v 12 – “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”
- Therefore – This refers to the section of text from 1 Corinthians 10:1-11, where Paul explores the facts of the Exodus and how God had judged those who were part of the exodus experience, who were delivered from Egypt through the direct workings of God through miracles that no one could brush away as mere misunderstandings, and who stood before the God of all creation in blazing fire and smoke and who spoke with the people directly and when God spoke there was an earthquake that happened the whole time while God spoke to the people, yet these people still saw fit to blame God for their issues instead of humbly asking God for what they wanted. They battled with God at every turn, revolting against His just rule over them, grumbling at his decisions, and refusing to listen to those whom God had chosen to serve Him.
- Let him who thinks he stands – If God so treated the Israelites, his chosen people, in this way when they revolted against him, we should never take advantage of the grace and mercy of God and use it as an excuse to sin. We should never just “settle into our salvation”, kick our feet up, and assume it is an easy coast into glory. The life of a Christian is a constant battle against our human desires for self-worship and self-gratification, and as a battle, we need to be always on guard because these attacks can come at any time. We must not pridefully trust in our own abilities, or to place our confidence in our church membership, our faithful giving, our weekly service to God, or the books we have read, but we must instead trust in the finished work of Christ alone, realizing the frailty of our convictions and foundations when we trust in our own abilities to save us. We are saved only through the work of God alone, and we are maintained only through His continued work our lives. If God chose to take away his hand from us we would immediately be swept away in the sinful desires of our hearts and be far worse off than we were at the first – unable to control our desires for self-gratification, but now knowing the commands of God against such things.
- Take heed, that he does not fall – As always, those who are truly in the Lord are saved for all time. The work that Jesus began in our hearts and minds will see itself through to completion. That said, we are not promised a life of ease and comfort. The strongest tree is that with deep roots that are strengthened by strong winds and heavy snow. We, as Christians, need to be mindful that we will be tested and tempted. Testing from God, as Abraham endured, which is intended to reveal to God the strength of our trust in God over our desires to sin and to serve ourselves, and temptations which are always present in our lives. Paul brings this up in Romans 7:21 when he states that when he desires to do that which most honors God, temptations to serve self are always present. If this happens even for Paul – the apostle to the Gentiles and church planter to the world, who are we to think that we are immune to such things? While we may be able to endure many things, following the promises of Romans 5:1-5, we do not stand firm in this by our own power or strength, but by the power of God who maintains us and our sanctification. For those of the elect, God may allow you to “fall” into a specific sin, to help you to see that you are not held by your own abilities, or even into a season of continual sin, so that God can both reveal to you that your own pride in your salvation is misplaced if it is rooted in your own abilities, and also so that you will be equipped to help those down the road of your life who are also so afflicted.
v 13 – “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptations will provide the way of escape also, so that you are able to endure it.”
- No temptation … common to man – Satan and our own desires, try to get us to separate ourselves from other Christians by convincing us that our sinful desires are both reprehensible to other humans, but also wholly unique to us alone. This separates us from those who can come alongside of us and help us to pursue righteousness. It is as if lions on the desert plains of the Serengeti, instead of chasing down the weak, merely convinced the weak wildebeest to come and hang out with them as friends, and later devoured it at their own pleasure. Paul reminds these Corinthian believers that their struggles with sin are not unique, they are not new, and they are not unknown to every other person. All of us have the same struggles, the same desires for self, and if we understand this and seek help, trusting in the finished work of Christ, trusting in the fact that God knows our frail natures and our inability to maintain ourselves, and trusting in the fact that we, as Christians, are Christians in community and our fellow believers and elders are there to help us in our struggles.
- God is faithful – God has always been there for the Israelites, even in their deepest rebellion against him, should they turn and repent. God has always provided judges and prophets who call out to the people, pleading with them to turn from their self-worship and to turn back to him in faithful obedience. God promised that he would always be there to save them, should they repent and trust in him.
- Way of escape – God always provides a way to get out of our sins, and we typically only see them afterward. But as we become more and more faithful in our obedience to Christ, we also become more and more comfortable leaning on Him for all of our needs. God is not so far removed from us, nor dedicated to other more important things, that he will not stop everything to hear our hearts desire and to help us in our hour of need. He even commands us to do so. We are to keep our hearts and minds always in prayer to God – seeking his help in everything. Christianity is not a religion of self-glorification for those who are powerful, but for those who are weak, humbled, and broken. God does not desire mere outward obedience, but obedience that is from the heart. As David says in Ps 51:17- “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Our strongest moment of our faith is that when we are most acutely aware of our inability to save ourselves, and when we lean the strongest upon God alone to save us.
v 14 – “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”
- Therefore … Flee – Given everything said above, we are not to stand in our own foolish pride, thinking that we can maintain our salvation in mere obedience, but to trust in God alone for our continued sanctification – to recognize our struggles and our sin triggers and, in humility, to flee from those things that will lead us to sin.