This is the second part of an exposition on Christian Liberty taken from 1 Corinthians 8-10. You can find the first part here.
1 Corinthians 10 is where Paul makes one more illustration, this time on the misuse and abuse of Christian liberty, and then puts forth the final principles for using Christian liberty. The first 10 verses of the chapter starts off with Paul using the illustration of Israel and their fall into idolatry and complaining, and warns the reader against both of these sins. The interesting way that Paul sets up the first part of this passage is by pointing out that Israel had everything going for them, with the presence of God, the power of God, and the perfect leader and example in the man of God. Despite all of those things, they turned to idolatry and griping. In every Bible translation, this illustration of Israel seems to be treated as being separate from his dealing with the issue of Christian liberty as seen in the “meat eating” question. The same is true for the majority of commentators that I have access to. The only commentary that I thought made a decent attempt to fit this into the overall passage was “Expositor’s Bible Commentary.” I really do believe, though, that given the fact that this illustration falls between a clear teaching on Christian liberty and the final verses on Christian liberty, it has to relate in some way to that teaching. I believe the answer to how it relates is found in verses 11-13
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
I think that the illustration from Israel’s history is teaching us that even though God has given us everything in Christ, including liberty, if we use that liberty to indulgence it can go too far and lead us into sin. When Israel was at the height of God’s blessing – Moses was on the mountain receiving God’s law, and they were worshiping God at a feast – their feasting and worshiping turned into a desire for a concrete physical image and the idolatry of the golden calf. The temptation to use our liberty as indulgence in physical pleasure can easily lead us into sin if we are not careful. While the temptation to abuse our liberty and commit sin may be great, God will provide a way out of the temptation without falling into sin. My thought is that a careful use of our liberty will help us to see God’s way out.
Next, we examine Paul’s final principles on Christian Liberty in this three part series.