Judaism is a religion where meals have always mattered. The Passover Seder is a ritual meal commemorating the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. The tithes, which God commanded His people to bring to the temple, were consumed as meals in the presence of God (cf. Deut. 14:23). Christians, having inherited a rich tradition of meal–sharing from their Jewish forefathers, now celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection through the Lord’s Supper.
In today’s reading, Paul draws parallels between the story of the Israelites and the experiences of the first–century Gentile Christians of Corinth. Not only is Paul teaching the content of the Old Testament Scriptures to the Corinthians, he also introduces a method for reading those Scriptures, whereby the Corinthian Christians are invited to find themselves in the history of Israel. While theirs is not a shared ethnic heritage (the Christians in Corinth are Gentile, not Jewish), spiritually they share the same ancestry. What happened to the Israelites serves as examples and warnings to Christians of the first century and to Christians today.
The parallels between the generation of the Exodus and first–century Corinthian Christians are unmistakable: both shared experiences of spiritual privilege. The Israelites tasted the divine Presence, drank spiritual drink from the rock in the desert, ate bread from heaven, and were baptized under the leadership of Moses. Similarly, the Corinthians had the blessings of baptism and participation in the Lord’s Supper. Nevertheless, just as the Israelites suffered the fierce wrath of God for their idolatrous practices, so, too, the Corinthian Christians needed to tremble at the prospect of God’s judgment.
God would not tolerate divided allegiance, and the Corinthians were on the precipice of idolatry. Paul warns them against sexual immorality, testing the Lord, and grumbling (vv. 8–9). Later in the chapter, Paul will denounce the act of feasting in pagan temples. For now, he illuminates their precarious spiritual standing. Their pride has given them a false sense of confidence, and Paul illuminates the Old Testament Scriptures as a word of warning.