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LESSON 8 - AT THE LORD'S TABLE (1 CORINTHIANS 10 & 11 (IN PART))

Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations
from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes
the teacher uses a blackboard.
 

INTRODUCTION: Do you wrestle with spiritual pride?  Do you find
that you are sometimes selfish? This week we turn our attention
primarily to what Paul has to say about how being self-centered and
having spiritual pride in the middle of physical blessings can
cause us to lose our faith. Let's see what we can learn!
 

I. HISTORY IS NOT DESTINY

     A. Assume that you have decided to tell me what God has done
     for you; reveal the times when He has really come through for
     you.  A little spiritual bragging, if you will. Think about
     what are the spiritual "highlights" of your life.  Got them in
     mind? Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 10:1-4. Read.

          1. How do these highlights compare with yours?

          2. If you were one of these "forefathers," tell me what
          you see as the significance of these events. What is the
          reason to brag about the following events:

               a. I was under the cloud (v.1)? (This is a reference
               to the Exodus: God was leading the way!)

                    (1) Did the cloud do more than lead? (Yes. It
                    protected them. Exodus 14:19-20)

               b. I passed through the sea (v.1)? (God intervened,
               changed the course of nature, and saved my life
               from the Egyptian army.)

               c. I was baptized into Moses (v.2)? (If I said I was
               baptized in Christ you would know what I mean. This
               means they "joined" with Moses to enjoy God's
               saving leadership.)

               d. I ate spiritual food (v.3)?  (The food I ate came
               directly from God!  He directly fed me for years
               with manna!)

               e. I drank spiritual water -- from a spiritual rock
               (v.4)? (The verse explains that this "rock" is
               Jesus. So this means that Christ led and provided
               for this person daily. See Numbers 20:11.)

          3. Anyone have a more impressive list of "spiritual
          highlights?"  If not, the "forefather" bragging in 1
          Corinthians 10 has it all over you when it comes to
          spirituality, when it comes to God leading in his life,
          right?

     B. Read 1 Corinthians 10:5. What does it mean when it says
     "their bodies were scattered over the desert?"

          1. All of this bragging from the "forefather" that we
          just discussed had a common theme. What is it? (It all
          went towards saving or preserving life.)

          2. What is the irony and the lesson of their bodies being
          scattered in the desert? (After all of this care for the
          "forefather's" life, he died. They died -- and not in an
          organized, cared for way. The special relationship with
          God came to a screeching halt for most of them.)

          3. What does that tell you?  What lesson should we begin
          to draw from this little bit of history? (Beware of
          spiritual pride in what happened in the past as opposed
          to what is happening now in your relationship with God!)

     C. Let's read on. 1 Corinthians 10:6-10. Verse 6 warns us
     against "setting our hearts" on evil things. The Greek word
     translated "setting" is "epithumetes" and it means "craving,
     loving, eager for, lusting" evil things. What evil things is
     Paul talking about? List them on the blackboard. (v.7,
     idolatry; v.8, sexual immorality; v.9 testing God; v.10
     grumbling.)

          1. Let's look at these in more detail. What idolatry is
          Paul speaking about? (He is generally quoting Exodus
          32:6, part of the story of the golden calf.)

               a. Why did the forefathers make a golden calf?
               (Exodus 32:1: they did not trust God. They were
               going to make "gods who will go before us.")

                    (1) Do you trust God?  Or is your primary trust
                    in money or some other thing you have made?

          2. What sexual immorality is Paul speaking about?
          (Numbers 25:1-9 records that the forefathers were having
          sex with Moabite women which ultimately led them into
          sacrificing to Baal of Peor.  The plague that killed
          24,000 Israelites ended when Phinehas drove a spear
          through an Israelite man and a Moabite woman while they
          were in a position that would allow for this!)

               a. How does God view sexual sins? (Remember our
               discussion of 1 Corinthians 6:18?)

