Bible Study with Jairus -1 Corinthians 10

In 1 Corinthians 10, we read a beautiful description of Jesus’ presence with the Israelites in the wilderness. The verse says that the Israelites “all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”[1] (1 Corinthians 10:4, ESV)

This verse is beautiful, but it puzzles me. Why couldn’t the Israelites sense the presence of Christ, their spiritual Rock? Even now, looking back on the wilderness wandering accounts, we as believers don’t recognize the presence of Jesus with the Israelites. How could Paul be so confident that He was really with them?

Perhaps the Israelites were unable to see Jesus walking with them, just like the disciples did not recognize the resurrected Christ the first time they saw him. Whether walking to Emmaus or fishing on the seashore, the disciples had a hard time recognizing the resurrected Christ. Perhaps in the same ways, the Israelites were unable to recognize Christ, the spiritual Rock who accompanied them.

Eyes to See

We don’t directly read in the Old Testament that the spiritual Rock that followed the Israelites was Christ. The Israelites themselves couldn’t feel His presence. They did not believe. They rebelled, worshiped idols, were sexually immoral, tested Christ, and complained. They didn’t trust his presence with them. Just like the disciplines were unable to see the resurrected Christ when He was walking with them to Emmaus, the Israelites were also blinded. For various reasons, they were unable to recognize Christ as he walked with them to the Promised Land.

When the Lord Jesus explained the prophecies about himself to the disciples on to the road to Emmaus, their hearts burned within them. When He broke the bread during their meal with him, their eyes were opened and they recognized Him. The story of the Lord walking with the disciples to Emmaus and opening their hearts and eyes is a beautiful picture of the spiritual Rock described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10.

The Israelites in the wilderness needed their eyes to be opened to the presence of Jesus, who had been there all along. The Israelites could not have deep fellowship with God or recognize his presence, because they were communing with demons and living in greed, immorality, and idolatry.

Paul warned the believers in Corinth to learn from the Israelites’ mistakes. The Corinthians in Paul’s day were falling into the same trap. They needed to let go of their fellowship with demons and idols and embrace constant fellowship with the body and blood of the Lord. Only then would their minds and spiritual eyes be gradually opened so they could recognize the Lord’s presence among them.

The same is true for Christians today. The resurrected Christ has been among us this whole time, but we often don’t recognize his presence. We must sever our attachment to our idols and increase our connection with Jesus’ body and blood. As we do, Christ’s presence will fill our lives. Our minds and spiritual eyes will be gradually open, and we will see the resurrected Christ.

Seeing Spiritual Reality

In verses 1-4, Paul draws back the curtain and shows us what was going on behind the scenes during the wilderness wanderings. The Old Testament record tells us the daily events that happened in the physical realm. But in 1 Corinthians, Paul reveals what was happening in the spiritual realm—things that the Israelites could not see and that we can’t read about in the Old Testament text.

Why could Paul see this spiritual Rock, but the Israelites couldn’t? Paul says, “The natural person is not able to understand all things because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things.” (1 Corinthians 2:14-15). Paul is a spiritual person, so he can perceive these spiritual realities.

What Paul described in 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 is a spiritual reality. He is not just inventing a parable or metaphor. Instead, he’s revealing the behind-the-scenes reality. When the Israelites were traveling through the sea and following the cloud, they were being baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. That is the spiritual reality. When the Israelites ate manna and drank water from the rock, they were eating spiritual food and water. This spiritual water came from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock is Christ (verse 4).

Let’s focus on the word, “followed,” a word that the Holy Spirit highlights when we read this passage. How exactly did Christ follow the Israelites? Did the Israelites carry a rock, just like they carried the ark of the covenant?

No, I don’t believe they did. Paul says that Christ was the spiritual Rock that followed them. Paul never says that he was visible. Most likely, he was an invisible spiritual Rock. When Moses struck the rock as the Lord commanded, perhaps this spiritual Rock joined with the physical rock to produce water.

In the material realm, the Israelites saw Moses striking a physical rock. They saw water gushing out of a physical stone. But in the spiritual realm, the water was spiritual water gushing out of Christ, the spiritual rock.

An example may help you understand. When we lay hands on people and pray in church, the action means much more than simply placing hands on someone’s head. Instead, it means that Jesus Christ is spiritually placing his hands and his power on someone’s life. Many people who have prophetic gifts and gifts of healing testify that the Lord can lay hands through our hands to heal the sick. These gifted people sometimes can see into the spiritual realms. But since we don’t have our spiritual eyes open, we often can’t see these spiritual realities. It’s important to open our spiritual eyes and our minds.

