Learning from the Past

This text from Corinthians is hard to preach only because it basically preaches itself. If there is anything to take away from this today, I hope it is the scripture itself.

1 Corinthians 10.1-13

1Cor. 10:1 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors 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, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.

1Cor. 10:6 Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and they 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 And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. 13 No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

Last week we spoke of imitating the lives of those who have gone before and of those who are currently pointing the way to Christ. But as Paul turns to confront his Corinthian congregation, he instructs them to look closely at their mistakes and to learn from the past. Be careful not to see the wrong actions of those who have gone before us as something to spend time judging, rather, see them as opportunities to avoid the pitfalls that come through a life that has lost its focus on God.


The mistakes of the past that we must avoid, especially in our text this morning, are those of idolatry. As we’ve heard many times, it was idolatry that plagued the spiritual lives of the people of Israel the most. When the people put anything other than God at the top of their priorities, they found themselves distracted from God and captured by sin. Paul’s point from the start is that these people were no different than us, that even though God was with them and is with us, we are susceptible to the same temptations that caused the fall of others in the past.

Idolatry’s main fault is that it goes head-to-head with the will of God—a will that is fixed on setting aside God’s people for the purpose of bringing redemption to the world. The mission’s success must not be in competition with distracting desires. Why? Because souls are at stake. This plan of redemption that God has implemented snatches the lives of sinful people out of the clutches of Hell and places them in the safety of God’s promised land. But if not made the top priority, the promised land is something never realized. It becomes something merely talked about, dreamed about, or turned down because the cares of the world took precedence over the glory of God.

Therefore, if we can learn from the mistakes of others and especially ourselves, we can avoid the snares of sin that stand ready to bring hardship on our walk of faith and our relationship with God. God must be our top priority.


So, we learn from the mistakes of the past and avoid the pitfalls that try and trap us, and we begin to see results, both in our own faith and in our relationship with others. Those results are best seen when we are set aside for God; living for Jesus and not for what we think is best, but what God knows is best. And when we are a people who stand apart, we are instantly made different from the people around us. The people of God are a strange people, not participating in the lifestyles and ways of a world that seeks to put itself first. God’s people put God and the good of others first; and that good is an eternal good, a good that begins with God’s love and grows into a mature and pleasing human who resembles the life and person of Jesus Christ.


“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”

Remember, that to be tempted is not sinful, but to give into temptation is. We will all be tempted, tested, tried in the lives we lead, but we will not have more temptation than we can bear. God will always provide a way out, but that way must be taken. Looking back over the failures of God’s people throughout scripture, we can see the way out; the what-to-do’s and the what-not-to-do’s. Making God the priority and eliminating any competition against him is the best way for us to stay focused. I’m not here to tell you that making God your top priority is easy, because it is not. Putting God first takes sacrifice; it takes pushing everything that you’ve given weight and importance to backwards, and for many of us that is a lot of pushing. When we struggle and we are down, we can look to the one who came and put God first, knowing every temptation, test, and trial—Jesus Christ. Put God first through a relationship with Jesus Christ; avoid the snares that seek to have you; watch your faith grow as God becomes bigger and the things of this world grow strangely dim.

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