YOU CAN GET OUT OF IT!
"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." 1 Corinthians, ch. 10, verse 13.
IF we were to seek the Church which probably caused the apostle Paul most difficulty, and, to that extent, disappointment, it might be the Church at Corinth. His converts were a constant anxiety to him, and they were ever a burden on his heart. They fell into sin, they were content to gloss sin over. It required two, if not three letters from the apostle to bring them to a sense of that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. The background of his letters can be known in part only. We do not know what Paul had heard about Corinth but, if we may judge from this letter, it would seem from this text in particular, that some were suggesting they were helpless in the face of temptation. So far as they were concerned, they felt that God had left them to face the challenge alone. If so, something of an answer was to be found in the text.
The more I read my Bible, the more I see the necessity of reading it carefully. While we do not wish to bring a legalistic mind to the Scriptures yet, when we consider the promises of the Word, we should take care that we understand them in the context in which they are written. Paul writes from the standpoint of revelation, and of experience, and he is here concerned with a major issue in the mind of every serious Christian: the temptations that assail the mind and heart, and will, of every believer, every day of his life. If what the Bible says is true, and so we believe, then probably most of us will feel that we still have something to learn in the terms of the text. Every temptation any one of us has ever faced could have been the occasion of victory! That will cause us great grief as we remember our many failures. But the promise is still true, and today and tomorrow may find us proving it if we will. That should cause us to take up the issue afresh in ever-growing courage and faith. This theme presents itself to us from three standpoints.There is first, the Nature of Temptation, then the Faithfulness of God, and, finally the Way of Victory. All this is intended to be the daily experience of every child of God
. (1) THE NATURE OF TEMPTATION:
The trend of thought in the chapter will indicate I think, that Paul means temptation to sin rather than testing and trial. The text can be applied to trial and difficulty, sickness, pain and sorrow, but these are not the matters in the thought of the apostle in this chapter and the terrific problem of pain and anguish we will leave aside just now. Concerning temptation to sin, Paul would have us know that every temptation that so assaults us, is common to man. I need not say that there have been a number of expositions as to the meaning of the phrase "common to man." Man as such, living on this earth, is inevitably exposed to temptation. The human race has four distinct examples and the relation of temptation to each is important. Adam and Eve were innocent and they were tempted. They were tempted, so we may judge, to believe that a certain course would be for their good. A doubt about God was fastened in their mind and they sinned, as they thought, for a good purpose. One Holy Man was tempted. He was tempted in all points like as we are but was not subjected, as most of us, to certain tests to which we succumb. To each and every test that Satan himself could apply, on every level, and in every circumstance until He was the most sorely tempted Man that ever walked this earth.
It is a very perplexing question as to whether our Lord could have sinned. If we assert that He could not have sinned, then the critics will declare that His temptations were mere display. If we say that He could have sinned, and are not as careful of our words as we should be, we may be guilty of implying sinful susceptibilities concerning which thought we may well exclaim: "God forbid." Now, the text says that temptation is common to the human, but it is also impossible to the Divine! We shall not attempt to unravel the mystery, for only One such as He of Whom we speak could possibly plumb the mysteries of His Person. We hold that His temptations were real, but such was the constitution of His unique Person that whatever onslaughts were made upon His perfect Manhood He was so indissolubly One with the Father that we cannot admit any inherent susceptibility to sin. "The Prince of this world cometh and findeth nothing in Me." Then there is the race of Adam in its sin. Temptations come to the fallen humanity of which we once were a part, without Christ and without hope. Every day in every individual life Satan claims and receives the token of His absolute mastery over every unredeemed man. That is to say every day every unredeemed man, sins in one or more directions, loves to do it, and could not think life worth living without it. He is, as the Scriptures declare, taken captive at the will of the Devil. From these particular sins he desires no way of escape.
Finally, there is redeemed man, whose spirit has been brought to life. He is ever conscious of the upward pull, fights and struggles against the downward pull, continually exclaims, " 0, wretched man that I am," makes every effort to resist, but finds that he is continually victimised by his lower nature. The powers of darkness probe perpetually to find still some living response in our old Adamic nature. From all of which, we may perhaps deduce that temptation afflicts every being who is human. The higher the spiritual life the more exacting, subtle, searching and penetrating the temptation. It comes to every human being, it is intended to be the means by which every man and woman shall be kept in subjection to Satan. The presence of spiritual life will make the temptation more subtle as there is advance in the will of God.
(2) THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD
"God is faithful ", declares the apostle. His faithfulness is in this particular consideration that He will not allow any child of God to be tempted above that the child of God is able to bear. This is an important declaration which some Christians may find it difficult to believe. It is here, as an example, that we may see the importance of understanding the apostle's words, for in practical experience the declaration is very far reaching. Are we to understand that every day, wherever we may be, and in whatsoever conditions we may find ourselves, God is so utterly faithful that we shall never be assailed by a temptation too strong for us? It seems impossible to believe! But I would advance two considerations relevant to the text contained in two sentences, one before, and one after, the text, and each commencing with the word " Wherefore." "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." God is faithful to the Christian who is of a humble spirit. Unless you are entirely convinced of the evil of pride, self-congratulation, self-glory, self-confidence, and with all your heart lean heavily upon Divine grace, you cannot take the promise of this text. Every day must begin with a sense of how weak you are without God, and how much you need His help. It should be expressed in fervent prayer that passes your lips with deep conviction and enables you to cast all your care upon Him. God is not committed in faithfulness to the man whose heart is so full of pride that he sees no need for a committal of everything to God. "Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee idolatry."
Idolatry is the worship of self under the guise of worshipping God. It is the lust of the eyes, the flesh, seeking covetously the best from the earth to satisfy the longings of the heart. Idolatry is the unwillingness to receive with contentment at God's hands all that God in grace has provided for you. If you are thirsting and drinking and coming to Jesus for satisfaction, then you are delivered or being delivered from idolatry. But there can be no faithfulness of God to an idolater! If these two considerations are observed, so it would seem, every child of God can count upon Divine faithfulness. Whatever every day may bring, it will not afflict me with a temptation above that which I am able. It may look like it the pressure may be terrific, and the guile will be intriguing, but I may trust Him fully.
(3) THE WAY OF ESCAPE
Most of our temptations seem to drive us into a cul-de-sac. We just cannot see how to get out of them. Like travellers of old, we face the highwayman with his demand that we stand and deliver. In the pressure of temptation we see no way out. Sometimes we can see a way out subsequently, as we reflect upon the situation. Words come to our lips that we should have said, acts we ought to have done, but all was strangely obscure as the tempter swooped down upon us. That, however, cannot be a proper appreciation of the truth. In the midst of the temptation, however fierce, we are to be sure there is a way of escape, that we may be able to take it, and so have victory if it is nothing more than the victory of endurance. Here again, we come to a careful reflection upon what Paul actually writes. The word he uses is of great importance. A " way of escape" is just one word. Paul uses it here, and the writer to the Hebrews uses it once in chapter 13, verse 7. In Hebrews it is translated " end." The verse reads: "Considering the end of their conversation, Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever." The word conversation does not mean so much small talk, but tactics in battle or behaviour in the common things of life. So that the end of conflict and temptation, the end of all our behaviour in the common things of life is Jesus!
And this way of escape? Well, it means " a way up out of." Now, when we face a temptation, the more carnal and the less heavenly our outlook, the more we look around to see how we can escape. The prayer may ascend for alleviation, alteration, redisposition of our circumstances so that we can get out of them, but God's faithfulness is not committed to that. His faithfulness is committed definitely to a way out which is also a way UP! If, therefore, the end of your conversation, your daily conflict and your daily manner of life and behaviour, is to glorify Jesus, then every time you come into temptation God will be faithful; He will show you clearly the way out, but it will be a way UP. All these temptations are implicit in the common lot of mankind, whether innocent, holy, unredeemed or redeemed, and that means that within the human sphere there is no answer to them, and no escape from them. But there is a way out and up! And when the end of all our walk and conversation is Jesus, then the way out and up will be Jesus too.
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