Paul compared the Corinthian believers to the Israelites that wandered in the wilderness for 40 years in order to illustrate their need for spiritual nourishment. Paul said that the Israelites “all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthian 10:3-4, ESV). Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand that their spiritual health was dependent upon a regular intake of spiritual food. Paul’s declaration that Christ was the Rock that provided water was based on Jesus’ statement to a Samaritan woman that he met at a well. He told her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14, ESV). Jesus went on to explain that we obtain our spiritual nourishment through worshipping God. He said, ” But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those that worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24, ESV).

Paul talked about the Israelites’ being tempted in the wilderness and said, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11, ESV). Paul may have wanted to stress the importance of the time period in which he lived by describing it as “the end of the ages.” What Paul was referring to was the culmination or end result of God’s work of saving his chosen people. Although the age of God’s grace has been going on now for more than 2000 years, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was a single event that marked the fulfillment of God’s promise to the Israelites to give them a Messiah. Therefore, Paul warned the Corinthians to not take for granted their spiritual health. He stated, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Paul was probably focusing his attention on the Corinthian Jews in particular when he talked about being tempted to ignore the gift of salvation that Jesus had made available to them. The Greek words translated stand and fall in 1 Corinthians 10:12 likely have something to do with the Israelites’ status as God’s chosen people. Stands or histemi in the Greek is comparable to the word tithemi (tith’-ay-mee) which was used by Peter to refer to unbelieving Israel (1 Peter 2:8). What seems clear from Paul’s discussion of temptation was that it was related to spiritual health. Paul stated, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you to be tempted beyond your ability; but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV). The phrase “beyond your ability” refers to spiritual strength that can be attained through spiritual exercise or as an inherited trait. To be able to do something means that you have the power to accomplish it. Paul concluded his lesson on temptation with this admonition, “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14). In other words, don’t do things that you obviously know are wrong.


Jesus had a way of using everyday, ordinary circumstances to teach his disciples powerful lessons about the kingdom of heaven. One of Jesus’ favorite metaphors for the word of God was bread, a daily source of sustenance for most people in the first century and an emblem of God’s physical presence in his holy temple. After the Pharisees and Sadducees had asked him for a sign to verify his deity, Jesus attempted to get his disciples back on track with a warning. He told them, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the leaven of Herod” (Mark 8:15). Leaven was used to make bread rise and was a symbol of evil and corruption in the time of Jesus’ ministry. “The metaphor includes the idea of a tiny amount of leaven being able to ferment a large amount of dough. In this context it refers to the evil disposition of both the Pharisees and Herod Antipas” (note on Mark 8:15). Unfortunately, his disciples missed the point Jesus was trying to make because they were focused on the fact that they had forgotten to take bread with them when they got into their ship and departed for Bethsaida (Mark 8:14). In response to Jesus’ statement, Mark tells us, “And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread” (Mark 8:16).

The Greek word that is translated reasoned, dialogizomai (dee-al-og-id’-zom-ahee) means “to reakon thoroughly that is (generally) to deliberate (by reflection or discussion)” (1260). As his disciples discussed among themselves what he meant by “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” (Mark 8:15), Jesus tried again to get their attention, this time with a question. He asked them, “Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?” (Mark 8:17). Jesus went on to use the illustration of his supernatural provision of bread and asked, “Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? When I brake the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?” (Mark 8:18-21). The Greek word that is translated understand, suniemi (soon-ee’-ay-mee) means “to put together that is (mentally) to comprehend” (4920). The Greek word suniemi is derived from the word sun (soon), a primary preposition denoting union; with or together that is by association, companionship, process, or resemblance (4862). The word sun often appears in the context of Jesus’ twelve disciples being “with him.” In other words, Jesus was questioning whether or not his disciples had learned anything from him during the time that they had been together, probably around 1-2 years at this point in time.

The reason Jesus’ disciples didn’t comprehend what he was saying to them was most likely because everything he said came across to them as fragments, unrelated pieces of information that they were unable to piece together and make sense of. It was like they had ADHD (attention deficit disorder) which caused them to constantly be distracted when Jesus talked to them. Looking at his illustration of the basket of fragments that were taken up after the groups of 5,000 and 4,000 people were fed, it is possible that Jesus was telling his disciples that the fragments or bits of information he was giving them while they were with him needed to be collected and saved for later. Another way of looking at it would be that the fragments of bread represented bite size pieces of spiritual nourishment that had to be kept with the disciples at all times so that they wouldn’t be tempted to feast on the leavened bread or teaching of the Pharisees. Jesus’ question, “have ye your heart yet hardened?” (Mark 8:17) was a type of spiritual diagnosis that was meant to alert his disciples to their compromised condition. As much as the disciples wanted to learn from Jesus and grow spiritually, they were unable to process some of the information he gave them. It wasn’t until later, after Jesus’ ministry was concluded, that the twelve apostles had time to really reason through or “reakon thoroughly that is (generally) to deliberate (by reflection or discussion)” (1260) everything Jesus had told them and make sense of it all.

Spiritual food

Jesus often used physical illustrations to portray spiritual concepts that were difficult to understand. One of his most obscure lessons had to do with spiritual sustenance or what Jesus referred to as the bread of life (John 6:35). The context of this conversation was a miracle Jesus performed in which he fed more than 5,000 men, women, and children with five barley loaves, and two small fishes (John 6:9). Afterward, many people followed Jesus across the sea of Galilee to Capernaum because of the meal he had provided them. Reprimanding the people for their focus on temporary satisfaction, Jesus said, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for the meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed” (John 6:27). The Greek term translated meat, brosis refers generically to the intake of food (1035), but it is also associated with animals grazing in a pasture, such as sheep, one of Jesus’ favorite metaphors for God’s children. What Jesus was telling the people was that spiritual food was more important than physical food in terms of what he could provide for them. With regards to his purpose for being on earth, Jesus’ primary objective was to educate people about God’s kingdom and to assure them of eternal life.

Jesus said of himself, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Jesus emphatically stated that spiritual hunger and thirst could be eliminated by means of a relationship with him, but then he made it clear that not everyone had been given access to this provision. It was first necessary for God to draw or choose someone to be a member of his heavenly kingdom (John 6:44). Jesus’ implication that God would exclude some people from his kingdom was probably intended to deter those who thought that partaking of the spiritual food he provided meant automatic entrance into heaven. In reality, eternal life was something that few people were interested in. The word Jesus used to describe God’s part in the conversion process “draw,” or helkuo helko in the Greek, literally means “to drag” (1670). In other words, God takes people against their will and causes them (most likely through unpleasant circumstances) to want to go to heaven. A related word that provides additional clarity about God’s selection process is the Greek word helisso which means to coil or wrap (1667), suggesting that God must first tie the person up in order to drag him or her into his kingdom.

Jesus probably added further confusion to people’s understanding of spiritual food when he said, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I give for the life of the world” (John 6:51). The Greek term translated flesh, sarx refers to the meat of an animal that is used as food (4561). The point Jesus was making was that his death on the cross would be the thing that all believers would have to eat, or in a spiritual sense, partake of in order to receive eternal life. Ultimately, Jesus’ death was the key to salvation, and therefore, the food that brought eternal life, but what Jesus wanted people to understand was that “eating” meant they would have to fully digest or comprehend the sacrifice he made in order to get the benefit of it. It was the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross that gave believers access to heaven, but it was through the individual’s personal comprehension of his sacrificial act that God granted salvation. In other words, it was through an internal, invisible process, like the digestion of food, a person received salvation, God’s gift of eternal life.