There are several things that need to be said concerning this passage. The apostle uses the word
“example.” This is the word from which we get “type,” which means a pattern. For instance, in
Romans 5, Adam is said to be a “type” or a pattern of Christ. As Reformed Christians we tend to be
very modest and temperate in the use of types. That there are types is without question, that the Bible
is not to be interpreted by an unrestrained imagination is also without question. The bible does hook
our imaginations in such passages as Psalm 23, where the Lord is called “My shepherd,” and where
Jesus calls Himself the “Good shepherd,” but this does not mean that we are to take wild flights of
The word is used twice in I Cor. 10, in verse 6 and verse 11. That the manna and the rock are types of
Christ is without question, and Christ refers to Himself and the water of life, and the bread of life.
These figures are very rich indeed. But because of the very nature of imagination, whatever we may
think we learn from the figures must be subjected to the rule of consistency with the rest of Scripture
and the rule of faith. It also must be subjected to the rule of language. What ever Jesus meant when
He said He was the Good Shepherd is tied to the words “good” and “shepherd.” Conceivable, it could
not mean that He is a skillful soccer player.
This word is also used in Hebrews 8:5, when the things that Moses prepared for the tabernacle in the
wilderness are said to be made after the “patterns” of things in heaven. This is the reason such strict
injunctions were given to Moses to be very careful how they prepared the things, because they were
types of heavenly things—that is of spiritual things—are Moses was to be very careful he did not
distort the meaning. For the same reason, we must be very sober in our interpretation of these figures
that we do not go beyond that which is intended by Scripture. The figure must be permitted to say
what it says, but it must not be stretched beyond what God actually said.
The word is also used in I Peter 5:3, and I Thess. 1:7 where ministers are called to be examples to the
flock. Ministers are called to pattern Christian obedience to the people of God. Again, we must not
push the figure beyond the rest of Scripture, as if Christ were not the only express image of God.
It is important for us to realize the nature of the figures. The things referred to in I Cor. 10 are things
in the history of Israel that are figures of the things of Christ. It is not the other way around. I have
often said that Christ did not come to lead us to Moses; but that Moses came to lead us to Christ.
Once you have found the treasure that the pirates buried, it might be curious to look over the
topography in order to understand the map better, but why? The map has filled its purpose when the
treasure is found. So the Scriptures are to be our lifelong study—not simply that we know what they
say, for the Jews did this—but that we know who Christ is and love and follow Him. In heaven, when
our knowledge of Christ is complete, we will have no further need of the Scriptures.
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