Tests of a Living Faith
Faith Tested by Blame in Temptation (1:13-18)
By Steve Budd
God is not responsible for our temptations or for the sins that result from succumbing to them. Rather, He is responsible for our righteousness.
I. Temptation and the Nature of Evil (13)
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
Tempted (3985): “peirasmos”. Depending on the context, means either:
- An outward circumstance of trial (as in v. 3)
- Temptation to sin (this verse)
While trials come from God (as noted in Lesson 1), temptations to sin cannot come from God because God Himself cannot be tempted by evil. There is not the slightest degree of moral depravity to which temptation can appeal to Him. We then ask, “What about Matthew 4:1 and 6:13?”
- Matthew 4:1: Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. While Satan’s perspective of this encounter was an inducement to sin, from Jesus’ perspective, it proved His impregnability to sin. This illustrates the different meanings of “peirasmos”.
- Matthew 6:13: Lead us not into temptation. The petition is that God would not lead us into a testing of our faith that, because of our weakness or immaturity, could become an unbearable temptation to evil. God, therefore, allows the trials in which temptation can occur, not to solicit believers to sin, but to move them to greater endurance.
The singular present imperative “Let no one” is not a mild suggestion, but a strong command to every individual Christian that prohibits the practice of blaming God for his sin.
II. Temptation and the Nature of Man (14)
But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.
“Each one is tempted” indicates that temptation is universal among men; none are exempt. The present tense of the verb emphasizes the continuing, repeated, and inescapable reality of temptation. “His own” shows the unique and personal nature of temptation. All are tempted, but in unique and personal ways that are peculiar to his own lusts. “Carried away” (lit. getting one’s attention), and “enticed” (luring with bait to yield) are hunting terms. Our own personal lusts aim to get our attention, then lure us away.
III. Temptation and the Nature of Lust (15-16)
Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
The connecting word “Then” indicates a sequence of events. Just as there is a sequence of events leading to our maturity (vv.2-3), there is a sequence of events leading to death. Lust leads to sin, which leads to death. While we are not to interrupt the sequence of events leading to maturity, we should interrupt the sequence of events leading to death (i.e. terminate the life and growth of sin). This is the synergistic reality of sanctification. The present tense imperative, “Do not be deceived”, means to stop being deceived, and is connected to what has just been stated, as well as transitioning to what James says next.
“When man is confronted with the alluring temptation, he sees only the attractiveness of the desired object; only when his will has sanctioned the performance of the sinful act do the tragic consequences come into action.” D. Edmond Hiebert
IV. Temptation and the Nature of God (17)
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
This verse is connected to what has already been said about God, namely that He gives generously (v. 5), and that temptation to sin cannot come from God. The term “good” points to the source of the gift (i.e. the nature of the giver), and “perfect” points to the value of the gift in meeting the needs of the recipient. Amplified, this passage says, “Every useful and beneficial thing is given lavishly by a generous God in order that we would lack nothing that is good for our souls”. The same truth is stated in 2 Peter 1:3, ”His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.”
V. The Nature of Regeneration (18)
In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.
This verse is far reaching in its implications, yet it is stated so matter-of-factly as if there is no debate in the mind of the writer or hearers. Verse 19a confirms this by adding, “This you know”.
- The cause of our regeneration is God’s sovereign, deliberate, and uninfluenced will. My Arminian friends should ponder this verse very carefully, as it clearly states that God alone is the cause of our regeneration (cf. John 1:12-13). It is true that everyone may come to Christ, but not everyone can (i.e. those who are spiritually dead). Opportunity does not imply ability. Sanctification, as noted above, is synergistic, but justification, as noted here and many other places in Scripture, is monergerstic. I’ve now revealed my reformed bent.
- The means of our regeneration is the Word of God.
- The result of regeneration is being born again (“brought forth” is exactly the same word that is used about sin in v. 15).
It is easy to lose perspective when confronted by the Word with our own wrongdoings. How will we respond to temptation? Will we:
- Blame God?
- Blame the Devil?
- Blame it on a “disease”?
- Blame it on our genes?
- Blame it on our environment?
My second 30-day challenge to the class and myself is this:
Be cognizant of your own unique lusts and temptations, and work to terminate the life and growth of sin in your life by repenting. This means you offer no excuses to God for your sins, and that you petition Him that He would not lead you into a testing of your faith that, because of our weakness or immaturity, could become an unbearable temptation to evil. That is praying according to God’s will.
Next Lesson: James 1:19-27 Faith Tested by Response to the Word