This sermon is offered by the CRCNA as part of our Reading Sermons series.
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Dear people of God,
The Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is filled with Gospel-truth that can be applied to any listener here today. One of the key themes of 1Corinthians is that the Christian life is like a race. Paul says that to run it, you have to be disciplined. You cannot run aimlessly. God calls us to run the race marked out for us.
Yet right in the middle of this theme of running the race, the Apostle Paul reminds the believers of Corinth that there is something very simple that can lead anyone off course: temptation. It didn’t help that the Corinthians lived in the belly of temptation. Corinth was the Mecca of Aphrodite—goddess of beauty, love, and sexuality.
The Israelites Give Into Temptation
To help guide the Corinthians in their tenuous situation, Paul gives an analogy. He brings up the story of their forefathers. He describes the journey of Israel. He tells them what the Israelites did when facing temptation.
And how Paul does this is key. He brings up two warnings of temptation based on what happened to the Israelites. The first warning comes from verses 1-5 and the second comes from verses 6-10.
In the first five verses of our passage, Paul warns the Corinthians that spiritual privilege doesn’t guarantee success. Having great experiences with God doesn’t promise triumph over the temptation.
Israel had actually seen the glory of God. They were led by the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, the Red Sea parted right before their eyes, manna and food were provided for them in supernatural ways, and Paul says that even Christ himself accompanied them as a spiritual rock.
The Israelites experienced incredible and miraculous spiritual privilege--yet it didn’t prevent them from giving themselves into temptation. Experiencing God’s wonder was incredible in the moment but after the cloud and pillar of fire, after the Red Sea moment, after the food and manna, they were easily defeated—defeated in temptation.
This leads to the second warning. In verses 6-10 Paul warns them that there are consequences. Moses spoke like an alarm going off again and again warning the Israelites to repent and follow God. But, after a while, the warnings simply fell on deaf ears. The Israelites turned Moses off. They turned the radar off and gave into temptation. Verses 6-10 gives a list of sins followed by consequences.
Moses warned the Israelites but what happened? Paul tells us that because of their idolatry and sexual immorality, 23,000 of them died in a day. Because they tested God, they died of snakebites. Because of their grumbling, God sent them the angel of death.
Now I can hear some of the Corinthians asking, “But what does this have to do with us?” Paul simply points out that the Corinthians were guilty of the same sins. The Corinthians easily gave into temptation to immorality, idolatry, and grumbling against God.
We Give Into Temptation
And what’s common to the Israelites is common to the Corinthians and is common to us. Regardless of time, regardless of culture, regardless of ethnic backgrounds—all of us face temptation. That’s why verse 13 says that it’s common to all.
Yes, temptation is common—common to us all. But, there’s hope. Jesus was tempted. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” Jesus was the only one who was tempted but did not give in. We’ve all been seized by temptation and just like the Israelites we’ve been defeated.
That’s why Paul tells the Corinthians, “Examine Israel—take a look at them! Look what happens when full-on temptation is pursued. Consider them and be wise so that you don’t repeat!”
Paul argues that the Israelites had mountain top experiences, but it didn’t take long for them to return to their behavior. Some of the most common times Satan acts is right after a church service, a retreat, a spiritual event, a youth service, or an intimate prayer time.
Scripture tells us that the devil comes to hunt, kill, and destroy. He’s clever. He’s the great deceiver. It’s his language and he goes after everyone—especially the young, weak, or wounded. Amazing things happen in the fellowship of believers at camps, at small groups, youth retreats, and various ministries in the church. Then, the moment we walk out the door (just like the Israelites), we don’t expect temptations waiting around the corner.
Yet—if you’re strong in the faith—there’s a responsibility to help those of us who are new to identify the struggles, the temptations. Because, for some of us, we simply don’t know what triggers us. We need to be open to the convictions of the Holy Spirit and hear wise people so that we can fight off temptations that the devil hooks our way. Because there’s a cost.
Paul tells the Corinthians that there are consequences to actions of continuing to give into temptation without repentance. Each of us right now could easily think of someone. It’s not hard for us to think of someone who destroyed a family because of giving into temptation. Maybe it was a family member or a friend or a relative who had an affair, who got hooked on drugs, who slipped up, who got caught with a crime. It’s not hard to think of the gravity of the mistake or how it affected a whole community.
You know, perhaps God allowed you to witness the painful effects of unchecked temptation so that you would be humbled and warned. That’s why Paul says in verse 12, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful you don’t fall.” And he tells the Corinthians, “These things happened to the Israelites as examples and were written down as warnings.”
God doesn’t play around. 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 is designed to hit us. It’s designed to wake us up. Often today in the church we water down God’s judgment of sin but Paul doesn’t. Paul clearly communicates the gravity of this to the Corinthians.
Today, we need to do the same. Our word “temptation” comes from the Greek word “peirasmos.” It means persuaded or deceived. What warnings have we received? What warnings have we been turning off? Today we need to check our hearts and look within and name the temptations that we continually give ourselves to. So, who or what do we consistently give in to? What are we replacing God with? What are we attaching to?
Our text today simply promises that no matter what the temptation is, God will provide a way out! No matter what the temptation, God will never abandon us! How does God do this?
