temt, tem-ta'-shun (nacah, "to prove" "try," "tempt" maccah, "a trial," "temptation"; peirazo, "to try" "prove" peirasmos "a trial," "proof"):
The words have a sinister connotation in present-day usage which has not always attached to them. Originally the words were of neutral content, with the sense of "putting to the proof," the testing of character or quality. Thus, God is "tempted" by Israel's distrust of Him, as if the people were actually challenging Him to show His perfections (Exodus 17:2; Psalms 78:18; Acts 15:10; Hebrews 3:9, and often); Abraham is "tempted," being called upon to offer up Isaac (Genesis 22:1); and Jesus is "tempted" to a spectacular Messiahship (Mt 4 and parallel passages (see TEMPTATION OF CHRIST)). No evil is implied in the subject of these temptations. Temptation therefore in the Scripture sense has possibilities of holiness as well as of sin. For as all experience witnesses, it is one thing to be tempted, another thing to fall. To be tempted--one may rejoice in that (James 1:2), since in temptation, by conquering it, one may achieve a higher and nobler manhood.
"Why comes temptation but for man to meet
And master and make crouch beneath his foot,
And so be pedestaled in triumph?"
Holiness in its best estate is possible only under conditions which make it necessary to meet, resist and triumph over temptation. Thus, Jesus Himself became our Great High Priest in that, being tempted in all points like as we are, He never once yielded, but fought and triumphed (Hebrews 4:15).
One must not deceive one's self, however, in thinking that, because by the grace of God one may have profit of virtue through temptation as an instrument, all temptation is equally innocent and virtuous. It is noticeable in the case of Jesus that His temptation was under the direction of the Spirit (Mark 1:12); He Himself did not seek it, nor did He fear it. Temptations encountered in this way, the way of duty, the way of the Spirit, alone constitute the true challenge of saintship (James 1:12); but it is the mark of an ignoble nature to be perpetually the center of vicious fancies and tempers which are not of God but of the devil (James 1:13-15). One may not escape entirely such buffetings of faith, but by any sound nature they are easily disposed of. Not so easily disposed of are the trials (temptations) to faith through adversity, affliction, trouble (Luke 22:28; Acts 20:19; James 1:2; 1 Peter 1:6); and yet there is no lack of evidence to the consoling fact that God does not suffer His own to be tempted above what they are able to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13) and that for every crisis His grace will be sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:8,9).
Charles M. Stuart
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