          3. What "testing" of God is Paul speaking about? (The
          testing that involved snakes is Numbers 21.)

               a. Will someone read Numbers 21:5-6? Paul calls this
               "testing." What would you call it? (They are
               complaining about their blessings.  The very
               spiritual "highlights" that we discussed before are
               the subject of their complaints!)

                    (1) My study of the Bible has led me to believe
                    that what God detests most, is ignoring Him. I
                    have always gotten the feeling that He did not
                    mind complaining, because complaining (at
                    least) acknowledged that He was the solution.
                    Complaining may be overrated in my mind!

          4. Paul separately speaks of grumbling. What grumbling is
          he speaking about (above what we have just mentioned)?
          (He is probably speaking of Numbers 16:11-14. This was a
          rebellion of the leadership which ended in death. Numbers
          16:28-38.)

II. WHAT WE CAN LEARN

     A. Read 1 Corinthians 10:11-13. What is (v.11) the
     "fulfillment of the ages?" (Thayer says "Fulfillment" (Greek:
     "telee") means "the end" or "the end to which all things
     relate...." This means those who are looking for the Second
     Coming.)

     B. We are told that what we just studied is an "example" and
     "warning" for us!  So, what do you think is the lesson to be
     learned from the "forefathers?" (In the midst of God's closest
     care and most dramatic blessing, the people turned away from
     Him. The result was disaster.)

          1. What do these sins that we have listed boil down to,
          as a practical matter? (Not trusting God, complaining
          about God's leadership and disobedience.)

          2. How does your life stack up in comparison?

     C. Do you think that these blessings to the "forefathers" made
     them think that they were "OK" with God? (Paul suggests that
     very thing in v.12)

          1. When Paul says "be careful you do not fall," is he
          speaking of the loss of our salvation?  Or simply falling
          into a temporary sin? (While we should be confident of
          our salvation, we should also be confident that we can
          lose it by disobedience.  Consider the last verse of the
          last chapter (1 Corinthians 10:27) that started this
          discussion. This "launching verse" says that Paul is
          concerned that he might "be disqualified from the prize."
          The "be careful you do not fall" comment specifically
          relates back to the history of the "forefathers" -- it
          seems impossible to understand this any other way. Does
          anyone think that those killed over sexual immorality,
          rebellion, grumbling or idol worship went to heaven? When
          the ground split open and swallowed Korah and his fellow
          rebels (Numbers 16:32) do you think his next stop was
          heaven?)

     D. This is pretty sobering stuff. Why does Paul share with us
     v.13 (1 Corinthians 1O:13) right after he warns us about
     overconfidence? (Right after warning us that our disobedience
     can get us killed (permanently), he says, "but remember, that
     you do not have to engage in these sins. Your temptations are
     not unique, and God will limit the severity of the temptation
     and give you a way out.)

          1. Be honest. Do you look for a "way out" of temptation?
          Or do you generally look for a "way into" temptation?

     E. Paul follows with what we studied last week: a discussion
     about food offered to idols. The next few verses (1
     Corinthians 10:16-21) make the argument that when you eat food
     offered to idols as part of a ceremony, you participate with
     demons.  What is the logical link between that and what we
     have studied so far today? (The common thread in the
     "forefathers" sin was that they did not trust God. They were
     always disobeying and rebelling. I think Paul is telling us to
     make a clean break from trusting in things, and participating
     in ceremonies that cannot save us.)

          1. This sounds pretty general. Do you have any specific
          activities or ceremonies in your life which cause you to
          trust less in God?

               a. Does television allow you to "participate" in
               things, much as if you were actually there?  Could
               this counsel about not participating with demons be
               applied to what you watch?

               b. Does "what you watch," cause you to trust God
               more or trust Him less?

III. THE LORD'S SUPPER

     A. We decided last week that 1 Corinthians 10:16 referred to
     "Communion." Paul says that Communion is a participation in
     the blood and body of Christ. Since we just discussed how we
     do not want to participate in things that will jeopardize our
     salvation, let's move next to Paul's specific discussion of
     Communion in 1 Corinthians 11:17-22. Read.

