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10. Warnings From Israel's History

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; 2And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 5But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. 7Neither 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. 8Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. 9Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. 10Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. 11Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. 12Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. 13There 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.

14Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. 15I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. 16The 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? 17For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. 18Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? 19What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? 20But 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. 21Ye 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. 22Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he? 23All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. 24Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth. 25Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: 26For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. 27If 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. 28But 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: 29Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? 30For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? 31Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 32Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: 33Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

What he had previously taught by two similitudes, he now confirms by examples. The Corinthians grew wanton, and gloried, as if they had served out their time, 520520     “Comme feroyent des gendarmes, qui ont desia fidelement serui si long temps, que pour leur faire honneur on les enuoye se reposer le reste de leur vie;” — “After the manner of soldiers, who have already served with fidelity for so long a time, that with the view of putting honor upon them, they were discharged, so as to be exempted from labor during the remainder of their life.” or at least had finished their course, when they had scarcely left the starting-point. This vain exultation and confidence he represses in this manner — “As I see that you are quietly taking your ease at the very outset of your course, I would not have you ignorant of what befell the people of Israel in consequence of this, that their example may arouse you.” As, however, on examples being adduced, any point of difference destroys the force of the comparison, Paul premises, that there is no such dissimilarity between us and the Israelites, as to make our condition different from theirs. Having it, therefore, in view to threaten the Corinthians with the same vengeance as had overtaken them, he begins in this manner — “Beware of glorying in any peculiar privilege, as if you were in higher esteem than they were in the sight of God.” For they were favored with the same benefits as we at this day enjoy; there was a Church of God among them, as there is at this day among us; they had the same sacraments, to be tokens to them of the grace of God; 521521     “Aussi bien qu’a nous;” — “As well as to us.” but, on their abusing their privileges, they did not escape the judgment of God. 522522     “Ils ont senti le jugement de Dieu, et ne l’ont peu euiter;” — “They have felt the judgment of God, and have not been able to escape it.” Be afraid, therefore; for the same thing is impending over you. Jude makes use of the same argument in his Epistle. (Jude 1:5.)

1. All were under the cloud. The Apostle’s object is to show, that the Israelites were no less the people of God than we are, that we may know, that we will not escape with impunity the hand of God, which punished them 523523     “Eux, qui estoyent son peuple;” — “Those who were his people.” with so much severity. For the sum is this — “If God spared not them, neither will he spare you, for your condition is similar.” That similarity he proves from this — that they had been honored with the same tokens of God’s grace, for the sacraments are badges by which the Church of God is distinguished. He treats first of baptism, and teaches that the cloud, which protected the Israelites in the desert from the heat of the sun, and directed their course, and also their passage through the sea, was to them as a baptism; he says, also, that in the manna, and the water flowing from the rock, there was a sacrament which corresponded with the sacred Supper.

They were, says he, baptized in Moses, that is, under the ministry or guidance of Moses. For I take the particle εἰς to be used here instead of ἐν, agreeably to the common usage of Scripture, because we are assuredly baptized in the name of Christ, and not of any mere man, as he has stated in 1 Corinthians 1:13, and that for two reasons. These are, first, because we are by baptism initiated 524524     “Nous nous assuietissons et bisons serment;” — “We submit ourselves, and make oath.” into the doctrine of Christ alone; and, secondly, because his name alone is invoked, inasmuch as baptism is founded on his influence alone. They were, therefore, baptized in Moses, that is, under his guidance or ministry, as has been already stated. How? In the cloud and in the sea. “They were, then, baptized twice,” some one will say. I answer, that there are two signs made mention of, making, however, but one baptism, corresponding to ours.

