RPM, Volume 20, Number 21, May 20 to May 26, 2018

Does God tempt anyone?

By Garry Phillips

In this short article, I will show that God, never tempts anyone. Granted, there are a few passages and phrases that implies that in fact He does, but on further investigation we find Genesis 22:1 and James 1:13 infers he does not. However, this is not simply a real paradox, it is a basic misunderstanding of the original text, setting and purpose.

The setting

The verses before us are (Gen. 22:1) which implies God tempted Abraham "Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am. "The KJV says, "And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am". Turning to the New Testament we find the truth unfold. God tempts no one (Jas. 1:13) - "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."

According to the Enhanced Strong's Lexicon, here, the word "test" (NASB), "tempt" (KJV) is nacah. It means "1) to test, try, 2) to attempt, assay, try, 3) to test, try, prove, tempt." This is why the KJV translates it as "tempt" and NASB, NIV, NKJV, ESV, and RSV translate it as "test." Therefore, it was a test that God offered to Abraham - not a temptation to sin. This is the correct meaning of the text before us. God doesn't tempt anyone. It is impossible for Him to do so. It is contrary to His person and nature, which is Holy and without sin and cannot sin nor encourage or incite sin or evil. God is absolutely pure.

"Does God tempt us to sin?"

In Genesis 22:1, as we have already seen, the Hebrew word translated "tempted" is the word nacah, and it means "to test, try, prove, tempt, assay, put to the proof or test." As with other biblical words we face, so many possible synonyms, we must look to the immediate context and compare it to other passages. As we read the account of the event, we note that God did not intend Abraham to complete the sacrifice of Isaac. However, Abraham did not know that and was willing to carry out God's orders, knowing that if God did require this, He was able to raise Isaac up from the dead Hebrews 11:17-19. This passage in Hebrews is better translated "Abraham was 'tried,'" instead of saying he was "tempted." So, the conclusion is that in Genesis 22:1, the Hebrew word translated "tempt" has to do with testing or the evaluation of something or someone and not tempting to enter into sin.

James 1:13, gives us the guiding principle: which is that no one has the right to say that he has been tempted "of God." The word "of" is essential to our understanding this statement, because it indicates the origin of something. Temptations to sin do not originate with God. James concludes: God cannot be tempted with evil, and God does not tempt anyone to sin.

Original text

An important word in this discussion is found in James 1:3 - "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into various trials; Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience." The Greek word translated "trials" denotes trouble, or something that breaks the pattern of peace, comfort, joy and happiness in someone's life. The verb form of this word means "to put someone or something to the test," with the purpose of discovering that person's nature or that thing's quality. God brings such tests to prove - and increase - the strength and quality of one's faith and to demonstrate its validity (Jas. 1:2-12). So, according to James, when we face temptations, God's purpose is to prove our faith and produce character. That is a high, good, noble motive.

What is the truth of this?

According to the Enhanced Strong's Lexicon, the word "test" (NASB), "tempt" (KJV) is nacah. It means: 1) to test, try, 2) to attempt, assay, try, 3) to test, try, prove, tempt." This is why the KJV translated it as "tempt" and NASB, NIV, NKJV, ESV, and RSV translate it as "test." Therefore, it was a test that God offered to Abraham - not a temptation to sin. So, let us be clear: God never tempts anyone. He cannot. It is impossible.

We should also consider Deuteronomy 6:16, which instructs the Israelites to be careful that they do not to tempt the Lord. Likewise, Malachi 3:15 refers to the wicked who tempt God with their evil lifestyles. Jesus even quoted the Old Testament Scriptures when He warned others not to tempt the Lord (e.g., Matt. 4:7; Luke 4:12). Today we mostly use the term tempt specifically to mean to "solicit to do evil." This is not the meaning as found in scripture.

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