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What does it mean that God cannot be tempted (James 1:13)?


God cannot be tempted
Question: "What does it mean that God cannot be tempted (James 1:13)?"

Answer:
James 1:13 says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” James then goes on to explain where the temptation to sin actually comes from: “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed” (verse 14).

Earlier in this passage, James explains to believers the purpose for “trials of many kinds” and “the testing of your faith” (James 1:2–3). Trials are an inevitable part of living in a sin-cursed world (John 16:33), and we should welcome tests because they produce perseverance (James 1:3), which can make us “mature and complete, not lacking anything” (verse 4).

The way we respond to trials determines their effect upon us. “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). James is not saying that remaining steadfast under trials will result in the crown of life; rather, he is assuring those who have received the crown of life through faith in Christ that they will not be so overwhelmed by trials that they blame God for tempting them to sin. God, who cannot be tempted, tempts no one.

If the trial we face involves an inducement to sin, James says that we should not regard the inducement to sin as coming from God. God does not will anyone to sin, and He does not tempt us to sin. The trial, not the sin, is His aim. Trials are designed to refine us as gold is refined by fire: “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:6–7).

Unlike human beings, God cannot be tempted to sin because everything about God is the exact opposite of sin. Human beings are born with a sin nature inherited from Adam, and that nature is part of what entices us and drags us away from what is good. God has no sin nature; His nature is holy and righteous. He cannot sin or even be tempted to sin. The enticements that cause us to sin have no effect on God.

There is absolutely nothing in God’s nature that would make Him tend to do wrong, and there can be absolutely nothing offered to Him that would cause Him to do wrong. Internally and externally, God is immune to temptation. It follows, then, that God would not tempt any person to sin and thus make Himself the author of sin. The Holy One will not justify sin or excuse it, and He will not prompt it.

Because of this truth about God—that He cannot be tempted to sin—we can have confidence that the universe is in good hands. God cannot be persuaded, bribed, or in any way swayed from His perfect purpose and plan. He does not vacillate. No matter what, He remains Perfection.

Recommended Resource: The Epistle of James, New International Commentary on the New Testament by James Adamson

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