly had a copy.  This would give them some leverage over the members who had previously been pagans (II Cor. 11:22; I Cor. 5:1, 11).

Surely, the church had been informed and understood how the Jewish children of promise were their forefathers (I Cor. 10:1).  The Galatians Christians knew how, in the final process of the new birth, they had become children of Abraham and God when they put on Christ in baptism (Gal. 3:26-29).  They had been grafted into the rich root of “Israel of promise,” the church (Rom. 11:17- 21).  Jesus built the church of God in Christ with people from all nations who believe Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ.  Jesus said this confession is the rock (Matt. 16:13-19).  This church is being built with sinners who accept the Christ as king and high priest (Acts 2:29-39).  We have been called out of Satan’ kingdom and transferred to God’s kingdom (Col. 1:13, 14).  The apostles were given the keys to God’s kingdom and they used it first in Acts 2:1-4.

The full thought in 10:1-5 encompasses what the Messiah meant to physical Israel as well as the Gentiles.  For “people of faith” who have lived on earth since the fall of mankind in Adam, the Christ meant all the promises God had made to them were now theirs (Heb. 11:39, 40).  For the Gentiles it meant the wall God created between them and the Jews was destroyed (Eph. 2:11-22).  The promises God made to Abraham were to be equally shared by all people (Eph. 3:6).

Jesus’ death on the cross moved “people of faith” status from “copies of heavenly things” to heavenly things.  God’s Holy Spirit dwells in them (Heb. 9:23; Gal. 4:4-7; Eph. 2:6).  The Law of Moses was spiritual in nature but it could only condemn a sinner (Rom. 3:19, 20; 7:14).  The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, the new birth and justification by faith develops a guilt and fear free environment for each faithful Christian.  In this “no condemnation” environment we can fulfill the requirements of the Law (Rom. 8:1-8).  Peter explained for us much of what Paul was writing about in this first thought of our text in I Pet. 1:10-12.  Peter’s confession that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of God, is the “Rock” upon which Jesus is building the church of God throughout the world today (Matt. 16:13-19).  Peter was not the rock, but his confession is still powerful.  How much of all this were the Corinthians taught before and after their new birth?  We must assume they, at the least, had a working knowledge so they could have a working faith.

Each block, or paragraph, of scripture forms a thought.  This thought functions to support the intent of Paul in this portion of his letter.  The power of the block of scripture in 10:1-5 is found in verse five.  God’s people who become entangled in sin again are not in fellowship with Him, unless they repent.  The Israelites who left Egypt were baptized into Moses.  They were freed from slavery; therefore, they were free to develop as God’s family (Ex. 4:22).  “Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.”  I Cor. 10:5.  “Once in grace always in grace” is not a principle of life.  Just the opposite is the intent of this block of scripture.  The Israelites were all freed, but many gave up their freedom because of their immorality and idolatry.

The next thought is found 10:6-10.  In this block we learn why God is not pleased with His people who give up our freedom.  What God is not pleased with comes under the heading of “evil things.”  We have studied about sexual immorality and idolatry.  In this block we are warned about two more evils; “testing God” and “grumbling.”  “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.”  (NIV)  The Greek verb “epithumeo” has been translated “setting our hearts.”  The word is lust in the KJV.  All maturing people “in Adam” lust (Eph. 2:1-3).  All Christians must deal with a tendency to lust because we are still in Adam (I Cor. 15:45-50; Rom. 13:14).  Good has been translated in scriptures from two Greek words; kalos meaning good in character and agothos meaning beneficial.  Evil is translated from kakos in this scripture and it stands in opposition to good.  Anything that is not good is evil.  Mankind became aware of good and evil after Adam and Eve broke covenant (Gen. 3:22).  We are now responsible for discerning good and evil (Heb. 5:14).

The Christian religion is the only religion that has “value in restraining sensual indulgences.”  Col. 2:23.  James warned about being “drawn away” from one’s pure religion by our own lust (evil desire) because we are subject to be enticed.  When lust and the enticement (provision) interact and combine something is conceived.  Christians can give birth to sin in our lives.  See James 1:13-15.  Our sin will reign over our lives and the result is spiritual death.  We are separated from God; consequently, our quality of what we enjoyed as a justified life in Christ has become death.  All Christians are justified sinners, but without justification our quality of life is evil (Rom. 5:21; I Cor. 15:55-58).

What does it mean to “test the Lord?”  (NIV).  “Neither let us tempt Christ.”  (KJV).  The Greek word is Christos from which Christ is transliterated. The story Paul referred to has been recorded in Numbers 21:4-9.  “But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses.”  Even though they had been freed from Egyptian slavery they asked, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the desert?”  This is a favorite question of impatient people when tribulations come upon us.  The accusation imbedded in the Israelite’s question was a lie.  Their question and their exclamations were the test Paul said we should not try to use on Christ, our Lord.  A similar situation was addressed in I Cor. 7:17-24.  A Christians’ responsibility to God is to remain in the same status in life we were in at the time we became Christians; unless, we cannot peaceable change things.  One thing we don’t do is blame God.  It is enough to have been freed from sin and death because Jesus died for us.  Let us now become His slave.  He presented Himself as a similitude of the snake Moses raised for the grumblers to look upon and be healed (John 3:13-15).

