Four Facts About Temptation
In First Corinthians chapter ten, Paul reminds his readers that Israel of old failed to enter the Promised Land because they followed their lusts. Their failures are recorded for our benefit, that we would not follow their rebellious ways. Paul concludes this reminder with an important warning and some promises regarding our own battles with temptation.
1. We are not immune to temptation. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). Temptations will come our way, and we must take them seriously. Israel of old had been delivered from Egyptian bondage with God’s powerful hand. They witnessed the plagues and passed through the Red Sea. Paul calls this passage through the Red Sea their baptism (v. 2). It is a figure of how our baptism into Christ delivers us from the bondage of sin. However, deliverance from bondage does not mean we are delivered from temptation.
Those who believe they are too strong to sin are setting themselves up to fail. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). Peter insisted that he would not deny the Lord, stating he would die before doing so. Hours later he denied the Lord (Matt. 26:33-35, 69-75). How many Christians have fallen victim to Satan’s devices because they underestimated the enemy? The first step in overcoming temptation is taking it seriously.
2. We are not undergoing an unusual temptation. “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man…” (1 Cor. 10:13a). Notice, Paul is speaking of a temptation that has overtaken us. We have committed a sin. When this happens, we cannot respond by crying “foul,” thinking we have faced a temptation that is impossible to overcome. Satan may target specific people from time to time (Luke 22:31). He has various devices and schemes (2 Cor. 2:11; Eph. 6:11) and knows which ones to use most effectively on us. However, when we give in to temptation, it is not because God allowed Satan to try out a new, one-of-a-kind temptation. The packaging may be new to us, but all temptations are as old as the Garden of Eden. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food (lust of the flesh), that it was pleasant to the eyes (lust of the eyes), and a tree desirable to make one wise (pride of life), she took of its fruit and ate” (Gen. 3:6, emphasis mine from 1 John 2:16).
3. We are not being tempted beyond what we are able to endure. “…but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able…” (1 Cor. 10:13b). God does not abandon us in our times of temptation. He is on our side, wanting us to succeed! He knows what we are able to endure and will not allow the tempter to go beyond this limitation. Notice, Satan had to respect the limitations regarding Job’s temptations. “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord...” “So Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!’ And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life’” (Job 1:12, 2:4-6, emphasis mine - HR). We must have faith that God does the same for us today. The devil does not make us do it! We are in control when we are being tempted to sin.
4. We must take the way of escape. “…but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13c). Temptations do not come from God (James 1:13). God allows us to be tempted, but He is not the source of our temptations. Enticement to sin comes from the devil, but God always provides a way out of these temptations. “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations…” (2 Pet. 2:9a), but we must cooperate. God opens a door of escape, but we are responsible for finding it and using it. Joseph took this escape when he fled from Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39:12). Let’s remember, if we are ever of a mind to blame God for our sins, He is going to rightfully ask why we didn’t take the way of escape He faithfully provided.
Each of us will battle temptation as long as we live on this earth. Temptations do not go away when we become a Christian, neither do they disappear as we grow spiritually. Satan never gives up on us. He always looks for an opportune time to catch us in his traps (Luke 4:13). Therefore, we must “be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (1 Pet. 5:8-9).