Answering The Atheist
May 2, 2004 / Volume 4, Issue 18
THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Can God be tempted? James 1:13 says that God cannot be tempted, but verses such as Deuteronomy 6:16, Matthew 4:7; Luke 4:12, Acts 15:10 and Malachi 3:15 indicate otherwise. Is there a contradiction?
The supposed contradiction is a result of the questioner not reading carefully. Notice, James 1:13 reads, "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man." Take special note, the writer says that "God cannot be tempted with evil", not simply, "God cannot be tempted." There is a difference.
The word "tempt" (Hebrew nacah, Greek ekpeirazo) simply means to test, or to try. James reveals that God cannot be "tempted" with evil – that is, God never has, nor ever will be motivated to do that which is evil. Moses commanded the people not to test the LORD. This is not a command to stop the people from provoking the LORD to do evil – such, according to James 1:13 is impossible. The command is that they not try the LORD to see if His word is true, that they not test by violation of His precepts. God desires us to have faith in Him, and to believe that He will do exactly as He has said He will do.
The text in Acts deals with Christians who were attempting to bind Old Testament laws upon those who were saved in Christ. Such action was called tempting or testing the Lord, since it was God's plan and purpose that Christians be subject to Christ's law, not Moses'. Their insistence that saints keep the law of Moses was against the instruction of God.
In the last text mentioned, Malachi 3:15, the words of the foolish are recorded. Along with verse 14, it reads, "It is useless to serve God; what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked as mourners before the LORD of hosts? So now we call the proud blessed, for those who do wickedness are raised up; they even tempt God and go free." How repulsive men can become when they chose to walk their own way rather than God's way. But again, God in this text is not being tempted to do evil – the tempting is being tested, being tried. Their claim is a lie. Those who test the Lord do not go free (Acts 5:9; 1 Corinthians 10:9; Hebrews 3:9).
There is no contradiction.
This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible