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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Church, Remember the Exodus and Wilderness: A Sermon from 1 Corinthians 10:1-11:1

Sunday Morning Gathering
May 25, 2008
1 Corinthians 10:1-11:1


As we have progressed through the letter called 1 Corinthians, we have seen how the Apostle and the Church at Corinth are having a back and forth. We find the church asking specific questions to Paul on how to live in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

--What should the church do in response to the sexually immorality of a church member?

--How should Christians settle grievances that they have with one another?

--How do Christians avoid sexual immorality?

--What should Christians think about marriage in light of the gospel mission?

--Should we marry if we are single?

--Should we divorce if we are married?

--Should we stay betrothed?

We are now in our fourth and final sermon based on Paul answer to the question, “Should we eat food sacrificed to idols in the temples of pagan gods?”

Cause No Brother or Sister to Stumble

Paul’s first teaching that arises from this particular teaching is concern for the weak. Although Paul conceded that idols and pagan gods were not real, he warned the Corinthians that some who are weak among them may fall back into idolatry by participating in these pagan celebrations. So Paul’s first teaching is that we should have concern for others and do nothing to cause another brother and sister to stumble as he or she pursues Jesus Christ in discipleship.

Forsake Your Freedoms for the Gospel

Paul’s second teaching arising from this question of eating meat addresses Christian freedom. The Apostle’s argument is simply: Do everything for the sake of the advance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ even if it means we sacrifice personal rights. In other words, the freedom that God has given us through Christ is to be used for the sake of the Gospel and introducing sinners to this gospel. Paul then proceeds to lift himself up as an example to the Corinthians as one who has forsaken many rights to see the gospel proclaimed.

Idolatry Kills

Finally, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10 that flirtation with and participation in idolatry kills.

He takes us back to the event of the Exodus. God brings great judgment upon Egypt and the Pharaoh in order to display his glory and to free the Israelites. God freed the Israelites who had become slaves. He brought them salvation. Then he began to lead them to the Promised Land of Canaan. God brought them through the waters of the Sea and used the Sea to slay the Egyptian armies. By day he would lead them by a great pillar of smoke and by night he would lead them by a great pillar of fire. When they were hungry, he feed them. When they were thirsty, he gave them water.

But guess what happened to the adult generation of Israelites who were saved out of Egypt? They all perished except Caleb and Joshua outside the Promised Land. Paul says in verse 5, “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.”

Why does Paul remind us of the events of the Exodus and the deaths of the people of God in the wilderness? He says in verse 6 that they are examples for us that we should not desire evil as they did. What happened that caused God to destroy the very people he rescued? Answer: They committed idolatry. They were sexual immoral. They tested Christ? They grumbled against God?

You probably can recount their idolatry. Moses was up on Mt. Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights and the people decided that Moses was not going to return so they asked Aaron to make an idol. Then the Israelites worshiped and made sacrifices to the idol and the text says “they rose up to play”, which many interpreters interpret to mean sexual immorality was committed in the worship of the idol by the Israelites (See Exodus 32). Twenty-three thousand Israelites were slain in one day for this idolatry.

What is Paul’s point? His answer is in verse 12, “Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” In other words, the same experience of the Israelites could be our own fate if we do not cling to God and flee from idolatry. Paul’s ultimate pronouncement concerning eating this meat sacrificed to idols is a participation in the demonic. While he concedes that idols are nothing, there is a true reality behind them, and he describes it as demonic.

Read 1 Corinthians 10:19-20

1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1 are filled with the Apostle’s application on how to live with regards to this question.

For example…

v24, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” – Do not cause others to stumble

vv25-26 – Do not worry about meat put into the marketplace regardless of its origin.

vv27-30 – eating food at a neighbor’s is fine so long as the neighbor does not indicate that it has been dedicated to pagan gods.

v31 – Do everything for the glory of God; focus on the gospel

vv32-33 – Do not make anyone stumble but put before many the gospel.

However, I believe the most important application for our church is the admonition to stay away from idolatry for we do not have to worry if the meat we buy at Publix or Walmart was sacrificed to Satan. However for too long in efforts to attract people, increase membership and attendance, and appear successful in the eyes of other churches, we have given false assurances to people concerning their salvation. And we need to let the Exodus and Wilderness example be a great and terrible warning who find salvific assurances in other places outside of daily repentance of sin and daily faith in Jesus Christ.

