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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 73 - 1 Corinthians 10:1-6 - The One Church of God Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius


The apostle's argument here may be thus paraphrased: "Moreover, brethren, let me remind you of some well known incidents in the history of our fathers; let me remind you of the cloud and of the sea; how our fathers marched under that cloud, and through that sea; how by that cloud and sea they were pledged to Moses as their leader (as we by the baptismal water are to Christ); how they did all eat the same spiritual meat, and drink the same spiritual drink as we do (in their symbolic manna and water); how all of them were put in possession of the same divine privileges in Christ as we; yet they incurred Jehovah's displeasure, and died in the wilderness. See what happened to them! Be warned." "Let us fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." (See Hebrew 3:7-19, 4:1, 2.)

The passage has many aspects. It brings Christ before us, the same yesterday, today, and forever. It exhibits the church of all ages,—its dangers, temptations, apostacies, unbelief, unfaithfulness. It illustrates the divine purpose and plan in the history of God's chosen and called ones here. The basis of the apostle's statement in it is a fragment of Israel's history,—a history all full of meaning, a history meant for us in these last days, a history which whether in parts or in whole, is a divine picture for the study of the Gentile church, and of every saint in every age. Let us take the passage in its exhibition of the church.

I. The oneness of the church. Israel was but a fragment of one great whole, one single vein of God's infinite mine.[12] Even in Israel's days Gentiles were brought into this whole, and became part of the church; but "before Abraham was" the church of God existed. As Messiah in Isaiah calls the church his "body" (Isaiah 26:19), so in the Psalms He calls it the church of the saints (Psalm 149:1). One church from the first believing soul down to the last,—"redeemed from among men"; the church of whose members the eleventh of the Hebrews gives us some instances. One, because (1) bought with one price; (2) washed with one blood; (3) clothed with one righteousness; (4) filled with one Spirit; (5) animated with one life; (6) loved with one love. These things belong to the saints of all ages and nations; all one church in Christ.

II. The oneness of the bread. It is on "bread" that this body, the church, is fed and nourished; but this is no earthly bread; no mere manna, nor even corn of Israel's fields. It is "the true bread"; the "bread of God"; the "bread which came down from heaven"; the "living bread"; the bread which Israel's manna only figured or symbolized. It is the same bread for all ages and nations; for all churches and all saints: "They did all eat the same spiritual meat." The "fathers" from the beginning had but one table, one feast, one bread. Thus they were nourished up unto life eternal. That which a redeemed sinner is to feed upon must be the same in every age; for that which is to be nourished is the same, the appetite is the same, and the strength and stature into which they are to grow is the same. Sometimes it was typified by the flesh of the sacrifice; sometimes by the shew-bread; sometimes by the manna; sometimes by the fruits of the garden (Revelation 2:7). But all these pointed to the one heavenly bread,—Jesus, the Christ of God; to His broken body; to His flesh, which is meat indeed; to His whole person as the very and true bread of God, on which the church has been feeding from the beginning, and will feed to the end. This is the one bread which has satisfied the church's hunger all along; which sharpens even while it appeases the appetite; which suits itself to the thousand varied cases and constitutions; which creates as well as nourishes spiritual life; which invigorates the church's strength, and knits together the various members of the one body; producing a unity, and sympathy, and identity between them all which nothing else could do. The bread on which Paul fed is the same on which Abel fed. What a link, what a fellowship is this! The bread on which we feed in these last days is that on which Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David fed. What a fellowship is this! One body and one bread! Christ the one true bread for the sustenance of the one church; even of all who have been purchased by His one precious blood, and made alive by His one mighty Spirit, the one Spirit of life, the one Spirit of adoption, the one Spirit of grace and of glory. There are not two bodies, but one, so there are not two kinds of bread, but one; and that one suffices for every age. It is everlasting bread. It is the eternal loaf, of which the whole family have eaten, and which yet remains undiminished and unchanged; still capable of feeding millions and millions more.

III. The oneness of the water. "They did all drink the same spiritual drink." The whole church,—all saints; not only Israel, but the saints before Israel, and the saints since these days. They were "all baptized into one Spirit," and all drank the one living water, out of the one eternal well. It was not one water for the Old Testament saints, and another for the New; but one for all. There was but one drink that could quench the thirst, and it was supplied abundantly from the beginning. The living water is the Holy Spirit, as we read in John (7:37, 38), where, after recording Christ's proclamation of living water in the temple, the evangelist adds, "This spake He of the Spirit." It is of this living water that Isaiah speaks (55:1); of it also it is that Jesus speaks to the woman of Sychar; of it also that John speaks in the Revelation (21:6, 22:17). In the passage before us it is specially connected with "the Rock." It is not a well, or a river, or a fountain, but a rock,—the rock of the desert,—and "that Rock was Christ." For it is Christ that contains the fullness of the Spirit for us. He is the Rock which holds the water; the Rock which, when touched by the rod of faith, pours forth its riches. One rock and one water from the beginning, for the one body, the one church; the rock of the desert, the rock which stands hard by the mountain of the law, yet which is not of it; the rock beside which faith stands, which faith touches, and which, to such a touch, yields its gushing fullness. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters!"

IV. The oneness of the way. It is through the desert. Israel's desert was but a type of the church's. Israel's forty years' marches and encampments were but specimens and illustrations of ours. Differences there have been and will be; yet substantially the way is the same, the perils the same, the difficulties the same, the sorrows the same. One way! Yes, one way from the first; sure and safe, yet rough, and hard, and dark. That way is not of chance, nor by the laws of nature or society; but directly of divine appointment. Each turn is arranged. Its beginning, duration, course, ending, are all divinely planned. God, in His pillar cloud, is our guide, protector, shade, security, so that we fear no evil. God in Christ is our companion, and friend, and comforter all through. It is His way, not ours; and it is good. We are strangers and pilgrims as were all the fathers,—Abraham (Hebrew 11:13), David, all the saints of old (1 Chronicles 29:15). One way! Only one way to the one city for the millions of the saved. While, in one sense, we say that the wilderness is the way, in another, we say that Christ is the way: "I am the way." What a truth for our day, when more than ever men are walking in ways of their own, and imagining that these ways are as numerous and as diverse as the feet that tread them, or the vain hearts that devise them.

V. The oneness of the discipline. The way is that of discipline and education throughout. The road may be longer or shorter, darker or brighter, still it is on that way that God deals with His own in discipline. As there is a oneness in discipline, so is there a oneness in sin, and backsliding, and unbelief in the tendency to depart from the living God. The discipline is various, yet one; it is suited to the case of each, yet is, up to a certain point, the same in all. The church has always needed this; and the interval between her being called and her reaching the inheritance is the time during which it is exercised. God does it Himself. He appoints it, provides it, carries it out. Each day's trials, each day's work, each day's business, each day's crosses, each day's cares and burdens,—all these are discipline. They are, whether lighter or heavier, the rebukings and chastenings of Him into whose family we have been brought. He proves us, tries us, sifts us, empties us from vessel to vessel, tosses us up and down that the chaff may be blown away. He does not allow us to sit down, and say, This is my rest. He makes us feel that this is not our rest. Satan is here; sin is here; the flesh is here; pain is here; human passions are here; death is here; there cannot be rest. Thus God has dealt in past ages with His one family,—His sons and daughters,—His church; and thus He deals with them still. Israel's discipline in the desert, is the church's discipline till she enters Canaan. Through much tribulation she must enter the kingdom of heavens one rod, one hand, one wisdom, one love, for the one family, from the first.

VI. The oneness of the inheritance. The inheritance is not mentioned in our passage; but it is assumed; for the wilderness does not last forever, and the issue of the church's pilgrimage is glory. Israel's journey was toward Canaan; her hope was the land flowing with milk and honey, and her eye was on that goodly mountain, even Lebanon. All her tribes and families had one hope; and with that one hope in view they pressed forward. So for us there is one hope; the hope of the saints from the beginning; the church's heritage and kingdom; the glory to be revealed in the day of the Lord's appearing. One hope, one recompense, one glory, one kingdom, one inheritance, one eternal throne for herself and for her Lord. An inheritance it is, incorruptible and undefiled; made up of many parts, as we see in the epistles to the seven churches, yet but one, the inheritance of the saints in light; the center of which is the new Jerusalem,—the circumference, the illimitable universe of God's wide and glorious creation.

(1.) Learn our fellowship with all saints. Oneness with the church from the first day of salvation is our privilege. We stand side by side with them, see the same sights, hear the same sounds, use the same words, stand before the same altar, eat the same bread, drink the same water. We are made "able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth and length, what is the depth and height, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge."

(2.) Learn the common standing of all redeemed men. Their feet are on the one Rock of Ages. They are washed in the same blood. They are gathered round the one cross of Christ. Not one higher or lower; not the New Testament saints higher than the Old, but all alike occupying the same ground provided for sinners by the one Redeemer of the church.

(3.) Learn the strength for a holy walk. There is food provided; there is spiritual drink; there is companionship on the way,—all the saints are there; there is Christ himself our guide, keeper, light, life, strength. How inexcusable if we be inconsistent! And what a warning in the case of Israel! "With some of them God was not well pleased." They turned aside, they disbelieved His word, they followed idols. Let us take heed. God expects us to be holy; and He has provided for our being so. Onward then, right onward, through rough and smooth, through sorrow and joy, till we rest in Jerusalem.