Bible Study Theology

James 1:12-15 The Nature of Temptation

Here’s a difficult question that’s worth thinking about:   What is the difference between the temptation that Jesus experienced and the temptation that we experience?  A good answer to this question will help us deal with the temptation that we experience.  Here are some of the biblical texts that we must consider in order to think this through:

Hebrews 4:14-16

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Matthew 4:1-11

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devilAnd after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’


“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

James 1:12-15

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God 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 with evil, and he himself tempts no one14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Here are some of the questions that make this issue difficult.  

1) Jesus was clearly tempted by Satan, and it was a real temptation.  The Hebrews passage makes this crystal clear.   But Jesus is God and the James passage says that God cannot be tempted by evil.  How can those two passages be reconciled?

2) The James passage says that each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Some versions, like the NIV and KJV translate “desire” with “evil desire” or “lust” (respectively).  The word in Greek is epithymia and almost always refers to evil desires, so these translations are accurate.  But Jesus, being sinless, would have had no evil, lustful desires luring him and enticing him.  Does James then point at a kind of temptation that affects us, but that did not affect Christ.  If so, how can this be reconciled with the Hebrews passage that says that Jesus was tempted in every respect… as we are?

Please note that I am not trying to pit any one scripture against the other.   I am trying to look at what God is telling us in these diverse passages to get at a more complete understanding of what temptation is and how Jesus, our great high priest, is able to help us with it.

I have some thoughts on this that I want to share in a future post, but I thought it would be interesting to pose the question first to see if anyone who may come across this blog would have some thoughts.  Feel free to leave comments.  Note that I must approve the comments before they will appear.  Our family is currently in the middle of a big move, so I may not get back to this right away.


The folly of repressing religious freedom

What follows is a line of logic that may come in useful some day if you are challenged as to why it is not wrong to “proselytize.”  

What is behind the prohibition of sharing one’s religious beliefs with another?  If you were to ask someone who holds this position that “proselytism” should be prohibited, I can only think of two different ways that they could logically respond.  1) “Your religious belief is invalid, wrong, misguided, inaccurate (use whatever word you want) therefore it is unethical for you to share it with others since you are leading them astray.  They must be protected from your wrong belief.”  The other possibility would be, 2)  “All religious beliefs are valid and therefore it is unethical of you to try to destroy another person’s valid belief system through the imposition of your belief system.

The answer to the first objection is as follows:  If you see my religious beliefs as wrong and yours as right, then you have an ethical obligation to convince me and others of your beliefs.  Ethically, you MUST try to proselytize me.  If you are going to hold to a position that not all religious beliefs are valid, but some are, or maybe even only one is, then you must admit the ethical necessity of each religious system being allowed to present its claims.  Freedom to “proselytize” is demanded by the position that there is only one or even a few belief systems that are valid.

Unrelated to this line of logic, but also a valid response to the first objection is the idea that what is true will ultimately prevail.  This is Gamaliel’s argument in the book of Acts.  “If this teaching is not of God, it will fail anyway, so let them “proselytize”.  If it IS of God, then you will only find yourselves resisting God.”

In my thinking, the reponse to the second objection is even easier and much more obvious.  If all religious beliefs are valid, then there should be absolutely no ethical objection to allowing each individual to choose whatever valid religious belief he so chooses.  Obviously this would not include a coerced change of beliefs, but although often accused of coercion, no truly Christian evangelism even comes close to this.

I realize that pure logic will never lead to religious freedom to share one’s religious beliefs because there is an active spiritual resistance to God’s rule behind all prohibitions of religious freedom, but the above arguments might be useful at some point.

Books Theology

The Christmas Box

The Christmas Box

I read this book because my teenage son and his friends had read it, liked it, and wanted me to tell them what I thought of it. The story is touching (almost too touching), and delivers a moral lesson about the importance of fathers spending time with their children.  But there are some problems in the book, as we shall see.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the story: An elderly lady, Mary, takes in a young family of three to live with her. By the end of the book, the young family has grown to love Mary and discovers just before she dies, that as a young woman herself, Mary’s only child, a little girl, had died. Before Mary passes away, she succeeds in communicating to the young father the importance of spending time with his own daughter.

Richard Paul Evans, the author, is a mormon. However, I do not think that the book was written with the intention of “pushing” mormon theology on the reader. Any influence of his mormon theology is more accidental than anything else. You can see it in a couple of places in the book.

First of all, mormons have quite a fascination with angels and believe that humans can actually become angels. This might be the reason that Mary refers to her little girl as “her angel”. When Mary is about to die, her daughter Andrea “comes for her” and is spoken of as if she were in the room. There is nothing in the Bible about our departed loved ones coming to take us to heaven, and certainly nothing about them becoming angels!

At another point in the book, the young father has “angel dreams” in which an angel descends from the sky and becomes a stone angel. This is just foreshadowing of the stone angel that is at Mary’s daughter’s grave, but Mormon doctrine is based on information that was supposedly revealed to Joseph Smith by the angel Moroni. So I suppose that all the talk of angels might make the reader more sympathetic with the mormon story of Moroni appearing to Joseph Smith.

As far as the things that are mentioned about Christ, there are about three brief references that I found. None of these push any particular mormon doctrine, but since Mormons have an unorthodox view of the nature and person of Christ, we need to take a closer look at them:

1) On p. 18 it says that Jesus “ransomed our sins with his blood.” This doesn’t really make any sense. Sins aren’t ransomed, people are ransomed.

2) Like many evangelical Christian books these days, the implication of the “cross” statements in the book is that Christ’s suffering on the cross was for every human being, whether they repent of their sins or not. Again, this isn’t really mormon, but when Christ’s work of atoning for sins is made to sound like it is done for everyone, it changes the message of the gospel.

While this book doesn’t really have any mormon doctrine in it, I don’t know what mormon teachings are finding their way into Evans’ other books. I would not recommend the book to people simply for this reason.

If you are a mormon reading this review, I encourage you to take a fresh look at the doctrines of the Mormon church. I am not pushing any other church on you, just encouraging you to look to the Bible where you will discover Jesus Christ, eternal God in human flesh, who died for the sins of all those who will repent of their rebellion and follow him in faith.