James 1:13-15

James 1:13‑15  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 9
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THERE is another class of trials, with which souls are everywhere conversant in Christendom, even though they know but little of the blessed ones, which our Epistle heretofore has brought before us.
It is ridiculous to deny the evident distinction. How could it be said, Count it all joy, when ye fall into various temptations in the form of inward lusts? or blessed is the man that endures solicitations to evil from his corrupt nature? We have already seen that thus far the trials are from without. Our Lord knew then not only as do others, His saints, but beyond any, as we hear not only in the three earlier Gospels, but in Heb. 2:18; 4:1518For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted. (Hebrews 2:18)
15For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
, where it is expressly treated for our consolation, yet with the all-important reserve, “apart from sin,” He was tempted in all things in like manner, without sin, not without sins or sinning, but sin excepted. Of sinful temptation He knew nothing, for in Him was no sin. His nature as born of Mary was holy. It was so constituted from the womb; and therefore it was said by the angel Gabriel, The holy thing which shall be born shall be called the Son of God.
But the believer, though born of God, has another principle—what the apostle calls “the flesh,” which is not subject to the law of God, for neither can it be. Its mind is enmity against God. Not that the Christian is excusable if he allow it to act, now that he has a new life, and the Holy Spirit also given to dwell in him expressly that he may in no way fulfill flesh's lust but oppose it, and not do the things which he naturally desires. For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control: against such things there is no law. But they that are of Christ Jesus crucified the flesh with its passions and its lusts.
From this, our naturally deplorable state, the person of our Lord Jesus was wholly exempt. He was the Holy One of God. Even the demons owned Him thus, though men are not wanting who have dared to blaspheme His moral glory by imputing to Him the same fallen nature with its proclivities as we have. And such as thus lower His person are only to consistent with that fundamental error by obscuring or even annulling the true sense and power of His atonement, thus in their ignorance and unbelief humanizing alike His person and His work. It is the working of the antichrist, of which we have heard that it comes, and now it is already in the world; nor is any error more dishonoring to God or more deadly to man. It is the more dangerous because with it is often mingled a good deal of truth apparently in advance of what is commonly known, which some perceiving are enticed to accept the error. But no lie is of the truth; and no lie more sure or evil than that which denies the Christ, the Son of God.
It is blessedly true that Christ died to sin once for all; but this was not for Himself but for us who had sin in the flesh. To teach. that Christ could say till the resurrection, Not I but sin that dwelleth in me, is apostasy from the truth, and is Satan's enmity to it, in order to degrade His person and to exalt ours; also to insinuate that sin in the flesh was conquered in Him as it may be in us, instead of being condemned in Him made sin. Never therefore is it nor could it be said, that the Lord mortified His members that were on the earth, never that Ha reckoned Himself dead to sin and alive to God. Precious as all this or more is for the Christian, it would be to the last degree false and derogatory to Him Who knew no sin but was made sin for us.
The Epistle then turns from our holy trials to our unholy ones, and shows their source to be, not in God, but in sinful man. “Let none when tempted say, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted by evils, and himself tempteth none. But each is tempted when by his own lust drawn away and enticed; then lust having conceived bringeth forth sin; and sin when completed giveth birth to death” (vers 13-15).
The distinctness is evident when we read on the one hand that God tempted or tried Abraham (Gen. 22:11And 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), and Heb. 11:1717By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, (Hebrews 11:17)), and on the other that Israel tempted God (Psa. 78: 18, 41, 56, compared with Ex. 17:77And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not? (Exodus 17:7)). Never does God tempt any one to evil, but He may and does so bring out their faith and fidelity; but it is alas! too sadly common for His people to tempt Him by doubts of His mercy and active care. Hence the word in Deut. 6:1616Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God, as ye tempted him in Massah. (Deuteronomy 6:16), “Ye shall not tempt Jehovah your God,” the Lord's answer to the devil suggesting that He should cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple on the, strength of Psa. 91:1111For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. (Psalm 91:11). But the Lord utterly refuses to test God, as if His protection were doubtful in the path of obedience. God is not to be tempted by evils, any more than He so tempts.
The evil temptation comes from within man, though Satan may act on him, for he ever evilly tempts to evil. So it was man at the beginning was tempted when his nature was not evil; but instead of repelling it as the Lord did, he allowed and received it; so that henceforth the race was contaminated like its fallen head. The precise contrast is seen in Christ, to Whom the prince of the world came at the end, and had nothing in Him then any more than when first tempted. But it is wholly different with us, conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity as we are naturally, though now by grace born anew. Therefore have we an altogether distinct class and character of temptation, which the Lord had not, as incompatible with His person as with His work. In Him was no lusting against the Spirit, no contrariety in Him, because He was, as no one else could be, the Holy One of God. The Word became flesh (John 1:1414And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)). Incarnation was true of Him, but of Him alone. But the believer, though having life in the Son, has the fallen nature, and hence is liable to evil temptation.
“But each is tempted when by his own lust drawn away and enticed.” The Lord though tempted in all points similarly could not be in this way, because it would have denied and destroyed His moral glory, and it would have frustrated the purpose of God in saving us to His glory. That the Lord was in like manner tempted in all things has this immense limitation, “sin excepted,” not sinning only in fact, which is true of course, but “sin” in the nature from which He was absolutely exempt. He had not and could not have such evil temptations from a corrupt nature, because His was expressly holy. There was no lust of His own to draw away or allure. Evil suggestion from without He therefore uniformly rejected with indignation, even if an honored apostle, shocked at the suffering before Him as inconsistent to his mind and feeling with His glory, repudiated His death and such a death as an impossibility, and received rebuke stern beyond example. With the believer too often is it likewise, when like Peter his mind is not on the things of God but on those of men. Christ sought His Father's glory, and unrighteousness was not in Him, but He did always the things pleasing to Him. Self-will there was none. He was come to do God's will, and did it perfectly and at all cost.
Far different is the saint when thus off his guard and ceasing ever so little from dependence on God. “Then lust, having conceived, bringeth forth sin; and sin, when completed, giveth birth to death.” How graphic and true! But it is the strict line of James who looks at the moral effects, and does not occupy himself or the reader with that deep sounding of causes which we find in the Epistles of Paul. It is scarce needed to say that both views are invaluable, and alike given by inspiration.