Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Rock Christ - A Sermon by Francis Turretin

1 Cor. 10:4, “And that Rock was Christ.”
(Translated from Turrettin for the Reformed Presbyterian and Covenanter.)
(Originally appeared in the Reformed Presbyterian and Covenanter September 1868)

In the whole history of the Israelites wandering through the desert, there occurs scarcely anything more illustrious and wonderful, certainly nothing more mysterious, and which shadows forth Christ and his saving benefits more significantly, than the remarkable miracle of the Rock and the waters flowing from it, which God gave his chosen people to drink.

Paul's words in 1 Cor. 10:4 are, “And they did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ.” The aim of the apostle is to show the identity of the sacraments under the Old Testament with those under the New, if not in the sign, yet at least in the thing signified; lest the Corinthians, by supposing that they possessed more excellent sacraments, might promise themselves impunity in their sins, especially in the sin of idolatry, of which he was anxious to cure them. Hence he shows that the fathers were not in this respect inferior to us, but had the same sacraments as we, or analogous sacraments, which would correspond with baptism and the Lord's Supper. The type of baptism he proves in the pillar of the cloud, and in the passage of the sea. But the type of the supper he proves in both its symbols, the bread in the manna, the drink in the rock, and in the waters that gushed out of it.

But that we may proceed to the mystery, to which the Holy Spirit in this connection evidently designs to call our attention, we must now endeavor to penetrate beneath the surface, and discover what lies hidden there. For that here there is a mystery, even though Paul had given us no express intimation of it, the very nature of the thing and the accompanying circumstances clearly evince. For if God had proposed to himself nothing more than to refresh his people with wholesome drink, could he not have sent water from heaven, or have brought them into some place that abounded in fountains of water? What necessity was there for him either to select a rock for this purpose, or to use a rod in smiting it that water might issue from it? The very fact, that to Moses he promised to stand upon the rock until the miracle would be performed, indicates with sufficient clearness that none other than the Son of God, who was the leader of the people, accomplished this whole work, and that everything connected with it related to none other than to him.

Since, then, there is something peculiar in the apostle's selecting that rock from which the waters flowed, the ground of the analogy which it furnishes is deserving of careful consideration. For as God to supply his people with water chose in preference to everything else a rock, which not only contains no water in itself, but than which to yield water nothing in nature is more unlikely; so to the flesh nothing appears more absurd than to receive salvation from the crucified One, to obtain life from death, happiness from misery, the blessing from the curse. With reference to this, Christ is said to be a stumbling block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks, but the wisdom and power of God to them who are the called. Again, as water flowed out of this rock, so Christ becomes to his people a fountain springing up to eternal life, and most copiously pouring out his waters of grace and salvation. Hence the prophets and the other inspired writers so frequently shadow forth under the symbol of water the saving benefits of Christ, and the gifts of his Spirit. But as the rock yielded no water until it was smitten, and when smitten, water gushed out of it in abundance, by which the Israelites were refreshed; so from the side of Christ there flowed blood and water, by which believers, hastening forward to the heavenly land of promise, are refreshed in the desert of the world. For since God could grant no favor to the sinner, unless appeased by the death of his Son, it behooved him to be stricken and afflicted, that the chastisement of our peace might be laid upon him, and that by his stripes we might obtain salvation. But as the rock was smitten by the rod of Moses, so Christ was smitten not only by the Jews, of whom Moses was a figure, but also by the rod of the law, of which Moses was the minister, that is, by the curse and penalty denounced in the law. Isa. 53:4 and 5; Gal. 3:13. As the rock, when smitten, gave forth copious streams of water which abundantly supplied all the people, so Christ, who is the inexhaustible fountain of salvation, in whom there is a fulness of all grace, pours out most copiously those healthful waters, the gifts of the Spirit, which supply abundantly, not this or that believer in particular, but the whole church. Hence he is said to be made to us by the Father, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, and to be all in all. As nothing was more delightful to the Israelites while they remained in the dry and scorching desert, than fountains at whose streams of sweet purling water they could slake their thirst; so to believers, journeying through the parched and hot desert of the world, there is nothing more pleasant, nothing more grateful than to have belonging to. them a fountain, at which they may refresh themselves in their heat.

As the rock poured out its waters not for a moment, and then became dry, but perpetually, so long as the people were journeying in the desert, for it followed them, its streams flowing after them wherever they went; so the blood of Christ and the gifts of his grace continue through all times and in all places. Not only is he present to his children by the gifts which he so freely bestows upon them, but he himself dignifies them with his presence, yea, he does not follow them so much as he accompanies them, and goes before them, lest anything should fail them in the way in which they must walk. Hence two distinguishing privileges of believers are here brought to view, perseverance in grace, and the presence of Christ himself, according to which he has promised to be with us even to the end of the world. And although for the purpose of chastising our ingratitude, or exercising our faith, he sometimes suffers those refreshing waters to be withdrawn for a little, as in the desert, yet he never absolutely denies them to us, but intends that we harassing him, as it were, by our prayers, shall draw them out in the practice of faith and repentance.

Furthermore, in this comparison, many points of dissimilarity are to be observed. The rock of Moses was destitute of life and reason; but Christ is the living, life-giving and rational rock. It had no water in its bosom; but Christ is the fountain of life, from whose fulness we all receive grace for grace. It could satisfy bodily thirst for the time, but not for ever; but Christ makes us so to drink of his health-giving water, that when we have once drank from him, we thirst no more, but he becomes in us a fountain springing up to eternal life. The rock could not follow the Israelites, but Christ accompanies them perpetually as the author and finisher of their faith, who after having redeemed them from the spiritual Egypt, and led them through the red sea of his own blood, conducts them in the desert of the world by the lamp of his word, nourishes them with celestial manna, quenches their thirst and refreshes them with healthful waters, until they come to the heavenly Canaan, where “he who is on the throne, will shade them, and they shall hunger no more, neither shall they thirst any more, nor shall the sun light on them, for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them,” not to streams, “but to living fountains of waters, and 'shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” So let it be.

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