“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
1) Temptation (Tom Edwards)
Temptation is common to all. We are each confronted with it every day in various ways. Paul also speaks of its universal nature when saying, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
The Greek word for “temptation” (peirasmos) has a variation of meanings. It is defined as “an experiment, attempt, trial, proving. … 1b) the trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy 1b1) an enticement to sin, temptation, whether arising from the desires or from the outward circumstances 1b2) an internal temptation to sin … 1b4) adversity, affliction, trouble: sent by God and serving to test or prove one’s character, faith, holiness 1c) temptation (i.e. trial) of God by men” (Thayer). This Greek word is also translated four times as “trials” in the New American Standard Bible and seen in Luke 22:28, Acts 20:19, James 1:2, and 1 Peter 1:6.
So the same Greek word can refer to inward temptations as well as the outward. And we also see in this that not all temptations are sinful in themselves, but could be an adversity or affliction that will test the caliber of the individual. It is in that sense that Genesis 22:1 declares that “God did tempt Abraham…” (King James Version). Or, “God tested Abraham…” (NASB). When we read on in the chapter, we see exactly how that was done. God commanded Abraham to offer his son on the altar as a burnt offering. The Lord, of course, was not trying to cause Abraham to sin; but was testing the faith and obedience of Abraham. For it was never the Lord’s intent that Isaac would be killed.
Though we normally think of the word “tempt” as implying something evil, such as in trying to allure someone into committing a sin, its obsolete meaning, according to Merriam-Webster, is “to make trial of: test.” And that is how it is being used in Genesis 22:1 of the KJV.
That is also indicated by James, the half-brother of the Lord, who has some things to say about this topic in James 1:13-16. There we learn that “God…does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”
From this passage, we see of a process that begins with temptation and ends in spiritual death; but there are also the steps in between that involve one’s yielding to the temptation and carrying out a sinful act. So just being tempted in itself does not necessarily mean that one has sinned as a result.
Temptation, therefore, has been likened to a bird landing on one’s head. If that happened to you, you would probably swat the creature away immediately, as with a natural reflex – instead of allowing it the time to get cozy or to make a nest there. So that can illustrate a temptation that one does not spend time wrongfully entertaining in mind and yielding to.
Also, if simply being tempted would in itself be a sin to the one experiencing it, then what about Jesus? For the Bible says of Him, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).
Going through difficult times can be a challenge. Temptations, adversities, tragedies, heartaches, disappointments, things that break and cease to function, or whatever the troubles, we would probably prefer not to experience any of them.
But one thing that can help us when undergoing such is to realize that even times like that can be for our good and spiritual development as we face those difficulties the way God wants us to. For when we are striving to please Him, in spite of the adverse circumstances, we will be strengthened in the Lord and helped through those trying times.
Going along with this, James exhorts, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).
As we see in this passage, James speaks of “various trials” (NASB). The KJV renders that as “divers temptations” — but we should not think of that in the limited sense of “allurements to sin, but trials or distresses of any kind which test and purify the Christian character” (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary).”
One of the ways in which temptation can come is through adversities that befall us. For during such times, some people will turn to the wrong instead of to God. They might try to find an escape from their hardships through illicit drugs, intoxication, immorality, or in some other ungodly way. So though they do want to find a way out from their troubles, they are tempted to turn in the wrong direction and often do.
Christians, of course, are not exempt from adverse circumstances. And many through the years have incurred such by simply living a life in service to God. As Paul told Timothy centuries ago, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Consider also John 15:20, Acts 14:22, and 1 Peter 4:12-16.
External trials, such as the persecutions upon the early church, could lead to internal temptation, such as the temptation to deny Christ in order to save one’s physical life from martyrdom. So whether we are talking about outward trials or inner temptations, God can use either for our spiritual development if we keep faithful to Him.
While the Bible shows that God does not tempt us, yet neither does He remove all temptations from us. Throughout life, we are continually faced with making decisions for one thing or another. This also means that God allows people to run their own course – whether for good or for evil – though we will all have to give an account of ourselves in the Judgment Day; and should, therefore, choose the way of the Lord while we have the time to do so.
Furthermore, if God were to remove all temptations, would He not have to remove all sinners who would seek to lead others astray from the gospel – whether they are doing that intentionally or unintentionally? For they would be an external temptation that could possibly evoke internal temptations in others to sin against God.
May we all continue to do as in the exhortation of that old spiritual song (written in 1868 by Horatio R. Palmer), which begins the first four words of its lyrics with its title: “Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin…”
(All Scriptures are from the NASB unless otherwise indicated.)
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith, living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
Sunday services: 9:00 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)