Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. (Matthew 4:1)
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man
Temptation has two aspects... external and internal.
- You can "tempt" me externally with the finest whiskey known to man... I will have no internal temptation. There is nothing in my nature that cares.
- You can "tempt" an alcoholic with the same and he will be tempted internally.
- You can tempt me externally with a date with Kelly Preston (c.1986) and I'd be tempted internally
- You can tempt a homosexual with the same, and nothing internal.
Couple of quick thoughts for starters.
As noted, we know that God cannot be tempted with evil (James 1:14). We also know that men have tempted God in the past, and there was no evil on God's part. There was nothing in God which could fail the "test." Let's keep the word "test" in mind.
Israel tempted the Lord on occasion.
And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust.
Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times-Numbers 14:22
Let's stay in Hebrews and look at the concept of temptation. Context, as it were.
Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, Today if ye will hear his voice, 8 harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. 11 So I swore in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.
- Hebrews 3:7-11
(Little aside on God's "works"... did they make or maintain his Godhood or merely reveal his Godhood? Works never secure or add to anything, they merely reveal.)
Tempted = peirázō = tested
Proved = dokimázō = tried
The tempting of God by Israel in the wilderness was a testing of God's faithfulness. This did not please the LORD, but it did prove his trustworthiness and his faithfulness to his promises. His works proved his being. So we see he was "tempted," but obviously all that did was to "prove" his sinlessness. God cannot lie. God cannot be tempted with evil.
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
tempted = peirázō = tested
The context of the Book of Hebrews is about going on to perfection (maturity) versus falling back into perdition (loss). The goal, for those servants, would be to attain the New Jerusalem. Abraham did not settle for the land, but looked for a city whose builder and maker is God. They looked for a "better resurrection." Resurrection life is a free gift by grace BUT crowns, rewards, New Jerusalem, etc. are attained by faithful service.
Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection...
-Hebrews 11:35, etc.
In that endeavor, one must suffer testing (temptation). And to that end, they had a high priest who was tested in every way, yet without sin. Are we to hold that tested in "all points" must include every temptation of man? That is, things from heroin to pornography to child sexual assault to murder to homosexuality to self-mutilation (and on and on and on)? Do we want to say the Lord was tempted with a desire (lust) to commit all these sins?
I contend again that heroin has no appeal to me. Am I thus greater than the Lord? Or do we again note that I can be tempted externally with zero internal draw. I can be tested by heroin and in this area and proved to be free from a desire for that sin. One who may be tempted by heroin can find hope in the Lord in that the Lord was tempted (externally) yet his nature was pure. There can be victory in the new nature.
This the difference is found between our decision to walk according to our OLD NATURE or walking in our NEW NATURE. Adultery, say, may appeal to my old nature (my flesh), while my new nature (spirit) is repulsed by the idea. The Lord had no old nature.
The Temptation (Testing) of Abraham
Let's turn back to Abraham (I love that the Lord chose this example in both Hebrews and James as a great work born out of faith). God instructed Abraham to commit human/child sacrifice (is this a work we should emulate?). Abraham's faith was tested and made perfect (mature).
By faith Abraham, when he was tried [peirázō = tempted], offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son
Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect [mature]? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
Abraham had already been declared righteous by faith alone (as both James and Paul attest), yet the testing of his faith wrought the works that proved his maturity. It was that loving struggle (no evil involved) that strengthened his faith and led to his inclusion in the great faith chapter, Hebrews 11.
Would we ever conclude God tempted Abraham to sin? God forbid. "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man"
The idea of being "tried" in the context of moving on to maturity can be seen in light of the opposite. That is, the "untried." These are those of no skill, the immature. The opposite of peirázō is a-peiros (tried and untried). It would not be those that tempted the Lord in the wilderness that would enter the land, but the babes and sucklings (the untried, unskillfull). That's just to show the full richness of the concept.
OK, back to Hebrews 4:15. Commentators want to read "yet without sin" as "not sinning." But do we believe the Lord desired to kill, steal, fornicate, (see above) etc., but resisted? He desired any sin that any man has ever desired? Is that was "yet without sin" suggests? Lust that just did not give way to action?
What is the Greek here? "Yet" is added for English reading. The two words there are "chōrís hamartía." A little help from Hebrews and Matthew (the scriptures in view).
"For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate [chōrízō] from sinners, and made higher than the heavens"
-Hebrews 7: 26
Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder [chōrízō]
So, the idea in Hebrews 4, in context of going on to maturity, in context of seeking the "better resurrection," in context of not falling back into loss, in context of seeking and welcoming trials and testing (James 1:2) (for in them we grow more into maturity)... in that light, Heb 4:15 is saying that the Lord is with us in our testing. He was tried and found faithful. There is no idea of lust in his heart to do evil.
The idea is "the Lord was tested as we are, but he was always remained separate from sin."
God Neither Tempts Nor Can Be Tempted With Sin
Note we read that God tempts no man (James), yet we read that God tempted Abraham (Hebrews)? Is this another contradiction? Of course not. Here again we see the two sides of the coin. The idea of "evil" is suggested and needs to be understood in James 1.
"Let no man say when he is tempted [to do evil], I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man [with evil]". But every man is tempted [to do evil] when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed"