THE ESCAPE CLAUSE
"I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and the sea, and all ate the same supernatural food and drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless with most of them God was not pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things are warnings for us, not to desire evil as they did. Do not be idolators as some of them were; as it is written, 'The people sat down to eat and rose up to dance.' We must not indulge in immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand of them fell in a single day. We must not put the Lord to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents; nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."
- I Corinthians 10:1-13
The first thing we notice about this passage is that it demolishes the school of thought that says the Old Testament isn't that important anymore. Some would try to distance the often wrathful God of the Old Testament from the loving God of the New, who sent His only begotten Son to be the sacrifice for our sins. But passages like this one and Romans 15:1-6 clearly indicate that the Old Testament will always be relevant to the Christian, and that both portrayals are of the same God. There is no inconsistency: God is perfect justice AND perfect love.
After describing the favored status of the nation of Israel during the Exodus from Egypt, Paul reminds the Corinthians that even though God had specially chosen the Israelites, He wasn't afraid to punish those among them who rebelled against Him in various ways. Then Paul states, "Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall." (v.12). The point is that we who have put our trust in Jesus Christ are also, in a way, God's chosen people. It can be very easy to get a big head about being a 'saved' person, and we can start thinking that we will always have God's favor no matter what we do, as many of the Israelites apparently did. Paul is reminding us that we can still 'fall' (be lured into sinful behavior) quite easily if we are not careful, if we let our Spiritual 'guard' down by not being focused on God.
Paul then passes on another of God's wonderful promises. There are many of these recorded in Scripture, John 3:16 of course being the foremost: "For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him may not perish, but have everlasting life." Maybe you've never thought of that verse as a promise from God, but in essence that's exactly what it is. Because of it, there's no need for a believer to wonder whether he or she is really going to Heaven someday. God has promised us that if we have truly put our trust in Jesus, our place in God's eternal Kingdom is secure. We needn't doubt it.
Verse 13 of this week's passage states another of God's promises to us. If we consider the many promises of God to be a sort of 'contract' with Him (and who better to have one with!), then we might call this particular promise the 'escape clause'. Not in the traditional sense, of course, where it would indicate circumstances where one or more of the parties involved can declare the contract void. Rather, in this clause God promises to always provide a certain type of escape when we need it: "God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (v.13)
People are sometimes surprised to learn of this 'clause' in God's contract with believers, but it's actually a logical necessity: it prevents us from being able to shift the blame off of ourselves on those frequent occasions when we do something wrong. "I just couldn't help myself!", or "The devil made me do it!" are not valid defenses for sins. Help is always available, so no one can 'make' us do anything. If we remember to call on Him (which is the 'big if', of course), God won't let that happen. It's one of His promises to us.
Let's never forget the warnings from the Old Testament, which remind us to keep our hearts and minds firmly focused on God; and whenever we feel overwhelmed by temptation (and it happens to all of us sometimes), let's remember to invoke God's 'escape clause' by praying for Him to provide the promised strength to resist, and show us the way out. As long as we do so, temptation literally doesn't have a chance.
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