Examples and Warnings, Part 5: Temptation

Photo by Amir Sani on Unsplash

Good evening, please turn with me again to 1 Corinthians chapter 10. We’re wrapping up this section of text in 1 Corinthians 10, which might be a relief for some of you, since it will be the 5th sermon from verses 1-13. But I hope they have been fruitful for you. I’ve intentionally slowed down here, and tried to understand how Paul reads his old testament, and what he’s exhorting the Corinthian believers to do.

Specifically tonight we will be looking at the nature of temptation, and how Paul encourages the Corinthians to endure temptation. We will see several truths about God that encourages us as we fight. But it will also be useful for us to look at how Satan might pervert those truths in order to entice us to sin.

There is a wonderful book written by Thomas Brooks called Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, which is a long look at tactics that Satan uses to trip up believers. I commend that book to you, and a lot of what he says will overflow into my sermon tonight as we examine God’s work, and how Satan seeks to undermine it.

But before we get into that, let’s read our text. 1 Corinthians 10:1-14.

10 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers,[a] 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 spiritual food,and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown[b] in the wilderness.

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ[c] to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

By way of review, we have been slowly making our way through this entire letter, and recently, slowing down to examine the front half of this chapter in some detail. And I’ve said previously that this front half of the chapter can be divided into three sections, which we can remember with three Es:

In verses 1-5 we looked at the Old Testament Experiences. These were Experiences from the Old Testament that Paul used as illustrations of theological truth. Experiences like the Exodus, the cloud and the pillar of fire, drinking water from the rock, which was a picture of the Christ to come.

Then in verse 6-11 we see the Examples. Paul uses the stories of the Hebrew Fathers as Old Testament Examples of sin to avoid. We’ve already looked at sinful desire and idolatry, if you’ll remember, when we looked at the tragic story of Aaron and the Hebrews making a golden calf and then worshipping it. These were examples of sins that we must avoid, even today.

And in verses 12-14, we see the final E: Exhortations to flee from sin and endure in righteousness. Specifically, we noted last week the exhortation from verse 12: take heed lest you fall. Be watchful. Head up. Be on guard. Don’t take your eye off the ball, lest you think you’re safe, because that’s when you’ll fall. Biblically speaking, Self-confidence always precedes humiliation.

Now, let’s move onto verse 13, and see our next exhortation, which we might summarize this way battle temptation with truth. Battle temptation with truth. What truth? Let’s look at verse 13 again

13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

In this verse I see 5 different truths that we can use to help us battle temptation. 5 truths that God gives us, as tools in our tool belts to battle against the temptations toward sin in our lives. And, not insignificantly, I want us also to note that each of these 5 truths correspond to 5 lies that Satan uses against us. The cunning serpent contorts and twists and lies to us, seeking to devour us, like we discussed last week, and so each of these truths in this verse are helpful to us in our battle against Satan’s attacks.

But, before I get to these 5 truths and 5 corresponding lies, I’d like to first frame our study with a brief review of what the bible teaches about temptation. Some of you might have a tension in your mind, or even think that the bible is contradictory when it talks about temptation.

For example, the bible has us pray to God in the Lord’s pray, “Father, lead us not into temptation,” that’s Matthew 6:13, and then later in the book of James we read, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” That’s James 1:13.

So Jesus tells us to pray, “Father lead me not into temptation,” and James says that God doesn’t tempt anyone. Which is it? It seems like a contradiction. Why would we pray that God wouldn’t tempt us, when God can’t tempt us?

Here’s how I reconcile these things in my mind. The bible speaks of temptation in two different ways, we might say from two different angles or two different sides of the same coin: temptation, and testing. Temptation and testing.

Testing, is what our Heavenly father sovereignly does to us, FOR OUR GOOD. He brings about trials and suffering in order to Test our faith, to refine our faith. This is when I think of verses like James 1:2-3, “Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

James is saying that we can rejoice when trials come, when our faith is tested, because the trial will prove to be the occasion for our growth, for our maturation, for our being made complete. That’s what God does. He uses trials as the events that ween us from the world and back onto Him. And in His goodness, in His love for us, he is faithful to test us.

In God’s wonderful providence, I think I had 3 or 4 different unrelated conversations, with different people this week, that all revolved around this specific point. And it was encouraging to my soul to see God’s wisdom played out in specific trials. And as I was talking to these several different people, we all came to see that God knew exactly where these individuals needed to grow, and God sent a trial, sent a test, in that specific area.

Maybe Someone needed to grow in patience, so God sent them some trial that exposed their impatience. Someone needed to grow in humility, so God sent them a trial to humble them. Somebody needed to grow in contentment, so God sent them a trial that tested their satisfaction.

And that’s what God does for each of us. He knows us and loves us enough, to act like a surgeon, carefully cutting out the bad parts, and bandaging the wounds that we might heal and thrive. He’s like a skilled gardener, he uses trials to uproot the weeds of sin, and replace them with the nourishing soil of faith. That’s what God does.

But what about temptation? Where does that come in? That’s often the correlating reality that follows us through our trials. Temptation is the enticement to sin, the alluring into wickedness, the drawing into unrighteousness, usually instigated by Satan and his demons or by other sinners.

This doesn’t come from God. God isn’t tempted, nor does he entice others into sin. But he can sovereignly permit the trials that become the occasion for Satan to tempt others.

Think of Job. God permitted the trial of Job, and permitted Satan to entice him to sin. But God never enticed. That’s the devil’s work.

And so to bring that back to Matthew 6, when we pray, “Father, Lead me not into temptation,” I think we’re praying something like, “Father, stop us before Satan can turn your test into a temptation.”[1]Father, stop me before Satan can turn your test into a temptation.

To use the imagery of Proverbs: Father, Keep my feet so far from the path to Lady Folly’s house, that I can’t even hear her voice when she calls out to me. Protect me from even the enticements from Satan.

There, enough about that. I think that’s enough about testing and temptation to frame our study for tonight. Let’s get back into the text of 1 Corinthians 10 and see these 5 truths that I had promised to you. 5 Truths to help you battle temptation, and also the 5 corresponding lies that Satan uses to tempt you to sin.

First truth: You’re not alone. You’re not alone. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.

You’re not the only person to deal with this problem. You’re not unique or special, in this regard. Everybody deals with this, in one form or another. To put it another way: “The Trials of common Christians are but common trials.”[2]

And that’s a comforting truth, not simply because misery loves company, as if me knowing that others are suffering somehow makes my suffering more palatable. No, it’s comforting because one of the plots of Satan is to make you think that you ARE special. You’re a special kind of sinner.

That’s the correlating lie to this truth. If the truth is You’re not alone, Satan lies to you and says the opposite. He wants you to think that you’re uniquely wicked. That you have a special kind of dirty shame. That your peculiar sin and your temptation uniquely disqualifies you. That your sin is so bad that not even Jesus’s blood is enough to cleanse you.

And he works that lie into your mind in such a way that you begin to doubt if Jesus can really save you. Maybe I am worse that everybody else. Maybe my sin really is darker than all the other people at church. And he uses this lie to get our eyes off of Jesus, and fixated on ourselves and our sin.

Maybe you’ve felt this way. That because of your sinful past, because of your foolish decisions, because of your dark secrets, you really are in a special category of sinner, a category, perhaps, just out of reach of Jesus’s mercy.

Don’t let Satan tempt you with such a thought. If you’re caught up in such a thought, remember the exhortation here: no temptation has come upon you that isn’t common to all men. Everybody struggles with contentment, with self-control, with humility, with purity. All of us battle for holiness. All of us are sinners. And what that means, is that all of us are prime candidates for God’s grace of forgiveness.

Satan sitting in your ear telling you that you’re a terrible sinner ISN’T the ultimate problem. He’s actually telling you the truth in that moment. The problem comes in when he leads you to think that YOUR particular kind of sin is somehow indelible, unable to be washed by Jesus. That’s the problem. Jesus died for sinners, for wicked people, for dark people, for depraved souls, for people like me, and people like you. Don’t let Satan let you forget that.

You’re not alone, and Jesus died for sinners just like you.

Next, a second truth to exhort us in our battle against temptation. God is faithful. God is faithful. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful.

Each trial, each temptation, each test, usually reveals within us some measure of failure on our part. We give in a little, and take that second glance at that forbidden thing. We let our thoughts linger, prompting more discontentment. We let our godly lament, meander into sinful complaining against God. We lose control, and let our righteous anger bleed into vengeful wrath. Whatever it is, the testing usually reveals cracks, which is what God intends to happen.

The refining fire does just that, it refines, and it does so by revealing remaining impurities, remaining cracks in the clay. And when that happens, we can be tempted in special ways. We can turn our eyes on our own remaining sin. We ask ourselves, “how could I do that again? I thought I was better than this. I thought I had made progress in this area. I should be doing better by now. I can’t believe I was unfaithful in this way again.”

