Ss lesson090913.commentary


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James 1:13-18

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Ss lesson090913.commentary

  1. 1. 1 | P a g e DIGGING DEEPER: Trial/Tempt (Vv. 13-14) – These words come from the same Greek word. Context determines whether the word is used for trials (referring to difficulties and hardships as in verse 2) or enticements to sin. SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN. Trial and Temptation—The Greek root word peirazo could be translated ―to temp‖ or ―to test.‖ The meaning depends partly on the context in the passage. In verse 13, the first use is rendered ―trial‖ in the HCSB because God does not test humans, as we saw in session 1. God sends trials into our lives to test our faith and help us to grow closer to Him. He does not want us to sin. James told us to welcome the testing of our faith with ―great joy: (1:2). However, some translations rendered the first use of the Greek word as ―tempted‖ (KJV, NASB, NIV, ESV) since temptation to sin becomes the main subject of the passage. The second use of peirazo in verse 13 is correctly translated ―tempted‖ since temptation to sin is the key topic of this passage. What is the source of by temptation to sin? James will tell us. SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN. TEMPTATION: Used in KJV to refer to testing, trying, and enticing to evil. When the KJV was translated in 1611, ―temptation‖ meant all of these, but the word has narrowed in meaning in modern times. Modern translations use ―testing,‖ ―proving,‖ ―trying,‖ and ―tempting.‖ Four distinct uses of the Hebrew (nsh) and Greek (peirazo) words for trying or tempting are: God tests the loyalty or disloyalty of persons. ―God did tempt (nsh) Abraham‖ (Gen. 22:1). God ―tested‖ Abraham’s loyalty to God when He told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Hebrews 11:17 says: ―By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac.‖ In Deuteronomy 8:2 Moses said: ―God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove (nsh) thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.‖ (Compare Ex. 20:20; Judg. 2:22.) Christ also tested the loyalty of persons. Jesus asked Philip a question ―to prove (peirazo) him: for he himself knew what he would do (John 6:6).‖ Jesus’ enemies tried Him to get something to use against him. ―The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting (peirazo) desired him that he would show them a sign from heaven‖ (Matt 16:1). (Compare Matt. 19:3; 22:18, 35; Mark 8:11; 10:2; 12:15; Luke 11:16; 20:23; John 8:6.) Persons are tempted or enticed to sin. James 1:13 says, ―Let no man say when he is tempted (peirazo), I am tempted by God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.‖ Both the Old Testament and New Testament make it clear that God does not entice persons to sin, but both indicate that God allows human beings to be tempted. (Compare 1 Chron. 21:1; Matt. 4:1, 3; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2, 13; 1 Cor. 7:5; 1 Thess. 3:5; Rev. 2:10.) These passages refer to the temptation as coming from the ―tempter,‖ ―devil,‖ or ―Satan.‖ In 1 Corinthians 10:13 Paul said: ―There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.‖ James 1:14 says that ―every man is tempted, when he drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.‖ Persons are thus tempted from without by the tempter or from within themselves.
