Does God tempt us to sin?

Question: "Does God tempt us to sin?"

In Genesis 22:1, the Hebrew word translated “tempted” is the word NACAH and it means to test, try, prove, tempt, assay, put to the proof or test. Because it has so many possible synonyms, we must look to the context and compare it to other passages. As we read the account of the event, we note that God did not intend Abram to complete the sacrifice of his promised heir. However, Abram 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 (written in Greek) is translated ‘Abram 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 evaluating something.

James 1:13 gives a guiding principle: 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. This is an important part, because that means temptations to sin do not originate with God. In that sense, James concludes: God cannot be tempted with evil, and God does not tempt anyone to sin.

Another 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” connotes 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 (vv. 2-12). So according to James, when we face temptations, God’s purpose for them is to prove our faith, and they produce character. That is a high, good, noble motive.

Are there temptations which are designed to make us fail? Yes, but they do not come from God—they come from Satan (Matthew 4:1), his evil angels (Ephesians 6:12) or from ourselves (Romans 13:14; Galatians 5:13). God allows us to experience them and they are allowed for our benefit. God told Abram to offer Isaac—the temptation was not intended to get Abram to sin, but to test and prove his faith.

Recommended Resource: Knowing God by J.I. Packer.

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Does God tempt us to sin?