Friday, August 12, 2005

God cannot be tempted: James 1:13b

The question that James’ deals with in James 1:13-15 is: Can God be blamed for our struggles with sin?

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

James makes it clear in verse 13 that we cannot blame God for our propensity toward evil. One reason why God cannot tempt man, which we will look at today, is that God himself cannot be tempted by evil.

We know that we are responsible for our own sin because God cannot be tempted by evil. We cannot even question God in this matter because of His character, and His activity. We cannot point to anything in his character that is prone to temptation, and we cannot point to anything He has done that shows a propensity to evil. His holiness is eternal, and is unmixed with anything less than absolute righteousness. There are so many examples that we could look to and see God’s holiness. But I think it would be good to look at the life of Christ. Remember, Christ is God and He went through all that we go through while he was on earth. In fact, the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) tell us that Christ was tested in the desert by Satan himself (see Matthew 4:1-11). But here in James 1 it says that He was not tempted to do evil. This may seem like a contradiction to say that God cannot be tempted and that Christ was tempted by Satan, but upon further review I think that we can make sense of this. The Greek word for testing, and temptation is the same word (peirasmoj). So, the difference between testing, and temptation must be examined. Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested by the devil. But the remainder of the account makes it clear that although from Satan’s perspective the experience was intended to be a temptation to sin, from Jesus perspective it was a test; a test which he passed without a single flaw. Despite Satan’s cleverness he was unable to entice Jesus into the thought of sinning. This is the difference between testing, and temptation.

We may have a trial that God intends to use for our good, but instead of letting Him accomplish His purpose in us we doubt His work. Christ on the other hand let the Father accomplish His purpose in his desert testing. God (as seen in the work of Christ) is not susceptible to temptation. And because temptation is an impulse to sin God cannot be seen as desiring that temptation be brought about in a man. God would not desire something in your life that His holiness would not allow.

Our belief in God’s own character, purity, and holiness make it impossible for us to suppose that it is from Him that our temptations proceed. His temptation of us would imply a delight in evil. God is impervious to evil, and in no way would desire those temptations to be in your life. God does not tempt men. It is the corrupt human nature that turns that which God intended for good into a temptation to sin. God may put you through something to test (or refine) your faith, but it is not His intention for you to sin. You cannot make the claim that God has enticed you to further evil by leading you to deny through trials. You cannot say: “this is God’s fault for putting me in this situation to fail.” The truth of the matter is that God always puts us in a situation to succeed. Don’t believe me? Look at what 1 Corinthians 10:13 has to say:

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.

We always have the means to succeed in the midst of a trial because we have grace through Christ. God sends trials our way to bring us closer to him, but our sinful nature turns it into a temptation to doubt God. Matthew 6:13 is an important text to look at when speaking about this subject.

"Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 'Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 'Give us this day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 'And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.'

Here we find what is commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer. Christ, in teaching us how to pray, tells us to ask God “not to lead us into temptation.” Why would Christ say that if God does not tempt man? Because the idea here is that we should ask the Father not to lead us into a testing of our faith, that because of our weakness, could become temptation to evil. Yes God allows us to go through trials in which temptation can occur, but it is to move us to greater endurance not to make us sin (1:2-4). God is not the author of sin within us. His purity works in our favor, for He is working to conform us to His own image. His purity means that He cannot tempt us, and it means that He can be a source of strength in the midst of testing if we would only depend on Him.


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