Standing in Temptation (10:12-13)The Corinthians prided themselves on their "knowledge" and "spirituality." Don't kid yourselves, says Paul.
"So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (10:12)
If we think we're invulnerable to sin -- or have "fire insurance" and can therefore sin with impunity, we are stupid. The Israelites couldn't. Neither can we.
Now Paul gives us a wonderful insight into God's power to help us resist temptation. Many have memorized this verse and found it to be a tremendous help in the struggles of the Christian life.
"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." (10:13)
The word for "temptation" (NIV, KJV), "testing" (NRSV) is peirasmos, "test, trial," here, "an attempt to make one do something wrong, temptation, enticement to sin." God tests us by various trials in order to help us to see ourselves clearly, to learn to rely on him, and to toughen us. Trials are part of our spiritual boot camp.
But in our passage, Paul doesn't seem to be discussing trials that God allows, but temptations to sin, since the context is flirting with idolatry. God tests us, but he never tempts us to do wrong. James writes:
"When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed." (James 1:13-14)
Rather, Satan is called the tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 2:11-13; Revelation 12:9). As God's enemy, he seeks to entice us to turn away from God as he tried to do with Job (Job 1:9-12; 2:4-7). God allows us to be tempted -- as he allowed Jesus to be tempted -- but he does not tempt us with evil, or desire that we fall to temptation.
The real problem with temptation, James says, is our "own evil desire." To resist sin, we must desire to resist sin, not secretly desire to give in. As long as we nurture our pet sins and make excuses for ourselves, they will control us. But when we learn to "crucify" these evil desires and deny them, they lose their power over us. Paul wrote to the Galatian church:
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)
"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." (Galatians 5:24)
"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14)
1 Corinthians 10:12-13 teaches us several things:
1. Everyone is tempted, even spiritual people. Even those who seem to be "standing firm" must be watchful, lest they fall to temptation. Jesus was tempted. It is not a sin to be tempted. Martin Luther once said: "You can't stop birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from making a nest in your hair."
2. Temptation can seem overwhelming. Paul uses an interesting expression, "No temptation has seized you...." The verb translated "seized" (NIV), "overtaken" (NRSV), "taken" (KJV) is in the perfect tense, the continuation and present state of a completed past action, meaning that the temptation (desire to sin) has seized someone and still holds them. This overwhelming desire to sin can seem very powerful.
3. Your temptations are not unique to you. Temptation is part of the human condition. Not everyone struggles with your particular temptations -- each of us has his or her own particular weaknesses. But many share your particular struggle. You are not alone. Others have learned to overcome your temptation. The excuse, "No one could understand my temptation," is bogus.
3. God is with you in your temptations. God doesn't desert you when you are tempted. He is right there. He can be trusted to help you -- he is faithful.That you are tempted -- and sometimes succumb -- is no surprise to God. He knows you intimately -- and loves you intensely. So you can confide in him about your struggles and he'll help you.
4. God won't let you be tempted beyond your ability to resist. Sometimes the temptation seems too strong for us. We "have to" give in, we think. But God provides the power of his Holy Spirit to us. As we learn to rely on his power, we can stand. You have the ability to resist temptation, but not in yourself or your own strength. The only way you'll be able to resist temptation is to rely on God's strength. God won't allow a temptation stronger than he gives you strength to bear. We don't know our strength when it is in the Lord. That's one reason he allows temptation -- so we can learn his strength.
5. God will provide a way out so you can endure the temptation without falling. Here's a powerful promise. "With" the temptation also comes a way out of it. "Way out" (NIV, NRSV), "way to escape" (KJV) is the noun ekbasis, "way out of some difficulty, a way out, end." Vincent says, "The word means 'an egress, a way out.' In classical Greek, especially, it refers to of a way out of the sea. Hence, in later Greek it is used of 'a landing-place.'"
We may despair. We may be faced with the classic "lesser of two evils." But God can help us know what to do. He can guide us. Sometimes we think we are powerless to avoid sin because we are not willing to do something radical enough to get out of the situation. As the writer of Hebrews says,
"In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood." (Hebrews 12:4)
God will help us find that "way out" if we seek him. He will give us the ability to endure the temptation.
Q2. (1 Corinthians 10:12-13) What about our human make-up causes us to face temptation? What does this passage teach about our temptations? What does it teach us about God's help in temptation?