1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 63
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|Our Christian life is directly measured by the way we relate to one another. In other words, if a person is walking with God, then he is going to be rightly related to his brother in Christ within the body of Christ.|
1 Corinthians 9:26
The Discipline of the Christian Life – Part 2
The context that we are looking at is very clear. It is relationships. Our Christian life is directly measured by the way we relate to one another. In other words, if a person is walking with God, then he is going to be rightly related to his brother in Christ within the body of Christ. In fact, we are going to see this in chapter 12. We are not trying to preempt it, but when God came to live in us in the person of His Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ came bearing gifts. Those gifts were given so that we could minister and build up one another. It was for unity. It was for oneness. It was never for division. I started to say diversity, but it is always diverse. It is never for division, nor is it for any kind of contention.
As a matter of fact, when you see a person walking with Christ, surrendered to Him, learning what we are talking about in chapter 9—the discipline of denying himself—you are going to see that person seeking for the unity of the brethren at whatever cost. It is like Ephesians 4:3 says, that you are to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace. This is what the body of Christ is. This is what gives one another the benefit of the doubt. This is what causes a person to take the low road for the sake of another. This is God working in and through an individual’s life. When that person is not doing that, maybe he is playing a game. Maybe he wants people to think he is one way but he is another. Watch relationships. If he is backbiting somebody or grumbling, griping, whatever it is, any kind of division comes, that comes from the flesh. Our relationship with Christ is measured, not by how much we know, not by how well we think we are doing. It is in our relationships to one another.
The church of Corinth needed to hear this message. Division was rampant on every part. They were attached to everything but Jesus. Some were of Paul, some were of Apollos, some were of Cephas, as we have seen. The context of chapters 8 and 9 is interesting. It has to do with the stronger brother. By stronger we mean the brother who has come to understand the message of grace. He understands his place. He knows who he is, whose he is, and what he is. He knows his direction in life. He understands the message of grace. It is in the context of the stronger to the weaker brother.
The weaker brother has been defined already—that person who doesn’t understand grace. The problem was, the stronger brother who understood the truth was not sensitive to the weaker brother who hadn’t understood the truth. Therefore, the stronger brother used his liberty as a stumbling block to the weaker brother rather than surrendering his own rights and privileges, denying himself for the sake of Christ and the sake of that weaker brother. That is the whole context.
You see, once we have had the high privilege of understanding the message of grace, now comes the responsibility. We have the greater responsibility. The more we understand about grace, the greater our responsibility to live up under it and to make sure that reflects itself in the relationships we have around us.
Well, Paul comes down to verses 2427 and puts the whole summary of everything he has been saying into a context they could not miss. Paul says if you are going to be sensitive to your weaker brother, if you are going to see relationships manifest in the body of Christ like they ought to be, then individually we must discipline ourselves to deny self for the sake of Christ and the sake of others.
Now, you say, “I don’t understand what you are talking about.” Think about last week. What circumstances came to you? You know you were right, you know you saw something that others did not see, but because they were weaker and could not see it, you were willing to die to it in order that they might see what God wanted them to see. That happens over and over and over again in our life. God orchestrates those situations. We are given opportunities every day to die to ourselves. And once we learn the discipline of denying ourselves, then we begin to understand the urgency of living the Christian life.
I remember when I was playing football the coach would say, “Now guys, you are going to have to pay a price if you are going to be good.” Of course, at meals every day they would give us all we wanted to eat. Well, one day they had hot dogs. I love hot dogs. Well, I didn’t realize the coach was checking us out to see how many hot dogs we would eat because we were in training. When you are in training, you deny yourself certain pleasures. You all know that if you have ever been in sports.
Well, that afternoon he ran us and ran us and ran us and ran us and ran us. I hate to tell you this, but I threw up everything but my toes. I thought I was going to die. I have never been so sick in all my life. It was years before I could ever eat another hot dog. The coach was trying to get across to us, you have got to pay a price. But I like hot dogs! He said, okay, you want them, you will get sick off of them. You’ve got to learn to make some choices. And any athlete understands his language.
That is what Paul was been trying to get across. Everyone who competes in the games pays a price, but you also pay a price when you live the Christian life. God in no way spares us the pain of our choices. We’ve got to make those choices.
