And you know why they got disqualified? You know why some of those Corinthians failed? You know why some of those Corinthians died? Because they lived on the thin edge of their liberty. They ran their liberty right out to its extremity and they got into temptation they couldn't handle, fell into sin and were disqualified. At the pitfalls of Christian liberty. Now for most people, the topic of Christian liberty comes down to a pair of simple questions.
What can I do and what can I not do? But John's going to show you why you should instead focus on what sets you apart from the rest of the world and how to live in a way that points others to Christ. So turn in your Bible or open the Study Bible app on your mobile device to 1 Corinthians chapter 10 as John begins today's lesson. Let's look beginning with that at the five verses that begin the chapter, the assets of liberty, we'll call it.
The assets of liberty. And it begins with the things that the Israelites enjoyed because they are parallel to the Christian. God has called the church as a witnessing community. We have been taken out of bondage and set free in the world to be a communicating community. To share the truth. To be a witnessing nation.
And the danger is that what happened to Israel would happen to some of us. Because what happened to some of them was this. They died in the wilderness, disqualified from being a part of that witnessing community because of sin. It doesn't mean they lost their salvation.
They became useless. And God had to get some more people to be the witnessing community that he wanted. And so they were called as a national witness to receive, to preserve, and to pass on the word of God and prepare the way for Messiah's coming. So each Israelite, in addition to his personal faith, had that marvelous privilege of being a part of a nation that was God's witness nation. But when they all left, believe me, they all weren't believers.
They never have been. In fact, in Romans 9, 6, Paul said, not all Israel is really Israel. That is, not all racial Israel is true Israel by faith. So the point of the passage then, listen, is not loss of salvation.
That is not what it's saying. And some people who want to make leaving Egypt synonymous with salvation got a whole bunch of people losing their salvation in the desert when they die. And other people want to say, no, Israel left the land and when they entered Canaan that was salvation. Well then a whole bunch of them never entered Canaan either.
Because they died. Don't push that allegory totally on this. All we have here are people, some of whom believed and some of whom did not when they were in Egypt, some of whom believed in the desert, some of whom did not, but all of them became disqualified for service because whether they were really saved Israelites or not, they were unfaithful in their service and they fell into sin.
So here comes the whole group out. In verse 1, just talking about that liberation. Now this gets to be very touchy because many people have been confused by this verse and it's understandable. Let me give you what I think to be the understanding of it. And there are others who would disagree with me and that's fine.
And I'll go ahead and defend my viewpoint and you can make your own judgment. Verse 2, and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea. Now that is strange.
You have to admit that. That's a very strange statement. All were baptized. Now immediately when I say the word baptized, without even asking I know exactly what you all think about. Depending on whether you're Presbyterian or Baptist. I know exactly immediately the word baptism only means one thing.
Sprinkling or dunking people or maybe pouring. And what we have done is what we do so often we get stuck on the symbol. We have a hard time getting past the symbol of the reality.
Well let's look at it. Now there are some who say they were baptized as referring to their physical baptism. When they went through the sea they were baptized and that's what the Baptists say. First they were dunked when they went through the sea. And the Presbyterians say no they actually went under the cloud and it rained on them so they were sprinkled. And which is a great verse for conciliating since both of them are there. The Baptist Israelites were dunked in the sea and the Presbyterian Israelites were sprinkled by the clouds. Well I hate to tell you this but neither is true. You say what do you mean? It says they were baptized in the cloud and the sea. You're right.
But let me remind you of something. They couldn't have been baptized in that sea because it was parted and they walked through on what? Dry land. Somebody says well actually the north part of the sea was very shallow and there actually wasn't any miracle. They walked through on six inches of water and one little kid said I can understand that but how did Pharaoh's whole army drown in six inches of water?
So what you have here is they go through on dry land so that doesn't work. And secondly that is not a rain cloud my friends. That is the Shekinah cloud. That's not full of water it's full of God's presence. At night it turned into what?
A pillar of fire and it would be tough to maintain itself as a rain cloud under those conditions. So that is not what it is talking about. It is not talking about sprinkling or baptizing physically.
