Examples and Warnings — Part One
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Examples and Warnings — Part One

The Bible teaches that true Christians cannot lose their salvation but also offers strong warnings against presumption. As the Corinthians became overly confident, Paul reminded them of the reasons many of their forefathers did not cross into the promised land despite having experienced great blessings from God. In this message, Alistair Begg discusses two of the disqualifiers—idolatry and immorality—and challenges us to learn from the past and examine our hearts.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in 1 Corinthians, Volume 4

Christian Freedom 1 Corinthians 8:1–11:1 Series ID: 14604

Sermon Transcript: Print

Shall we read together, then, in 1 Corinthians chapter 10, in the New Testament, the portion to which we come in the series of our studies in 1 Corinthians? First Corinthians chapter 10, and we read from the first verse:

“For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.

“Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.’ We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you[’re] standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

Thanks be to God for his Word. May he give to us understanding of it.

Now, let’s just have a word of prayer before we look at these verses:

Father, we do pray that the Spirit of God will be our teacher, that the Word of God will instruct us, that the process may be through our minds to our hearts and wills, that you will correct us, rebuke us, instruct us, encourage us, train us in righteous living,[1] so that we might be better able to serve you or so that we might come to know you. For we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Memorial Day weekend is a time for looking back and, in some measure, for learning from what has gone before, learning from our past. It’s therefore not inappropriate that we discover, just in the course of our studies, that in turning to 1 Corinthians 10, that is exactly the tack which Paul is taking as he begins to pursue his argument concerning the importance of using Christian freedom correctly and therefore of making sure that we don’t abuse it.

What we have here in chapter 10, at least in these opening thirteen verses, is essentially a history lesson. And for those of you who don’t like history, this is really tough, because this is history, and we’ve got to deal with it. It’s here, and we’re going to have to go back into the Old Testament. And for some of you youngsters who are here, I want to tell you that the best thing you can possibly do is reach underneath your seat or in front of you and grab a Bible and look up the references in the Old Testament that I’m about to quote. That way, you at least have a chance of following along. Without that, it could seem like a fairly long morning. Be warned.

Now, last time, we concluded by acknowledging that Paul was concerned that those who were running the race of the Christian life would finish strongly. He had applied this truth to himself, saying that in his running, he wasn’t “running aimlessly”; in his boxing, he wasn’t simply “beating the air.”[2] Having applied it to himself, he now goes into chapter 10 still on the same theme and addressing some in the church in Corinth who were presumptuous people, who were overconfident people, or, if you like, self-confident people—the kind of folks who, when they read what Paul had said about himself potentially being “disqualified” from the prize in 9:27, presumably looked at one another and said, “What’s he trying to do, scare us? After all, we could never be disqualified from the prize. I’m surprised that Paul would even use language like that. He obviously doesn’t mean it. It’s just a scare tactic on his behalf to try and stir us up.”

Because these individuals, as we are about to see, found their confidence in the fact that they believed they had the right kind of background and they had been through the right kind of experiences. They were, if you like, the original proponents of “I’m okay, you’re okay.” And when Paul wrote to them about the thought that they might not be okay, it was the furthest thing from their minds. And so, in response to this, Paul reminds them of the blessings that have been known by their forefathers.

The opening phrase of chapter 10 is an example of litotes. You know what litotes is? It is the using of—well, we should get an English teacher up here to do it for us—but essentially, what he is doing is he’s downplaying something for emphasis. When he says, “I do not want you to be ignorant,” he says, “I want you to definitely know.” And so, when saying this, he uses it for emphasis. “This is something,” he says, “that you must not ever forget—namely, that when you think about our forefathers, the people of earlier generations”—and he’s going to identify them in specific historical context—he says, “they were full of blessings. They had all kinds of blessing which attended their life, and yet many of them came to a sorry end.”

Indeed, there is a graphic picture here in verse 5, and you should just cast your eye to it for a moment. It is a picture almost like a battlefield after people have been mown down in conflict. And as the wide-angle lens of the camera spans right across the expanse of the battle, it finds bodies littered literally all over the place. And Paul says, “When you think about your forefathers and all the blessings that they had, it’s quite incredible to realize that most of them ended up scattered in the wilderness, never entering into the benefits towards which the blessings pointed.”

Now, it’s important—because we’re going to address this—that we realize this morning that we don’t find anywhere in Scripture any justification for the idea that is taught some places that the true Christian may lose their salvation or somehow, having truly been placed in Christ, be disinherited from God’s family. The Bible does not teach that.

However, what the Bible does teach is that we ought to be very clear that there are strong warnings in Scripture against presumption, against assuming that because we’ve got it all right on the outside, it’s actually okay on the inside—the kind of presumption in the mind of a child that says, “Well, I must be okay, because my mum and dad have been coming to this church for some time, they read the Bible, and they pray, and presumably, there is some kind of heritage which will just automatically pass to me,” or the kind of presumption on the part of those who are regular in church activities who have begun to assume that because we are just that, that somehow or another, no instruction in the Bible about presuming on the goodness of God could ever apply to us.

Now, at issue here—and you need to read on to reach his point of exhortation. It is an exhortation to which we probably will not come until this evening. I think we need to spend a day in these verses. His exhortation in verse 12 is the kicker: “If you think you[’re] standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” You’re up the ladder, trying to clean out the whirligigs out of your gutters. Your wife said, “Shall I hold it?” You said, “Not at all. I’m perfectly oka-a-a-a-ay.” You should’ve let her hold it. These people were perfectly “oka-a-a-ay” in their own minds. And that is why Paul addresses them as he does.

Let me tell you something this morning: irrespective of age, background, circumstance, or status, one of the surest ways to fall into temptation and sin is to become overconfident. We are at our most perilous when we believe that we are invincible. The Scriptures nowhere encourage from us an approach to sin and to temptation which says, “This is probably good for everybody else, but it doesn’t apply to me, because after all, I have such a heritage, and I’ve had so many wonderful experiences, I’ll never fall off the Christian ladder.” These verses were written for people who suffer from that kind of overconfidence.

Now, some of these Corinthians were guilty of abusing their freedom, because that was the issue at hand. Paul had been talking about freedom. He said, “I restrict my freedom for the well-being of the body of Christ.”[3] Some of the people to whom he writes were not restricting their freedom, and in so doing, they were offending others, and they were endangering themselves. Christian maturity, as we discover from these studies, is not expressed in seeing how close we can live to evil without being harmed. Christian maturity is expressed in our staying away from evil.

One of the surest ways to fall into temptation and sin is to become overconfident. We are at our most imperiled when we believe that we are invincible.

Now, it is to ancient Israel and to history that Paul looks to provide some sobering examples of the pitfalls of overconfident living, and here we have them. You’ll need to turn back first of all to Exodus chapter 13.

The Experiences We Must Acknowledge

What we’re going to look at first of all is the experiences we must acknowledge. He wants his readers to understand that these things really happened to real people at a real point in time, that the Bible’s not just a bunch of mythology or fairy stories. And so he says, “Brothers, don’t be ignorant of the fact that all of our forefathers were under the cloud.”

Incidentally, you should notice the use of the word “all”—the all-inclusive use of the word “all.” “All” the forefathers were “under the cloud.” Exodus chapter 13. It’s the story of the exodus from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea. And in verse 20 we read of the people,

After leaving Succoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.[4]

I mean, this is incredible! This is wonderful! The people must have said to Moses, “How in the world are we supposed to get where we’re going?” Moses said to the people, “Don’t worry. God will provide exactly what we need.” And there in the sky comes this great pillar of cloud as it moves, guiding them on.

And so, says Paul, when he writes to the Corinthians, the people, “our forefathers,” they were all enjoying the wonder of that experience. The cloud was a sign of God’s presence. It wasn’t only a practical, earthly blessing, but it was a token of spiritual life. It was an indication, every night when the children went to bed and every morning when they first opened their eyes, it was the reminder to them: God is present with his people.

