1 Corinthians 10:6-13
v.13 “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.”
Beloved in Christ, make no mistake, God does not like sin. In fact, one could—indeed, should—go so far as to say that He absolutely despises it. It is an affront to His very Person, which is, of course, holy and all that is good, whereas sin is everything that is unholy and evil. This is something that Paul was trying very hard to impress upon the hearts and minds of the church at Corinth, which had a great deal of moral dilemmas and issues plaguing it. There were all sorts of people who had apparently gone astray—especially in terms of sexual immorality and idolatry—reverting to their former heathen ways (remember that much of the church at Corinth were recent converts from the Greek mystery cults, which advocated, among other things—sexual promiscuity as a form of worship to their many gods and goddesses).
Not wanting to see those whom he loved so dearly fall away, many of whom he had no doubt personally led to the faith through his own proclamation of the Gospel – Paul speaks out to correct them of their transgressions—to rebuke them—in order to bring about repentance and faith once more. He speaks clearly of their sin—saying in no uncertain terms how it will ultimately lead to their deaths—physical and everlasting.
To show them how seriously God hates sin—Paul gives a few brief examples of blatant sin in the OT—from the book of Numbers—in which the people rebelled and sinned against God—and were quickly punished for it—quite severely. The first example Paul gives is a reference to Numbers 25 where the people indulged in sexual immorality (a sin that plagued not only the Israelites of the day, nor the Greeks in Paul’s, but seemingly everyone in our society as well). They went after the daughters of Moab and began to whore after their false gods as well—falling into the worship of Baal. God sent a plague and tens of thousands died as a result.
The second incident Paul refers to in v.9 is an obvious mention to the days of wandering in the wilderness when the people spoke out against God and the food He was providing for them in the wilderness in Numbers 21—He sent a plague of fiery serpents among the people and, once again, many died. Lastly, Paul mentions the time in Numbers 14 when the people rebelled against God just as He was about to bring them into the Promised Land. They grumbled against Him and desired to go back into bondage in Egypt—God almost sent a pestilence to kill the whole lot of them and start over with Moses—in the end, however, none of those people who rebelled ever got to enter the promised land, but rather spent the next 40 years in exile wandering in the wilderness.
In each of the cases God’s chastisement was fair, swift, and deadly. Does this make you nervous? It should! In fact, it is meant to!! Paul even notes that, “these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction.” Sin has often been turned into a kind of dirty word in our culture—even, sadly, in the church of Christ. People are not to be told that they are sinners—that the things they do are evil and wrong in God’s sight—but rather that they are simply misguided or misunderstood—that what they are doing isn’t really all that bad—they just have a different perspective on things—there’s nothing wrong with that!
But beloved in Christ, God’s Word is certain and it is clear. Sin is a very big deal in God’s sight. He is holy and mighty, whereas we are sinful and weak. And, unfortunately for us, we sinful people cannot enter into the presence of our holy and mighty God without being consumed by His holiness.
Temptations come our way and we fall—often quite quickly and with no struggle at all—into sin—giving in—just as the people of Israel did. We all too readily succumb to our sins of lust, greed, and a host of other things as we seek to fulfill the pleasures sought by our flesh. It doesn’t matter how wrong and evil it may be in God’s sight—our love of money, our love of self, our love of pleasure—take over and take first place in our lives. And so we fall into the first and most deadly sin of idolatry—we turn against God—casting Him down from His rightful place as Lord of all and setting up ourselves in His stead. This may happen even more frequently as we in our anger, pain, and grief lash out against and blame God for all of our problems—instead of our own sin and pride.
So, what is your temptation that plagues you? Is it lust, is it money, is it power and control? Is it your overriding need to do what you want, when you want, and who gives a rip what God says? Dear friends in Christ, whatever your own particular temptation that plagues you may be—and don’t kid yourself—you all have one—as do I—we need to bow before the Almighty Word of God—confess our sin—repent and trust in Him to provide our way of escape.
And that’s just it, isn’t it? We can’t escape our sin on our own—we can’t get rid of it—we can’t resist it—we can’t do anything, but receive the consequences of our sin—God’s eternal wrath and punishment—which we so justly and richly deserve.
But dear friends in Christ, thanks be to God that the Lord has promised a way of escape. Let’s take a look at Paul’s OT examples again and see how the people were saved by something outside of them. In Numbers 25, after the people fell into sexual immorality and idolatry, God used Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron the High Priest, who stopped the plague by piercing the man of Israel and his woman who had sinned through the belly with a spear.
In Numbers 21 Moses erected a bronze serpent set on a pole so that whoever was bitten by a snake could look to the serpent set in the midst of the camp and be saved. And in Numbers 14 when the people rebelled against God, Moses interceded for them—and the Lord pardoned them according to Moses’ word.
In each of these instances we see how the people were saved not of their own doing, but by something or someone outside of them—a Saviour—sent from God. These things pointed toward the ultimate Saviour of mankind from all sin, death, and hell—the Lord Jesus Christ. For it is He who finally and fully accepted God’s fair, just, and deadly wrath for our sin—the punishment that we so readily deserve—He took to the cross in His own flesh. He hung there in shame, in lowly humility—the God-man—the Lord of the universe—endured the full wrath of God for our sin—all because of His great love for His people—because of His incredible mercy and grace—that undeserved kindness—so that we may be His own and live in His kingdom.
Just as Phinehas pierced others with a spear to satisfy God’s justice—so too was the Lord Jesus pierced—with thorn, nails, and spear—for our transgressions—for our iniquities—in order that you might escape the terrible wrath of God and instead receive His gifts of forgiveness and life and everlasting salvation.