You say what is it talking about? Alright let's get behind the act of involving the water and get to the symbol. Baptism and this is the understanding that Paul would have in the Corinthians. Baptism signifies to the Christian mind identification. The real baptism that is most important in the life of a person is that he be baptized into Christ, right?
That he be baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ. And that means to be in union identified with Christ. We have been buried with him by baptism. When you believed, beloved, when you believed in Jesus Christ you were baptized into Christ. You died with him, you rose with him, you live and his life lives through you. Baptism simply means identification.
It is union. It is he that is joined to the Lord is what? One Spirit. When you were saved you were identified with Christ. Baptism is the symbol of that union. Baptism is the symbol of that identification. Water baptism.
Now that is precisely what you have here. As Christians we are baptized spiritually into Christ in a unique and beautiful identification. We are one with him. Every other Christian is one with him so we are one with every other Christian, all right? He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit. Who is joined to the Lord?
Every Christian. So we who are one with him are one with everybody else who is one with him. So we are all identified together in a corporate community under the headship of Christ. That is what baptism means. We are all a body. In baptism the head is Christ. We are all identified with each other. Christ is the leader.
That is precisely what he is saying here. In the act of coming out of Egypt and in the act of together all. Notice all is five times. All in verse 10. All in verse 2. All in verse 3. All in verse 4.
I think it is twice in verse 1. So you have all of them coming out. All of them under the cloud.
All of them through the sea. What does this mean? This means you have a corporate community. As they all came together they all identified with Moses. They all followed his headship. They all followed his leadership. They all identified with him.
And that is precisely what he is saying. Entry into the church is by baptism of the Spirit. Entry into the assembly of the wilderness was by all coming through the sea.
All being under the cloud. Accepting Moses as the leader as the Christian accepts Christ as the head. They were in identification as a nation, as a community, as a fellowship, as a believing witnessing group under the headship of Moses.
That is what it is saying. So, they were all identified with Moses. One corporate witnessing community. And as baptism brings us under the leadership of Christ, so did participation in the great events of the Exodus bring them under the leadership of Moses. Anybody who wanted to could have said, Hey Moses, I am not going through that deal.
I am staying right here. And he would have cut himself off from that corporate community that was under the leadership of Moses. Now that is the first thing. God liberated them and then God identified them as a witnessing community. It is tantamount to the Christian being called by God to serve and united with the other believers who are the witnessing community in this age. Now notice there is a third blessing area, verse 3. And all did eat the same spiritual food. You say, What is spiritual food?
That is the first question I asked. Spiritual food does not mean that it is sort of ethereal and you can't really see it. It is not talking about the essence of it.
It is talking about, notice this, the source of it. Spiritual food is food that is coming from the Spirit of God. And when they were in the wilderness, who gave them their food?
God did. By His Spirit, God delivered their food. They were sustained by manna.
It is called spiritual food, not because its essence is spiritual, but because its source was spiritual, the Spirit of God. So, they were all sustained. They were all given food and nourishment.
And that also is like the Corinthians and like Christians. We have received the sustenance. My God shall supply all your needs.
We are supplied by Him. He that eats this bread shall never hunger. He that drinks this water, said Jesus, shall what? Never thirst.
We are sustained. So, the parallel again is there. They all ate the same spiritual food, verse 4, and all drank the same spiritual drink. That is water that was provided from the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it came out of a rock. Sometimes there was a stream or a brook.
Sometimes there was a well. But in many ways, God provided. Now, the verbs in those two are imperfect verbs. That doesn't mean they are less than perfect. That means they do not know completion. The word perfect means completion. So, they are without completion, which means anything in the imperfect tense has successive continuity. They were continually being fed. There wasn't any completion.
There wasn't any end to it. They were continually being given water by the Spirit, all through their wandering, all through their life, sustained by God. So, you have a picture here of the believer who is called as a part of the corporate community, identified by baptism into that corporate community, and then sustained by God with all the resources necessary. Now, that's the assets of liberty.