“All of our forefathers,” he said, “were under the cloud.” He then goes on and says that “they all passed through the sea.” Still in Exodus, 14:29. Who was it, Charlton Heston, that did this? I wasn’t allowed to see movies as a child. I saw my first movie at the age of fifteen after having manipulated my mother and father to distraction, and they finally relented and said, “Fine, you can go and see a film, and you can go and see The Ten Commandments.” I followed that swiftly with The Sound of Music, and frankly, I haven’t seen much since that day that I ever really benefited from, apart from Chariots of Fire and Hoosiers. I’ll come back to that later on under the question of immorality, but for now, verse 29: “But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. [And] that day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore.”

This is an amazing thing. This is an incredible manifestation of the power of God. Here are the people of God. They follow the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. And now they come to the edge of the sea, and once again Moses is put to the test. God instructs him. He tells the people, “Don’t worry about it. We’re on our way.” And so we’re told, “They all passed through the sea.”

Flipping still between Exodus and 1 Corinthians 10, you will notice that in verse 2, Paul then goes on to say, “They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” What he means by this is simply that they were voluntarily and unconditionally placing themselves under the leadership of Moses, in the same way that when an individual at this point in history is baptized, they are voluntarily and unconditionally placing themselves under the leadership of Jesus. “All baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,” and then, in verse 3, “they all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink.”

Exodus 16:2. This is history. This is history. This is fact. These are real people, real stories, and when you get to heaven, you’ll be able to check. Verse 2: “In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.” All they had wanted for four hundred years was to get out of Egypt. They get out of Egypt, they are provided for miraculously, they make their way through the sea, they end up in the wilderness, and listen to what they have to say: “If only we[’d] died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat [round] pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Oh, I’m sure Moses went to his bed that night saying, “Oh, I’m so glad God made me the leader of the people of Israel. What an encouraging bunch to spend time with.” You put yourself on the wire. You get them over the sea with God’s help. They sit down, and they want to go back to the fleshpots of Egypt. Verse 4: “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day,” and then he gives instructions as to how they’re going to gather it up.

Verse [13]: “[The] evening quail came … covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. [And] when the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, ‘What is it?’ For they did[n’t] know what it was”—which is why they said, “What is it?” “Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.’”

Verse 35: “The Israelites ate manna [for] forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan.”

When you go into chapter 17, you then have the provision of the water. Just notice it in verse 3: “The people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses.” They’ve only really got one song; they keep singing it. And here they go again: “‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?’ Then Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.’” And then the Lord gives the instruction how he should “walk on ahead.” He will “strike the rock,” and the water would come out, and the water comes out, and the people are provided for in that way.

Now, the wonderful thing is this, as you turn back to 1 Corinthians 10, in this history lesson: is that when Paul explains this, he explains that “they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ”—that the physical provision of water in the Old Testament was indicative of a far deeper provision, the spiritual provision, for the people of God. And God has always provided for his people and always will provide for his people and always will reveal himself to his people in the person of his Son.

And what Paul is saying here is this: that back in the Old Testament, the people of God knew the sustaining presence of the preexistent Christ caring for and fulfilling the needs of his people. Now, that is not to say that if we’d gone amongst them and interviewed them and said, “Do you understand the significance of this rock?” they would have been able to say, “Oh, yes. This rock is the Christ, the Messiah who is to come.” They wouldn’t. But Paul says the significance in the rock, retrospectively, is that the only rock that has ever been for the people of God is the Rock who is Christ himself.

The significance of all of the Old Testament is embodied in Christ, and all of the New Testament flows from him. That’s why it’s so important that we understand our Bibles as a unity.

Now, this is a very, very important thing for those of us who are forced to take our Bibles and divide them in half. Yesterday afternoon, for a moment or two, looking to see the next “Beat the Bulls,” which never happened, I found myself on a channel called Channel 27. There was a gentleman on there; he had more charts and diagrams than you and I have had hot dinners, and he had a huge, big pointer. In the middle of all the charts and diagrams was a cross, and he proceeded to walk up and down, pointing to layer one, two, and three and explaining in vociferous terms that the people who were watching Channel 27 should be very, very careful if their pastor did what I’m about to do right now—namely, to tell you about the unity between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Because this individual with his pointer had decided somewhat arbitrarily that great sections of the Old Testament were irrelevant and great chunks of the New Testament were not as yet relevant and other portions were for somewhere else, and where in the world he got all of this I do not know. But it was a wonderful display. It went as large as those screen doors up there behind me.

