1 Corinthians 10
Sermon Bible
Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;

1 Corinthians 10:11

St. Paul makes his argument for the unity and permanence of the Scriptures and their suitableness for the ages in which they were not written depend upon the fact that the events which they recorded were sacraments of God's presence. And he makes this assertion the ground of direct moral exhortations against idolatry, against fornication, against murmuring, against that sin of tempting God in which all other sins may be included. In other words, the use of the Scriptures for what we should call the most plain practical purposes, as warnings against direct open crimes, as preservatives of a right inward temper, is deduced from what many at first sight would reject as a strange and fantastical estimate of their character.

I. I am sure that if the Scriptures are losing their hold on us, the cause of that enormous mischief lies very greatly in our confused apprehensions respecting what is called their direct and what is called their spiritual signification. The critic entrenches himself in philological laws and maxims, boldly maintaining that if the Bible history is a history it must bear to be tried by these. The sufferer on a sick-bed feels that the words speak directly to him or to her, and that that speech must be true, whatever becomes of the other. Each is liable to special narrownesses and temptations. The student quickly discerns the morbid and self-concentrated tendencies of the more devotional reader. The devotional reader feels instinctively how merely antiquarian the student is apt to be, how little he understands the wants of human beings. Neither is sufficiently alive to his own perils; neither sufficiently understands how much he needs the help of the other.

II. It is evident from this passage and from those which follow it, that St. Paul is speaking to the Corinthians expressly as a Church cemented by sacraments. He teaches that the passage through the Red Sea was a sign that the invisible God had taken the Jewish nation to be a people of inheritance to Himself. His object was to convince the Corinthians that they were not under a different spiritual government and constitution from that under which the Jewish fathers had lived. In all its principles and method it was the same. He who administered it was the same. The Christ whom Paul had preached to them as taking flesh, as dying, as rising, as ascending, was that Christ, that Angel of the Covenant, that Son of God, who had led the Hebrew people in a pillar of cloud by day, who had followed them by night in a pillar of fire.

III. When we trace the Bible as the progressive history of God's revelations to a family, a nation, and to mankind, we shall understand more what support there is in it for us as men, what awful admonitions to us as men whom God has claimed, not as servants, but as sons. The sacraments told the Corinthians that they must not be content with the present or with the past, that God intended them for a more perfect communion with Him, that He intended to manifest Himself fully to the world. No lower belief, no feebler hope, can assuredly sustain us, upon whom the ends of the world are come. The Sacrifice has been made that we might look onward to that day, which is to wind up all the revelations and all the sacraments of God, when His servants shall see His face and His name shall be in their foreheads.

F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. i., p. 21.

References: 1 Corinthians 10:11.—Homilist, 1st series, vol. vii., p. 188. 1 Corinthians 10:11, 1 Corinthians 10:12.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. v., p. 31. 1 Corinthians 10:12.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i., No. 22; J. Gleadall, Church of England Pulpit, vol. v., p. 47; E. J. Hardy, Faint, yet Pursuing, p. 190; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 74; J. W. Colenso, Village Sermons, p. 28. 1 Corinthians 10:13.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vii., p. 25; Caleb Morris, Preacher's Lantern, vol. iii., p. 373; F. W. Farrar, Silence and Voices of God, p. 101. 1 Corinthians 10:15.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. i., p. 327; J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 156; J. H. Hitchens, Ibid., vol. xvi., p. 420. 1 Corinthians 10:16.—A. Barry, Cheltenham College Sermons, p. 36; Sermons on the Catechism, p. 264. 1 Corinthians 10:17.—G. Calthrop, Words Spoken to my Friends, p. 177; C. P. Reichel, Church of England Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 306. 1 Corinthians 10:18.—R. S. Candlish, The Gospel of Forgiveness, p. 356. 1 Corinthians 10:21.—J. Irons, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 241. 1 Corinthians 10:23.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 267. 1 Corinthians 10:24.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 250.

1 Corinthians 10:27Free to Amusements and too Free to want Them.

I. I discover two points, included in the advice Paul gives, neither of which stands out on the face of his words, but they need only be named to be distinctly seen. The first is that, down on the low plane of mere ethical observance, he does not think it incumbent on him as a teacher of the gospel to enforce any puritanically close terms of restrictive morality. It is not for him to legislate over such questions. In this field the disciples must have their own liberty, and be responsible for their own judgments and the right understanding of their own liabilities. So far the world's law is also theirs, and he will not undertake at all to settle the casuistries occurring under it. And to set them on a yet manlier footing of liberty, he shoves restriction still farther away by telling them, when they accept such an invitation, to go with a free mind, hampered by no foolish scruples that will make them an annoyance both to the host and the company. So far, then, he sets them free—free, that is, in the exercise of their own responsible judgment, clear of any mere scruples not intelligent. But we have scarcely noted the position given them under this liberty, when we begin to see that he is thinking of a second higher kind of liberty for them, which in his own view makes the other quite insignificant. Thus he drops in, as it were in undertone, at the middle of his sentence this very brief but very significant clause, "and ye be disposed to go," putting, I conceive, a partly sad cadence in his words, as if saying inwardly, I trust not many will be so disposed; for the dear love of God, in the glorious liberty of our discipleship, ought to be a liberty too full and sweet and positive and blessed to allow any such hankering after questionable pleasures and light-minded gaieties.

