Preliminary Considerations

Paul has explained that the church must run to receive the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24). Christian discipline and self-control are not aimless. Finishing the race bears imperishable fruit (vv.25-27). In chapter 10, Paul then provides an example to further motivate the Corinthians towards discipline (10:1-5). At that time, the Corinthians were tempted to be lazy towards idolatry (vv.14-21). Paul intends to sober the slacking church by means of a timely comparison. This is the significance of “for” (γὰρ), which is non-emphatic yet certainly explanatory.[1]

A correct interpretation of this passage requires that we grasp concepts of symbol, type, and analogy. A symbol is a portrait of a current spiritual reality. By “portrait,” we mean any physical thing. Some insibile reality – whether a fact, principle, or relationship – is portrayed in a visible form. A type is similar, but prospective instead of current. “It relates to what will become real or applicable in the future.[2] Symbols point to present realities; types point to future realities. For this reason, a symbol by nature can only refer to the spiritual, whereas a type may refer to both spiritual and physical.

Symbols and types are theological concepts deeply rooted in Scripture itself. For example, Paul explicitly refers to Adam as a type of Christ (Romans 5:14). One more concept we should grasp is that of analogy, which is not so closely connected to symbolism and typology. An analogy is strictly an authorial device, a communicative tool that denotes no actual link between one thing and another. It is “a comparison between one things and another made for the purpose of explanation or clarification.” Speaking of something being an analogy requires that we know the authorial intent behind said thing, because nothing can be intrinsically analogous.[3] With these three terms clarified, and the immediate context explained, preparation is complete for exegeting the text.


For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers” (v.1). “Unaware” from agnoeo (ἀγνοέω), meaning “to not understand.”[4] Paul cared deeply about doctrine. “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed” (1 Corinthians 12:1). “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Deficiency in sound doctrine leads to a deficiency in sound pragmatics. Positively, good theology always promotes holiness.

The example concerns “our fathers” (v.1), which refers to Old Covenant Israelites (contextually, those who left Egypt).[5] This reference identifies the New Covenant church with that of the Old Covenant (cf. Romans 4:1-25; 11:11-24; Galatians 3:7-9, 29; Philippians 13:3). It is not simply Abraham who stands as a patriarch for the Christian church, in the context of faith and justification, but truly all of Old Covenant Israel constitutes our ancestry, by means of adoption into the family of God. In the New Testament, Old Covenant Israelites are referenced to “fathers” to both Jewish and Gentile audiences (Acts 28:17; Romans 4:12; Hebrews 1:1; James 2:21).

Our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea” (v.1). Paul’s first reference is to the cloud which portrayed the peculiar presence of God that shepherded Israel (Exodus 13:21; 14:19, 24; 40:38; Num. 10:34; 14:14; Deut. 1:33; Neh. 9:12, 19; Ps. 78:14; 99:7; 105:39; 1 Cor. 10:1; See Num. 9:15–23). The second reference is to the parting of the Red Sea, when Israel went through the sea on dry ground (Exodus 14:16; Psalm 66:6; Hebrews 11:29). The latter is a singular event, but the former was a perpetual reality, hence Paul’s various verb choice.[6] God manifested Himself in the cloud many times after the Red Sea crossing, but Paul likely has in mind only the cloud before the sea. First, this is the sequence provided in verses 1 and 2: cloud then sea. Second, Paul counts this as a baptism in verse 2 and utilizes the aorist, denoting a punctiliar action. There was a point in history when baptism was constituted by the cloud and the sea. Third, following from the previous, this historical point is likely the events leading up to Exodus 14:31, as the Israelites stand finally saved from the power of Egypt. Therefore, when Paul says that our fathers were all under the cloud, he is referring to the presence of God manifest in the cloud before the Red Sea parting. This was a perpetual experience even before the sea.

Paul’s interpretation of this event is that “all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (v.2).[7]Their travels in the cloud and in the sea constituted baptism into Moses. Baptism conveys deliverance from death. Peter taught that Noah’s household was baptized in the Deluge: “…when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:20-21).[8] Without the ark, Noah was destroyed. In the ark, Noah was delivered. The waters of death raged around Noah, but God kept him safe within the vessel. This was a baptism for him. Our baptism is a symbol: it teaches us how and from what God delivers. Paul teaches likewise: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4; cf. Colossians 2:11-12). Baptism is a journey into death and out again. It is a journey through flood waters and onto Mount Ararat. We go down into death, but we go down there in Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:16), and so we will be brought through it all. “Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (v.14).

The sign of the Old Covenant offered no picture of deliverance (Genesis 17:11), but was only an image of judgment. Circumcision was the knife of God upon sinful flesh – the holiness of God which guarded eternal life with a sword (3:24). Circumcision anticipated Christ only in explaining our need for a deliverer, as Abraham’s knife pleaded for a ram in the thicket (22:6, 10, 13-14). Failure to cut the foreskin demanded being cut off from the covenant (17:14). This sign was to be given on the eighth day (v.12), and in the wisdom of God, Christ rose on the eighth day. He rose and left the sting of death, the penalty of sin, the edge of God’s knife, in the tomb (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). We are circumcised, but only by the circumcision of Christ, which is the removal of sin: putting off the body of the flesh (Colossians 2:11). Baptism, which clearly symbolizes the deliverance we have in Christ, is appropriated by Christ’s death and resurrection on the eighth/first day. It is fitting that the sign of circumcision would pass away, with the lesser covenant it sealed (v.12).

Therefore, Israel’s journey in the cloud and in the sea constituted baptism (1 Corinthians 10:2). Paul says that this was a baptism for the Israelites, which means first that it was a deliverance.[9] God, by means of the cloud and the sea, delivered Israel. Paul may have in mind Isaiah’s interpretation: “Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit, who caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name, who led them through the depths?” (Isaiah 63:11). Israel was led through death: up to the precipice of ruin, into the valley of destruction, and out safely on the other side.

Second, this baptism was into Moses. Israel understood this, for they “saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses” (Exodus 14:31). Older commentators refer to baptism “unto” Moses.[10] The preposition is eis (εἰς) and places Israel’s baptism into Moses equivalent to ours into Christ (Galatians 3:27). Israel was delivered from Egypt through Moses. It was all by the power of God, but Moses was God’s chosen servant (Exodus 33:11; Numbers 12:1-16) through whom His people would be delivered. “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided” (Exodus 14:21). Moses led Israel as Christ leads us. In Israel’s baptism, they committed themselves to Moses’ guidance, thereby to God.[11]

Israel’s exodus symbolized the covenant of grace by which God saved them, and it typified the Gospel, where Christ, the true and greater Moses, would lead His people on an exodus from Hades.[12] Vos explains: “Just as in baptism an intimate relation is established between the believer and Christ, based on the saviourship of Christ, even so the mighty acts of divine deliverance wrought through Moses pledged Israel to faith in him.”[13] In verses 3-4, Paul equivocates the spiritual food and drink of the Old Covenant Church with that of the New. This point concerning the Lord’s Supper is parallel to verses 1-2 concerning baptism. Therefore, the spiritual substance of Israel’s baptism was identical to ours. In the above quote, Vos pinpoints the continuity: a commitment to God. The implication is not necessarily for the intention of the baptized, but for the consecration of the baptized. So, even in the Old Testament, baptism consecrated, cleansed, separated, sanctified something/someone unto God. This was not a covenantal sign, but it was a means of covenant renewal.[14] Paul has established that our fathers, like us, were baptized into Moses and consecrated unto God. They had baptism.

All ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink” (vv.3-4). Having discussed their deliverance (vv.1-2), Paul’s second reference is to Israel’s sustainment (vv.3-4).[15] Traveling through the wilderness as God’s covenant people under the leadership of Moses, Israel received miraculous provisions in the form of manna and quail (Exodus 16:4-15, 35; Numbers 11:31; Deuteronomy 8:3; Nehemiah 9:15, 20; Psalm 78:23-25; Psalm 105:40), and water (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11; Psalm 78:15, 20; 105:41; Isaiah 43:20; 48:21). “Same” (αὐτός) correlates the food and drink of Israel with that of the Corinthians.[16] In some true sense, what these two temporally separated groups consume is identical.

