1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 65
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|The apostle Paul wants the Corinthian believers to understand that living the Christian life is not a once in a while thing. There is no way you can play games with God. In fact, the Christian life is very much like a runner who runs a race in order to win that race.|
1 Corinthians 10:7-12
A Caution to the Strong – Part 2
We are going to go back to verses 7-12 and look again at “A Caution to the Strong.” I guess I could have called that a warning to the strong. It’s the same thing. You have to understand that Paul is speaking to the Christians who understand. He is speaking to people who understand grace. He is speaking to those who have walked with God.
It started back in chapter 8. These are the ones who knew that eating meat sacrificed to idols didn’t hurt their standing with God. He is not addressing the weak; he is not addressing the ones who are in and out. He is addressing the ones who are strong, and the warning is so clear.
I don’t know where you are in your walk, but if you have been walking with God and you’ve been in the Word of God, then this is the group he’s addressing. So we need to take heart to what he is saying.
The apostle Paul wants the Corinthian believers to understand that living the Christian life is not a once in a while thing. There is no way you can play games with God. In fact, the Christian life is very much like a runner who runs a race in order to win that race. Verse 24 of chapter 9 gives us the tone of what Paul is saying. He says, “Do you not know that those who run a race all run, but only one receives the prize?” Now certainly they knew this. This was Corinth. This is where they had the Isthmian Games.
Now that he has their attention, he turns and says, “Okay, then run in such a way that you may win. Let your Christian life be a picture of what that runner is like from the time he starts until the time that he finishes. Be serious about your walk with God.” In other words, run to win.
In verse 25 he says, “And everyone who competes in the games exercises selfcontrol in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath,” then he turns back to the Christian and says, “but we an imperishable.” Why would we not be in the race? Why would we not be paying the price? Why would we not be denying ourselves? Because there is a reward for every believer. It is not like in the games. They only had one prize. But we run like that runner would run knowing that all of us can receive an imperishable wreath.
This is a Christian who has learned the discipline of denying himself. You know what that means now, don’t you? That means to say “yes” to Jesus. You deny yourself by saying “yes” to Jesus. You don’t have to worry about saying “no” to the flesh. You say “yes” to Him. And when you have said “yes” to Him, you have just said “no” to your flesh. That is the pattern of the Christian walk. If he walks that way, he won’t be disqualified. Remember, Paul said in the last couple of verses of chapter 9, “I don’t want to be disqualified.” Now he doesn’t mean lose his salvation, as we have said, but what he means is, “I don’t want to be taken out of the action. I want to be a part of what God is doing. I don’t want to be sitting back watching somebody else. I want to be right there where God wants me to be.”
Well, in chapter 10 Paul turns to Israel as an illustration. He takes them back to the Old Testament, to stories that most of them would have been familiar with and says, “I don’t want you to be disqualified. I don’t want you to be cheated out of what God has for you, like Israel was, by your own choice to serve the flesh rather than Christ. That is his whole point. As a matter of fact, he says in the earlier verses of chapter 10, with most of them, speaking of Israel, God was not well pleased. Boy, that is an understatement. Only two was He pleased with, Joshua and Caleb, out of the whole nation of Israel.
Now, Paul gets into the problem that Israel had. This is what he does not want the strong, those that are understanding grace, to do. He says, “Don’t fall into this trap. Just because Israel did, don’t you do this.”
But what was the problem with Israel. Well, they craved the things of the flesh. Look at verse 6 of chapter 10. “Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved.” Now, the word “crave” has the idea of intense desire for something. What is the most intense desire that you have in your life right now? Is it Christ? Is it His will? Is it His Word? Well, if it is, hey, you are pretty much on track. But if it is anything other than that, look out, because a desire that pulls you, obsesses you and compels you. That is what the word “crave” means.
Well, what did they crave? Evil things. Now I am not going to go into a study of the word kakos. It is the word that means “evil.” Yes, there are two words for evil. But this particular word, every time I find it, it is always associated with man’s flesh. It is an antithesis to what God is and to what God wants to do. In other words, if we could simplify it, we could say that Israel craved after the things of the flesh. That’s the whole problem. “Don’t fall into that trap,” he says. “Don’t detach yourself from Christ and attach yourself to anything that’s of the flesh.” Israel desired those things.
Idolatry is a symptom of flesh craving
Now this was very appropriate to the Corinthian believers. Remember, our whole context, they were attaching themselves to everything but Christ, desiring everything but Him. That was the reason the church was upside down instead of right side up. Now what are the symptoms of flesh craving? That is where we are today. That is the bulk of what we are talking about. We have looked at two of them. First of all is idolatry.
Look in verse 7. “And do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.’” Idolatry begins when one stops trusting God and finds something else to put in God’s place. At that very moment, idolatry sets in. He has gone the way of the flesh.
I’ll tell you what, this is a subtle, subtle thing. Sometimes we can put good things in the place where the best thing belongs, which is God. Sometimes it is not as clearly seen as in other times. The Scripture Paul uses here in this text is a quote from Exodus 32:6. It is right after Aaron has built the golden calf. It is a horrible time in the life of Israel. They chose something manmade to substitute for what God was in their life. This idolatrous practice that they did is likened unto immorality.
Verse 8 says, “Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and 23,000 fell in one day.” Now it is interesting how idolatry and immorality are tied together. You always see them together. Immorality is an idolatrous practice. The word is porneuo. It means to prostitute oneself to another, to play the harlot.
Now there is a sexual undertone here, but that is not the narrow context of what Paul is using. You see, they obviously, in their idolatrous practices, would bring in that immorality, but that is really not what he is saying here. It is the thought of immorality that helps us understand idolatry. Idolatry is when you disengage yourself from the one to whom you are betrothed and you turn and attach yourself to someone else or something else other than Christ. Now that is idolatrous, but that is also immoral. You see, immorality is an idolatrous act. So he is not talking so much about physical immorality which is there, but spiritual immorality. Once a person has chosen something or someone else—it can be good, it can be a ministry, it can be a person, it can be whatever—but anything that takes the place of Christ, not only has he committed an act of idolatry, he has committed an act of immorality, a spiritual, immoral act. He has prostituted himself by joining himself to anything other than Christ. You see, that is what Paul is getting at.
What did he say to the church at Corinth back in 1:12? Let me read it for you. “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul [the first pastor]’ and ‘I of Apollos [the second pastor],’ and ‘I of Cephas [Simon Peter], and ‘I of Christ.’” Don’t worry, they are not the right group. This is the group that, if they get to heaven, they will have a fence built around them. Peter is going to say, “Shhh, they think they are the only ones up here.” I mean, they had the right person, but they had the wrong motive.
Then in chapter 3 he talks about their immaturity. He says, “When I was with you, it was okay that you were a baby, but the problem is, you are still a baby and you have never grown up.” Then he says in 3:4, “For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men?” He is saying, “If you haven’t grown, then evidently you are still living the way you were, and if you are living the way you were, that was not attached to Christ.” Babies attach themselves to things they can see, touch and feel. That was the problem of Corinth. They had not only committed idolatry, but they had committed spiritual immorality.
What was the passage that he was referring to in 1 Corinthians 10:8? It read, “Nor let us act immorally as some of them did, and 23,000 fell in one day.” That is Numbers 25. This is when the children of Israel went over and began to embrace the false gods of Moab. Now last time we were talking about this, I kind of led you into the fact about the immorality of the sons of Israel and the daughters of the Moabites. That took place. That is not the predominant thought. The predominant thought is, they detached themselves from God and they prostituted themselves by going with the idols of the pagan people of the Moabites. Remember, Moab was the illegitimate, incestuous son of Lot and one of his daughters. They were avowed enemies of God. Their god was Baal Peor, and the gods of Baal were the permissive, idolatrous gods. Can you imagine these young Hebrews guys? They got over there and found that “Hey, I can be religious and do all this other stuff. Man, this is much better than what I learned down here.”
I remember one time a fellow left our church for over a year. Do you know what he said to me? He said, “When I came here, every time I sat in a service I walked out feeling guilty. I walked out feeling convicted. I got tired of it and went to another place. That was a year ago. I am back, and I am broken and my family is completely gone. Had I stayed and listened to what God was trying to tell me, that probably would not have happened. But I didn’t want that. I wanted something that let me be what I wanted to be.”
