The Source of Good and the Source of Evil
God is Not the Source of Temptation – James 1:13-15
Verse 13a – “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God…” God is not the source of temptation and we cannot say that God tempts us. James uses the word temptation in two different ways in Chapter 1. First, he uses it in the context of verses 2-12 as a trying or testing of one’s faith through the trials of life that befall all mankind. But in the context of chapter 1:13-15, James is speaking of a temptation to do evil.
Verse 13b – “For God cannot be tempted with evil…” It is not in God’s divine nature to do evil. Hab. 1:13 says “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity…”
It would therefore appear that, when it is affirmed that God is “un-tempt-able,” it is meant that having no experience in any evil thing, there can be in Him no desire for evil, and thus no ground for temptation. One who is Himself wholly removed from evil could never desire to see it, or cause it to appear in others. – Guy N. Woods, Commentary on James
One who is perfect in holiness and in knowledge, by his very nature, is excluded from temptation and sin. God is perfect in holiness. (Rev. 4:8). God is perfect in knowledge. (Rom. 11:33; Job 37:16). Therefore…
Verse 13c – “Neither tempteth He any man…” Because evil is against His nature, He does not tempt us to do evil. God allows temptations and trials to test our faith for our good (Jas. 1:12), but He is not the author of them. The author of all that is good cannot be the source of sin in us.
Verse 14a – “But every man is tempted…” Temptation can be simply defined with this “mathematical” formula. Temptation = desire + opportunity. Every man who has ever lived or ever will live is subject to temptation. Even Christ Himself was tempted in all points like we are. (Heb. 2:18, 4:15)
Verse 14b – “When he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed…” One is tempted when he is (1) drawn away (2) of his own lust and (3) enticed. One is drawn out by his own lust. Lust, in this context, is evil desire or passion. Lust seeking satisfaction entices us to sin. As was previously mentioned, temptation happens when lust or desire meets opportunity. When one has a desire and the opportunity presents itself to fulfill it unlawfully, he is faced with a choice.
All men are faced with a choice when it comes to sin. God allows us to make the choice. “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” (Deu. 30:19) God wants us to choose life and he has guaranteed us an escape from all sins. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Co. 10:13) In escaping from sin, we need to “take up arms” against sin, especially the “Whole armor of God.” (Eph. 6:11)
Verse 15a – “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin…” Lust is the “mother” of sin. Temptation is the seed that Satan implants in the “fertile soil” of lust. Sin is the offspring that is begotten of this evil union. This metaphor of seed implantation, conception and the bringing forth of sin is an apt metaphor here. James uses a Greek word that means, “To become pregnant.” It is here translated as “conceived.” Also, in this verse, James uses another Greek word that literally means to give birth and it is here translated as “bringeth forth.”. This is an active verb in the present tense, and signifies a continuous action on the part of the one giving birth. The word, “conceived”, is in the past tense, and it took place prior to the main verb, “bringeth forth.” Thus, we can conclude that, once lust has conceived, it continuously gives birth to sin.
Verse 15b – “And sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death…” Sin, that illegitimate offspring of evil desire, when it grows to maturity and remains unrepentant and rebellious, brings forth death. The word here translated as “bringeth forth” is from a Greek term normally used when referring to an animal giving birth.
God is the Source of All That is Good – James 1:16-18
Verse 16 “Do not err, my beloved brethren…” In light of the fact that temptation is not of God, but of Satan, we had better not make a mistake and attribute the source our own sins to God. Make no mistake about it! Adam erred in the garden when he attempted to shift the blame for his own sin from himself to God, by saying: “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” (Gen. 3:12)
Verse 17a “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above…” He makes a stark contrast here between the evil that comes from Satan and the good that comes from God. Every good and perfect gift comes from God. James uses two different Greek words for gift. The word used in the phrase “every good gift” indicates the goodness of the giver is noted as well as the goodness displayed in the act of giving. The word used in the phrase “every perfect gift” refers to the completeness of the gift that has been given.
Every gift that is good and every gift that is perfect in its completeness comes from God. Our daily bread, our financial means and all other material blessings come from Him. Of course the greatest gift mankind has ever received originated with God and that is the gift of his Son as an atonement sacrifice for us. This gift and all others come down on us continually. God’s gifts are the gifts that keep on giving.
Verse 17b “And cometh down from the Father of lights…” God is the father of lights. The Greek word used here for “lights” is phota. The word generally refers to heavenly bodies and it describes God as the cosmic Father of the heavenly bodies. Symbolically this is speaking of the light of the Gospel that originated with God. Ps. 119:105 “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
Verse 17c “With whom is no variableness…” The Gospel light is unvarying and without shadow of turning. Unlike the stars in the sky, the Gospel light is unwavering. One notices when they look up at the stars that they seem to twinkle. God’s Gospel light is steady and sure; it does not “twinkle.” It is an all encompassing light and does not cast a shadow.
When one holds his hand in front of a light source it casts a shadow. There is no light other than Divine light that casts no shadow. Photographers when they seek to capture an image without shadow use many different flash bulbs from different angles, yet even they can not remove all shadow.
Verse 17d “Neither shadow of turning…” There is no shadow caused by turning. The Gospel always remains fixed. Again in contrast to the sun, moon and stars, God remains fixed overhead in relation to us. In comparison to the shadow cast by a sun dial, God’s light stays fixed at “high noon.” “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all…” (1 Jo. 1:5)
Verse 18a “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth…” God is the father of redemption through the word of truth. Notice the similarity of phrase between verse 15: “conceived,” “bringeth forth” and verse 18: “begat,” “firstfruits.” Remember that Satan implants the “seed” of temptation into the mother of sin which is lust. But God is the father of the redeemed, through the implanted seed of the Gospel into a fertile heart (v.21), such as the one described in Mat.13:23.
Verse 18b “That we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures …” Christians, in a sense, are the firstfruits of all God’s creation. Mankind is the apex of creation and Christians are the fruit brought forth by obedience to the Gospel. “These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb…” (Rev. 14:4).