II. The question of amusements appears to be very nearly settled by the tenor of the distinctively Christian life itself. The Christian, in so far as he is a Christian, is not down upon the footing of a mere ethical practice, asking what he may do and what he is restricted from doing under the legal sanctions of morality. That kind of morality has very much gone by, but of his mere liberty in love he will do more and better things than all codes of ethics and moral law commandments require of him. He is so united to God himself, through Christ and the Spirit, that he has all duty in him by a free inspiration. It is not the question whether we are bound thus and thus, in terms of morality, and so obliged to abstain, but whether, as our new and nobler life implies, we are not required, in full fidelity, to pay it honour, and keep its nobler tastes unmarred by descending to that which they have so far left behind them.

H. Bushnell, Sermons on Living Subjects, p. 374.

References: 1 Corinthians 10:27, 1 Corinthians 10:28.—Homilist, 1st series, vol. v., p. 391. 1 Corinthians 10:29.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 266.

1 Corinthians 10:31When persons are convinced that life is short, that it is unequal to any great purpose, that it does not display adequately or bring to perfection the true Christian, when they feel that the next life is all in all and that eternity is the only subject that really can claim or can fill their thoughts, then they are apt to undervalue this life altogether and to forget its real importance; they are apt to wish to spend the time of their sojourning here in a positive separation from active and social duties. Yet it should be recollected that the employments of this world, though not in themselves heavenly, are, after all, the way to heaven, though not the fruit, are the seed of immortality, and are valuable, though not in themselves, yet for that to which they lead; but it is difficult to realise this. It is difficult to realise both truths at once, and to connect both truths together; steadily to contemplate the life to come, yet to act in this. Those who meditate are likely to neglect those active duties which are in fact incumbent on them, and to dwell upon the thought of God's glory till they forget to act to His glory. This state of mind is chided in figure in the words of the holy angels to the apostles, when they say, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?"

I. "Do all to the glory of God," says St. Paul in the text; nay, "whether we eat or drink," so that it appears nothing is too slight or trivial to glorify Him in. The true penitent will say to himself, "If mine be an irksome employment, so much the more does it suit me. I deserve no better. I will take this light inconvenience in a generous way, pleased at the opportunity of disciplining myself, and with self-abasement as needing a severe penitence."

II. A second reason which will animate the Christian will be a desire of letting his light shine before men. He will aim at winning others by his own diligence and activity. He will say to himself, "My parents, or my master, or employer shall never say of me, Religion has spoiled him. They shall see me more active and alive than before. I will be punctual and attentive, and adorn the gospel of God our Saviour."

III. Thankfulness to Almighty God, nay, and the inward life of the Spirit itself, will be additional principles causing the Christian to labour diligently in his calling. He will see God in all things. He will recollect our Saviour's life. He will feel that the true contemplation of his Saviour lies in his worldly business; that in attending to his own calling he will be meeting Christ; that if he neglect it, he will not on that account enjoy His presence all the more, but that while performing it he will see Christ revealed to his soul amid the ordinary actions of the day as by a sort of sacrament. Thus he will take his worldly business as a gift from Him, and will love it as such.

IV. True humility is another principle which will lead us to desire to glorify God in our worldly employments if possible, instead of resigning them.

V. Still further, the Christian will use his worldly business as a means of keeping him from vain and unprofitable thoughts. Leisure is the occasion of all evil. Idleness is the first step in the downward course which leads to hell.

VI. Lastly, we see what judgment to give in a question sometimes agitated, whether we should retire from our worldly business at the close of life to give our thoughts more entirely to God. The Christian will be content to do without these blessings, and the highest Christian of all is he whose heart is so stayed on God that he does not wish or need them, whose heart is so set on things above that things below as little excite, agitate, unsettle, distress, and seduce him as they stop the course of nature, as they stop the sun and moon, or change summer and winter.

J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. viii., p. 154.

The lesson of the text is this: Religion ought to mingle with and guide all the affairs of life, and cannot be safely dispensed with in any department of our existence.

I. Let everything we do show the intention of God in our existence. Does your life tell what is God's intention with it?

II. Let everything be done in obedience to God.

III. Let all things be so done that when they are completed they shall be to the praise of God's wisdom, power, and love.

T. Jones, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 161.

References: 1 Corinthians 10:31.—Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. v., p. 268; A. D. Davidson, Lectures and Sermons, p. 18; E. M. Goulburn, Thoughts on Personal Religion, p. 122; W. J. Knox-Little; Characteristics of the Christian Life, p. 197; R. Abercrombie, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 218; T. Jones, Ibid., vol. xii., p. 161; C. Kingsley, Village Sermons, p. 155; Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 129. 1 Corinthians 10:33.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. i., p. 173. 1 Corinthians 10:33.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 44. 1 Corinthians 11:1.—G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 353; W. M. Taylor, Paul the Missionary, p. 540; R. W. Church, The Gifts of Civilisation, p. 80. 1 Corinthians 11:3.—E. W. Shalders, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 234. 1 Corinthians 11:10.—W. C. E. Newbolt, Counsels of Faith and Practice, p. 191; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 71. 1 Corinthians 11:14.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 42. 1 Corinthians 11:18.—F. W. Robertson, Lectures on Corinthians, p. 165. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. ix., p. 102; J. H. Hitchens, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 29; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., p. 154. 1 Corinthians 11:24.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i., No. 2; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 117; A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, No. 112. 1 Corinthians 11:25.—Church of England Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 136.

And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
And did all eat the same spiritual meat;
And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.
Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.
Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?
What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?
But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.
Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.
Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth.
Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake:
For the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.
If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.
But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof:
Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience?
For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:
Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.
William Robertson Nicoll's Sermon Bible

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