Many in the church at Corinth were puffed up with their knowledge, their gifts and the great privileges with which God had blessed them. They had a good foundation laid by Paul (1 Cor. 3:10, 11), they knew the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4) and theirs was a mighty church, respected and well known by all. But factions, divisions, open sin, intellectualism, and all sorts of ideas and wrong practices had crept into their midst. Therefore, to warn them of vain presumption, false confidence and indifference to holy conduct and practice, Paul sets before them the example of Israel, the church in the wilderness. All of these Israelites enjoyed great God-given privileges, the special favour of God and were exposed to the gospel of Christ in type, yet most of them perished under God's judgement in the wilderness.
(Vs. 1.) I would not have you to be ignorant nor uninformed concerning the matter of perseverance in faith, in obedience in conduct becoming a believer. All of the people of Israel led by the cloud (in which God's presence went before them), and every one of them passed safely through the Red Sea.
(Vs. 2.) "Every one of them allowed himself to be baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea," which was an acknowledgement of their regard unto him as their guide and governor, is a picture of our baptism, which identifies us with Christ.
(Vs. 3.) Those who perished in the wilderness all ate the same (supernaturally given) food which Moses, Caleb and Joshua ate (who went into Canaan). Manna is called spiritual food, firstly, because it was bread that came down from (John 6:31,35) and, secondly, because it signified Christ, who is the true bread from heaven. They actually ate the same spiritual bread we eat, they in type and we by faith.
(Vs. 4, 5.) "They all drank the same water from a spiritual rock followed them, and that Rock was Christ" in type and Paul is saying to the Corinthians that all of Israel in days were an informed people, a privileged people, who were partakers of things that revealed the gospel of redemption in Christ, and yet the people who enjoyed those privileges were not pleasing to God nor accepted of him, but perished in the wilderness. This is a solemn warning (Heb. 3:6-14).
(Vs. 6.) These people are an example to us who enjoy the blessed privilege and revelation of the gospel. The punishment inflicted upon them was designed as instruction for us to avoid the like sins, that we may not equally be condemned. The word "lust" is to covet, crave, or desire and may be used in reference to all sin, for lust is the root and foundation of all (Rom. 7:7; 1 John 2:15, 16).
(Vs. 7.) "Do not be worshippers of idols, images and false gods, as some of them were" (Exod. 32:1-6). Three thousand of them fell that day (Exod. 32:28). Our God is one God, is a jealous God and will not share his glory nor the love and worship of his people.
(Vs. 8.) We must not gratify evil, fleshly desires and indulge in immorality, as some of these people did, which resulted in the death of twenty-four thousand (suddenly) one day (Num. 25:1-9; 1 Cor. 6:15-20).
(Vs. 9.) "To tempt", in the general sense of the term, is to make a trial of God in reference to his power, his faithfulness and his goodness - to try his patience and be critical of his providence. It is not to be satisfied with his will and way, but to challenge him and provoke him. This Israel did in Numbers 21:5, 6.
(Vs. 10.) "Murmuring" signifies speaking against God out of impatience, discontent or covetousness. We learn from Exodus 15:24; 16:7 and Numbers 14:26-29 that it was a sin of which the Jews were very much guilty.
(Vs. 11.) These recorded punishments came upon Israel, not by chance, but by the will of God (as their idolatry and murmuring deserved) and were recorded for our admonition, that we may be warned to avoid the one and escape the other. Israel, blessed above all nations, presumed upon the goodness of God and suffered. We who live in the latter days before Christ's second coming are warned against such an attitude.
(Vs. 12.) Since the Jewish fathers (who enjoyed such special favours and great privileges) by their sin, idolatry and rebellion brought upon themselves the judgements of God, it would be wise for all today (who think themselves safe; secure and above these sins) to take heed lest they also fall (Gal. 6:1; Jude 24). Our strength is not in ourselves or our knowledge, but totally in Christ (John 15:5).
(Vs. 13.) The word "trial" may include trials such as afflictions, testing and all things disagreeable to nature (James 1:2; I Peter 1:6), or temptations that arise because of our sinful These are all common to believers everywhere. We do not expect to be free from the common trials of all men. But God has promised strength and assistance to his people (Matt. 7:11; 2 Thess. 3:3). You may be tempted beyond your strength but not beyond his!