And the Rock was Christ

One of the most important things ever said, was: “And the rock was Christ”.

These words appear in a letter sent to people, living in the port of Corinth. It was sent by the Apostle Paul to the early Christian church; this group of believers, had been founded by the Risen Jesus Christ, through the ministry of the Apostle Paul, around about 51-53 AD. Paul spent 18 months there, while he lived with, and worked as a tentmaker, alongside 2 Jews, Priscilla and Aquila (see Acts 18:1-18).

“And the rock was Christ”: The words are most important, because of what they means now, and what they refer back to. They hark back to the rock, which, strangely supplied Israel, God’s people, with water, during their years in the wilderness (about 1250 BC; or 1400 BC according to traditional scholars).

This is part of Paul’s letter:

I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless with most of them God was not pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness. (1Corinthians 10:1-5).

What is this? They drank from the supernatural Rock, which followed them? How does a rock follow a group of people? (Exegetes must deal with the text).

One passage worth reading to get the background is Numbers 20:2-13

Now there was no water for the congregation; and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people contended with Moses, and said, “Would that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain, or figs, or vines, or pomegranates; and there is no water to drink.” Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tent of meeting, and fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them, and the LORD said to Moses, “Take the rod, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water; so you shall bring water out of the rock for them; so you shall give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his rod twice; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their cattle. And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel contended with the LORD, and he showed himself holy among them.

“And the rock was Christ”? Numerous other references can be found in the Old Testament, which show that traditionally, God was referred to as The Rock.

  • “The Rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is he (Deuteronomy 32:4).
  • “But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked; you waxed fat, you grew thick, you became sleek; then he forsook God who made him, and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation (Deuteronomy 32:15)
  • He said, “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; thou savest me from violence (2Samuel 22:2-3).
  • “For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? (2Samuel 22:32).
  • “The LORD lives; and blessed be my rock, and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation (2Samuel 22:47),…

Putting it together:

“And the rock was Christ”? Paul is equating this rock, with Jesus, the Christ. He is not saying that a man was with them, back there.  But he is saying, that this One, this Christ, was present throughout the Old Testament.

Now we know that Jesus of Nazareth, was born of Mary, as a baby. And that he was a true human being. He was NOT God stuffed into a skin, like air into a paper bag. He was truly a human being. No one really thought any differently of him. We also know that he was the Christ (or Messiah). This was the mystery of his personhood, revealed to Peter, by the God and Father of Jesus Christ – our Father in heaven (see Matthew 16:16-17).  This revelation has flowed out into the world.

The once very angry Saul of Tarsus, was met by the Risen Jesus Christ while he travelled the road to Damascus. This was a stunning confrontation. Saul had thought that Jesus, the man from Nazareth, was just plain dead. He had also thought that the early Christians were blasphemous. He was out to arrest them. But, he himself, was … arrested by Christ. He was faced with the facts. Jesus, the Nazarene, was the Messiah, (which means “the Christ”).

Saul’s life was radically altered.
His somewhat pessimistic outlook was replaced by a strange new hope.
His Greek name was also Paul.
  That name became more prominent in its usage. This was a change.  This man’s character was changed too.  He had seen what life was all about.
  He could see clearly now.  As with others of faith (Luke 24:31), his eyes were opened, and he recognised Jesus, as truly God, truly Man, truly Messiah.

Paul was no longer on the road to destroy Christians.
He was on the road, to take part in a world-changing matter: The resurrection of Jesus as Victor over death, in this world (not just the next!)

Paul’s new task, and new joy, was to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things (Ephesians 3:9). Creation had a future. The mystery of creation was that it had a servant nation – Israel. And a rock had been with them all their days. And the rock was Christ.

Commenting, on this passage, Geoffrey Bingham says:

“I found it remarkable that not one commentator has even questioned Paul’s statement, nor found it extraordinary”.

Not one? Wow. He goes on to explain what Paul does here:

‘Paul takes the word ‘Christ’ and projects it back to the time when Israel was in the desert. We may say that Paul was using the term ‘Christ’ to show that in his being as Word and Son he was present in Israel.’ (G. C. Bingham, Christ and the Triune Glory, NCPI, p. 43)

  • Get a PDF copy of this book, in a free download above.

One may notice how reluctant scholars often are these days to use such bold, Christological hermeneutics. Perhaps we should give more consideration to what happened, when the Risen Jesus ‘interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures’ (Luke 24:27).  Timid proclamation, has been fostered by too much theology being done in clinical style, in Universities, where the corportate mindset is almost cut off from the local congregational joy in knowing Christ.

Do you know the plan of the mystery? It was hidden for ages. It has now been revealed, and is being revealed. The wisdom of God in its rich variety, is now being made known to the world, through the church!

Jesus was the one who ‘came down from heaven’ (John 6:38; 58). Prior to his coming he was not a fleshy man, but a person nevertheless. Indeed he was the Divine Person, the Eternal Word, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Living Christ, the Son of God.

“The Christ”, had been with God, at Creation. He had been with Israel in their journey. Israel knew that Moses struck a rock for water to flow for the people. (‘And the rock was Christ’). At this point in history, Christ helped Moses. He was the spiritual food. He was the supply of Living Water, in the wilderness. He was the Word, speaking to their hearts. He appeared and spoke to the hearts of the first believers, who knew: And ‘the Word became flesh’ and lived among us. And we have seen his glory. His resurrection from death is grand; his suffering on the cross was essential, that our sins be forgiven, and that we be reconciled to God, our Father. The Holy Spirit takes the things of the Son, especially his sufferings, and shows this to be the very promised suffering servant of Isaiah 40-55. Surely he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows (Is. 53).

Rock Solid – that is what God’s gift to us, is, in Jesus Christ. He is moveable, in that he goes with us, always. He is secure and stable for the human race, in that his Cross is founded deeply within the purpose of creation, dealing with sin, revealing God’s love for the world, and securing eternal life—gushing forth rivers of living water – to drink, as human beings.

“And the rock was Christ”. Remarkable words. Remarkable truth. Remarkable future.

7 responses

30 11 2010
Paul + Carol Bradford

We were under the impression that Saint Peter was the Rock. Is this not true?

30 11 2010

Hello Paul & Carol,
The passage you are thinking of is in Matthew 16:16-18

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.
18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

This is the supposed basis for Papal authority – Peter. Peter comes from “Petros”, meaning rock….

However, I would say, with others, that Jesus meant that Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah, was “the rock” solid truth upon which the church was built. Peter himself, was a fairly unstable person in many ways. Hardly ‘rock-like’. He denied Jesus badly, at the time of his arrest. Even well after Peter’s Spirit-filled ministry was underway (from Acts 2, onward), he faltered very badly, and Paul had to correct his theology, and his behaviour. See Galatians 2:11-14, where Peter (also called Cephas), was publicly opposed, while Paul straightened out the gospel, as by faith alone!

So, the rock was Peter’s confession. In the Old Testament, ‘the rock’ of ages, was the pre-incarnate son of God. He had not yet, become flesh, in Mary’s womb. Yet he was ever-present to Israel.

Cheers, Trevor

30 11 2010
Paul + Carol Bradford

Thank you, Trevor, for your message about the Rock.

13 05 2011
Dugi Guides

It may well take me a even though to finish reading through all your posts, but I can already tell that I actually like your composing technique. I hope to hear far more from you!

18 03 2012

Hey Trevor,
So do feel as though Christ being the Rock is somehow related to the severity of punishment laid upon Moses for his disobedience (striking rather than speaking)?

15 05 2012

In matters of kindness and severity, I accept that in his good wisdom, ‘the judge of all the earth, does right’. Moses had a very significant role, and I take it that the Lord expected a suitable degree of faith, and responsiveness from him. So, yea, you may recall how Moses killed that Egyptian – he was prone to be hot-headed, it seems.

27 04 2018

Thanks for the commendation, Troy.
The insight is in Geoff’s book here:

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