[Note there is a new category on the Welcome page called “Specific Passages” that lists all the posts addressing specific verses. Also, special thanks goes to Reformed Books Online for their helpful collection of commentaries.]
1 Corinthians 10:1-5 is often used by paedobaptists to support their sacramentology. This post will provide a positive explanation of the passage. A follow-up post will address false inferences made from the text by paedobaptists.
The context begins in 1 Corinthians 8:1. Because we know the truth, we know that idols are nothing and therefore there is nothing wrong with eating food that has been sacrificed to idols. However, some weaker brothers might not understand that yet and they might think you are participating in idol worship if you eat that food. So rather than make them think sin is ok (cause them to stumble), you should refrain from eating it. This requires self-denial. Paul holds himself up as an example. He has a right to compensation for his labor among the Corinthians, but he has not made use of that right in order not to hinder the preaching of the gospel. In fact he has become all things to all people that he might by all means save some. He denies himself for the sake of the gospel, in order to partake of it himself. In doing so, he is diligent to run the race to obtain the prize, lest in preaching to others, he forgets the gospel himself and becomes disqualified.
Paul then uses the Israelites as an example (v6 literally “type”) as to why Christians should not rest content in having heard the gospel and professed faith (begun the race), but must run the race with persevering faith. If we do not deny ourselves we will be tempted to lust for evil things, which leads to destruction. One who thinks he cannot be tempted should “take heed lest he fall.” Therefore, although it may be lawful for you to eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols, you should not seek your own good but that of your neighbor, who will think it is ok to sin if he sees you eat the meat.
So what precisely is the example of “Israel according to the flesh” (note literal translation of v18)? The whole nation together experienced the miraculous power of God’s redemption from slavery in Egypt and provision in the wilderness. They all shared the same experience, but only some of them persevered (“all run, but one obtains the prize”). Most of them lusted for evil things and committed idolatry and sexual immorality and were destroyed.
The analogy between this passage and the preceding is striking: this nation, that had come out of Egypt to get to Canaan, corresponds to the runner who, after starting in the race, misses the prize, for want of perseverance in self-sacrifice.
[T]he correction of those Corinthians who, in reliance on a spirit of confidence they had, rashly did whatever in their want of thoughtfulness they imagined themselves able to do without danger, especially in the matter of eating idol-meats along with idolaters; to which they were led, partly by familiar habit, partly by the pleasures of the feast itself.
The apostle saw that many in this church of Corinth were puffed up with their knowledge, and other gifts and great privileges with which God had blessed them; as also with the opinion of their being a gospel church, and some of the first-fruits of the Gentiles unto Christ, and might therefore think, that they needed not to be pressed to such degrees of strictness and watchfulness;
The Corinthians, by going to the utmost verge of their Christian liberty in eating things offered to idols, were in danger of being drawn back into actual idolatry.
There is a grave danger lest the Corinthians, puffed up by their superior knowledge, consider themselves immune to contamination from idolatry.
‘All our fathers left Egypt; Caleb and Joshua alone entered the promised land.’ All run, but one obtains the prize…The Israelites doubtless felt, as they stood on the other side of the Red Sea, that all danger was over, and that their entrance into the land of promise was secured. They had however a journey beset with dangers before them, and perished because they thought there was no need of exertion. So the Corinthians, when brought to the knowledge of the gospel, thought heaven secure. Paul reminds them that they had only entered on the way, and would certainly perish unless they exercised constant self-denial.
All our fathers
Abraham had two offspring: spiritual and natural. Note v18 “Observe Israel after the flesh” (NKJV). NASB footnote says “Lit Israel according to the flesh.” Compare that with Romans 1:3 “concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh” (NASB) and 9:3-5 “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites… whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh” (NASB). In Romans 4:1, Paul speaks specifically to the Jews in his mixed audience, saying “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?” (NASB).
The Israelites in the wilderness were the fathers of the Jews according to the flesh. They were not the fathers of believing Gentiles.
The apostle says ἡμῶν, speaking, as in Romans 4:1, from his national consciousness, which was shared in by his Jewish readers, and well understood by his Gentile ones.
Despite not clearly understanding Abraham’s two different offspring in this quote, Hodge still recognizes that in this passage, Paul is referring to the fathers of Israel according to the flesh.
Abraham is our father, though we are not his natural descendants. And the Israelites were the fathers of the Corinthian Christians, although most of them were Gentiles. Although this is true, it is probable that the apostle, although writing to a church, many, if not most, of whose members were of heathen origin, speaks as a Jew to Jews.
Baptized into Moses
Being “baptized into Moses” is different from being “baptized into Christ” (Romans 6:3; Gal 3:27).
1. Baptized into Moses (10:1, 2). The Old Testament clearly sees Israel’s passing through the sea and the accompanying cloud as divine activity (Exod 13:21; Ps. 105:39; Wis 10:17; 19:7), but the Old Testament itself does not even imply that Israel was baptized into Moses. Nor is there sufficient evidence to suggest this was a view current in Judaism of Paul’s day. Rather, Paul moves backward from his Christian experience and from it interprets the Exodus events, not vice versa… Accepting that Paul begins with Christian baptism and moves by analogy back to Moses best accounts for the phrase ‘into Moses,’ The expression was created to resemble the experience of Christians being baptized ‘into Christ’ (Rom 6:3; Gal 3:27).
As Christians are saved by being ‘baptized into Christ Jesus’ (Rom 6:3; cf. Gal 3:27), so Israel of old was related salvifically to Moses by the cloud and the sea; he brought them to deliverance and safety.
[T]hat is, brought under obligation to Moses’s law and covenant, as we are by baptism under the Christian law and covenant. It was to them a typical baptism.
Moses was a type of Christ, Galatians 3:19.
Into Moses – into the covenant of which Moses was the mediator; and by this typical baptism they were brought under the obligation of acting according to the Mosaic precepts, as Christians receiving Christian baptism are said to be baptized Into Christ, and are thereby brought under obligation to keep the precepts of the Gospel.
[B]aptized unto Moses–the servant of God and representative of the Old Testament covenant of the law: as Jesus, the Son of God, is of the Gospel covenant (John 1:17 , Hebrews 3:5 Hebrews 3:6).
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Of course, they were baptized into Moses, and not into the Trinity, but there must be some similarity in the two types of baptism… The similarity between Moses’ baptism and Christian baptism must be sought in their significance, or in a part of it. In both cases, the baptism is a visible sign that the baptized persons are the disciples of him into whose name they are baptized.
[I]n reference to Moses, so as by baptism to be made his disciples. See 1:13; Rom 6:3… The cloud and the sea did for them, in reference to Moses, what baptism does for us in reference to Christ. Their passage through the sea, and their guidance by the cloud, was their baptism. It made them the disciples of Moses; placed them under obligation to recognize his divine commission and to submit to his authority. This is the only point of analogy between the cases, and it is all the apostle’s argument requires… The display of God’s power in the cloud and in the sea, brought the people into the relation of disciples to Moses. It inaugurated the congregation, and, as it were, baptized them to him, bound them to serve and follow him.
The words, ‘unto Moses,’ cannot mean sub auspiciis Mosis, but as always with the verb ‘baptize’ they denote the relation or fellowship into which they entered with Moses, who, as the servant of the Lord, was the mediator of the Divine manifestations. With this there is connected the obligation to follow him faithfully as the leader given unto them by the Lord, and legitimated by Him ( Exodus 14:31).
The phrase eis ton Moses [“into Moses”] may be patterned after the similar New Testament phrase eis ton Christon [“into Christ”], but it can never be taken in the same sense of “into Moses” or Christ. No baptism nor anything else could in any conceivable sense carry the Israelites “into” Moses. The idea expressed is one of union: “to,” “unto,” or “for Moses.” This symbolical baptism united the Israelites to Moses as God‘s representative to them, the Old Testament mediator, in whom was foreshadowed Christ, the New Testament eternal Mediator…. The deliverance from the Egyptian bondage through Moses by this symbolical baptism through the cloud and the sea likewise typifies our deliverance from the bondage of sin and of death through Christ by means of Christian baptism.
This miraculous crossing separated them thenceforth from Egypt, the place of bondage and idolatry, exactly as the believer’s baptism separates him from his former life of condemnation and sin… This crossing was to them as baptism is to the believer, the threshold of salvation. This spiritual analogy is expressed by Paul in the words: and were all baptized into Moses. By following their God-given leader with confidence at that critical moment, they were closely united to, and, as it were, incorporated with Moses to become his people, in the same way as Christians in being baptized on the ground of faith in Christ become part of the same plant with Him (Rom. vi. 3-5); they are thenceforth His body.