  2. 2. 2 | P a g e Jesus taught His disciples to pray: ―Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil‖ (Matt 6:13). Since God does not entice to sin, this is a cry of the soul for help in the midst of temptation. Persons are not to test God. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16 when He said: ―Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God‖ (Matt. 4:7). People did put God to the test. (Compare Ex. 17:2, 7; Deut. 6:16; 9:22; Num. 14:22; Acts 5:9; 15:10; 1 Cor. 10:9; Heb. 3:8-9.) When the apostles and elders from the Jerusalem church came to Antioch and questioned the admission of the Gentiles into the church, Peter said that the Holy Spirit had been given to the Gentiles: ―Why tempt ye God?‖ (Acts 15:6-11). SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee. Evil Desires (V. 14) – The single Greek word means a longing or desire. It can be a good or natural desire, but it is usually used to refer to something forbidden. SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN. Evil Desires—This is actually one word, desires, in the Greek of verse 14. The term can refer to either good and natural desires or to desires and longings that are forbidden. Again, the context is the deciding factor. The HCSB and NIV (versus the ESV) make it clear that James had in focus evil desires, as is the case in most New Testament passages that use the word. The NASB, like the KJV, uses ―lust.‖ SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN. The Setting: After writing about how we should respond to the trials we face, James turned his attention to temptations. We all face trials and temptations, but temptations do not come from God. James concluded this section by pointing our attention to what does come from God. God is the giver of all good things. SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. FIRSTFRUITS: The choice examples of a crop harvested first and dedicated to God. In accordance with Mosaic law, individual Israelites brought to the house of the Lord ―the first (that is, ―the best‖) of the firstfruits of thy land‖ (Ex. 23:19; 34:26), including grain, wine, and oil, which were used—except for the grain (Lev. 2:14-16)— for the support of the priests (Num. 18:12; Deut. 18:4). According to Deuteronomy 26:1-11, the offering was brought in a basket to the sanctuary for presentation. The Book of Proverbs promises prosperity to those who honor the Lord with the firstfruits (Prov. 3:9). According to Leviticus 23:9-14, the first sheaf of the new crop of barley was presented as a wave offering before the Lord. This took place on the day after the Passover Sabbath and was a public acknowledgment that all came from God and belonged to Him (Num. 28:26; compare Ex. 23:16; 34:22). Not only were the Israelites to be mindful that the land of Canaan was the Lord’s possession and that they had only the rights of tenants (Lev. 25:23), but they were also to be aware that the fertility of Canaan’s soil was not due to one of the Baals but rather to the Lord’s gift of grace.
  3. 3. 3 | P a g e Israel was described as God’s ―firstfruits‖ (Jer. 2:3). Christ in His resurrection is described as the ―firstfruits‖ of them that slept (1 Cor. 15:20, 23). The Holy Spirit is spoken of as a ―firstfruits‖ (Rom. 8:23), and believers are also spoken of as ―a kind of firstfruits‖ (Jas. 1:18). The saved remnant within Israel is described as ―firstfruits‖ (Rom. 11:16), as are the 144,000 of the tribulation period (Rev. 14:4). The first converts of an area were designated ―firstfruits‖ (Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:15). In each case, the emphasis was on special dedication and blessing. SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee. ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING: Self Deception As A Theme In James By Lynn O. Traylor, pastor of Buckner Baptist Church, LaGrange, Kentucky. A FAMILIAR ADAGE SAYS ―You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.‖ The saying reflects a theory that if a group of people is large enough, a certain number either will not fall prey to a deception accepted by the majority, or the majority will not be deceived for very long. Ironically, the Bible reminds us that such thinking itself is deceptive, due in no small part to our ability as humans to deceive ourselves. While Jesus portrayed Satan as ―a liar and the father of lies‖ (John 8:44), 1 and the Scriptures clearly acknowledge Satan’s role in deceiving humanity (Rev. 20:8), the Bible is equally blunt in locating our own contribution to deception. It declares that the human ―heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable‖ (Jer. 17:9). James warns against self-deception three times in his letter to believers (1:16, 22, and 26). A brief discussion of the nature of human self-deception is helpful in understanding these warnings and why James felt they were necessary. At first, the problem of self-deception seems a bit difficult to grasp. We might well ask: ―How can someone be both the deceiver and the deceived?‖2 Self-deception has long been a topic of inquiry among ancient and modern philosophers, and their work provides some basic insights into understanding how it takes place. Self-deception may be defined simply as choosing to manage our beliefs in order to avoid dealing with truth.3 Put another way, self-deception is claiming a belief we have as a truth in order to avoid a truth we prefer not to believe.4 The motivation for such ―belief management‖ lies in our feeling uncomfortable with the reality or truth confronting us. Whereas a deceiver ―stands outside‖ others intending to lead them away from truth, the self-deceived choose within themselves to move away from truth.5 In the past, so much scholarly attention focused on the verses in James related to faith and works (2:14-26), that the larger message of the letter was overlooked, if not outright distorted.6 Admittedly, James touched on many themes in his epistle, leading some scholars in the past to question what structure or strategy unifies his writing.7 While acknowledging the various themes in the text, more recent scholarship places an emphasis on viewing James’s letter as a sort of ―community instruction‖ exhorting believers to live distinctively different lives among non-believers.8 Why would the topic of self-deception matter to James? From a pastoral view, James was concerned with behavior.9 Of special concern were those who claimed to be Christians but who did not
  4. 4. 4 | P a g e demonstrate Christ in their lifestyle, a specifically Christian self-deception he explicitly addressed.10 James used three separate and distinct Greek words to illustrate both his concerns and the problems of Christian self-deception. In 1:16, the Greek word in the admonition, ―Don’t be deceived” (emphasis added) means ―led astray‖ or ―wandering‖ as in taking the wrong path.11 The symbolism of this word especially applies in James’s caution to persons believing they are ―being tempted by God‖ in the trials they experience (1:13). Such a belief is a misstep in their thinking about God, who is ―generous‖ and the Giver of ―every perfect gift‖ (v. 17). As mentioned earlier, human self-deception occurs when persons choose to embrace a belief in order to avoid an uncomfortable truth. The truth is that God’s nature is holiness and He is never the source of temptation, is uncomfortable for those who either want to blame Him for their own evil desires12 or have difficulty fully trusting themselves to God in the midst of temptations.13 The second explicit warning against self-deception urges believers to ―be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves‖ (v. 22). ―Deceiving‖ here comes from a compound Greek word which, read literally, means ―laying one measure against another‖ (my translation). The deception comes in choosing a standard we desire rather than using an established one; this also illustrates another meaning, ―to defraud.‖14 James insisted that to be only hearers and not ―doers of the word‖ (v. 22) represents a fraudulent faith. A genuine faith shapes behavior; God’s Word provides the corrective image and reveals what God intends human life to look like.15 The third mention of self-deception is a warning that any religion which does not result in controlled speech is ―useless‖ (v. 26). James argued that anyone who considered himself to be religious without having a controlled tongue ―deceives himself‖ (literally, ―to deceive one’s own heart‖).16 For James, Christians demonstrated true faith in how it affected the content of a believer’s speech.17 Though most of his teaching on the tongue is in chapter three (vv. 1-12), every chapter mentions a believer’s words and speech (1:19,26; 2:12-13; 4:11; 5:9,12).18 James 1:26 connects with the thought in 1:22, which warns against adopting a ―form‖ of religion that has no effect on behavior and thus is ―useless‖ (1:26). Hearing the Word and being exposed to ―the perfect law of freedom‖ (v. 25) provides an opportunity for genuine faith, but such faith demands a response beyond just hearing. To judge one’s self as ―religious‖ for merely having heard the Word is self-deception, rationalizing beliefs and behavior to avoid making the lifestyle changes that such faith demands. In summary, the first chapter of James’s epistle carries three explicit warnings against self-deception: believers are not to be deceived regarding temptation (vv. 13-15), righteous wisdom (vv. 16-25), and religious practice (vv. 26- 27).19 Each of these warnings involves a reality or truth that demands a change in behavior. Certain, albeit unacceptable, behaviors are possible for believers only when they allow self-deception to mask or avoid the truth.20 James highlighted these self-deceptions as part of his overall efforts to encourage the community of believers to live out with consistency the truth and wisdom of God.21 Because the Book of James links his warnings about self-deception to behavior, one could argue that self- deception is an implicit theme throughout the epistle. For example, chapter 2 speaks of ―hearing but not doing‖ (compare with 1:22); chapter 3 is a commentary on ―the uncontrolled tongue‖ (see 1:26); and 4:1-12 illustrates the self-desires of temptation James described in 1:13-16. Finally, James 4:13—5:1 implicitly points toward a self- deception of those who think they are in control of their lives or who trust in their riches.22 In naming these warnings, James make clear that he expected his audience to respond in faith and was confident that in heeding God’s Word, a self-deceived person can turn ―from the error of his way‖ (5:20).23
