James 1:15—If God doesn’t tempt anyone, then why did He tempt Abraham?
Problem: The Bible says “God tempted Abraham” (Gen. 22:1, kjv), and Jesus taught His disciples to pray to God, “do not lead us into temptation” (Matt. 6:13). How then can James say of God, “nor does He Himself tempt anyone” (James 1:13).
Solution: God did not tempt Abraham (nor anyone) to sin. Rather, He tested Abraham to see if he would sin or be faithful to Him. God allows Satan to tempt us (cf. Matt 4:1–10; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8–9), but James is correct in saying, never does God “Himself tempt anyone.” God cannot be tempted by sin, since He is absolutely and unchangeably perfect (Matt 5:48; Heb. 6:18), nor can He tempt anyone else to sin (James 1:13). When we sinful human beings are tempted, it is because we allow ourselves to be drawn away by our own lustful desires (James 1:14–15). The source of temptation comes from within, not from without. It comes from sinful man, not from a sinless God.
While God does not and cannot actually tempt anyone to sin, He can and does allow us to be tempted by Satan and our own lustful desires. Of course, His purpose in permitting (but not producing or promoting) evil is to make us more perfect. God allowed Satan to tempt Job so that Job could say “When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). God allowed evil to befall Joseph at the hands of his brothers. But in the end Joseph was able to say to them, “you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20).
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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.