They were baptised unto Moses by their acceptance of his leadership in the Exodus. By passing through the Red Sea at his command they definitely renounced Pharaoh and abandoned their old life, and as definitely pledged and committed themselves to throw in their lot with Moses. By passing the Egyptian frontier and following the guidance of the pillar of cloud they professed their willingness to exchange a life of bondage, with its security and occasional luxuries, for a life of freedom, with its hazards and hardships; and by that passage of the Red Sea they were as certainly sworn to support and obey Moses as ever was Roman soldier who took the oath to serve his emperor. When, at Brederode’s invitation, the patriots of Holland put on the beggar’s wallet and tasted wine from the beggar’s bowl, they were baptised unto William of Orange and their country’s cause. When the sailors on board the “Swan” weighed anchor and beat out of Plymouth, they were baptised unto Drake and pledged to follow him and fight for him to the death. Baptism means much; but if it means anything it means that we commit and pledge ourselves to the life we are called to by Him in whose name we are baptised. It draws a line across the life, and proclaims that to whomsoever in time past we have been bound, and for whatsoever we have lived, we now are pledged to this new Lord, and are to live in His service. Such a pledge was given by every Israelite who turned his back on Egypt and passed through that sea which was the defence of Israel and destruction to the enemy. The crossing was at once actual deliverance from the old life and irrevocable committal to the new. They died to Pharaoh, and were born again to Moses. They were baptised unto Moses.
Spiritual food… spiritual drink… spiritual rock
These were supernaturally given.
[T]he same sense in which the special gifts of God are called spiritual gifts… Spiritual gifts and spiritual blessings are gifts and blessings of which the Spirit is the author. Every thing which God does in nature and in grace, he does by the Spirit… [The food and drink] was given by the Spirit. It was not natural food, but food miraculously provided… The water which they drank was spiritual, because derived from the Spirit, i.e. by the special intervention of God… The bread and water are called spiritual because supernatural.
The “spiritual food” or manna ( Exodus 16:13 ff.) is distinguished from all earthly food, either because of some supernatural quality in it, or because of its supernatural origin. Here unquestionably we are to suppose the latter. The epithet ‘spiritual’ denotes that the food came from the Spirit—was produced by a Divine miraculous power (comp. Exodus 16:14). [“It is here employed in special reference to its descent from heaven and its designation in Psalm 78:24-25 as “the bread of heaven” and “angels’ food.” Stanley. “Thus, also, Isaac is called, Galatians 4:29, ‘he born after the Spirit,’ in opposition to Ishmael, who is spoken of as ‘born after the flesh.’” Alford.
All the Israelites shared equally.
[“the same spiritual food… the same spiritual drink” means] they all had it. They all eat the same spiritual meat. They were all alike favored, and had therefore equal grounds of hope. Yet how few of them reached the promised rest!
For they were drinking
Some translations have “for they drank” but “The imp. ἔπινον, were drinking, was intended to denote their continuous drinking all through the entire march in the wilderness.” (Lange; see NASB).
“For” means this is an explanatory note for why their drink was spiritual – because it came miraculously from the rock.
That spiritual rock that followed them
God’s miraculous provision of water for them throughout their 40 years in the desert, which had a long tradition of commentary in Jewish tradition.
Byron notes that, interestingly, Paul is not the only person to suggest that the Israelites were followed by a water source during their wilderness wanderings. A first-century C.E. source called Pseudo-Philo’s Biblical Antiquities makes a similar claim: “But as for his own people, he led them forth into the wilderness: Forty years did he rain bread from heaven for them, and he brought them quails from the sea, and a well of water following them” (10.7).
Pseudo-Philo claims that a well of water followed the Israelites through the wilderness, whereas in 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul says that it was a rock that followed them. How did these two ancient interpreters come to their conclusions?
“What they seem to have concluded,” Byron explains, “is that since Moses named both the rock at Rephidim (Exodus 17:7) and the one at Kadesh (Numbers 20:13) ‘Meribah,’ the logical conclusion was that both were one and the same rock and that it, therefore, must have accompanied Israel on their journey.”
1 Corinthians 10:4 reflects a common ancient interpretation—that the Israelites were followed by a water source during their wilderness wanderings, which is demonstrated by Paul’s casual reference and supported by Pseudo-Philo.
John Gill explains the more extensive Jewish tradition.
[N]ot that the rock itself removed out of its place, and went after them, but the waters out of the rock ran like rivers, and followed them in the wilderness wherever they went, for the space of eight and thirty years, or thereabout, and then were stopped, to make trial of their faith once more; this was at Kadesh when the rock was struck again, and gave forth its waters, which, as the continual raining of the manna, was a constant miracle wrought for them. And this sense of the apostle is entirely agreeable to the sentiments of the Jews, who say, that the Israelites had the well of water all the forty years. The Jerusalem Targum says of the
“well given at Mattanah, that it again became unto them violent overflowing brooks, and again ascended to the tops of the mountains, and descended with them into the ancient valleys.”
