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Be careful lest you fall!

Be careful lest you fall!


"I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless with most of them God was not pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things are warnings for us, not to desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to dance." We must not indulge in immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put the Lord to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents; nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as a examples and they were written down as a warning for us, upon whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall." (1 Corinthians 10:1-12).

Here we have another example from Scripture where Christians are warned that they might fall under judgment by God if they do not remain faithful to him. Having just explained to the Corinthian Christians that he himself makes sure that he will not be disqualified for the eternal prize, in the verses immediately preceding, Paul now turns his attention to them and to warn them not to fall short of that prize.

Paul reminds these Christians that the Israelites were baptized into Moses and the sea and these Israelites ate spiritual food and drank spiritual drink. Here Paul is comparing these images to Christian baptism and the Lord's supper and warns them not to become idolators like the Israelites and fall under the judgment of God. Indeed, in the verses which immediately follow, Paul discusses the Lord's supper and instructs the Corinthian Christians that they cannot partake both of the Lord's table and the table of idolatry. It is already rather obvious even here that Paul is drawing an analogical parallelism between the Corinthian Christian community to the Israelites in the desert.

But Paul goes even further. He refers to the golden calf incident of Exodus 32. Due to their idolatry, the LORD commanded Moses to have the Levites go through the Israelite camp and slay with the sword thousands of people. Paul also refers to the Israelites of Numbers 21 who grumbled and God sent serpents destroy them. Many Israelites also died in this incident.

Now what Paul want us to see is that such condemnation will also come to Christians just like it came to the Israelites if they are not faithful. He tells us plainly that what happened to them was an example for us so that we may be warned by their example. The analogy is quite plain. The Israelites were saved from Egyptian bondage by God through the baptism of the Red Sea. They shared in spiritual food and spiritual drink. And when they turned from God and turned their faces back to Egypt these individuals, whom God had saved, and who had shared in his blessings, came under serious condemnation. Now as an example for us, Paul warns that Christians too may fall under condemnation if they turn to idolatry.

This analogy was widely recognized in early Christianity. The same warning with the same analogy is also found at Hebrews 3:14-19 and Jude 5.

"Today if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts as they did in the rebellion. Who were they who rebelled? Were they not those who Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God say they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see they were not able to enter because of unbelief."
"I want to remind you that the Lord saved his people out of Egypt but later destroyed those who did not believe." (Jude 5).

It would take quite a trick of self deception to not see the obvious implications Paul is making here. He is telling Christians that they must be careful that they do not fall like some of the Israelites fell. These Israelites would not enter the promised land because they sinned against God and came under condemnation and Paul is telling these Christians the same will happen to them if they are not careful to remain obedient to God.

In verse 13, Paul reminds them also that God will not allow anyone to be tempted beyond what they can bear and when they are tempted God makes sure that they will have a way to escape any temptation so that they might stand and not fall. Therefore, no one has any excuse and if anyone commits such sins they are solely responsible for their actions because God will neither allow them to be tempted beyond what they can handle and he always makes sure that they have an option to choose not to sin but to do otherwise.

Paul gives these Christians this dire warning for a reason. And that reason is quite plain to thinking minds. There is no reason for such a warning if it simply could not happen. Moreover, it is also quite plain that Paul is not referring to some kind of temporary disciplinary chastisement but to a complete falling from the grace of God. If we turn away from God and turn to a life of sin we will fall under condemnation from God to our own destruction.