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1 Corinthians 10:6–11

“Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (v. 11).

Israel’s wandering in the wilderness was part of the family history of the Corinthian church, so it served as an example to them from which they had to learn a key lesson—taking part in idolatry without repentance will disqualify a person from salvation. Paul makes this explicit in today’s passage, noting that the record of the Israelites was “written down” so that the Corinthians would learn not to be like the wilderness generation (1 Cor. 10:6, 11).

Of course, 1 Corinthians is God’s message to us as well, so the record of Israel’s history was preserved for our benefit also. This truth demonstrates that Christians can by no means set aside the Old Testament as unnecessary or unimportant to the faith. We have the old covenant Scriptures because the Lord intended them for us, His new covenant people. They have been preserved and handed down for our instruction, and we are called to pay careful attention to what is found in them. Matthew Henry aptly comments: “Nothing in scripture is written in vain. God had wise and gracious purposes towards us in leaving the Jewish history upon record; and it is our wisdom and duty to receive instruction from it.”

Paul rehearses some of the many transgressions that cut the ancient Israelites off from entering the Promised Land. He tells us not to be idolaters like those who sat down to eat and drink in the presence of the golden calf (1 Cor. 10:7; see Ex. 32, especially v. 6). Note the stress on eating and drinking, which connects this incident concretely with the problem of idolatry in Corinth wherein the people ate and drank in pagan temples. Paul tells us not to commit sexual immorality (1 Cor. 10:8; see Num. 25:1–9), which was also a problem in Corinth (6:12–20). The Old Testament frequently likens idolatry to adultery, for to worship false gods is to engage in adulterous abandonment of the one true God (see Hos. 1:2–3; 2:13). Paul says that we should not put Christ to the test as they did—by putting the patience of God the Rock to the test, they put Christ the Rock to the test (1 Cor. 10:9, see Num. 21:4–9; Deut. 32:4; 1 Cor. 10:1–5). Finally, Paul cautions us against the distrustful grumbling against the Lord, which caused many Israelites to die and not see Canaan (1 Cor. 10:10; see Num. 14:1–38; 16). Collectively, these examples show us that all but a few of the Israelites in the wilderness were impenitent and thus had no saving faith. We must not be like them or we, too, will show ourselves as lacking saving faith and will not inherit life eternal (1 Cor. 10:11).

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

When we read the Old Testament, we are not reading a book full of irrelevant stories or fairy tales but rather a historical record divinely inspired for our benefit. While the Old Testament points us to Christ, it also shows us much of what we should do and what we should not do if we are believers. Let us take its examples seriously as we seek to follow Jesus.


For Further Study
  • Judges 2:1–5
  • 2 Kings 21:1–18
  • Hebrews 3:7–4:13
  • Revelation 2:18–29

Christ, the Spiritual Rock

God’s Faithfulness in Our Temptation

Keep Reading Luther on Trial: The Diet of Worms

From the April 2021 Issue
Apr 2021 Issue