The meaning of “spiritual” (πνευματικός) is most crucial here. Commentators are divided when attempting to define the term’s usage in the passage.[17] The adjectival form occurs in the following New Testament passages: Romans 1:11; 7:14; 15:27; 1 Corinthians 2:13 (x2), 15; 3:1; 9:11; 10:3, 4 (x2); 12:1; 14:1, 37; 15:44 (x2), 46 (x2); Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 1:3; 5:19; 6:12; Colossians 1:9; 3:16; 1 Peter 2:5. Most occurrences may be rendered as referring to the spiritual realm and the work of the Holy Spirit. A few instances may refer to the former (Romans 1:11; Ephesians 6:12; 1 Peter 2:5) or latter (1 Corinthians 15:44, 46) only. Maturity is another theme (Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 1:9; 3:16). On the surface, the interpretive question is the same as authorship of Davidic Psalms: did David write this particular Psalm, or was it written in the manner of David’s writing? We know, of course, that our spiritual activity is a product of the Holy Spirit, for we are spiritually dead in Adam (Ephesians 2:1-3).

Because this food and drink is equivocated with that which we consume in the Lord’s Supper, the spiritual/unseen sustenance must be identical, because the physical substance is not. Paul points to a consistency, and it must be invisible because it is not visible. The rest of verse 4 gives another interpretive clue: “For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” First, this utilization of “spiritual” should be understood as identical to the previous two.[18] Physically, water came from the rock at Horeb (Exodus 17:6) and Meribah (Numbers 20:11). Because the Apostle’s objective is not to recount the entire story, but only to use it as an example for discouraging the Corinthians from idolatry, he uses shorthand several times in the passage. For example, instead of also alluding to the source of their food, he intends this be understood through the conclusions he draws concerning their drink. Christ confirmed this interpretation of Paul: “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world…. I am the bread of life” (John 6:33, 35).

Second, the spiritual sustenance is derived from Christ. The drink came forth from the Rock, and the Rock was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). The food came forth from the heavens, and the heavens were Christ.[19] However, Paul calls these interactions spiritual. It had to be, because Christ did not exist eschatologically/historically at the time of Israel’s exodus. He had yet to take upon himself human flesh. The sense in which Christ was spiritual (“spiritual Rock… the Rock was Christ”) was the sense in which the food and drink were spiritual. In the first place, this excludes all material, physical, and visible possibilities, for God the Son was not joined in hypostatic union to created flesh. The Christ mentioned was not physical at the time, and therefore the food and drink mentioned was not physical. In the second place, following the previous point, this excludes rendering “spiritual” simply as “supernatural.” The best conclusion seems to be that “spiritual” is reference to the spiritual realm, with the implication that such benefits are enjoyed only by God’s Spirit. This interpretation, as argued above, is consistent with the semantic range of pneumatikos.[20]

Third, Christ, the spiritual Rock, followed them through the wilderness. Paul likely has in mind a Rabbinical tradition which taught that a physical Rock literally followed Israel through the wilderness, providing them with water.[21] Paul utilizes this man-made tradition to teach the Corinthians about Israel’s relationship with the coming Messiah. Christ followed them, and they received spiritual sustenance from Him. It might be surmised this reference is to the cloud, already mentioned in this passage and which attended Israel for many years. This is unlikely, because the cloud preceded (e.g. Numbers 14:14) and the Rock pursued.

Paul is teaching that the Israelites ate and drank spiritually from Christ, just as the Corinthians do in the Lord’s Supper. The spiritual rock referenced by Paul does not symbolize Christ, but was Christ. “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink’” (John 7:37). This is not only a consistent understanding of the term “spiritual,” but likewise fits best with the Apostle’s argument. If the Israelites were not spiritually sustained by Christ, then their experience was substantively different than the Corinthians, and the weight of the example is lost. The Corinthians may claim, “Israel fell because they were not supported by Christ.” To the contrary, Israel had access by covenant to the mercies of Christ, to the sanctifying grace of God, but “with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness” (1 Corinthians 10:5).

