Friday, May 11, 2012

Temptation the Familiar Foe

As we look at the people of scripture, the individuals around us, and at our own lives we see that temptation is everyone’s foe and unwanted companion. Even those best known for their service to God such as Abraham, Moses, David, and Peter struggled against temptation. In the words of the Apostle Paul, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. . . For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.(Romans 7:15, 18b, 19).
Even Christ was familiar with temptation. He was made like us in this way so that he, Christ:

Might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. .  . For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.(Hebrews 2:14b, 15, 17, 18)

In scripture the words that have been translated as “temptation” were at other times also translated as “test” or “trial.” The Greek word Peirazō was used in various scriptures to mean examine, submit another to a test, to learn the true nature or character of, to trap or tempt. (James 1:14, 2 Cor. 13:5; Matt. 16:1, Mark 1:13)[1]
The New Testament forms of this word included peiráō (to try, to test, to put someone to the test, or to know by experience), peirasmós  (testing, temptation) and apeírastos (untried, without temptation). [2]
In the Old Testament in Genesis 22 we see a similar idea. Abraham was tested to see if he would obey and sacrifice his son Isaac. In the book of Job, Job was tempted and tested to turn against God in the midst of his suffering. In the book of Judges the Israelites had entered the Promised Land but all the ungodly inhabitants were not driven out. Judges 2:22 says, “I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their forefathers did.
The temptations of scripture were not merely situations where people could be drawn into moral or spiritual failure. There was a redemptive aspect to the temptation. It was an opportunity to show the condition and loyalty of one’s heart. Temptation was a crossroads where one could harden their heart against God and sin or move towards him and obey. In success their faith would be strengthened. In failure their sinful struggles could be revealed and surrendered anew to Christ. 
The next blog will consider how we are "Enticed by Our Desires."

[1]James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Greek (New Testament), electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), DBLG 4279, #1.

[2]Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1985; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996), 822.

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