And many of you have been brought up just like that. You don’t know what in the world to do with the Old Testament. And I want to tell you this morning: the way to understand the Old Testament is to understand the Old Testament the way the New Testament understands the Old Testament, to understand the Old Testament the way Jesus understood the Old Testament, to understand the Old Testament the way the apostles understood the Old Testament.

So here is the apostle Paul dealing with Exodus 17 and the striking of the rock and the gushing out of water, and the apostle Paul says, “This rock was the preincarnate Christ.” Christ in all of the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, the people of God underwent a baptism in prospect of what Christ would do. In the New Testament, the people of God undergo a baptism in reflection upon what Christ has done. In the Old Testament, the people of God ate and drank a meal in prospect of what Christ would do. In the New Testament, we eat and drink a meal in relationship to what Christ has done. It is all the same thing. The focus is in Christ. The significance of all of the Old Testament is embodied in him, and all of the New Testament flows from him. That’s why it’s so very, very important that we understand our Bibles as a unity.

Now, for those of you who are still following along, it should be fairly clear what Paul is saying. There are striking parallels, he says, between the privileges of God’s people under Moses and the privilege of God’s people under Jesus. You don’t have to be too bright to see what he’s driving at. He says, “Now, you remember that the forefathers had all these blessings. They had spiritual food. They had spiritual drink. They were baptized under the leadership of Moses. They were redeemed from the bondage of Egypt.”

And so the people are beginning to bridge the gap themselves. They said, “That sounds a lot like us. We’ve been liberated from sin. We’ve been made to drink of the living water, even Christ. We have eaten of the bread of life. We have shared together in voluntary baptism into Christ.” But look at verse 5: “Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them.” “With most of them”! There were presumptuous people in the Old Testament just as there are presumptuous people in Corinth and just as, if we are honest enough to admit it, there are presumptuous people amongst us in Cleveland this morning.

These folks had been through the waters of baptism, with all the deep significance of their allegiance to Jesus Christ. These people were sharing together in a common meal—we’ll come to that in 11:17 and following—and in that meal, they were both physically and spiritually nourished. The Corinthian Christians were, like the people of God, their forefathers in the Old Testament, on the receiving end of great blessings.

But notice this, and notice it carefully: to receive blessing is by no means the same as to enter into the privilege and responsibilities of blessing. We can sit around church until we grow old and cold. We may go through every external rite that is offered in the framework of Christendom. We may read our Bibles, we may attend upon issues, we may be stimulated in our minds concerning the nature of the Scriptures, and yet we may, too, find ourselves in the same sorry state as described in verse 5.

Now, is that a significant warning and challenge? You bet your life it is! And for those of us who are sitting, saying, “But it’s not for me,” I’ve got news for you: it is! The warning and the examples are for those of us who think we don’t need the warnings and examples. You see, the guy who’s frightened that he might fall doesn’t need to be kept being told, “Careful you don’t fall,” ’cause he’s always thinking he’s going to fall. It’s the guy who doesn’t think he’s going to fall that needs the warning.

Listen to John Calvin on this. He says, “The ancient people were provided with the same benefits as we are, and shared in the same sacraments, so that we may not imagine that, by trusting in some special privilege, we will be exempt from the punishment which they had to undergo.”[5] Numbers 14:29 describes the incident described for us here in verse 5.

Now, those, then, are the experiences that we need to acknowledge. They’re there. We need to recognize them, and so we do.

The Examples We Must Avoid

Let us go immediately to a second point, and this will probably be our only other point this morning. If there are experiences through which the people of God came that we should acknowledge, there are also examples which we must avoid. Now verse 6: “These things occurred,” says Paul, “as examples”—not as examples that we might follow but as examples that we might turn away from. “The problem with the people, with our forefathers,” said Paul, “was that they set their hearts on evil things, and we must make sure that we don’t.”

All the time that they were going through all of these great blessings, their hearts were set on “evil things.” Is it possible to come and worship God and have your heart set on something evil? Possible to read your Bible and yet have an evil heart? Possible to go through external circumstances that speak, betoken, of great blessing of God and yet to have an evil heart? Of course it is! When Paul writes to the Colossians, he says, “Since, then, you[’ve] been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”[6] The challenge this morning to the believer is simply this: How’s my heart?

Where are the areas of disqualification? Well, there were four areas of disqualification, and these are the examples that are left to us.

The people of God were disqualified, number one, because of idolatry. “[And so,]” says Paul in verse 7, “do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.’”

Turn back to Exodus chapter 32 if you want to source this event. Remember how Moses leaves his brother Aaron in charge of things. He’s gone for a long time in the mountain. The people all gather round Aaron, and they say to him, “Come, make us gods who will go before us.” This is Exodus 32:1. “As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what[’s] happened to him.”

And so Aaron succumbs to their invitation. He tells them, “Why don’t you bring your jewelry, your earrings, and all that jazz, and what we’ll do is we’ll make an idol.”[7] And in verse 4, he takes this, and he casts it into “the shape of a calf.” He “fashion[s] it with a tool.” And “then they said, ‘These are your gods’” —or “Here is your god”—“‘O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’” And then Aaron announces the fact that they’re going to have a festival. And although the calf was a representation of an Egyptian god, the Israelites plan to use it to worship Jehovah. They somehow thought they could use a pagan idol to worship the true God.

That this was relevant in Corinth is unmistakable. You get it? They thought they could use a pagan idol to worship the true God. What was Corinth like? Corinth was dominated, both in terms of its landscape and also in its lifestyle, by the Temple of Aphrodite. The Temple of Aphrodite was given over to all kinds of idolatrous and immoral practices. A thousand courtesans roamed the evening streets of Corinth, plying their evil trade on the young men of the city and offering to them all the allurements of the day. And these Corinthian Christians to whom Paul was writing were so sure that they were free in Jesus Christ that they thought somehow that they could be in worship on a Sunday and in the Temple of Aphrodite on a Saturday, that they could be praising God and witnessing for him on the Lord’s Day and they could be involved in cultic practices at another time—“Because after all,” they said, “we’re free in Jesus Christ.”

Paul says, “Hey, you better think this out. Remember about your forefathers. That’s how they began to think, and most of them were strewn across the wilderness. Indeed, only two of them that were in the wilderness wanderings ever made the promised land: Joshua and Caleb. Moses never made it himself. He never went in.”

When Moses was given the Ten Commandments, the commandment number one is “You shall have no other gods before me.”[8] Can I ask you this morning: Do you have another god before God? You have something you’re worshipping before God? You worshipping your wife or your family before God? It’s an idol. You worshipping your family? That’s an idol. You worshipping your job? It’s an idol. Am I worshipping success? It’s an idol. Am I worshipping my body? It’s an idol. Am I worshipping an icon? It’s an idol. Am I worshipping anyone or anything other than the triune God? It’s an idol.

“Do not be idolaters, as some of them were.” Because we are not surrounded by statues, we assume that this somehow cannot apply. But loved ones, the idols of the final decade of the twentieth century are just as real, although not cast in stone along the highways of our cities. We are bringing our children up in the midst of vast idolatry. And the warning is clear.

Immorality is to be fled, not flirted with.

One commentator says,

Christians in churches that practice any form of idolatry—[be it] ceremonial, theological, or practical—cannot stay there long without being contaminated. They should not want to stay. They should not want to support and encourage, even indirectly, those who hold to doctrines or practices that are unscriptural and ungodly. In doing so they dishonor God, [they] confirm others in wrongdoing, and [they] endanger their own spiritual well-being.[9]

A devout and holy Christian cannot worship in an environment that practices idolatry and at the same time claim to be obedient to the instruction of 1 Corinthians 10 that we have before us this morning.

The second problem that killed them was not simply idolatry, but it was immorality. Immorality always follows from idolatry. You find that in Romans chapter 1: they gave up the knowledge of God, they exchanged the knowledge of God for beasts and things that crawl, and then, as a result of that, they disgraced themselves in every kind of immoral behavior.[10] Paul is here referring to what happened in Numbers chapter 25. The ongoing problem in Corinth was the same: these individuals regarding themselves as so strong that they didn’t need this kind of exhortation.

I want to say to you this morning: immorality—immorality—is to be fled, not flirted with. You cannot, I cannot play around in my mind with immorality, first, because the Bible says we mustn’t; secondly, because of the impact that it has upon me, then on my family, and on all who pay attention to me. Despite the clear insistence of the Bible in relationship to these things, foolish Christians still play with such matters.

And I do want to say just a word here about films this morning, as it happens. I look back on my life and my heritage, never having had a television till the age of twelve (something for which I’m immensely grateful; it taught me how to read books); never having been in a cinema before the age of fifteen and then finally making it into The Ten Commandments and The Sound of Music; casting all of that over in my late teenage years as some kind of form of fundamentalist legalism, telling my parents and everybody else, “You know, you’ve got it wrong, because what the Bible says is that we are free, and therefore, we’re free, and ‘free’ doesn’t just mean The Ten Commandments and The Sound of Music.”

Oh, we’re not free to engage in immoral acts; we know that. But it doesn’t seem to cover engaging in that which would fill our minds with filth and dirty ideas and images, would damage our relationship with Christ, would damage our relationship with our wives, would seriously diminish our potential for witnessing to others concerning faith in Jesus Christ. Yes, the Bible says that we must “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling,”[11] and so we must. And therefore, we must be very careful of anybody else laying down laws and absolutes for us—certainly the Bible warns against that. But I’m just telling you now, as a young man growing older, that you can’t play around with this.

There’s a Christian layman who worships in the church here who told me what he did some years ago when he goes on business trips. I’ve followed his example ever since. He told me, “When I go to the Holiday Inn and I’m by myself, I never turn the television on the whole time I’m there.” So I was in the Holiday Inn Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. They have that little gizmo that sits on the top of the box that tells you what you can see for two minutes, can fill your heart with garbage for two minutes, without ever registering it downstairs. But it registers upstairs. Hey, maybe you’re strong enough just to watch CNN. When I’m on my own, I don’t turn the TV on. It wasn’t a pastor that taught me that. It was one of you that taught me that.

Do you know that at this pastors’ conference this last week, in the workshops—the workshops were broken up in terms of availability and opportunity in terms of desire and need—the amount of seats made available for the workshop on expository preaching was 90. The amount of seats made available for marital infidelity was 370. I met with the man who was giving the talk to the pastors. He told me that on each day that he was there, there were pastors came and confided in him that they themselves were involved in adulterous relationships right now, at the conference, on that day. I want to say to you young people: don’t ever start. Don’t ever start.

I’m frightened to even tell you this, because it may seem like I take heed that I stand when I could fall tomorrow: I have never purchased nor seen a Playboy magazine in my life, and I don’t ever want to. “Some kind of wimp we’ve got for a pastor, huh?” No. I don’t want those images. I don’t want those pictures. I want to speak to you men: be careful. Be real careful. And lest you think I’m standing, I’ve got a lot of people holding the bottom of my ladder. And I hope you got a good group holding yours.

Our time is gone. I didn’t mean to finish here, but I will. The warnings from the past are real warnings for real people in the real world. This Christianity stuff is not blessed thoughts remote from our lives. This is down where we live.

[1] See 2 Timothy 3:16.

[2] 1 Corinthians 9:26 (NIV 1984).

[3] See 1 Corinthians 8:13; 9:19–23.

[4] Exodus 13:20–22 (NIV 1984).

[5] John Calvin, The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, trans. John W. Fraser, ed. David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 204.

[6] Colossians 3:1 (NIV 1984).

[7] Exodus 32:2 (paraphrased).

[8] Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7 (NIV 1984).

[9] John MacArthur, 1 Corinthians, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Bible Institute, 1984), 223.

[10] See Romans 1:18–32.

[11] Philippians 2:12 (KJV).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.