“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”
~1 Corinthians 10:13-14
1 Corinthians 10:13 is often used out of context. It is a popular verse regarding avoiding sin and temptation. While this is useful and encouraging for us to remember, out of context, it loses a lot of its meaning. Therefore, let’s put this important verse back into the context Paul originally wrote and intended for it so that we can glean the truths and lessons God would teach us through this exhortation to flee temptation.
At the beginning of chapter ten, Paul reminds the Corinthians of the Israelites’ sins in the wilderness and God’s judgment on them for trying to claim the promises of God while actively engaging in sin. But God will not be mocked and swiftly put an end to those defaming His name through their vulgar conduct. Within the context of this history lesson, Paul drops this important reminder that there is no new temptation under the sun.
The temptation and allure of sin is not new, but God is faithful and will give us all that we need to withstand and flee from temptation. This is an important reminder. The Corinthians were living in a sin saturated, wicked, and overtly sexual society. At every street corner and on every sign were reminders of the idolatry that permeated every part of life. Therefore, the Corinthians needed this reminder to flee temptation and trust in God’s faithfulness to sustain them and help them stay pure and holy in a dark world.
We also need this reminder. Like the Corinthians, we live in an era and culture that has erected many idols to worship and lifestyles that are contrary to God’s design. While we might not have gravened images on every street corner that represent our idols, there are plenty of idols in the heart. An idol is anything—desire, dream, person, object, goal—that takes the place of God by becoming all consuming, the center of life, the main motivator and thing that drives us or garners our deepest affections. So while we may not have stone idols dotting our lives, there are plenty of other types of idols we can worship—fame, success, celebrities, sports, relationships.
For this reason, we also need to be reminded that no temptation is before us that is not common to man and that God will be faithful to see us through the temptation and to the other side. The Israelites succumbed to temptation and were judged for it. We cannot dabble in idol worship and also worship the one true God. Our God will not be mocked. He is jealous for us since He redeemed and bought us at a great price. Therefore, may we learn from the example of the Israelites and heed Paul’s exhortation to flee temptation and idolatry.
“Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?”
~1 Corinthians 10:18-22
Aside from Christianity, all religions are built on rituals, moral obligations, works that must be performed, or codes of conduct that must be followed. While Christianity is radically different with its message of grace and free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, mankind has a hard time accepting this simplicity and always tries to weave works and rituals back into the mix.
In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul tackles this issue and warns the Corinthians about the danger of allowing subtle forms of idolatry to work their way into their Christian walk. Paul uses the example of the Israelites during the Exodus to showcase the point that one can do all the right things, attend the correct meetings, follow the moral code, and participate in all the spiritual events but still live a life grossly displeasing to the Lord.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
~1 Corinthians 9:24-27
This passage may sound very familiar. It’s a popular one with a powerful and compelling message. Paul often uses word pictures to better illustrate his points and connect with his readers. The image of an athlete striving for a prize is one that Paul used in other letters as well and would have resonated with the Corinthians since athletics and sports were a big part of their culture.
Surrendering rights requires personal sacrifice. It means dying to self and what we might feel is due us and thinking of others first. It will be uncomfortable at times and will push us outside our comfort zones. But why would we do this? Why go to the effort and voluntarily surrender our rights when God has given us complete freedom in Christ? To win the lost.
Freedom and rights. These are and have been hot topics in America for centuries. In fact, the quest for freedom and expression of rights was the motivation behind America’s war for independence. Since that time, laws and rulings have been made that protect and define personal, professional, civil, and religious rights. While rights and freedoms are not bad and at times are worthy of defending and protecting, what does the Bible say about how we are to use our rights?
1 Corinthians 8 focuses on a point of conflict within the Corinthian church that at first glance may seem to have no relevance to us. However, on close examination and with proper application, the lessons Paul teaches in this chapter are more relevant to us than ever before.
Pride is often the root issue in any conflict situation, and pride is fueled and puffed up by knowledge that is disconnected from application. The Corinthians lived in a Greek culture that prized knowledge as the ultimate possession and leveraged any knowledge they gained to control and manipulate others. This love for knowledge devoid of practical application caused many of the conflicts within the early church at Corinth and made them susceptible to false teaching.
For this reason, as Paul prepares to address a second topic that the Corinthians wrote to him about, he prefaces this section with a quick teaching on the danger of empty knowledge.
Is it better to be single or married? The answer varies depending on which culture and church era you live in. At one point, singleness was exalted as extra spiritual and a better way to serve and glorify God while marriage was looked down upon and viewed as only fit for the weaker brother. However, today that perspective has flipped. In most Christian circles, marriage is now supreme and lifted up as the ultimate life calling and the best way (and in some perspectives only way) Christians can serve God and build His kingdom on earth. But what does the Bible say on the matter?
In the middle of Paul’s thorough discussion on marriage and singleness, he seems to break off onto a tangent that is unrelated to the topic. However, while the principles in this section are applied to all areas of life, they are especially pertinent to the question of which is best, marriage or singleness. Paul answers this question by saying that the best is whatever life God calls you to live. Don’t compare your life with others or analyze whether or not marriage would be better for your future or if singleness would be more advantageous. Simply live the life God has set before you, seeking Him first in all things and then allowing Him to lead and direct your steps.
Here’s what Paul writes on this matter.
Paul tackles a lot of tough subjects in 1 Corinthians, which is why many churches and pastors tend to avoid teaching out of this book. However, while some of these topics may make people uncomfortable, they are extremely relevant for us today. Up to this point, Paul has addressed issues of disunity within the church, blatant sin by professing Christians and how such a person cannot remain in the church without repentance, and sexual immorality and God’s intended purposes for our bodies.
These were issues that Paul saw within the church at Corinth and were the top priorities to address. Now as we dive into 1 Corinthians 7, Paul begins to teach on topics that the Corinthians had written him about, asking for instruction and clarification. The first of these questions that Paul writes about is God’s design for marriage and that unique relationship.
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