  5. 5. 5 | P a g e 1. All Scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). 2. Dan G. McCartney, ―Self-Deception in James,‖ Criswell Theological Review 8, no. 2 (Spring 2011), 31. 3. Gregg A. Ten Elshof, I Told Me So: Self-Deception and the Christian Life (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), xiv. 4. McCartney, ―Self-Deception in James,‖ 32. 5. Elshof, I Told Me So, 26-27. 6. Mark Edward Taylor, A Text-Linguistic Investigation into the Discourse Structure of James (New York: T & T Clark International, 2006), 5. 7. Ibid., 9. 8. James Riley Strange, The Moral World of James: Setting the Epistle in its Greco-Roman and Judaic Environments (New York: Peter Lang, 2010), 1. 9. Christopher W. Morgan, A Theology of James: Wisdom for God’s People (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2010), 40-41. 10. McCartney, ―Self-Deception in James,‖ 33. 11. ― ‖ (planao; to cause to wander; to deceive) in Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [BDAG], trans. and ed. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed., rev. F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 665. 12. Mc Cartney, ―Self-Deception in James,‖ 34. 13. Morgan, A Theology of James, 173. 14. ‖ (paralogizomai, to reckon fraudulently, defraud, distort) in BDAG, 620. 15. McCartney, ―Self-Deception in James,‖ 35. 16. Ibid., 36. 17. Morgan, A Theology of James, 95. 18. Taylor, A Text-Linguistic Investigation, 76. 19. Ibid., 104-105. 20. Elshof, I Told Me So, 8. 21. Morgan, A Theology of James, 39. 22. McCartney, ―Self-Destruction in James,‖ 37-38. 23. Ibid., 41. SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 40, No. 1; Fall 2013. LUST/EVIL DESIRE By Billy Simmons , retired professor of New Testament, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, IN THE FIRST CHAPTER of his practical letter James set up the first of several comparisons regarding the individual who put his/her faith into practice over against the one who does not. In the midst of this comparison, James developed a paradigm to describe the progression of temptation in the individual’s heart to the actual sinful act on the part of the individual. The word with which this article is primarily concerned is epithumos, which is translated “desire” or “lust” by most English translations.
  6. 6. 6 | P a g e This word used in James 1:13-15 is built on two separate words. The first is the preposition epi, which literally means ―upon‖ but has a wide variety of meanings when it is prefixed to other words. Generally speaking, a preposition prefixed to another word served to intensify the meaning of that word, but it could also alter the meaning of the word. The second word on which this one is built is thumos, which is the regular word for “wrath,” particularly in Paul’s letters. It was used both for human and divine wrath. However, in Revelation it almost exclusively describes the divine wrath. The word thumos originally was used to describe a violent movement of something. Later the word became associated with sacrifice, probably because of the rising of the smoke from the fire of the sacrifice. By the time of the first Christian century, this word basically described a breaking forth of something such as anger on the part of man or God. Paul used the term five times, and only once (Rom. 2:8) does it refer to God’s wrath. There are two terms that grow out of the basic word with which we are dealing in this article. There is the noun epithumia and the verb epithumein. In Greek philosophical writings, the noun was used primarily ethically rather than morally or religiously. Basically, the word was used to describe a person who was at odds with rational action involving his/her own personal choices. In Jewish thought both the noun and the verb could be used to describe sinful actions. Often the noun was used to describe a base or ungodly desire. It was used specifically to describe sinful sexual desire on the part of a man. The verb, on the other hand, was used to describe pious striving as well as strong eschatological expectations. Seldom, if ever, was the word used of physical love or sexual desire in a good sense. In Rabbinic literature prior to the New Testament the noun often was used to describe the desire or even the actions of an adulterer or adulteress. However, generally in Rabbinic literature the word was used to describe a general disposition rather than concrete action. In the New Testament both the noun and the verb are rare in the Gospels. The verb is used in the Gospels more than once to express a legitimate desire. In Luke 22:15 Jesus used the verb to express His strong desire to eat the Passover with His disciples prior to His passion. In Luke 15:16 the verb was used to describe the prodigal son’s gnawing hunger, his ―longing‖ to eat the swill of the swine to satisfy his hunger. Again it was used in Luke 16:21 to describe the extreme hunger of the poor man at the rich man’s feast. In almost every instance where the verb is used in the New Testament, it described a desire that was either good or neutral. It was never used to describe an evil desire or lust. The usage of the noun in the New Testament, however, tells quite a different story. Basically it was a neutral word, but in the majority of its uses in the New Testament, it was used to describe an evil desire. A general rule of thumb when translating any word or phrase is that the context always determines the exact meaning. Even though the noun in question was generally used in the New Testament to describe an evil desire, only the context can determine if the usage conveys a good, evil, or neutral desire. In James 1:13-15 there is little doubt that the desire described here was less than honorable. In fact in this context
