Text: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Some of the Corinthian Christians were presumptuous of their knowledge and spiritual maturity. In their arrogance, they became careless in their conduct, and cared not whether their ways would wound the conscience of their weaker brethren. They became stumbling blocks and corrupted the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We too must beware of pride and presumptuousness. If we do not guard our hearts carefully, we will fall into sin and find ourselves disapproved before the Lord.

Paul delves into the history of Israel to sound a warning to the Corinthian Christians. He points them to the generation of Israelites who went through the exodus from Egypt. All that generation experienced the following supernatural events:

They were all under the cloud (v.1). The Lord supernaturally sent a pillar of cloud to guide them by day, and a pillar of cloud by night (c.f. Exodus 13:21-22)

They all passed through the sea (v.1). The Lord parted the Red Sea to allow the children of Israel to escape from the Egyptian pursuers. After they crossed to the other side, He closed the sea on the pursuers to drown them (c.f. Exodus 14).

They were all baptised unto Moses (v.2). In this verse, the term “baptised” carries the understanding of “devoted” or “consecrated”. In other words, they were all devoted to Moses as their leader in their wanderings, and received his instructions and teachings.

They all ate the same spiritual meat (v.3). The term “spiritual” here refers to how food was supernaturally given to them by the power of God’s Holy Spirit (c.f. Exodus 16).

They all drank of that rock (v.4). This meant that they drank of the drink that was supernaturally provided for them by Christ. This water would follow them throughout their entire journey until they were ready to conquer the Cis-Jordan region (c.f. Numbers 20).

Nevertheless, despite experiencing these miracles and spiritual lessons, the children of Israel did not exercise their faith in God and rebelled against God in the wilderness by refusing to attack the land of Canaan (c.f. Numbers 13). Because of their disobedience, those aged 20 years and above were not allowed to enter the Promised Land. Their pride and presumptuousness led them to harden their hearts in rebellion:

They lusted after evil things (v.6). Despite God providing water and manna, they continued to complain and demanded meat instead of manna (c.f. Numbers 11).

They were idolatrous (v.7). When Moses was up on Mount Sinai, the impatient people demanded Aaron to make the golden calf (c.f. Exodus 32).

They committed fornication (v.8). This occurred when Balaam sent the daughters of whoredom to commit fornication with Israel (Numbers 25:1-3).

They tempted Christ (v.9). They did so by questioning Christ’s faithfulness to His Word. “And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.” (Numbers 21:5)

 They murmured (v.10). The people were constantly complaining about their conditions throughout the wilderness journey (see for example Exodus 16:2; 17:2; Numbers 14:2; 29 etc.).

Because of their pernicious ways, the children of Israel were made to wander forty years in the wilderness. Those who were aged twenty and above during the rebellion in Numbers 13 were not allowed to enter the Promised Land and perished in their wanderings.

Dear brethren, all these testimonies were not meant to tickle our ears. Rather, they are given to us for as examples for our learning. We must take heed to their warnings and admonishments.

However, if we continue in our presumptuousness, Paul has a warning for us. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” (v.12) “Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:” (Hebrews 3:7-8)

The antidote to presumptuousness is found in 1 Corinthians 10:13. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” Christ knows the temptations that we face. The way out is thus a humble submission to the power of Christ, trusting that He will keep us from sinning and deliver us from our troubles.

With regards to the faithfulness of God, Calvin has these insightful comments: “As he exhorted them to be of good courage as to the past, in order that he might stir them up to repentance, so he also comforts them as to the future with a sure hope, on the ground that God would not suffer them to be tempted beyond their strength. He exhorts them, however, to look to the Lord, because a temptation, however slight it may be, will straightway overcome us, and all will be over with us, if we rely upon our own strength. He speaks of the Lord, as faithful, not merely as being true to his promises, but as though he had said. The Lord is the sure guardian of his people, under whose protection you are safe, for he never leaves his people destitute. Accordingly, when he has received you under his protection, you have no cause to fear, provided you depend entirely upon him.”

How does he then help us? Firstly, by setting limits to our temptations that it may not be too much for us to bear. Secondly, by granting us the grace and strength to go through these temptations. When we endure these temptations patiently by His grace, we will emerge spiritually stronger from it.

Let us then be reminded always to look to Christ for grace to walk the pilgrim journey here on this earth. Beware of the sin of presumptuousness!

Lovingly in Christ,
Preacher Clement Chew