One of those fingertip passages, the kind that you always want to keep close by, is 1 Corinthians 10:13. It states six fundamental truths an principles that cannot be overstated, yet too often neglected. “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
“No temptation has overtaken you…” This speaks of an intentional testing with the intent of discovering and exploiting moral weakness. It is not of God (James 1:13). “Overtaken” implies being caught off guard. You are now conquered and powerless to escape the consequences of the sin that entered through the temptation. It isn’t speaking of a willful turning toward sin or a willful choice to be in a place of temptation. Much of what Paul wrote to these brethren was intended to educate them in the wiles of the evil one. Satan knows our vulnerabilities. Skillfully, he leads us into scenarios where those vulnerabilities are breached. The way to prevent that is an awareness of one’s surroundings and fleeing from the very appearance of evil (1 Cor. 6:18; 10:14; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22). Temptation is quick to overtake us when we are spiritually disengaged, but it cannot overtake us when we resist or flee from it (James 4:7).
“…but such as is common to man…” Satan would love to have temptations exclusive to Christians. Not only would that be convenient for him, but for us as well. We could always excuse failure, telling ourselves that we are tempted in unique ways just because we are Christians. Our temptations are not extraordinary—they are common. Fear, lust, and pride are the pitfalls of all mankind; and they work just as effectively on us. The good news is that if others have found a way to escape, then we can, too. It becomes a simple matter of finding out how.
“…and God is faithful…” As Barnes notes in his commentary, we are to depend on God’s faithfulness; but that doesn’t mean that we make no efforts to resist. We cannot subdue the powers of the evil one on our own, yet neither are we to immediately cave in and expect that God will step in and remove the temptation (or its consequences). If we want to avoid being overtaken, the only outside source we need to seek is God. He is faithful in His promises to rescue and deliver. There is no excuse not to seek His help because He has never forsaken the righteous (Ps. 37:25; 9:10).
“…will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able…” The fallacy that two equal but opposite forces coexist is clearly exposed in this passage. Satan is able to overtake us through deceit and trickery—but God is even more powerful, and He limits Satan’s power (Job 1). It is possible to overcome temptation, thus the Spirit says, “…you are able…”; but human ability to resist depends on our reliance upon the power of a faithful God.
“…but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also…” When I was a boy, we kept chickens in a large, completely enclosed, coop. The enclosed coop was necessary because coyotes, feral cats, and hawks were abundant. Chicken wire kept the varmints out and the chickens in. Occasionally, a sparrow would find a small gap in the wire and get inside. In the evenings, when gathering the eggs, I always looked to see if a sparrow had managed to get in. They were always terrified of me and tried to escape, but they couldn’t. It was a just a matter of time before I had worn them down, and then catching them was easy. Their little hearts beat so fast when they were cupped in my hand! They had been caught not because I learned to fly, but because they had lost all hope of escape. They had worn themselves out looking for that little opening that they earlier found but now couldn’t. Temptation is terrible, but finding no escape is sheer terror! God will always show us the way out!
“…so that you will be able to endure it.” The text indicates that their temptations were to rebel, to ignore, to disobey, to practice idolatry, to forget, and to go astray (verses 1—12). In every case, the temptation could have been successfully resisted (men like Moses, Joshua, Caleb, and others did so) and thus endured.
The lesson is simple. Endurance and victory are within our grasp, but the ability to overtake us is also just within the grasp of the evil one. He is using all that he has to overtake us, and he is able to do so—unless we use all that is placed within us to escape.
Keep studying. DC Brown ©2016