What is temptation?

In an earlier question we looked at the Greek word peirasmos translated “temptation” in the KJV and “trial” in the NIV, ESV and NET. For now we are going to concentrate on temptation.

Webster’s dictionary defines “temptation” (n) as the act of tempting or the state of being tempted, or as an enticement. The root word, tempt (v), means to entice to do wrong by promise of pleasure; it also means to make a trial of a test; to provoke, to induce; to cause to be strongly inclined.

Lk 4:1-13 tells us of the Temptation of Christ that took place in the desert at the start of Jesus’ ministry: And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Jesus went straight from his water baptism by John to the desert where he fasted 40 days preparing for his encounter with Satan. Satan tried three times to tempt Jesus. The first attempt was with physical comfort. The second was with power. On the third try he tempted Jesus to prove who he was. There are probably a hundred lessons we can take from this passage, but in context with our study we see Satan met the textbook definition of temptation. The same Greek word used for temptation here in Luke is also used in Jas 1:2.

Jesus overcame the temptation, but in Ac 5:1-10 we see an example of temptation that wasn’t overcome by Ananias and Sapphira and the result. Jas 1:13-15 explains the process of how temptation becomes sin, but we’ll discuss that later.

This post is an excerpt from my book Ask James one.


About Lance Ponder

Christian author of "Ask James one"; public speaker; husband and father. Available to speak on Creation and the Gospel.
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