The Tempting of Man (1 Corinthians 10:13)
If we are not careful, we will lose the race in which we find ourselves because of temptation. The author of Hebrews wrote, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb 12:1).
It is not an easy thing to lay aside every weight and sin and run the race set before us. We have trouble dealing with temptation and sin. Paul wrote the Corinthians about their need to overcome temptation. He told them that he, an apostle of the Lord, struggled with temptation: “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor 9:27).
Paul warned the Corinthians about becoming comfortable with sin. In speaking of the fathers in the wilderness, Paul wrote, “We should not lust after evil things as they also lusted” (1 Cor 10:6). “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12).
The Corinthians might have been tempted to throw up their hands in disgust and say, “If Paul, the fathers in the wilderness, and we struggle with temptation, why should we even try? Why not just sin?” Paul seeks to dispel that myth in the text we have chosen for this morning. Let’s examine this text to see what we can learn about the tempting of man.
Temptation is a Common Occurrence
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man.”
Some of the Corinthians may have been thinking that the temptations they faced were unique in human history. They may have been thinking, “No one else has even had that thought;” “No one else came close to doing that;” “I’m embarrassed I was even tempted to do that.” Paul says, “Everyone’s tempted. You haven’t faced a single temptation that someone else hasn’t faced.”
We are tempted, and there hasn’t been a single temptation we have experienced that someone else hasn’t faced. This should provide some encouragement—we’re not different from anyone else. Everybody faced temptation. This, of course, cannot be an excuse for sinning or for letting our guard down against temptation. But, this tells us that we aren’t in a different boat than anyone else.
An examination of Scripture shows that many “giants of the faith” were tempted, and all, save Jesus, sinned. David was a “man after God’s own heart,” yet he was tempted when he saw Bathsheba bathing, and he sinned. Peter, the first to proclaim the Gospel both to Jews and Gentiles, was tempted to deny the Lord, and he sinned. Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness.
We need not get excited when we are tempted, for we all have been tempted. There is no sin in being tempted—remember Jesus himself was tempted; therefore, temptation cannot be sinful. It is how we handle temptation that determines whether or not we sin. Let’s see what Paul says about handling temptation.
Temptation is a Bearable Occurrence
God is faithful, and he will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear.
What a comfort to read that God is faithful! Man is not faithful, for temptation will overtake him and he will sin. Temptation will overtake everyone of us in the future, and we will sin. But, God is faithful, and he will not sin.
God’s faithfulness is seen by the fact that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. God knows what each one of us can endure in the way of temptation. This should not surprise us. Jesus said, “The very hairs of your head are all numbers” (Matt 10:30). “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Tim 2:19).
God is not going to allow any of us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. God knows what each of us can bear and Satan cannot come to us and tempt us beyond that level. Remember the tempting of Job. When Satan first went to God, God said that Stan could do whatever to Job but he could not touch Job. Then after Job withstood the temptation to curse God, Satan was allowed to touch Job’s body, but he could not take Job’s life. Satan is limited, and we will never be tempted beyond what we can handle.
Temptation is an Escapable Experience
“With the temptation [God] will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
The syntax of this verse strongly suggests that God will temper each way of escape to fit each temptation; in other words, the way of escape will be different for each temptation.
Although the way out will be different for each temptation, God will provide a way out. Consider the way God’s people have dealt with temptation. When Potiphar’s wife tempted Joseph to lie with her, “[h]e left his garment in her hand and fled outside” (Gen 39:13)—God may enable us to leave the situation and the temptation. When Job’s wife urged him to curse God and die, Job said, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10)—God may enable us to understand that he is in ultimate control. The Rechabites refused to drink wine, saying, “We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, ‘You shall drink no wine, you nor your sons, forever’” (Jer 35:6)—God may enable us to remember the words of our parents when we face temptation. When Jesus was tempted, he continually quoted Scripture (Matt 4:1-11)—God may enable us to remember the words of Scripture when we face temptation.
God has a multitude of ways that he can provide a way of escape.
But do notice that God will only provide the way of escape; he will not force us to take it. Even when we are tempted and God provides a way of escape, we can decide not to take the way of escape and to sin. Although God will aide us in our Christian walk, he will not make us do the right thing.
God does aide the tempted. “In that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Heb 2:18). “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Pet 2:9).
Will we take God’s way of escape or will we sin?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Alum Creek church of Christ in Alum Creek, West Virginia.