          1. Does Paul have any compliment for them on their
          communion service? (No! "I have no praise for you..."
          (v.17))

          2. What is the problem? (Paul lists them in vv.19-21. He
          starts out saying that there are divisions among them.)

               a. As you consider these verses, what kind of
               divisions do you find?

               b. What about v.19: what kind of division is that?
               (Remember in 1 Corinthians 1 we saw that the
               Corinthians bragged about following one Christian
               leader over another? (See, especially, 1
               Corinthians 1:12.)  One problem is that they are
               showing spiritual arrogance. One group says we are
               better than you are because we more correctly
               understand God.)

               c. What about v.21: what kind of division is that?
               (Social and financial status. The people range from
               those who do not have enough to eat to those who
               are overindulging so much they get drunk!)

                    (1) Under what circumstances could two people
                    be eating in church and one go hungry while
                    another pigs down plenty? (Certainly there was
                    no compassion in this. It must have been that
                    there was so much stratification in that
                    society that the rich thought it was "OK" to
                    be eating in front of the poor who were
                    hungry.)

          3. If, as we studied last week, taking communion is
          participating in the body and blood of Jesus, what were
          these people participating in? (They were participating
          in arrogance, selfishness and division.  This is just the
          opposite of what the church is supposed to be. In Romans
          12:4-5 Paul teaches that the body of Christ, ie. the
          church, is to have unity and an attitude of working
          together as one.)

     B. Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. When Jesus said (v.24) "This
     is My body which is for you;" what did He mean? (He meant that
     He was giving up His life for us.)

          1. How does that compare with the attitude of the
          Corinthians? (It is the complete and absolute opposite.
          They are "giving up" others for themselves!)

     C. The teacher's comment part of our lesson (p.97) notes that
     in many congregations there is a noticeable decline in
     attendance on Communion.  Do you think that is due to the
     communion ceremony?  Or is it due to the foot-washing service
     that precedes communion? (I have no doubt that it is the foot-
     washing service.)

          1. Should the church jettison the foot-washing ceremony
          in order to uphold Christ's command to participate in
          communion to "remember" and "proclaim the Lord's death
          until He comes?" (vv.25-26) (I have never enjoyed the
          foot-washing service.  Why? Because it is hard for my
          proud heart to get enthused about it. While this practice
          of having a foot-washing service before communion is
          exceedingly rare in the Christian community as a whole,
          consider how it is a powerful inoculation against the
          very sin that suffused the Corinthians.  What better
          antidote to spiritual and social arrogance and pride than
          washing the feet of a fellow member?)

     D. Jesus says, whenever you eat and drink remember what I did
     for you. Do you think Jesus meant for us to remember Him at
     every meal and not just communion? (There is no doubt that
     Paul viewed this as a special ceremony and not an ordinary
     meal. (See, vv. 28-34) I am not so sure that Jesus only meant
     it so narrowly.  I saw a fairly old movie once, in which a
     couple in love were parting forever. The English woman told
     the American man, "When you drink tea, think of me." Romantic
     words. Think of how Christ's sacrifice which gives us eternal
     life would remain at the fore of our conscience if we
     considered His sacrifice each time that we ate!)

IV.  NEXT WEEK: "ONE BODY, MANY PARTS -- ONE CHURCH, MANY MEMBERS."
Our topic is 1 Corinthians 12. Study! orever. The English woman told
     the American man, "When you drink tea, think of me." Romantic
     words. Think of how Christ's sacrifice which gives us eternal
     life would remain at the fore of our conscience if we
     considered His sacrifice each time that we ate!)

IV.  NEXT WEEK: "ONE BODY, MANY PARTS -- ONE CHURCH, MANY MEMBERS."
Our topic is 1 Corinthians 12. Study!