A Series of Answers to Common Questions

Sam Shamoun


The Bible says that God cannot be tempted (cf. James 1:13) and yet Jesus is said to have been tempted by the Devil no less (cf. Matthew 4:1). Doesn't this prove that Jesus is not God?


James is not denying the fact that God can be tempted in some sense. In order to know what James exactly meant we quote the immediate context:

"Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death." James 1:13-15

James is referring to evil inclinations, sinful desires, that causes a person to be tempted and sin. Since God has no evil inclinations, no lustful feelings or sinful desires, it is not possible for God to be tempted to sin. God is completely good and holy. What James is basically saying is that only God has no desire to do anything that is sinful. Yet, this doesn't mean that fallen creatures cannot tempt God, since the Holy Scriptures clearly teach that many have tried to tempt God, and failed miserably:

"Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water, that we may drink.’ So Moses said to them, ‘Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the LORD?’" Exodus 17:1-2 NKJV

"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, and have not hearkened to my voice;" Numbers 14:22 KJV

"On another day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD , and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the LORD said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the LORD, ‘From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.’ Then the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.’" Job 2:1-3

"Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years." Hebrews 3:8-9 KJV

The Holy Bible also says that even the Holy Spirit can be tempted:

"Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out." Acts 5:9 KJV

Therefore, God cannot be tempted despite people ever so often trying to tempt him. There is nothing within God to which sin could appeal and make him be tempted to do anything unholy or evil. It is in that sense that James says God cannot be tempted (in his innermost being) to do evil even if he is tempted from the outside to do something that he does not want (i.e. people or demonic beings trying to make him do something that is not in agreement with his perfect will). Even if people (seek or try to) tempt him – looking at the event from the outside –, he is not tempted – looking at his inner reaction to the temptation. In a sense, this is a problem of the English language which uses the same word for two very different things.

An illustration may help to clarify the issue better than abstract explanations: Some people revolt at cigarettes. Offering them a cigarette will not be a temptation whatsoever. They do not even have to struggle to refuse. Because of their disgust for it they will immediately reject it. For others, particularly former smokers who just quit, being offered a cigarette is a temptation which they have to actively fight, and force themselves to deny the offer, even though there is a desire in them to take it. Everyone has a certain set of innermost desires (some maybe harmless and others bad or sinful). We can be externally tempted (by others) for everything, but will only be internally tempted by those external temptations which find a corresponding desire inside of us.

In a similar manner, just because Jesus was tempted doesn't mean he isn't God, anymore than Yahweh God being tempted proves that he cannot be God either. Nor does this mean that since Christ was tempted he, therefore, had lustful or evil inclinations which would move him to sin.

Second, James had no problem in affirming the Deity of the Lord Jesus, despite the fact that Christ had been tempted:

"James, a servant of God AND OF the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings." James 1:1

"My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory." James 2:1

James says that he is the slave of God AND OF the Lord Jesus, and calls Jesus the Lord of glory. James wasn’t the only one who identified Jesus as the Lord of glory:

"None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." 1 Corinthians 2:8

The title, "Lord of glory", indicates that both James and Paul believed that Jesus is Yahweh since the OT speaks of the glory of Yahweh, that Yahweh is the one who is truly glorious:

Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah Psalm 24:7-10

"‘And I will be to her a wall of fire all around,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will be the glory in her midst.’" Zechariah 2:5

Yahweh also said that he would not share his glory with another:

"I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols." Isaiah 42:8

"For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last." Isaiah 48:11-12

Hence, the criticism only shows that the questioner doesn’t understand the Holy Bible since none of the NT authors had a problem with Jesus being tempted and, at the same time, believing that he was also God.

Finally, the question fails to take into consideration that Jesus wasn't only God but was also fully and truly human. Therefore, as a man, Christ could experience the same general temptations that all men experience, but with one HUGE difference. The Lord Jesus never acted upon these external temptations but remained completely sinless:

"Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’" John 6:68-69

"The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory, but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood." John 7:18

"And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him... Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?" John 8:29, 46

"I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me," John 14:30

"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:21

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." Hebrews 4:15

"For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself." Hebrews 7:26-27

"how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" Hebrews 9:14

"knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot." 1 Peter 1:18-19

"He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth." 1 Peter 2:22

"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit," 1 Peter 3:18

"My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." 1 John 2:1

"And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure... You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin." 1 John 3:3, 5

To conclude, the divinely-inspired Scriptures teach that all three divine Persons can be tempted without this implying that they cannot be God, or that they have some evil inclination which would cause any of them to sin.

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