Question:

“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12 – KJV) What does it mean? I am sure it does not mean fall from grace.

Answer:

Background of 1 Corinthians

The Book of 1 Corinthians was written by the apostle Paul to the church at Corinth. Paul planted the church, but there were a lot of issues that developed since Paul had left. So this letter was written to address some of these issues.

In 1 Corinthians chapters 8 to 10, Paul clarifies our Christian liberties. Even though we are free to do anything that God does not forbid, God does give us some limits. We need to limit our liberty if it causes a weaker brother to stumble. Paul uses two illustrations.

  • In chapter 8, Paul explains that the liberty of eating food that had been offered to idols could be stumbling.
  • In chapter 9, Paul explains that He personally did not exercise his prerogative to ask and receive financial help from the church. He wants to do everything he can to serve others for the sake of the gospel.

Overview of 1 Corinthians 10:1-10

Paul gives an illustration with God’s dealings with Israel during the time of Moses. The nation of Israel were given three special blessings.

  • They were liberated from Egypt. (10:1)
  • They received the baptism into Moses. (10:2)
  • They were given spiritual sustenance. (10:3-4)

The Israelites abused their special standing with God, and God was not pleased with them. (10:5) Paul reminds the readers of this story as a lesson to us. He listed four specific sins that Israel committed.

  • Idolatry (10:7)
  • Sexual Immorality (10:8)
  • Testing God (10:9)
  • Grumbling and Complaining (10:10)

God used Israel as an example in 1 Corinthians 10:11.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:11 that God punished Israelites who were disobedient. By punishing the guilty, God set them as an example for others during that ancient time. They were also examples for us.

The Old Testament history and Paul’s explanation in 1 Corinthians 10 is to be used for instruction for us today. Instruction (nouthesia) is more than ordinary teaching. It means admonition and carries the connotation of warning. It is counsel given to persuade a person to change behavior in light of judgment.

1 Corinthians 10:12 is a warning on overconfidence.

“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

  • “Therefore” – word that reminds us that the subsequent sentence is linked to the ideas that were previously mentioned. The main idea of chapter 10 is that Israel was given special privilege. However, many Israelites simply relied on their special standing, and they neglected to obey God. They were punished severely for their disobedience.
  • “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed” – Paul is describing a person who is foolishly overconfident. If we become overconfident, we take our Christian liberties (1 Corinthians 8-9) too far and fall into disobedience and sin. We are similar to the Israelites because God has given us a lot of spiritual blessing. We have been given God’s word, and we have the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • “lest he fall.” – I agree. This is not referring to losing one’s salvation. It cannot because it would contradict other parts of Scripture that clearly teach otherwise. The word fall comes from the Greek word πίπτω. It is used 8 times by the apostle Paul. It generally has the meaning of “to suffer defeat, failure or ruin.” We will not lose our salvation, but we can easily lose our virtue and usefulness. (referring back to 1 Corinthians 9:24-27) And we likely will reap painful consequences and discipline from God.

More About Overconfidence

  • Example of Haman (Book of Esther)
  • Example of Sennacherib (Isaiah 37:36-38)
  • Example of Apostle Peter (Luke 22:33-34, 54-62)
  • Example of the church of Sardis (Revelation 3:1-3)
  • Example of the church of Laodicean (Revelation 3:17)

Christians who become self–confident become less dependent on God’s Word and God’s Spirit and become careless in their living. As carelessness increases, openness to temptation increases and resistance to sin decreases. When we feel most secure in ourselves – when we think our spiritual life is the strongest, our doctrine the soundest, and our morals the purest – we should be most on our guard and most dependent on the Lord.

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