It must have been a rude awakening. Members of a congregation were probably accustomed to celebrating their freedom that “all things are permissible for me.” Furthermore, they were confident of their own spirituality. Yet suddenly they discover their flight feathers being clipped by an apostle’s pen.
Based upon what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10, it is not too hard to reasonably reconstruct with a good measure of probability what some members of the church at Corinth were thinking. It probably went something like: I have been baptized into Christ. I am being spiritually fed by Christ. My spiritual health is outstanding and secure!
Contrary to such thinking, Paul argued that just because someone has been baptized and is even feasting on true spiritual nourishment proves nothing about that individual’s spiritual health. What? Alarm bells might go off in some heads today just as they may have sounded back then. But in fact, Paul’s actual teaching seems to go beyond my bland summary paraphrase!
Paul retold an Old Testament story. Paul reminded them that all of Israel had experienced a baptism into Moses when Israel had crossed the Red Sea. Furthermore, all of the Israelites had even been nourished by Christ himself! Yet, and this is where the clap of thunder rolls in, God was not pleased with most of them as seen by the fact that He strewed their bodies throughout the desert. Their spiritual standing was far from secure.
As important as it is to start the journey by being baptized and to be sustained by feasting on spiritual nourishment from Christ, something can still be lacking! Israel had failed to faithfully live out the message they had received; their actions were blatantly rebellious.
Paul’s point must have smashed home to the Corinthians as a rude awakening. Just because they had become Christians and were being nourished by Christ proved nothing about their spiritual health. To avoid falling, the Corinthian Christians could not afford to flaunt grace while living out lives estranged to the message. They had to live in accordance with God’s message. Not everything is truly permissible. Sin is still unacceptable.
Yes, Christ’s blood has the power to forgive all sin. Yes, we can not merit God’s forgiveness. Yes, those in Christ have been released from the condemnation of sin. But if we allow the apostle to speak for himself, these truths do not relinquish us from the responsibility of being careful that we do not fall. Grace teaches us to say, “No” to ungodliness and to pursue godly living (Titus 2:11-12).
Since 1 Corinthians 10 is directed to Christians, we need to make sure we have learned the lesson as well. The individual who is spiritually healthy, has not only entered Christ and feasts upon spiritual nourishment, but also lives out God’s message through his life.
Paul’s next words in 1 Corthians 10 are comforting. God is faithful when we are tempted by not allowing us to face more than what we can handle.