What is a Temptation?

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Read: 1 Corinthians 10:13; James 1:12-15; Galatians 5:16; Romans 13:14; Mark 14:38.

A reading of the above Scriptures reveals that everyone faces temptation; there are no exceptions. It further reveals that no one ever has to yield to temptation.

However, if a person does not know how to respond biblically, it is easy to grow spiritually weary and then spiritually weak when facing prolonged temptation.

  • Have you ever told God that you were tired of having to deal with a certain temptation?
  • Have you ever begged God to remove a certain temptation from your life, but He didn’t do it?
  • Have you ever been told that if you were the person God wanted you to be, you would not be tempted in a certain area?
  • Have you ever heard people tell how God miraculously delivered them from the bondage of a certain sin with the results that they never were tempted in that area of life again?

Ten Facts About Temptation

I would like to begin this message by sharing ten biblical facts about temptation that everyone should know.

  1. To feel temptation in itself is neither good nor evil. Jesus was tempted and He was without sin.
  2. The purpose of temptation is always to trigger a choice and to provoke a definite stand or action.
  3. Temptation is not the cause of sin, trouble, or wrongdoing. It just presents us with a choice to make.
  4. Temptation will bring out what is really in our hearts, for how we respond to temptation reveals what we really are!
  5. Our response to temptation also reveals whether we have learned the lessons God wants us to learn.
  6. Some temptations are the result of natural causes (i.e., biological design, emotional temperament); other temptations result from wrong or sinful choices in the past.
  7. Temptation and testing, when faced correctly, become means of grace and can result in a more powerful manifestation of the Holy Spirit in your life. For example, after severe testing in the wilderness, Jesus returned from His experience “in the power of the Spirit” (see Luke 4:1–14).
  8. How we respond to temptation reveals the depth of our love, commitment, and loyalty to God.
  9. Temptation and testing are part of God’s character development curriculum. God uses them to rebuild our minds and give us new values.
  10. When you are facing temptation, there are just two choices on the shelf: pleasing God or pleasing self.

What Is a Temptation?

James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation [peirasmos]; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

Christians are to endure temptation. James 1:13 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted [peirazo], ‘I am tempted [peirazo] by God’; for God cannot be tempted [apeirastos] by evil, nor does He Himself tempt [peirazo] anyone.”

Yet we read in the Greek Old Testament, “Now it came to pass after these things that God tested [peirazo] Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am’” (Genesis 22:1).

Please note that the words translated “temptation,” “tempted,” “tempt,” and “tested” are all from the same Greek word family. The Greek word family denoting tempt/test is neutral in meaning. There is nothing inherently evil implied by the Greek terms. What matters is who is doing it.

Translators try to communicate this truth by translating the Greek word family differently, depending on the source and intent of the activity. If God is the one doing it, they translate it “test,” because in English the term “test” does not have the same negative meaning as the word “tempt.”

If Satan, however, is the one doing it, they translate it “tempt.” The basic difference is that when God “tests” or “tempts,” he is not soliciting the person to do evil.

Rather, God is testing the person’s loyalty and commitment to Himself. When Satan “tests” or “tempts,” he is soliciting the person to do evil. Satan’s goal is always to try to cause a person to be disloyal to God and to disobey Scripture.

Conclusion: temptation does not necessarily come from an evil or corrupt heart.

Jesus was tempted [peirazo] by the devil; but His temptation did not indicate an evil heart, for Jesus was without sin (Matthew 4:1; 1 John 3:5). Where does temptation come from? The conscious recognition of the presence of temptation occurs in the mind. Scripture tells us that the devil’s primary target is our minds. Paul emphasized this in 2 Corinthians 11:3: “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”

Satan tries to lead us astray by injecting unbiblical and ungodly thoughts into our minds. Because of this, Paul urged all Christians to be aware of Satan’s strategy and to guard their thoughts. He likened our minds to a battlefield and warned us to be aware that spiritual warfare is occurring:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

Notice the terms, “war,” “weapons,” “warfare,” and the necessity to be alert to thoughts that are in our minds. We must “capture” all thoughts that are not in harmony with God’s Word.

Satan injects wrong thoughts into our minds. He attacks us and wants us to welcome his unbiblical and ungodly thoughts. When we seek to capture them and to replace them with biblical and godly thoughts, he accuses us of being the originator of the ungodly thoughts.

Of course, Satan is an accuser, a liar, and a deceiver (Revelation 12:10; John 8:44; Revelation 20:3). When you become aware that there are ungodly thoughts in your mind, that is the moment you are required to make a decision.

You can either deliberately choose to allow those evil thoughts to remain in your mind, or you can choose to expel those evil thoughts and replace them with godly thoughts.

Your choice determines whether you are simply being tempted to think sinful thoughts or whether you are consciously choosing to allow sinful thoughts to remain in your head. The former is not sin; the latter is.

The presence of a sinful thought in your mind may be likened to a bird flying over your head. If you allow the sinful thought to stay in your mind, you are allowing the bird to make a nest in your hair. But if you reject the sinful thought, and refuse to allow it to stay in your mind, replacing it with godly thoughts, you are stopping the bird from making a nest in your hair.

This means that you must fight the good fight of faith and not give into the temptation to allow sinful thoughts to stay in your mind.

To continue to think on them is to give them a conscious welcome.


Originally published in God’s Revivalist. Used by permission.

Allan Brown
Allan Brown
Dr. Allan Brown is Professor and Chair of the Division of Ministerial Education at God's Bible School & College. He holds his PhD in Old Testament Interpretation from Bob Jones University and is the author of several books and articles.
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