The Danger of Privilege

I Corinthians 10

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
May 2024

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink.

For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”

8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.  (I Corinthians 10:1-12 ESV)

We come to the most Jewish passage in I Corinthians.  It is a passage that mentions Moses.  It mentions the Red Sea.  It mentions the Exodus.  It mentions manna falling from heaven.

This passage mentions water from the rock.  It mentions the Shekinah Glory cloud.  If you don’t know the OT very well, this is a good introduction.  This is the OT for Dummies.

Today, we are going to talk about privilege. People often about white privilege.  That is a big topic in some circles.  Today, we want to talk about a different kind of privilege.  It is spiritual privilege.

Spiritual privilege is a huge problem in the church today.  It was a problem for God’s people in the OT.  It is a problem for God’s people in the NT.  It is a huge problem for the American church today.

Paul said that Christians are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).  Christians have all kinds of privileges.  Christians in America have even more privileges than Christians in other countries.

There are churches on every corner.  Some are some big mega churches.  We hear the Word preached every Sunday.  Some of us have heard twenty years of sermons.  Some sermons are better than others.

We have gotten saved.  We have joined a church.  We have been baptized.  We have experienced some religious rituals.

We have seen God work in our life.  We have seen some prayers answered.  We not only have a Bible at home; some of us have a stack of bibles and study bibles at home.

We have all kinds of preachers on TV and online.  We have all kinds of Christian podcasts we can listen to.  Some other countries don’t even know who Jesus is.  They have never heard the gospel.

We have some great privileges.  The Jews also had some incredible privileges.  We are going to look at them today.

Don’t be Ignorant

Paul begins this chapter with a concern.  He says, “I don’t want you to be ignorant.”  That is a big problem in the church today.  Many Christians are ignorant.  Some have been in church for years (some for decades) and they are still ignorant.  Ignorance is not good.  It leads to sin.  It leads to error.

Paul says this a lot in his epistles.  He said that he did not want Christians to be ignorant of bible prophecy.  Some still are. They have no idea what the Bible teaches about the future.  The have no idea what the Book of Revelation is talking about.

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in (Romans 11:25 NIV)

Paul did not want Christians to be ignorant of the OT.   He did not want the Corinthians to be ignorant of it.  Many were.  Most of them were Gentiles.  They did not grow up reading the OT.

Unfortunately, most Christians today do not know the OT.  Our pastor currently has a series from the Book of Genesis, but most preachers today preach out of the NT.  That is a big mistake.

Most of the Bible is the OT.  It is seventy-five percent of the Bible.  The OT was the Bible of Jesus.  It is the Bible that He memorized and quoted.

When Jesus said, “‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 NIV), He was talking about the OT.  He was quoting the OT.  He was quoting the Book of Deuteronomy.

Paul said, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16 KJV). The NT is also inspired but Paul was referring primarily to the OT.

In the context, he was referring to the Scriptures that Timothy learned as a child (II Timothy 3:15).  He did not learn them from his dad.  He was a Gentile (Acts 16:1) but his mother and grandmother were Jewish.  Paul even tells us their names (II Timothy 1:5).  Timothy learned the OT Scriptures as a child.

In I Corinthians 10, Paul lists some privileges that God’s people had in the OT.  We are going to look at some other privileges mentioned in the OT.

We are going to look at seven Jewish privileges that no one else had.  These Jews had some privileges that we do not even have today.

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were ALL under the cloud, and ALL passed through the sea, 2 and ALL were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and ALL ate the same spiritual food, 4 and ALL drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

Seven Jewish Privileges

1) Supernatural Calling

God chose the Jews to be His people.  They are the chosen people.  He only made a covenant with one nation on the earth, and that nation was not America.

God did not make a covenant with China.  He did not make a special covenant with Mexico or India.  He made a covenant with Israel.  That made them different from every other nation on the planet.

Politicians talk today about American exceptionalism.  They talk about how America is different from every other country.  We ought to be talking about Jewish exceptionalism.  Israel is different from every country on earth.

