Every Christian struggles with the temptation to sin. Everyone you know struggles with the temptation to sin. Even the people you look up to the most struggle – it’s just a fact for us in this fallen world as God’s people. Now think about your particular, unique struggle with sin. What is it for you? What is your particular temptation?
The Corinthian church struggled with the temptation to sin as well, but what was unique about them was that they didn’t think they had this struggle. They thought they were invulnerable. That is the problem Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13.
God’s People Can Fall
Verses 1-4 refer to the Israelites who were powerfully saved from slavery in Egypt and brought out under the guidance of Moses. All of them experienced what God did for them. They “were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized . . . and all ate the same spiritual food . . . and all drank the same spiritual drink” (vv. 1-4). But look at verse 5:
Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased . . .
They experienced all this, nevertheless they fell into (as we will see) idolatry, sexual sin, and grumbling. Now, you might feel that if you had experienced what they had, you would never then fall into these things. Well the whole point of this passage is: don’t be so sure. Don’t ever think that you are above and beyond temptation.
Learn from Their Examples
Paul points out that we should learn from the Israelites’ examples, “that we might not desire evil as they did” (v. 6). Then he outlines three pitfalls that they fell into and that we should watch out for.
Idolatry (v. 7)
You are probably not tempted to go to a temple overtly dedicated to a false god – but the temptation to idolatry is ever-present for us. We are tempted to seek people’s approval over God’s. We are tempted to quickly turn to what the world turns to when looking for emotional relief instead of waiting and growing closer to God, or to overindulgence in entertainment as a way of escape.
Sexual Immorality (v. 8)
The Corinthian culture involved sexual perversion to a great degree, and the Christians were embracing this into their own lives and the church. We too face a great deal of pressure to embrace the sexual perversions of our culture – whether it is the secret sin of pornography, or more open sins like adultery and homosexuality.
Testing & Grumbling (vv. 9, 10)
Do we tend to be patient or impatient when it comes to the things of God? Do we tend to complain or be content? Do we tend to be demanding of God or submissive toward Him? Considering these questions, you can see we are tempted toward testing Christ and grumbling.
Now you might say, “I’m not an idolater, I don’t commit sexual sin or grumble.” But the point is: don’t be so sure. And even if you don’t do these things, don’t be so sure you won’t fall into them later. God’s people have always been prone to fall.
Paul goes on to say that we should be careful not to fall. The Corinthians thought they were standing and had it together, and they didn’t realize they had already fallen into all sorts of sin. If you feel invulnerable to temptation, you are probably in the grip of sins you don’t even realize as well.
So how can we be careful not to fall? Verse 13 gives two truths and two promises to believe about temptation.
Truth 1: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” Your sin is not unique. You don’t need to keep it to yourself – share it with a mature Christian friend, because we are built to do this together.
Truth 2: “God is faithful . . .” Our willpower only takes us so far when combating sin, but God is reliable. When we feel that pull toward a sin, we need to rely on God’s dependability.
Promise 1: “He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability . . .” God always limits the temptation to what we can handle. This promise is true because of the next promise.
Promise 2: “He will also provide a way of escape . . .” God always provides a way out of temptation “that you may be able to endure it.”
If we remember these truths and promises, we can endure temptation. But Christianity is not based on good advice, it’s based on good news – the good news of Jesus Christ. God knows our situation and He knows that we need a Savior. We are vulnerable to the temptation to sin, but praise God that, through Christ, we can “draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15).
Discussion Starters (Based on 1 Corinthians 10:1-13)
What stands out to you in these verses?
Do you struggle with a particular sin? What is it?
What are the dangers of thinking we are invulnerable to temptation?
How are we tempted into idolatry?
How are we tempted to embrace the sexual perversions of our culture?
In what ways are we tempted to grumble and put the Lord to the test?