Jesus Provides A Way Out
God provides a way out for us by looking to Jesus Christ. For, when we look to Christ, we see how God saves us. God sent his son to die on the cross. God sent his Son to die to set us free from the death that each of us deserves because of our sin.
He knows our ever-constant battle with temptation. He knows what you face. He knows what you struggle with. He knows what you attach to. He knows what you fall into. On the cross Jesus saves you from all of that.
Jesus Christ takes your penalty through the cross. He knows what you wrestle with, what you face, and so he interceded for your sin and took your penalty. God provides a way out for us by his sheer gift of being our substitute on the cross.
God also gives us very practical ways of resisting temptation while looking at Jesus. God provides a way out through his Word. By looking at Christ we see how he faced temptation.
As soon as Jesus Christ was baptized the skies opened up and a voice from heaven spoke these words, “This is my beloved in whom I am well-pleased.” As soon as this event was over, Satan—the great deceiver—tempted him for forty days and nights.
The devil tempted him in three ways. He told Jesus to eat, to give into comfort, and to bow down to Satan. And with each attempt, what did Jesus do? He recited scripture. He quoted Deuteronomy saying, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” He quoted the Psalms saying, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” He quoted Deuteronomy again saying, “For it is written, worship the Lord your God and serve only him.”
And we can do the same. In order to fight temptation, we need to know the word of God. We need to place special verses in our hearts—like 1 Corinthians 10:13. It says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to us all. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” And then you get 1 John 5:21, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your heart.”
God also provides a way out through prayer. Jesus told the disciples, just before his crucifixion, that they should pray that they might not enter into temptation. This is why he taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” He was not telling us to pray that we never encounter temptation. Rather, he wanted us to pray that we not give in to temptation when faced with it. He said that we should ask the Father to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
God provides a way out for us through the death of his son, through the power of his word, and through prayer. Though we will always encounter temptation—over and over again—Jesus Christ is with us.
Jesus Provides A Way Out for Us
We need to see the truth that Jesus Christ provides a way out for us by his cross, by his word, and by prayer. We need to let this truth direct our lives.
What can often happen with messages on temptation is that they can turn into moralistic theology or “the top eighteen things to remember in the face of temptation." We’ll always fail when we create a personal set of laws for ourselves. Nevertheless, there are clear implications that we need to apply.
We are a media-saturated society. Temptation blasts through our media like a wide-open broken dam. And so we need to address our technology. We need to tame it—and treat it with care! We must not allow it to run our lives and lead us to junk.
Instead, we must use technology for the kingdom. If you have a phone or an ipod—put a Bible on it and use it for devotions. If you have a laptop, get podcasts. Some of the best Bible-based preaching and teaching is available for free. Redeem your commutes, your workouts with great worship. If you have a computer, check out Bible software on there. This isn’t just for techies or preachers but there are incredible tools online to help us all dig deeper as Christians. Even seminary websites have incredible resources to help us grow deeper as Christians.
Another practical application is as simple as it gets: Run! Paul says, “But you… run from these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.” We must run to Christ our Redeemer, Messiah, Savior, and Deliverer. We must run to the cross and be reminded what he went through to set us free.
As you listen to this set of lyrics from Kathryn Scott’s song, “At the Foot of the Cross”, I want to ask: Is there anything that you’re running away from God to? Give him that burden. In your mind—name your burden and hear the power of what Christ has done to set you free!
At the foot of the cross
Where grace and suffering meet
You have shown me Your love
Through the judgment You received
And You’ve won my heart
Yes You’ve won my heart
Now I can
Trade these ashes in for beauty
And wear forgiveness like a crown
Coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down
At the foot of the cross
At the foot of the cross
Where I am made complete
You have given me life
Through the death You bore for me
I'm laying every burden down
I'm laying every burden down
Order of Worship
We Gather for Worship
Welcome and Announcements
Call to Worship: Psalm 100
Confession of Trust: “Our help is in the name of the LORD who made the heavens and the Earth.”
God’s Greeting: “Grace to us and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
Songs of Praise: “All Creatures of Our God and King” PsH#431
“Blessed Assurance: Jesus Is Mine” PsH#490
“My Jesus I Love Thee" PsH#557
Service of Reconciliation
Call to Confession: “When we gather to praise God, we remember that we are people who have preferred our will to his, and now accept his power to become new persons in Christ. Let us confess our sin before God in prayer.”
Prayer of Confession: Psalm 51: 1-2, 7-8, 10-12
Assurance of Pardon: John 3:16
Hymn: “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed” PsH#385
We Hear the Word
Prayer of Illumination, “Our Lord and our God, now as we hear your Word, fill us with your Holy Spirit. Soften our hearts that we may delight in your presence. Sharpen our minds that we may discern your truth. Shape our wills that we may desire your ways. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Sermon: “Jesus Provides a Way Out”
Prayer of Application: “God of compassion and love, you have breathed into us the breath of life and have given us mind and will. In our frailty we surrender all life to you from whom it came, trusting in your gracious promises that you are faithful to deliver us, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
Hymn: “I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord” PsH#169
Benediction from Numbers 6: 24-26
Doxology: “To God Be The Glory” PsH#632