This Week's Focus Passage

1 Corinthians 10:4 ‘They drank of a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.’

This Week’s Focus Passage: 1 Corinthians 10:4

‘They drank of a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.’


                Paul is here referencing the account found in Exodus 17:1-7 which took place in the course of the march of the children of Israel through the wilderness after that God had delivered them from the bondage in Egypt under Pharaoh. We are told;

And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, by their journeys, according to the commandment of Jehovah, and encamped in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink.

The subsequent narrative relates the complaining of the people and Moses’ crying unto God, whereupon we read in verse five, the response of Jehovah;

And Jehovah said unto Moses, Pass on before the people, and take with thee the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thy hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. 

And here in our focus passage from Corinthians, the inspired apostle to the Gentiles has stated, ‘and the rock was Christ.’

                We may contend and exhaust much time and ink, as it were, seeking to discover what to make of the language, ‘and the rock was Christ.’ Whether it is to be understood that the rock represented Christ, or that the Rock was a Christophany, as many believe was the burning bush of Exodus 3, may be debated with little or no success. Paul’s threefold successive use of the term ‘spiritual’ in this passage is more than simply interesting. He has referred to the ‘spiritual’ food, the ‘spiritual’ drink, and now, the ‘spiritual’ rock. R. C. H. Lenski comments upon this usage;

“Both ‘the food’ and ‘the drink’ given in the desert are called ‘spiritual.’ When in regard to the latter Paul adds that its source, too, was ‘spiritual,’ being even Christ himself, he does not thereby intend to deny that the source of the manna was ‘spiritual.’ While he feels constrained to say more regarding the drink because of the foolish Jewish legend that was connected with the rock, one can readily see that both the food and the drink came from the same source. Christ set the entire table for the Israelites in the desert during all those many years, and they should have recognized his presence and have worshipped his power and his goodness.”

Whether we wish to dispute amongst ourselves as to Christophany or type, or whatever, we believe that Paul is pointing out, as Lenski observed, the source. And, perhaps, more importantly, the apostle has pointed to this Source. W. E. Vine understands that “‘spiritual’ is prefixed to the material type in order to indicate that what the type sets forth, not the type itself, is intended.” More important, in Paul’s thinking perhaps, is the unhappy sequel to this marvelous occasion. We are told that,

‘Howbeit with most of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.’ Should this not provoke fear and wonder in us? This is not the first time that Israel witnessed miraculous things without being moved by them as they ought to have been. Some were ‘moved’ but most of them were not. Of the multitudes journeying across the wilderness who had extreme need of that water, and firsthand sight of that Rock of Horeb; that witnessed the event, and drank of the thirst-quenching water from that miraculous rock, only two actually came to the Promised Land; Joshua and Caleb. Is this not consistent with the reception Jesus received from His own, as John has expressed in John 1:11, ‘He came unto his own, and they that were his own received him not?’ And was there not only a small band of believers in the upper room after His ascension. God controls the count.

Are there not also comparisons here with ‘many are called, but few are chosen?’ Many have had the Rock before them, and even drank from it, in the sense of hearing the gospel, but they received it not. Even so, in Exodus 17, many partook of the water they so needed for their thirst, but did not partake of the Water of life. There is a huge distinction—an eternal distinction, we may most fairly, and reasonably say— between the external call of the gospel with whatever grand eloquence may accompany it, and the internal call from God the Holy Spirit accompanied with regenerating power. This is the essential and primary preaching in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.  

Christ, the spiritual Rock; the Well of salvation; the Pool in the desert, the Fountain of life, was unrecognized by the many at Horeb. He was not recognized by many among the multitudes when pointed out to them by John Baptist. Yea, ‘He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world knew him not.’ He is the only true Water of life, yet many will die of ‘spiritual’ thirst rather than come to Him. Christ told the woman at the well, in the account given us in John 4, that whosoever drank of the water that He offered would never thirst again. The water that He gave was unto life eternal. This is the promise, is it not, of the New Covenant? When we read in Jeremiah or Ezekiel that covenant expressed in astounding terms, we must know that it parallels, or speaks straight to, the reality that Christ is the Water of Life, He is the promised One; He is the New Covenant. It was given to Isaiah to speak of the Coming One in a multitude of expressions. In 41:17, we may read remarkable anticipation of the Water of life:

The poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst: I Jehovah will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water.

Jesus Himself has told us, Whoso drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I give him shall become in him a well of water springing up unto eternal life.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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