Spiritual Defection (1 Corinthians 10:1-10)
Defection: “Desertion from an allegiance, loyalty, or duty, abandonment.“ “Apostasy” in Greek, is “Apostasia, a standing away from.”
1 Corinthians 10:1-10, “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.’ Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.”
Alexander Fraser Tyler (1747-1813) wrote a book describing the fall of the Athenian Republic. He suggested that nations progress through the following sequence:
From bondage to spiritual faith.
From spiritual faith to great courage.
From courage to liberty.
From liberty to abundance.
From abundance to selfishness.
From selfishness to complacency.
From complacency to apathy.
From apathy to dependency.
From dependency back to bondage.
When Israel found themselves in this condition God sent Prophets to break the cycle to turn His wayward children back to Himself. Godly kings set up “Sacred Assemblies” to do business with God.
It’s time for dying, stagnate, troubled churches to call “sacred assemblies” to face the reality of their defection. Spiritual defectors abandon one set of loyalties for another. It is not unusual for churches to:
Abandon the grace of God and embrace legalism
Abandon evangelism and embrace universalism.
Abandon the Word of God and embrace secular humanism.
Abandon the Lordship of Christ and embrace human potential.
Abandon the Sprit of God and embrace human effort and achievement.
Abandon the Body of Christ and embrace sectarianism.
Abandon unity and embrace denominationalism.
Abandon the lost world and embrace a selfish agenda.
Abandon the one-way of Scripture and embrace many roads to Heaven.
Abandon purity and embrace sensuality.
Abandon biblical miracles and embrace scientism.
Abandon cooperation and embrace competition,
Abandon God and embrace themselves.
1 Corinthians 10 traces our spiritual heritage. Paul reminds us that we, like Israel can have it all and still be a serious candidate for defection and ultimately apostasy. The Apostle lists four distinct spiritual advantages that Israel enjoyed:
Verse 1: They had daily, divine direction, “Our fathers were under the cloud…” (Exodus 13:21). They experienced a mighty deliverance, they “all passed through the sea.” (Exodus 14).
Verse 2: They had an extraordinary leader, Moses who had been with them from Egyptian bondage, the crossing of the Red Sea, Mount Sinai, the receiving of the law, the Tabernacle, and numerous dangers. He was a great leader.
A brief explanation of Verse 2, “Baptized into Moses:” “It is a parallel to what it says of us, that we are “baptized into Christ.” Just as we have been placed into Christ and identified with him, so these Israelites of old were identified with Moses. Now Moses was the great mediator of the Old Testament. He stood between God and man; he was the representative of the people to God, and the spokesman of God to the people. He had intimate access to God, and in Moses these people all had that same access to God” –Ray Stedman.
Verses 3,4: They all shared a rich spiritual diet. It just doesn’t get any better than that!
Verse 5: They had a wonderful spiritual heritage, but the result was, “But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.”
Verses 6,7-NLT, “These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, or worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.”
Verse 11-TLB, “All these things happened to them as examples—as object lessons to us—to warn us against doing the same things; they were written down so that we could read about them and learn from them in these last days as the world nears its end.”
We all know of churches with a rich spiritual heritage of faith that have fallen by the wayside and have been devoured by legalism, liberalism, urban blight, poor leadership and lack of faith. Some of the greatest pastors in history built large, dynamic churches. But a great pastor doesn’t always insure spiritual longevity for their church.
Paul brings this ancient defection right to our doorstep. Here he gives us four reasons for Israel’s decline.
I. The first stage of spiritual defection is IDOLATRY: Verse 7, “And do not become idolaters as were some of them.”
Idolatry: “The worship of idols or excessive devotion to, or reverence for some person or thing…An idol is anything that replaces the one, true God. The most prevalent form of idolatry in Bible times was the worship of images that were thought to embody the various pagan deities” –Dictionary.
When my heart is inclined toward anything but God’s agenda, I am an idolater. A idol is that which takes the devotion owed only to God, giving it to any other thing. What is your idol? Is it a person, a career, possessions, an obsession, a position, a relationship, your children, your work, or a habit?
