Take Heed Lest You Fall – Persevere To The End – 1 Corinthians 10:1-13


We must remember everything said earlier about Paul’s desire to persevere in his Christian life and ministry so as to be a "fellow partaker" of the gospel benefits (9:23) and not to be "disqualified" (9:27). [adokimos is the key determining word in this whole section = "rejected, worthless"] He has salvation in mind in both of those references – consistent with the Calvinistic doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Some might argue that salvation cannot be in view because that would call into question the doctrine of assurance of salvation. How can you have any confidence of your salvation if you need to wait to see if you persevere to the end? Isn’t that adding an element of works to assurance? But the Book of 1 John teaches that there are multiple tracks of assurance. Someone can have assurance on the basis of their faith as soon as they are saved. But there is also another growing track of assurance that is based on your living out a changed life by the grace of God. Assurance on that track can fluctuate some and we are exhorted to make our calling and election secure. So any objections on those grounds would constitute objections against the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints as well.

The difficulty is that there are multiple tracks of application that grow out of the one thread of interpretation. In 9:24-27 as well as 10:1-13, there are different groups of people listening to this message and needing to make different applications. There are certainly the self-deceived and false professors of Christianity who need to be challenged to move on to genuine repentance and faith so as to not miss out on the blessing of God’s rest (Hebrews 3-4). We know that no one whose life is characterized by idolatry or immorality or unbelief or rebellion can enter into the kingdom of heaven. Yet are we going to argue that all of those who died in the wilderness missed out on salvation? Certainly not! Moses was one of those who died in the wilderness. So there are also the majority of the audience Paul is addressing who are genuinely saved and need to be challenged to live a disciplined Christian life to the end, not to abuse their Christian freedoms and liberty in Christ, and to beware lest they fall as well. My point is that we do not want to strip away one of the main threats of the passage which is that it is possible for someone to have all types of intimate contact with spiritual privilege and the best Bible teaching and Christian fellowship and yet still miss out on salvation. We need to drive home that warning while still making the application to Christians of the need for careful and diligent pursuit of holiness.

We need more teaching on the important doctrine of the perseverance of the saints so that we don’t shy away from this truth where it is referenced in the passage. (See doctrinal statement below.) Certainly in our day with the prevalence of "easy believism" and many people who have a false sense of security in their salvation, they need to be shaken from their spiritual lethargy with these challenging words and OT examples.


I. (:1-5) THESIS PROVED: God’s Rejection of the Unbelieving Generation of Exodus Wilderness Wanderers

Transition: "For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren"" (Rom. 1:13; 1 Cor. 12:1; 1 Thess. 4:13)

Grosheide: a litotes, which always introduces an important matter.

  1. Tremendous Exposure to Spiritual Privileges
    1. (:1) Privilege of Divine Guidance and Deliverance
      1. Divine Guidance: "that our fathers were all under the cloud"

Guzik: The cloud of Shekinah glory overshadowed Israel throughout their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. During the day, the cloud sheltered them from the brutal desert sun, and during the night, it burned as a pillar of fire. It was a constant, ready reminder of God’s glory and presence (Exodus 13:21-22).

      1. Divine Deliverance – Tremendous miracles experienced: "and all passed through the sea"

Grosheide: All Israelites enjoyed that favor of God [being led by the pillar]. Even so when they passed through the Red Sea there was no distinction between believers and unbelievers: the entire nation safely reached the other shore.

    1. (:2) Privilege of Union with Moses: "and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea"
      1. Significance of "baptism" – identification, union – symbolic
      2. To bring in close relationship with Moses; his ministry and leadership
    2. (:3-4a) Privilege of Spiritual Nourishment – spiritual source – Supernatural Provision
      1. (:3) Spiritual Food: "and all ate the same spiritual food"
      2. (:4a) Spiritual Drink: "and all drank the same spiritual drink"
    3. (:4b) Spiritual Types Fulfilled in Christ: "for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ."
      1. Here Paul makes the connection between the OT experiences and the spiritual reality involved and the NT experience of the Corinthian believers as the OT types are fulfilled in Christ.

Gil Rugh: Ex. 17 and Num 20 – two instances – at the beginning of their journey in the wilderness and at the end; perhaps the rock was an ongoing source of water

Guzik: Paul is building on a Rabbinical tradition which said Israel was supplied with water by the same rock all through the wilderness, a rock which followed them.

Hodge: This view of the passage makes the apostle responsible for a Jewish fable, and is inconsistent with his divine authority… It is not necessary, however, to assume that either the rock or the water out of the rock followed them. The rock that followed them was Christ. The Logos, the manifested Jehovah, who attended the Israelites in their journey, was the Son of God who assumed our nature, and was the Christ.

  1. Shocking Rejection of Participation in Spiritual Blessing
    1. Extent of the Failure: "Nevertheless, with most of them"
      1. Classic understatement – all but 2 men! Vs. millions
    2. Evaluation of Their Spiritual Condition: "God was not well-pleased"

Gil Rugh: God’s sovereign pleasure; context of God’s sovereign work of divine election; Look at word usage in NT:

Ephes. 1:5,9: "kind intention" – according to what pleased His will
Phil. 2:12b: "for His good pleasure" – according to what pleases Him
Heb. 10:36-39: "you have need of endurance" – If you don’t do the will of God you won’t receive what is promised; "and if he shrinks back my soul has no pleasure in him"

    1. Execution of Severe Judgment: "for they were laid low in the wilderness"
      1. "Spread out; scattered"

Hodge: Would God permit those to perish for whom he had wrought so signal a deliverance, and for whose sake he sacrificed the hosts of Egypt? Yet their carcasses were strewed in the wilderness. It is not enough, therefore, to be recipients of extraordinary favours; it is not enough to begin well. 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.

II. (:6) THESIS APPLIED by Way of Warning: Guard Against the Lusts of the Flesh = Motivation to Holiness

  1. Value of OT Examples: "Now these things happened as examples for us"
  2. Purpose of OT Examples – Guard Against the Lusts of the Flesh: "so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved."

III. (:7-10) THESIS ILLUSTRATED FURTHER: Four OT Examples of Ungodly Behavior On the Part of the Spiritually Privileged Followed by Divine Judgment

(Examine how Unbelief lies at the core of each of these manifestations of Rebellion)

  1. (:7) Guard Against Idolatry (Ex. 32:1-6): "Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.’"

Cole: The verb translated play suggests sex-play in Hebrew . . . and therefore we are probably to understand drunken orgies." (commentary on Exodus)

  1. (:8) Guard Against Immorality (Num. 25 or Ex. 32?): "Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day."

Possible answers to apparent discrepancy in numbers here with 24,000 of Numbers 25:9: ("those who died by the plague were 24,000")

Hodge: Moses and Paul were accustomed, like most other men, to use round numbers; and they used them when under the influence of inspiration just as they used other familiar forms of statement. Neither intended to speak with numerical exactness, which the occasion did not require. What a wonderful book is the Bible, written at intervals during a period of fifteen hundred years, when such apparitions of inaccuracy as this must be seized upon to impeach its infallibility!

MacArthur: Having just quoted from Ex 32 in vs. 7, this very likely also refers to the incident in Ex 32, not to the incident at Shittim in Nu 25. Apparently 3,000 were killed by the Levites (Ex 32:28) and 20,000 died in the plague (Ex 32:35).

  1. (:9) Guard Against Presumption (Num. 21:5-6): "Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents."
  2. (:10) Guard Against Discontent (Num. 16:3-41): "Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer."
    1. Look at how this common sin is thrown in here at the same level of importance with the others. Grumbling, murmering, discontent are huge problems. Don’t minimize these. It is an attack of unbelief against the Goodness and Wisdom of God.

Hodge: To murmur is to complain in a rebellious spirit.

IV. (:11-13) THESIS APPLIED BY WAY OF ENCOURAGEMENT: Watch Out! But with an attitude of Hope not Discouragement — No Exceptions… No Excuses

  1. (:11) Relevance of These OT Examples
    1. History Has a Purpose for Us: "Now these things happened to them as an example"
    2. Scripture Provides Authoritative Instruction for Us: "and they were written for our instruction"
    3. Time Is Running Out for Us: "upon whom the ends of the ages have come"
  2. (:12) Central Application – Warning Against Spiritual Overconfidence – Need for Careful, Diligent Pursuit of Holiness: "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall."
    1. Application to the Unsaved
    2. Application to the Saved
  3. (:13) Faithfulness of God Provides for the Perseverance of the Saints
    1. No Unique Temptation that God Cannot Defeat = Provides Hope: "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man"
    2. Character of God Provides Hope: "God is Faithful"
    3. Limitation of Man No Excuse: "who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able"
    4. Endurance is Possible and Expected: "but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it."

Boyer: If Christians once learn the meaning of I Corinthians 10:13 they never again will say, "I couldn’t help it.


  1. What spiritual privileges have our children been exposed to? Do we understand that this is not a guarantee of salvation?
  2. Are we surprised to find that the source of all spiritual blessings for OT saints was Jesus Christ – just as it is for us in NT times?
  3. Did the Apostle Paul consider himself to be under the same admonition of needing to "take heed lest he fall"? What does this say about those who are overconfident and complacent in their Christian experience?
  4. Are we encouraged or discouraged by this need to persevere and finish the race?


Hope Bible Church: Doctrinal Statement: Security, Perseverance, and Assurance

  1. All the redeemed once saved are kept by God’s power and are thus secure in Christ forever. No truly saved person can or will lose his salvation. [John 10:28-29; 17:12; Romans 8:30,35-39; 11:29; Ephesians 1:5; 1 Peter 1:5; 1 John 2:1; 5:13,18]
  2. All real believers endure in their faith to the end. Their continuance in the Christian walk and Christian doctrine is the mark that distinguishes them from those who merely profess Christianity. [Matthew 24:13; Luke 22:31-32; John 15:1-6; Romans 8:17; Galatians 5:4; Colossians 1:21-23; 2 Timothy 4:7-8; Hebrews 10:38; 2 Peter 2:20-22; 1 John 2:18-19,28]
  3. A special providence of God cares for the saved and keeps them from falling away permanently. Therefore, perseverance is guaranteed by God’s provision of new life in Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the intercessory work of Christ at the right hand of the Father. [Luke 22:31- 32; John 17:9-12; Hebrews 1:3; 4:14; 1 Peter 1:5; 1 John 2:1; 5:13]
  4. It is the privilege of believers to rejoice in the assurance of their salvation through the testimony of God’s word and the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit, which however, clearly forbids the use of Christian security and liberty as an occasion for sinful living. [John 3:16-17; Romans 8:16; Philippians 1:6; 2 Timothy 4:7-8; Hebrews 11:1; 1 Peter 1:3-4; 1 John 2:3-4; 3:1; 4:1-4; 5:13,19]

MacArthur: It is interesting that Dr. MacArthur takes the position that the 1 Corinthians passage deals with the danger not "of falling from salvation but of falling from holiness and from usefulness in service." But then look at what he says about the Hebrews (chap 3-4) passage (admittedly a different context) where the same OT illustrations are used:

"It describes Israel’s disobedience and rejection of God in the Exodus wanderings."… Addressed to "the Hebrews who are on the edge of decision but have never made a commitment."…

"After they arrived for the trial in the wilderness, God continued to bless them with miracles – travel direction by pillars of cloud and of fire (for night travel) and provision of food and good water. After each blessing they were satisfied only for a brief time. They soon started again to complain and to doubt God. They became the classic illustration of unbelief in the face of overwhelming evidence. God had clearly and miraculously revealed Himself; they knew He had revealed Himself; they knew what He expected them to do; and they saw evidence after evidence of His power and His blessing. But they never really believed. Just as the Egyptians quickly got over their fear of God, the Israelites quickly got over their trust of Him. They would not commit themselves to Him in faith. As a result, they had to wander and wander and wander – until all of the ungrateful, untrusting, unbelieving generation had died. For some forty years they wandered around in circles in a barren, desolate, and oppressive land – because of their unbelief. . . The rest was Canaan, where the toil of wandering would end. As we shall see in the next chapter [4], it is a symbol of salvation. . . The greatest proof of salvation is continuance in the Christian life."

John Calvin: What he had previously taught by two similitudes, he now confirms by examples. The Corinthians grew wanton, and gloried, as if they had served out their time or at least had finished their course, when they had scarcely left the starting-point. This vain exultation and confidence he represses in this manner — "As I see that you are quietly taking your ease at the very outset of your course, I would not have you ignorant of what befell the people of Israel in consequence of this, that their example may arouse you." As, however, on examples being adduced, any point of difference destroys the force of the comparison, Paul premises, that there is no such dissimilarity between us and the Israelites, as to make our condition different from theirs. Having it, therefore, in view to threaten the Corinthians with the same vengeance as had overtaken them, he begins in this manner — "Beware of glorying in any peculiar privilege, as if you were in higher esteem than they were in the sight of God." For they were favored with the same benefits as we at this day enjoy; there was a Church of God among them, as there is at this day among us; they had the same sacraments, to be tokens to them of the grace of God; but, on their abusing their privileges, they did not escape the judgment of God. Be afraid, therefore; for the same thing is impending over you. Jude makes use of the same argument in his Epistle. (Jude 1:5.)



    1. Blessings received in the crossing of the Red Sea (1-2)
    2. Blessings received as they sojourned in the wilderness (3-4)
    3. Still, with most of them God was not pleased, and they died in the wilderness (5)

    1. Their example of apostasy to warn us (6)
      1. Not to become idolaters (7)
      2. Not to commit sexual immorality (8)
      3. Not to tempt Christ (9)
      4. Not to murmur (10)
    2. Their history recorded to admonish us (11)
      1. For we can just as easily fall (12)
      2. Though God is faithful to provide help in dealing with temptation (13)
    3. Therefore, flee from idolatry! (14)

Grosheide: Three things thus stand out: 1) the entire nation received the benefits of God; 2) those benefits had a spiritual character; 3) those benefits came from Christ. The apostle has now established two things: first, that we must distinguish between an enjoyment of the genuine benefits of God and a continuance in God’s favor till the end (cf. vs. 5). Second, Paul has made it impossible for the Corinthians to say that all those things only applied to old Israel but that they no longer applied to them in the new dispensation. By recording past history the apostle is able to show that God punishes sinners more clearly than by direct admonition.

Gil Rugh: True Believers Stay the Course (:1-5)

True salvation changes a life radically. The Bible compares the change to death. You are raised as a new creation in Christ. That change and transformation controls your life until your life comes to an end. The Bible knows nothing of a salvation that works just part way (not a cure for just a short time). Importance of finishing the race. Cf. Hebrews 6:7-8 same word adokimos from 1 Cor. 9:27 used here; Rom. 15:4-5; Note the word "all" – refers 5 times in first 4 verses. There are spiritual blessings that every Jew coming out of Egypt experienced. Those with whom God is not "well-pleased" will end up experiencing destruction. Both the Church in the NT and Israel in the OT get all of their spiritual blessings from Christ. Forty years wilderness wandering was a Death March; only an 11 day journey. Only Joshua and Caleb went into the land. That doesn’t mean they were the only believers. Those who are truly saved will stay the course.

Heb. 3 – Superiority of Christ to Moses – uses the same type of OT examples; they passed through the Red Sea and ate the manna – so what! Not about impressive testimonies but a changed life. "We have become partakers of Christ if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end." You must finish the race or you prove yourself worthless. Being disobedient is a manifestation of unbelief. That is the root problem.

Heb. 5 – You’re not saved by persevering; but if you are saved you will persevere. "You have become dull of hearing" – nothroi – 6:12 – "sluggish" – same word; context is the need to show diligence until the end; those do not inherit the promises; even though they all have experienced great spiritual blessings; the Word preached to them did not profit them

I’m glad that my salvation is complete until the end. The passion of my life is to obey and serve Jesus Christ. The goal is to finish well.