For today’s blog post for Men of Grace; we are going to discuss temptation; what it is and how to fight against it from Hebrews 2:18, Hebrews 4:14-16, 1 Corinthians 10:13 and conclude by looking at three ways we can overcome temptation.
The genuineness of Christ’s humanity is demonstrated by the fact that He was subject to temptation. By experiencing temptation, Jesus became fully capable of understanding and sympathizing with his human brethren (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus felt the full force of temptation. Though men often yield to temptation before they feel its full force, Jesus resisted temptation even when the greatest enticement for yielding had become evidence (Luke 4:1-13). Jesus is a sympathetic and merciful High Priest who knows human spiritual infirmities since He experienced the full range of temptation, and he has atoned for transgressions.
For those who are tempted and facing various trials, the confidence of sins forgiven and God’s anger turned aside by their merciful High Priest (v.17) is a profound hope to those being tempted. The emphasis in the passage on Christ’s personal experience of temptation teaches that this help includes strength for them to stand firm in the face of their own trials, particularly those temptations to be disloyal to God and to give up their Christian profession. Later, Hebrews will draw attention to a further dimension of Jesus’ powerful help, namely, His ongoing intercessory role as High Priest by which He will save His people completely (7:25). Because Christ himself suffered- and His suffering was the source of His temptation—He is able to come to the powerful aid of His brothers and sisters who themselves are tempted and exposed to humiliation in a hostile world.
Once a year on the Day of Atonement the High Priest of Israel would enter the Most Holy Place to make atonement for the sins of the people (Lev. 16). That tabernacle was only a limited copy of the heavenly reality (Hebrews 8:1-5). When Jesus entered into the heavenly Most Holy Place, having accomplished redemption, the earthly facsimile was replaced by the reality of heaven itself. Freed from that which is earthly, the Christian faith is characterized by the heavenly (3:1; Eph. 1:3; 2:6; Phil. 3:20; Col. 1:5; 1 Peter 1:4).
The Son of God in Hebrews 4:14 is a reference to both the title of humanity (Jesus) and of deity (Son of God). The writer in Hebrews 4:15 adds to his statements in 2:18 that Jesus was sinless. Jesus was able to be tempted (Matthew 4:1-11), but not able to sin (Heb. 7:26). Through Jesus was tempted in every respect, that is, in every area of personal life, he (unlike every other human) remained sinless, and thus He is truly the holy high priest (Heb. 7:26-28; 5:2-3). In their temptations Christians can be comforted with the truth that nothing entices them is foreign to their Lord. He too has felt the tug of sin, and yet never gave in to such temptations.
The Holy Spirit calls for all to come confidently before God’s throne to receive mercy and grace through Jesus Christ (Heb. 7:25; 10:22; Matt. 27:51). It was at the throne of God that Christ made atonement for sins, and it is there that grace is dispensed to believers for all the issues of life (2 Cor. 4:15).
Christ’s ability to sympathize and help is the result of His likeness to us. He was tested in every respect but did not sin. The verb “to test or tempt’ was used in Hebrews 2:18; where His testing was related to His suffering, and by implication to His death. His own experience of suffering and trials during His earthly life equipped Him so that He is able to support His people in their sufferings and temptations. Christ’s likeness to us meant that He was tested in every way and yet without sin. The qualifying phrase “without sin” does not resist the reality or likeness of testing but relates exclusively to its outcome: but without the result of sin in His case. Jesus was faithful to the One who appointed Him (3:2) He was tested to the very limit; His shameful death (12:2; 13:12), but He did not sin. Jesus is a faithful and merciful High Priest whose sympathy for His people in their weakness will prove to be a powerful help to those being tempted.
The challenge to approach God’s throne of grace is a call to persistent; confident prayer based on Jesus’ own experience of suffering and trials, and His subsequent ability to empathize with our weakness. Mercy focuses on the assurance that past transgressions have been dealt with, and grace points to the inner strengthening to endure test. Both come through the heavenly High Priest Jesus Christ who was Himself tested, and is generously given ‘for timely assistance’. In other words, the divine help comes at the appropriate time, not least when believers pass through periods of test (Hebrews 2:18). Since God is the one who gives the help (Psalm 9:9), we may be assured that He is aware of the right time when this help is needed.
1 Corinthians 10:13
The basic meaning of temptation is simply to rest or prove, and has no negative connotation. Whether it becomes a proof of righteousness or an inducement to evil depends on our response. If we resist the temptation in God’s power, it is a test that proves our faithfulness. If we do not resist, it becomes a solicitation to sin. The Bible uses the term in both ways.
When “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1) it is clear that both God and Satan participated in the testing. God intended the test to prove His Son’s righteousness, but Satan intended it to induce Jesus to misuse His divine powers and to give His allegiance to Satan. Job was tested in much the same way. God allowed Job to be afflicted in order to prove His servant was an “upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:8). Satan’s purpose was the opposite: to prove that Job was faithful only because of the blessings and prosperity the Lord had given him and that, if those things were taken away Job would “But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” (vs.11).
God’s tests are never a solicitation to evil, and James strongly corrects those who suggest such a thing. “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 one.” (James 1:13). “By evil” is the key to the difference between the two types of temptation. In the wilderness God tested Jesus by righteousness, whereas Satan tested him by evil. James 1:14-15, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. “
Earlier in his letter James wrote, “Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds“(1:2). The noun trials and testing are from the same Greek root as the verb tempted in verses 13-14. The context indicates what is meant.
Men, God often bring circumstances into our lives to test us. Like Job we usually do not at the time recognize them as tests, certainly not from God. But our response to them proves our faithfulness or unfaithfulness. How we react to financial difficulty, school problems, health trouble, or business setbacks will always test our faith, our reliance on our heavenly Father. If we do not turn to Him, however, the same circumstances can make us bitter, resentful and angry. Rather than thanking God for the test, as James advises, we may even accuse Him. An opportunity to cheat on our income taxes or take unfair advantage in a business deal will either prove our righteousness or prove our weakness. The circumstances or the opportunity is only a test, neither good nor evil in itself. Whether it results in good or evil, spiritual growth or spiritual decline, depends entirely on our response.
Not only are all temptations common to men, but “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). No believer can claim that he was overwhelmed by temptation or that the “devil made me do it.” No one, not even Satan, can make us sin. He cannot even make an unbeliever sin. No temptation is inherently stronger than our spiritual resources. People sin because they willingly sin.
The Christian; however, has His heavenly Father’s help in resisting temptation. God is faithful; He remains true to His own. When our faithfulness is tested we have God’s own faithfulness as our resource. We can be absolutely certain that He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able. That is God’s response when we pray, “Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6::13). He will not let us experience any test we are not ready to meet.
The phrase “the way” is formed by the definite article and a singular noun. In other words, there is only one way. The way of escape from every temptation, no matter what it is, is the same: It is through. Whether we have a test by God to prove our righteousness or a test by Satan to induce to sin, there is only one way we can pass the rest. We escape temptation not by getting out of it, but by passing through it. God does not take us out; He sees us through it by making us able to endure it.
God’s own Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. It was the Father’s will that the Son be there, and Jesus did not leave until all three temptations were over. He met the temptations head-on. He “escaped” the temptation by enduring them in His Father’s power.
God provides three ways for us to endure temptation: prayer, trust and focusing on Jesus Christ. “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38). If we do not pray, we can be sure a test will turn into temptation. Our first defense in a test or a trial is to pray, to turn to our heavenly Father and put the matter in His hands.
Second, we must trust. When we pray we must pray believing that the Lord will answer and help us. We also trust that, whatever the original of the trial, God has allowed it to come for our good, to prove our faithfulness. God has a purpose for everything that comes to His children, and when we are tested or tempted we should gladly endure it in His power—for the sake of His glory and our spiritual growth.
Third, we should focus on our Lord Jesus Christ. Hebrews 12:3-4, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” Christ endured more than we could ever be called on to endure. He understands our trials and He is able to take us through them.
In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress Christian and Hopeful fall asleep in a field belonging to giant Despair. The giant finds them and takes them into Doubting Castle, where he puts them in a dark and stinking dungeon without food or water. On his wife’s advice, the giant first beast them mercilessly and then suggests they commit suicide. After the giant leaves the two companions discuss what they should do. Finally Christian remembers the key in his pocket. “I have a key in my bosom called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any lock in Doubting Castle.” Sure enough, it opened all the doors in the castle and even the gate. “Then they went on, and came to the King’s highway again.”
Dave Jenkins is happily married to Sarah Jenkins. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, the Host and Producer of Equipping You in Grace Podcast, and is a contributor to and producer of Contending for the Word. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021) and The Word Matters: Defending Biblical Authority Against the Spirit of the Age (G3 Press, 2022). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.