When people get up and sing those songs about sickness instead of health, oh God, give me poverty instead of wealth, I am thinking, “Good grief, man, do they understand what they have just sung?” I mean, it’s painful the choices we make in the Christian life. Nobody ever said it wasn’t. Do you think it wasn’t painful for Jesus in the garden when He chose to go to the cross for our sin? It was a painful thing. God does not, in many ways, spare us that pain. When you make a choice and everybody looks at you and they think you are absolutely ridiculous because you made the choice based on God’s Word, you are going to have to receive the pain of embarrassment. You are going to have to take the pain of ridicule. It just goes with the territory, and God does not spare the pain of choice. Along with that pain come the consequences that choice may bring. But when He speaks, you do what He says. That is it. You deny self. You don’t ask any other questions. You just do it, and it’s painful.
If you are trying to live the kind of life that is sometimes presented in the media and you want to name it and claim it and think everything is going to be sweet and fluffy all of your life, you have heard a gospel that is not in the Word of God. It is painful to choose against self.
This is God the Holy Spirit overcoming you and me. Victory is when Christ does this. And when we are able to say no to our flesh by saying yes to Him and receive joy in the midst of it, even though the pain may be there, that’s what God produces in us. So He doesn’t spare us the pain of our choice, but He enables us once the choice has been made. He even enables us in the choice. Once we have made the choice, then it is no longer us. We have denied ourselves. It is Christ who lives in us.
Galatians 2:20 says, “For I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me.” You see, in Philippians 1:21 Paul says, “For to me to live is Christ.” If you want to know what is happening to me, it is not me, it is Christ in me. This is the fruit of the Spirit of God. Thank God, in a race if that runner has a problem somewhere and he grows weak, it is his fault, it is his strength. But in the Christian life, you make the choice, you go through the pain of denying self and God steps in, empowers you and takes you right on to the finish line. When you stop, you shout and say, “Thank you, God. It wasn’t me. It was you all the time.”
The third thing is the challenge that Paul wants the Corinthian believers to receive. Now we are going to get a look inside of Paul’s life. How did he live his life? Is there anything we can learn from the apostle Paul? Yes, there are many things. You see, when you live your lives in a consistent way, you point to something. You don’t have to say a word. You can learn by the way another person lives their life. That is the way Paul was. When you learn the discipline of denying yourself, you become predictable, and predictability is what gives you your witness to others around you.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the parents were so predictable that their children could watch how they live and learn to live the Christian life simply by observing their parents? That is the way it was with the apostle Paul. That is why he says many times, “Imitate my faith, do what I do.” He is not saying, “Hey, look at me.” No, he is simply saying, “I have learned something that might help you. I’ve learned the discipline of denying myself.”
Well, as he gives this challenge, look at what he says in verse 26: “Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.”
The first thing he mentions is, “I run and stay within bounds. I have a goal out in front of me. I have learned this in living my Christian life. Have you learned that?” You say, “Where did you find that?” Look! “Therefore I run in such a way.” Now he is going to tell you what the “such a way” is, “as not without aim.”
The word “not” there is ouk. There are two words for “not” in the Greek language. There is ouk, which normally means absolutely without any question. There is another word for not, me, which means relatively not. In other words, sometimes, maybe not. In this particular case Paul uses the word which means absolutely not, in any way, shape or form. He says, I do not run without aim.
Now the little word “without aim” is adelos. It comes from a, without, and delos, which means uncertainty. In other words, I don’t run uncertainly. I don’t run without resolution. But if you take that word and meditate on it for a little while, it has the idea of running within bounds. When somebody plays a sport, there are rules that you go by. When you run a race, there are lanes that you run in. And the apostle Paul says, “I have learned something. I’ve got to stay in bounds. I’ve got to stay in the lane that God has given me and keep the goal ahead of me.” That goal is that one day he can have Jesus look at him and say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” He knows there is a reward coming and that reward won’t be for him. It will be to give back to Christ. He wants to stand there one day unashamed in the presence of God. He keeps that as the goal in front of him. Everything he does is based upon that aim in his life.
Does that remind you of any Scriptures? Philippians 3:14 says, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” He is saying the same thing in Philippians.
Luke 9:62 reads, “But Jesus said to him, ‘No one after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’”
Do you realize when you learn to run in bounds, when you learn to keep the focus of your life being the finish line and where you are headed, when you learn to let that stay like it is, if you ever turn back, you are going to get out of the lane and you are going to lose sight of the goal that you are running towards? Of course, the boundary for us is the Word of God, the will of God. The finish line, of course, is the same one Paul had. When we stand before Christ one day we know that accountability is coming, that there is a reckoning day coming.
So, when a person gets out of bounds and when a person loses their focus, that is what communicates to others that he doesn’t know what is going on. That is exactly what is going on in the Christian life these days. We will fight somebody over the inerrancy of the Word, but we won’t let it dictate our lives. Until we stay in the bounds of what the Word of God says, stand upon what we know that God’s will is and keep our focus that one day we will stand before Christ, we are not going to even understand the vision that God has for us.
Paul says, “I have an aim. I don’t run without aim. I know where I am headed and I am going to stay in bounds to get there. I have learned to do that.” What was the lane that God had given him to run in? It was a ministry to the Gentile world. What is the lane that God has put you in to run? What are your gifts? What is your calling? Where has God planted you? All of a sudden that becomes a lane and His Word begins to surround that and you begin to see the focus at the end, the finish line and you say, “Hey, this is all that matters.” You learn the discipline of denying yourself so that you can pursue that goal and in the meantime you can stay within bounds.
Remember Hebrews 12:1? “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes upon Jesus [there is your goal], the author and perfecter of faith who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.” Do you realize that He went to the cross for the joy of knowing He was pleasing His Father? That was the ultimate motivation of His life: “despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
That is the way we run the race. That is what Paul wants them to see. He says, “Come on, Corinth, you are playing around with the flesh. You have attached yourself to everything but Jesus. You have lost your direction, your focus, and your aim. Come back to it. Choose the discipline of denying yourself. I know it hurts you, but God will enable you. Get your focus back on the end of life not just right now. Learn to live for eternity, not just for the present.” Paul says, “I have that focus.”
Paul wastes no energy on the flesh
The second thing he says here is that he wastes no energy on the flesh. Verse 26 says, “Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air.”
Do you know what he is talking about here? It is shadow boxing. They would stand there and constantly throw punches, using that energy on nothing. The apostle Paul says, “I don’t shadow box. I don’t waste any of my energy on the flesh.” In other words, if I am going to take the energy to make a decision, it is going to hit flesh right in the nose. Every decision I make is not going to be wasted. I have learned to be a redeemer of the time. Wasn’t it Paul who said, “Be a redeemer of the time?” The word means to choose, to purchase time. What collateral do you use to purchase time? Choice. Paul had learned to make the right choices, not to waste energy on the flesh but to make every choice count, let it deal with that which would better make him fit to run the race. Every blow was a direct hit.
You say, “Well, how do you know that?” Look in the next verse, and it qualifies it. It says, “but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” The word “buffet” is the word that expresses a discipline. It is the word hupopiazo, to strike under the eye. Hupo means under, and piazo is to strike. Together they mean to strike under, but to strike the eye, to bruise, to give a black eye. One of the things that hit me as an application of this and that is, you can’t hide a black eye. You can try all you want to hide it, but you can’t.
A sweet lady in our church years ago came out one Sunday morning. She had dark glasses on. I could see underneath those dark glasses that there was something else and I’m thinking, “Come on.” She said, “Preacher, will you talk to my husband. He is beating on me again.” She was just laughing. Of course, what had happened was she had fallen down the steps. But I thought of all the pain she went through with makeup and sunglasses to cover up that bruised eye. You can’t do it.
I thought of that as an application. You know, when we are choosing to give a black eye to the flesh, every time the flesh rears up, just put it right back down. Learn the discipline of denying flesh. It is going to start showing up and people are going to start saying, “I see a black eye. Yes, I’ve been to the cross. Oh, I see another black eye. Yes, I’ve been to the cross.” And all of a sudden that becomes part of your witness. Thank God for the black eyes when we put the flesh where it belongs.
That is what Paul said he did. He said, “I don’t shadow box. I don’t waste any energy on the flesh. Every choice I make puts it right where it belongs, gives it a black eye.”
Well, it goes on and says, “and make it my slave.” The phrase “to make it my slave” is doulagogeo. Doulos means slave, and ago means to lead or to bring; to bring it up under submission. He said, “Every choice I am making, I am trying to learn the discipline of bringing my flesh up under submission.”
Do you know one of the things I am learning in my life? When I sit down without prayer, without the word of God and I make a choice about something, usually it is wrong, because my flesh goes exactly the opposite way of the Holy Spirit of God. That is what Paul said in Galatians 5. He says the flesh wars again the Spirit so that you might not do the things that you ought. So I’ve learned the first thought that comes to me, I had better be careful and get it back up and surrendered to Christ, because usually He does it exactly the reverse of the way I would do it. What seems logical to me is illogical to Him.
Paul said, “I am learning that discipline and I am putting a black eye to what my flesh wants; sounds good, looks good, the committee said it was okay, but it is not what God wants and I have learned to put a black eye to it. Bring it up under subjection. I have learned to let my choices bring my flesh under subjection.”