That is exactly what happened to Israel. They chose the gods of Baal Peor. They committed idolatry. But in the same way, they committed acts of spiritual immorality.
Now to me, that is exactly what James is talking about in James 4:4. He says, “You adulteresses.” Can you imagine him calling the Christians adulteresses when they hadn’t committed adultery? Then he qualifies it. “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility towards God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world”—and he is talking about the system of the way the world thinks and acts—“makes himself an enemy of God.” Idolatry is when you have detached from Christ. You’ve attached to something other than Him and as a result of it, this has become a spiritual immoral act. You have prostituted yourself with something other than Christ.
What could that be? I don’t know. Maybe it is work. Let’s get out of the Christian circles here. Maybe it’s work. I know a lot of men when their companies begin to grow, all of a sudden you don’t see them studying the Scriptures. All of a sudden you don’t see them at church. All of a sudden they start disappearing. Oh, we’ll be back. We’ll be back. Yeah, right. You never see them again because they have attached themselves to something that has so pleased their flesh. Who needs God? But I tell you what, there is coming a day that is going to be a payday and when they hit bottom, they are going to realize what they walked away from.
This is the whole point. Could it be money? Could that be it? Could it be a hobby? Whatever it is, flesh now has its way. Here you have an idolatrous and immoral individual, not sexually but in the same sense, they prostituted themselves. They are believers who have attached themselves to something other than Christ, His will and His Word.
Tempting God is a symptom of craving flesh
Now we come to the third symptom. You may be saying, “Well, my goodness. This is serious stuff. I don’t want to commit idolatry. I don’t want to be a spiritual adulteress. Is there any symptom that I can understand in my life that as a person who understands scripture and is a person who knows grace that I can quickly see that would give evidence of why I have done this?” Yes. The third symptom begins to show the surface part of it, the thing that you can really see. The first two are sort of subtle, but the next one is very clear—when one tempts or tries or tests God.
Verse 9 reads, “Nor let us try [or test or tempt] the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.” Now there is a progression here. I can’t help but see it. First of all, you choose to detach from Christ so your walk is no longer the same. You don’t need Christ like you did before. You don’t need His Word like you did before. You’ve got your bank account. You’ve got something else. Secondly, you commit acts of spiritual immorality by the fact that you are now seeing in your emotions, your time, everything is being drawn by something other than Christ. He just stands here waiting for you to come and fellowship with Him, but you don’t have time for Him anymore. Then it begins to surface and you are tempting God Himself.
The word “try” is the word ekpeirazo. The word is predominantly used to try someone, to test someone, to prove that person unworthy or that thing unworthy, that he does not measure up.
Let’s just say Bob lives in front of a creek. He has a little river running behind his house. Let’s say I go over to Bob’s house and say, “Can I play in your creek, you know, because I am a pastor and I need therapy.” So I get out in his creek and I am playing around in the water and I find some gold-looking stones. I am thinking, “Look at this! I found gold!” I get a whole bucketful and bring some of it to Bob. I say, “Bob, since it is behind your house, I am going to give you some of this gold.” I walk away and he looks at his wife and says, “He wouldn’t know gold if he fell over it. This isn’t gold. I am going to put it to the test to prove that it is unworthy.” That is the word peirazo. When you are proving something unworthy, when you are trying to see something break down because of the proof, not be held up but break down, that is the word peirazo.
Now what could a believer do that would so put God to the test that would literally break down who He is? What could a believer do to tempt God that way? Well, we are going to see. Our text is God being tried, not man. God is being tested.
The first time that God is ever tested in the New Testament by anything or anyone is in Matthew 4:1. You might want to look at it and see who it is that has the audacity to try to disprove God, to try to break down who He is, His character, to show the doubt that this one has towards God. You probably already know the passage and know who it is. It is the devil himself. It all starts with him. He is the one who has the raw audacity to put God, the impeccable Godman, Christ, to the test to try to disprove Him and try to break down who He really is. Matthew 4:1 reads, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Now that word “tempted” there is peirazo, the word we are looking at. He is there to try to somehow dishonor, disqualify, break Him down by the testing.
Of course, you have these people who say, “Well, He could have sinned. His temptation is valid, but He wouldn’t because He is God.” Now, folks, I love you, but I want to share something with you. You are looking at it wrong. The word in the Greek for “test” is not what we think of in English. What the devil was doing was putting Him to the test to see if there was anything in Him that would respond to him, because he assumed He was mere man. He wasn’t sure, so he put Him to the test, and guess what? John says there was nothing in Him that he could draw out of Him. He had a body similar to ours but not exactly like ours. He wasn’t just man, He was all Godman. He was all God, He was all man. And you can’t start separating that. If you do, your theology is going to go right down the drain.
The devil didn’t know what He was going to do. Boy, he found out. You go back to the book of Genesis and see every time God created a man, Satan would raise up a man. Then God would raise up a man, and Satan would raise up a man, like a chess game. It came down to Malachi and all of a sudden there was a lull, 400 years of silence, as if God was contemplating His next move. He already knew what His next move was; He knew that when the first man was created. All of a sudden, Jesus came on the scene. God didn’t create a man; God didn’t raise up a man; God became a man. And the devil said, “Uh oh.” All of a sudden the rules have changed. But you see, he had to be sure.
He tried to kill the firstborn under Herod. I think that is why Cain killed Abel. I believe Satan got a hold of him, and he thought that Abel was going to be that man, because the promise came all the way back in Genesis 3. But now he knows he has got trouble on his hand; because, you see, Jesus has been tested and could not be disproved, could not be broken down as the test was intended to do. Instead, He was affirmed to be who He was. See, the nature of the devil and the mark that the devil has made on us is our flesh. It is the nature of our flesh to disprove, to tempt and to test God, to try to pull Him and break Him down in our testing. So when someone tempts or tries God, he has already adulterated his relationship with God in the progression here. He has already committed acts of spiritual immorality and now, by doing all of this, he has put God in a position to where by his lifestyle, he is seeking to disprove the very character of who God really is.
How do we know we have come this far? Paul helps us by the example that he gives. Now, folks, I want to tell you, we preach verse by verse, do we not? I don’t originate these messages. They come right up out of the scriptures themselves. If anybody nails me with an agenda, you need to deal with God about it. I’m just dealing with the next verse. What is the key of knowing that you have disengaged yourself from God, committed spiritual acts of immorality and by your very lifestyle have tempted and tried God Himself? I tell you what it is. It is when you doubt the leadership that God has sovereignly placed over you. Now he is speaking to the church at Corinth. He is an apostle. He is speaking to men who understand grace but aren’t living up under it. And his whole point is, Israel made a huge mistake.
Look where he takes them—Numbers 21:4. This gets a little tough to preach because it sounds like it is an agenda. I’ve asked God to please erase that from your mind. I am just going verse by verse. But I want to tell you, folks, this overwhelmed me. Look at Numbers 21:4. “Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom.” Remember, the Edomites would not allow them to come in. That is why God, I believe, is going to use Petra to protect His people in the last days. “And the people became impatient because of the journey. And the people spoke against God and Moses.” Now look here. Who are the people? The Israelites. Who are their leaders? Moses. And then, of course, he is following God. “The people spoke against God and Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?’” Now look at this, “For there is no food and no water.” Yes, there was, there was quail and manna. But then it says, “And we loathe this miserable food.” Now, what are they doing? By what they said of their leader, Moses, it showed that they had placed themselves into a position that knew more than God knew. They didn’t like the position they were in. It had to be Moses’ fault. They don’t like the food that they are eating. They loathe it, “so we don’t have any food,” they said.
You see, the attitude towards spiritual authority in your life, towards leaders God has appointed, directly reflects how you are walking with God, whether or not you are idolatrous or spiritually immoral. They showed that they distrusted His motive. “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness,” they said. By saying this, they were showing in their hearts that they didn’t trust his leadership. But they also did not trust his supply: “Why do we not have any food?” They just didn’t trust Moses by saying that, they were saying they didn’t trust God. In all of this, you see, if they had been God they would have changed the menu and if they had been God they would have changed the schedule. But God didn’t. And by what they said about their leaders, it reflected an attitude of their hearts.