It's a pretty good position to be in. But there's more. Verse 4 has a very interesting phrase that is not easy to understand. They all did drink the same spiritual drink.
Now, he adds this footnote, and it would have been a lot easier on a lot of folks if we had just left it out, because it's difficult, but we'll do our best to show you what we think it means. For they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ. Now, there have been amazing explanations of this, but let's just get down to what really I think is the safest way to explain this. They drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ. In the first place, what just thrills me about that statement is that it proves the preexistence of Jesus Christ, right? Christ is following Israel through the wilderness. Second, the rock is Christ, and the rock is God in the Old Testament, which makes Christ equal to God. Tremendous statement.
But look what its meaning is. What are they saying? The rock that followed them. You know the Jews had an interesting legend, and I think that's where this comes from. It was a legend that was in existence still at the time of Paul.
This was what they thought. The old Jewish legend said that originally in Exodus 17, I think it is, remember when God said, I'm going to give you water out of the rock, Moses, take your rod and strike the rock, and he did, and it just gushed out water and satisfied the thirst of, there must have been a million or better people. And so that rock, according to the old Jewish legend, took off from there and rolled behind Israel for the rest of the 40 years. Wherever they went, the rolling boulder was there, just following them along, and they'd stop and the rolling rock would be there and whatever, speaking or hitting, gush out water. The old Jewish legend that the rolling rock accompanied them for 40 years, always yielding its water. I think that Paul, in a sense, is giving a little allusion to that legend, which was very popular, but he does something beautiful. He uses a different word.
The word for a boulder or a rock that could roll along would be pitras, a masculine form of the noun. But he doesn't use that word, and that, I think, is a play on the legend. He uses pitra, which means a massive cliff, and a massive cliff can't roll along behind the children of Israel. Well, what he says is this. You think that Israel's water, according to the legend, some think that Israel's water was supplied by a rolling boulder, but I'll tell you, they were drinking from the spiritual rocky mass, the rocky cliff, and that that followed them was Christ. Listen, he says, you know what sustained Israel in the wilderness? It wasn't a rolling boulder, it was Christ.
That's what he's saying. It was the Messiah. You say you mean the Messiah was identified with his people even before his death? Yes, they were his people then. The supernatural rock that never allowed Israel to perish wasn't a rolling boulder, it was Christ himself accompanying his people through the wilderness.
And here you see what Paul is saying is, look, they had what you have. They had the sustaining presence of the Messiah. People say, well, the Old Testament people didn't have the indwelling spirit.
You're right, they didn't. But they had the sustaining presence of the Messiah. In those days, he was often called the angel of what?
Of the Lord, the angel of Jehovah. But he was there. He was there sustaining his people. He was there caring for his people.
He was there fulfilling his people's needs. Beautiful, pre-existent Christ was there. And so he's saying to the Corinthians, you have it too. You've been set free as a witnessing community. You've been identified in that community under the headship of Jesus Christ. You are all feeding on the same spiritual food and the same spirit-given drink. And you are being sustained in it all by Christ.
And they had those same privileges. You say, what's the point, Paul? The point is verse five, and it comes like a shock. But with many of them, God was not well pleased. And they were overthrown in the wilderness. You see it?
What a shocker. All those resources, liberated, called as a witnessing community, sustained and guided, sustained by God's provision, guided by God's cloud. They all had it. And even Christ himself was giving them those benefits. Do you notice verse five, with many of them?
The literal Greek is most of them. With most of them, God was not well pleased. You say, how many?
Listen to this. Of the entire generation that left Egypt, do you know how many entered the promised land? Two. Joshua and Caleb, that's all. Most of them means most of them. Numbers 14, 16 says, Because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land, which he swore to give unto them, therefore he slain them in the wilderness. And that's, look at the word overthrown. It means strewn.
It means strewn all over everywhere. Their corpses were strewn all over the desert. But John, what are you saying? That they lost their salvation? That isn't the issue. Some of them were regenerated in personal faith, and some of them were not, and there's no way.
