The Trials and Tribulations of Temptation— Part One

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peirasmos and its cognates are interesting words. The noun form can refer to trials or temptations, ordeals or enticements. In other words, it can refer to something that could possibly strengthen your character or alternately in other contexts refer to something that could destroy your character. By definition God tempts no one, and cannot be tempted (see James 1.13). God is absolutely not the source of evil, including allurement into sin. We have some difficulty in translating this word when it comes to the Lord’s Prayer. The traditional translation is ‘lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’. Actually this translation is not very helpful. The righteous God does not lead anybody down the garden path to their own sin and destruction. A better translation would be ‘do not put us to the test, but rather deliver us from the Evil One’. I would suggest that when Jesus formed this prayer, he may even have been thinking of his own experience in the wilderness where he prayed and fasted, was tested and delivered from the Evil One. Tests can strengthen your character, temptations not so much. But this raises an important point— what if there are multiple actors involved in this situation. We all remember the words of Joseph to his brothers— ‘what you intended for evil, God used for good’. Can a temptation at the same time be a trial, with God attempting to use it to strengthen character and the Devil attempting to use it to destroy character? These are deep waters, and well worth pondering.

In our next post we need to deal with what the Bible says are the sources of temptations— both external and internal.

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