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MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS

A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.

6421 W. Poinsettia Drive

Glendale, Arizona 85304-2419

623-334-8014; chemnitz@uswest.net

 

 

24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.  25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.  26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:  27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;  2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;  3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat;  4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.  5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

 

 

Rock of Ages

 

This lesson has two parts. The first part emphasizes the difficulties of the individual believer in remaining in the Christian faith. In the second part, Paul compares the current struggles to Exodus, when everyone was given freedom through the miracles of God, but not everyone remained faithful in the desert. Many were overthrown.

 

We can never think too much about Christ in the Old Testament. He did not have a human nature until He was conceived by the Holy Ghost through the Virgin Mary, but He did exist from the beginning. Moreover, Christ is just as central in the Old Testament as in the New Testament.

 

In the Book of Concord, another word for the Gospel is the Promises of God. In other words, we have either threats, condemnations, and demands in the Bible – the Law. Or we have promises – the Gospel. The entire Bible is made up of Law and promises.

 

The Exodus was promised by God. To set His people free, He performed a spectacular set of miracles to show the Egyptians His power. All the Israelites were set free in the Exodus. All received the same miracles and the same promises. God chose His people and did not distinguish them by their greater virtue. He said, through His own power and grace, “This is My people. And I will be your God.”

 

Many of the aspects of the Exodus point to Jesus – the spotless lamb at the Passover feast, the blood of the lamb on the doorposts. But it was Jesus Himself who spoke to Moses from the burning bush. Moses asked, “What is your name?” God answered, “I am – that is My name. Tell them that I AM sent you.”

 

When the religious opponents attacked Jesus and said, “We have Abraham for our father,” Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” That is a declaration that only God could make.

 

In this lesson, Paul reveals to the Corinthians and to us that Christ was with the Israelites in the wilderness. “And the Rock that followed them was Christ.” This verse explains the meaning of Jesus saying to Peter, “Upon this rock I will build My church.” There are two erroneous interpretations of Jesus’ statement. One is that Peter is the rock upon which Jesus will build the church. In English we cannot see the intended pun, because we use one word, rock, for two concepts. Peter’s name is the word for an individual rock, so we would say a rock or a stone. However, “upon this rock” is another word, which means rock ledge, or bedrock. I would like to be in a skyscraper attached to bedrock, as all of them are. I would not be happy if they said, “This tower is built on a rock.”

 

So we can see from the actual text that Peter’s name is a play on the word for bedrock. He is a smaller version of that rock. So many people will say, “Aha. The rock is Peter’s confession. Blessed are you…the spirit has revealed…upon this rock.” But Peter’s confession is not as bedrocky as we would like. The same man also denied Jesus during the trial and cursed, saying, “I do not know this man.”

 

The only way we can discover what a text means is to compare similar verses and words, to let the light from clearer verses shine on darker passages. Although Peter’s confession is very clear, Christians have some conflict about “the rock.” This lesson clears it up, so we can see how the rule, Scripture interprets Scripture, works. The rock which followed them is this same term, petra, that Jesus used when He said, “Upon this rock I will build My church.”

 

Now we can see how much sense this makes. Jesus Himself is the rock. He will build His church upon Himself and not upon a man, Peter, or even a man’s confession of faith. St. Augustine saw this when he wrote The City of God, one of the classics of all literature, especially in theology. He has an extensive passage where he describes the City of God as built upon Christ and therefore having an eternal foundation.

 

The purpose of the Holy Spirit in teaching us about Christ being with the Israelites in the wilderness is encouragement for God being with us today. It calls to mind the refreshing water that sprang miraculously from the rock when Moses struck it. Imagine what that was like to a multitude thirsting in the wilderness.

 

KJV Exodus 17:6 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 Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.

 

See what the Psalms say about this event:

 

KJV Psalm 78:19 Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? 20 Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?

 

KJV Psalm 105:40 The people asked, and he brought quails, and satisfied them with the bread of heaven. 41 He opened the rock, and the waters gushed out; they ran in the dry places like a river. 42 For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham his servant

 

We also think of rock foundations as the strongest, for good reason. The Great Pyramid is built of stone (or concrete, according to one theory) and has lasted for at least 4, 000 years. Cathedrals in Europe, built from stone, are 800 or more years old.

 

And yet Paul does not say a boulder or a stone followed the Israelites. It was a spiritual Rock.

 

KJV Psalm 18:2 The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

 

KJV Psalm 28:1 {A Psalm of David.} Unto thee will I cry, O LORD my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit.

 

KJV Psalm 42:9 I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

 

KJV Psalm 71:3 Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress.

 

We have one great unified truth in the Scriptures, so we should not be surprised that the rock of the Exodus and the rock mentioned in Peter’s confession is also referenced in the parable of the house built on rock.

 

KJV Luke 6:48 He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock (petra): and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.

 

God predicted that the entire world would be shaken at the end. The collapse of many institutions, especially the organized church, fulfills what God has spoken about in the Scriptures.

 

KJV Haggai 2:6 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;

 

Weather extremes show us that one little change in God’s order can bring floods to one area and drought to another. The shaking predicted is far more significant that earthquakes, as scary as they might be. One woman told us she saw her street rolling up and down like a ribbon. The entire earth shook so much that she held onto her truck to keep from falling down. Nevertheless, the shaking is the falling apart of institutions and the chaos resulting from that. Church leaders have lost faith and are being overthrown by their own conduct.

 

And yet, in the midst of this, Christ is our Rock and our Salvation. These passages teach us that we can rely on Him alone. It is a terrible shame that many have grown up to see their own denominations betray them. Many people have disappointed us. I have a long list of the biggest disappointments in my life and most of them Lutheran pastors. But there is something very good in this. God shows us that our faith is not based upon a man, whoever he might be, or a man’s confession, or the denomination we once knew, but upon Christ alone.

 

We are all in the wilderness, led by Christ, not selected according to strength or virtue. We are all very weak sinners. When we fall on our faces and create enormous problems for ourselves through sin, that too is a reminder that we need a Savior and have a Savior in Christ Jesus.

 

In this lesson we have a warning – many were overthrown in the wilderness – but also many promises. The promises of God begin with the Gospel of forgiveness, Christ crucified for our sins. The promises bring blessing upon blessing to every single believer.

The Gospel teaches us to be thankful for the great gift of salvation and the many blessings from that gift received in faith. Simply being thankful brings about even more blessings.

 

The Gospel gives us strength against temptation. The Gospel alone can bring healing. The Gospel gives us hope and purpose. Jesus is our rock and our salvation, in this age, and from time immemorial.

 

KJV Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength (my rock), and my redeemer.