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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4
Introduction to Chapter 10
Our Apostle Paul used an analogy of an athlete running a footrace in (9:24-25) to show us Believers, if the athlete is to continue in the race, not only to complete it but to win it, he or she must discipline their body in every facet of their life and train it rigorously. But there’s more to it. The athlete must compete according to the principles of discipline that promote success or as Paul put it run in such a way that you may win (v24).
Many Believers begin their new life in Christ Jesus “on fire” for the Lord; they’re like spiritual sponges, willingly absorbing everything within reach of value to them. But over time many Believers permit their devotion for the Lord, their spiritual fire, to burn down if not out all together. This sad truth serves to remind us of one of the primary principles in the Believer’s life: having the lead at the beginning of the race matters little; what matters is how you finish the race. You see, your race and mine is not a sprint to the finish line, as in the Isthmian Games, it’s a marathon, which means while we’re here on earth, we’re running each and every day of our lives. This requires stamina; a life-long commitment to keep on running, to keep the fire of your devotion burning, with the goal of finishing strong (Romans 12:1-1, 11).
There’s a familiar colloquial expression that goes like this, “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings.” It means no one should presume to know the outcome of an event which is still in progress. I borrowed this phrase this week to remind Believers that even if you “fall behind” in your race, even if you stumble, don’t give up; you can still finish well.
In 9:24-27, Paul shared that he practiced self-control daily, disciplining his body for the long-haul, because he did not want to be disqualified from the race or God’s approval at the finish line. In 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 our Apostle Paul warns the Corinthians (and us) about the dreadful and severe consequences of sin. He challenges them to avoid backsliding; to persevere in their life-long walk with the Lord, because according to Paul there is a very real possibility that many Believers will not finish their race well.
Paul considered this a possibility in his life and the lives of other Believers but he’s about to point out that it was actually a sad reality in the lives of God’s chosen people in the Old Testament. Although approximately 5 million Israelites left Egypt for the Promised Land, when they finally reached the border and crossed over into the land of promise only two original members of that group who were over the age of 20, Joshua and Caleb, made the trip. The rest died in the wilderness because of their unbelief. Moses himself was denied access to the Promised Land because he too failed the Lord God (Numbers 13, 14, 20; Hebrews 3:7-19).
Paul wants Believers to ponder these truths; this is why chapter 10 begins with a caveat.
Please open your Bible to 1 Corinthians 10.
Avoid Israel’s Mistakes
1 Corinthians 10
1: For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea;
2: and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
Let’s hold up here. This baptism into Moses is obviously an important subject, for our Apostle Paul mentions it right from the start saying: “For I do not want you to be unaware (ignorant or untaught) concerning it. It’s a sad fact that the truths which Paul says, “I do not want you to be unaware” are the very truths which Believers are most apt to be unaware or untaught. Several times in his letters to the Corinthians we find Paul writing, “Do you not know.” Let us all make certain, then, that by God’s grace we do not remain unaware (ignorant or untaught) of the vital truths expressed in Paul’s epistles.
Denominational tradition has caused multitudes of people to think of water as soon as they hear or read the word baptism in the Bible. Bible verses such as: Romans 6:3-4, Galatians 3:27, Ephesians 4:5, Colossians 2:12 have been borrowed by many, erroneously I might add, to teach the necessity of water baptism. However, none of these verses refer to water baptism. And most certainly 1 Corinthians 12:13 does not.
The confusion is not with the clarity of the subject in the Bible, it is with the failure of many Believers themselves to recognize both the meaning of the word baptize in Scripture and the right division of Scripture on this subject.
But doesn’t one of our standard lexicons define the Greek baptizo as to dip? Yes, it certainly does, and the person who compiled it was a Baptist who failed to rightly divide Scripture.
The Pauline epistles have much to say about the importance of Believer’s baptism. We who rightly divide the Scriptures believe in baptism, however, we believe what the Scriptures have to say concerning a specific baptism that is unique to this Dispensation of Grace – one that has nothing to do with getting wet per se or is connected to any church ceremony, ritual, or tradition.
Paul would have us know the word baptism in the Church Age is most closely associated with identification. When Christ died on the cross, God identified the Believer as having died with Him. Paul expressed this thought with the phrase, “baptized into His death” (Romans 6:3). God sees the Believer as “buried with Him” in His death (v4). This is an act of faith expressed by the one who believes: So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). There isn’t a drop of water involved in the act of believing. God also sees the Believer as raised with Christ. As a result of Christ’s resurrection from the dead; the Believer can experience a new life, “in Christ Jesus” (v4).
From Paul’s teaching, the Apostle to the Gentiles, the Apostle of the Gospel of the Grace of God, and the apostle to whom Christ revealed the Church, the Body of Christ, comes the knowledge of one baptism: the baptism of the Holy Spirit. By this one baptism, we are identified with Christ and placed “in Christ.” God the Holy Spirit is the baptizer of Believers, not a church leader who dips, pours, or sprinkles water on someone. Despite the centuries of history of water baptism and all the traditions attached to this practice, the Scriptures teach baptism of the Holy Spirit is the one legitimate baptism for you and me, the Church, the Body of Christ.
If you’re still unsure about the difference between water baptism and spiritual baptism, find these passages in your Bible and study them (Colossians 2:9-12; Titus 3:5-7).
Getting back to verse 10:1, this verse has nothing to do with immersion in water, or sprinkling, for the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground: But the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea, and the waters were like a wall to them on the right hand and on their left (Exodus 14:29). It was Pharaoh and his armies who were, not merely immersed, but drowned in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:27, 28, 30; Hebrews 11:27-29). They all died so this was not the baptism into Moses Paul spoke of.
Moses was God’s chosen man; he was used of the LORD God to “deliver” His people from Egypt, so it was Israel’s baptism into Moses, meaning their identification with him that took them safely through the Red Sea experience. As the Israelites encamped in a trap, as it were, with the Red Sea before them, desert on one side and mountains on the other, and Pharaoh’s armies bearing down on them from behind, Moses stood before the people and said, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today (Exodus 14:13a).
Moses wasn’t talking about salvation from their sins there on the shores of the Red Sea. He meant if they stood firm, trusting in the LORD God, He would save them from the advancing Egyptian armies. Therefore the Israelites, without a doubt, identified themselves with Moses at that time by placing their trust in him and the LORD God to protect them from annihilation. The alternative was to surrender to Pharaoh’s and his armies. This young nation of five million people put their faith in Moses, identifying with him, and the LORD God, their Provider and Protector; let’s not overlook the Main Thing, and in doing so they were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
This is where the expression Shekinah glory first appears in Scripture. You won’t find the word Shekinah in the Bible, but the concept exists. Some Jewish rabbis coined the expression, a form of a Hebrew word that literally means, “He caused to dwell,” signifying it was a divine visitation of the presence of the LORD God on this earth. The Shekinah was first evident when the Israelites set out from Succoth in their escape from Egypt. This is when the LORD God appeared in a cloud by day and a fiery pillar by night (Exodus 13:20-22).
In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ is the dwelling place of God’s glory. Paul tells us in Colossians 2:9 “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form…” causing Jesus Christ to explain to Phillip, “He who as seen Me has seen the Father; (John 14:9a). Even though Jesus Christ’ glory was veiled while He was here on earth, He is nonetheless the presence of God on this earth in bodily form.
3: and all ate the same spiritual food – this speaks of the manna (the bread of angels – Exodus 16:15, 35; Psalms 78:25); and quail (Exodus 16:13; Numbers 11:31-32), which were the LORD God’s supernatural provisions during the wilderness wandering period. Flavius Josephus, the historian, (37-100 AD) called this manna “divine and extraordinary food,” It is called spiritual food to denote its purity, significance, and superiority (compare spiritual to natural @ Romans 7:14; 1 Corinthians 3:1, 15:44, 46). The Israelites were nourished by spiritual food for forty years until they finally reached the borders of the land of Canaan – the Promised Land (Exodus 16:35).
4: and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ (Exodus 17:6).
Here our Apostle Paul is recalling the miraculous supply of water in the desert drawn from the rock. The water didn’t trickle forth from the rock it gushed out in a torrent, after Moses struck it per the LORD’s command, albeit disobediently, which is why he was not permitted to enter the Promised Land (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:1-13). It had to be a large quantity of water to supply the needs of 5 million people. In fact, Scripture says it became a “brook” or “river,” flowing from Mount Horeb to the Red Sea (Deuteronomy 9:21; Numbers 34:5; Joshua 15:4, 47; 1 Kings 8:65).
Paul informs us the spiritual rock mentioned here, as it is elsewhere in the O.T., is Christ. But this is not meant to be taken literally. Jesus Christ didn’t become a rock. The rock from which the water gushed forth was an ordinary rock, probably a part of Mount Horeb; but it represented the Messiah. Paul writes: and the rock was Christ - the word “was” is often used to denote similarity or representation in Scripture, and the Bible student should not take it literally.
I need another example from Scripture to show you what I mean: in the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus Christ said, “This is my body,” that is, the bread represents His body. Likewise, He took the cup saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood;” that is to say it represents the new covenant and His blood (1 Corinthians 11:24-25).
Moses was the first in Scripture to use the word “rock” in a figurative sense in connection with the LORD God. Rock is a title for YHWH in the O.T. which emphasizes His strength and permanence. Rock was used to build walls, fortresses, and strong towers back in the day. This translates to meaning God is our source of strength in times of danger and distress (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 18:2, 19:14). In the book of Daniel the word rock it’s used to symbolize the kingdom of God as a destroying force in the latter days (Daniel 2:45). The rock symbolism continues in the N.T. with reference to the Lord Jesus Christ for He is the Chief-Cornerstone. He is the rock of offense to those who reject Him, but the spiritual rock for those who obey Him (Romans 9:33; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:8).
Our Apostle Paul does not say the Israelites knew the rock was designed to be a representation of their Messiah. But he does mean to say the rock was a representation of the Messiah, the Jews did partake of the “life-giving water” and mercy that flowed from Him, and in their desert wanderings they were under His constant care for Paul said: “a spiritual rock which followed them…” (Exodus 17:6 and Numbers 20:11)
The rock didn’t up and follow the nation of Israel, obviously, so when Scripture says, they were drinking from a spiritual rock, it must mean the water that came from the Rock accompanied them; they physically carried the water in some kind of container from one place to the next. Water was twice brought out of a rock by Moses to supply the needs of Israel. Once at Mount Horeb, (Exodus 17:6) in the wilderness of Sin, in the first year of their departure from Egypt; and the second about the time of the death of Miriam at Kadesh-barnea in the 40th year of their departure from Egypt (Numbers 20).
5: Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased (with their ingratitude and rebellion); for they were laid low (perished) in the wilderness.
Verses 1-4 shed light on the fact that the Israelites left Egypt and wandered in the wilderness for forty years and they were saved. How do we know they were saved? All of them had observed the very first Passover the night before their freedom was realized, which was an act of faith, and came out of their bondage in Egypt in total compliance with the God of their fathers– and this is certainly a picture of salvation from an O.T. perspective (Exodus 12).
If you’ll recall, Paul used the Passover Lamb of Exodus 12 to describe the benefit of the cross of Jesus Christ to the Corinthian saints (5:7). The saved status of the Exodus generation is also realized in Paul’s use of the word all (5 occurrences in verses 1-4). This means every Israelite experienced the same supernatural blessings of Yahweh.
Despite all these blessing, verse 5 says there’s a “b-u-t” coming, which means: behold the underlying truth. In the wilderness, the Israelites hardened their hearts against the LORD God. They tested (or tried) Him with their lack of faith, a.k.a. unbelief. This is the chief reason they did not enter God’s rest. The LORD God was angry with that generation because of their persistent rebellion (Numbers 14:11-12, Psalm 78:32-34, 106:13-33).
The LORD God swore they would not enter His rest; of all those over the age of 20 when they left Egypt, only Joshua and Caleb entered the Promised Land. The rest were disqualified from the ministry the LORD God had planned for them and they died in the wilderness (Exodus 19:6); millions of people did not finish the journey they started (Numbers 14:22-24, 28-35; Deuteronomy 1:34-35, 2:15-16).
The Israelites were rebellious early on but their ingratitude came to a head at a place called Kadesh-barnea, 150 miles from Mount Horeb, near the borders of Canaan, the Promised Land (Exodus 16:2; Numbers 11; 14:2; Deuteronomy 1:2, 19-21). It has been approximately two years since the Israelites had left Egypt. They are now on the very borders of the Promised Land with Kadesh-barnea being the gateway. The LORD God said, “…go up, take possession, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has spoken to you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Instead of obeying the God of their fathers, Israel’s faith wavered, and they proposed that a committee be chosen and sent in to see if the land was all that the LORD God had said it was, and to see if they could conquer it and take possession of it.
This was not God’s plan. The very thought of going against God’s plan was evidence that God’s people did not believe Him and did not trust His leadership. He gave in to their request though, and one man was chosen from each of the twelve tribes to make up this investigating committee a.k.a. spies (Numbers 13).
The spies were gone forty days and returned with a glowing report and they brought back samples of the land’s fruit. They declared that it was all the LORD God had promised. But it was a divided report. Ten of the twelve spies began to describe the walled cities as impregnable fortresses, and the inhabitants of the land as “giants” (Nephilim – Genesis 6:2, 4; Deuteronomy 2:10-11, 2:21, 3:11 – See also Goliath). They reported that it would be impossible for the Israelites to conquer the country. In doing so, they left the LORD God completely out of the picture. Caleb and Joshua went out of their way in trying to counteract the evil influence of the other ten spies, urging the people to go up at once and take possession of the land, saying, “for we will surely overcome it” (Numbers 13:28-33).
Now the entire Israelite camp is upset. Joy and hope once existed, but now gloom, despair, and grumbling have set in (Numbers 14:1-10). Caleb and Joshua continued their efforts to turn the tide of unbelief and rebellion saying, “If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it to us” (Numbers 14:6-10). They pleaded with the people not to rebel, but their pleas made the people angry, so angry that they threatened to stone the two faithful spies to death. The people sat in their tents grumbling and complaining against the LORD God (Deuteronomy 1:25-28).
The people believed trying to conquer the land was sure suicide so it was better that they perish in the wilderness, so the LORD God granted them their request. The LORD sentenced them to an additional forty years of wandering in the wilderness, one year for each day they had spent spying in the land against His expressed will; until their wish was fulfilled… The LORD God spared their children saying, “…Your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness…. Eventually, the Israelites entered Canaan with Joshua as their leader and not Moses (Deuteronomy 1:34-40; Numbers 14:22-30).
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