Facing Temptation

I Corinthians 10

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
May 2024

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it. (I Corinthians 10:13 NIV)

Today, we are going to do something a little different than we normally do.  We are studying the Book of I Corinthians.  We have come to the tenth chapter.  Today, we are going to look at only one verse.

Last week, we looked at a warning.  It is a warning to Christians, but you rarely hear anyone talk about it in church.  Last week, we saw a serious WARNING.  This week, we will be looking at an incredible PROMISE.

It is a promise for every believer.  It is a promise that has to do with temptation.   After giving a word of caution, Paul gives a word of comfort.[1]

It is a famous verse. Many of us learned as young Christians.  Many memorized it.  It contains a great promise for every believer.  In fact, there is not just one promise but three in this incredible verse.  This verse is packed with promises.

PROMISE ONE is that God is faithful (πιστὸς  θεός).  Paul said this earlier in the book (I Corinthians 1:9).  People are not always faithful, but God is faithful.  You can count on it.

PROMISE TWO is that we will not be tempted beyond our ability.  Our text says God will not let that happen.

PROMISE THREE is that when we are tempted, God will make a way of escape for us.

Abuses of This Verse

Before we look at what this verse means, we have to look at what it does not mean.  Many verses of the Bible are taken out of their context.  It happens all of the time.

When you pull a passage out of its context, the words may sound great.   They may be inspirational.  They may be uplifting but, in order to find out what they mean, you have to read the context.

It may come as a bit of a shock but some of the verses in the Bible that you have read for years don’t mean what you think they mean.

Whole books have been written on the topic of misinterpreted bible verses.  There are hundreds of examples of this.  We will just look at a few examples.

Misquoted Bible Passages

1) Philippians 4:13

The verse says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (NKJV) but is often read out of context.  It says that we can do anything.

Does this mean that we can do whatever you set our mind to do, if we just think positive?  Does it mean that we can do whatever want to do?  Does it mean that we have superhuman abilities?

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  It is a favorite verse among athletes but who is the author?  It was Paul.

Paul was not an athlete.  He was not a bodybuilder. He was not getting ready to compete in the Olympics.  He was not getting ready to run a marathon.

At the time these words were written, Paul had been arrested.  He was on house arrest awaiting trial (Acts 28:30-31).  Philippians is one of the prison epistles.

What is the context of the passage?  You have to read what Paul said before this to find out what it means.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13 NIV)

This is a verse about contentment.  It is a verse about being content in every situation of life, the good and the bad, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want, as Paul puts it.

We can be content in every situation.  We can be content in good times and even in the darkest times of our life.  Contentment has nothing to do with circumstances.

2. Romans 8:28

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (NKJV)

This is one of the greatest promises in the Bible for believers.  Some do not believe this verse.  Some misread this verse.  Paul does NOT say that all things ARE good.  He says that all things work together FOR good.

Some things in this word are bad.  They are evil.  There is nothing good about them.  Bad things happen to people.

Terrible things happen to people every day (rape, child abuse, sex trafficking, genocide, death of a child, cancer, etc.).

All you have to do is watch the news every night and you see bad things happening every day but God can bring good out of evil.  That is the whole point of the story of Joseph.

Joseph was mistreated by his brothers.  He was thrown in a pit.  He was sold into slavery.  He was falsely accused of a crime.  He was a convicted felon for a crime he did not commit.

He was convicted of a sex crime.  He was falsely imprisoned for fourteen years.  All of this was evil, but God was able to bring good out of their evil actions (Genesis 50:20).

God is able to bring good out of the worst possible situation in your life.  He is able to make work together for good, not just some things, but ALL THINGS, as the verse says. All means all.  It means the big things and little things.

Now, the verse says that all things together for our good, not necessarily for our comfort.[2]  We do not always see the good and God defines what good is.  What God thinks is good and what we think is good are often two completely different things.

One good thing that happens in trials is that your character is developed (Romans 5:3-5).  When life is hard, it forces us to depend on God and trust Him.

3. I Corinthians 10:13

This verse is also one of the most misinterpreted passages of the Bible.

It is quoted out of context all of the time by Christians. Most read this passage and believe it refers to suffering and trials in your life.

They say that God won’t give you more than you can handle.  How many times have you heard that?  Many Christians have held that view of I Corinthians 10:13. John Piper holds that view.[3]

It sounds good.  Is it true?  It is a possible interpretation.  The Greek word for “temptation” (πειρασμὸς) can mean a test or a trial but here is the problem.  It violates the most basic rule of bible interpretation.

In real estate, the most important thing is “location, location, location.”  The most important thing in bible interpretation is “context, context, context.”

What is the context of this passage?  People rarely look at the context of this passage.  The context is easy to find.  All you have to do is to read the verse right before it and the verse right after it.  What does the verse before it say?

Let the one who thinks he stands watch out that he does not FALL” (I Corinthians 10:12 NASB)

That is talking about falling into sin.  In fact, four sins are mentioned right before this.  They are false worship (I Corinthians 10:7) sexual sin (I Corinthians 10:8), testing God (I Corinthians 10:9) and complaining or murmuring (I Corinthians 10:10).

The verses right before our passage are dealing with sin.  If you are still not convinced, all you have to do is to read the next verse.  It is also about sin.

It says, “Therefore, my dear friends, flee from IDOLATRY” (I Corinthians 10:14 NIV).  That is what the chapter is mostly about.  It is about eating idol meat in a pagan temple.