And Satan comes in, and whispers in your ear, “Your right. You are unfaithful. You are wicked. You should be better than this. You should feel ashamed of your faithlessness. You should feel awful that a person of your learning, of your stature, of your presumed maturity, fell for something so petty. You’re helpless, and God’s forgotten about you, so just give in.” And there’s the bait.

In the moment of temptation, we must remember these words from Paul, that God is faithful. Even when your faith fails, God is faithful. God keeps his covenant, even when you do not. He’s declared you righteous, not on the basis of your faithfulness, but on the faithfulness of Christ. And Because Christ was faithful, we’ve been forgiven, we’ve been justified, we’ve been adopted into the Household of God.

In your moments of temptation, don’t listen to the lies of Satan that tempt you to fixate on your failure, without moving onto to fixating on Jesus. Focus your mind and heart on the faithfulness of Christ. God is faithful.

Next, a third truth to encourage you in your moments of temptation: God won’t crush you. God won’t crush you.

13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability,

God will not let you be tempted beyond your ability. That’s an encouragement to us. It means that in God’s sovereignty, he won’t let Satan have free reign over you. You’re not at the mercy of Satan, and no single temptation will be enough to do you in.

And why is that? It’s not because you’re so strong. It’s not because your innate ability is able to resist temptation. Indeed, any temptation, of whatever strength, may be enough to undo us if we stand in our own strength.

No, the power to overcome the temptations comes from the God who is faithful. The Lord is the sure guardian of his people, under whose care, you have no cause to fear, provided you depend entirely upon him.[3] He will help us, because he is faithful.

And he will help us in two ways. First and foremost, he supplies the necessary strength for the trial. When we stand in the power of HIS might, we will endure. When we enter the spiritual battle standing in the power of Christ, waging war according to HIS instruction, prayerfully and humbly keeping our eyes on him, then we’re furnished with all the necessary strength to persevere.

But God also helps us by setting the limits of the temptation. Just like Job’s situation, Satan’s leash in any temptation is held in the hands of our sovereign God. He can go as far as God lets him, and no further. And that’s great news.

Every temptation is meant by Satan to undo us, and yet, meant by God for our Good. Our loving father isn’t seeking to crush us, isn’t seeking to punish us, isn’t seeking vengeance upon us. God isn’t pouring out his wrath upon you for your past sins.

All of that was appeased on the cross. Jesus is the propitiation, scripture says, the appeasing sacrifice that was offered to assuage the just wrath of God. For those trusting in Christ, any trial or temptation that comes, isn’t God’s wrath or anger toward you.

That was handled on the cross. Rather, any test or trial or temptation that comes upon you, comes with the divine stamp of approval which says, “I love you, and this is for your good.” God uses trials to make us more like Jesus, not to punish us for past sins. He arranges them for our growth, not because he’s mad at us. He seeks to cure us of disease, not crush us for disobedience.

Which is the opposite of what Satan wants us to think. Satan wants us to think long and hard about our sinfulness, and then to doubt that God really loves us. That’s what he did to Adam. If God really loved you, he’d have let you have that fruit, and you’d be like him. But he didn’t, so God must not really love you.

Satan does the same for us today. God hasn’t given you something you deserve. He hasn’t been good to you. He doesn’t love you. And so these trials are really God just venting his anger upon you.

But that’s the lie! We must remember that God isn’t using temptations as punishment. In God’s hands, trials become palliative, not punitive. They cure, rather than crush.

And that’s because He supplies us with the necessary strength to endure, and he limits their scope, so that we may not be tempted beyond our ability.

He holds us up in the midst of the storm, and he controls the winds so that our sails will not snap, all so that we’d become better sailors, more confident and trusting in Him. You don’t become a better sailor by only sailing on calm seas with sunny skies. You become a better sailor by experience through storms. And the storms that God sends to us, are for our good, not to crush us.

Fourth. A fourth truth to encourage us about temptation: God provides a way out. God provides a way out.

13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape

In every trial, in every temptation, God is faithful to leave us a way of escape. That seems so simple, but it is SO easily forgotten in the moment.

Satan’s lie that he wants us to believe is that our sinning is inevitable. He wants us to believe that succumbing to the temptation is inevitable. It’s unavoidable. You’re a sinner, you’ve sinned this way before, and you’re going to do it again. There’s no way out, you’re enslaved, you’ve got no strength to win, resistance is futile. You’re hopeless. So give in.