And to the same purpose the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel,
“that it again ascended with them to the highest mountains, and from the highest mountains it descended with them to the hills, and encompassed the whole camp of Israel, and gave drink to everyone at the gate of his own dwelling place; and from the high mountains it descended with them into the deep valleys.”
Yea, they speak of the rock in much the same language the apostle does, and seem to understand it of the rock itself, as if that really went along with the Israelites in the wilderness. Thus one of their writers on those words, “must we fetch you water out of this rock?” makes this remark:
“for they knew it not, (eloh Klhv ypl) , “for that rock went”, and remained among the rocks.”
And in another place it is said,
“that the rock became in the form of a beehive; (elsewhere it is said to be round as a sieve;) and rolled along, (Mhme tabw) , “and came with them”, in their journeys; and when the standard bearers encamped, and the tabernacle stood still, the rock came, and remained in the court of the tent of the congregation; and the princes came and stood upon the top of it, and said, ascend, O well, and it ascended.”
Now, though in this account there is a mixture of fable, yet there appears something of the old true tradition received in the Jewish church, which the apostle has here respect to.
All we know for certain is, that they had two miraculous supplies of water – one, near the outset of their wilderness journey, at Horeb (Ex. xvii. 4-6); the other, at Meribah Kadesh, near its close (Num. xx. 11); and since without a supply of water all through they could not have subsisted for a week, and yet no such fatal want overtook them, one may well say that they had an unfailing supply, or (in the apostle’s way of putting it), that ‘the Rock followed them.’
At the divine command, Moses smote the rock Horeb, in the sight of the elders of Israel; when the waters gushed out, ‘they ran in the dry places like a river,’ (Ps. cv. 41; lxxviii. 15, 16). The supply thus obtained was very abundant. Not only did the whole multitude, with their cattle, satisfy their thirst on that occasion, but it would seem that the stream of water, thus opened, formed a channel for itself, and followed the people in the desert. Thus we do not read of any scarcity of water being felt for about thirty-eight years. This the Apostle expresses, by saying, ‘the rock followed them.’
Their second objection is more foolish and more childish — “How could a rock,” say they, “that stood firm in its place, follow the Israelites?” — as if it were not abundantly manifest, that by the word rock is meant the stream of water, which never ceased to accompany the people. For Paul extols the grace of God, on this account, that he commanded the water that was drawn out from the rock to flow forth wherever the people journeyed, as if the rock itself had followed them.
That Rock was Christ
Given that this entire context is dealing with typology, it is likely that Paul means the rock was a type of Christ. Jesus says the manna was a type of Himself, the true bread that comes down from heaven (John 6:48-58). He also told the woman at the well that He was living water (John 4:10-14). As the rock was smitten, so was Christ, as he poured out blood and water (John 19:34).
[T]he water out of the rock, which was typical of the blood of Christ, which is drink indeed, and not figurative, as this was… but as those waters did not flow from thence without the rock being stricken by the rod of Moses, so the communication of the blessings of grace from Christ is through his being smitten by divine justice with the rod of the law; through his being, stricken for the transgressions of his people, and and being made sin, and a curse of the law in their room and stead. And as those waters continued through the wilderness as a constant supply for them, so the grace of Christ is always sufficient for his people; a continual supply is afforded them; goodness and mercy follow them all the days of their lives.
‘this rock was an emblem of Christ.’ He was smitten by the rod of Heaven, before the elders of Israel, and from his pierced body flow the refreshing streams of salvation. This is that river ‘which makes glad the city of God,’ and which follows the church through the barren wilderness of this world, till it shall arrive at the heavenly Canaan… ‘That rock was Christ,’ namely a type of Christ.
The manna on which they fed was a type of Christ crucified… this rock was Christ, that is, in type and figure. He is the rock on which the Christian church is built; and of the streams that issue from him do all believers drink, and are refreshed.
