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1 Corinthians 10:1-14 Study Guide: A Way Out of Temptation

Community Group Study Guide — A Way Out of Temptation
1 Corinthians 10:1-14

Main idea:
Because of God’s great love for his people, we are to flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). Paul helps the reader understand that sin and a lack of faith is rooted in idolatry. Idolatry is worshipping created things rather than the creator (Romans 1:25). Followers of Jesus do not have to give into idolatry and God provides a way of escape when we’re tempted to worship something other than God. 

Study Information:
Many of us can fall into the pattern of thinking that if we saw what the people of God saw in the Hebrew scriptures we’d have a stronger faith, without doubts. We think that if we could somehow see God work powerfully in our lives in an overt way then we would not struggle as much as we do. This is understandable, we’d all love to see in person the things that we now take by faith; yet, Paul warns us that throughout the history of the people of God many saw powerful works and still rebelled. It is good to have certainty, reason for belief and logical understanding of the complicated things in the bible, but even with all that we can still live a life of rebellion to God. 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 shows us how Israel saw the powerful works of God and still lived a life of rebellion and in 1 Corinthians 10:12-14 Paul’s call for us to be different because of Christ’s work as we flee from idolatry and trust in the faithfulness of God. 

First, what is idolatry?
God provides a way out of temptation to sin, but more importantly, he provides an escape from being trapped by idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:13). We typically apply 1 Corinthians 10:13 to the symptoms of our sin issues like God providing a way of escape when we feel temptation to gossip, lie, tear into someone with our words or engage in sexual sin. But, Paul wants us to see those activities of symptoms of a greater problem that God wants to deal with in our lives. They are the symptoms of our idolatry, which is putting something in our life above God in our worship. Idolatry is to worship the creation over the creator and to find our satisfaction and joy in something other than God. The things we treat as idols often promise us satisfaction and security, but they are broken promises. They fail to deliver in any true, lasting or meaningful way. Sure, engaging in sin can feel good in the moment, but in the end it leaves you with hollow and empty. 

Both the Jews and the Greek Corinthians had experience with idolatry. The Jewish believers would probably look down on the spiritual past of the gentile Christians in their church who likely grew up worshipping the pagan Gods of Greece and yet Paul’s point is that they both experienced idolatry through worshiping the created rather than the creator. For the Jews this may not have taken the shape of praying to statues, but it is very clear that they looked to things other than God for their joy and satisfaction. Let’s explore what Paul says about that history:

Second, idolatry and rebellion among the people of God (1 Corinthians 10:1-11)
Israel got to see God’s power and provision up close. Paul recounts the Exodus story and the provision of God in the wilderness (Exodus-Numbers). God delivered his people from slavery in Egypt through the cloud and the sea, which is a reference to God parting the red sea and giving them a visible image of his presence in the pillar of fire at night and the cloud by day. Moreover, he gave them manna in the wilderness and water from the rock. They were freed from slavery and had everything they needed; and God showed them his power. You would hope that seeing that would bolster their faith and yet they responded with rebellion and would not enter God’s rest (1 Corinthians 10:5, Hebrews 3:7-12). In 1 Corinthians 10:6-11 Paul specifically refers to three ways they chased after idolatry and evil. First, they created the golden calf while Moses was on the mountain top receiving the Torah, the law of God. The golden calf was an idol and they claimed that it delivered them from slavery. They worshipped this idol with food, drink and sexual promiscuity. Moses came down from the mountain top, destroyed the tablets of God’s law and enacted justice on the ring leaders of this rebellion. Second, as they were wandering in the wilderness, Israel started to worship Baal, an Ancient Near eastern “god” and this also included engaging in sexual immorality and intermarrying with the Baal worshippers. God responded by putting to death 23,000 Israelites and this rebellion only ended as Israel corporately repented and from direct action from some of the more devout Israelites to remove the sin from their midst. Finally, Paul refers to the events of Numbers 21 when Israel became impatient and grumbled against the Lord (Numbers 24:4-5). God sent venomous (fiery) serpents among the people, but he also gave them a way to be saved as they looked to a bronze serpent lifted up on a pole. In each of these scenarios we see the people of God chase after an idol and this false worship was expressed in sexual sin, eating and drinking, being impatient and grumbling. Yet, in each scenario they’re also given an opportunity to repent, turn away from the idol and the sin associated with it and trust in God. 

Paul wanted us to learn from these past situations instead of repeating the same mistakes. This is why it is good and healthy to spend time in the Hebrew Scriptures. These stories are there to point us to Christ and for our edification (1 Corinthians 10:11, Romans 15:4).

One specific thing these incidents teach us is that there is always a sin beneath the sin. Our sin may manifest itself in overt behavior like grumbling, sexual immorality and addictive dependance; but there is something beneath that outward behavior that is rooted in our heart and connected to idolatry. When we sin we are really desiring satisfaction from someone or something other than God. 

The good news is that we do not have to give into sin and idolatry, God offers a path of escape because he loves us and desires that we walk in holiness.

Finally, looking for the path of escape (1 Corinthians 10:12-14)
Paul’s application is firm, “therefore beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14). We’re first reminded of our identity in Christ, beloved, and then given the command to flee from this type of sin. We aren’t designed to play around with temptation, but rather to run from it. Temptation is a product of living in a fallen world, but is not sin itself. We know that Jesus was tempted just as we are but without sin (Hebrews 2:18). How we respond to temptation is what matters.vThis is important because God empowers his believers to flee and resist since God has given us the Holy Spirit and a new identity in Christ.

You do not have to give into sin. 

You are not powerless, if you’re in Christ. 

God is faithful to provide a path out of idolatry and even if you do give into temptation and sin, it is not the end for your relationship with God. In each of the stories Paul referenced, God provided a path of repentance and restoration. Temptation is common to humanity, but what sets us apart is that God is faithful to help us to flee (1 Corinthians 10:13). This does not mean it will be easy, Paul says that there is a way of escape, that we may be able to endure. We do not typically use the word “endure” for easy times in our lives so we need to expect that this will be challenging. What can you do? First, flee from idolatry. Do not try to get as close to the line as you can, the best way to resist temptation to sin is to get as far away from your temptations as possible. Second, we all worship something it is either God or an idol of some sort. This means that the more you fill up on godly things the less likely you’ll be tempted to sin. Do not neglect the regular graces that God has given us in his word, prayer, the church community, confession of sin and worship. This is not a fool proof way to avoid all temptation to sin, but the more you focus on what is good the more you’ll be able to resist and see the path of escape God was faithful to provide when temptation hits. Finally, focus on having a handful of deep relationships in the body of Christ. You are not meant to go deep with every believer you meet, but you are meant to have other believers who encourage you and hold you accountable. It is much easier to resist sin when you know your friend will ask you about it in this week; likewise it is much easier to pursue righteousness when you know there are folks praying for you and encouraging you to seek Jesus. If you do not have these types of relationships yet, pray that God will bring them into your life and take the risk of going first by sharing with someone in your community group or bible study about a way they can pray for you or hold you accountable. You’ll be surprised by how often someone else is waiting for someone to give them permission to go deeper in their community and friendship in Christ.

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:

Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-14

Define idolatry as a group. How is it related to temptation?

Look at 1 Corinthians 10:1-5. Do you think that many Christians today would envy what the Israelites saw? How could someone see those powerful things and still rebel against God?

1 Corinthians 10:6 and 11 tell us that these stories exist in the scripture to equip us and help us to not make the same mistakes. We sometimes feel like the Bible is disconnected from our present reality. How do the stories Paul refers to in verses 7-10 relate to our modern day lives?

No temptation has overtaken us that is not common to humanity. How does 1 Corinthians 10:13 teach us to deal with temptation. What practical steps can you take today?

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