Friday, June 11, 2010

1 Corinthians 10-11: Warnings

When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, he didn't divide his letter into chapters or verses, and he didn't include chapter headings.

Those things are useful for helping us find sections, but they can get in the way of understanding.

In my last post, focusing on chapter 9, I wrote about running a race. Simple enough.

I ignored the last couple of verses because they really didn't really add to anything I said:

"I do not run like a man running aimlessly. I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."

In other words, I focus on the training and the race, setting everything else aside because I don't want to get sidetracked, lose focus, and then miss crossing the finish line altogether.

Here's where it get tricky, for me at least. In chapter 10, Paul adds an illustration that describes this idea of losing out altogether.

If you've been following the readings in From Garden to City, going through Numbers, Joshua, and the books of Kings, the promise of Israel, and the failure of the people to cling to God's law, their tendency to get distracted, you'll get what Paul says immediately.

Paul says, ". . . our forefathers were all under the cloud and . . . they all passed through the sea. . . . They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink . . . Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert." (10:1-3)

These children of Abraham all experienced the same miracles, the cloud led them in the day, the fire at night, they ate manna and quail, and they saw water come out of rocks. They all danced and sang praises to the Lord, celebrating his power, sure of his promises.

But most died without ever seeing the Promised Land.

They lost sight of the promise.
They became idolaters, putting other gods before the Lord. They indulged in pagan revelry, sexual immorality, and grumbling. (Yes, Paul groups all these things together. All are equally distracting!)

And then Paul ties it together.
He says, "These things happened as an example for us and were written down to warn us not to be like them."

So--if you think you are "standing firm," if you think you will never be shaken, never lose sight of the glory of the Lord or his Truth, be careful or you may fall even as they did.

By the same token, don't get freaked about by this warning because "no temptation has seized you except what is common to man." We all are tempted by the same distractions, and God is faithful. When we're tempted, God will provide a way out of the temptation.

Be careful.
Train yourself.
Keep your eyes on God, on the prize.
Run the race.

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