  7. 7. 7 | P a g e the word described a desire of human will that is evil. In the greater context of James 1:12-15 James was describing the process of evil as it developed within the human psyche. Though James certainly did not intend to disallow the existence of Satan as an evil spiritual entity, he would not allow Christians to blame Satan for all of the problems confronting them. On the other hand, James would not allow Christians to blame God for their problems either. Some persons may have attempted to excuse a vile temper or some other problem with the assertion that this is the way God made them, therefore they are not to be blamed for their actions. The idea that is promulgated by this excuse is that the person has no control over his/her actions. James would have none of that. In fact he placed the blame squarely on the individual. On the other hand, James described the “blessed” person as one who was able to stand in the face of temptation to do evil without succumbing to the temptation. James was not entering into a philosophical discussion of free will versus predestination either. As he did throughout this grand epistle, James was dealing with the practical outcome of desirable and undesirable actions by a Christian individual. From a practical perspective James would not allow the individual to shift the blame for his/her problems to God or Satan. Evil actions grow out of evil thoughts that are engendered within the person’s psyche. James stated that temptation was not always something that was placed before the person by Satan. The individual’s own desire is well capable of engendering the problem of temptation. The noun translated “desire” or “lust” is the key word, and in this context it can scarcely mean anything other than evil desire or lust. In this context, however, the word certainly was not limited to illicit sexual desire, although this idea surely was included as a possible understanding of the word. Any desire that would lead the individual to actions contrary to God’s will for the person surely were included here. An inordinate desire for power or control over others might have been included here. The desire that would have caused one to covet another person’s wealth or their position in the church or community surely was part and parcel of the idea in this passage. James completed his progression from the conception of the evil desire within the heart of the person to the culmination of the sinful act, which if left unchecked would lead to death. Though James did not elaborate on the ultimate result of this sinful progression in the life of the person, he scarcely could have been more direct in his assertion. Basically James has left the Christian with little or no room to free himself/herself from responsibility when the person has succumbed to the temptation to yield to the evil desires that crop up periodically in one’s life. The person in question cannot blame others for his/her predicament, although this is a much-used ploy in many instances. He/she cannot shift the blame to Satan. Surely the devil is responsible for much of the evil in the world, but James would not allow the erring Christian to blame Satan for his/her predicament in this particular instance. On the other hand, many people want to place the blame on God for their sinful predicament. James would not allow this to be done either. James placed all of the blame squarely on the individual for his/her sinful problem. Though the word under scrutiny in this article was basically a neutral one, James has used it in such a way as to leave little doubt about the way he wanted his readers to understand it. There hardly can be any reason to translate the word with any other English idea other than “evil desire” or “lust.” As he was throughout this letter, James
  8. 8. 8 | P a g e was rather direct and blunt in his assessment of the basic human problem relating to temptation and sin. James scarcely could have produced a more stark or frightening analogy for the progression of an evil desire from its conception within the human psyche to its culmination as a sinful action in the life of an individual than he did in this passage. All who read James’s powerful epistle would be wise to take to heart his straightforward and clear admonitions. SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Winter 2002-03. Temptation By Mark A. Rathel , Adjunct Professor of New Testament and Church History, Florida Baptist Theological College, Graceville, Florida. MY ADOLENSCENT SON and I recently experience a dialogue that underscores the difficulty of communication. My son referred to his favorite musical piece as ―hot.‖ My generation expressed the same concept through the use of the term ―cool.