And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
Genesis 22:1 KJV
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. 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:
James 1:13 KJV
I’m reading the second book of the trilogy of Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen titled Of Temptation, [super long rest of the title goes here].
Owen writes this, and if this is hard to understand, don’t worry about it, I didn’t at first either:
[T]emptation in its special nature, as it denotes any evil, is considered either actively, as it leads to evil, or passively, as it has an evil and suffering in it: so temptation is taken for affliction (James 1:2); for in that sense, we are to “count it all joy when we fall into temptation”; in the other [actively], that we “enter not into it.”
Again, actively considered, it either denotes in the tempter a design for the bringing about of the special end of temptation, namely, a leading into evil; so it is said that “God tempts no man” (James 1:13), with a design for sin as such—or the general nature and end of temptation, which is trial; so “God tempted Abraham” (Gen. 22:1). And he proves or tempts by false prophets (Deut. 13:3).
It might be said that we actively sin–sometimes tempted by the devil; we are passive as trials are put on us–sometimes by God (Hebrews 12). If that crude description helps at all. (If it doesn’t, keep reading.)
Then Owen goes on to write about how God tempts people. I’m thinking, This can’t be right. On the flip side, Calvin writes, “But the whole doctrine of scripture seems to be inconsistent with this passage; for it [scripture] teaches us that men are blinded by God, are given up to a reprobate mind, and delivered over to filthy and shameful lusts.”
I know that older translations (up through the ASV) use the word temptations where contemporary translations (approx. RSV onward) will use trials, tested, or troubles in James 1:12. The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) uses the same root word for tempted in Genesis 22:1 as the Greek words in James 1:12-13. So it seems that modern English translators have chosen to make a distinction between verse :12 and :13 where the same root word is used. (Italic added)
Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
James 1:12-13 NIV
If this idea is new to you–and maybe it’s only new to us who read old theologians–you may like to read what John Calvin has to say on this. However, it goes beyond semantics of that word. Calvin writes about the issue of God “giving people over/up” to various sins, like the quote above, as can be found throughout Scripture–repeatedly in Romans 1:24-28 as an example. To a lesser degree, God ordains all kinds of things (Lam 3:37-38). Us modern people seem to emphasize James 1:13 where Calvin is thinking of what is said about God more often in Scripture in that regard.
Let no man, when he is tempted. Here, no doubt, he speaks of another kind of temptation [contra Gen 22:1]. It is abundantly evident that the external temptations, hitherto mentioned, are sent to us by God. In this way God tempted Abraham, (Gen 22:1) and daily tempts us, that is, he tries us as to what are we by laying before us an occasion by which our hearts are made known. But to draw out what is hid in our hearts is a far different thing from inwardly alluring our hearts by wicked lusts.
This above is very similar to what Owen writes. “Inwardly alluring our hearts” would be like Owen’s actively, which God doesn’t do according to James. Trials often contain temptations. God wants to test our hearts and uses them to help us persevere or endure, as James 1:12 says, along with Romans 5:3-4 among others.
When Scripture ascribes blindness or hardness of heart to God, it does not assign to him the beginning of this blindness, nor does it make him the author of sin, so as to ascribe to him the blame: and on these two things only does James dwell.
Scripture asserts that the reprobate are delivered up to depraved lusts; but is it because the Lord depraves or corrupts their hearts? By no means; for their hearts are subjected to depraved lusts, because they are already corrupt and vicious. But since God blinds or hardens, is he not the author or minister of evil? Nay, but in this manner he punishes sins, and renders a just reward to the ungodly, who have refused to be ruled by his Spirit. (Rom 1:26) It hence follows that the origin of sin is not in God, and no blame can be imputed to him as though he took pleasure in evils. (Gen 6:6)
The meaning is, that man in vain evades, who attempts to cast the blame of his vices on God, because every evil proceeds from no other fountain than from the wicked lust of man. And the fact really is, that we are not otherwise led astray, except that every one has his own inclination as his leader and impeller. But that God tempts no one, he proves by this, because he is not tempted with evils* For it is the devil who allures us to sin, and for this reason, because he wholly burns with the mad lust of sinning. But God does not desire what is evil: he is not, therefore, the author of doing evil in us.
*Literally, “untemptable by evils,” that is, not capable of being tempted or seduced by evils, by things wicked and sinful. He is so pure, that he is not influenced by any evil propensities, that he is not subject to any evil suggestions. It hence follows that he tempts or seduces no man to what is sinful. Being himself unassailable by evils, he cannot seduce others to what is evil. As God cannot be tempted to do what is sinful, he cannot possibly tempt others to sin. The words may thus be rendered, —
James 1:13 “Let no one, when seduced, say, ‘By God I am seduced;’ for God is not capable of being seduced by evils, and he himself seduceth no one.”
I hope my own commentary wasn’t inaccurate and didn’t cause any confusion. I wanted to convey how I came to start to have some sort of an understanding of this. I will hopefully understand more as I read more of the book and Scripture. Clarifications and observations are always welcome.