God does not command us to wander away from these means of grace. God never tells you to get lost, nor to let them be lost in your life. Rather, God shows you where He shall always be present and found working for you, here, in Christ Jesus.



Hear the full audio of Christ is The Way of Escape

A sermon on 1 Corinthians 10:6-13 (ESV)

29 July 2018 / Ninth Sunday after Trinity


“Christ is the Way of Escape”

10:6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Cor. 10:6-13, ESV)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“That was then, times are different. This is now.” So the congregation at Corinth seems to think. All that Old Testament stuff is ancient history. God is loving. God forgives. Christ is risen! Do we really still need to hear that Old Testament Stuff now? What good would that possibly do us? I understand why they would ask it. When was the last time the earth really opened up, vomited lava and swallowed anything? When last did the moon turn to blood anyway?

Ancient history, that is the Apostle Paul’s point. “Now, These things happened to them as an example,” the Holy Spirit repeats for us twice. “Now these things took place as examples for us.” Some examples are not meant to be followed. Some examples instruct us what NOT TO DO. Don’t desire evil as they did. Don’t be idolators as some of them were. Don’t just sit down to eat and drink and get up to play around, play the field, play unfaithfully with a man or woman not given you in marriage.

It is ancient history, but it goes to show Corinth wasn’t the first group of God’s chosen people tempted to put Christ to the test. That ancient historical honor belonged to His chosen Israel. They put Christ to the test. “We must not put Christ to the test, like they did.” Don’t follow their bad example. Bad, very bad stuff happened to them whenever they did. Even their grumbling against the Lord and His servant Moses only got them destroyed by the Destroyer.

What good are all these Old Testament stories? Some show us examples of what not to do, and the grave physical and spiritual consequences of life lived without due fear, love and trust in God above all things. Some of “these things happened” to provide good examples of what faithful people–real men and women and children of God–do believe and ought to believe about God and how to perform his holy work in good faith, trusting in Christ to bless. In faith, some persevered in spite of great hardship and are delivered, rewarded in the end–as were those entrusted to their care.

Scripture shows us that when many grow unfaithful, sometimes one person who will trust the Lord and do what He gives them to do in their life winds up helping preserve the whole people of God. Think of Noah, Abraham and Sarah, or Joseph. Consider young David and Joshua, or Queen Esther, Naomi and Ruth. Consider lone Daniel in the lion’s den or three men cast into the furnace to find a fourth: Christ, is there all the while! Whose example do you follow? What example are you giving others?

Regardless, human examples of personal faith, obedience or disobedience, and God’s own gracious reward or holy punishment, these are not really Paul’s main point either. For these works are not done by human will and power, but often quite contrary to human will, in spite of our own private desires. Even the best are flawed before God, performed always imperfectly, and with much trembling weakness at times.

By means of His Word and Sacrament, God alone gives everything necessary for you. Here in Christ, His Word “It is Finished” meets our ears and passes across our lips, too. That Word alone works such a faith in us, when and where it pleases Him, in those who receive His Word and Sacrament gifts. These works are sanctified in us, and we through them by God’s grace, through faith.

“The work of God is this,” Jesus said, “to believe in the one he has sent.” God brings forth such obedient fruits in us by His power–that audible, visible Gospel Word is “the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes!” By His Word the Lord creates faith. By His Word, He sustains faith. Yet He will not do so apart from His Word and Sacrament. None of His commands or promises point us anywhere else except to His external Word.

On the other hand, He will always create and preserve faith for you in this way, by His means of grace. So all the more gladly, we hear the Word of God and keep it! This is His solemn New Testament promise, for your comfort and certainty in this life. God does not command us to wander away from these. God never tells you to get lost, or let them be lost in your life. Rather, God shows you where He shall always be present and found working for you, here, in Christ Jesus.

The Apostle shows us that the Old Testament is about Christ Jesus, too. Wherever you find one person of the Trinity at work, the whole “undivided Trinity in Unity” is at work among His people (Athanasian Creed). Times may have changed, but “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” The God of Israel was born in Bethlehem’s manger. This same Old Testament Holy One of Israel is crucified for us under Pontius Pilate. God remains very present and active among His people now. When that Lord Jesus Christ deals with us and ministers to us by means of His Word and Sacrament here, understand we are not gathered to tickle ears or entertain. We come because the Lord God bids us come. We preach and listen because the Lord commands it and says, “He who hears you, hears me.” And He will bless such pure preaching heard in faith!

The Corinthians had grown careless, ignorant of the Living God’s true proximity to them. Some thought God was far away. Some imagined the Lord Himself couldn’t care less if what they wanted to eat or drink was defiled on an idolator’s table, or devoted for to the worship of demons. Corinthians thought their God couldn’t care less whether or how they slept around. They imagined all that was ancient history. They must think again! Times may change. God does not!

Temptation begins by considering God’s own holy Word of command as merely an option, simply a suggestion for you. When God speaks His command, He is not offering you choice. “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God …you shall worship the Lord your God and him only shalt you serve. Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” These words Christ spoke when he was tempted by the devil, unyielding and unswervingly faithful, for you.

By his obedience unto death, even death on a cross, He won the life and salvation poured out for you here. “He is Risen,” we confess. Jesus is that Old Testament LORD made flesh to dwell among us, full of grace and truth. With Thomas, all the more gladly will we each take a knee saying even My Lord and My God, thy will be done for me too. Lead us not into temptation!”

In the midst of your temptation, when it first starts coming on and you find yourself demoting God’s Commands to mere suggestions or a lesser desirable option for you now. God is faithful, take heed and listen to His external Word lest you fall. In the middle of temptation, when you realize it’s overtaken you so severely that you don’t care anymore what God says anyway, though you know it all well enough–even then, God is faithful. He will not let your numb heart be tempted beyond what you can bear in faith. When you find you’re already falling, and it is going to hurt and you’ve no power to catch yourself, still God is faithful. He will provide a way of escape, so you can endure.

Indeed, God already did provide it. Christ Jesus is the Way of Escape, the only way out of our sin. He must bear it for you. He takes all that upon himself. Watch that temptation and sin die upon His cross. Behold there what He endured, with the prayer for you “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Listen as He tells you, ‘it is finished, this conflict of your will against mine. I’ve already won it. There’s no way to beat this by yourself.’ “Apart from Me,” Jesus says, “you can do nothing.” Receive My victory as yours, My crown of righteousness as your own possession, a strong weapon for you in this fight. I give you My righteousness, put on this breastplate of mine like strong armor. No temptation can pierce this so long as you wear it. Wear all this in my name, “the name I gave you” in Baptism.

So Jesus says, ‘I’ve broken temptation’s power over you. Feeling it can harm you no more, unpleasant and irritating as it may be. If you didn’t feel it, it wouldn’t be a temptation. But that temptation is mine now, too,’ your Lord Jesus says, ‘I bought your whole life of sin at the price of my blood. It was buried when you were buried by Baptism into my death. I saw your weakness and know it well. I’ve worn it as mine. No temptation has ever come upon you that is not common to man. Find your strength in my body given for you–take and eat. Take and drink in the blood of My New Testament, shed for you. I hereby set you free from all that,” Jesus says, “from your sin, death and the Devil’s power to bind you. I forgive you!”

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

–JPW


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