Even good things could be idols to us! Good things like Little League, Camping, and Boy Scouts. These activities have helped literally thousands of kids, but they have also effected the spiritual life of far too many young people. It seems that parents use good activities like these as baby sitter’s, and weekends in the woods to avoid their God-given responsibility to, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
At its very root idolatry is a demonic strategy to give an individual permission to indulge in his strongest natural desires without guilt. “The people made a calf at Mount Sinai; they bowed before an image made of gold.
They traded their glorious God for a statue of a grass-eating bull. They forgot God, their Savior, who had done such great things in Egypt—such wonderful things in the land of Ham, such awesome deeds at the Red Sea” (Psalm 106:19-22 NLT). Notice the sequence, they made, they worshiped, they exchanged, they forgot. What did they do to free themselves from indulging in their strongest natural desires? They redefined God! They traded in their God of glory for an image of an animal.
Romans 1:23-25-MSG, “They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand. So God said, in effect, ‘If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.’ It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us!”
What does God say?
“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me.” (Exodus 20:4-NLT).
“I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people” (1 Corinthians 5:11-NLT).
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-12).
“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14).
“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21-NLT).
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen” (1 John 5:21. “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts” (NLT).
II. The second stage of spiritual defection is IMMORALITY: Verse 8, “Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell.”
“While the Israelites were camped at Acacia Grove, some of the men defiled themselves by having sexual relations with local Moabite women” (Numbers 25:1-NLT).
“In the New Testament, the word most often translated ‘sexual immorality’ is porneia. This word is also translated as ‘whoredom,’ ‘fornication,’ and ‘idolatry.’ It means ‘a surrendering of sexual purity,’ and it is primarily used of premarital sexual relations. From this Greek word we get the English word pornography, stemming from the concept of ‘selling off.’ Sexual immorality is the ‘selling off’ of sexual purity and involves any type of sexual expression outside the boundaries of a biblically defined marriage relationship” –gotquestions.org.
Viewing pornography is immoral.
Listen to Jesus: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27,28).
“For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).
Homosexuality is immoral.
“You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22).
“For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due” (Romans 1:26,27).
Pre-marital and extra-marital sex is immoral.
“The man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys his own soul” (Proverbs 6:32 TLB).
“Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).
God expects moral purity in His church. One day, we (the church) will be presented as a chaste (morally pure) virgin, “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2).
III. The third stage of spiritual defection is IMPUDENCE: Verse 9,
“Impudence is defined as, offensively bold behavior…failing to show proper respect and courtesy…very rude.”
Impudent children can be cute! Impudent adults are not cute! Impudence can give one a jaded, cynical attitude toward everything in life, including God’s provision.
Churches are filled with people who have lost their joy, professional skeptics who sow seeds of discord. These people are pessimistic and negative, down on everything. They extinguish any fires of revival that might try to breakout.
Proverbs 6:16-19-MSG, “Here are six things God hates, and one more that he loathes with a passion: •eyes that are arrogant, •a tongue that lies (many politicians), •hands that murder the innocent (abortionists), •a heart that hatches evil plots (our national enemies), •feet that race down a wicked track (criminals), •a mouth that lies under oath (see #1), •and a troublemaker in the family.” The King James Version says, “He that soweth discord…” is an “abomination.” God hates troublemakers.
I know you remember the story of an old country church voting on getting electric lights for the church. One member stood to begin the meeting by saying, “It would be nice to have a big chandelier right in the center of the sanctuary.” One man, old and crotchety, who was always against everything stood and said, “I’m agin it! If we had one of them there chandeliers, there ain’t a soul in this church who knows how to play it, and before we start spending money on that, we’d better get some lights in this place.”
Our text: “Nor let us tempt Christ, (some texts say “God,” others, “The Lord”) as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents…”
Exodus 17:2,7 “Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord?” “They tempted the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’”
To tempt Christ, the Lord means, “to put to the test; to prove out; to try or to test God's patience.”
Here’s what happened: “They set out from Mount Hor along the Red Sea Road, a detour around the land of Edom. The people became irritable and cross as they traveled. They spoke out against God and Moses: ‘Why did you drag us out of Egypt to die in this godforsaken country? No decent food; no water—we can’t stomach this stuff any longer.’ So God sent poisonous snakes among the people; they bit them and many in Israel died. The people came to Moses and said, ‘We sinned when we spoke out against God and you. Pray to God; ask him to take these snakes from us’” (Numbers 21:4-6-MSG).
