Enduring Common-to-Man Temptations

The Temptation of Saint Anthony :: Hieronymus Bosch

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. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

“No temptation.” I love that phrase. It covers them all. But the temptations that Paul is talking about specifically in the preceding verses are sexual immorality and grumbling.

These are not grand temptations like jumping off the temple into angel arms or denying Jesus when threatened with torture.

These are “common to man” temptations. These are the temptations you and I will face today. And tomorrow. And the next day... They dog at our heels and whisper in our ears at the slightest glance or inconvenience.

And they are very effective because they’re aimed where we are weakest: our profound fallen selfishness. They encourage us to nurture a fantasy that the world we perceive is our world. And in that fantasy-world we ought to possess what we desire and things ought to go our way.

The more we indulge this fantasy the more we want it to be true. It feeds and expands our sinful desire-appetites. It increasingly shapes our thinking and behavior. If not resisted and battled vigorously, we will eventually pursue as real an image we created.

This is rank idolatry, which is why Paul makes a connection between these temptations and Israel’s golden calf a few verses earlier (1 Corinthians 10:7).

We are not to play with these “common to man” fantasy-idols. They are very dangerous. They destroy people every day. They “[bring] forth death” (James 1:14-15).

Which brings us to the gospel in this verse: God is faithful to us. Jesus, “who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15), will provide a way of escape that is more persistent (Hebrews 13:5), far more powerful (1 John 4:4), and far more satisfying (Hebrews 11:25-26) than our “common” temptations.

Every escape will be slightly different. But they all involve listening to Jesus and believing what he promises. Fighting idolatry means believing promises over perceptions. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

And when we've failed and fallen into sin, we are invited to go straight to the cross where our cancelled sin has been paid in full. There, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).