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1 Corinthians #11 – The Faithfulness of God 1 Corinthians 10:11-13

19 Dec

10:11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.

Paul mentions again that these punitive actions taken by God were to serve as examples for Christian believers. In fact, Paul continues, these were recorded in Scripture to provide warnings for Corinthian saints.

While Scripture clearly has a manifold purpose for the people of God, one of those purposes is to contain warnings so that God’s people do not continue to make the same mistakes that their spiritual ancestors made at an earlier time (2 Tim 3:16–17).

The term “warnings” (νουθεσία, nouthesia and cognates) was a favorite of Paul’s. In fact Paul saw warning as a very important part of his apostolic ministry and the ministry that believers had with one another. (See use of this Greek term in Rom 15:14; 1 Cor 4:14; Col 1:28; 3:16; 1 Thess 5:12, 14; 2 Thess 3:15; and Titus 3:10). Paul ends this verse with a very important reference of eschatological significance to his readership.

The apostle’s phrase “ends of the ages” (translated by the NIV as “the fulfillment of the ages”) clearly reflects his eschatological perspective. When Paul uses the term “ages” he is reflecting the Jewish apocalyptic notion of this age and of the coming age (cf. Eph 1:21; 2:7). The apostle has already used the phrase “this age” in 1 Cor 1:20; 2:6, 8; 3:18 in a pejorative sense. Because of Christ’s resurrection and current reign at the right hand of God, Paul affirms that Christians live in the final period of human history, a period whose boundaries are set by the resurrection and ascension of Christ at one end and by Christ’s second coming at the other end.

Since all of God’s prior dealings with mankind, both through his general revelation as well as his revelation through his elect people, pointed toward the age characterized by the reign of Christ, Paul affirms all prior Scriptures have as their ultimate goal instruction and teaching for those who live in the era of the Messiah. This is why Paul so naturally embraces the concept that everything which occurred in past generations and everything recorded in sacred Scripture is meaningful for God’s people who live in the last days of God’s dispensation.

10:12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

Because of the surrounding contextual injunctions against idolatry as well as Paul’s threats to the Corinthians about possible destruction by God, there is little doubt what Paul intends to communicate here. This verse is written to persuade idolatrous Corinthian believers that they can have too much confidence about their security with God. Within the rhetorical context of 1 Cor 10 Paul’s reference to standing firm refers to a misplaced confidence that certain believers have that they can continue to participate in immorality and idolatry and never be punished by God.

Even though these saints had Corinth had been baptized, had partaken of the Lord’s Supper and had a relationship with Christ, none of these insulated them from the need to be told “be careful that you don’t fall.” John Calvin’s interpretation which says that Paul does not want them to “be afraid that there is doubt about their salvation”  can only be maintained by removing this verse from its clear exegetical setting which is characterized by threats of destruction from God because of idolatry, immorality, the testing of God, and open rebellion.

The Christian’s assurance of blamelessness based upon the work of God in Christ (1:7–9) was not meant to negate or undermine the teaching found in ch. 10. In fact, as Paul will point out in v. 13, his acknowledgment of the possibility of destruction from God is not predicated on the issue of the faithfulness of God.[1]

We are living in a greatly different age from that of the Hebrews in the wilderness under Moses, but we can learn a valuable lesson from their experience. Like them we can forfeit our blessing, reward, and effectiveness in the Lord’s service if, in overconfidence and presumption, we take our liberties too far and fall into disobedience and sin. We will not lose our salvation, but we can easily lose our virtue and usefulness, and become disqualified in the race of the Christian life.

Every believer, especially when he becomes self-confident in his Christian liberty and spiritual maturity, should take heed lest he fall. Paul expresses a timeless principle, articulated in Proverbs as “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (16:18). It is easy to substitute confidence in ourselves for confidence in the Lord—accepting His guidance and blessing and then taking credit for the work He does through us. It is also easy to become so enamored of our freedom in Christ that we forget we are His, bought with a price and called to obedience to His Word and to His service.[2]

The Bible is filled with examples of the dangers of overconfidence. The book of Esther centers around the plan of a proud and overconfident man who saw his plan backfire. King Ahasuerus of Persia promoted Haman to be his second in command, with instructions for the people to bow before Haman as they would the king. Mordecai, however, would not bow to him, and when the proud and arrogant Haman was told that Mordecai was a Jew he persuaded Ahasuerus to declare an edict that would give him revenge on all Jews in the land by having them destroyed. Through the intercession of Queen Esther, also a Jew and the niece of Mordecai, the king issued a far different edict, which allowed and even encouraged the Jews to defend themselves—which they did with great success. Haman was hanged on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai, who was given all of Haman’s possessions and the royal honor Haman had expected for himself.

