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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Temptation

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In the original languages of the Bible, the words commonly translated ‘temptation’ had a range of meanings. These words were concerned basically with testing. In some cases the purpose of the testing may have been to prove the genuineness or quality of a person or thing. In other cases the purpose may have been to persuade a person to do wrong. In today’s language, ‘temptation’ is usually used in the latter sense, and it is this sense that is the subject of the present article. (For other meanings of the word see TESTING.)

To be expected

God may allow people to meet temptations and trials in order to test their faith, but he will never tempt them to do evil. Rather he wants to deliver them from evil (Matthew 6:13; 1 Corinthians 10:13; James 1:13; 2 Peter 2:9). Satan, not God, is the one who tempts people to do wrong (Genesis 3:1-6; 1 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 4:27; Ephesians 6:11; 1 Peter 5:8-9). Some people blame God when they give in to temptation. The Scriptures point out that the source of their problem lies not with God, but with the sinful desires within their own hearts (James 1:13-14).

Sinful human nature creates within people a natural tendency towards sin. This increases the opportunities for temptation and makes them more likely to give in to it (Romans 7:11; Romans 7:14; Romans 7:21; Galatians 5:17; Ephesians 4:22; 1 John 2:15-16; see FLESH).

But the temptation itself is not necessarily a sin. Jesus’ nature was not corrupted by sin, and his behaviour was never spoiled by sin, yet he met temptation constantly (Luke 4:1; Luke 4:13; cf. Matthew 16:23; Matthew 22:15; Mark 14:35; Luke 22:28; John 6:15; John 12:27). In fact, the absence of sin in Jesus was the reason Satan attacked him all the more. Satan had tempted the sinless Adam, and now he tempted the sinless Jesus. But where Adam failed, Jesus triumphed (Matthew 4:1-10; cf. Genesis 3:1-6).

Israel failed temptation in the wilderness, but Jesus, the true fulfilment of Israel, triumphed over temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:4; Matthew 4:7; Matthew 4:10; cf. Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 6:16; Deuteronomy 8:3). Jesus suffered the sorts of temptations that are common to human beings in general, but because he was victorious over them, he is able to help his people when they are tempted (Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15).

No excuses

Temptation comes in many forms. Satan has many cunning methods, and people can easily get caught in his trap (2 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Timothy 6:9). But there can be no excuse for giving in to temptation, as some way of escape is always available (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Christians should not be over-confident in their own ability to overcome temptation (1 Corinthians 10:12). Instead they should be aware of the weakness of sinful human nature, and give it no opportunity to satisfy its desires (Romans 6:12; Romans 13:14).

Although the sin lies in giving in to temptation rather than in the temptation itself, Christians must do all they can to avoid those situations likely to produce temptation (1 Corinthians 15:33; 2 Timothy 2:22). This will require self-discipline as they develop better habits in their behaviour (Colossians 3:12-13; Galatians 5:16), thinking (Romans 8:5; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Philippians 4:8), talking (Ephesians 5:11-12; Titus 2:8) and praying (Matthew 6:13; Mark 14:38). The guiding influence in helping God’s people develop these better habits is the Word of God (Psalms 119:11; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The struggle against temptation is more than merely a struggle with the problems of everyday life. It is a battle against the evil powers of Satan (Ephesians 6:10-12). God has given his Word to his people to equip them for this battle (Matthew 4:3-7; Ephesians 6:16-17), and he has given them the assurance of victory, provided they make the effort to resist the tempter. Each victory strengthens them and enables them to live more confidently and positively in a world still full of temptations (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9-10).


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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Temptation'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bbd/t/temptation.html. 2004.

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