As a matter of fact in 2 Timothy, when he says, “I have fought the good fight,” I really believe he means “I have won the battle over me. I’ve allowed God to finish through me what He started to do through me. I had to learn the discipline of denying myself.” You say, “Well, how do I practice that?” Oh, you just say, “God, I want to practice it.” I’ll guarantee you He has a ton of decisions this next week you can practice it on. It is as practical as breathing right now.
Then Paul shows you the motivation for why he does this. He realizes that he has a goal in his life, to preach the gospel of Christ. This is the lane that God has put him in. But why does he do all of this? Why does he choose against his flesh to stay in that lane and to follow that goal? So he won’t get benched. Verse 27 reads, “but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” Now, that word “disqualified” throws some people, but you have got to understand his context. Paul in no way is talking about salvation. He is talking about really the process of sanctification. He is talking about usefulness once you are saved. He is not going to jump back now and say that if he is disqualified that means he loses his salvation. That is ridiculous and it is terrible hermeneutics to this particular context.
He is saying to be unapproved means you are not fit to be used in something. And if you are an athlete, you know exactly what I am talking about. Isn’t it awful to sit on the bench? Have you ever played a sport and had to sit on the bench? I had to sit on the bench a lot. It is the worst thing in the world to be out there in the action and seeing what is going on and being a part of it and then suddenly being jerked off and sitting on the bench.
That is what Paul said. I don’t want to start getting lazy about my Christian life. He says, “I don’t want to come to the place that I stop denying myself. I don’t want to come to the place that I leave the cross out of my vocabulary, because if I do, God will jerk me off the playing field and sit me back on the bench, and I’ll sit and watch somebody else be useable by God.” I’ll tell you something, folks, when you start seeing jealousy in ministries, somebody who is not being used is jealous of somebody who is being used, you have just found somebody Paul is writing to in Corinth. They are not willing to get off that fence. They are not willing to come to the cross and deny self and live it out. Therefore, they are not being used and they are jealous of the people who are on the floor.
That is where it comes from; because if you are out on the floor, you are conscious of one thing. It is painful to be out there on the floor, but it sure is a privilege. You are not worried about who is sitting on the bench. But if you are on the bench, you are griping about everybody else out on the floor.
Let me ask you a question. Has there ever been a time in your life that you loved Jesus more than you love Him now? Has there ever been a time in your life when you prayed more than you pray now? Has there ever been a time in your life that you studied the Word of God more than you do right now? Well, friend, if you have somehow backed up instead of gone forward, then no wonder you are sitting on the bench. Stop blaming everybody else and come to the cross.
Paul is saying, “Listen, live it out. Don’t talk about it, live it.” He gives you a million choices every day to do exactly that. Nobody wants to be benched. Of course, that is why we have the body of Christ to encourage one another, to exhort one another, to come alongside sometimes, reprove one another. Why? To get them back on the floor. It is not like a basketball team that only takes five. Hey, you can put the whole Christian family on this floor if they will just learn to deny themselves. The discipline of denying self for the sake of Christ and for others.
So Paul gives us a concept, a running of a race, and he helps them to understand living the Christian life is compared to a runner who wants to win the race. He gives comparisons that teach the differences of the two, the similarities and the differences. Then he gives them a challenge he wants them to receive. Run within your bounds and keep your focus. Don’t worry about how he is running except to pray for him and exhort him. The way you help the guy running in his lane is to run in your lane like you are supposed to run. What happens most of the time is we get in somebody else’s lane or forget which lane we are running in, instead of just being about the things that God has put upon us.
Then Paul says to make sure you don’t waste any energy. Make sure every choice you make is putting the flesh back where it belongs. Give it a black eye every time you make a choice. Be careful so that you are not benched. Be careful so that you will not be found unapproved.
Well, then he moves to a caution that he wants them to have. The context continues to flow. There were no chapters and that kind of thing. Somebody else put these chapters and verses in there. Chapter 9 just flows right into chapter 10. It doesn’t change a thing. He is going to give an illustration now of the nation of Israel, the caution he wants them to have. This is so very important. It is directly linked to 9:2427.
Look at verse 1 of chapter 10. He says, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers.” Now that word “for” in the Textus Receptus is the little word de, and it means but. It is a contrasting word, but it still links.
