Sermon March 22, 2020

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1437                                   Click here for Audio Worship

March 22, 2020 1 Corinthians 10.1-14

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

“God Is Faithful”

 

1For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,

2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,

3and all ate the same spiritual food,

4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

5Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

6Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.

7Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”

8We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.

9We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents,

10nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.

11Now 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.

12Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

13No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

14Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

 

  • Learning From History (1-4)

 

One of the things that many of us know is the saying that those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. We sometimes observe today that many in our country know very little about the history of our nation and therefore are not as well prepared to know that certain forms of governing would doom our nation. The same can be said about biblical illiteracy, that the church has not been diligent to teach the history of God’s people and we may be doomed to the same idolatry of Israel. This was certainly a concern for the apostle Paul who begins this chapter with a short history lesson. His warning, do not be unaware. Don’t forget where you have come from and who has brought you this far. He gives a quick summation of the exodus story, of passing through the cloud and the sea and likens it to a baptism, a path to salvation in the name of Moses, God’s chosen leader. The people ate and drank of a spiritual source and what I find most amazing in this teaching from Paul is that the spiritual Rock from which they drank was Jesus Christ. For all those who claim we should disengage from the Old Testament, I cannot see how that is possible when Paul recognizes that Christ is all over the Old Testament. For those who think that the Old Testament is less important than the New Testament, you will lose great depth of understanding of the New without deeply understanding the Old. You might as well be destined to repeat the idolatry of Israel if you abandon the riches given us from Genesis to Malachi.

Every time we go through some sort of disaster or outbreak of something like we have now with coronavirus, we start to think back to the last time something like this happened. We cart out the statistics; we look to what was done before, and hopefully we learn something to help us along the way. The same thing must be done for our faith and trust in God. We look back to our history, a history that we have been grafted into from Genesis 1. We take note of the failures of people who also took the journey with God and we look to the times of faithfulness that we too might walk in faith, especially in difficult and uncertain times.

 

  • Examples For Learning (5-10)

 

Paul basically gives four examples for our life: idolatry, sexual immorality, testing Jesus, and grumbling. Before we look briefly at each of these I want us to notice the end of the reading for today. I ended it at verse 14 even though many Bibles start a new paragraph at 14. I think it is better to start a new paragraph at verse 15, and remember, the Greek does not have paragraphs like we see in our English versions. Verse 14 is the verse that sums up 1-13. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. Here is what I believe Paul is saying. All four of these examples are forms of idolatry. They all break the commandment of worshiping God alone. Idolatry breaks the first three commandments, to have no gods before God, to make no imagines or likenesses, and to honor God’s name. They all look to something other than God for life.

 

    • Idolaters (7)

 

The first group is obviously called out as idolaters, verse 7. What did they do to show that? Before, while they were in the midst of their deliverance from Egypt, they ate and drank from the spiritual Rock that was Jesus. They became idolatrous when they sat down to eat and drink and play from a source that was not Jesus. The implication from Paul is that they became promiscuous, gluttons, and reveled in their own passions. We are warned that our true food is Jesus Christ, to eat and drink from the spiritual Rock. We are warned that eating from other sources is dangerous and idolatrous.

 

    • Sexually Immoral (8)

 

The second group is described as sexually immoral. They became involved in the actions that the Old Testament and Jesus and Paul would describe as those apart from intimacy between a man and a woman within the covenant of marriage. I do not need to demonstrate how this is prevalent in our time as well. But, what I do want to say is that this too is a form of idolatry in that immorality and passions are idolized above God and God’s boundaries for relationships. We, that is our culture, idolizes the sexually immoral and reject God’s ways of forming healthy intimacy in marriage.

 

    • Testing Jesus (9)

 

The third group tested Jesus. You will remember one of the temptations put forth to Jesus from the devil in Matthew 4.5-7,

 

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

 

This is an act of idolatry because to test God is to claim that God cannot keep His promises. To test God is to claim that God is less than God. To test God is to claim another god may be able to do something more than God.

 

 

    • Grumbling (10)

 

The fourth group were a bunch of grumblers. Grumbling is to complain with a bad attitude. Grumbling is lamenting without sufficient cause. Grumbling is something akin to putting God to the test. Have you ever heard a teenager grumbling about something a parent told them to do or not do. Yeah, that’s what angered God when Israel grumbled like that! It is idolatrous because it questions God’s wisdom. It challenges God’s authority and purposes and suggests there might be a better god elsewhere.

 

 

  • Take Heed (12)

 

We talk a great deal about protecting ourselves physically, and rightly so, but what we cannot forget is to protect ourselves spiritually. We must eat and drink from the spiritual Rock. To eat and drink and rise up to play with any other foods is idolatry. Yes we need our physical food, bread to strengthen our bodies, but Jesus said we do not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

What might be idolatrous for us? One thing might be our lack of trust in God. Or, to put it another way, our greater trust in material things. We make material possessions our god. We have marveled at how people have panicked and emptied shelves of certain items. Another idolatry is control. We worship our ability to control our situations. Or we might idolize people, things, ideas, political parties, or any number of things above our love and worship of God. You see, the problem throughout the Bible is not atheism, as we might think; the problem in the Bible is idolatry. The constant problem in the Bible is the wrong god rather than no God. So Paul tells us to take heed that we not fall into idolatry of any kind.

If we are anxious about our life, take heed. Jesus said in Matthew 6.25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”

Matthew 6.33-34 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Is Jesus saying have no concerns or take no sensible caution for things like we are seeing today? No. Not at all. Some people should stay home. Everyone should keep up with social distancing. We should be washing our hands regularly. But what Jesus is saying is that we must understand something that Paul inserts in this passage from 1 Corinthians, “God is faithful.” God is faithful to take care of us. Take heed to remember that. God is faithful to heal our bodies and heal our land and heal our world and heal our spirits and heal our anxieties and heal our uncertainties. Take heed to remember that. God is faithful to provide for our needs. Take heed to remember that.

Psalm 37.25 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. This is our anti-idolatry profession. Perhaps we can take a reflective time while we are inundated with everything coronavirus related and examine our lives. Where might we have practiced idolatry during our coronavirus uncertainty? What are the things we thought we could not live without? What are the things we wish we did not have to live with?

 

  • God Is Faithful (13-14)

 

God is faithful. This will help us through this period of life above all else. God is faithful. He is faithful to His people. We don’t often talk about God’s faithfulness because we are mostly concerned with our own. We question our own faith. We seek to be more faithful. But the Bible speaks a great deal about God’s faithfulness and more so that God is faithful even when we are not. God is faithful to His promises. He is the faithful Savior, faithful King, faithful Lover, the faithful One who keeps our lives (Psalm 121).

God is faithful to get us through these times. God is faithful to provide a way for us to grow in our faithfulness. God is faithful to comfort and bring peace and to heal our weaknesses. This is our God and this is our statement of faith. This is our way of life and hope and trust. It is the thought and the belief that will sustain us throughout our days. We know this well because we have seen it on two fronts, the Bible and our own life experiences. We work and play and live in the world, but we also know more importantly that God is working and living and playing in this world because He is faithful to His people.

In times when our world seems so fragile, at times when the future so unknown, we need to remember that God is faithful. When our worries are ever increasing, we need to pursue more deeply the faithfulness of God. In God’s kingdom everything we need is provided. God provides, God’s kingdom is here, and God is active among us and God is faithful. Thanks be to God.

 
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