abraham-sarah_021

The problem is this: Jesus said for us to pray, “do not lead us into temptation.” (Matt. 6:13) The apostle James tells us, “he [i.e., God] himself tempts no one.” Yet, the Bible says, “God tempted Abraham” (Gen. 22:1, KJV), also rendered, “God tested Abraham” (Gen. 22:1, ESV, NASB, CSB, LEB, and others)

Whenever any follower of God is inflicted with any kind of pain, suffering, adversity, or difficult time, he or she would be very wrong to blame God, as though God were trying to tempt them into committing a sin. If any Christian is going through a trial, this is because God has allowed sin to enter the world, not because he placed that trial in front of his servant. If a Christian is going through a trial that God has allowed to happen and they let something become a temptation to him or her because he or she is seeking a way out of enduring, it is not God’s fault. It is the Christian, who is seeking their own selfish advantage. It is God, who will strengthen one who is undergoing a trial but only if the Christian remains steadfast in his own heart. (Phil. 4:13) Nothing God has allowed in his effort to teach humanity an object lesson about his sovereignty should ever cause us to sin or making sin look attractive.

For God will give strength to endure if the Christian remains steadfast in his own heart. (Phil. 4:13) The divine arrangement, God’s way of dealing with his servants, never leads to sin. Whatever God permits to befall us is in no way designed to cause us to transgress or to make wrongdoing look attractive. God is holy, pure, clean. It is impossible for God to be tempted by anything contrary to his moral values. There is no way that even Satan could make any undesirable situation or circumstance attractive to God. James says, “with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” God cannot be tempted into sin, so he does not place anything before us to tempt us into violating his Word, the Bible, or to weaken our resistance to wrongdoing.

Our heavenly Father does not place us in any situation or circumstance where we definitely need something but it can only be obtained by violating God’s moral values or laws. Even though God has permitted sin (missing the mark of perfection) to enter into the world, resulting in wickedness, sickness, old age, and death to enter into humanity because Od Adam’s rebellion and rejection of his sovereignty, God does not try his servants with evil intent. God is only interested in our good, our improvement, never our harm. It is Satan, however, who has gotten us here, who uses the trial as a temptation, trying to motivate us into wrongdoing. (Matt. 6:13) However, for the faithful Christian, God will prevail over Satan, and at the same time, God may choose to not intervene to remove any trial that Satan carries out, using it as a teaching and perfecting tool, which ends up as a blessing to the Christian. – Hebrews 12:7-11.

Jesus tells us to pray “do not lead us into temptation,” (Matt. 6:13) and yet right after his baptism in Jordan, “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” (Matt. 4:1) How do we reconcile that Jesus is being led “to be” tempted by the Spirit?

Matthew 4:1 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted (Gr, peirazo)[1] by the devil.

The Father does not tempt us, but he does allow us to go through temptations. As we know from Adam and Abraham, the Father can test us, but never tempt us with sin.

The text specifically states that the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness “to be tempted.” How do we reconcile that Jesus is being led by the Spirit “to be” tempted? First, (Peirazo) can be rendered either as “tempted” (ESV, NIV, LEB) or “tested” (CEV, MSG), but seeing that Satan is carrying this out, it is best to be rendered “tempted.” This is not a literal versus a dynamic equivalent issue because almost all dynamic equivalents have “tempted.”

Second, the Father would have foreknown that Satan was going to tempt Jesus and that he would wait until his weakest moment to do so. What Satan would see as an opportunity to tempt Jesus, the Father may very well see as an opportunity to test Jesus, as he did with Abraham, establishing his faithfulness, which the Father was well aware was perfectly fine. Therefore, God allowed Jesus “to be” tempted, which he used as a test to confirm what he would already know to be true, an evident demonstration of Jesus faith. Jesus’ actions would establish or demonstrate God’s confidence in him. Jesus clearly revealed that his faith was a living faith. The apostle Paul wrote of Jesus, “Since he himself was tested in that which he has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tested.” (Heb. 2:18) Paul went on to write, “Although he [Jesus] was a son, he learned obedience from the things which he suffered. And having been made perfect, he became to all those who obey him the source of eternal salvation.” – Hebrews 5:8-9.