‖ This verbal interchange between parent and child brought to remembrance an adage my seminary professors repeatedly drilled into students: ―Words do not have meanings; words have usages,‖ Studying the word translated ―temptation‖ demonstrates the validity of this adage. Contextual analysis determines the usage a biblical author gave to a word. Near the end of his life, the apostle Peter wrote his first epistle to Jewish Christians in northern Asia Minor living in an antagonistic and oppressive society. The apostle advised Christians to expect suffering because Christ experienced suffering (2:21; 4:1). The Christians whom Peter addressed experienced persecution in the form of slander (4:14) and animosity for refusal to participate in a morally decadent society (4:4). Peter challenged these Jewish Christians to steadfast endurance and unswerving loyalty in light of the reproach that came upon them because of Christ’s name (4:14). Further, he admonished Christians not be troubled by suffering (3:14); to bear suffering patiently (3:9); and to greatly rejoice in trials (1:6; 4:12-13). Peter’s theme of a Christian response to suffering and persecution provides the interpretative contextual in 1 Peter 1:6: ―Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations‖ (KJV). In the King James Version ―temptation‖ translates the Greek noun peirasmos in every New Testament occurrence except one.1 The general meaning of peirasmos in the Greek New Testament is ―test or trial.‖2 In the New Testament, the Greek noun developed a connotation of testing or trying the faith or character of another. A test or trial, therefore, related to an ethical purpose.3 God positively tested by means of trials in order to prove a believer’s faith or character.4 Satan tested by means of temptation, or an enticement to sin.5 On one occasion, the Greek term referred to a person testing God.6 The Greek term peirasmos was rare outside of biblical literature and literature influenced by the Bible. The Greek
  9. 9. 9 | P a g e term did not occur prior to the first century. Secular Greek literature reveals only three occurrences of the term. The first-century physician Dioscorides provided the most significant usage for an understanding of the New Testament. Dioscorides used peirasmos to describe medical experiments about the effect of drugs on certain disease. Hence, he used the word in the sense of tests or trials. The Greek Old Testament, called the Septuagint, provides the immediate background for an understanding of the usage of peirasmos in the Greek New Testament. In the Septuagint, peirasmos occurs 12 times altogether. The Septuagint translators most frequently used peirasmos as a translation for the Hebrew word massa, a term with the general meaning of ―temptations‖ or ―trials.‖ The Old Testament makes a threefold contribution in relations to the meaning and usage of trial, test, or temptation. First, trials refer to the mighty deeds of God, in particular, the plagues God inflicted upon the Egyptians. ―You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all his servants and all his land; the great trials which your eyes have seen, those great signs and wonders.‖7 Second, sinful, arrogant men tempt or test God by complaining against God. ―Ye shall not tempt the Lord Your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.‖8 The incident at Massa, in which the Israelites complained of a lack of water, forms the background for these usages suggesting a testing or temptation of God. Third, while the Old Testament authors used neither the Hebrew term massa nor the Greek term peirasmos in a context of enticement to evil, the Old Testament authors extensively used other verbs to describe an enticement to evil. In the New Testament, the context determines whether ―trial,‖ ―test,‖ or ―temptation‖ serves as the proper translation of peirasmos.9 On the one hand, the New Testament authors utilized the term in reference to temptation. The most frequent usage of the term refers to Jesus’ temptation. On the other hand, the New Testament authors utilized the term as a general description of difficulties or trials. Peter commanded Christians to rejoice in the light of God’s protective keeping of believers until the last day (1 Pet. 1:3-12). The Greek term translated greatly ―rejoice,‖ agalliao, only occurs in biblical texts, particularly in the Psalms (LXX) as expressive of a religious joy derived from receiving God’s help. Although believers rejoice as they await their future revelation of salvation, they experience grief in the present because of various trials. In the Greek New Testament, the conditional clause introduced by ―if‖ usually affirms the reality of the condition. Hence, ―Since it is necessary‖ may be the proper translation. Manifold or various trials is a broad generalization inclusive of a whole range of difficulties that come to a believer. Trials have a purpose; they prove the genuineness of a believer’s faith. Like a fire that burns away the dross, trials purify a believer’s faith. A spiritual relationship exists between trial and temptation. A trial may become a temptation if a believer blames God for the difficulty. The Bible provides a way of victory in regard to trials, tests, and temptations. On the one hand, Scripture encourages believers to endure trials with a positive expectancy that a sovereign God has a purpose in the trial. Trials provide believers an opportunity for faithful testimony. On the other hand, Scripture admonishes believers to resist temptation. Whether a believer encounters a trial or a temptation, prayer is the secret to victory (Luke
