23 April 2012

A Way of Escape

by Phil Johnson



irst Corinthians 10:13 famously promises a "way of escape" when our faith is being tested: "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."

The word translated "temptation" there is peirasmos in the Greek text. It can refer either to a test that comes from God, or a temptation to sin (which according to James 1:14 comes when we are "lured and enticed by [our] own desire"). The Greek word is the same either way. Surely the promise of a "way of escape" also applies in either instance—otherwise this would be scant comfort. But the promise of a way of escape is a particular comfort when we're suffering under the weight of some crushing, prolonged, or especially onerous trial. So let's consider this promise in that light.

Notice: The way of escape comes "with" the trial, not instead of it. In other words, it's not a way of escape from our trials; it's a way of escape through them. It's not a way to avoid the trial itself. But it's a better kind of escape—a way of escape that enables us to "endure it."

Furthermore, that definite article "the way of escape" is the correct rendering of the Greek text. There is only one right way of escape, and that is the way God designs. If you try to devise a fleshly way of escape from trials, you'll only get yourself in worse trouble. God makes the way of escape; don't try to make your own.

At the start of the chapter, Paul makes reference to a perfect example of this. The Israelites "passed through the sea." The Red Sea was a formidable obstacle. Pharaoh's armies were in hot pursuit, determined to exterminate the Israelites rather than see them leave Egypt. The sea blocked their way. To human eyes, the case looked hopeless.

The Old Testament account of that event records that Moses stopped for a while. He was so confident that God would deliver the Israelites, "Moses said to the people, 'Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent'" (Exodus 14:13-14). He was expecting a different way of deliverance than the Lord had planned.

"The LORD said to Moses, 'Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward'" (v. 15).

The way of escape was through the obstacle—and the Lord used the sea itself (that seemingly impassible impediment) as the means of destruction for Israel's enemies. The way of escape vanquished the enemy.

That is God's way. The escape route requires us to press by faith through the trial—and sometimes it takes us into the fiery furnace; into the lion's den; and into the wilderness. But when He leads us into the wilderness, it is to bring us through it.

So the "way of escape" is not a way to avoid the trial, but a way to bear it. If you're in the midst of a great trial, that may not quite be what you are hoping for, but if you ponder the point carefully, I think you'll realize it's a supremely encouraging promise.

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22 comments:

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Thanks for this helpful exegesis.

Thomas said...

verry encouraging, thanks!

europeanne said...

Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down,
but a good word makes him glad. Proverbs 12:25

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this.

The bjjmissionary said...

Thank you so much for this. It was most helpful

candy said...

Very helpful in this season of our lives. Bruce and I are in an especially perplexing anxiety producing time...so this is such a good word for us.

Manfred said...

Excellent teaching - which helps refute the false doctrine of a pre-trib rapture.

bl_davis said...

Thanks! I personally have taught on this passage as well, comparing it to my marathon experience in NYC where I saw the poster "even walls have doors." The Greek clearly shows that the "escape" is through, not away from. I always thought, if I was able to "get away," then I did not have to "bear up" under it!

Mr. Fosi said...

So this doesn't apply to besetting sins? Or if it does, how "through" them?

I had always thought that this verse was about not succumbing to temptation by choosing the way of escape, which always seemed more like avoiding the sin than by going through it.

Maybe i'm blind to where this is explained in the post... can someone shed some light?

Jonathan said...

Wow, thanks so much for this.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Interesting reading. I had always read it literally as "When you're tempted to sin, God will always provide a way for you to avoid succumbing to it." In other words, it is never impossible NOT to sin. Very difficult perhaps, but never impossible.

Phil Johnson said...

Mr. Fosi: So this doesn't apply to besetting sins? Or if it does, how "through" them?

The way of escape is not through the sin, but through the TEMPTATION. God doesn't promise to remove temptation (even persistent temptation) from your life, but to enable you to "bear it"--i.e., bear up under it, resist it, learn how to mortify that sin in the presence of the temptation, etc.

Psalm5 said...

Thanks I think....
Phil,
First, thanks for even more sound exposition. Second, I'm one of the lucky one's to hear you this weekend at the Psalm 119 conference. I wanted to shake your hand and thank you but you always seemed mobbed and I'm the kind of guy who likes to give people their space. Anyway you taught me about cessationism (sp) this weekend and I was taken to he woodshed at another blog   ( gospel coalition) when I dared to agree with the  departure of one Mark Driscoll. First I was asked, it was a trap, if I agreed with your blog saying mr. Driscoll was practicing pornographic divination. I read it one more time and replied, yes. Then I was told I was probably an unbiblical cessationist and I had again go find out. Turns I was and am one of those crazy cessationists. Thank you for your sound gospel centered teaching. Please revisit the doctrine of cessationism on pyro when you see fit. It will be of great help to many.

will said...

So many times i've questioned certain circumstances
Or things I could not understand
Many times in trials, weakness blurs my vision
And my frustration gets so out of hand
Its then I am reminded I've never been forsaken
I've never had to stand the test alone
As I look at all the victories
The spirit rises up in me
And its through the fire my weakness is made strong

Chorus:
He never promised that the cross would not get heavy
And the hill would not be hard to climb
He never offered our victories without fighting
But He said help would always come in time
Just remember when your standing in the valley of decision
And the adversary says give in
Just hold on, our Lord will show up
And He will take you through the fire again

Bridge:
I know within myself that I would surely perish
But if I trust the hand of God, He'll shield the flames again, again

Crabb family "Through the Fire"

Canyon Shearer said...

"If you try to devise a fleshly way of escape from trials, you'll only get yourself in worse trouble."

Story of my life!

Mr. Fosi said...

Thanks for the clarification, Phil. :^)

Linda said...

"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."


I mused this verse one day and was wondering does this verse mean (instantly)that God will provide a way of escape, or can it also mean that God will also provide a way even if it takes weeks or months? I used to think it meant instant provision of the way

The reason I ask is sometimes in overcoming temptation in my life it's not at that moment but rather eventually that God provides a way.

~Mark said...

God has been so faithful in this area! He ALWAYS provides the way out. Being currently in a bit of a difficult time of waiting on God in trying circumstances, this paragraph stings a bit:

Furthermore, that definite article "the way of escape" is the correct rendering of the Greek text. There is only one right way of escape, and that is the way God designs. If you try to devise a fleshly way of escape from trials, you'll only get yourself in worse trouble. God makes the way of escape; don't try to make your own.

Wrestling with patience I guess. 8-)

Rick Potter said...

Since Paul uses typological language of the Exodus and the Israelites desert experience, which was idolatry following their redemption, do you see this as a warning to the Corinthians who were in danger of committing the same "type" of sin or is this warning towards any temptation?

Richard Cheesman said...

Years ago, when I first read that scripture, the translation I had (NIV) said to 'stand up under it'. I'd always assumed that this meant we would actually have the experience of temptation, even despite our best efforts to avoid it.

This entry was most appropriate for me, and has been a valuable lesson in something I'd actually been working through. Thanks!

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Claude McDonald said...

Amen. Keep with spreading the WORD.




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Aaron said...

I still remember hearing John MacArthur preach this passage. This line remains embedded in my brain:

"The way out is through."