How is it that Israel received spiritual sustenance from Christ in the wilderness? A link between physical and spiritual seems to be in the material acts of eating and drinking – the manna, quail, and water. Paul clearly has these material blessings in mind by way of reference. However, a discontinuity between physical and spiritual lies in the substance. A material rock did not glide behind Israel, but Christ the spiritual Rock did. Therefore, the manna, quail, and water were intersections of material and spiritual sustenance. Christ attended the waters of Horeb, but He did not attend the waters of the Nile. Christ attended manna, but He did not attend Ruth’s bread (Ruth 2:14). In brief: Christ attended Israel’s wilderness meals. “The single act of drinking physical water was simultaneously a spiritual act of drinking from Christ.”[22]

That the benefits of Christ might be enjoyed by God’s elect prior to His incarnation is a staple of Christian theology, though treacherously denied by Dispensationalism. Christ’s death did not grant God permission to begin saving, but vindicated His past, present, and future acts of deliverance: “so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). In her wilderness meals, Israel was offered sustaining Gospel graces. This gives considerable weight to Paul’s argument. The Old Covenant truly administered the Covenant of Grace to Israel,[23] yet “with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness” (1 Corinthians 10:5).

Overthrown” (καταστρώννυμι) depicts death and scattering, “to stretch or spread down as of a couch, to lay low, as if by a hurricane (Numbers 14:16).”[24] Five uses of “all” make the point emphatic. “all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized… and all ate… and all drank…. Nevertheless… they were overthrown” (1 Corinthians 10:1-5; emphasis mine).[25] Thus, the Corinthians are warned against covenant presumption: stomachs full of grace filled the desert with graves.

1 Corinthians 10:16

Later in chapter 10, Paul asks, “The cup of blessing that we bless, it is not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (v.16). Paul presumes what Christ taught when He instituted the Supper:

Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Matthew 26:26-38

Participation” (1 Corinthians 10:16) is from koinonia (κοινωνία) which denotes close association and fellowship.[26] In the Supper, we fellowship with Christ and participate in His death. The point of fellowship is the ceremonial act, not the bread and wine. There is fellowship in wine that we bless, in bread that we break.[27] For this reason, shorthand for the Supper is often “breaking of bread” (e.g. Luke 24:35; Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7). The meaning of “participation” in 1 Corinthians 10:16 is clarified in verses 18-21:

Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

We have fellowship with Christ’s death in the same way that Israelites had fellowship with the altar through sacrifices (v.18).[28] Priests were to eat portions of certain offerings (Leviticus 7:15; 22:29-30). Paul considers their consumption a participation in the altar, because they ate what was sacrificed. The participation was practical, in that the priest and his family were fed. It was also covenantal: this animal was put under the knife of God as a substitute for certain persons (e.g. Leviticus 3:1-5). That relationship, between Israelite and sacrificed animal, pointed to the covenantal bond between Christ and His people.

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

John 6:53-58

In this passage, Christ identifies Himself with Old Covenant sacrifices. His sacrifice applies only to those who are united to Him. Therefore, we identify ourselves with Christ in covenant renewal, that by ordinary means we may abide in Him as branches in a vine (15:1-17). The food of the Supper provides no more salvation than animals upon the altar. We seek strengthening by grace, not by foods (Hebrews 13:9), for “we have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat” (v.10). Eating of sacrifices typified Christ’s atonement. Eating and drinking of the Supper symbolizesChrist’s atonement. Never do these materials constitute the covenant, but only proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes(1 Corinthians 11:26). Christ, not a sacramental meal, is the substance: “This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever” (John 6:58).

In light of this Biblical testimony, the conclusion must be that the fellowship of the Lord’s Supper is covenantal. To partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons (1 Corinthians 10:21) is to serve two masters, which is not possible (Matthew 6:24). In the Supper, Christians renew their covenant with God, like Israel before Joshua (Joshua 24:14-28). In the Supper, they commit to put away the foreign gods, and to incline their hearts to the Lord (v.23). However, this is done at the foot of the cross. This is done by coming to Christ in covenant and exclaiming, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

In brief, 1 Corinthians 10:16 clarifies that the Lord’s Supper is a covenantal meal. It symbolizes the New Covenant in Christ’s blood.[29] With 1 Corinthians 10 examined to a considerable depth, let us now turn to concluding definitions.

The Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 10

Though perhaps not didactic, 1 Corinthians 10 is truly helpful in understanding the nature of the Lord’s Supper. We may discern at least three aspects of the Supper’s nature – the physical, the spiritual, and the covenantal.

In verses 1-5, we are instructed concerning the physical and spiritual. It is physical, and we must not suppose that the Supper’s benefits may be enjoyed apart from the physical elements.[30] The ceremony, as Christ instituted, is the sacrament. Nevertheless, the physical procedure is not effectual unto any grace, as the Roman Catholic Church confesses. As in baptism and the reading of the Word, there will be no effect unless the Spirit of God wills and works. Unlike Israel’s wilderness meals, the Lord’s Supper is not for physical benefit (11:33-34).

It is spiritual, where lies the principle mode of benefit. As nomadic Israel was spiritually nourished through her meals, so too is the church spiritually nourished through the Supper. In Communion, our spirits feast on spiritual food and drink. This is to say: we receive nourishment from Christ. The spiritual benefit is similar to that which is given through baptism and the reading of Scripture. As stated above, the spiritual benefits are not communicated assuredly by the operation of ceremony. Only the Spirit of God may do this. Some who partake of the Supper are not nourished by Christ. These will be overthrown (10:5). Nevertheless, the Spirit of Christ rejuvenates all who partake of the Eucharist in faith.

It is covenantal. By consuming the sacramental symbol of Christ’s body and blood, we identify ourselves with His death. We commit ourselves to Him as our Deliverer and Head. This excludes other masters and demands we bury all idols. The Supper is a renewal of our covenant. It is a ceremony before the memorial stone, where we fix our gaze upon Christ crucified Christ. The blood of the covenant is put before our eyes: “Will you wander profane the blood of the covenant (Hebrews 10:29)? Will you indulge in sin (1 Corinthians 10:6-13) that put Christ upon the altar?” “May it not be!” we cry in our spirits, pledging ourselves to Christ once more in the covenantal meal.

The Lord’s Supper is where we commit ourselves to Christ, and where Christ nourishes us spiritually. The Supper is where our covenant is renewed and our spirit is revived. We come to commune with Christ crucified, and Christ resurrected comes to commune with our spirits. We feast upon the bread and wine, and He feeds our soul grace upon grace, glory upon glory. We ascend to the altar to identify with the Lamb of God, and the Lion of Judah descends to the earth to identify with us. Christ meets with us in the Supper: we physically come to renew the covenant, and He spiritually comes to renew our spirits.

[1] See Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987), 443. The example will be of certain people who did not do as Paul instructed at the end of chapter 9. “Non-emphatic” in that the sentence does not begin with the explanatory connective, simply because this example is not Paul’s main point.

[2] Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003), 144-145.

[3] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

[4] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 380.

[5] G. G. Findlay, “St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians” in The Expositor’s Greek Testament Volume Two (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Printing Company, 1983), 857. See also Richard L. Pratt, Jr., 1 & 2 Corinthians (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 162; John MacArthur, First Corinthians (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1984), 219; Fee, 444.

[6] Imperfect, state of being esan (from εἰμί) for “cloud,” aorist dielthon (from διέρχομαι) for “sea.”

[7] Findlay reads “baptized” as middle (857). Fee sees protentional significance here (444). Robertson considers both [A. T. Robertson, “First Corinthians” in Word Pictures in the New Testament Volume IV: The Epistles of Paul (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931], 131). I read “baptized” as passive, but see no theological relevance either way. The elders of Israel chose for themselves, in the presence of Joshua, whether all Israel would serve the Lord (Joshua 24:14-28). The jailer believed and his entire household was baptized (Acts 16:25-40).

[8] Findlay acknowledges this point somewhat but not fully (857).

[9] See Ibid.

[10] e.g. Robertson, 151; Findlay, 857.

[11] Robertson, 151; Findlay, 857; MacArthur, 220. “Placing themselves under the leadership of Moses…. Baptized to denote loyalty to God’s appointed leader” (David Prior The Message of 1 Corinthians [Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1985], 167). Fee, maintaining a minimalist interpretation, claims that all we need to gather concerning Moses is that he was Israel’s deliverer (445).