  10. 10. 10 | P a g e 22:40). 1. The noun occurs 21 times in the Greek New Testament. The translators of the KJV translated peirasmos in 1 Peter 4:12 as ―trial.‖ 2. Walter Bauer, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd ed. translated and augmented by F.W. Gingrich and F.W. Danker from Walter Bauer’s 5th ed. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1979), 640. 3. G. Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, 3rd ed. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1937), 351. 4. Acts 20:19; James 1:2;12; Revelation 3:10. 5. Luke 4:13; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Timothy 6:9. 6. Hebrews 3:8-9. 7. Deut. 29:2-3 NASB. Other passages conveying the same usage are Deut. 4:34; 7:19. The KJV translates all these usages with the word ―temptation.‖ 8. Deut. 6:16. Other passages that contain the same use of massah or peirasmos in reference to the incident at Massah include Exodus 17:7; Deut. 9:22; and Psalm 95:8. 9. Contextual analysis does not always result in a definite decision regarding the proper translation. Major English translations differ slightly regarding the proper translation. The New International Version translates the Greek term 9 times as ―temptation,‖ 3 times as ―test,‖ and 8 times as ―trial.‖ The American Standard Version (ASV) translates the Greek term 10 times as ―temptation,’ 1 time as ―test,‖ and 1 time as ―ordeal,‖ and 7 times as ―trial.‖ SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 40, No. 1; Fall 2013. The Devil Made Me Do It: A Study of Temptation By Douglas Ezell , assistant professor of New Testament, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. FLIP WILSON HAS MADE US LAUGH at ourselves with his comical routine and statement, ―The devil made me do it.‖ Thus, we justify our selfish actions. Such justification did not originate with our generation. Adam blamed his actions in the garden on Eve, and Eve declared: ―The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat‖ (Gen. 3:13). In everyday vernacular, this practice is called ―passing the buck.‖ But, can we justify such action? Isn’t each person responsible for his response to his particular circumstances? This phenomenon of ―buck passing‖ has been revitalized by the contemporary emphasis on demonology. All manner of ills can be charged to ―that demon who has possessed me before ever I saw him.‖ But again, what does the evidence say? If sin is a crucial issue for men—biblically a valid case can be made for such a statement—who is held responsible? Isn’t it the individual or group involved in the transgression? Does God let us ―pass the buck‖? Temptation in the Old Testament Probably the best-known Old Testament examples of temptation and testing are found in Genesis 3:1-19 (Adam,
  11. 11. 11 | P a g e Eve, and the serpent) and Genesis 22:1-19 (Abraham, Isaac, and the ram). The word peirazo, meaning to try or tempt, is used in the ancient Greek translation of the account of Abraham and Isaac. Though the word is not present in the account of the fall, the concept is clearly discussed. The context in which a word is used contributes as much to the message as does the particular word used. For example, the account of Abraham and Isaac should not be interpreted so as to make God the author of temptation or evil (see Jas. 1:13-15). God did set up the conditions for Abraham’s faith and dependence to be tested, the test environment. These circumstances had the potential of producing a test or a temptation, depending on Abraham’s response to the circumstance. The account of the fall, however, conveys a different concept. An agent, namely a serpent, sought to draw man from obedience into disobedience. This is never God’s stance. God is not against Himself. For him to call man away from obedience at the same time that He is calling man to obedience would involve Him in an insurmountable moral dilemma. He would not be God, but a devil. These two accounts compel us to distinguish between God’s testing and Satan’s seeking to lure man into sin. Dokimazo is a second word used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament to convey the Hebrew concept of ―to try‖ or ―to test.‖ This word is found especially in Jeremiah and Psalms (Jer. 9:7; 11:20; Ps. 17:3; 26:2). Jeremiah declares that God tries the heart and the mind of men (Jer. 11:20), and the psalmist cries out for God to try his heart (Ps. 17:3; 26:2). This usage of dokimazo parallels the use of peirazo in the account of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac. The psalmist teaches that the true people of God desire to live their lives under the watchful eye of God. They desire that He try and prove their lives in order that they might become fully what God intended. An evaluation of these two words, then, reveals that God does not tempt us to sin, but rather He provides an occasion for us to triumph over sin through following His will faithfully. Such experiences are meant to strengthen us. Temptation in the New Testament The situation in the New Testament corresponds to that in the Old. Peirazo can refer either to ―putting to the test‖ as in the case of Abraham, or ―enticement to sin: as with Adam and Eve. Jesus is presented at the outset of His ministry (Matt. 4:1-11) and at the close of His ministry (Matt. 26:36-46) as one who was tempted as were Adam and Eve. But was He tempted or tested? Perhaps that is the wrong question. Perhaps God uses a situation to test while Satan uses it to tempt. The event is the same. What Jesus did with the issue determined its character. The author of Hebrews sees this tempting as the ultimate proof of