But Paul reminds us that God is faithful, and when he leads us into a trial, he also provides the path of escape. Sometimes it is an open door, like when Joseph was enticed by Potiphar’s wife. God could have left that door shut and locked, and had Joseph trapped, but instead it was open, and Joseph was able to escape.

Sometimes the way of escape is bringing a passage of scripture to mind, like when Jesus rebuffed Satan himself through recalling scripture and telling Satan off. Which is another reason why we need to plant God’s word deep in our hearts, so that we can recall it in the moment of temptation, and use it to escape enticement to sin.

Sometimes the way of escape that God provides is a word from a brother or sister in Christ. Maybe an unprompted phone call, or a text, or unsolicited prayers, or a word of encouragement, that God lays upon a brother or sister’s heart, which comes to you right when you’re feeling the weakest, and gives you the strength to endure the trial. Like manna from heaven, God’s word comes to sustain us, delivered not from the sky, but from the mouth of a fellow saint.

Maybe you’ve experienced that. Right when you’re about to give in, someone gives you a word of encouragement that’s like a drink of water in the middle of the desert. It brings you back from the edge, it grants you a moment of perspective and clarity, it re-centers your mind on the things of God.

In fact, this is one of the reasons why the ministry of encouragement is so vital. When the Holy Spirit prompts your heart to reach out, to say something, to encourage someone, that might be the Holy Spirit leading you to provide the way of escape for another believer in the midst of temptation. Don’t neglect the Spirit’s leading you to encourage another soul. We need each other, we need to be picked up when we’re down, we need to have another help carry our burdens, and sometimes the godliest thing we can do for another believer is to just tell them the truth that they already know:

God loves you. He hasn’t forgotten about you. He’s not your enemy. He’s working for your good. You’ve been set free from sin. You’re not enslaved anymore. Your sin isn’t an inevitability. Don’t give up. Christ will sustain you to the end. Don’t give up.

And that leaves to our 5th encouragement: God will sustain you. God will sustain you.

13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

That you may endure. God is faithful, he’ll limit the temptation, he’ll provide a way of escape, and do it all so that YOU. MAY. ENDURE. That you may be sustained. That you may persevere.

Satan wants us to believe the lie that we’re never gunna make it. We’re doomed. We’re not strong enough. We’re not man enough, or woman enough. Succumbing is an inevitability, because we don’t have what it takes.

And, as we’ve said, in our own strength, we don’t have what it takes. We will fail. We will falter.

But God is faithful. And he will help us endure to the end.

When you’re feeling tempted, and you fear your faith will fail, remember Jesus, the tempted one who resisted the best that Satan could throw at him. Jesus was tempted, and yet remained faithful. He was enticed, yet never took a taste. He was lured, but never yielded.

He is our sympathetic high priest, because he was tempted in every way that we are, yet without sin. And that means he is a fitting sacrifice to stand in our place. And if he was willing to be tempted and to suffer in your place, to earn your salvation, will he not also give you what you need now, in your moments of trial?

Of course he will.

God is faithful. He’s not going to start a work in you, only to fumble you on the way to the finish line. He won’t begin well, and then leave you stranded.

He will carry you.

Remember what we studied earlier from chapter 1 verse 8, “Jesus Christ will sustain you guiltless to the end.”

Remember the words we sang just a few minutes ago:

“When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast
When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast
I could never keep my hold through life’s fearful path
For my love is often cold; He must hold me fast

He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast
For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast”

What sweet truth to carry us through the bitter moments of temptation and trial.

And Christ even gives us other tokens of his enduring grace. One of those is his body and blood broken for us, which are pictured at the Lord’s table.

When we’re tempted and tried in this life, we need to look at the picture of provision that he leaves for us at the table. We need to remember what he has done for us. Remember the sacrifice, which demonstrates for us the depth of his love for us.

Trust in this Christ, and be forgiven. And if you are forgiven, if you’ve been baptized, join us at the table, and have your hearts filled again by faith.

[1] Alistair Begg Sermon on this passage from 1 Cor 10:13. See here: https://www.truthforlife.org/resources/sermon/examples-warnings-pt1/, and https://www.truthforlife.org/resources/sermon/examples-warnings-pt-2/.

[2] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary: On the Whole Bible 6 Volume Set (Hendrickson, 2006), 6.448.

[3] Compare Calvin’s thoughts on this: Jean Calvin and Calvin Translation Society, Calvin’s commentaries. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1996), 332.


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