Remember who he is talking about, those who have experienced God, those who have walked with God. That’s the ones who put themselves in the prideful position of saying they don’t need God. Now this must be seen. They were tempting God. It was in their distrust. Why do you think a woman will not submit to her husband? Why do you think? Where does that come from? What is the root of that attitude? I’ll tell you what the root of the attitude is. The root is idolatry because she doesn’t believe God when God’s Word says for her to do it. Because if she was God she wouldn’t do it, and after all, this is the 20th century. Why does a man not submit to the leadership God has put over him? Because he is the same way. We have a better idea. We are living in a day when people don’t respect the authority God has placed over them. People have chosen not to trust God.
As a matter of fact, in our text, God judged them with the serpent. In Numbers 21:6 the Lord was grieved and sent fiery serpents among the people. They bit the people so that many of Israel died. I asked myself the question, why did He send serpents? I don’t know. I have to be quick to answer that.
I have something for you to chew on. Who took the form of a serpent and tempted Eve to be unsubjective to her husband, but also to God? Who was the first one? That was the devil himself. And it is almost like God said, “You want serpents? Do you want to buy into what the serpent has told you? Do you want to live rebellious, thinking you know more than God and the leaders He has picked? Then you can have what you want, all the serpents you want.” And with that we also get the destruction that comes when we show we do not trust the sovereignty of God by complaining about our leadership, by complaining about the circumstances God has put into our life. It is incredible.
That convicted me. How many times I have told the jokes about our president? I am going to have to ask him for forgiveness. God raises up kings. God establishes kingdoms. We, in America, think we know more than God knows. We don’t know what is going on in America. We don’t know what God is trying to do in our nation. Yet we complain and gripe. I tell you what, folks, that attitude out there has carried right inside the church of Jesus Christ. I was in 38 churches last year, and in almost every one that I was in, the pastor was beat to death by people who would not respect the position God had put him in. Yet they were the first people to quote scripture when you talked to them.
That is what Paul is saying to the people who know scripture, to the people who are learned, to the people who know grace, who understand something. You had better live what you know. Which means the only way you are going to experience grace is by faith; and the only way you are going to live by faith is to trust God; which means if you are trusting Him, you can bear up under any circumstance and leadership you ever have to deal with. If you distrust leadership, that is idolatry and spiritual immorality.
The author of Hebrews says something interesting to the believers. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders.” Do you know what the word “obey” is? Peitho. Do you know what the word means? We don’t like it because it is the 20th century and we don’t talk about stuff like this. It means to allow yourself to be persuaded by the people God has put over you because it is the position, it is not the person. You are trusting God in the person, not just the person. If you are living, trusting God, you can live under any leadership whatsoever.
Do you realize that Aaron built the golden calf and God made him the first high priest of Israel? Boy, God you don’t have very many characteristics here. You see, God put him there. Why? I don’t know. You have to ask Him. But the people continuously complained against the leadership God had given them, and these were the very ones who had experienced His provision, His protection, His presence, His power. They all experienced it. Because they had experienced it, I guess they were a little more arrogant.
The Corinthian church had done the same thing. Paul said, “You learned people, you people who have been in the Word all of your life, you could be the very problem in what is going on because you are not living up under what you are telling others to live. You are not living what you say.”
Well, to the strong believer who understands grace, his downfall comes when he chooses not to trust God but his own flesh. Then he prostitutes himself, he attaches himself to whatever it is that takes God’s place. Then this surfaces in his distrust of the motives and the direction of leaders God has put over him. You say, “Well, my goodness, this is hard. I don’t want to be an idolater. I don’t want to be an immoral person in the spiritual sense. I don’t want to be that. I don’t want to distrust leadership. How can I know that I am distrusting it? How can I know that what I am saying is not something that could be good in the long run?” Paul doesn’t leave any questions unanswered here.
Grumbling is a symptom of craving flesh
Here it comes on the next one, fourth thing. All a progression: idolatry, spiritual immorality, then you have distrust of leadership, and then you have grumbling. James says, “Hey, you want to find out where you are? Listen to what you say and listen to what you are saying.” How do you know that you distrust the people God has put over you? The true outward symptom of the idolatrous heart is in this grumbling.