[12] Robertson says the cloud was a “symbol of the presence of the Lord with the people” (151). It was a means of salvation from Egypt, which means it symbolized God’s means of grace. A better statement might be: “the cloud was evidence of the presence of the Lord with the people,” or, “the cloud was a symbol of the covenant bond between God and Israel, which drew upon promises made to Abraham.” Findlay calls the cloud and sea “glorious signs to ‘our fathers’ of God’s salvation” (857). Patterson remarkably denies any connection to New Testament baptism. Paul simply means they were “inundated” in the experience (Paige Patterson, The Troubled Triumphant Church: An Exposition of First Corinthians [Fort Worth: Seminary Hill Press, 1983], 156-157). MacArthur considers Israel’s deliverance a symbol of individual, New Covenant salvation (219). First, this would be a type, not a symbol. Second, this is dispensationalism, for there is no substantive distinction between Old Covenant and New Covenant salvation (i.e. same Covenant of grace under distinct administrations).

Fee interprets this passage as a “mixture of type and analogy” (443; see also Prior, 167). His choices seem arbitrary. For example, in footnote 18 on page 445, he claims Paul is speaking analogously concerning baptism. Israel was not literally baptized. This interpretation seems to overly restrict the concept of baptism. Fee considers Israel’s experience in the cloud and sea to prefigure New Testament Christians’ experience of baptism (444), but apparently only in the mind of Paul. The New Testament has not monopolized baptism in Scripture. Baptism was a common element of Jewish culture and ceremony. More so, Paul’s straightforward, clear language in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2 speak of an actual baptism into Moses experienced by Israel. The implication of verses 3-4 is that Israel’s baptism into Moses was spiritually identical to our own – Israel’s baptism was our baptism (see argument in main body). Therefore, it cannot be only analogous to our baptism into Christ.

[13] Vos, 104.

[14] Their baptism may function as ours except in terms of covenant, because mercy always belongs to God, not to His sacraments. The tree of life could bear Adam and Eve glorious fruit only in the sovereign grace of God. Sacrament is always ineffectual. Only God’s will, to mercy Whom He will mercy, is effectual.

[15] Findlay, 857.

[16] Notice also that Paul chooses terms which encapsulate all elements. Manna and quail may be food with ordinary bread. Water may be a drink with wine.

[17] Robertson claims the food and drink were “spiritual” in that they had a supernatural source of supply (151-152). Patterson (157), Prior (167), and MacArthur (220) agree. I do not favor this interpretation.

[18] Robertson, Findlay, Patterson, Prior, Pratt, MacArthur, and Fee all make no mention of a distinct meaning of “spiritual” in reference to the Rock, compared with references to the food and drink.

[19] The point being that Christ is the means by which they are fed. Robertson calls manna and the rock types of Christ, the true bread (151-152). This is correct, except that they were also symbols of God’s present grace and means by which Israel received spiritual sustenance. Pratt calls the rocks symbols and types of Christ, though Israel’s interactions with these only foreshadowed Christian baptism and Lord’s Supper (162).

[20] Prior considers the translation “spiritual” to be misleading because it implies Paul denied the physicality of manna, quail, and water (167). This is only the case if we flattened Paul’s argument or begin with prejudice against this translation.

[21] MacArthur, 220; Fee, 447-448; Robertson, 151-152.

[22] Findlay, 858. “The epithet pneumatikon does not negate the materiality of the broma and poma… it ascribes to these nutriments a higher virtue” (Ibid.). He agrees that there were in fact two rocks in the wilderness: physical and spiritual. Israel drank from the spiritual rock, Christ, in the spirit while drinking from the physical rock in flesh. MacArthur favors a more Dispensational interpretation contrasting an Old Testament pre-incarnate presence of Christ with a New Testament indwelling of the Spirit (220).

[23] Findlay argues well that the Old and new Covenants are of the same spiritual substance because they have the same Divine Head (858).

[24] Robertson, 152.

[25] Pratt, 163; MacArthur, 219; Findlay, 857.

[26] Robertson, 154.

[27] Findlay, 864.

[28] Ibid., 863.

[29] Robertson, 154-155. Vos notes a correlation between “the table of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 10:21) and the covenantal meal on Sinai (Exodus 24:9) (pg. 170). Covenant participation is often visualized and nurtured through meals. MacArthur interprets 1 Corinthians 10:16 as teaching that “we spiritually participate in fellowship with Jesus Christ” (237). As explained in the body of this document, I argue that verse 16 refers to the covenantal union between Christ and His people, in like manner to how Christ speaks in John 6.

[30] As argued above, the parallel with Israel clearly identifies the physical elements as the point of intersection between spiritual and physical benefits, meaning that without the physical experience there is no spiritual experience.

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