The Israelites tested Christ by taxing His patience. His provision of manna and water was inadequate from their point of view, and they despised it. As a result, God punished them with serpents! God does not look kindly on a lack of faith. But, like Israel, we sometimes are dissatisfied with God’s provision.
“If you feel the world owes you something, brace yourself. You’ll never get reimbursed! Henry Ward Beecher said, ‘A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.’ The sky is never blue enough, the steak isn’t cooked enough, the universe isn’t good enough to deserve a human being like you” –Max Lucado.
I don’t want what I deserve! I deserve the wrath of God and the fires of hell! But thanks to Jesus death and resurrection I won’t get what I deserve! I have eternal life, I’m going to live forever!
They wanted what they wanted, regardless of the outcome!
Now, listen to the promise in God’s Word: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
The Israelites apparently had not learned that God supplies all of their needs, not necessarily their wants. They wanted the spicy foods of Egypt and God gave them manna. What was manna? “It was white like coriander seed, and it tasted like honey wafers” (Exodus 16:31-NLT). The word has several interpretations, one is, “What is it?” (Exodus 16:15). They could have identified the onions and garlic, that was easy, but, what is this? We only know that it was a supernatural food, supplied by God, that provided the necessary nourishment for them. But they were not happy with just what they needed! They were not satisfied with God’s supply. Manna It was not what they wanted! Here’s an example for you, God gives you a new Cadillac, and you go to God and say, “God, I’m not happy, You know I wanted a Mercedes.”
IV. The fourth stage of spiritual defection is COMPLAINING: Verse 10,
“Nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.”
At this stage of Israel’s defection they have broken two solemn covenants. They have broken their covenant with God through idolatry, so they are spiritual prostitutes. And they have broken their marriage covenant and they have prostituted their own bodies in sexual immorality. Now they are impudent, insubordinate, defiant, unruly, and complaining about God’s provision.
Israel had it all! God went before them. They were led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God fed them manna, their bodies stayed healthy for forty years, their clothing didn’t even wear out. What on earth did they have to complain about? Their response to the goodness of God was never “Thank You, Lord.” Just listen to them:
“We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” (Numbers 11:5,6).
“And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’” (Exodus 15:23,24).
“The whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron. ‘If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,’ they moaned. ‘There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death’” (Exodus 16:1-3 NLT).
“So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, ‘If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?’ So they said to one another, ‘Let us select a leader and return to Egypt’” (Numbers 14:1-4).
How many pastors, men of God, have had to go through this? Self-centered, selfish, backslidden church members who just want to have their own way, like Israel say, “Let’s get a new leader, one who will do what we want!”
What do you lack?
“If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and place to sleep–you are richer than 75% of the world.
If you have money in the bank, cash in your wallet or even spare change in a dish someplace–you are among the top 8% of the Earth's wealthiest people.
If you woke up this morning with more health than illness–you are more fortunate than the million people who will not survive the week.
If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the suffering of starvation–you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.
If you can attend a worship service, or any other Christian-related meeting, without fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death–you are fortunate. Billions of people in the world cannot.
So it's not hard for us to count our blessings, is it? Most of us could quickly and easily jot down a rather lengthy list, including thanks for family and friends, food, clothing, cars, homes, pets, jobs, toys, health, freedom–and so on
But think about this. If we follow this logic, then it means that if we lack these things, we cannot give thanks. We can count our blessings only if we have something to count. So what if we have no family…no car…no home…no job? Does this mean we cannot give thanks?
Paul said, “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have” (Philippians 4:11). He also wrote, “Do all things without complaining and disputing” (Philippians 2:14).
I reiterate my original statement: 1 Corinthians 10:1-10 traces our spiritual heritage. Paul reminds us that we can, like Israel, have it all and still be a serious candidate for defection and ultimately apostasy.
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also the New Living Translation (NLT); The Message (MSG); The Amplified Bible (AMP); and The Living Bible (TLB).
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