Verse 10 tells us, “nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.” Now the word “grumble” is an interesting word to me. Have you ever seen somebody who didn’t like something? Perhaps your children didn’t like your authority over them. They are making comments as they are walking away, but they are not going to say it loud enough for you to hear it. They are murmuring under their breath. You know what they are saying. Do you know why? Because when you were a kid, you said the same thing. That is how you know what they are saying. What are they doing? They don’t want to be caught, but this is a grumbling, this is a murmuring. It is a muttering under the breath of discontent and of questioning the very character, even as they did Moses, of the leader. That is where it comes from.
It has the idea of complaining, complaining, complaining. “Boy, I’ll tell you one thing. If I was in that position, this is what I would do.” There you go.
In Romans 12:3, after the great message of grace for 11 chapters, Paul says, “I say this by the grace of God, do not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think.” Boy, do we love to climb up on that barbershop pedestal when we’ve got the floor. We let everybody know how we would do it if it was us. You see, a person who has become idolatrous is already detached. He is attached to something now outside of Christ. It may be a good thing and it may not be a good thing. This is why this is so subtle. Now by his lifestyle and by not trusting the leaders God has sovereignly put over him, he questions the very character of God. It comes out in the grumbling and the murmuring.
Now you say, “Are you reading into that?” I don’t think so. Look in Numbers 16:3235. There is your scripture reference. He is as clear as a bell on this thing. You see, you can discuss what testing is, but then you’ve got to take it to the narrow part of the context we are dealing with. Just like here, the murmuring, what is he talking about?
In Numbers 16:3235 a terrible thing happened among the leadership of Israel. Korah, Dathan and Abiram set up a rebellion against Moses, their leader. Let me ask you a question. Have you ever been in a church where people thought of themselves biblically and other ways more qualified than they really were, took the reins in their own hands and were the instigators of a rebellion against an authority God had placed over them? I have been the result of some. In Numbers 16:32 here is what God did when they rebelled. Boy, you talk about taking it seriously. God killed them, not just those three but all of them who were with them. “And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up [I guess like an earthquake] and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah, with their possessions. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. And all Israel who were around them fled at their outcry, for they said, ‘The earth may swallow us up!’ Fire also came forth from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense.”
Now, God severely judged Israel because of a rebellion that came up against Moses. Now this is not the point; that is the context. Here is the point. Go over to verse 41 and see how Israel handled it. After it is all said and done, after the dust has finally settled, Numbers 16:41 reads, “But on the next day all the congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘You are the one who have caused the death of the Lord’s people.’”
Now I understand that it is convenient to blame the one who is in leadership. That’s part of the turf. Whoever it is, if it is the President, if it’s the husband of the family, or whoever it is, they have to expect that. That is going to always be the easiest thing for the flesh to cop out and do. Blame the one who is the most recognizable. And so they turned it against Moses and Aaron. Do you see how all this fits? The grumbling attitudes. They couldn’t even accept the righteous character of God to do something like that. They would rather blame Moses and Aaron.
Well, grumbling is a dissatisfaction with God’s sovereign will for our lives and the lives of others. It shows idolatry. It evidences spiritual immorality. It is an act of tempting God. It is a sin that God does not take lightly. As a matter of fact, think about this, when we grumble and complain against the leadership God has put over us wherever we are, then here is what happens. We question God’s wisdom, God’s grace, God’s goodness, God’s love, God’s righteousness and God’s sovereignty that is over us. But when we learn to be content, then this brings honor and glory back to Him that we trust. That is the key. The attitude and what you do with the attitude has everything to do with praise and what praise is.
Many times we come to praise God and we think He accepts our praise. Be careful. If your lips, that have grumbled and criticized during the week, are the same lips that have not dealt with it and that come into church and then seek to praise God, do you realize that is what James also says, how can bitter water and sweet water come out of the same fountain? Something is amiss here. You see, it is telling us perhaps where we are.
You don’t find Paul grumbling, do you? Even though there are pagan authorities over him. I love what he says in Ephesians 3 when he was put into prison over a false accusation. He says, “Here I am, I am a prisoner of Jesus Christ.” I love that. “I am not a prisoner of the Jews, I am not a prisoner of the Romans, I am a prisoner of Jesus.”