But the word used in the Nestle’s and other texts is the word gar, which means therefore or for. That is why it is translated that way in the New American Standard. Now you say, “Which one is it?” I told you all that to tell you it doesn’t matter. Go anyway you want to go, because what it does is it links it back to what he just said in 9:2427. You cannot disjoint chapter 10 from 9:2427. Chapter 10 is continuing on with what he is teaching. Whichever one you prefer is fine.
He says, “For I do not want.” The word for “want” there is the word thelo. It is a little different from the word boule, which means to wish. Yes, it means to wish and desire and want something for yourself, but it has more of the idea, to me as I studied the word, that I not only intend this for you, but I am willing to do whatever is necessary to get in there, to make sure it is worked out in your life. I am not just telling you something, I am going to do something about it.
Paul is doing something about it by what he is about to bring up. He said, “I am doing something to keep you from something.” He goes on the verse to say, “For I do not want you to be unaware.” The word “unaware” is the word agnoeo, from a, without and noeo, which means understanding. I don’t want you to be without understanding.
It is interesting to me what he is going to bring up. He recalls the stories that any believer in Corinth, who had Paul as their teacher and Apollos as their teacher, would have already heard and, I would have thought, understood. But Paul says, “I don’t want you to be unaware. I don’t want you to be ignorant, brethren. The idea I get is he is saying, “You know these stories. You know what happened to Israel, but I wonder if you have ever realized that what happened to them can happen to you. I want to make sure that you learn from them, because the same mistakes Israel made you can make.”
Now as we get into this, remember, he is not talking about salvation. If you get lost in that, you are going to lose his whole point in chapter 10. It is a beautiful illustration of how Israel experienced many things together but then became arrogant in it, just like at Corinth. And because they stopped doing what they had been doing, they lost out on everything that God had for them. That is as simple as I can put it. That is where he is headed with his illustration of Israel.
He says, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers.” The word “fathers,” pateres, is that paternal word that is universal in their language. However, it can be translated “ancestors.” But here it is pointing back obviously to the spiritual fathers of Israel.
Now the audience that Paul is writing to is a Christian audience. You’ve got to understand that he knows the difference between a Jew, a Gentile and a believer. He believes in three groups of people. Look at 10:32. He writes in his own words that he understands the difference in the Jew, the Gentile and the believer. Look at what he says. “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God.”
I hear a lot of people say they are completed Jews. That is fine if you want to call yourself that, but I don’t believe that is proper terminology. I believe you are a brand new person in Christ. Ephesians says that both the Jew and the Gentile have been made into one new man. So if you are going to make the Jew a completed Jew, then make the Gentile a completed Jew. I mean, they are both brand new. They are a brand new person. Put all that other aside. You have been made brand new in Christ Jesus.
Paul understands that, but again he is illustrating his point of chapter 9, so he speaks of our fathers. In a sense, the Jewish, spiritual fathers were spiritual fathers, not only to the Jew but to the Gentile. In Galatians 3:14 it says, “In order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” So in reality, there is nothing wrong with his terminology as he points back to the spiritual fathers of Israel. He is simply using an analogy of Israel, who having been freed from slavery, delivered through the sea, provided for in the wilderness, chose against what they knew would bring them what God wanted for them and as a result of that, missed out on what God had for them.
He begins by pointing to several things that all of them had experienced together. Now this is kind of tough, but if you will stay with me, you can put Israel and the Christians right here. He is trying to say, “Now, learn something from them, learn something.” This is his point of reference over here, Israel.
Alright, all of Israel experienced the divine providence of God. Their worthiness had nothing to do with it. It was just what God chose to show to them. Alright, now watch. This providence first of all included direction. It says in verse 1, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud.” All of Israel was under the divine protection and direction of God when they left Israel. Whether their obedience was what it needed to be or not is not the point. If they chose to follow Moses, then they were under the cloud. God put them under the cloud. You had the righteous and the unrighteous underneath that cloud. It had nothing to do with any worthiness on their part. It was the providence of God they experienced together.
The word “under” is the word hupo. It means exactly that. And the word “were” is in the imperfect tense, which has the idea that God put them there. They didn’t get themselves there. God put them there, but they had to choose to follow Moses. If they followed Moses, he was under the cloud, so they were under the cloud. He delivered them from slavery in Egypt. This reference is from the Old Testament, Exodus 13:21. It says, “And the Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light that they might travel by day and by night.” This whole mixed multitude that had chosen to follow Moses now were under the cloud. When the cloud moved, they moved. When the cloud stopped, they stopped. And that is how they were directed, that is how they were protected by God. He led them all out. His providence again had nothing to do with them. It was Him. You see, there was a general providence given to all, righteous and unrighteous.
