The Eternal Purpose of Temptation

by Mike Ratliff

12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 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. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. James 1:12-16 (NASB) 

Temptation is an often-misunderstood subject. Many of us tend to think that temptation is sin, that temptation is the problem with living the Christian life. However, as Puritan Thomas Watson wrote, “The devil tempts, that he may deceive; but God suffers [i.e. allows] us to be tempted, to try us. Temptation is a trial of our sincerity.”

That quotation from Thomas Watson nails it! The word “temptation” translates πειρασμός (peirasmos) which comes from the verb πειράζω (peirazō), “to make trial of, to test,” so the idea is “a test, a trial.” It was used in Classical Greek, for example, to refer to a medical test, which would prove either health or disease. We are, therefore, tested to see if we are sincere, that is, whether we really are who we profess to be. As James makes clear, God never tempts us, but rather, we are tempted by our own lusts (James 1:12-16), as well as Satan (1 Corinthians 10:9) Paul adds, and the test is to see if we will remain faithful to the truth. So, temptation is not sin, but rather, yielding to temptation is sin.

To go a little deeper, what are we really being tested to do? Are we just being tested not to do wrong? While that is certainly part of it, we would submit that the more important part of the test is not only to see if we will prove to be sincere, but to see how we will prove it. In other words, how do we get victory over temptation? Is it by some psychological technique or sheer willpower?

The answer lies in the temptation of our Lord  in Matthew 4:1-11.

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’”
5 Then the devil *took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and *said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written,
7 Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’”
8 Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus *said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’” 11 Then the devil *left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. Matthew 4:1-11 (NASB) 

In every one of Satan’s tests–the first from lust of the flesh (vv2-3), the second from the lust of the eyes (vv8-9), and the third fro the pride of life (vv5-6)–our Lord had victory because he quoted the Word of God (v4, Deuteronomy 8:3; v7, Deuteronomy 6:16; v10, Deuteronomy 6:13-14). Therefore, the real test in temptation is to see if God’s Word will rule. That is the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13.

13 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 Corinthians 10:13 (NASB) 

Not only does God not allow any temptation that will overwhelm us, but He also provides a way of escape. And what way is that? His Word!

Mark it down: The more Scripture you know, the harder it will be to sin. Along with that my brethren, the more you are immersed in being a living sacrifice being transformed continually by the Holy Spirit as you stay in the Word (Romans 12:1-) how could your world view become temporal? How could you corrupt your ministry to become man-focused rather than eternally focused on God?

When we see men in ministries who have seemingly served faithfully for years suddenly do that very thing like we are seeing with the invasion of Woke theology, the Social Justice non-gospel, Critical Race Theory, and Intersectionality into our seminaries, Christian Universities, and pulpits then you know that temptation took place, they failed the test, and these men sinned and by doing so and God has given them what they wanted and they are now in Spiritual Blindness (Romans 1-2).

What is our role here? We stand firm. We tell the truth. God is Sovereign. He is on His Throne and we need to stay in His Word and at His throne of Grace praying for His will to be done in all places everywhere for His glory.

Soli Deo Gloria!