This food, though carnal in its nature and use, was truly “spiritual;” inasmuch as it was,
1. A typical representation of Christ—
[Our Lord himself copiously declares this with respect to the manna: He draws a parallel between the bread which Moses gave to the Israelites, and himself as the true bread that was given them from heaven; and shews that, as the manna supported the natural life of that nation for a time, so he would give spiritual and eternal life to the whole believing world [Note: John 6:48-58.]. The same truth he also establishes, in reference to the water that proceeded from the rock. He told the Samaritan woman, that if she would have asked of him he would have given her living water [Note: John 4:10-14.]. And on another occasion he stood in the place of public concourse, and cried, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink [Note: John 7:37-38.];” thereby declaring himself to be the only “well of salvation,” the only rock from whence the living water could proceed. Indeed, the Apostle, in the very words of the text, puts this matter beyond a doubt; “they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them;” and “that Rock was Christ.”]
Note Lightfoot on John 19:36 (“But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.”)
[Came there out blood and water.] It is commonly said that the two sacraments of the new testament, water and blood, flowed out of this wound: but I would rather say that the antitype of the old testament might be here seen…
II. It must not by any means let pass that in Shemoth Rabba;
“‘He smote the rock, and the waters gushed out,’ Psalm 78:20, but the word yod-zayin-vav-bet- yod signifies nothing else but blood; as it is said, ‘The woman that hath an issue of blood upon her,’ Leviticus 15:20. Moses therefore smote the rock twice, and first it gushed out blood, then water.”
“That rock was Christ,” 1 Corinthians 10:4. Compare these two together: Moses smote the rock, and blood and water, saith the Jew, flowed out thence: the soldier pierced our Saviour’s side with a spear, and water and blood, saith the evangelist, flowed thence.
However, if Paul is speaking typologically here, it seems odd that he would only call out the rock as a type, and not the manna, given that Christ identified the manna as a type of himself even more directly than the rock. Furthermore, the grammar Paul uses does not seem to specifically match his grammar elsewhere when speaking of types.
But what do these statements import? Certainly not… that the rock was a symbol of Christ, as of one out of whom streams of living water flow. In such a case it would have read, not “was Christ,” but, “is Christ.”
The Rock as Provider
An alternative explanation of Paul’s meaning is found in the Song of Moses, where the Lord is identified as Israel’s Rock who created them and provided for them.
For I proclaim the name of the Lord: Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect;… “He made him ride in the heights of the earth, That he might eat the produce of the fields; He made him draw honey from the rock, And oil from the flinty rock;… “But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; You grew fat, you grew thick, You are obese! Then he forsook God who made him, And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation… Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful, And have forgotten the God who fathered you… How could one chase a thousand, And two put ten thousand to flight, Unless their Rock had sold them, And the Lord had surrendered them? For their rock is not like our Rock. (Deut 32)
“The miracle of bringing water out of the rock, happened not once, but at least twice (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11). It was therefore not one particular rock which was concerned in the miracle; but as often as a like necessity occurred, there on the spot was also the water-yielding rock again.” Now since every rock could render the same service by the same influence, so it appeared as if the rock accompanied the Israelites. The material rock, in this case, is non-essential; the water-giving power is the chief thing. This power was God’s, that same God who has manifested Himself to us in Jesus Christ. And He is called the Rock that followed them, because it was through His agency that the several rocks, one after the other, acquired the same water-yielding power.” Burger.
Thus Paul may be identifying Christ as the Lord who provided for Israel. This finds further support in 1 Cor. 10:9 where Paul says “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents,” compared with Deuteronomy 6:16 “You shall not tempt the Lord your God as you tempted Him in Massah.” Note that Massah was where the rock was first struck for water.
[T]he people contended with Moses, and said, “Give us water, that we may drink.” So Moses said to them, “Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord?”… And the Lord said to Moses… “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.”
And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:2-7)
In verse 9, Paul does not specifically refer to this tempting at Massah, but to a later tempting of the Lord on the same grounds (lack of provision).
And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. (Numbers 25:5-6)
This reinforces the idea that Paul is identifying Christ as the one who provided physical sustenance for Israel throughout their wanderings, rather than narrowly identifying Christ with the specific rock at Horeb.
ver. 9 represents the Christ in the wilderness acting as the representative of Jehovah, from the midst of the cloud! Is it not perfectly simple to explain this figure of which Paul makes use, by the numerous saying of Deuteronomy, in which the Lord is called the Rock of Israel: ‘The Rock, His work is perfect’ (xxxii. 4); ‘Israel lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation’ (ver. 15); ‘Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful’ (ver. 18), etc., and by all those similar ones of Isaiah: ‘Thou hast not been mindful of the Rock of thy strength’ (xvii. 10); ‘in the Lord is the Rock of ages’ (xxvi. 4)? Only, what is special in the passage of Paul is, that this title of Rock of Israel, during the wilderness history, is ascribed here, not to Jehovah, but to the Christ. The passage forms an analogy to the words John xii. 41, where the apostle applies to Jesus the vision in which Isaiah beholds Adonai, the Lord, in the temple of His glory (ch. vi.). Christ is represented in these passages, by Paul and John, as pre-existent before His coming to the earth, and presiding over the theocratic history. In ch. viii. ver. 6, Paul had designated Christ as the Being by whom God created all things. Here he represents Him as the Divine Being who accompanied God’s people in the cloud through the wilderness, and who gave them the deliverances which they needed.
