Tuesday, June 11, 2024

False Security (1 Corinthians 10:1-5)

"But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness" (1 Cor. 10:5).

Returning to Corinthians today we see Paul turn from an admonition to run to a warning. The Corinthians, like many today, thought they were saved because they had made a profession of faith, because they attended church, because they partook of the Lord’s Supper, and “religious” reasons. But Paul warned them, and us, that outward manifestations and privileges of salvation did not actually save.

Salvation does not mean you make a profession and then live how you want; it means you grow in Christ, persevere in holiness, and crucify the flesh. Obviously, this does not mean that a Christian is perfect; but it does mean that as long as he sits back on his laurels, disinterested in the things of God, sinning freely, refusing to fight the good fight and run the race, he cannot be assured of his salvation.

“The history of the church affords no incident better suited to enforce the necessity of guarding against false security, than that selected by the apostle,” Hodge wrote. “The Israelites doubtless felt as they stood on the other side of the Red Sea, that all danger was over, and that their entrance into the land of promise was secured. They had, however, a journey beset with dangers before them, and perished because they thought there was no need of exertion. So the Corinthians, when brought to the knowledge of the gospel, thought heaven secure. Paul reminds them that they had only entered on the way, and would certainly perish unless they exercised constant self-denial … It is only by constant self-denial and vigilance, that the promised reward can be obtained. This is the lesson the apostle intends to inculcate.”

Does this “constant self-denial” mean you are continuously in a state of self-denial? Of course not. Again, the Christian life is a struggle, but it is exactly the struggle that makes your life a Christian one. You are constantly seeking to put others first, to obey, even though you are battling remaining sin all the time. The Scriptures are filled with warnings to those who do not persevere in the race, who stray from godliness, who become lazy in their spiritual journey. If we ignore these warnings, we will end up like the Israelites who perished in the desert. They did not lose their salvation because of their negligence, but their negligence proved that they were never saved in the first place.

There is a great tension in the Christian life of “working out your salvation” and relying on God’s grace. Meditate on Philippians 2:12–13. Compare verses 12 and 13. Does Paul explain this paradox of human effort and God’s work? Why not? Pray for the grace to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.