If you continually indulge your liberty and you're free to do this and you're free to do that and all you're concerned about is your freedom, your freedom, your freedom, and you run your freedom out to the very limits, you're liable to fall off into sin. You say, well, I have the freedom to go and do a certain thing. The Bible doesn't forbid that. I have the freedom to do it.
But if you continually flirt around the edges of the system, running your liberty out as far as it'll go, you're liable to fall off. The chance to cut corners at work. The pressure to hide your Christian beliefs. The opportunities for sexual sin.
How do you fight life's temptations? Find out today on Grace to You as John MacArthur continues his series from 1 Corinthians 10 titled, The Pitfalls of Christian Liberty. Now, before we look again at 1 Corinthians, John, it may interest our listeners to know that for about the past year and a half at Grace Church, you have been re-preaching the book of Ephesians. You first taught through Ephesians in the 1970s, and now you're doing it again. And of course, you've also worked through other books more than once.
Revelation and the Gospel of John come to mind. Do you find that the process of study and discovery and preaching is different when you go back over material that you've already given careful attention to? And do you read your own commentaries? I do read my own commentary, yes, because it gives me the opportunity to access the full interpretation that I did at the time. But I don't develop the sermon out of that commentary. I take a fresh run at the text, and I sort of start with what I already know and what I've already said. And to satisfy my own mind and my own curiosity, I inevitably go beyond that.
I've noticed that. If you do something a second time, you always go deeper. What used to be a one-message study will turn into two or three sermons. Yeah, and I think that may be a reflection somewhat of the difference between what Paul said to the Corinthians when he talked about milk and meat. There's a milk-level interpretation of Scripture that you would give to the average believer.
There's a meat level. Those aren't two different doctrines. Those aren't two different truths. They speak of the depth and richness and breadth of those truths. So back in the 70s, I was really getting started in ministry. I was feeding my own soul at a level that my own soul was ready to take in the Word, and the same with our congregation. And now, 40 years later or more, it's much different because I'm loaded up with so much more knowledge of the Word of God, and I find that I definitely go deeper, and I see more implications on a broader level as well. So it's more than just yelling in different places when you read or preach a sermon.
For me, it's a whole new experience of that text, and I actually love it because I love to be able to build on what I already know but dig deeper. We're thankful that you do that as well, John. And now, friend, stay here as John highlights biblical principles that you can use to overcome temptation and experience victory in Christ. This is part of John's current study on the pitfalls of Christian liberty, and now here's John. 1 Corinthians chapter 10, we're looking at verses 1 to 13 and considering what is a very important passage, and there's so much here, I kind of feel like I just don't know how to dive in because there's so much. And I want to tie it in with the other parts of 1 Corinthians, particularly this context, and yet there's so much in itself that I don't want to belabor that point.
Basically, we're going to center on verse 13. The key word in verse 13 is the word temptation. Now when I mention the word temptation, it doesn't leave a whole lot of mystery in anybody's mind. That is a very familiar word to the Christian, and it's even a more familiar experience. We all understand the term temptation. Whenever the word is used, you understand a certain thing, and we all experience temptation.
There's no question about that. But the Greek word, for you Greek students, parasmos, the Greek word has no moral connotation at all. The Greek word isn't necessarily bad or good. It's strictly a neutral word, and it means simply to test, or to try or to prove, or in the case of metal, to assay, A-S-S-A-Y. To modern ears, whenever you say the word tempt, somebody automatically thinks of something bad, a seduction to evil, to seduce somebody into a sin. But the word itself in the Greek, the word that is used here has no moral connotation at all in itself.
It simply means to test. For example, in Matthew chapter 4, verse 1, it says, And the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, says the King James, by the devil. Now if you take the word there, simply to mean something bad, then you've got the Holy Spirit leading Jesus directly into something bad. What happened there was the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tested. It was not to be a solicitation to evil, but it was to be a solicitation to good, to manifest the righteousness of Christ, to manifest the fact that He would not fall, that He would not sin, and to give Him that confidence at the beginning of His ministry and to give the rest of the world that confidence, that this was one who would not sin. The Holy Spirit used Satan to test Him, but the Holy Spirit did not want to seduce Him to evil, but rather to test Him to prove His righteousness. You see the difference? Now the Holy Spirit will bring into our lives tests to bring us to righteousness.
Now watch. But Satan will want to turn those into temptations to solicit evil. And that's basically what we must understand about this word. For example, take the case of Job. God did not want Satan to make Job sin. God wanted Satan to test Job to prove Job's righteousness, right? So sometimes the test will even involve Satan. Sometimes God will even allow Satan to move in and to do things in our lives, but God's design is always that we would come out righteous, not that we would be seduced into evil.
The word simply means a test. For example, in Hebrews 11 17 it says God, in effect, it says God tempted Abraham. That's the King James translation, but God didn't tempt Abraham. God didn't try to get Abraham to do something bad. God tested him and it refers to Genesis 22.
God tested him by asking him to give his son Isaac on an altar and he was testing his faith, wasn't he? Do you really believe me? Do you really trust me? Will you really obey me at any price? Look at James 1 13 and we'll have to start there before we can back up because this is probably the most clear statement defining temptation. James 1 13, Let no man say, When he is tempted, I am tempted of God. Now here the word has a negative meaning and it is given a negative meaning only by the context.
And you'll see that in a minute. The word parasmos or the verb parazo gets its meaning from the context. If it's a negative context then it has a negative or tempting meaning. If it's a positive context like God testing Abraham, it has a positive meaning toward righteousness.
It depends on the source of it and the purpose of it. Now here, Let no man say, When he is tempted, I am tempted of God. For God can't be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man. Now he does test us, doesn't he? God does test us because I just told you that it says in Hebrews 11 17 that God tested Abraham.
And in the New Testament Peter even says God will test us. But God does not solicit men to evil. Now listen, But every man is tempted in the evil sense when he himself is drawn away by his own lust and enticed.
Now temptation to evil comes out of a man's lust. That's what James is saying, not from God. There's no contradiction here just because it says God tempted Abraham in Hebrews 11 17 and here it says God tempts no man. There isn't a contradiction. It's just two different uses of the term that's a neutral term. God solicited Abraham to righteousness but your own lust solicits you to do evil or tests you with a view toward falling, failure.
It can have a bad or a good source and consequently a bad or a good view in mind and therefore it has a bad or a good connotation. Now that you understand that is important. Back up in James and look at verse 2 of chapter 1.
Here is the same comparison again, same term. My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations, the old King James said. Now you say wait a minute, count it all joy? Oh yes. Knowing this, the testing of your faith or the tempting, same word, of your faith works patience. And let patience have her what?
Perfect work. You say you mean there is some temptation that has perfection in mind? That's right. Same word exactly is used in verses 13 and 14. Only in 13 and 14 it's used to bring about an evil result. In chapter 1 verse 2, 3 and 4 to bring about a righteous result.
The word is neutral. Its meaning comes from its source. When you're tested by God it's with righteousness in view. When you're tempted by your lust or by Satan it's with unrighteousness in view.
Now that's the meaning of the word. In John 6 and verse 6, the very same word is used and it's referring to Jesus. In 6, 6, and this he said to test him or tempt him.
Paradzo again. And here again, it is not a solicitation to evil. In 2 Corinthians chapter 13 verse 5 it says, Test yourselves, prove yourselves as Christians. It doesn't mean draw yourselves into sin. It means draw yourselves into righteousness. Examine yourselves, test yourselves, prove yourself.
Alright, to begin with then, whenever you see the word temptation in the Bible, realize this. It is a neutral word. It could be translated try, test, prove, assay, or tempt. It gets its qualitative meaning, that is its moral value, from the context.
From who is doing the testing and what the purpose of it is. Now that's just the beginning. That's an introduction. Now let's go back to 1 Corinthians and we'll see how this thing helps us to understand the 13th verse of the 10th chapter. Now the Corinthians, remember, were enjoying their freedom in Christ. They had been set free from ceremonialism in the Judaistic sense. They had been set free from the customs of pagan religion. They had been set free from the curse of the law.
They had been set free from death, as it were, from sin's dominion. They had great liberty, as Paul called it, the glorious liberty of the children of God. And in their freedom, they were really running their freedom to its limits.
They were living it up. And so Paul writes 1 Corinthians 8, 9, and 10, in effect to say to them, Look, I'm happy for your liberty, but there should be two things that govern your liberty. It's fine to exercise your freedom, but two things have to be kept in mind. There are two things that limit our liberty in Christ. I have the freedom to do many things in the non-moral area, the neutral area as a Christian, but I limit those many things on two basis.
Number one, don't offend somebody. If my liberty offends somebody else, then it's wrong. I may have the right to do certain things, but if that becomes an offense to somebody, I don't do it.
Now that's his subject in chapter 9. Remember Paul said, I have a right to receive money from you, a right to ask for support from you? And even though that's my right, I don't ask it because I'm afraid it would offend some people, so I set that right aside, even though that's my liberty. And that's principle number one. I have liberty, but I don't let my liberty offend somebody, so I limit my liberty for the sake of love toward others.
Second principle. The second limiter on your liberty is, will it disqualify you? If you continually indulge your liberty, and you're free to do this, and you're free to do that, and all you're concerned about is your freedom, your freedom, your freedom, and you run your freedom out to the very limits, you're liable to fall off into sin. You say, well, I have the freedom to go and do a certain thing. The Bible doesn't forbid that.
I have the freedom to, but if you continually flirt around the edges of the system, running your liberty out as far as it'll go, you're liable to fall off, and fall into sin, and be disqualified from usefulness. And chapter 10 illustrates that. Israel, with all their assets, with all their liberty, set free from the bondage of Egypt, on their way to the promised land, they had everything going for them, and because they lived too close to the edge of their liberty, they fell into sin. And you see where it lists their sin in verse seven. The sin of idolatry. In verse eight, the sin of immorality. In verse nine, the sin of testing God. In verse 10, the sin of complaining, griping, and murmuring. And all of these sins disqualified them. They all died in the wilderness.
As many as two million people died, and only two of the originals entered into the promised land. God says, I can't use you to be a witnessing community for me. I can't use you in the ministry of reaching the world as my witnessing nation, simply because you've fallen into sin.
You are disqualified. All right, then. Israel was living too close to the edges.
They kept longing for the former life. In chapter nine, the point is, you can't offend your brother. In chapter 10, the point is, you better be careful that you don't disqualify yourself by living so close to the edge of your liberty that you fall into sin, and you can't be used in God's service.
Now, that's his illustration. Now, we're in that chapter 10 section. And Paul wants the Corinthians to see that they just can't continue to go to all the pagan festivals. I mean, they can do it. The Bible doesn't forbid it. But they just can't continue to expose themselves to these things, to constantly expose themselves to idolatry, to constantly, even though they're not involved, to constantly expose themselves to immorality that goes on, without having it affect them sooner or later, without being eventually drawn into this thing.
And so they have to be very careful. Now, having stated the illustration, he applies it. Let's look at the application in verses 11 to 13. I gave you the assets of liberty, the abuse of liberty.
Now, here's the application. Verse 11. Now, all these things happened unto them for examples.
Now, stop there for a minute. Everything that happened in Israel's life happened as an example to us, Paul says. So that you would learn that you could have all the blessings. You could be free. You could be in the unit of God's witnessing community under the headship of Christ as they were under the headship of Moses. You could be led by God. You could be guided by God. You could be fed by God and given water by God as they were. You could have all of those blessings, and yet you could lose out. By misuse of your liberty, you've fallen to sin. Even though you have freedom, you need to learn to temper that freedom and confine that freedom in order that you might really stay close to where God wants you to be and not get out on the fringes.
All these things happened to Israel for an example to us, he says. Learn the lesson. Listen. They are written, back to verse 11, they are written for our admonition. Now, we've talked about the word admonish, admonition. It simply means to counsel somebody to change their behavior in light of judgment. If you keep going the way you're going, you're going to get in trouble.
You better change. So, he says to the Corinthians, all that I've been telling you about Israel is to help you to change. They're written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the ages are come.
That simply means the last dispensation. What happened to Israel is a model to those of us who live in this last day before Christ comes. Learn your lesson, people. You can be blessed of God. You can be a part of a witnessing community and yet you can forfeit your usefulness to God, not your salvation.
That's not the point here. You can forfeit your usefulness of God, the prize of winning people to Christ. You can forfeit that by falling into sin because you've run your liberty too far. And then he principalizes the whole 11 verses. He takes that whole 11 verses and draws it into one principle, verse 12. Wherefore, let him that thinks he stands take heed, what?
Lest he fall. That's the principle. That's a timeless principle. It's in Proverbs, isn't it? Pride comes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.
That's not anything new. And he's simply saying, when you think you can handle it and like the Corinthians were so smug and so independent, they could pack up their liberty and take it anywhere and they wouldn't have to worry. He says, you're in trouble.
You better realize that just when you think you stand is just when you're ready to fall because you let your guard down. Sardis, in Revelation 3, 3, Christ says to Sardis, watch or you're going to get overtaken, in effect. And they knew what he was talking about because in their history, Cyrus had attacked their city. They had a necropolis, a high place.
All those cities had a high place, a necropolis from where they defended their city. And it jutted out like a spur and it seemed to be to Cyrus there was no way to take it. And so he offered a reward to any soldier in his army who could figure out a way to take the necropolis of Sardis. And so one soldier stayed up all night watching. And he noticed in a moonlit night that a soldier from Sardis had dropped his helmet inadvertently. It fell off his head or it was knocked off and it fell off the edge and tumbled down to the bottom of this spur. And so he watched how the soldier went down to get it. And as he watched, he knew that they knew a way down and a way back up.
And he followed the path and in the middle of the next night, he took a band of men and went right back up that path inside and opened the gate and the troops came in and conquered the city. Be on guard. Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
That's the point. You can be in the service of the Lord, just like Israel, called to be a witnessing community. Like the Corinthian church, called to be a witnessing community. But if we think we're secure, that's just when we're the most vulnerable because we stop leaning on the Lord. Oh, I know so much. I've got so many Bible verses and I know what I'm doing and I've got my theology straightened out and I've got control of things. That's just when you're vulnerable. When you stop leaning on Him, you stand in your own resources. My Father always says you have to maintain that invisible means of support.
You have to stay tied to the source of power. Now, let's look at verse 13 and see how it ties in. Now, after all that warning, Paul closes with a very important, it's almost like a P.S. or a footnote.
It's somewhat disconnected and yet connected. The Corinthians are going to say, boy, Paul, you're telling us to cool it with our liberty. You're telling us to kind of wind things down and not get out on the fringes and kind of circumscribe our lives a little more and stay a little closer to the middle and all that. But listen, Paul, I mean, how are we going to prevent being in temptation?
You can't help it. No matter where you go or what you do, you're going to get into the thing. I mean, what's going to happen when we get out there and we're trying to do what we ought to do and we get tempted?
What's going to happen? So he gives them a word of comfort here. Hey, he says, there's no temptation taking you, but such is as common to man. God is faithful who will not permit you to be tempted above that you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way to escape that you may be able to bear.
You know why he says this? Not only to comfort them, but number two, to let them know that if they do fall into sin, they can't blame their circumstances, right? There's two points in this verse.
Number one, Corinthians, I know it isn't easy. Be comforted in the fact that you'll never get into something that you can't get out of. But secondly, be aware of this, that if you get into something and you don't get out of it, whose fault is it? It's your fault, because God will always make the way out. So keep it in mind. Use your liberty, you're going to get into temptation, but God will provide a way out. But if you don't take that way, that's your fault.
Now let's look at verse 13 and take it apart and look at it in individual pieces. Now, there has no temptation taking you. Stop right there.
No temptation taking you. There's our key word again. How are we to understand its meaning? Well, let's just understand it in the broadest sense. There is no testing taking you. Let's not give it an evil meaning right now. Let's just take it in its neutral sense.
There is no testing taking you. Maybe it's good, maybe it's bad. It could be either here. Let me show you what I mean. I'll try to give you a distinction that will help. To understand the word temptation, as I said in the very beginning, you have to distinguish between a trial and a temptation in the sense of a good and an evil.
Now listen. External circumstances that you fall into provide a test. God will bring external circumstances into your life as tests. Right? Now think with me on this. I want you to stay with me. External circumstances that we fall into provide a test.
James 1, 2. Count it all joy when you, peripipto, fall into many tests. They're external. They're not inside. We sort of fall into them. They're there. For example, a financial shortage.
That's a test, right? Too much month at the end of the money. Or maybe you got a $3,000 balloon payment on your house.
And your balloon has busted. And you don't know where your resources are. You've got a financial problem. Or you've got a medical bill that's decimated all of your surplus.
And you're down to really living from hand to mouth. And that presents an external circumstance. That's not inside. That's outside. Or on the other hand, a setback in plans. You've had great plans laid out for a certain thing.
In Kablooey, the bottom fell out of your plans. That's an external. That's a test.
And God allows those tests, doesn't He? Well, look at Job. Right? He had a financial shortage, didn't he? Lost everything. His plans all went awry. He got sick. All kinds of things. There's another one. Disease or sickness.
That's an external circumstance. Death. Job's family died.
People have death in their families and their circle of friends. And that's a test. A problem that doesn't have any solution. You've thought it out every way you can. There's no answer. That's a test.
That's an external. Or maybe you're in a deal and you're in this particular deal and you've gotten involved in it. And all of a sudden you find out that somebody in this thing at the heart of the deal is a crook.
You're going to go through with it? A little shady thing? That's a test. Persecution. Maybe you're maligned. Maliciously. Gossiped against.
Murmured about. Persecuted for your faith. That's an external test. Or maybe you find yourself in a place where people are always sinning and you're always in a test. I always think of Joseph in the house of Potiphar. You know Joseph was under a test all the time he was there?
It wasn't just when he got in the bedroom with Potiphar's wife and took off. That guy was in a test the whole time he was there. Living in a pagan house. Or maybe you're in a situation like this.
These are tests. Now listen to me. When you take that external test and you internalize it, then it becomes a temptation. When you internalize it and it kindles your lust and begins to entice you to do evil.
For example, you say I'm in a financial shortage. First thought is, Lord, this is great. What an exciting time for you to reveal yourself.
Terrific! However, I could take a few more deductions on my income tax to help the Lord out a little bit. Now your test has become a temptation.
Why? Because instead of leaving it externally and giving it to the Lord, you have internalized it and it's kindled your lust. Or maybe you've had a setback in your plans and you say, Lord, how glorious you're going to change my plans.
What do you have for me? On the other hand, why me, God? Why is it my plans?
Oh, what am I going to do? Yeah, you've internalized that thing. You've allowed it to become a solicitation to an evil thought and it's become a temptation. When it talks about the difference between a test and a temptation in the Scripture, one is an external opportunity for you to grow, but it easily can be translated into an internal solicitation for you to do evil.
When you respond to a trial or a test with an internal solicitation to evil, it has become a temptation. Now listen, it isn't sin yet. Temptation isn't sin. Sin is sin, right? Temptation isn't sin. But you can't go from a trial to a sin without going through a what? A temptation first.
So if you can hang in there on the trial, you're going to be a lot better off. So God will bring a test. God will never bring a temptation. God will bring a test into your life, an external circumstance, putting some pressure on you to stretch your spiritual muscle and God wants you to grow by it. But if you internalize that thing and let it become a solicitation to do evil, you know what's done that? Not God. James 1.14, a man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own what? Lusts and enticed. You've internalized God's test for your growth and turned it into solicitation for evil.
Now there's still time to grab it and stop it and let it be a process of growth. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur. Thanks for being with us. John's current study is helping you avoid the pitfalls of Christian liberty.
Now friend, if this series has shown you how to honor Christ in the gray areas of life or how God graciously equips you with everything you need to overcome temptation, we'd love to hear about it. Your letters are a major encouragement to John and the staff. When you have time, send a letter our way. You can email your note to letters at gty.org. That's letters at gty.org. Or if you prefer regular mail, you can write to Grace to You, Box 4000, Panorama City, California 91412.
And while you're at gty.org, make sure to take advantage of the thousands of free resources created with you in mind. At the Grace to You blog, you can read practical articles on subjects like salvation, the person of Christ, spiritual gifts. The website also has daily devotionals written by John, or you can follow along with the reading plan in the MacArthur Daily Bible. And don't forget, you can download all of John's sermons for free.
You can get the audio or transcripts of over 3,500 messages. Again, you can find those free Bible study tools at gty.org. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson, encouraging you to gather with your family and watch Grace to You television. Check our website to see if it's now available in your area. And then join us Monday, when John shows you how to stay faithful to Christ, even in your toughest trials. John will be continuing his series, Pitfalls of Christian Liberty, with another half hour of unleashing God's truth in one verse at a time, on Grace to You. .
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