A Veiled Heart

In verses 5-11, Paul described a veil that covered the Israelites’ hearts. The people were full of greed, idolatry, immorality, and grumbling. They tempted Christ and distrusted his promises. They were disciplined, and their hearts were covered with a veil of darkness and confusion. The veil over their hearts kept them from seeing Christ, the spiritual Rock that was following them. Paul says that “to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.” (2 Corinthians 3:15-16).

If we still can’t understand that Christ was the spiritual Rock who was following the Israelites, then there’s a possibility that we have a veil over our hearts, just like the Israelites in the Old Testament. Sins like idolatry and greed blind our hearts to God’s presence. Like the disciples walking to Emmaus, our minds need to be opened by Christ so we can see Christ in the Old Testament. The breaking of bread, which is fellowship with Christ’s blood and body, opens our spiritual eyes so we can see the spiritual rock in the Old Testament.

When Christ opens our eyes, we can also see that the resurrected Christ is with us in our lives today. Christ was not only with the Israelites in the Old Testament, but he is with us every day (Matthew 28:20). How many Christians can truly see the resurrected Christ? Often, our hearts and minds are blinded and veiled by idols and sins. We need to sever our relationship with idols and strengthen our fellowship with Christ’s blood and body. Then, our eyes will be opened to see the presence of the resurrected Christ.

The Way of Escape

1 Corinthians 10:11-13 says, “Now 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. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No 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.”

Here, Paul encouraged the Corinthians to learn from the history of the Israelites. God allowed trials that would test the Israelites and see if they would remain true to him. When prophets performed signs and tried to convince them to worship false gods, the Israelites were being tested (Deuteronomy 13:1-4). Would they remain true to God?

In the same way, the wilderness wanderings were a test for the Israelites. A test is not an end, but a means. The purpose of the test is to make our faith more precious than gold (1 Peter 1:7).

Rather than passing the test through faith, the Israelites stumbled and rebelled. Paul challenged the Corinthians to respond differently to their trials. The culture of Corinth provided a test for the Corinthians. Their city was full of immorality and idolatry. Would they stay true to God?

Paul promised that their tests would not be more than they could bear. The trials would not overtake them. God would provide a way of escape, according to their ability. He will do the same for us.

What is this way of escape? Paul explains this concept in verses 14-22. We can escape sin when we cut off our fellowship with idols. First Corinthians 10:21 says, “You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” The essence of the table is fellowship. Paul asked the Corinthians to cut off their fellowship with idols. When someone is joined to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her. In the same way, when we are joined to the Lord, we become one spirit with Him (1 Corinthians 6:15-17). We should not be unified with idols, but with Jesus.

Having fellowship with idols will put a veil in our hearts, making us unable to see the resurrected Christ. At the same time, our union with sin can increase our ability to perceive sins. As we fellowship with Christ through His blood and body (represented by the bread), we cleanse ourselves of sin, get rid of our filth, and become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). In this way, we cultivate an atmosphere of God’s presence. This is the secret to opening our minds and spiritual eyes so we can see the spiritual Rock. He followed the Israelites in the Old Testament, he appeared as the resurrected Christ in the New Testament, and he is still with us today.

Seeing Christ in others

In verses 23-33, Paul discusses food sacrificed to idols. Paul says that in the Lord, all foods are clean. In one way, it makes no difference whether or not you eat a particular food. But Paul also explains that different believers have different weaknesses, temptations, and convictions.

One believer may have completely overcome the temptation to eat food sacrificed to idols, so they see no problem with eating meat. However, other believers came from an idolatrous family environment. They believe that once they are saved, they should never again eat food sacrificed to idols. Their consciences are weaker. Because of this, Paul recommends that stronger believers should not touch food sacrificed to idols. He asks the mature believers not to eat these foods so as not to hurt people with weak consciences.

A person who has recently been set free from idolatry is still operating in the “sin consciousness” thinking mode. Many new believers have the same experience. They feel like they’re walking on thin ice. They are very fearful of falling back into sin or stumbling back into the worship of idols.

When I first learned to drive, I was so nervous that I held the steering wheel with both hands. I wanted to avoid any and all potential danger. I was so afraid of losing control of the vehicle that I was hypervigilant. But once I got good at driving, I relaxed. I became so comfortable with driving that I sometimes use only one hand. Other people use no hands, and only nudge the steering wheel with their knees when they need to! In the same way, people with a weak conscience are very vigilant about avoiding sin, while people who are more mature feel more relaxed.

Mature believers know that God has cleansed every food and drink. They are not so worried about what they eat and drink. They are free from idolatry—so free that they don’t even let their thoughts be enslaved with worry about idols. Idols are nothing. Because God has made everything clean, these mature believers don’t care about idols at all. These believers are operating in “God Consciousness” instead of “sin consciousness.” They neither worship idols, nor do they fear eating food sacrificed to idols.

Paul asks the believers to enter a third stage of Christian maturity, the “Brother Consciousness” thinking mode. Although they are no longer afraid of eating foods sacrificed to idols, they must consider the feelings of their weak brothers. They must love their neighbors as themselves.  They should avoid eating food sacrificed to idols so as not to become a stumbling block to their Christian brothers and sisters.

Let’s consider the driving parable again. I may be very good at driving, but I should still be vigilant and considerate around a student driver. I can drive very fast with one hand on the steering wheel, but I should be mindful and courteous of other drivers. If I see a student driver running a red light, I must stop at my own green light to avoid hitting him or her. Even though I am not required by law to stop at the green light, I do it out of respect to the student driver.

When we love our neighbors as ourselves, not only can we see the resurrected Christ, but we can also see Christ in others. The Lord Jesus said that we often focus on the speck in another person’s eye but ignore the log in our own eyes (Matthew 7:3). We often despise our weaker brothers, even though in heaven their angels always see the face of His Father who is in heaven (Matthew 18:10). Jesus said that it is better to hang a millstone around our neck and be cast into the sea than to cause our brothers to sin (Luke 17:2). Like the Corinthians, we are not only blind to Jesus’ presence with us, but we are often blind to his presence in others.

There is still racism in the church, which shows that we as believers are still living in our flesh, just like the Israelites in the Old Testament. It also shows that we may still have idols in our hearts. Our minds have not been opened, and we cannot see the resurrected Christ.

When our minds and spiritual eyes are opened, we will not only see the resurrected Christ, but we will also see Christ in our African American, White, Asian and Hispanic brothers. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:16-17, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” We must not regard anyone according to the flesh. Instead, we should see Christ in them. The first thing we should notice about a brother or sister in Christ is that Jesus is in them—not the color of their skin.

Paul’s words are based on his experience. When he thought that persecuting Christians was the same as serving God, he was regarding Christ according to the flesh. But the Lord Jesus told him that persecuting Christians is the same as persecuting Him. We are all members of Christ’s body, and He is our head. Paul not only learned to see Christ differently, but he also learned to see His children differently. Paul deeply realized that in Christ, all believers are new creations! If we still see people based on their color of skin, we are persecuting Christ just like Paul once did!

To solve the problem of racism in American society, the church needs to be a role model.  When the church becomes spiritually mature, she will be able to see the resurrected Christ. She will be able to see Christ in other believers. Christians will be able to live in love.

All external efforts to solve racism are useless until we open our minds and spiritual eyes to see the resurrected Christ and the “resurrected Christ” in others. Only this can bring revolutionary change. That’s why Paul especially prayed for us believers “to have the eyes of our hearts enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18).

Unity and Love

In verse 32, Paul said, “Never be a stumbling block to the Jews, Greeks, or the church of God.” This sentence reminds us of the theme of the whole book of 1 Corinthians: love and unity. Paul is not opposed to eating meat and speaking in tongues. But if he knows his action will make his brother stumble, he will not do it. This is the “brother consciousness” thinking mode I mentioned earlier. We must continuously grow spiritually, moving past the “sin consciousness” mode and even the “God consciousness” mode to reach the “brother consciousness” thinking mode.

No wonder some people say that if we love God, we will love others. The Lord Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40). The apostle John also said, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:20-21).

This is Paul’s burden in 1 Corinthians 10. He encourages the Corinthians who are at odds with one another to choose love. When we free ourselves from idols and fellowship with the blood and body of Christ, God will open our spiritual eyes and minds. We will be able to see the resurrected Christ. Instead of looking at outward characteristics, we’ll see Christ in our brothers and sisters. As we regard people according to the spirit rather than according to the flesh, we will see each other differently. Only then will we be able to truly love each other.

[1] All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.