And then he says in Philippians in the same imprisonment in verse 11, “Not that I speak from want, but I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I find myself.” These are pagan people who have done him wrong for five years at least of his life. And then right before he dies, all you hear him say to Timothy is, “Timothy, I am lonely. Will you come and see me? I am cold. Will you bring me my coat? I am bored. Will you bring me by books? I can’t wait to go on and be with the Lord and get the reward that He has given to me.” I want to tell you, folks, that is the way to live.
But how many of us want to take the matter in our own hands? We know more than the leadership. I mean, do you realize the kind of people God has put over us? Good grief! Do you know who we are talking about? And God says, “Uh oh, what do I hear? What is going on here? Who thought of himself more highly than he ought to think to make that kind of statement?” Remember, He speaks to those who are the learned, to those who have understood.
Well, we are all in one of these four areas. I wonder where we are? I don’t like this message because it convicts me. If you are getting a little pain out of it, good, I am glad we can all share it together. I mean, it just nails the flesh right to the wall. I didn’t write this thing. It is right there. Where are you found? Idolatry, spiritual immorality, which is basically tempting God, doubting His very character, breaking Him down by the way that you live, grumbling, which is muttering or discontent for others.
Verse 11 says, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” It was for us. All of it happened to Israel, and it is supposed to be a lesson for us who live in the last days.
Well finally, and we are through, what is the principle that Paul wanted them and us to know. Now watch this. Verse 12 reads, “Therefore.” He goes back to his audience that he began in 8:1, “Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” I love this because all of us have to deal with it.
The word “thinks,” dokeo, expresses the subjective mental estimate of opinion formed by man concerning a matter. In other words, I have come to the conclusion about myself. Yes, I know how to handle the Greek, I know the word. I have been on mission trips. God, I stand and nobody can move me. That is the whole attitude. That is that cocky, arrogant view, which happened in Corinth, exactly what happened in Corinth. As a matter of fact, the word “arrogant” is spiritual air bag.
Dokeo is in the present active participle. This is the way he thinks, I mean, this is a lifestyle. This is his whole opinion of himself. He has formed the opinion that he stands. And the word “stands,” histemi, means stand immoveable. “I place myself here. God, you are so lucky to have me on your side.’”
That’s the attitude. Paul says, “You better be careful when you think you stand. When this is your opinion of yourself, lest you fall.” Do you know what the word “fall” is? Pipto. It means fall, but it has more of the idea of trip.
The other day I was out at the mall and I walked out and there was the curb. I missed it and fell. Good night! And I hurt myself. Mostly my pride, but I did, I hurt myself. Man, it wounded my pride.
That is what pipto is. You don’t plan this kind of stuff. I mean, hey, he is speaking to people they would never in a million years sit down on Monday and plan to fall on Thursday. It is the same word used in James. Count it all joy, brethren, when you fall into various temptations. You don’t plan a trial. You don’t plan to stumble into this. That is why Paul is warning them. He says, just because you understand grace doesn’t mean you are living up under it and you could be the culprit of the whole problem. It is in your attitude towards the leaders God has put over you.
“Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” The word “take heed” is blepo. It means to look and to see. It means keep your eyes open at all times. You who are learned, you, the strong ones, you are the ones who had better watch it. The weak ones have already stumbled. You are there to help them. But when you stumble, the whole thing comes tumbling down.
Well, he warns them. Run with aim, he would say in chapter 9. Stay in bounds. Keep your focus and your focus is Christ. Now, you say, “You are not balancing this message.” Well, did Paul balance it? I am just telling you the way he told it. Yeah, we know there is grace. We know there is mercy. We know there is forgiveness. That is not his point. That comes later on. He’s got a point right here, and his point is to those who understand, are strong, have experienced God, watch out that spiritual pride does not take you into a position of making you think you are more high than you ought to think and you start questioning the very people God has put over you as if you could do it better.
You know, folks, that’s what Paul is trying to say. How are we going to be sensitive to the weaker brother if we are not even going to live up under what we say we understand? And it all directly reflects on how we view leadership that God has put over us.