The context is not dealing with handling hard things in our life.  It is not talking about trials.  It is not talking about suffering.  The context is talking about SIN.

I Corinthians 10:13 is talking about temptations, NOT trials.  It does not say that you will not be tested beyond what you are able.  It says that you will not be tempted beyond what you are able.

Four Principles of Temptation

1. Your temptation is not unique

Paul says that temptation is COMMON to mankind.  It is a common human experience.  You are not alone.

We may think that we are the only one on the planet dealing with this issue.  We think we have a special problem that no one else has.  That is not true.

Other people in the world have faced the exact same temptation that you are right now facing.  That includes other Christians.

Temptation is universal.  Don’t think you are inferior to other Christians because you are tempted to do some terrible things.  Everyone is tempted.  Every Christian on the planet experiences temptation and that includes pastors and church leaders.

The Apostles were tempted.  Jesus told them the night before he died “Watch and pray lest you fall into temptation.”  Satan tempted Peter (Luke 22:31) and he denied Christ.  He tempted Judas.  He entered Judas (John 13:27) and he betrayed Christ.

Ordinary Christians are tempted.  Christian Couples are tempted.  Ananias and Saphira were tempted by Satan to sin.  They were tempted to lie to the apostles about their money.

Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? (Acts 5:3 NIV)

Even Jesus was tempted to sin. He was tempted to worship Satan (Matthew 4:8-9).  He was also tempted to come down from the cross (Matthew 27:40).

We face temptations every day.  We all do and some of them are powerful and God does not promise to remove them.  If they were not powerful, they would not be temptation.  I am not tempted to eat lobsters.

Temptation is appealing.  It is alluring.  It is attractive.  It is also individual.  What tempts you may not tempt me.  What tempts me may not tempt you.

I may not experience your temptation.  You may not experience my temptation, but temptation is still common to man.  It is still universal.  It is part of life in this fallen world.

Men and women are tempted in different ways.  While some things tempt everyone, there may be some things that tempt men more than women and some things that tempt women more than men.

What are some of the things that tempt women?  Women are tempted by jealousy, anger, gossip, comparison, and food.  Men are more tempted by power, by control, by greed, by lust.  What is your greatest temptation?

2. Your temptation is not too hard

Some think that temptation is too easy.  They would never fall.  That is what Peter said.  Even if all fall away, I never will. (Matthew 26:33 NIV).  Paul says, “let the one who thinks he stands watch out that he does not fall” (I Corinthians 10:12 NASB)

Some think it is too easy.  Others think it is too hard.  It is too hard to resist.  It is irresistible.  Paul teaches something different in this verse.

Temptation will never be too hard because we have a promise.  He will NOT let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.

God will not allow any temptation to be stronger than our spiritual strength. He will not allow any temptation to exceed your ability and strength to defeat it.  He does not test you beyond your willpower to resist.

No temptation is beyond a believer’s ability to withstand.  He prevents you from being tempted more than you can handle. God knows how strong you are.

3. Your temptation is not God’s fault

This biggest temptation we have is to blame God for things.  We blame God for all of our problems.  God is faithful. We can’t blame God for temptation.  We can’t blame God for three reasons.

1) God is not the one tempting us.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God CANNOT be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone. (James 1:13 NIV)

God is morally perfect.  He does not sin.  He cannot sin.  Temptation has to come from another source.  It either comes from Satan or from our own sinful nature.

James says that people are tempted by their own lusts (James 1:14).  Satan did not need to tempt King David.

He saw a beautiful woman bathing and was tempted.  You don’t need Satan to tempt an alcoholic.  You just need a Bud Light.

2) God controls the temptations we face.

God does not exempt Christians from temptation, but He does control the amount of temptation that we encounter.

He is sovereign over your temptations.  God does not just passively sit back and watch what takes place in your life. He controls every temptation you face.

3) God always provides a way of escape.

Every temptation has a way of escape.  The Greek says, not merely “a way” of escape but “THE way of escape” (τὴν ἔκβασιν).

There will not just be a way of escape.  God will provide it for you.  The way of escape comes in many different forms.

God may remove us from the temptation or give us the strength to endure it.[4]  The way of escape may involve a filter on your internet.

4. Your temptation is not hopeless

You can have victory.  This is the last principle from this passage.  It brings up two important points.

1) There’s always a way out of sin.

Whenever temptation comes, there is always a way of escape.  We are never in a situation where we have no other choice but to sin. There is always a way out.

If you think temptation is too hard and you have to sin, you are believing a lie.  You don’t have to sin.  Sin is not inevitable.

No one can force you to sin. The devil does not make us do anything. Satan can only tempt us.

2) Always look for the way out and take it.

The key to overcoming temptation is to find the way of escape provided and to take it.  God provides the way out, but it is up to us to take that way out.

God doesn’t force us to use the way of escape.[5]  God gave Joseph a way of escape and he took it.  He ran out of the house.

Interestingly, the next verse after this one says FLEE IDOLATRY (I Corinthians 10:14).  Run from idolatry, like Joseph ran from adultery.

[1] Matthew Henry (https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/1Cr/1Cr_010.cfm)

[2] https://michaelkelley.co/2024/02/3-ways-we-might-misunderstand-romans-828/

[3] https://www.desiringgod.org/labs/is-every-temptation-a-test-from-god

[4] Roy E. Ciampa & Brian S Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (p. 468). IVP. Kindle Edition.

[5] https://www.blueletterbible.org/comm/guzik_david/study-guide/1-corinthians/1-corinthians-10.cfm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *