Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Truth About Temptation To Sin

I want to draw attention to the great assurances which Paul brings us in 1 Cor 10:13.

The first section states, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” At times when we find ourselves severely tempted, we are likely to feel that this is a quite unique or particularly strong temptation - and we may be in danger therefore of thinking that in these circumstances we cannot resist it, or even that we are justified in giving in to it. Hence the relevance of this first encouragement: the temptations that we face are the same kind that everyone else has to face. Our temptation is not unique and we are not alone in ­having to face it.

Next, Paul says, “God is faithful”, πιστος (pistos), that is, “reliable”, “dependable”, “trustworthy”. We are not facing this temptation on our own; God is with us - we can rely upon that absolutely.

Then, “he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability”. There are some temptations which would be so strong that they would totally overwhelm us; but God does not permit temptations like that to come to us. He allows us to be tempted; but he filters the temptations that could come to us, and only permits those that we can bear.

At times when some particularly strong temptation is attacking us and we feel almost overcome by it, we may ­marvel at the level of confidence that this indicates God has in us! But we have this word of absolute assurance that whatever that temptation is, we can endure it. This is the clearest ­possible statement of a great biblical truth: that it is never necessary for us to sin; succumbing to temptation is never inevitable, because “God can be trusted not to allow you to suffer any temptation beyond your powers of endurance” (Phillips translation).

Finally, we are told how this can be so. It is not because of the inner strength and determination of the individual person. This strength and determination is required - the Hebrew Christians were rebuked because (Hebrews 12:4, NASB), “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood, in your striving against sin.” We need to strive against sin. The encouragement of Paul’s word to the Corinthians is that we can know that we can strive successfully. Thus we will not give up the struggle. We are assured that with the temptation God will also provide the way of escape, so that we are able to endure it.

What is the way of escape?

Paul does not give the answer here as fully as we might have wished - but the way of escape will vary according to the nature of the particular temptation. It will involve prayerfully appropriating the grace of God and the power of the indwelling Spirit, putting on the armor of God, and taking hold of the teaching of Scripture; it will also involve something appropriate to each type of temptation to sin. To the rich man who was beset by covetousness Jesus said “Sell all that you have and give to the poor” (Mark 10:21); to the person being tempted to immorality Paul says, “Flee” (6:18). He has a similar word of instruction now in relation to idolatry.

Notice the careful balance in these two verses. In verse 12 we are reminded: sin is never impossible. And in verse 13 we are assured: sin is never inevitable. We find a similar balance between these two truths in 1 John 1:8 and 2:1: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us ... My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.”

(This is one of the “Practical and Pastoral Reflections” upon Paul’s Epistle, taken from
B Ward Powers’ First Corinthians - An Exegetical and Explanatory Commentary.)


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