That isn't the point. The point of the illustration is, God called them to be a witnessing community, but because of sin, they were disqualified to establish that witnessing community. They set aside, and a whole new group went into that land of Canaan. And the point is this.
They had everything. They had all of the privileges, and they were smug, and they were self-sufficient, and they were self-confident, and they griped their way through the wilderness, and they abused their liberty, and they did just about what they wanted to do in their liberty, always flirting on the thin edge, and they fell into sin, and God let them all go, and they died in the wilderness. Some of those Israelites will be in heaven because they were really believers, but they were disqualified. You can be a believer and be disqualified from service. Listen, even in the church, according to 2 Timothy 2, there are vessels unto honor and dishonor, right? If you purge yourself, you will be a vessel unto honor, fit for what?
The master's use. God has to depend upon a minority of Christians to do his ministry because so many of them fail to be qualified. How many people like Israel, how many Christians do you know of who start out in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ and find themselves fall into temptation, they fall into sin, and they are disqualified from serving Christ? Well, they're going to go to heaven. They're going to be regenerated because they have been.
But they're useless. And in fact, according to 1 John 5, some of them God just killed. Look at verse 30 of 1 Corinthians 11, For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep, many are dead. The Lord had to allow some of the Corinthians to be strewn in the desert. Some of the Corinthian corpses should have been living testimony to disqualification in the service of the Lord because of sin.
And you know why they got disqualified? You know why some of those Corinthians failed? You know why some of those Corinthians died? Because they lived on the thin edge of their liberty. They ran their liberty right out to its extremity, and they got into temptation they couldn't handle, fell into sin, and were disqualified for service. Look at verse 6, and I'll just introduce point 2, and we'll get into it next time.
The abuses of liberty. Verse 6, we saw the assets in the first five. The abuses begin in verse 6, and it says, Now these things were our examples. Paul says, I'm telling you the story to be a tupoi. Tupoi means a model, a type, a pattern.
I want you to see an example here, and the example is this. We should not lust after evil things as they lusted. There they were out there enjoying their liberty, and it turned into lust.
In Numbers chapter 11, it's really incredible. They were out there. God was supplying every single thing they needed. Then verse 4, it says, They wept, and they said, Who will give us flesh to eat? We want meat. We're not vegetarians. We remember, and they didn't like the manna, manna, manna, manna, all we get.
Verse 6, Our soul has dried away, nothing at all besides this manna before our eyes. I'm reminded when I was a little kid, I used to go to some friend's house, and they kid me even to this day that I always said the same thing, because this dear lady always gave me the same thing every time I go there for lunch. Oh, I stayed with them one whole summer. Every day I got the same thing. And I was a little guy, and every time I see them, they always say the same thing. Hello, John, you remember when you used to say, soup and sandwiches, soup and sandwiches. All we ever have here is soup and sandwiches. Well, that's what they essentially were saying here. All we ever get is manna, manna, manna, manna.
I mean, enough is enough. So verse 5, We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely, the cucumbers and just their mouths. And the melons and the leeks and the onion and the garlic.
And I've often thought with a diet of fish and cucumbers and leeks and onions and garlic, I'd like to keep my distance from that many people. And it says in verse 34, you know what happened? And God killed those that lusted. You know, it's so easy in the Christian life when you take your liberty to its extremity to start looking back over the bank at what you used to have and starting to lust after the old life.
That's what he's saying. You Corinthians who are running your liberty right out to its limits are going to face the old patterns and be drawn into those old patterns. And that's what happened to Israel. Let it be an example that when you take your liberties and run them out to their extremes onto that thin edge between what is your right to do and what is sin, you're going to get tempted to fall into old patterns of life, the thing that God redeemed you out of. Let that be a perpetual warning against indulgence of lust for the forbidden objects of the former life.
Listen to Psalm 78, 27. He rained flesh on them like dust and feathered fowls like the sand of the sea. You know, they said, we want flesh. We want flesh.
