July 20 Lesson: Overcoming Temptation
Sunday school lesson for the week of July 20, 2014
By Beth Barnwell
Lesson Scripture: 1 Corinthians 10:9-22
Key Verse: No temptation has seized you that isn’t common for people. But God is faithful. He won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your abilities. Instead, with the temptation, God will also supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Purpose: To discover that we can persevere against the temptation to idolatry by means of God’s strength.
“The devil made me do it.”
Some of you reading this lesson may remember this popular catchphrase from the early 1970s. Comedian Flip Wilson coined the phrase and it soon became a household phrase. His character did something he wasn’t supposed to do and succumbed to temptation. It was a funny way to address temptation and we all used it. But, temptation is not really funny, is it?
This lesson helps us take a long, hard look at temptation. It’s as old as time and shows no favorites. All of us have been tempted along the way, including our beloved Savior. But the real question here is – what have we done about it? Have we learned from our mistakes and/or the mistakes of others? Regardless of how we understand the ways or manner in which Jesus was tempted, it is clear that God gave Jesus the resources to overcome temptation. He provides the very same for us.
Paul begins this lesson reminding the Corinthian Christians that their spiritual forebears, God’s chosen people who escaped from slavery in Egypt and were led by God toward a new life of freedom, are one and the same Israelites who also served as negative examples, models of what not to do. Don’t test Christ. Don’t grumble. He’s telling them to learn from the mistakes of others by encouraging them to “watch out else they may fall.” His words were not a prophecy or prediction of what would happen to the church at Corinth, but his words were a warning of what could happen.
The Israelites believed that their spiritual experiences, such as when God provided nourishment by way of manna from heaven and quenched their thirst when water sprang from a stricken rock, would secure them a special place in God’s eyes. In their minds, this made them special! Why else would God provide for them in such a way? However, as we know, this did not guarantee they would not succumb to temptation. In their case – idolatry. Many of the Corinthian Christians believed something very similar. They believed that through baptism (water from the rock) and by taking of the Lord’s Supper (manna), sharing in the body and blood of Christ, they became very special and secured a special place with God. Paul clearly warns them that baptism and the Lord’s Supper will not insure them from going astray. We are all, Christians included, responsible for our own behavior. Paul is asking them to learn from the mistakes of others and pleads with the community in Corinth “not to share with demons.”
What mistakes of the past have you most learned from? Were they your mistakes or the mistakes of others?
Paul is not looking out for their personal suffering, but rather the bigger picture. He was concerned that the Corinthian Christians may become so enamored with the culture of the day that they would fall away from God’s teachings by turning their attention to more worldly things. He tried to warn them that they couldn’t have it both ways. They can’t partake in the sacraments and then think you’re absolved from sin. Verse 21: You can’t have it both ways – you can’t eat at the table of the Lord and the table of demons; you can’t drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.”
In Verses 14-22, Paul reminds the Corinthians that evil does exist and it does not work hand-in-hand with God’s work. Temptation is nothing new. It’s been around forever! And will continue to be around forever! I love Paul’s use of the pronoun “we” and the word “sharing” in verses 16 and 17. We are one in the body and we need the Body of Christ. We need to encourage each other and hold each other accountable. God gives us a way out and very often that way out is through the love and support of fellow Christians. Sometimes it’s the phone call from a friend that enables us to endure.
How can we help one another to be strong when we are tempted? In what ways have you seen God give you a way out while at the same time allowing you to endure?
Some people may question why we have to endure something if, as stated in scripture, we already know there’s a way out. Why not just show us the way out now so we don’t have to make any mistakes? The answer to that questions is this: if we don’t ever make mistakes, we run the risk of never learning. Never growing. Never becoming what God wants us to be. If we know there’s a way out, would we stop turning to God for help? If there is anything good that comes from temptation it’s that it allows us to exercise our free will, our freedom of choice. In other words, our freedom to choose the wrong path. This gives God the perfect chance to extend His hand and say, “Come this way. Follow me this way.” Mistakes will happen. We will all be tempted in some way at some time. But, by the grace of God, there is always a way out. Always!
Beth Barnwell is a staff member of the North Georgia Conference, serving as administrative assistant to the director of Congregational Development. She is a long-time Sunday school teacher. Contact Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org.