I Corinthians 10: 13, a Promise


     The Spirit led the apostle Paul in I Corinthians 10: 13 to make a statement that has served as a source of encouragement and strength to many in some of their darkest hours of potential despair and discouragement. The verse, therefore, is certainly worthy of our exegesis and analysis. The verse reads as follows:

     "13: There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."

     The only successful way to fully explore the teaching of a verse is to examine it, phrase, clause, and word at a time in its context. Hence, let us now consider the wonderful promise made in I Corinthians 10: 13.

     "There hath no temptation…."  "Temptation" (peirasmos) has the full potential meaning of outward trial or difficulty and inward temptation. James addresses the full range of meaning of peirasmos in his famous teaching found in James 1: 2-12. There is the "temptation" of verse two, concerning which James wrote, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations." "Temptation" in this sense refers to the difficulties of life that work patience (vs. 3, 4). Then there is the "temptation" of verse twelve following. This "temptation" is the solicitation to do evil (see vs. 13-16). The context in which the promise of I Corinthians 10: 13 resides is pertaining to the solicitation to commit evil (see vs. 5ff.).

     "…Taken you…."  The idea of "taken" (eilephen) suggests a measure of control and captivation. The Amplified Translation does its usual good job on verbs when it renders eilephen as, "…overtaken you and laid hold on you…." Indeed, the lure of sin is great and its ability to ensnare must not be viewed lightly. James perhaps has more relevant teaching than any regarding this idea of "taken you" and also the particulars about the origin of temptation. Notice the idea of "enticed" (deleazo) and the end result of yielding to such temptation:

     "13: Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15: Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (Jas. 1).

     "…but such as is common to man."  The phrase "common to man" (anthropinos) means "belonging to man" (W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). Related "English" words are "anthropology" and "anthropoid." Anthropinos is related to the Greek anthropos, meaning man. There are two related views regarding "common to man" in I Corinthians 10: 13.

     (1). All men experience basically the same temptations. In other words, the temptations mentioned in the text of I Corinthians 10: 13 and concerning which the Corinthians would face were not endemic or limited to them. The statement, "No one has my temptations," then, is not altogether true.

     (2). The other idea is that "common to man" means that such temptation is peculiar to humankind, not super-human temptations. God does not allow temptation that would be of the essential nature so as to render man powerless. Man can overcome, this is the idea. The American Standard Translation translators seemed to have understood anthropinos in this second sense. I say this because they render it, "…such as man can bear."

     "But God is faithful…."  The key to overcoming temptation is God. Man without God in his struggles to overcome is hopeless (cp. vs. 12). "But God is faithful" introduces the sovereignty and providence of God. God is operative and active in the affairs of his people (I Pet. 3: 12, I Thes. 5: 23, 24). Calvinists omit man and sometimes Christians leave out God. God and man together can overcome!

     "…Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able…."  Again, God's intervention and involvement in the affairs of his children is understood and presupposed. God is not far removed and detached from the lives of his people, but he is aware of their struggles to overcome temptation. The question is, how does God accomplish this?

     Some believe that God will not suffer his children to be tempted above what they are able to bear because God has made it so that they cannot fall (Calvinistic predestination). However, verse twelve precludes this notion. Some have practiced isolation in an effort to avoid even the situation of temptation. Others have advocated miraculous intervention on God's part to the degree that even makes man's efforts unnecessary. All of these suggestions are wrong.

     "…But will with the temptation also make a way to escape…."  God is not the source or cause of the evil, but he does allow it (Jas. 1: 13-15). God placed Adam in the garden and provided him a law and work (Gen. 1, 2). However, God did not make temptation impossible, but he enabled man to overcome it. The problem was that Eve and then Adam freely yielded to the temptation (Gen. 3). The apostle Peter wrote regarding Lot and his evil environment as follows:

     "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished" (2 Pet. 2: 9).

     In the case of Lot, God told him to leave the city and journey elsewhere (Gen. 18, 19). However, Lot first had to be "…vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked" (2 Pet. 2: 7). Had Lot wanted to partake in the sin of the people, he would have remained and perished. The teaching of I Corinthians 10: 13 clearly shows that God is involved in the life of the Christian, even to the point of providing a way to escape. However, we do not always know the particulars of this delivery.

     "…That ye may be able to bear it…."  Rest assured that when man gives in to temptation and does sin, it is because man has not availed himself of the means of escape that God has provided. Some have the view of God that he is far removed in heaven, sitting there on his throne watching and waiting for his children to stumble and fall and then having delight in their failures. Such is absolutely and patently false. God is victorious and he desires victory for his children. Consider the language of Paul:

     "31: What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32: He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33: Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. 34: Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. 35: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36: As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37: Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38: For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39: Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8).

     The achievable status of, "more than conquerors" is the result of God and man working together. Just as some, though, err in their understanding of a distantly remote God who is uninvolved in the affairs of his children; other have embraced the antithetical extreme of a God who does everything for man, I repeat, to the point that man's participation is excluded. Paul stresses man's part in this matter when he wrote in the very next verse: "Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry" (I Cor. 10: 14). When faced with temptation, the Christian needs to remember: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."