Jesus’ obedience, as was the case of Abraham in his hour of trial (Heb. 2:18; 4:15; 5:7-9). God allowed Satan to put Jesus to the test. Satan used the occasion to try Him. Jesus proved His faith and emerged stronger for the experience. Paul used the word peirazo to mean enticement to sin (1 Cor. 10:12,13), while Peter used the same word to mean a trial (1 Pet. 1:6). Interestingly enough, in 1 Peter 1:7 as in James 1:3, in which each author wrote of his faith being proved by his trials, the word is dokimazo, the word used in the Old Testament of God proving His own people to be authentic by measuring them against His standard. Trials come, and believers are proved true by the way they react in the midst of the trial. But let’s look at James for a moment to understand how one word can be colored by its context. In James 1:2 the
  12. 12. 12 | P a g e word peirazo is used to talk about various trials. However, later in the same chapter James uses the same word to declare that God tempts no one, and that man is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires (Jas. 1:13-15). In this second passage, as in the case of Adam, Eve, and Abraham, James declares that the individual is responsible for turning a trial into a temptation. James states his point clearly. One’s own lust is the author of temptation and sin. James did not state who prompts such lust. From the account of Jesus’ temptation and from that of the fall in the Old Testament, the conclusion may be reached that Satan is ever ready to prompt and prod the lusts of men. However, the individual is responsible for giving in these desires and allowing them to issue in sin. From our study, some conclusions are in order regarding the use of the words peirazo and dokimazo. First, a word must be understood in its context. Second, the individual is the determining factor as to whether trials become temptations. Third, God continually seeks to prove His people to be authentic before and for the world. Fourth, the distinction between God’s efforts to call His people to obedience and Satan’s efforts to prod the Christian into disobedience. Fifth, Jesus’ temptation experience and James’ discussion of temptation emphasize that we cannot blame our weaknesses on the devil. Satan’s power stops with his ability to prod and prompt our lusts and desires. This leads into our sixth and final conclusion. We have been put on guard in regard to responsibility for sin. The buck stops with the individual. Temptation and God Scripture is clear that God is not tempted by evil nor does He tempt man with evil. From the beginning, God has desired to have fellowship with man on the basis of a free relationship rather than by coercion. He wants fellowship to be based on free response to His love rather than on forced response to His power. Man’s readiness to commit himself wholly is on trial. To be obedient and to overcome the trial is simply equivalent to depending on God. This is where Adam the man and Israel the nation failed; but Jesus the Christ overcame. Not by divine might did He overcome, for in that case He would not have been tempted like we are. Rather He refused to use His divine power to overcome temptation. He availed Himself of the faith and power available to all men, and in that strength He overcame the temptations. By contrast, Adam did not go to the Father for a clarification of His will; he acted independently of the Father and failed. Jesus went to the Father in prayer and thus overcame the tempter. (We are not here talking about doubt. Growth often comes through questioning. One who walks in dependence on God, though carrying many questions about how, why, when, where, is not doubting God in the sense that Adam and Israel doubted God and rebelled.) God tests a man’s readiness to commit himself wholly on the basis of faith. Man challenges God to prove Himself in sight. God has proved Himself in a Son who walked by faith and calls others saying, ―Follow me.‖ Temptation and Faith The Bible teachings on temptation reveal a startling conclusion. Faith cannot live if it is not exposed to temptation. Living faith is tempted faith. The life of faith, is a struggle. Some insist that the greater faith grows, the less it is tempted and the more it is alive. But the greatest temptation of all is to believe that your are free from all temptation. When you have arrived at this conclusion you also have declared that you no longer need to walk by faith, that the struggle is over.
  13. 13. 13 | P a g e Jesus warned His disciples that the world would treat them as it had treated him (John 15:18-21). Trials present an occasion for displaying the victory already won. The danger of failing to count on God and turning the trial into a temptation, a time of doubting and challenging God, is always there. Luther understood the relationship between temptation and faith. He declared that the whole life of believer will consist of being exposed to hatred, pain, rejection, execution. He saw baptism as a sign which, as a visible symbol, soon passed from sight, as well as an experience which characterized the believer’s life. Throughout the Christian’s experience he continues to drown sin and overcome the tempter. In the process faith continues to rise as if constantly overcomes unbelief, as it constantly experiences the overwhelming power which is ours in the victory won once for all, in Jesus Christ.