Grumbling is a national past time for many people.  It’s too hot, it’s too cold.  I never have any luck and so forth.  This feeds the unhealthy attitude of “jealousy and quarreling.”  See I Cor. 3:1-3.  Although we may have some room to protest about our physical state, for Christians there is no room for protest in our spiritual world.  We don’t boast about men and we don’t grumble about our position in life for; “all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.”  I Cor. 3:21-23.

We must have a complete understanding of the activity in these scriptures to understand the next thought in our text – 10:11-13.  Another grand thought is introduced verse 11; “The fulfillment of the ages has come.”  This is a momentous pronouncement.  We hear numbers from six thousand to six billion years for the calculation of the ages.  Whatever the number, it has no significance in face of knowing we are living in the fulfillment of what all those other ages were about.  Fulfillment from God’s point of view can only mean one thing and that is what He had in mind before the ages began.  The secret wisdom of God will be fulfilled in these last days that were ushered in on the first Pentecost after Jesus returned to heaven (Acts 2:1).  “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him – but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.”  I Cor. 2:9, 10.  “He will keep us strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  I Cor. 1:8.  We will not say more because a book could be written about what God has done in these “ages” with mankind.   And it has been written.  It is called the Bible.

“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”  10:12.  Parents often make this kind of statement to our children.  What parents mean to say; “be careful, things may not be as they seem.”  Perhaps, this is the context in which this statement was written (I Cor. 4:14, 15).  The boasting factor could be coming into play again (I Cor. 1:31).  It might suggest they did not perceive of what was happening in their spiritual life.  They were in trouble because they had begun to rally around men.  Perhaps it had a broader connotation based on the following:

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.”  “Common to man” has been translated from anthropinos – human.  It is what we mean when we say mankind, the manner of man.   So what is common to man?  It means the way we are: our four capabilities, endowments and innate needs.  See Part II, Lesson One.  The way God created us in two parts for His purpose to have children is common to man (II Cor. 4:16; 6:18).  Our spirits came from God and they are now housed in the “fallen man” body of Adam (15:22, 54).  Mankind can be tempted by Satan (II Cor. 2:10, 11).  God works with us the way He created us.  Satan works with us the way God created us.  We must work with our selves the way God created us.

We can be tempted.  The Greek word is peirazo.  It means to be tested, tried and proven in a good sense.  Jesus was tempted (Heb. 1:18).  Note how Satan was allowed to test Jesus in a way common to man.  He appealed to Jesus’ innate needs of His physical body and His spiritual needs for glory (Matt. 4:1-11).  Jesus told Satan He would not tempt (test) God.  Satan is a tempter (I Thess. 3:5).  One of Satan’s favorite areas of temptation is mankind’s need for satisfaction for our God-given urges, especially food, sex and security (I Cor. 6:13; Heb. 2:15).  God has not allowed Satan the power of other ways to tempt us other than what is common.  In other words, he does not have the bizarre powers we might see in fantasy movies.  Satan is not a Harry Potter kind of individual.

“And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, He will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”  I Cor. 10:13.  He will do this when we are tempted by evil if we will let Him (II Cor. 6:17).  One of His great ways of helping us is the things He tells us when we study His word.  God is also using our testing for our spiritual growth exercises (James. 1:2-4).

Questions for Discussion

  1. List some of the topics in the lesson text.
  2. Why might we believe the Gentile people in the church at Corinth would be thinking about people like Abraham as their forefather?
  3. Why might we think the church as a whole was not ignorant about certain parts of the Old Testament?
  4. What could have been the main reason Paul introduced Israel in the wilderness into his letter?
  5. Why would the Jewish members of the church have had easy access to the stories Paul used as examples?
  6. Explain how Jesus was the Rock from which Israel could receive spiritual nourishment.
  7. How did the Gentile members of the church of God get grafted into the same body with the Jews who were also “Israel of promise?”
  8. Show how I Peter 1:10-12 explains what is said in the first five verses of our text.
  9. Why might verse five be the power for the function of the thought in 10:1-5?
  10. How does the Greek words Kakos and Kalos stand in relation to one another?
  11. List what you know about lust from this lesson.
  12. How did Paul use the story in Numbers 21:4-9 to warn the Corinthians not to tempt Christ?
  13. How did Jesus relate Himself to the foregoing story while He was on earth?
  14. In what area of human nature is Satan able to tempt?
  15. What did Paul mean by “what is common to man?”

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