In addition, Jesus is called the “Son of Abraham” (Lu 3:34), concerning whom it is written, “After these things God tested Abraham and said to him.” Yes, God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his beloved son by Sarah. (Gen. 22:1) Moreover, when Satan challenged God, God allowed faithful Job to be tempted, if possible, even to the point of cursing God to his face. Lastly, on the night of Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, he said to his eleven faithful apostles: “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials.” The American Standard Version reads, “ye are they that have continued with me in my temptations” (Job 1:1 to 2:13; Luke 22:28) How then, can we say that God does not tempt his servants and, how can we pray to the heavenly Father to deliver us from temptation, if it seems as though he is the one placing us in the tempting situations?

What we know for a certainty, God allows us to be subjected to trials that are a result of Satan and Adam’s rebellion but he does not directly place us into temptation for the evil intention of getting us to sin. The key to understanding this is in understanding how God can be directly and indirectly responsible for things. More on directly and indirectly in a moment. Notice where the responsibility truly lies as we read the context of James’ words. “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted[2] with evil,[3] and he himself tempts no one. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own desire.[4] Then the desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (Jam. 1:13-15) It is our free willed desires that lead us to sin. When God gave Adam and Eve the prohibition against eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he was not a tempting them with evil, for the tree itself was not evil, and they had thousands of trees to eat from.

Genesis 2:17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat,[5] for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.”[6]

There were plenty of trees to eat from in the Garden of Eden, more than enough to satisfy the desires of the first human couple. However, there was the tree that they were forbidden to eat from, “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Gen 2:17) This probation to not eat from that tree was so severe that Adam must have been very emphatic when he told Eve. How do we know that? We can infer it from Eve’s Response to the Serpent when he was tempting her. Eve not only said ‘you cannot eat from it,’ but also added, “neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”–Genesis 3:3.

Some have suggested that the prohibition against the fruit of this tree is symbolic, the fruit standing for sexual intercourse. Others have suggested that it stood for having a knowledge of or an awareness of right and wrong. Still, others have suggested that it stood for the knowledge that they would have attained upon reaching maturity, by way of experience, which could be used for good or bad. The sexual intercourse can immediately be dismissed, as they were commanded to, “be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth.” (Gen. 1:28) The awareness of good and bad must be dismissed as well, because both had that capacity already, as it was good not to eat from the tree, and bad to eat from the tree. Lastly, the idea of it being a sin to acquire knowledge upon reaching maturity, as this would contradict the whole of the rest of God’s Word, not to mention the idea of expecting the human creation, He designed to grow and mature, to remain in an immature state, is illogical.

The Bible is silent as to the type of tree. However, the idea of the tree being symbolic is correct. The fruit had no intrinsic power to give knowledge, as was evidenced after their eating from it. It did symbolize God’s right of sovereignty, His right to set a standard of what is good and bad. To eat from the tree would have been a rejection of that sovereignty, a rebellion that said that could set their own standard of good and bad, independence from their creator. This was a simple test, for a couple that was to serve as the father and mother of a perfect human race. A footnote on Genesis 2:17, in The Jerusalem Bible (1966):

This knowledge is a privilege, which God reserves to himself and which man, by sinning, is to lay hands on, 3:5, 22. Hence it does not mean omniscience, which fallen man does not possess; nor is it moral discrimination, for unfallen man already had it and God could not refuse it to a rational being. It is the power of deciding for himself what is good and what is evil and of acting accordingly, a claim to complete moral independence by which man refuses to recognize his status as a created being. The first sin was an attack on God’s sovereignty, a sin of pride.

Hence, it was when Eve gave into her desires and listened to the serpent’s deceptive talk that she became tempted. The warning from God did not instill any kind of desire or appetite for the tree within Eve or Adam. However, Satan by way of the serpent offered Eve lies, a false description of what she would gain by violating God’s command to not eat from the tree, so ‘when she was carried away and enticed by her own desire.  Then the desire when it had conceived gave birth to sin. (Jam. 1;14-15) Eve did not dismiss the desire that she had as being wrong and against God, but rather she entertained it until Satan’s temptation drew her into sinning. God has a very good reason for allowing sin to come into the world, which has resulted in these tests that prove what and who we are, which highlights any weaknesses in our faith. Again, God does not tempt us with evil for the purposes of moving us to sin. Yet, like Eve, it is we ourselves, who fall victim to Satan’s influence by seeking our own self-desires of the fallen flesh, as opposed to not dismissing the desire created by this improper thinking, but rather considering it more and more. It is us, free moral agents, who are drawn out and enticed to God’s Word and warnings. It is we that enter ourselves into temptation.

Is God Responsible for sin, old age, wickedness, suffering, and death entering humanity

One thing that we will learn from this Bible difficulty is, there are a few things that will build us up spiritually and maintain our strength in these last days. Our relationship with fellow Christians, our regular attendance at Christian meetings, and our sharing our faith with others, will strengthen us, make us steadfast. These are provisions from God that will help us to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” (Eph. 6:10) Max Anders comments, saying, “Paul introduces his final subject by urging the Ephesian believers to be strong in the Lord. When it comes to spiritual warfare, we cannot be sufficiently strong by ourselves. If we are going to have adequate strength for the spiritual battles of life, it must be the Lord’s strength. Only he has the mighty power sufficient to win spiritual battles against the demonic enemy.”[7] As we grow in knowledge and understanding, our chief desire will be to share our faith.

While Jesus was referring to our giving to the poor, we learn an important message from his words, “your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matt. 6:4) He is well aware of any difficult times that befall us. Even though God’s “throne is in heaven; his own eyes see, his watchful eyes examine the sons of men.” (Ps. 11:4) We know that God never has to sleep, so he is ever watchful, having loving interest in the welfare of his people. God “will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” (Ps. 91:11-12) Steven Lawson writes, “In part, this sovereign guardianship will be carried out by his angels whom the Lord will command and commission to guard you in all your ways. Satan quoted these verses to Christ in his temptation and shrewdly omitted this last phrase, “in all your ways” (Matt. 4:6; Luke 4:10–11). This divine protection extends only to the place of trusting and obeying God. The angels will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone (Ps. 34:7).”[8]

Remember the precious promise that God’s eyes “run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is complete toward him.” (2 Chron. 16:9) God is “is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the tired one, and full might to those lacking strength. (Isa. 40:28-29) Isaiah then promises that those who place their hope in God, they “will regain power; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not tire out. (Isa. 40:31) Contentment and peace belong to those, who accept that the Father’s power is always available to them, knowing that God is always interested in their best interests. We need to believe that “we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28)

We need to understand Roman’s 8:28 better as it is often misused. Many read into Paul’s words that God causes everything to happen both good or bad. This is certainly one reason that the subject of suffering and evil is often misunderstood. It is true that nothing happens outside of God’s plan for our good. God is responsible for everything, but not always directly. If he started the human race, and we end up with what we now have, in essence, he is responsible. Just as parents, who have a child are similarly responsible for the child committing murder 21 years into his life because they procreated and gave birth to the child. The mother and father are indirectly responsible. King David commits adultery with Bathsheba and has her husband Uriah killed to cover things up, and impregnates Bathsheba, but the adulterine child, who remains nameless, died. Is God responsible for the death of that child? We can answer yes and no to that question. He is responsible in two ways: (1) He created humankind so there would have been no affair, murder, adulterine child if he had not. (2) He did not step in and save the child when he had the power to do so. However, he is not directly responsible, because he did not make King David and Bathsheba commit the acts that led to the child being born, nor did he bring an illness on the adulterine child, he just did not move in to protect the child, in a time that had a high rate of infant deaths.

God is INDIRECTLY responsible for ALL things and DIRECTLY responsible for SOME things. When we attribute things to God we need to qualify (i.e., explain) them. Without explaining the directly or indirectly part of God being responsible, we would be saying God brought about Vlad Dracula, Joseph Stalin, and Adolf Hitler for our good. God is indirectly responsible for all even in human history because he allowed sin to enter the world, as opposed to just destroying Satan, Adam, and Eve and starting over. God is directly responsible for many human events because he directly stepped in miraculously and used a group, person, organization, or country to carry out his will and purposes. God is indirectly responsible for Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler. God is directly responsible for Babylon conquering Jerusalem. God is directly responsible for helping William Tyndale bring us the first printed English translation of the Bible. E can only know afterward (sometimes) if God is directly or indirectly responsible, and then, it is still an educated guess. Overly attributing everything to God without explaining whether he is directly or indirectly responsible is why unbelievers sometimes see Christians as illogical and irrational. A four-year-old child was rescued from a surging river by a priest in 1894. If the child were rescued in the same manner today, the media would quote Christian leaders as saying God used the priest to save the child. However, only afterward do we know that this is not true. Why? Because that four-year-old child, who nearly drowned in that river in 1894 was Adolf Hitler. Hitler being saved by the priest can be indirectly attributed to God not directly.

The reason people think that God does not care about us is the words of some religious leaders, which have made them, feel this way. When tragedy strikes, what do some pastors and Bible scholars often say? When 9/11 took place, with thousands dying in the twin towers of New York, many ministers said: “It was God’s will. God must have had some good reason for doing this.” When religious leaders make such comments or similar ones, they are actually blaming God for the bad things that happened. Yet, the disciple James wrote, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” (James 1:13) God never directly causes what is bad. Indeed, “far be it from God that he should do wickedness, and from the Almighty that he should do wrong.” (Job 34:10 God has allowed sin, old age, wickedness, suffering, and death to enter humanity after the rebellion by Satan, Adam, and Eve. He did not cause Satan to rebel, Eve to eat of the forbidden tree, or Adam to join that rebellion but God had allowed them to exercise the free will that he gave them.

God allowed these things as an object lesson for his creation. What has this object lesson proven? God does not cause evil and suffering. (Rom. 9:14) The fact that God has allowed evil, pain, and suffering have shown that independence from God has not brought about a better world. (Jer. 8:5-6, 9) God’s permission of evil, pain, and suffering has also proved that Satan has not been able to turn all humans away from God. (Ex. 9:16; 1 Sam. 12:22; Heb. 12:1) The fact that God has permitted evil, pain, and suffering to continue has provided proof that only God, the Creator, has the capability and the right to rule over humankind for their eternal blessing and happiness. (Eccl. 8:9) Satan has been the god of this world since the sin in Eden (over 6,000 years), and how has that worked out for man, and what has been the result of man’s course of independence from God and his rule? – Matthew 4:8-9; John 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4; 1 John 5:19; Psalm 127:1.

[1] “to obtain information to be used against a person by trying to cause someone to make a mistake, ‘to try to trap, to attempt to catch in a mistake.’” – Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 329.

 

[2] Lit untempted

[3] That is evil persons, or evil things

[4] Or “own lust

[5] Lit eat from it

[6] Lit dying you [singular] shall die. Heb. moth tamuth; the first reference to death in the Scriptures

[7] Max Anders, Galatians-Colossians, vol. 8, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 190.

[8] Steven Lawson. Holman Old Testament Commentary – Psalms 76-150 (Kindle Locations 2561-2564). B&H Publishing Group.