Observations from the Exodus and Wilderness of Israel

1. Just because I receive some of the benefits of God’s salvation does not mean that I myself have been saved.

All of Israel was delivered from slavery in Egypt, but not all made it to the Promised Land. I warn especially those here who have been raised up in the church culture. Kids raised in the church are often the recipients of so many of God’s blessings, but being a child of a Christian father and mother does not mean you are reconciled with God. Are you trusting in God today? Is Jesus Christ your Lord? Are you looking to him for your joy?

There have been a great many walk the isles of local churches not because they had experienced the new birth, but because their momma wanted them to or because their friends walked the isle.

2. Just because you have been baptized, does not mean you will inherit the new heavens and the new earth.

Israel experienced a baptism as they went through the parted waters of the Sea, but few reached the Promised Land.

I have seen too many times decisions for Christ be merely decisions that later became decisions to depart from Christ.

3. Just because God is working in your life and his presence is in your very midst does not mean you are assured of eternal life with God.

The pillar of fire and smoke, which was the presence of God protected and guided the people of Israel on their way, but all but two of those over the age of 20 save Joshua and Caleb perished in the wilderness and did not enter into God’s rest.

The presence of God was all around Israel and yet they still perished. Just ask Judas about this. Just ask the Pharisees. Just ask the rich young ruler?

4. Just because you eat of the bread and drink of the cup at communion does not mean that you are abiding in Jesus Christ.

The Israelites eat manna from heaven and drank water from Christ himself, yet they also drank of the cup of idolatry, drank from the well sexual immorality, tested the Lord himself, and grumbled against God and they forfeited the Promised Land.

Those who drink both from the cup of Christ and Demons will provoke the Lord to jealousy (v22).

5. Just because you sing to the Lord does not ensure that he is your heart’s desire.

When God destroyed the Egyptians by closing the sea upon them, the Israelites sang a song expressing great truths about him like:

“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?”

“Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?”

“The Lord will reign forever and forever.”

Yet their songs would soon be turned to other idols.

6. A good beginning does not ensure a good ending.

Israel was obedient to spread the blood over their doorposts and the Angel of Death came over Egypt killing the firstborn. It is said of Israel after the waters crushed the armies of Pharaoh, “Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses (Exodus 14:31).”

But their faith was not enduring as they would soon trade it for a golden calf and sexual immorality.

Brothers, sisters, friends the salvation of God has two dimensions: the already and the not yet. God did a work in the Old Testament bringing deliverance to Israel. But many Israelites did not find the consummation of that salvation because they gave themselves to idols. God has done a great work of salvation in the New Testament. Christ has made atonement for sinners on the Cross. It has already happened. Yet our final salvation is in the future when our bodies will be glorified and we will live with God in the new heavens and in the new earth, but it is only for those who endure to the end, Jesus says. Do not walk away from Jesus Christ.

The Israelites experienced deliverance from Egypt, but so many failed to see the Promised Land. So “let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Friends, did you start out years ago with your heart surrendered to the Lord only to find your heart today surrendered to sexual immorality, idolatry, and grumblings against God. Then it is not too late to genuinely receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Repent of all your idols, the things you value more than Jesus and put your faith in Jesus. Pray that God grant you repentance. Pray that God help your unbelief.

There is a great danger in growing up in the south where for generations there were present very strong Christian roots because we can assume that if we do the church thing, then we know God. But I want to ask each of you this morning…

Where is your treasure?

How do you find your joy?

What do live for?

Where is your purpose in living found?

Whom do you love and serve?

There is coming a day children when you will leave the home of your parents or guardians. This will be the great test for you whether or not you will continue to live for Jesus. This will be a day when your obedience will be more clearly evaluated as obedience to parents or obedience to God.

There is coming day when we will all find ourselves before God giving account. And you will not be able to look at your father, your mother, your husband, your wife; you will not be able to look to your water baptism, your participation at communion, the songs you sung, but only to Jesus Christ whose blood can make you clean.

As we turn in our small hymnal to page 30 to close by singing What a Day that Will Be, when we sing the words “There is coming a day…what a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see, and I look upon his face, the one who saved me by his grace; when he takes me by the hand, and leads me through the Promised Land, what a day, glorious day that will be,” what will your heart reveal about Jesus. Will you sing with a soul full of joy because Jesus is your Savior or will you merely mouth the words because everyone else is?

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