If you will take that for a second and think on it, that comes right out of the New Testament. Matthew 5:45 reads, “And He causes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” God’s providence is a general providence and it was over Israel. Some were righteous and some were not, but the cloud was over them and protecting them.
But, you see, within the general providence of God comes the narrow specific choices we make which determine whether or not we go on enjoying His providence. Let me show you. Matthew 7:13 says, “Enter by the narrow gate for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction and many are those who enter into it.” He says in verse 21 of that chapter, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 18:3 tells us, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Even though you will enjoy My blessings, even though you will enjoy a lot of My divine providence, until you make this choice, you will never come into that which I have promised to you. So, even when He led them out, there was a general providence of God and that gave them direction.
The second thing I want you to see is that this providence of Israel also gave them deliverance. The verse goes on, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea.” Notice how many times that word “all” is used as we walk down. God not only put them under the cloud, God took them through the Red Sea. Now this is an interesting point. I wish we had time to take off and chase a rabbit, but I won’t. How many times have you been under the divine providence of God and He brought you to a Red Sea in your life? You say, “God, where did You go?” And He said, “Nowhere, I am right here. I brought you here.”
They had to learn His provision and how God would open the seas up for them. God providentially brought them right to that place and then He providentially took them right through what they thought was an impossibility. He even parted the Sea and brought them over into the wilderness. So, all the fathers were under the cloud and all the fathers passed through the sea. They all passed. The verb there means they passed voluntarily. Nobody grabbed them and drug them across. They made a choice. Moses went through. We will follow Moses. And since Moses went through and they were with Moses, they passed through the Sea.
Now, what he is going to do with a vivid truth now is to sum this whole thing up real carefully. He says in verse 2, “and all [now watch this] were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” Now, some of the Baptists say, “Oh, brother, how do you baptize somebody into Moses?” The word “baptism” means immersion, yes, but it also means identification with. So, in other words, they were identified with Moses.
By that? When you ladies got married, did you remember how you left one kind of life and entered into another? And when you made the vows to walk beside your husband, you became a brand new person, took on his identity and from that point on, you were a brand new person; you had a brand new lifestyle. Just like it was with them; they lined up with Moses, they were under the cloud. They lined up with Moses, they went through the sea. They identified with him.
This is a picture of what has happened to you and me. If you will just look at Israel, they were delivered, they were baptized, brought into the land, and provided for. The same thing is in our lives, and it the picture he is drawing. We have been identified with Christ. We have gone through death. We have been raised to walk in newness of life. We have come out on the other side. We have enjoyed His provision.
So far you see the similarities of the two. And he is saying, “Learn from Israel, learn from Israel.” And so far you have much to learn from, because we have experienced the same thing. We have been delivered from the penalty and the power of sin, brought through and on the other side we are brand new creatures, we are identified with Christ.
But where he is headed is this: after a while the high privilege of their experience was turned away from, and they turned and went another way and lost out on everything that God had for them. That is what he is trying to say to the Corinthian church. Don’t bail out. The way you received the blessings so far has been by denying yourself. Surrender to His will, and have faith in Him and His Word. Don’t ever come to the point that you choose to go another way. If you do, you are going to forfeit the things that God has for you. You are going to miss out, you are going to be benched. That is his whole purpose in bringing this out.
You see, the same attitude that gets you in is the same attitude that sustains you. The same attitude that brings you down here; and that is faith, that is surrender. That is why Paul says you have got to learn the discipline of denying yourself. It never changes. That is why Colossians says, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus, so walk ye in Him.” In other words, the same way you bowed before Him then, continue to bow before Him every day. Keep coming to the cross. Take the low road and God then will bless you in the ways you want to be blessed.
Isn’t it wonderful that it is not up to any of my ability but just my availability to bow before Him and put my faith into Jesus Christ? God rescues me and ushers me into that place. And do you realize salvation came as a gift of God? And you do realize the same choice that caused you to have it is the same choice that keeps you sustained in it?
That is what Paul is telling Corinth. Man, why in the world are you attaching yourself to everything but Christ? Don’t you know the discipline of denying yourself for the sake of others? Until you come back to it, you are like a runner who has lost his direction, has lost his bounds.
That is what is happening to families all over our country today. They have lost direction. They don’t know who they are anymore. They have forgotten what it took to get saved. They have forgotten what it took to be sanctified. And we live after the flesh. And what is the result of it? Division, strife, problems in the body of Christ from people who won’t deny themselves.