Saturday, July 19, 2014

Strength to Meet Temptation

Scriptural Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:12-22
Devotional Reading: Hebrews 3:7-14

There always seems to be someone who believes he is “all that and a bag of chips”. He tends to be extra cocky and overly sensitive. Further, there are many bullies who are overconfident and fit in this category. Schools that do not show a level of love and support for their students increase the bullying climate and reduce the level of academic success. The victim of bullied abuse, if he survives, will have uncontrollable stress not just for the short term, but possibly for a lifetime in related conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, addictions, and even conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.1 Love builds and overrules all temptations. It is written in Hebrews 3:12-14, "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,” (NKJV)

Our lesson is found in the quarter of study entitled “The People of God Set Priorities”. We are in Unit II – “Living as a Community of Believers” of the three units of the quarter. This is the fourth lesson of a five-lesson study. Believers can have a strong influence on each other. Today we shall deal with situations that threaten the community.

Chapter 10 of 1 Corinthians is Paul’s overview of the Israelite’s deliverance from Egypt, crossing of the Red “Sea”, wanderings in the wilderness directed “under the cloud”, receipt of manna as food and water from a rock. They were extremely blessed, but many of them began to yearn for the pleasures of Egypt, worshiped idols, complained, and did other things that caused God to be upset. For this reason only two persons of the millions who were delivered from Egypt actually entered the Promised Land. As the Israelites found out, it is impossible to stand against temptations without God.

Paul issued a strong warning as to the reality and source of temptation in 1 Cor 10:12-15, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say.” (NKJV) Paul warned the Corinthians as to their level of confidence. Just because they thought they would be able to stand up in all circumstances would not mean the circumstances would not change if God were not part of the equation. Failure can always be part of the equation if God so chooses. Further, temptation is common to everyone. No one is exempt. But our God is faithful. He will not suffer us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. We will not be overcome by any situations if we depend on Him as He will make sure there is a way of escape. You may not care for His way of escape, but who are we to question God? For this reason He is jealous when you worship idols in any manner. Our God loves us with great unseen and untold mercies. We cannot transfer our love to an idol that has done nothing for us. Paul was speaking to the Corinthians who believed they were strong enough to withstand the temptation surrounding meat offered to idols were still vulnerable and might fall. He wanted them to reason for themselves and look at their consciences as to whether he spoke the truth.

To help them judge he offered the three types of meals for their consideration. As Christians the first meal considered is the LORD’s Supper. Paul exhorted in verses 16-17, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body, for we all partake of that one bread.” (NKJV) This sacred meal puts us in fellowship with the one true God through the blood and broken body of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior. When we partake of His blood and bread, we are professing to be His people, sitting at His table and guaranteed to receive His privileges and blessings. It has also been asked as to why Paul mentioned the blood first when the bread was first when the LORD’s Supper was instituted. A possible reason is that new converts instantly recognize the importance of the blood Jesus shed, while he later learns the meaning of one body.

The second meal for the wise Corinthians to consider is found in verse 18 which reads, “Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?” (NKJV) The Jews could not and would not believe in Jesus as God’s Son, and their Savior and Messiah. (See Rom 9:30-33) The Cross is a stumbling block. (1 Cor 1:23; Gal 3:13) So the Jews did not have faith in Christ and partake in the LORD’s Supper. They continued to make sacrifices and peace offerings to Jehovah God for fellowship of Israel with the altar of Jehovah. The problem is that they did not recognize Jesus was a fulfillment of their Old Testament laws and begin walking by faith. Many Jews still labor under the same beliefs.

The third meal offered for consideration to the wise Corinthians is found in 1 Cor 10:19-20 as the Apostle strongly declares, “What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.” (NKJV) The idol is nothing, perhaps a piece of carved wood or stone. The meat won’t change its nature or nutritional value. However, just like Christians feast at the table partaking the Lord’s Supper or the Israelites feast partaking of peace offering with the altar of Jehovah, you are in fellowship with idol worshipers when you eat of meat sacrificed to idols at the temple during an idol feast. You belong to what you join yourself in fellowship.

After logically illustrating the three spiritual meals, Paul asserts that it is necessary for the wise men to use wisdom to keep from stumbling into temptation. He strongly warned them at 1 Cor 10:21-22, “You cannot drink the cup of the LORD and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the LORD’s table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the LORD to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?” (NKJV) You cannot serve two masters (Matt 6:24; Luke 16:13) neither can you be double-minded (James 1:8). It is not possible to commune with Christ and to feast at the table of God’s blessings at the same time you feast with the heathens in honor of their idols. These were contrary to each other. One had to be renounced. God declared His jealously over all other gods. Ex 20:5 As a Christian believer, do you dare provoke God to jealously? Deut 32:16 Do you have the power to do so? (See Nahum 1:6) I would not care to see an exhibition of His discipline. The Israelites had God on their side. They were blessed and delivered out of Egypt, but they did not see the Promised Land because they failed to yield to temptation.

Written by Deborah C. Davis

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