Saturday, July 7, 2012

How Much a Christian Can Be Tested

How Much a Christian Can Be Tested
1 Corinthians 10:12-13

Topic Explanation

The topic of this paper is temptation and testing of new Christians.  1 Corinthians 10:13 states that God will not allow us be tempted or tested beyond what we can endure, and that He will provide a way of escape. We will look at the historical and literary context these words were written in, explain its importance to the original hearers in Corinth, and make application to today’s new Christian readers.

The General Historical Context / Cultural Background / Letter Form

Corinth was a major metropolitan city of approximately 600,000 people made so by it’s strategic location. It is located on an isthmus, a necessary travel connection between the landmasses north and south of it, but also between the seas to the east and the west. The isthmus is narrow enough to facilitate shipping passage between the Aegean and Adriatic Seas by moving ships across the 4 miles wide landmass on rollers.[1] 
This central location for land and see travel meant that Corinth had a very diverse population, which resulted in the city having a population steeped in religious syncretism as well as immorality. This city was immoral to such a degree that the name of the city was used in a word coined to mean “to practice fornication”, korinthiazomai, meaning Corinthianize.
The people of Corinth were also lovers of wisdom and knowledge, and were proud and arrogant.[2]  Their accomplishments, accumulation of knowledge, and the mixture of religions caused them to be puffed up with pride. Their high opinions of themselves lead to a diluted worldly understanding of scripture. They became dogmatic and split into various factions, each believing that their scriptural understanding was correct, and others were wrong. These factions caused divisions in the body of Christ.
It is the problems formed within this environment that Paul addressed his letters to the Corinthians. This letter takes the form of a “real letter”, meaning that this letter to the Corinthians is intended for specifically the persons addressed, and not the public in general. This letter addresses specific issues the Corinthians were dealing with.

Literary Context

To establish the literary context for 1Co 10:12-13, we will take a quick look back at Chapters 8 & 9. Interestingly, and pertinent to the topic of this paper, Paul starts by reminding his readers that “knowledge makes us proud of ourselves” and that “people who think they know so much don't know anything at all.”  1Co 8:1-2 (CEV).  He is addressing the proud arrogance of the Corinthians, which has lead them into all sorts of error. Paul, using an example of one of their points of error, reminds them of their responsibility not to “cause problems for someone with a weak conscience, just because you have the right to eat anything.” 1Co 8:9 (CEV) Paul reminds the proud Corinthians that he is “willing to put up with anything to keep from causing trouble for the message about Christ.’ 1Co 9:12b (CEV)
Clearly, it would seem that the proud Corinthian Greeks had allowed their accumulation of knowledge to puff them up to the point where they believed that their accumulated knowledge had elevated them to a point above concern for their fellow believer. They were using this self-perceived elevation for their own freedoms, giving place to pride, and causing their fellow Corinthians in the church to stumble and fall, and creating confusion. Paul was correcting this arrogant behavior and teaching them that they should be more concerned about the less mature followers of Christ.
Paul tells them that he has “never used these privileges of mine, and I am not writing this because I want to start now. I would rather die than have someone rob me of the right to take pride in this.” 1Co 9:15 (CEV) This is an amazing statement that indicates how highly Paul valued care and not being a stumbling block to those around him, vs. personally enjoying certain freedoms afforded him by Christ at their expense. Rather, he has “become all things to all men, that (he) might by all means save some.” 1Co 9:22 (NKJV)  Paul is teaching that the individual salvation of those around us is far more important than our enjoyment of our individual freedom at their expense.

Particular Context of Passage

This bring us to our text, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13.  Paul brought his teaching into the prevailing haughty crowds of believers, who have for all intents and purposes, have raised themselves up in their own minds to the pinnacles of wisdom.  Paul seeks to turn a light on by providing warnings from history showing that they were (and we are) just as susceptible of displeasing God as their “fathers”, the people of great priviledge whom God supernaturally cared for during the exodus. (1Co 10:1-6)  He warns them; saying “Even if you think you can stand up to temptation, be careful not to fall.” 1Co 10:12 (CEV) Paul was addressing those proud believers with the warning learned from the Israelites of times past that they should not be so confident in their ability to stand up to temptation without falling. He continues with the admonition that they “are tempted in the same way that everyone else is tempted. But God can be trusted not to let (them) be tempted too much, and he will show (them) how to escape from (their) temptations.”, 1Co 10-13 (CEV), indicating that they were no different than those privileged people who fell so hard, and that it was God who would provide their escape.

Practical Applications for Today’s Christian

Let’s look at these two verses in some detail:

1Co 10:12-13  Even if you think you can stand up to temptation, be careful not to fall.  (13)  You are tempted in the same way that everyone else is tempted. But God can be trusted not to let you be tempted too much, and he will show you how to escape from your temptations. (CEV)
In 1Co 10-12, the idea behind “standing” means to abide, or continue.  To me means to presume that we would be able to abide or continue in, or allow temptation to linger, without giving in to it, or falling. 
The word “temptation” being translated means solicitation or provocation. The devil seeks to solicit or provoke us to sin, such as in the case of the Corinthians, to immorality, fornication, pride, and every other sin. Temptation occurs in the mind, before sin actually takes place. We are tempted to sin in our mind with our desires.
The word for “fall” means just that, to fall down.
Thus, in verse 12, Paul is warning us that we are to be careful, that our perceived ability to resist sin while allowing temptations to linger is not sure, and by implication, likely to result in a fall, and giving in to the sin. We should not attempt to stand up to temptation, but rather, put it out of our minds immediately.
In 1Co 10:13, Paul continues, instructing that all of us, new Christians and old, are tempted in the same manner.  The struggles of new Christians are no harder nor easier than the struggles of the Israelites of history or veteran Christians in the days of Paul or of Christians today. Satan tempts everyone equally across all times. 
God will not let us be tempted beyond what we are able to endure, and will always provide a way out. Knowing then that temptation begins in the mind, by our desires, Paul would have us know that when we are tempted, from the very first awareness in our minds of such temptation, we are given the ability to turn away from the sin we are being tempted into.
In the case of immorality for example, whether adultery, homosexuality, watching pornography, and so on, there is always an initial temptation prior to our acting out and performing the actual sin.  The way God gives us an out is apparent in these early stages of temptation.  From the onset of temptation, we would best immediately turn to God, ask for His strength to endure and escape, and turn our minds to other things, thus avoiding the sin.
If we look back on a time we fell into sin, and we are honest with ourselves, we can see that indeed, we were initially tempted, and we did not turn away when God told us to. We forfeited His escape route, perhaps thinking we in our own strength could stand through the temptation without falling, and were carried into sin. [3]
This is the same with pride. There is always an initial temptation, which if turned from, will not give birth to the actual sin of pride.
Another example is regarding contemporary views of homosexuality. Homosexuality is a choice. At some point in every homosexual’s life, they were faced with the choice wherein they could turn away from the sin of homosexuality, or give into it. Either their eyes are blinded from the truth that they have a choice (ignorance) or they ignore the truth (rebellion) and believe that this temptation is beyond what they can endure, and they believe that there is no escape. But the fact remains, at some point, a choice was made, and a path to sin was traversed. God faithfully provided an escape, and the fault of the fall was with the individual.


[2] Gordon Fee, How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth, pg 61
[3] ?AuthorID=1&contentID=7210&commInfo=25&topic=1%20Corinthians

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