This finds further support when we consider Christ as the Wisdom of God (Proverbs 8).
the role of the fiture of Wisdom in guiding, protecting, and nurturing Israel through the wilderness is very widely attested in literature in hellenistic Judaism over the century before Paul’s writing, in contemporary synagogue homilies, and in Paul’s near-contemporary Philo. Both Wisdom 2, the Book of Wisdom, and Philo speak of Wisdom’s provision of water to wandering Israel “from a flinty rock” (Wis 2:4) on which Philo observes: “the flinty rock is the wisdom of God” [cp. Deut 8:15] (Philo, Legum Allegoriae 2.86). The point here is that it is clearly and widely recognized that Paul informs his own Christology by drawing explicitly on traditions of preexistent Wisdom from the OT Wisdom literature (e.g., Proverbs 8)…
We cannot readily underplay the role for Paul of Christ the Wisdom of God (1:30) when it not only plays a major role in his dialogue with Corinth and “the strong”… Paul could take for granted a background about the role of divine Wisdom as protector, guide, nourisher of Israel in the wilderness which could readily be applied to the preexistent Christ, while this background, which was the stock-in-trade of hellenistic Jewish diaspora [note “our fathers” discussed above] synagogue sermons, has become unfamiliar now to most modern readers, and hence requires explanation.
in what sense was the rock Christ? Not that Christ appeared under the form of a rock; nor that the rock was a type of Christ, for that does not suit the connection… The expression is simply figurative… He was the source of all the support which the Israelites enjoyed during their journey in the wilderness. This passage distinctly asserts not only the preexistence of our Lord, but also that he was the Jehovah of the Old Testament.
This is how the passage was understood by Melito of Sardis in a sermon on the typology of the Passover delivered around 160AD.
81. O lawless Israel, why did you commit this extraordinary crime of casting your Lord into new sufferings–your master, the one who formed you, the one who made you, the one who honored you, the one who called you Israel?
82. But you were found not really to be Israel, for you did not see God, you did not recognize the Lord, you did not know, O Israel, that this one was the firstborn of God, the one who was begotten before the morning star, the one who caused the light to shine forth…
84. This was the one who guided you into Egypt, and guarded you, and himself kept you well supplied there. This was the one who lighted your route with a column of fire, and provided shade for you by means of a cloud, the one who divided the Red Sea, and led you across it, and scattered your enemy abroad.
85. This is the one who provided you with manna from heaven, the one who gave you water to drink from a rock, the one who established your laws in Horeb, the one who gave you an inheritance in the land, the one who sent out his prophets to you, the one who raised up your kings.
Greg Lanier (PCA), associate professor of New Testament at RTS Orlando agrees
The New Testament affirms that the preexistent Son is active in Israel’s wilderness sojourn: sustaining the people (“that Rock was Christ,” 1 Cor. 10:4)
But with many of them God was not well pleased
Notwithstanding they had been thus highly favored… with a great number… he was displeased.
Despite the fact that Christ, Jehova miraculously provided for the Israelites by redeeming them out of slavery, delivering them from Pharoah, providing them with food and water for 40 years, many of them did not finish the race because they did not deny themselves. They were destroyed. Paul uses this as a typological warning to the Corinthians. Christ’s provision was not the same in both instances. To Israel, as the Triune God, he miraculously provided physical sustenance: bread and water. To the Church, as incarnate suffering servant, he miraculously provided himself: the bread of life and living water. If anyone who makes a profession of faith and is baptized into Christ becomes puffed up in his knowledge of the forgiveness of sins and becomes lax in their fight against the temptation to sin, there is a very real possibility that they will not finish the race and will be destroyed eternally, just as the Israelites in the wilderness were destroyed temporally.
[T]he Apostle Paul… in his first Epistle to the Corinthians shows that even the very history of the Exodus was an allegory of the future Christian People.
(Augustine, On the Profit of Believing)
Note, if you are not familiar with 1689 Federalism’s understanding of the Old and New Covenant, please visit http://www.1689federalism.com