You know what he did? He gave them so much flesh that he said, it came down like dust. They about drowned in it. And feathered fowls like the sand of the sea.
I mean, they just got bombed out of heaven. And he let it fall everywhere. And so they ate and got fat. And he gave them their desire.
Listen to this. While their food was in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them and slew the fattest and smote down the chosen men of Israel. For all this they sinned still and believed not in his wondrous works.
Therefore there are days that he consumed in vanity and their years in trouble. You see what they did? They wanted what they wanted. So he gave them what they wanted and then he took the fattest of them and took their lives.
Why? Because he had to purge that kind of thing out of the witnessing community. And that's just the reason some believers may die and go to be with the Lord. Same thing.
Because they're more of a problem in the witnessing community than they are an asset. The abuse of liberty leads to a disqualification from ministry and can lead to death. What is this saying to us?
Just this. Beware of overconfidence. Let's pray. Father, we know that as we see ourselves we've been delivered, freed, called as a corporate testimony, blessed, sustained by the provision of God, kept by Christ.
And yet how easily could we become disqualified by the abuse of our freedoms? Teach us self-control. Teach us self-discipline. Teach us to be willing to set aside what might be our right for the sake of another to win him and for the sake of our own selves, that we would not be put in a place of temptation. Thank you for speaking to us in Christ's name.
Amen. That's John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, and now you can glorify Christ by being set apart from the world and by avoiding the pitfalls of Christian liberty. That's the title of his current study on Grace to You. Now, John, when it comes to this issue of Christian liberty, I know you'd say believers can exercise their liberty the right way. They can effectively navigate the gray areas if they have a finely tuned, biblically informed conscience. And with that in mind, talk to us about the conscience, both what it is and, practically, how can it be sharpened?
Yeah, the conscience is a God-given device that every human being has. It is to the spiritual part of man what pain is to the physical part. Pain is a mechanism, a God-given mechanism, that warns you when something's wrong with your body. It tells you, stop doing that, or you need to have someone take care of this. This is a problem.
This is an issue. While we don't like pain, none of us would want to be pain-free, or we could be dying and never know it. Pain is a gift from God. The same thing is true in the spiritual realm. God has given us conscience. Conscience reacts to our spiritual condition. But conscience is dependent on having the right standards. The law of God is written in the heart of every human being.
That law is the knowledge of right and wrong in a very basic way, and every human being has that. The conscience is the device that starts hurting us if we go against what we know to be true. Now, the more that law written in the heart is enriched and enhanced by the Bible, where you get the full revelation of God's law, the more fully informed the conscience becomes. So the more you know about the Word of God, the more you know God's expectations, the more active and the more accurate your conscience becomes. You want a conscience that is highly sensitive to divine truth because it warns you when you're going down a deadly spiritual path.
What a gift. I wrote a book on this called The Vanishing Conscience. Actually, a few years ago, we sent it to every congressman and senator in Washington just to try to waken them to the issues of morality in our nation. The Vanishing Conscience, 250 pages, reasonably priced. You can order one from Grace to You today.
That's right, friend, and I love this book. It will help you in your daily battle with temptation and sin, arming you with the tools you'll need to keep your conscience clean. Pick up a copy of John's book titled The Vanishing Conscience when you get in touch today.
It's available for $11 and shipping is free. To order, call toll-free 800-55-GRACE or visit our website, gty.org. The title again, The Vanishing Conscience. Pick up a copy today when you call 800-55-GRACE or shop online at gty.org. Of course, to make sure your conscience is sharp, you need to know and apply God's Word. To help with that, let me encourage you to get our flagship resource, the MacArthur Study Bible. It has introductions to each book of the Bible, dozens of maps and charts, and nearly 25,000 study notes from John, study tools that will help you align your thinking with God's Word, and you'll see its power in your life. To get the MacArthur Study Bible, available in the English Standard, New King James, and New American Standard versions, call us at 800-55-GRACE or visit our website, gty.org. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for making this broadcast part of your day and be here tomorrow when John continues to show you the pitfalls of Christian liberty with another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Grace To You. .
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