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. (Deuteronomy 7:6 NIV)

2) Supernatural Deliverance

Not only did God supernaturally call the Jews; He supernaturally delivered them from bondage.

The Hebrew were slaves.  Their slavery was cruel.  It was oppressive.  It was inhumane.  You can read about it in Exodus 1.

They were not enslaved by the white man but by the Egyptians in Africa. They put heavy burdens on them, and they did it for four hundred years.

They did not escape from slavery.  They did not bring themselves out of slavery.  They did not fight a war to get out of slavery.  They did not have to fight a civil war to get out of slavery.  They were rescued.

God showed up in their bondage.  God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and gave him a job to do.  He identified Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

He told Moses that he had seen the affliction of His people in Egypt.  He had heard their cries and said He would deliver them (Exodus 3:7-8)

God brought them out.  He set them free. God did not just deliver them from bondage; He delivered them from their enemies.  The Jews not only were set free from slavery; they got to watch their enemies drown as an added bonus.

3) Supernatural Provision

God did not just deliver the Jews out of Egypt; He provided for them.  There were not any restaurants in the wilderness.  There was no fast food, but God provided for them.

They did not starve to death in the wilderness.  They did not die of thirst.  He provided food and water for two million people in the wilderness, and it was free.  They did not have to pay for it.

They not only had supernatural deliverance; they had supernatural food.  They got manna.  It fell from the sky.  They got water from a rock.

He did not just provide food for forty years, he provided clothes.  There were no Walmart’s out in the wilderness. Deuteronomy 8:4 says that their clothes never wore out.

There were also no shoe stores in the desert.  Deuteronomy 29:5 says that their sandals never wore out.  They wore the same pair of shoes for forty years.  That must have been hard on all of the ladies.

We don’t have these promises today.  We have to buy new shoes.  We have to buy new clothes.

There were also no immediate care or walk-in clinics centers in the wilderness.   If they got pregnant in the wilderness, there were no hospitals to go to.  God took care of them supernaturally.

They did not get sick.  God was their doctor.  He was their healer.  He is Jehovah Rapha.  God said that if they followed and obeyed Him, He said that He would not bring on them any of the diseases He brought on the Egyptians (Exodus 15:26)

Now God is still our Healer today but that does not mean that we can never go to the doctor.

4) Supernatural Leading

They not only had supernatural food; they had supernatural leading.  They were led by a pillar of cloud.  They were led by a pillar of fire.

By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. (Exodus 13:21-22 NIV)

The Jews did not have a map.  They did not have GPS. There was no Google Maps in the wilderness.  They were guided by God.  He guided them with a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire.

He guided them day and night.  He guided them twenty-four hours a day. When the cloud would go, they would go.  When the cloud would stop, they would stop.

It would be cool to be led that way today.  God leads us differently today.  He leads us by His Spirit.  He leads us internally, rather than externally.

5) Supernatural Encounters

The Jews were not just delivered and led by God; they saw God.  They heard him speak audibly.  They had divine encounters.  They heard the voice of God.

Most of us have never heard God speak out loud but the whole nation heard God speak audibly on Mount Sinai.

God descended to the top of the mountain (Exodus 19:20).  It was a holy mountain.  It was so holy that if anyone touched, they would die.  Everyone moved back.  They were terrified.

God manifested Himself on this mountain in fire.  The whole mountain was on fire (Deuteronomy 5:23; Exodus 19:18).  Moses saw a burning bush.  They saw a burning mountain on Mount Sinai..

Not only did this mountain burn, it shook, like an earthquake.  The mountain school violently (Exodus 19:18)

God manifested Himself physically to the Jews in a way He did not do to any other nation.  He manifested Himself in a way that He does not do today.

All you had to do was to look out of your tent door and you could see this Shekinah Glory Cloud.  It was not a rain cloud.  It was a glory cloud.

Paul said that they were “all under the cloud.”  It was a visible manifestation of God on the earth.  No one could doubt the presence of God.

They could see it every day.  There were no Jewish atheists.  There were no Jewish agnostics.  John MacArthur said, “They knew God. They saw God. They felt God.”[1]

Most of us have never seen God.  We have never seen a physical manifestation of God, but the Jews did.  They did every day.

William Hixson, one of my former pastors used to say, “The Jews did not have the Pyramids, like the Egyptians. They did not have philosophy, like the Greeks. They did not have armies, like the Romans, but they had God.”

They had the presence of God with them and they had it every day.  They had Jesus with them.  Paul said that the rock was Christ (I Corinthians 10:4).  They had the Shekinah Glory.

In fact, the Shekinah Glory was with them for eight hundred years.  The cloud appeared around 1450 BC during the time of Moses.  It left the Jews during the Babylonian Captivity (587 BC). It finally left the Temple.  You can read about it in Ezekiel 10.

6) Supernatural Miracles

The Jews did not just encounter God, they experienced miracles, genuine miracles.  Many Christians have never seen a miracle, other than the miracle of salvation.

The Hebrews saw them firsthand.  They witnessed a lot of nature miracles.  They witnessed the Ten Plagues.  These plagues were an awesome display of POWER.

They displayed incredible power over the animals (frogs, lice, flies, livestock, locusts).  They displayed power over nature (water turned into blood).  They displayed power over the weather (hail, darkness).  They displayed power over sickness (boils) and even life itself (death of firstborn).

The Hebrews got to see one of the greatest miracles of the Bible.  They saw God split the Red Sea in half right before their very eyes.

Two million unarmed slaves were on the run, chased down by the most powerful army on the planet at the time.

Pharaoh’s army had weapons of war.  They had chariots.  That was like having tanks today.  He had the best technology of the day, the best military technology.

Well-trained fighters came against the unarmed Hebrews and had them cornered.  They had nowhere to go.  They could not go back, and they could not go forward.

Then God stepped in and performed a miracle.  He split the Red Sea in half and held the water up, suspending the law of gravity and delivered them supernaturally.

7) Supernatural Revelation

God did not just deliver the Jews, appear to the Jews, lead the Jews, provide for them, He revealed things to them.  God wrote a book.  He gave them a revelation.  He gave this revelation to the Jews.

He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel. 20 He has done this for NO OTHER NATION; they do not know his laws. (Psalm 147:19-20 NIV)

Three Sobering Truths

Now we come to three sobering truths found in this chapter.  You will almost never hear talked about in church.

1) Believers sin

Leaders fall into sin.  David sinned.  Solomon sinned.  Moses sinned.  Peter sinned.  Apostles sinned.

David committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband, who was one of his best soldiers.  It was premeditated murder.

Solomon married all these pagan wives and as he got older, his wives turned his heart after other gods (I Kings 11:4 NIV).  He built high places for some of these gods (I Kings 11:7-8).  He committed idolatry.

Moses committed murder when he was forty and struck the rock (Numbers 20) when he was over hundred.  He must have had an anger problem.  Even old believer’s sin.

Aaron created in idol in the shape of a calf, and said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” (Exodus 32:4 NIV)

God’s people are not immune from sin.  Not only do they sin; believers can fall into the worst possible sins (adultery, murder, idolatry).

2) God judges sin

That is a point that Paul brings up in this chapter.  The Jews in the OT had privileges that no one else had.  They had blessings that no one else had.  They were in the right group, but they were in trouble with God.

Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness…7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. (I Corinthians 10:5, 7-10).

This is strange.  The Jews had all these privileges.  They had all of these blessings, but when they sinned God judged them.  He judged them severely.

Twenty-three thousand dropped in one day.  That’s a lot of people.  It is a lot of funerals.  The preachers say that God isn’t mad at you.  He seemed to be mad at them.

They died in all kinds of different ways.  Some died by a plague (Exodus 32:35; Numbers 25:9).  Some died by snakes (I Corinthians 10:9).  Some died by an angel (I Corinthians 10:10).  It would be pretty bad to have an angel take you out.

