“He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8).
We all recognise the acts and results of sin, but what is sin? Is it a sin to be tempted? Is there a step-by-step process leading up to actually sinning? These are the questions we will try to answer in this study.
Our opening verse informs us of one of the reasons why Jesus came into this world, that is to “destroy the works of the devil.” By going back to Genesis 3:1-24 we will learn about how Satan started his evil work amongst mankind.
The First Temptation
In Genesis 3 we read about what really happened when Adam and Eve were tempted. Here we will find help to understand how temptation and sin come into and affect our lives today.
a) Satan questioned God’s word … “Did God really say?”
b) Eve added to God’s word … “We must not touch.”
c) Satan said that God lied.
d) Satan offered Eve an alternative spirituality … “You’ll be wise, and you’ll be gods.”
e) Eve tempts Adam to join her new religion.
f) Adam forgets what God told him.
It is possible that Satan was working on Eve over a period of time. Nevertheless, he quickly broke down any resistance she had. Adam appears to have given in extremely quickly.
What is the difference between Sin and Temptation?
The Hebrew word for temptation is ‘nasah.’ It signifies a test to prove the quality of something. It is sometimes used to denote ‘squeezing.’ Tests are not bad things. We test all kinds of products for safety purposes. We take tests to receive qualifications. We can be certain that all spiritual tests are for our benefit, but it depends upon how we respond to them.
The Hebrew word for sin is ‘chata.’ It means ‘to miss the mark or go astray.’ Spiritually it means that we do not come up to God’s standards of holiness and righteousness. Here are some scripture references that reveal this very clearly:
a) Isaiah 53:6 … All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
b) Romans 14:23 … And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
c) James 4:17 … Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
d) 1 John 4:3 … Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
Therefore sin is following the temptation to disobey God, to act wickedly, or to break God’s law.
Temptation can be broken down into three categories
1 John 2:16 explains how temptation is activated in our lives. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
a) The lust of the flesh. This refers to the cravings of sinful man. It describes those sinful things that make us feel good. Eve saw that the fruit was good for food.
b) The lust of the eyes. So many things seem to be beautiful to us and we must have them right away. It describes our sinful desire for material possessions. The fruit was pleasant to Eve’s eyes.
c) The pride of life. Almost everyone is full of his or her own self-importance. It describes the notion that we are better than the next person. Eve saw the fruit could make her wise and a god.
How do you get from Temptation to Sin?
Temptation is a process from holiness to sinfulness. Few temptations drop us in sin’s deep end immediately; instead we are led there gradually. James 1:13-15 speaks of this … “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: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”
That is exactly why the devil presents temptation to us. He wants us to fall into sin and to be spiritually doomed. Is it not true that we are usually tempted to meet our own physical needs? Theses needs, once met, turn into bondage, and bondage brings us to death. Temptation is Satan’s bait on the hook of sin. Once ensnared he only has to reel us in.
What should a Christian do when tempted?
Temptation is a reality that we have to daily live with. Sin, on the other hand, is a choice we make. The secret is to abide by God’s word so that we do not yield to temptation … “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). The Lord Jesus Christ is our finest example of sinlessness … “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For 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. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrew 4:14-16).
Jesus tells us what we should do when tempted, and it is the very thing we fail to do. He simply told us to pray … “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41) … “After this manner therefore pray ye … lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:9, 13).
Instead of filling our minds with the things the devil presents to us, we can, according to the apostle Paul, think upon good things … “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). This is what is meant by resisting the devil and have him flee from us (James 4:7), and to hold onto the shield of faith to quench his fiery darts of temptation (Ephesians 6:16).
It’s not unusual to be tempted
“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 Corinthians 10:13).
Temptation is around us all the time, but we must look for the escape door offered to us by God. We should overcome temptation, not it us. Adam and Eve failed to do this, and as a result, brought sin, sickness, and death into the world.