Sennacherib, king of Assyria, taunted Israel with the boast that her God could no more save her than the gods of other lands had saved them. A short time later, “the angel of the Lord went out, and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men arose early in the morning, behold, all of these were dead.” A few days after the defeated king returned to Assyria, he was assassinated by two of his own sons and succeeded on the throne by a third (Isa. 37:36–38).

Peter discovered that where he thought he was strongest and most dependable he actually was the weakest. He assured Jesus, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” But, as Jesus then predicted, before dawn Peter three times denied even knowing Jesus (Luke 22:33–34, 54–62).

The church at Sardis was proud of her reputation for being spiritually alive, but the Lord warned her that she was really dead and needed to repent (Rev. 3:1–2). If she did not He would come upon her like a thief (v. 3)—just as one night enemy soldiers under Cyrus had sneaked into the seemingly impregnable acropolis at Sardis by way of an unguarded footpath. A handful of soldiers crept up the path and opened the gates to the rest of the army. Overconfidence led to carelessness, and carelessness led to defeat.

The self-confident believers at Laodicea thought they were “wealthy” and in “need of nothing,” but were told by the Lord that they were really “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (3:17).

Christians who become self-confident become less dependent on God’s Word and God’s Spirit and become careless in their living. As carelessness increases, openness to temptation increases and resistance to sin decreases. When we feel most secure in ourselves—when we think our spiritual life is the strongest, our doctrine the soundest, and our morals the purest—we should be most on our guard and most dependent on the Lord.

10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

In light of the possibility of falling and being destroyed by God, Paul wants to remind the Corinthians that they cannot justifiably excuse themselves from bearing responsibility in their own sinful behavior. In the Greco-Roman world temptations of immorality, idolatry, etc. were commonplace. This means that the Corinthians cannot excuse themselves on the basis of special pleading regarding their unique circumstances in their temptations.

Next the apostle affirms the faithfulness of God, though it is not a faithfulness which will preclude the possibility of the Corinthians sinning and falling. Rather the faithfulness of God is manifested in the fact that he will support them spiritually and prevent them from being overwhelmed by an unbearable temptation. Kistemaker rightly noted in this regard “God’s faithfulness to his people is perfect, even though man’s faithfulness to him is imperfect. Scripture proves that not God but man is a covenant breaker.”  Since the faithfulness of God is likewise a doctrinal affirmation of the Old Testament, there is no way that Paul would have assumed the affirmation of the faithfulness of God would excuse God’s covenant people from owning moral responsibility.

Nor would the faithfulness of God, as the previous Old Testament illustrations demonstrate, preclude God’s severe punishment of his covenant people. Having spoken a word about the character of God (“God is faithful”) and a word about the action of God (“he will not let you be tempted”), Paul now shifts to the second person plural and tells the Corinthians about their responsibilities. He instructs them with the words, “you can bear,” thereby jerking them out of any misconceived notions of passivity on the part of a believer in moral choices. Paul next affirms that as temptations occur in the context of temptations to immorality and idolatry, God will provide an exit. As the concluding phrase of v. 13 make evident, though, the way out which God provides is that the believer endures the temptation. C.K. Barrett’s analysis of these concluding thoughts and their connection to the following unit of thought in chapter 10 are quite helpful. The Christian

… must resist, and he must not put his trust in false securities; this would be to court and insure disaster. The way out is for those who seek it, not for those who (like the Corinthians) are, where idolatry is concerned, looking for the way in. The connection with the next paragraph makes this clear.

The basic meaning of temptation (peirasmos) is simply to test or prove, and has no negative connotation. Whether it becomes a proof of righteousness or an inducement to evil depends on our response. If we resist it in God’s power, it is a test that proves our faithfulness. If we do not resist, it becomes a solicitation to sin. The Bible uses the term in both ways, and I believe that Paul has both meanings in mind here.

When “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 4:1) it is clear that both God and Satan participated in the testing. God intended the test to prove His Son’s righteousness, but Satan intended it to induce Jesus to misuse His divine powers and to give His allegiance to Satan. Job was tested in much the same way. God allowed Job to be afflicted in order to prove His servant was an “upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:8). Satan’s purpose was the opposite: to prove that Job was faithful only because of the blessings and prosperity the Lord had given him and that, if those things were taken away, Job would “surely curse Thee to Thy face” (v. 11).

God’s tests are never a solicitation to evil, and James strongly corrects those who suggest such a thing. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone” (James 1:13). “By evil” is the key to the difference between the two types of temptation. In the wilderness God tested Jesus by righteousness, whereas Satan tested Him by evil. A temptation becomes an inducement to evil only when a person “is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin” (James 1:14–15).

Earlier in his letter James wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” (1:2). The nouns trials (see also verse 12) and testing (v. 3) are from the same Greek root as the verb tempted in verses 13–14. The context indicates which sense is meant.

God often brings circumstances into our lives to test us. Like Job we usually do not at the time recognize them as tests, certainly not from God. But our response to them proves our faithfulness or unfaithfulness. How we react to financial difficulty, school problems, health trouble, or business setbacks will always test our faith, our reliance on our heavenly Father. If we do not turn to Him, however, the same circumstances can make us bitter, resentful, and angry. Rather than thanking God for the test, as James advises, we may even accuse Him. An opportunity to cheat on our income tax or take unfair advantage in a business deal will either prove our righteousness or prove our weakness. The circumstance or the opportunity is only a test, neither good nor evil in itself. Whether it results in good or evil, spiritual growth or spiritual decline, depends entirely on our response.

In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus says that we should ask God not to “lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13). “Evil” is better translated “the evil one,” referring to Satan. In other words we should pray that God will not allow tests to become temptations, in the sense of inducement to evil. The idea is, “Lord, stop us before Satan can turn your test into his temptation.”

Temptations come into every believer’s life—no one is exempt. Temptation is not sinful; the sin comes when the person gives in to temptation. Believers must not be shocked or discouraged, or think that they are alone in their shortcomings. Instead, they should realize their weaknesses and turn to God to resist the temptation. Enduring temptation brings great rewards (James 1:12). Yet God does not leave his people to Satan’s whims. God is not a spectator; he does not leave his children alone to face whatever temptations Satan can throw at them. Instead, God is faithful. He will not always remove the temptation, because facing it and remaining strong can be a growing experience; however, God does promise to keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. This means that there exists no temptation that a believer cannot resist. But the believer must resist and stand against it. Each temptation can be resisted because God made it possible to resist it. The secret to resisting temptation is to recognize the source of the temptation and then to recognize the source of strength in temptation. God promises to give his people the strength to resist.

Not only that, but God also promises to show you a way out so that you will not give in to the temptation and fall into sin. It will take self-discipline to look for that “way out” even in the middle of the temptation and then to take it when it is found. The way out is seldom easy and often requires support from others. One of the God-given ways of escape from temptation is common sense. If a believer knows that he will be tempted in certain situations, then he should stay away from them. Another way out of temptation is through Christian friends. Instead of trying to deal with temptation alone, a believer can explain her dilemma to a close Christian friend and ask for support. This friend can pray, hold the person accountable, and give valuable insights and advice.

The truth is that God loves his people so much that he will protect them from unbearable temptation. And he will always give a way out. Temptation need never drive a wedge between believers and God. Instead, a believer ought to be able to say, “Thank you, God, for trusting me that much. You know I can handle this temptation. Now what do you want me to do?”

BATTLE PLAN

In a culture filled with moral depravity and sin-inducing pressures, Paul gave strong encouragement to the Corinthians about temptation. He said:

  • Wrong desires and temptations happen to everyone, so don’t feel as though you have been singled out.
  • Others have resisted temptation and so can you.
  • Any temptation can be resisted because God will help you resist it.
  • God gives you a way to resist temptation by helping you
  • recognize people and situations that give you trouble;
  • run from anything you know is wrong;
  • choose to do only what is right;
  • pray for his help; and
  • seek friends who love God and can support you when you are tempted.

Running from a tempting situation is your first step on the way to victory (see 2 Timothy 2:22).

The phrase the way is formed by the definite article and a singular noun. In other words, there is only one way. The way of escape from every temptation, no matter what it is, is the same: it is through. Whether we have a test by God to prove our righteousness or a test by Satan to induce to sin, there is only one way we can pass the test. We escape temptation not by getting out of it but by passing through it. God does not take us out; He sees us through by making us able to endure it.

God’s own Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. It was the Father’s will that the Son be there, and Jesus did not leave until all three temptations were over. He met the temptations head-on. He “escaped” the temptations by enduring them in His Father’s power.

God provides three ways for us to endure temptation: prayer, trust, and focusing on Jesus Christ.

“Keep watching and praying, that you may not come into temptation,” Jesus told His disciples (Mark 14:38). If we do not pray, we can be sure a test will turn into temptation. Our first defense in a test or a trial is to pray, to turn to our heavenly Father and put the matter in His hands.

Second, we must trust. When we pray we must pray believing that the Lord will answer and help us. We also trust that, whatever the origin of the trial, God has allowed it to come for our good, to prove our faithfulness. God has a purpose for everything that comes to His children, and when we are tested or tempted we should gladly endure it in His power—for the sake of His glory and of our spiritual growth.

Third, we should focus on our Lord Jesus Christ. “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin” (Heb. 12:3–4). Christ endured more than we could ever be called on to endure. He understands our trials and He is able to take us through them.

The punishments that came upon the disobedient Israelites not only were an example to their fellow Hebrews but also to believers in every age since. More than that they were given for our instruction, for the benefit of Christians, those upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Instruction (nouthesia) is more than ordinary teaching. It means admonition and carries the connotation of warning. It is counsel given to persuade a person to change behavior in light of judgment. The ends of the ages refers to the time of Messiah, the time of redemption, the last days of world history before the messianic kingdom comes.

We are living in a greatly different age from that of the Hebrews in the wilderness under Moses, but we can learn a valuable lesson from their experience. Like them we can forfeit our blessing, reward, and effectiveness in the Lord’s service if, in overconfidence and presumption, we take our liberties too far and fall into disobedience and sin. We will not lose our salvation, but we can easily lose our virtue and usefulness, and become disqualified in the race of the Christian life.

Every believer, especially when he becomes self-confident in his Christian liberty and spiritual maturity, should take heed lest he fall. Paul expresses a timeless principle, articulated in Proverbs as “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (16:18). It is easy to substitute confidence in ourselves for confidence in the Lord—accepting His guidance and blessing and then taking credit for the work He does through us. It is also easy to become so enamored of our freedom in Christ that we forget we are His, bought with a price and called to obedience to His Word and to His service.

When I visited Israel several years ago I was shown the place at the Golan Heights where, in 1967, the Israelis penetrated the Syrian defenses and secured that strategic area for themselves. From those heights Syrian guns overlooked most of the Galilee region of northern Israel and were a constant threat. The entire Golan area was closely guarded by the Syrians, except for one spot where the cliffs were so high and sheer that they seemed perfectly safe from attack. One night, however, Israeli bulldozers cut out the cliffs enough to push tanks up to the top. By morning a large contingent of tanks, followed by infantry and supported by fighter planes, completely overran the Syrian positions and secured an area that extended ten miles inland. The spot the Syrians thought to be the safest turned out to be the most vulnerable.

The Bible is filled with examples of the dangers of overconfidence. The book of Esther centers around the plan of a proud and overconfident man who saw his plan backfire. King Ahasuerus of Persia promoted Haman to be his second in command, with instructions for the people to bow before Haman as they would the king. Mordecai, however, would not bow to him, and when the proud and arrogant Haman was told that Mordecai was a Jew he persuaded Ahasuerus to declare an edict that would give him revenge on all Jews in the land by having them destroyed. Through the intercession of Queen Esther, also a Jew and the niece of Mordecai, the king issued a far different edict, which allowed and even encouraged the Jews to defend themselves—which they did with great success. Haman was hanged on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai, who was given all of Haman’s possessions and the royal honor Haman had expected for himself.

Sennacherib, king of Assyria, taunted Israel with the boast that her God could no more save her than the gods of other lands had saved them. A short time later, “the angel of the Lord went out, and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men arose early in the morning, behold, all of these were dead.” A few days after the defeated king returned to Assyria, he was assassinated by two of his own sons and succeeded on the throne by a third (Isa. 37:36–38).

Peter discovered that where he thought he was strongest and most dependable he actually was the weakest. He assured Jesus, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” But, as Jesus then predicted, before dawn Peter three times denied even knowing Jesus (Luke 22:33–34, 54–62).

The church at Sardis was proud of her reputation for being spiritually alive, but the Lord warned her that she was really dead and needed to repent (Rev. 3:1–2). If she did not He would come upon her like a thief (v. 3)—just as one night enemy soldiers under Cyrus had sneaked into the seemingly impregnable acropolis at Sardis by way of an unguarded footpath. A handful of soldiers crept up the path and opened the gates to the rest of the army. Overconfidence led to carelessness, and carelessness led to defeat.

The self-confident believers at Laodicea thought they were “wealthy” and in “need of nothing,” but were told by the Lord that they were really “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (3:17).

Christians who become self-confident become less dependent on God’s Word and God’s Spirit and become careless in their living. As carelessness increases, openness to temptation increases and resistance to sin decreases. When we feel most secure in ourselves—when we think our spiritual life is the strongest, our doctrine the soundest, and our morals the purest—we should be most on our guard and most dependent on the Lord.

After the strong warning about self-confidence and pride, Paul gives a strong word of encouragement about God’s help when we are tempted (v. 13). First he assures us that none of us has temptations that are unique. Then he assures us that we can also resist and overcome every temptation if we rely on God.

By this time the Corinthians were no doubt wondering how they could possibly avoid all the pitfalls Paul had just described and illustrated. “How do we keep from craving evil things as Israel did (cf. v. 6)? How do we keep from falling into idolatry in our hearts? How can we live righteous lives when the society around us is so wicked? How can we avoid trying the Lord and how can we keep from grumbling?”

Paul’s answer is that a Christian should recognize that victory is always available, because a believer can never get into temptation that he cannot get out of. For one thing, Paul explains, No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man.

The basic meaning of temptation (peirasmos) is simply to test or prove, and has no negative connotation. Whether it becomes a proof of righteousness or an inducement to evil depends on our response. If we resist it in God’s power, it is a test that proves our faithfulness. If we do not resist, it becomes a solicitation to sin. The Bible uses the term in both ways, and I believe that Paul has both meanings in mind here.

When “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 4:1) it is clear that both God and Satan participated in the testing. God intended the test to prove His Son’s righteousness, but Satan intended it to induce Jesus to misuse His divine powers and to give His allegiance to Satan. Job was tested in much the same way. God allowed Job to be afflicted in order to prove His servant was an “upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:8). Satan’s purpose was the opposite: to prove that Job was faithful only because of the blessings and prosperity the Lord had given him and that, if those things were taken away, Job would “surely curse Thee to Thy face” (v. 11).

God’s tests are never a solicitation to evil, and James strongly corrects those who suggest such a thing. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone” (James 1:13). “By evil” is the key to the difference between the two types of temptation. In the wilderness God tested Jesus by righteousness, whereas Satan tested Him by evil. A temptation becomes an inducement to evil only when a person “is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin” (James 1:14–15).

Earlier in his letter James wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” (1:2). The nouns trials (see also verse 12) and testing (v. 3) are from the same Greek root as the verb tempted in verses 13–14. The context indicates which sense is meant.

God often brings circumstances into our lives to test us. Like Job we usually do not at the time recognize them as tests, certainly not from God. But our response to them proves our faithfulness or unfaithfulness. How we react to financial difficulty, school problems, health trouble, or business setbacks will always test our faith, our reliance on our heavenly Father. If we do not turn to Him, however, the same circumstances can make us bitter, resentful, and angry. Rather than thanking God for the test, as James advises, we may even accuse Him. An opportunity to cheat on our income tax or take unfair advantage in a business deal will either prove our righteousness or prove our weakness. The circumstance or the opportunity is only a test, neither good nor evil in itself. Whether it results in good or evil, spiritual growth or spiritual decline, depends entirely on our response.

In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus says that we should ask God not to “lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13). “Evil” is better translated “the evil one,” referring to Satan. In other words we should pray that God will not allow tests to become temptations, in the sense of inducement to evil. The idea is, “Lord, stop us before Satan can turn your test into his temptation.”

Common to man is one word (anthrōpinos) in Greek and simply means “that which is human, characteristic of or belonging to mankind.” In other words, Paul says there is no such thing as a superhuman or supernatural temptation. Temptations are human experiences. The term also carries the idea of usual or typical, as indicated by common. Temptations are never unique experiences to us. We can never have a temptation that has not been experienced by millions of other people. Circumstances differ but basic temptations do not. Even the Son of God was “tempted in all things as we are” (Heb. 4:15), and because of that “He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (2:18). And because temptations are common to us all we are able to “confess [our] sins to one another” (James 5:16) and to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). We are all in the same boat.

Not only are temptations common to men but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able. No believer can claim that he was overwhelmed by temptation or that “the devil made me do it.” No one, not even Satan, can make us sin. He cannot even make an unbeliever sin. No temptation is inherently stronger than our spiritual resources. People sin because they willingly sin.

The Christian, however, has his heavenly Father’s help in resisting temptation. God is faithful. He remains true to His own. “From six troubles He will deliver you, even in seven evil will not touch you” (Job 5:19). When our faithfulness is tested we have God’s own faithfulness as our resource. We can be absolutely certain that He will not allow [us] to be tempted beyond what [we] are able. That is God’s response when we pray, “do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13). He will not let us experience any test we are not able to meet.

When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked them twice whom they had come for, who was designated on their arrest order. After they answered for the second time, “Jesus the Nazarene,” He said, “If therefore you seek Me, let these go their way” (John 18:4–9). John explains that Jesus prevented the disciples from being arrested with Him in order “that the word might be fulfilled which He spoke, ‘Of those whom Thou hast given Me I lost not one’ ” (v. 9). The disciples were not yet ready for such a test. Had they been arrested, they would have been devastated, and Jesus would not permit it. As best we know from church history, most of those eleven disciples died a martyr’s death. The other, John, was exiled for life on the island of Patmos. All of them went through persecution, imprisonment, and countless hardships for the sake of the gospel. But they did not go through those things until they were ready to handle them.

But with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it. The phrase the way is formed by the definite article and a singular noun. In other words, there is only one way. The way of escape from every temptation, no matter what it is, is the same: it is through. Whether we have a test by God to prove our righteousness or a test by Satan to induce to sin, there is only one way we can pass the test. We escape temptation not by getting out of it but by passing through it. God does not take us out; He sees us through by making us able to endure it.

God’s own Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. It was the Father’s will that the Son be there, and Jesus did not leave until all three temptations were over. He met the temptations head-on. He “escaped” the temptations by enduring them in His Father’s power.

God provides three ways for us to endure temptation: prayer, trust, and focusing on Jesus Christ.

“Keep watching and praying, that you may not come into temptation,” Jesus told His disciples (Mark 14:38). If we do not pray, we can be sure a test will turn into temptation. Our first defense in a test or a trial is to pray, to turn to our heavenly Father and put the matter in His hands.

Second, we must trust. When we pray we must pray believing that the Lord will answer and help us. We also trust that, whatever the origin of the trial, God has allowed it to come for our good, to prove our faithfulness. God has a purpose for everything that comes to His children, and when we are tested or tempted we should gladly endure it in His power—for the sake of His glory and of our spiritual growth.

Third, we should focus on our Lord Jesus Christ. “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin” (Heb. 12:3–4). Christ endured more than we could ever be called on to endure. He understands our trials and He is able to take us through them.

In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress Christian and Hopeful fall asleep in a field belonging to giant Despair. The giant finds them and takes them into Doubting Castle, where he puts them in a dark and stinking dungeon, without food or water. On his wife’s advice, the giant first beats them mercilessly and then suggests they commit suicide. After the giant leaves, the two companions discuss what they should do. Finally Christian remembers the key in his pocket. “I have a key in my bosom called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any lock in Doubting Castle.” Sure enough, it opened all the doors in the castle and even the gate. “Then they went on, and came to the King’s highway again.”

Paul concludes this section by saying three things about temptation.

(i) He is quite sure that temptation will come. That is part of life. But the Greek word which we translate temptation means far more a test. It is something designed, not to make us fall, but to test us, so that we emerge from it stronger than ever.

(ii) Any temptation that comes to us is not unique. Others have endured it and others have come through it. A friend tells how he was once driving Lightfoot, the great Bishop of Durham, in a horse carriage along a very narrow mountain road in Norway. It got so narrow that there were only inches between the wheels of the carriage and the cliffs on one side and the precipice on the other. He suggested in the end that Lightfoot would be safer to get out and walk. Lightfoot surveyed the situation and said, “Other carriages must have taken this road. Drive on.” In the Greek Anthology there is an epigram which gives the epitaph of a shipwrecked sailor, supposedly from his own lips. “A shipwrecked mariner on this coast bids you set sail,” he says. His bark may have been lost but many more have weathered the storm. When we are going through it, we are going through what others have, in the grace of God, endured and conquered.

(iii) With the temptation there is always a way of escape. The word is vivid (ekbasis). It means a way out of a defile, a mountain pass. The idea is of an army apparently surrounded and then suddenly seeing an escape route to safety. No man need fall to any temptation, for with the temptation there is the way out, and the way out is not the way of surrender nor of retreat, but the way of conquest in the power of the grace of God.[3]

[1] Richard Oster, 1 Corinthians, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1995), 1 Co 10:11–12.

[2] John F. MacArthur Jr., 1 Corinthians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), 226.

[3] William Barclay, ed., The Letters to the Corinthians, The Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press, 1975), 90.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2022 in 1 Corinthians

 

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