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Learning from Israel’s Failures

10 My dear fellow believers, you need to understand that all of our Jewish ancestors who walked through a wilderness long ago were under the glory cloud[a] and passed through the waters of the sea on both sides. They were all baptized[b] into the cloud of glory, into the fellowship of Moses, and into the sea. They all ate the same heavenly manna[c] and drank water from the same spiritual rock[d] that traveled with them—and that Rock[e] was Christ himself. Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their dead bodies were scattered around the wilderness.[f]

Now, all these things serve as types and pictures for us—lessons that teach us not to fail in the same way by callously craving worthless things and practicing idolatry, as some of them did. For it is written:

The people settled in to their unrestrained revelry, with feasting and drinking, then they rose up and became wildly out of control![g]

Neither should we commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, which caused the death of twenty-three thousand[h] on a single day. Nor should we ever provoke the Lord,[i] as some of them did by putting him to outrageous tests that resulted in their death from snakebites day after day.[j] 10 And we must not embrace their ways by complaining—grumbling with discontent, as many of them did,[k] and were killed by the destroyer![l]

11 All the tests they endured on their way through the wilderness are a symbolic picture, an example that provides us with a warning so that we can learn through what they experienced. For we live in a time when the purpose of all the ages past is now completing its goal within us.[m] 12 So beware if you think it could never happen to you, lest your pride becomes your downfall.

The Way of Escape

13 We all experience[n] times of testing,[o] which is normal for every human being. But God will be faithful to you. He will screen and filter the severity, nature, and timing of every test or trial you face[p] so that you can bear it. And each test is an opportunity to trust him more, for along with every trial God has provided for you a way of escape[q] that will bring you out of it victoriously.[r]


14 My cherished friends, keep on running far away from idolatry. 15 I know I am writing to thoughtful people, so carefully consider what I say. 16 For when we pray for the blessing of the communion cup, isn’t this our co-participation with the blood of Jesus?[s] And the bread that we distribute, isn’t this the bread of our co-participation with the body of Christ?[t] 17 For although we’re many, we become one loaf of bread and one body as we feast together[u] on one loaf.

18 Consider the people of Israel when they fell into idolatry. When they ate the sacrifices offered to the gods, weren’t they becoming communal participants in what was sacrificed? 19 Now, am I saying that idols and the sacrifices offered to them have any value? 20 Absolutely not! However, I am implying that when an unbeliever offers a sacrifice to an idol, it is not offered to the true God but to a demon. I don’t want you to be participants with demons! 21 You can’t drink from the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You can’t feast at the table of the Lord and feast[v] at the table of demons. 22 Who would ever want to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Is that something you think you’re strong enough to endure?[w]

Living for God’s Glory

23 You say, “Under grace there are no rules and we’re free to do anything we please.” Not exactly. Because not everything promotes growth in others. Your slogan, “We’re allowed to do anything we choose,” may be true—but not everything causes the spiritual advancement of others. 24 So don’t always seek what is best for you at the expense of another. 25 Yes, you are free to eat anything without worrying about your conscience, 26 for the earth and all its abundance belongs to the Lord.[x]

27 So if an unbeliever invites you to dinner, go ahead and eat whatever is served, without asking questions concerning where it came from.[y] 28 But if he goes out of his way to inform you that the meat was actually an offering sacrificed to idols, then you should pass, not only for his sake but because of his conscience. 29 I’m talking about someone else’s conscience, not yours. What good is there in doing what you please if it’s condemned by someone else?

30 So if I voluntarily participate, why should I be judged for celebrating my freedom?[z] 31 Whether you eat or drink, live your life in a way that glorifies and honors God. 32 And make sure you’re not offending Jews or Greeks or any part of God’s assembly over your personal preferences. 33 Follow my example, for I try to please everyone in all things, rather than putting my liberty first. I sincerely attempt to do anything I can so that others may be saved.


  1. 10:1 The cloud of glory is a picture of the Holy Spirit.
  2. 10:2 Or “baptized themselves.” There are at least eight distinct baptisms mentioned in the New Testament: (1) the baptism of John (John 1:31–33), (2) Christ’s baptism (John 3:22), (3) a baptism of suffering (Luke 12:50), (4) a baptism into the cloud of glory (1 Cor. 10:2), (5) a baptism into the sea (a picture of redemption—1 Cor. 10:2), (6) believer’s baptism in water (Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38–41), (7) baptism into Christ and into his body (1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27), and (8) baptism in the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11–14; Acts 1:5; 11:16; 19:2–3). See also Heb. 6:2.
  3. 10:3 Or “spiritual food.” See Ex. 16; Ps. 78:24–25; John 6:31–48.
  4. 10:4 See Ex. 17:6; Num. 20:7–21; Ps. 78:15.
  5. 10:4 Christ is the anointed Rock of truth and the Rock of shelter. The people drank of his living water. The miracle of the Rock of Christ provided them with water wherever they journeyed. He is a fountain that never runs dry, for he will never leave us alone in a wilderness.
  6. 10:5 The Aramaic can be translated “They failed [the test] in the wilderness.”
  7. 10:7 Although most translations have “They rose up to play,” this is misleading. To translate the Greek word paizō in this context is extremely difficult. However, because of the next verse, it appears Paul is saying that they rose up after feasting and drinking to fall into immorality. Although paizō could be translated “They rose up to sport” or “They rose up to hilarity,” it seems that sexual immorality is the more likely inference here. The Aramaic word can be translated “carouse.”
  8. 10:8 Some manuscripts have “twenty-four thousand.” See Num. 25:9.
  9. 10:9 Some manuscripts have “Christ.”
  10. 10:9 See Num. 21:5–9.
  11. 10:10 In the Pentateuch there are at least sixteen occasions of the people of Israel murmuring. Believers today have even more spiritual blessings than Israel experienced in the wilderness, which would make our complaining even more odious.
  12. 10:10 Or “the destroying angel.”
  13. 10:11 As translated from the Aramaic. The Greek is “The end of the ages has arrived upon us.”
  14. 10:13 Or “which has fastened onto you.”
  15. 10:13 Or “temptation.”
  16. 10:13 That is, God’s faithfulness and grace will limit the severity of every test and prevent you from being tested beyond your ability to cope. Unlimited grace is available for every believer who faces hardship, temptations, and seasons of difficulty.
  17. 10:13 Or “an exodus.” Trust in God’s faithfulness is the way of escape that empowers us to overcome every difficulty we may experience. We are not told that every difficulty will be removed from our lives, but that God’s grace provides an exit path.
  18. 10:13 Or “God bears up under you to take you out of danger” (Gr. hupophero) or “God provides a way of escape so that you may be empowered to endure it.” God’s faithfulness gives us both a way of escape and the power to endure.
  19. 10:16 The Aramaic can be translated “the presence of the blood of Jesus.” There is no indication that the communion elements are “symbols.” Life is not imparted by partaking of a dead symbol or emblem. When we take communion (common-union) we participate in the reality and substance of the blood and body of our Lord Jesus.
  20. 10:16 The Aramaic can be translated “the presence of the body of the Messiah.”
  21. 10:17 The Aramaic can be translated “We are nourished by that one loaf of bread.”
  22. 10:21 Or “participate,” which is the Greek word metaecho, or “echo with.”
  23. 10:22 Or “Are we really stronger than he is?”
  24. 10:26 See Pss. 24:1; 50:12; 89:11.
  25. 10:27 Or “questions of conscience.”
  26. 10:30 Or “eating food that I gave thanks for.”

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