Here, however, a more difficult question presents itself. For it is certain, that the advantage of those gifts, which Paul makes mention of, was temporal. 525525     “Et terrien;” — “And earthly.” The cloud protected them from the heat of the sun, and showed them the way: these are outward advantages of the present life. In like manner, their passage through the sea was attended with this effect, that they got clear off from Pharaoh’s cruelty, and escaped from imminent hazard of death. The advantage of our baptism, on the other hand, is spiritual. Why then does Paul turn earthly benefits into sacraments, and seek to find some spiritual mystery 526526     “Mystere et secret;” — “Mystery and secret.” in them? I answer, that it was not without good reason that Paul sought in miracles of this nature something more than the mere outward advantage of the flesh. For, though God designed to promote his people’s advantage in respect of the present life, what he had mainly in view was, to declare and manifest himself to be their God, and under that, eternal salvation is comprehended.

The cloud, in various instances, 527527     “Par toute l’Escriture;” — “Throughout the whole of Scripture. is called the symbol of his presence. As, therefore, he declared by means of it, that he was present with them, as his peculiar and chosen people, there can be no doubt that, in addition to an earthly advantage, they had in it, besides, a token of spiritual life. Thus its use was twofold, as was also that of the passage through the sea, for a way was opened up for them through the midst of the sea, that they might escape from the hand of Pharaoh; but to what was this owing, but to the circumstance, that the Lord, having taken them under his guardianship and protection, determined by every means to defend them? Hence, they concluded from this, that they were the objects of God’s care, and that he had their salvation in charge. Hence, too, the Passover, which was instituted to celebrate the remembrance of their deliverance, was nevertheless, at the same time, a sacrament of Christ. How so? Because God had, under a temporal benefit, manifested himself as a Savior. Any one that will attentively consider these things, will find that there is no absurdity in Paul’s words. Nay more, he will perceive both in the spiritual substance and in the visible sign a most striking correspondence between the baptism of the Jews, and ours.

It is however objected again, that we do not find a word of all this. 528528     “Es Escritures;” — “In the Scriptures.” This I admit, but there is no doubt, that God by his Spirit supplied the want of outward preaching, as we may see in the instance of the brazen serpent, which was, as Christ himself testifies, a spiritual sacrament, (John 3:14,) and yet not a word has come down to us as to this thing, 529529     “Nous n’en auons maintenant pas un seul mot en’toute l’Escriture;” — “We have not a single word of it in the whole of Scripture.” but the Lord revealed to believers of that age, in the manner he thought fit, the secret, which would otherwise have remained hid.

3. The same spiritual meat He now makes mention of the other sacrament, which corresponds to the Holy Supper of the Lord. “The manna,” says he, “and the water that flowed forth from the rock, served not merely for the food of the body, but also for the spiritual nourishment of souls.” It is true, that both were means of sustenance for the body, but this does not hinder their serving also another purpose. While, therefore, the Lord relieved the necessities of the body, he, at the same time, provided for the everlasting welfare of souls. These two things would be easily reconciled, were there not a difficulty presented in Christ’s words, (John 6:31,) where he makes the manna the corruptible food of the belly, which he contrasts with the true food of the soul. That statement appears to differ widely from what Paul says here. This knot, too, is easily solved. It is the manner of scripture, when treating of the sacraments, or other things, to speak in some cases according to the capacity of the hearers, and in that case it has respect not to the nature of the thing, but to the mistaken idea of the hearers. Thus, Paul does not always speak of circumcision in the same way, for when he has a view to the appointment of God in it, he says, that it was a seal of the righteousness of the faith, (Romans 4:11,) but when he is disputing with those who gloried in an outward and bare sign, and reposed in it a mistaken confidence of salvation, he says, that it is a token of condemnation, because men bind themselves by it to keep the whole law (Galatians 5:2, 3.) For he takes merely the opinion that the false apostles had of it, because he contends, not against the pure institution of God, but against their mistaken view. In this way, as the carnal multitude preferred Moses to Christ, because he had fed the people in the desert for forty years, and looked to nothing in the manna but the food of the belly, (as indeed they sought nothing else,) Christ in his reply does not explain what was meant by the manna, but, passing over everything else, suits his discourse to the idea entertained by his hearers. “Moses is held by you in the highest esteem, and even in admiration, as a most eminent Prophet, because he filled the bellies of your fathers in the desert. For this one thing you object against me: I am accounted nothing by you, because I do not supply you with food for the belly. But if you reckon corruptible food of so much importance, what ought you to think of the life-giving bread, with which souls are nourished up unto eternal life?.” We see then that the Lord speaks there — not according to the nature of the thing, but rather according to the apprehension of his hearers. 530530     See Calvin on John, vol. 1, p. 247. — Ed. Paul, on the other hand, looks here — not to the ordinance of God, but to the abuse of it by the wicked.

Farther, when he says that the fathers ate the same spiritual meat, he shows, first, what is the virtue and efficacy of the Sacraments, and, secondly, he declares, that the ancient Sacraments of the Law had the same virtue as ours have at this day. For, if the manna was spiritual food, it follows, that it is not bare emblems that are presented to us in the Sacraments, but that the thing represented is at the same time truly imparted, for God is not a deceiver to feed us with empty fancies. 531531     “Choses qui ayent apparence sans efibt;” — “Things that have an appearance, without reality.” A sign, it is true, is a sign, and retains its essence, but, as Papists act a ridiculous part, who dream of transformations, (I know not of what sort,) so it is not for us to separate between the reality and the emblem which God has conjoined. Papists confound the reality and the sign: profane men, as, for example, Suenckfeldius, and the like, separate the signs from the realities. Let us maintain a middle course, 532532     “Entre ees deux extremitez;” — “Between these two extremes.” or, in other words, let us observe the connection appointed by the Lord, but still keep them distinct, that we may not mistakingly transfer to the one what belongs to the other.

It remains that we speak of the second point — the resemblance between the ancient signs and ours. It is a well-known dogma of the schoolmen — that the Sacraments of the ancient law were emblems of grace, but ours confer it. This passage is admirably suited for refuting that error, for it shows that the reality of the Sacrament was presented to the ancient people of God no less than to us. It is therefore a base fancy of the Sorbonists, that the holy fathers under the law had the signs without the reality. I grant, indeed, that the efficacy of the signs is furnished to us at once more clearly and more abundantly from the time of Christ’s manifestation in the flesh than it was possessed by the fathers. Thus there is a difference between us and them only in degree, or, (as they commonly say,) of “more and less,” for we receive more fully what they received in a smaller measure. It is not as if they had had bare emblems, while we enjoy the reality. 533533     Our author, having occasion to refer to the same “Scholastic dogma” as to the Sacraments of the Old and New Testaments, (when commenting on Romans 4:12,) says, “Illis enim vim justificandi adimunt, his attribuunt:” — “They deny to the former the power of justifying, while they assign it to the latter.” — Ed.

Some explain it to mean, that they 534534     “Les Israelites;” — “The Israelites.” ate the same meat together among themselves, and do not wish us to understand that there is a comparison between us and them; but these do not consider Paul’s object. For what does he mean to say here, but that the ancient people of God were honored with the same benefits with us, and were partakers of the same sacraments, that we might not, from confiding in any peculiar privilege, imagine that we would be exempted from the punishment which they endured? At the same time, I should not be prepared to contest the point with any one; I merely state my own opinion. In the meantime, I am well aware, what show of reason is advanced by those who adopt the opposite interpretation — that it suits best with the similitude made use of immediately before — that all the Israelites had the same race-ground marked out for them, and all started from the same point: all entered upon the same course: all were partakers of the same hope, but many were shut out from the reward. When, however, I take everything attentively into consideration, I am not induced by these considerations to give up my opinion; for it is not without good reason that the Apostle makes mention of two sacraments merely, and, more particularly, baptism. For what purpose was this, but to contrast them with us? Unquestionably, if he had restricted his comparison to the body of that people, he would rather have brought forward circumcision, and other sacraments that were better known and more distinguished, but, instead of this, he chose rather those that were more obscure, because they served more as a contrast between us and them. Nor would the application that he subjoins be otherwise so suitable — “All things that happened to them are examples to us, inasmuch as we there see the judgments of God that are impending over us, if we involve ourselves in the same crimes.”


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