Saturday, June 25, 2011

Portable Water

1 Corinthians 10:4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

4 καὶ πάντες τὸ αὐτὸ πνευματικὸν ἔπιον πόμα· ἔπινον γὰρ ἐκ πνευματικῆς ἀκολουθούσης πέτρας, ἡ πέτρα δὲ ἦν ὁ Χριστός.

This is another passage that makes one wonder if it means what it appears to mean. If we read this and take it at face-value it looks like Paul was saying that Christ traveled with the Jews in the wilderness. Can that possibly be what he means?

Well, the language is clear enough. The phrase πνευματικῆς ἀκολουθούσης πέτρας is very literally, “the spiritual rock, the one that followed.” This is connected with the weak conjunction δὲ and it clearly states that the rock was Christ. There is no ambiguity in the language here.

The problem is that this creates something of a tension for us. We know from Paul’s teachings in places like Colossians 1 that the church was a mystery until the revelation that came from Christ. Yet here we see him describing how Christ traveled with the people. The passage goes on to explain how they were apostate despite having Him with them.

What to do? I think that we need to accept Scripture for what it says. Somehow Christ was represented in the rock that traveled with them and provided water. As God saved Israel through the wilderness Paul makes a connection to Christ. Does this mean that Christ was really present with them? It appears so, but I’m not sure that it is necessary to see it this way to interpret this passage faithfully.

One takeaway is to understand that Christ appears in the Old Testament more than is clear at face-value. He was certainly a mystery, but Paul shows us that He was there. This also helps us to understand the language of Ephesians 1:10 that describes how God had “a plan for the fullness of time.”

But we also must be careful not to interpret every piece of wood as the cross or every instance of water as baptism. Not every drop of shed blood in the Old Testament points to Christ’s shed blood at Calvary. However, we also need to be sensitive to how the New Testament authors saw Christ in the Old as they wrote under inspiration of the Holy Spirit

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