Two million Jews left Egypt but only two enter the Promised Land (Joshua and Caleb).  Even Moses didn’t make it in, and he was a spiritual giant.

Different people committed different sins and started dropping dead. Four sins are mentioned in our chapter.  We can read about these sins in Exodus and Numbers (Exodus 32; Numbers 25, Exodus 17/Numbers 21/ and Numbers 11)

Four Deadly Sins

We talk about the seven deadly sins.  Paul mentions four deadly sins in  I Corinthians 10.

1) False Worship

Do not be idolaters, as some of them were (I Corinthians 10:7 NIV).  This took place when the Jews worshipped the gospel calf (Exodus 32)

2) Sexual Sin

We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did (I Corinthians 10:8 NIV).  They committed sexual immorality with pagan women, who were most likely temple prostitutes (Numbers 25).

The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.”  Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did (I Corinthians 10:7-8 NKJV).

That translation implies they rose up to play some innocent games, like they got up to play Monopoly.

Some modern versions give a more explicit rendering. “The people sat down to a feast which turned into an orgy of drinking and sex.” (I Corinthians 10:7 GNB)

3) Testing God

He mentions TESTING GOD.  We should not test Christ, as some of them did (I Corinthians 10:9 NIV).  This took place in Numbers 21 and Exodus 17.

What does it mean to test God?  There is a right testing and a wrong testing.  Deuteronomy 6:16 says, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.

Malachi 3:10 says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” (NIV)

When is it right to test God and when is it wrong?  One is an act of FAITH, and one is an act of UNBELIEF.

The Israelites “tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7 NIV).  That was doubt in the face of overwhelming evidence.

4) Complaining

And do not complain, as some of them did, and were killed by the destroying angel. (I Corinthians 10:10 BSB).  This is found in Numbers 11.

That is interesting.  We don’t even consider complaining that big of a deal.  Everyone does it.  We are a nation of complainers.  That is how the nation began.  It began by complaining about King George III.

They complained about everything.  They complained about not having enough food and water.  They complained about the food God gave them.  They were tired of manna.

They complained about their problems and wanted to go back to Egypt.  They complained about their leaders.  Some of them did not like Moses.  They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” (Exodus 17:3 NIV)

We do not consider complaining a big deal, but some people killed for complaining.  God must take this seriously.  Are you a complainer?

3) History repeats itself

This chapter has a strong warning. It is not a warning to the unsaved.  It is a warning to believers.

Christians can sin today.  Christians can commit idolatry.  Christians can fall into sexual sin.  Christians can test God.  Christians can complain.

Christians can be judged by God today for sin.  What happened to them can happen to us.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep US from setting OUR hearts on evil things as they did. (I Corinthians 10:6 NIV)

These things happened to them as examples and were written down AS WARNINGS FOR US, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. (I Corinthians 10:11 NIV)

Many think they are immune from this.  Nothing can happen to us.  We are saved.  Moses was saved and he still did not get into the Promised Land.

You say, “We have been baptized.  We have been baptized into Christ.”  Paul says that the Israelites were baptized into Moses, and they still fell[2].

You may be blessed by God but that does not mean that God overlooks sin.  In fact, Peter says that judgment must begin in the house of God (I Peter 4:17).  Paul ends the ends the section with a warning.

12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (I Corinthians 10:12 NIV)


[2] Presbyterians and Baptist argue over baptism from this verse.  One side argues that baptism is by immersion.  The other side believes in sprinkling.  The only ones immersed in this passage were the Egyptians.  They were the only ones who got wet.

Paul is not dealing with the mode of baptism in this passage.  He is not dealing with baptism in a literal sense but in a spiritual or symbolic sense.  He mentions “spiritual food” (I Corinthians 10:3), “spiritual drink” and a “spiritual rock” (I Corinthians 10:4).

The Hebrews did not experience a religious ritual in the Red Sea.  They experienced deliverance.  Deliverance involved association and identificaiton with Moses, just as we are identified with Christ.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *