1 Corinthians 10:1-13
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. 6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousands of them died.9 We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. 11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it.
A History Lesson
It is to history that Paul goes to show what can happen to people who have been blessed with the greatest privileges. He goes back to the days when the children of Israel were wandering in the desert. In those days the most wonderful things happened to them. All these privileges the children of Israel possessed, was an indication that they were God’s treasured possession, His chosen people who He was saving, providing for and protecting. Yet in spite of this, they failed most significantly and repeatedly.
The history of Israel shows that people who enjoyed the greatest privileges of God were far from being safe from temptation; special privilege, Paul reminds the Corinthians, there is no guarantee whatever of security of not falling into temptation.
We must note the temptations and the failures which Paul singles out:
- There is the temptation to idolatry. We do not worship idols so blatantly; but if a person’s god is anything to which he gives all his time and thought and energy then, we certainly still worship the works of our own hands more than we worship God. As humans we have an incredible ability to worship what we admire or value. We pretty much have the ability to idolise anything.
- There is the temptation to sexual immorality. We live in a highly sexualised culture, with the largest and simplest access to porn than ever before. What is considered by the world to be sexually immoral is becoming less and less. The truth is that sexual sin is deeply damaging and should be guarded against.
- There is the temptation to try God too far. Consciously or unconsciously we can trade on the mercy of God. At the back of your mind there is the idea, “It will be all right; God will forgive.” It is to out peril that we forget that there is the holiness as well as the love of God. There IS always forgiveness. But there is also consequences. We need to be careful not to fool ourselves into thinking that because God’s mercy is immeasurable, that we should try out its limits.
- There is the temptation to grumble. It’s interesting that grumbling is in the four temptations. Don’t discount this one as a serious warning! The temptation to grumble, to complain, to whine and whinge. Grumbling at it’s core is a temptation to refuse to be thankful! And it’s completely life controlling, because it sucks all the joy, all the peace, all the possibility for good and ultimately for the faith right out of you. God views grumbling or complaining very seriously, and deals with it firmly. Consider how God dealt with the entire generation of Israelite wanders, who died and didn’t make it into the promise land, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb.
Teaching on Temptation
So after warning the Corinthian church, Paul goes on to state three things about temptation.
(i) Temptations will come, so be vigilant. That is part of life. He doesn’t say if temptation comes he says WHEN. We will and do face temptations throughout life. Life is a hazardous business, temptations can catch us out all the time, if it’s not one thing then it’s another; we must be ever on the watch.
(ii) Any temptation that comes to us is not unique. Others have endured it and others have come through it. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man…
(iii) With the temptation, there is always a way of escape. No one 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. Jesus called himself ‘The Way’. He is the Way, the narrow path, the gate, The way out of temptation. God always provides this way out, as we look to Jesus.
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he taught them to ask God to keep them from temptation. We need to be in the habit of asking for God’s direction and protection from temptation.
James teaches that God puts evil in no-ones way and he does not tempt us…
James 1:12-18 (NIV)
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.
James tells us that God does not cause us to be tempted, and 1 Corinthians teaches us what he does do! He provides a way out! We need to be asking God to show us that way and praying for Him to help us to walk that way with Him.
In faith, hope and love
Steve and Cass Abram