1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
No temptation (or testing) 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 (tested) He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
Our verse continues with the theme of holiness we have undertaken … so the Spirit must want us to truly examine ourselves and focus on what it takes to consecrate ourselves to God. I think He is looking for a holy people who desire more of Him to empower their lives for ministry. Fasting and prayer are key disciplines we can follow in this endeavor … but our verse today challenges and warns us to exercise self-control to a broader extent. Let’s look at the context of our verse closer:
1 Corinthians 10: 1-13 (NIV)
1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” (Cf. Exodus 32:6) 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test the Lord (Jesus) as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.
11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation (or testing) has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted (or tested) beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted (tested) He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
What Paul is developing here is a parallel for NT believers to understand. He observes that the Israelites, when led out of Egypt, were all saved from their life of bondage in Egypt. The “cloud” refers to the unique symbol of the presence of God – also known as the shekinah cloud of glory which meant “to dwell with”. We should easily recognize this parallel to Jesus (Emmanuel – God with us). They all passed through the Red Sea on dry land because God had parted the waters for them. It was a “baptism” in effect because the waters closed in behind them. There was no going back to slavery of Egypt (symbolizing the bondage of sin). God was giving them a new life on this side of the divide. They had been separated from Egypt (from sin) and chosen by God to be His people. They all ate the same spiritual food which refers to the manna and to the quail – both supernatural provision by God. Likewise, Jesus is the Bread of Life. And they all drank the same spiritual drink – from a spiritual rock that followed them – refers to the supernatural provision of life-sustaining water. Jesus said, “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst; indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) This use of “all” is a way to emphasize the inclusion of all Israelites in the experience of God’s grace and judgment during that time of “testing” called the “Wilderness Wandering Period”.
But notice Verse 5 states, “Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.” This verse implicates the humbling of His people and the judgment for unbelief and rebellion as their bones were scattered along the wilderness route to the Promised Land (Cf. Numbers 14). Think about it. They were God’s chosen people. He had redeemed them from the land of Egypt. But He judged their unbelief and their rebellious attitudes. These OT believers saw the miraculous provision of God for their lives. They knew His will through their God-ordained leader, Moses. And yet, as we read through the narrative, they still acted in unbelief and rebellion…. Do you think there are Christians today who have a similar display of unbelief in their lives? Do you think God is pleased with them? Have you ever considered that there might be a parallel with Matthew 7:21-23?
In Verses 6-11, Paul implies that the Old Testament Scriptures continue to have spiritual relevance for us today. You can cross-reference the following passages regarding this applicability in Romans 4:23-24; Romans 15:4; and 1 Corinthians 9:10. We can readily conclude the revelations of God are eternal and the principles imparted are significant. So Paul points out how the redemptive history of Israel is applicable to us today … “so that we would not crave (set our hearts on) evil things as they did.” The term translated “crave” is a strong compound Greek term epithumeō, which is made up of the preposition “upon” and “to rush.” It refers to a strong feeling or emotion overtaking and controlling the mind and heart of a person. Paul chooses specific issues for his contrast: idolatry; immoral sexual conduct; provoking or testing God to “prove” Himself; and grumbling in the sense of showing displeasure with God. These are all relevant examples and can be seen within the world and even the Church in our day….
Paul concludes that these things (judgments of God) happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us. The message is that the salvation effectuated for us through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ has been given to us – but if we do not receive it through faith in Him … if we wander into unbelief and rebellion … we will be judged as the Israelites were judged in the wilderness. So Paul brings us to the point of self-examination in Verse 12, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (Cf. Romans 11:20-21; 2 Peter 3:14-17). God has and will judge His own people. Here are some great references for you to consider in this regard: Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:7-10; and 1 Peter 4:12-19. I highly encourage you to read Hebrews Chapters 3 and 4. The parallels to what Paul is preaching here are quite impressive.
This leads us to the Verse of the Day and its call to godliness in response to the salvation God has granted us in Christ Jesus. Paul asserts that personal holiness is possible. We can overcome temptation. First of all, we have to realize that temptations or tests will happen. The text makes this clear: “But when you are tempted….” Temptation in any form is common to the human experience. But God uses it to “refine” our souls and to perfect or complete our faith. Remember, Jesus was tempted in all points as we are … yet He remained without sin. (Hebrews 4:15) So, Jesus is experientially familiar with our weaknesses as discussed in Hebrews Chapter 2. Of special comfort to me in this regard is Hebrews 2:18 which reads, “Because He Himself (Jesus) suffered when He was tempted (tested), He is able to help those who are being tempted (tested).” To me, this verse indicates that dealing with temptation is a form of suffering … and that Jesus is ever present through His Spirit to help me in that moment of temptation or trial. It also reminds me that, like Jesus, my own obedience will be learned through the process of suffering. (Cf. Hebrews 5:8-9)
The key point from 1 Corinthians 10:13 is that God is faithful. WHEN you and I are tempted (tested) … HE provides a way out so that we can endure the temptation or test. It does not say that He will remove the temptation; rather, He provides an “exit” from the thought, feeling, situation, or circumstance that provides the platform or context for our temptations. A specific temptation may not ever go away. It may be a “thorn in the flesh”. Victory through one temptation, test, or trial does not assure the same outcome WHEN the next temptation comes. But we learn obedience through the things we suffer; and that is achieved through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is praying in the Spirit … it is walking in His anointing … that gives us the strength to endure the temptations we will face. The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh. It means we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5) And these spiritual disciplines are sufficient because God will not let you or me be tempted beyond what we can bear. No, there is an endpoint of victory for every temptation, test, or trial if we but persevere under the trial. God has assured that we can endure the hardship of discipline because He disciplines us for our good … in order that we may share in His holiness. (Cf. Hebrews 12:1-10)
Well, I hope that these thoughts and references I have shared will help you and encourage you in your times of temptation. As Pastor Steve would say, “We need to reset the mindset!”